Yesterday Apple CEO Tim Cook photobombed me while I was doing a Vanna White with the new retina Macbook Pro.
Dean Takahashi, also from VentureBeat, was videoing me showing the new laptop. We were at the Apple event in San Jose for the iPad Mini unveiling (and a lot else). Unbeknownst to me, while I’m showing the 13″ MacBook Pro’s new HDMI port, supermodel thinnosity, and super-sharp 4-million-pixel screen, Tim Cook showed up.
Of course, Dean never said a word.
If I had known, of course, I would have stopped interviewing me and started interviewing Cook. Ah well, I’m probably sucking – Tim doesn’t look super-happy.
(Initially this was going to be posted at VentureBeat, but another writer beat me to it.)
In some magical fairy-tale world, beautiful women and handsome men laughingly pay gas company bills while watching fluffy pink unicorns dance through purple Alpine valleys. In the real world, giving your hard-earned money to the man sucks, especially when the process of paying bills is mind-numbingly complicated.
That’s the world Doxo is trying to fix, using your smartphone or tablet.
Launching today, the Doxo Mobile app for Android and iOS will include doxoPay, integrated bill-paying functionality that will allow users to see, manage, and pay bills, all while riding the bus back home from work.
Currently, it’s not so simple. As Jim Bruene, author of the NetBanker blog says: “Whether the bill is received digitally or in paper form, payment is often a three step process – read the bill when you receive it, open it again to pay it, and then file it somewhere else.” Doxo integrates the steps, simplifying users’ lives.
One challenge: the company you want to pay has to be set up in Doxo’s system. Today that list includes AT&T, Sprint, Kansas City Power and Light, 12 state and county governments, and many more, but it’s not clear exactly how many service providers have joined. To tempt more businesses into signing up, Doxo touts savings of 80% for sending paperless bills, and notes that consumers pay their bills an average of 10 days earlier when using the Doxo mobile app.
But it’s clear that for consumers, having all their bills in one system is going to be a much better value proposition than just having a few, or even most. This is the single greatest problem for Doxo if they want to scale this app to millions or hundreds of millions of users.
However, Doxo is taking the right tack with regard to a single, unified payment app. Other mobile payment solutions exist, but no consumer in their right mind is going to download multiple apps, one to pay each service provider.
One other benefit of the Jeff Bezos-backed payment company: a digital file cabinet integrated with Dropbox or Box in which users can store key documents such as insurance policies, important bills, and statements. Storing all the details of your financial life in one place has the potential to vastly increase manageability. As an aside, it also increases the need for extreme security.
In a statement, Doxo CEO Steve Shivers said: “The Doxo mission is to massively simplify the experience of interacting with providers and paying bills. The new capabilities of our mobile app make bill paying simpler than ever.”
One unanswered question: when will Doxo become an e-wallet that will not only allow users to manage and pay bills, but also make immediate, point-of-sale payments? Given the trajectory of the Doxo app, one has to assume it’s coming.
Now that almost might be worth dancing through purple Alpine meadows over.
The app is cool, well-conceived, and narrowly focused. And it’s got great buzz. But, but, but.
You can only connect to Highlight via Facebook. Highlight uses your Facebook info and friends to try to understand you, see who your friends are, and make educated guesses about people who are nearby that you might like to know or meet. IMHO, only using Facebook is a serious limitation.
A lot of people (and I’m one of them) use Facebook for actual – in other words, IRL – friends and family. It is, after all, your friend graph.
What about Twitter?
Twitter is a little different. For many of us (maybe most of us) Twitter is mostly for people that we have NOT met in real life … but find interesting nevertheless. Twitter is the interest graph.
Combining the two
Adding Twitter would create a much more powerful serendipity component to Highlight. Now not only would it find friends, and friends of friends, but also people that maybe you don’t know, but would find interesting and rewarding to meet, if you happen to be physically proximate to them.
This could be creepy for some – location-based social apps tend to have that tinge – but which social networks you link up would be totally optional … and who you meet is also totally optional.
I’m sure it’s coming at some point, maybe even soon. I just wish it was there from the start.
Well yeah, but not always. And one example is right in your pocket: the well-known iPhone lock screen.
Do we really need it?
Seriously, how often does the home button get pushed in your pocket? I know the lock screen is intended to stop spurious input and the infamous pocket dialing, but has that every happened to you? Not me.
