Many Links, One Chain

Mobile is the future. No one doubts that, and those that do are clearly riding their tiny rafts toward the inevitable plummet off the edge of the waterfall.

What is interesting is how these different mobile OS choices are defined (e.g. available apps, number of users, types of users, user engagement, developers, just to name a few), and what those definitions mean for the larger mobile landscape.

Many people argue for the benefits of iOS over Android, and vice versa, and I think the choice that most people make to go with one operating system or another isn’t driven by some core ethos or belief in how a mobile operating system should behave, it’s driven by far simpler forces – popular culture, how much money is in their wallet, and what feels right.

When it comes to the tablet space, iOS is the clear winner, having scooped up both the lion’s share of the market as well as customer satisfaction. I find it somewhat painful to watch owners of most other tablet devices struggle with basic functionality; I’m left with the feeling that someone, somewhere has done them a disservice by recommending something that did not fit their needs, having pushed some other device into their hands instead.

Where things start to blur, however, is when people start looking to devices outside of the mobile device market, things like connected TVs, appliances, and other gadgets. A person who isn’t fond of Apple can, ostensibly, purchase a Roku box for streaming content to their TV, but how well does that really integrate with a person’s home theater setup if they have iOS devices? How about Android? What about Linux? The trick here is that there are some devices that work well together, and some that don’t. Did you happen to buy one of those early Google TVs? How’s that working out for you? Sorry there aren’t more of them out there, turns out people didn’t like them very much. Sad.

The Apple TV is an iOS device, however, and I think it fills a key role in Apple’s connected living room idea. I’ve talked about this in past posts, as well, but something that many people don’t take into account is the fact that the Apple TV runs iOS, but in a form that isn’t immediately recognizable to most people.

Apple has created a chain of interconnected devices which, on their own, may seem unremarkable. Start linking them together, however, and they become far stronger and more capable than they were on their own.

I’ll end with a little story. I spent a half on the phone with a man recently, trying to help him compose and reply to an email on his new Android phone. I felt sorry for him. He had never owned a smartphone before, and was having a very difficult time using the device. For whatever reason, data was not enabled on his phone and he had to find the setting to turn it on before he could actually send the email. He was very frustrated, and it was clear that he wasn’t feeling confident. He was told that this device was very “user friendly” and that it “just worked”, but his experience demonstrated otherwise. That same night, I had some friends over, many of whom are involved in some sort of music production or performance, or who simply have great taste in music. They were sharing their favorite tracks and videos on my TV, all from their phones, all without having to fiddle with a remote or web browser. They were laughing and talking, all able to discuss and converse without needing to configure anything. They just tapped the AirPlay button and sent the media to the Apple TV. Zero configuration, zero setup.

From where I was sitting, it looked like magic.

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Never Ceases to Amaze Me

Came across this today. Stuff like this continues to amaze me. While I would love to purchase a DSLR, I’d never be able to do it justice. Then something like this comes along, and the aluminum and glass in my pocket is suddenly way more incredible than I thought. What I’m really stoked for? One of the new APIs opens up 60fps recording to 3rd-party apps.

Epic.


Back and Forth

For a while now, I’ve been using an app called Audiogalaxy to get back to my music library at home and essentially have access to my library with over 100 gigs of music to supplement whatever tracks I have synced to my iPhone/iPad. It’s fantastic, mostly because I know two things:

  1. I have music on my iPhone that I can listen to anywhere, regardless of whether I have a data connection or not.
  2. I can, with a data connection, get access to my huge music library.

The recently-uncovered Apple patent application is simultaneously awesome and horrific for a few reasons, all of which have to do with #2.

One of the most explosive and formative things to happen to America recently is the widespread adoption of mobile data and internet usage. As I’ve discussed before, the mobile telecom providers have used this to push their agendas and create an awful dystopian future that the American wireless subscriber is going to end up paying dearly for. It’s going to be ugly, folks. Get ready for a future based on as-yet-unwritten disgusting rates based on AT&T’s greed.

If you think this reaction is a bit overblown, let’s dissect the groundwork that needs to be in place for a person to listen to music with Apple’s new system. A person would need:

  1. A computer running iTunes (for syncing purposes). This is pretty much standard, and shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
  2. An iOS device with a data connection. Not everyone wants to or can run a persistent data connection. iPod touch devices are reliant on wifi, and people with the lower-tier AT&T or Verizon data plan (250 MB for $15.00/month, in AT&T’s case) may not be comfortable with a service that sucks up data every time they wan to listen to a song.
  3. Possibly: the above computer with a persistent connection to the internet. This is a variable, and the future is hazy here. Depending on how the whole “Music Locker” thing will work, or how MacOS Lion home server is structured, this may or may not be necessary. We’ll see.

