Wednesday, March 18, 2009

iPhone 3.0 Recap

Seems like everyone forgets Apple is still a baby in the SmartPhone market. It's easy to argue they should have done this all quicker but it's only been 2 years. In software development you can either hire a ton of people and use the thousand monkeys model of development or you can build up a smaller team and just give them the time to get it right. Since iPhone sales weren't hurting at all I think Apple saw no problem letting the core iPhone software team take their time.

I would speculate that Apple probably spent about 12-14 months exclusively working on the SDK after the launch of the 1.0 firmware 2 years ago. That includes improvements to the core OS infrastructure and optimizing the various APIs for a mobile device with limited memory and clock cycles -- and of course battery constraints. All of the API work had to be done right the first time. It had to be consistent and it had to be forward thinking enough to ensure there was room for the platform to grow over the years. Apple doesn't want to make a tiny change in a core library and break 10,000 apps. They don't want to have a dozen different APIs that do basically the same thing and bloat up the OS just to provide backwards compatibility. This is a good thing and it's the same principals that have made OSX a great platform on the desktop side.

And let's be honest. The competition hasn't exactly been pushing out a lot of innovative updates. RIM & Microsoft are still struggling to catch up to most of the iPhone 1.0 features and usability. Android doesn't really seem to have much momentum at the moment. Looks like Google might already be losing interest in it. Not a good sign.

Arguably with all these iPhone competitors out there making slow, but steady, progress the SDK and third party application library are Apple's main competitive advantage. They had to put their priorities in order and make sure the SDK was bullet proof and good enough to attract developers -- and basically lock them into the iPhone platform for years to come. Some of these other features, C&P, A2DP, etc were simply not going to give the iPhone a dominant advantage in the same way the SDK has. Apple understood that and they will benefit from it even if users want to belly ache over waiting 2 years for C&P. You still bought it, didn't you? Point proven.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. ... Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me. And I welcome their hatred!" -- FDR

Friday, March 13, 2009


Is it intelligent to veto a bill over 2%? Should the passage of the bill be delayed by weeks to cut 2%? Should congress be tied up debating 2%? Should the President and leadership in Congress spend time trying to win the political battle? Over 2%? We frankly have more important things to deal with right now. In time hopefully the ear mark process can be reformed. The problems with the economy are definitely the main focus right now. Does anyone think slashing the 2% of ear mark spending is going to fix the economy? Of course not... Why are we talking about it right now?

Is it maybe a ploy to distract us from talking about the important things? A huge increase in science spending. A huge increase in funding for alternative energy programs. Huge infrastructure (road & bridge) repair projects. Spending for health care to keep people alive. If you're dead you don't care about the 2% of ear marks that were or were not cut from a federal budget. (such projects including side walk construction in a school district) Real reform to decrease pollution via cap & trade. Major changes in Iraq & Afghanistan.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Apple TV 3.0 Wishlist

Based on loose speculation of a Apple TV update sometime in the near future:

New Home Screen: It should mimic the iPhone OS home screen. Icons for individual tasks on one page with a row of favorites on the bottom. Less nested menu navigation. (old, ugly, inefficient UI design) Should be easily navigable using the basic Apple Remote and giving icons a glow effect on selection. I envision a status bar along the top showing wifi signal strength, time, and notifications.

Home Screen Icons:

iTunes Store --> Renting/buying content.

Apple Remote --> Streaming content off local network via iTunes

You'd also have the other apps, YouTube, Photos, Settings, etc.

Additional functionality:

Safari: This would largely depend on implementation of the Wii style motion control patent that has been floating around. D-Pad style navigation with the Apple Remote simply wouldn't be usable. Should also support iTunes/MM syncing of bookmarks to avoid having to type URLs in. (Keychains too, on the Mac side at least)


Simple games (remember the motion controller patent?)

Streaming front ends to various services. Probably going to need Flash too. (not a big problem if we stay x86)

Interactive video apps. Kind of a choose your own story sort of thing.

Fantasy sports managers

Lots of stuff no one has ever thought of.

I would imagine the SDK would be fairly similar to the iPhone SDK although obviously targeting a different screen resolution. Being as the iPhone SDK is heavily abstracted from hardware porting apps shouldn't be too difficult. The biggest challenge would be scaling up to a higher resolution display for games -- however the Wii proves you don't really need good graphics to be successful in the gaming industry. Might not be too bad. An important part of this SDK would be promoting iPhone/ATV integration. For example, a Netflix app might allow you to watch a movie onscreen while you browse their catalog on the iPhone and start a new movie or que something. An RPG game might use the iPhone display for an inventory screen. The similarity in APIs would allow developers to write applications that did not depend on the iPhone as an accessory -- simply moving those controls to the AppleTV output. (kinda wonky but it could be made to work)

The obvious question is why would Apple allow competing services onto their hardware? They simply don't have a dominate position in online video -- no streaming presence at all. Unlike the music industry, where they got in early and dominated, they will have to settle with being a platform for other video services. The Apple TV could become one of the first devices that allows various services to pool together in one place. Would you pay $9.99 for the Netflix app? Probably. Would Apple like 30% of it? Yes. Even if it is a one time sale. (better than nothing from Apple's perspective)


Most likely something ATOM based. It's got the best mix of price/performence right now and a pretty good supporting chipset/GPU. (well, good enough for our purposes) I had speculated it might be something NVIDIA/ARM based but it's hard to beat the ATOMs price/performence ratio at this point. OSX is very platform independent so it shouldn't be a major issue targeting ARM and x86 for developers. Obviously the SDKs will have some major differences to deal with no matter what.

Pricing: I think a platform open to third parties is easily justifiable at $200-$250. Adds a lot of value to the device. It would probably be wise to support a much cheaper option too. Something like the AirTunes feature on older AirPort routers except video enabled. Something you control with an iPhone. $99 - no storage. Just a simple dongle you could hookup to any TV

iPhone 3.0 Wishlist

Spotlight: Indexing of e-mail, contacts, SMS, web history, etc. Extensible via SDK. It should include a way for apps to declare the type of data they can address. For example, if you were to SpotLight a street address all your GPS enabled applications would be offered in the search result list as something like "Search using UrbanSpoon" which would open that app and do a search.

Unified Inbox: Along the lines of what RIM does. Have IM, e-mail, call log, etc all go into one spot. It would not replace the individual apps but just collect their data together in one spot as an alternative view. Also extensible via SDK. So for example, you might have a new voice mail, 2 missed calls, an IM, and a notification of an application update from AppStore, along with some new e-mails all in one list. Touching any item would launch the native application.

Spruced up Lock screen: Either more information in the traditional "Today" style view or something fun and gimmicky like animated wallpaper or widgets.

Copy & Paste: I don't care about the feature. I probably wouldn't use it. I just want people to shut the fuck up about it.

MMS: Same deal. I've used MMS maybe once in my life. I don't talk to people who can't send and receive e-mail. It would simply shut people up and that would make me happy.

More UI customization: Just something as simple as color themes would be welcomed.

Better App Management: Something along the lines of Smart Folders by category and also a "most played"

Voice Over: Read the from/subject of a new e-mail, the text of an SMS, etc. Definitely an option, not a default. (lots of potential for misuse, annoyance and embarrassment) It'd be great for driving. Accessible to third party apps via API of course.

Widgets: Something you can place on your home screens. It'd be slick to have a page devoted to just random information without having to launch an app to find it. I would suggest with Widgets they run in a zoom-ed out mode (resizable though) and when you touch them they zoom in and/or display more information. Very light weight, very quick to switch between them