Let’s assume that a person has an iPhone, is using AT&T, and is using the $15.00/month data plan for 250 MB of data per month. We don’t know how much of each song will be synced to the iOS device, but let’s assume it’s about 30% of each song to allow ample buffering time. We can then “fit” three times the number of songs on the iOS device due to the reduced footprint of each song on the device’s memory. The remaining amount of each song would then be pulled from a cloud. I say “a” cloud because it’s unclear if that cloud will be the individual’s computer or this “Music Locker” service. Let’s assume it will be from this person’s computer, so as not to incur any additional fees (yet). The computer will have to be on in order to access the library data, which means an extra power demand and a load on the person’s internet usage (we’re also assuming that internet usage is capped, which, despite some companies claiming their data is “unlimited,” is most likely the case). Most likely, the data usage through a home internet connection is insignificant (especially relative to a theoretical cap of 50-250 GB). The proposed data usage relative to mobile internet connection with a 250 MB cap is significant, however, and listening to a day’s worth of music can potentially eat up all of a person’s monthly data before they have to pony up another $25.00 for the higher 2 GB plan.

Did you catch that? Let’s look at it again.

The folks who want to use this feature will be streaming data every single time they listen to music. The amount of data that will be used is unclear, but I predict that listening to music for a prolonged period of time (even a few hours a day) will cut deeply into or completely use up a person’s data for the month (again, assuming usage of a cheaper $15.00/month, 250 MB plan). Even on a 2 GB plan, monthly data usage can quickly skyrocket, shooting people dangerously close to the ceiling or their plan. I use about 1.5 GB/month right now with occasional usage of my Audiogalaxy service to get at my home library. If I were to switch over to a model that used data every single time I played a song, I’d find myself breaking that 2 GB barrier on a monthly basis, which would cost me more money.

AT&T and Verizon made a long-term move here, and we’re staring it in the face right now. Back when AT&T first introduced tiered data pricing, I could see the act as predatory. More and more services are being pushed online, to the cloud, and so forth. What AT&T did was squeeze the pipes before the water started flowing. Netflix is growing in popularity and capability, and their long-term dominance in the mobile media marketplace (I love alliteration!), while not guaranteed, is just shy of that. How are we going to watch movies on our mobile devices if we’re being pinched to do so? How will companies innovate if they know they’re going to be dealing with hamstrung devices? People are going to be paying for subscription services and the bandwidth it takes to use them, a double whammy. The outlook doesn’t look good.

Boy am I glad I got that unlimited Clear iSpot subscription while it was still around.


This is the End

YouTube – Live.

Cutting the cord is now becoming a reality.  Netflix is producing a TV show, YouTube is going live, and what do you want to bet that Hulu follows suit within the next two months?  This trend is not going away, and the corporate maniacs who think that they can control how and when people get access to the media they want to watch or listen to are wrong.

They know it, they can’t fight it, but they will.  In the process, they’ll cause damage to the infrastructure that is actually supporting them right now because of their greed.  They don’t want to actually provide interesting things for people to watch or read, they just want to wrap it in an iron cage so people have to pay through the nose to get it, just like the diamond industry.


The Times, They Are A-Changin

WallThe news that the New York Times is finally enforcing their paywall was anticipated, but is being met with frowns and “thumbs down” reactions from folks all around. The whole thing seems really ridiculous, and far too complicated, as Gruber points out. NYT really botched this whole thing, and it just shows how far away their head is from reality.

This reminds me of an interesting article I saw the other day on electronista. As discussed ad nauseum all over the web, the publishing industry is staring a radical paradigm shift in the face in much the same way the software industry did when iOS rolled around and shook things up. The old paradigm of high-dollar subscriptions and stacks of paper is out the door. People can find all they want with just a few searches on the internet, and they can get most, if not all, of this information for free. Why would someone want to fork over just a tad under the cost of a new iPad in order to read a feature-poor version of their print edition?

We see Apple, once again, looking a ways out and realizing that the New Publishers are going to start jumping all over this in the same way the new developers jumped all over developing for iOS. Their new subscriptions are a gift to New Publishing, telling all those folks out there with good ideas to get crackin,’ and then there’s this, which is basically a gift to every indie developer and writer out there:

The template is also expected to simplify in-app issue and subscription purchases, and, theoretically, foster magazine development. ” Imagine a guy drawing and writing a comic book,” a source says. “He can’t sell it to Marvel or DC so he hooks up with a programmer and within days, he’s getting his comic book published and sold on iTunes.”

This is New Publishing, folks. How much will this guy charge for his work? Twenty dollars? Too much. Ten Dollars? Maybe. Five dollars? Probably. A fiver and you’re reading some fun stuff. When he decides to serialize it, he’s putting subscriptions out there for $10/year, maybe even less depending on how he feels. Maybe it’s only eight for the year, and for an extra two bucks as an in-app purchase you get a special background delivered to your app every week. This guy doesn’t have to break his back to deliver a stellar background to you every week, in fact he loves to do it.

Same goes for the writer who’s got the good ideas and is pushing the boundaries of where industries might be headed, or the gal who can shot photos like it’s nobody’s business. All these people want to put their good stuff out there, they know how they want it to look, and they’re going to do it.

The first lap is just a warm up; it’s the second lap that counts. We were all there when New Publishing came through the gates, and we joined that parade.

Sadly, it looks like NYT is pricing themselves right back into 2001. It was a good run, guys, but I’m looking to go the distance.


On to the Next One

There’s been a lot of rumor and speculation recently surrounding the upcoming “iPad 2” that Apple is slated to release soon. Topping out the list are buzzwords and ideas like “Retina Display” (which apple coined last year when they released the iPhone 4), SD storage, and (as always) the polarizing issue of cameras (both front and rear, in this case) .

All this is fine and good. Apple will undoubtedly introduce some new technology, or at least integrate already-proven into the new wundertablet. The real kick here seems to be the high-resolution display that everyone seems to be all hot and bothered about. I say that this display is simply the next step, while others say it’s impossible. The arguments, however, are decidedly jargon-riddled and quite technical. The higher-resolution display will require a powerful processor/GPU/magic unicorn sparkles. There is technology under the surface of these 3,145,728 pixels, perhaps very powerful technology, but that isn’t the the issue here. Folks who own iPads aren’t concerned with resolution, floating point calculations, or chipsets’ model numbers. Folks who own iPads want to read books, magazines, and websites without eye fatigue. They want to draw, to view their pictures in a way that no other device can display them. They want to type documents and see the text on the screen with razor-sharp clarity. They want to show their clients presentations of their products and services with a level of clarity that hasn’t been seen even in Apple’s top-tier professional laptops.

Furthermore, I imagine that there are a great deal of print outfits out there who are aching to see their content blazing on over three million brilliant pixels. Can you imagine how National Geographic will look when that screen displays their new cover for the first time, almost indistinguishable from print with a 178-degree viewing angle? If real, that display will be so sharp that people all over the world will be heading into eye doctors for eyeball lacerations. Bad joke. Think about it though: the app is delayed, unveiling the new service is pushed back, the whole thing hushed until the coming of the benevolent iPad the second. Angels sing, and the trumpets herald peace on earth. Or something like that.

Even that, as amazing as it may seem, isn’t the point, though. The point is that it’s the right thing to do. We’re at a critical point in consumer technology (as we always are). Our books, libraries, magazines, physical media, phone numbers…virtually everything about the technologies that have defined our world for the past three hundred years is changing. In order to move gracefully on the shifting sands of the technological landscape, Apple has decided to improve on a device that introduced a new way of thinking about computing. They’re pushing it places that other companies haven’t thought about yet or even considered a possibility. They’re going to move things along and light a fire under the entire tablet landscape. Regardless of what screen the new iPad will use, or how many pixels it has crammed in its svelte frame, it will be the next step towards a paradigm shift technology as we know it.


these ain’t your momma’s comics

so i read a couple things recently from cory doctorow. it sounds like he’s whining about a really great product that everyone likes just to whine about it. here are some of the choice bits.

“I was a comic-book kid, and I’m a comic-book grownup…”

and

“I can’t even count how many times I’ve gone spelunking in the used comic-bins at a great and musty store to find back issues that I’d missed, or sample new titles on the cheap.”

this means nothing to me. i was never a “comic-book kid” and have no intention to be. this app means that i can get comic books now, which is something i may never have done in the past. instead of being alone with just a handful of people, now you have the ability to connect with people who may have never gotten into comic books to begin with. this is important. your world has just gotten potentially way larger. if you still want to collect the physical manifestations of your childhood memories, do that. apple or marvel or whoever you’re whining about hasn’t taken that away from you. they’ve given other people something to do as well.

“And as a copyright holder and creator, I don’t want a single, Wal-Mart-like channel that controls access to my audience and dictates what is and is not acceptable material for me to create.”

it’s called THE INTERNET. look it up. it’s open, free, and you can make whatever you’d like for it. the funny thing is, you experience this same sort of lockdown every single day when you buy your groceries, purchase shoes, or even go online to shop for your iPad alternatives. apple has created a marketplace for products, and they get to pick what’s sold there.

let’s say you owned a store, cory. maybe a grocery store, maybe a shoe store. maybe it’s a website that sells computer accessories. now let’s say, cory, that i go to that store (real or virtual) and i want to buy some human organs. what’s that, cory? you don’t sell human organs at your store? WHAT?! this is an OUTRAGE. i cannot believe that you would open a store and then choose what gets sold there. you must be some kind of egomaniac dictator. fine then, i’m going to take my business ELSEWHERE.

and i can.

i can go through shady, black market channels and get me a whole box of spleens if i wanted.

the iPad, iPhone, etc. are no different. there is a store, and it sells things. if i want other things that the store doesn’t sell, there’s a market for that, too. i simply have to put a little more work into finding it.

just like you and your comics. i want to buy a comic and have it delivered to my hand. you want to go out and find a comic. more power to you.