To me, the unlock screen is just a time-waster that puts 2-3 extra seconds between me and whatever tasks I’m trying to accomplish. I don’t like it, I don’t need it, and I don’t want it. I’d at least like an option to remove it.
Extra-bad with password
The lock screen is one thing, but when you pair that with a password-protected phone, it’s even worse.
I hate password-protecting my phone, and I would not do it personally, but there are corporate email accounts on it that require safety settings.
So, now I have to:
Unlock my screen
Enter my password
It’s pretty obvious that your password is a pretty effective unlock screen protector in and of itself. So, at a minimum, Apple should automatically disable the lock screen functionality if you have a password-protected phone. The password protection, when in place, is the lock screen.
Any functionality on the lock screen – alerts, etc. – can still be implemented on the password screen.
Simpler, faster, better
Anything that gets me faster to my apps, phone, email, or whatever, is better.
So last week Friday I had a little dentist appointment.
Actually a long one – almost 90 minutes – at which I was informed that I hadn’t had a cleaning in over a year, a checkup in a year and a half, and had committed various other sins of omission (such as that age-old dentist no-no: neglecting to floss).
But my primary purpose for the visit was to fix a chipped tooth. Nothing major, just a little chip. Why, the savvy blog ready might be asking, are you writing about a chipped tooth? Are we, some might sigh, next going to hear about marathon fingernail-clipping sessions or late-night belly lint removals?
The interesting part – at least to the dentist, who was doubled over in laughter – was the cause of the chip. Which was, indeed, my iPhone.
How could I chip my tooth with my iPhone? Well, it wasn’t due to gnawing or hunger pangs. Nor was it thrown by a furious reader wondering why I am refusing to get to the point.
It was much more mundane than all that.
Very simply, I was in bed. I was reading my Google Reader feeds while flat on my back … and therefore forced to hold the phone over my face.
When it slipped, well, the rest is history. Chip by iPhone, basically.
The app store approval process has been an issue for a long time. Early on, a couple of years ago, some apps took weeks for approval. And if you were treading on Apple’s toes … sometimes months or longer, as backroom negotiations took place. I talked about the first issue in 09, and the second issue – forcing app makers who are in some way competitive with Apple – just recently.
Siri is Apple’s new personal assistant on the iPhone 4S. It’s artificial intelligence: fairly good understanding of natural human speech, plus context awareness.
And it’s pretty cool: I’ve used it to send texts, set reminders that activate when I leave or arrive from locations like home or work, and get data like how far away the moon is, or how much the US dollar is worth, or what the atomic weight of uranium is.
But I also want to use Siri for local search: finding a great place to eat, or a nice hotel, or traffic conditions, directions to Rogers Arena, or how far it is to Whistler, BC.
Unfortunately, Siri doesn’t know anything about Canada yet.
That means that Siri is much less useful in Canada than it could otherwise be.
I’m sure the situation is temporary … it will go away as soon as Apple signs up partners in Canada for local data. The more data available, the smarter Siri will get:
In short, all businesses and events. Eventually, perhaps, even local product data: availability, pricing, sales, etc.
Eventually, with partners, you should be able to order tickets to a game, book reservations at a restaurant, and set up a flight to Montreal … all via Siri. More on that in an earlier blog post. And it’s not all dreaming either: this is all part of the early vision behind Siri.
I just want it all, and I want it now. In Canada, too.
iOS 5, Apple’s newest operating system for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch is coming in late summer or fall. And I’m predicting it will completely reinvent local and mobile search.
First, some groundwork
Local search is just search for stuff that’s around you.
Mobile search is search on a phone or small device.
And most searches that are mobile, are local.
Done is the new search
Search is an outmoded concept. Most of us just don’t know it, and even for those that do, we can’t really live it yet. I’m betting that’s all going to change in just few months time.
Very simply, search is a process. The goal or object of the search is the product. And since flint knives and sparking rocks, humans reinvent processes continuously to achieve products quicker.
So why search when you can just do?
Laying it all out
Most local/mobile (let’s just say LOMO) searches are action-oriented.
Where’s the nearest bar?
What’s the best restaurant near here?
Is there a movie theatre near here playing XYZ latest & greatest movie?
Can I get a cab here?
The search intent, or goal here, is pretty obvious. Shoot me the latest twofer deal at the nearest bar, get me reservations at the restaurant, buy me tickets at the theatre, send a cab to pick me up.
Today, to do that, most people have to:
open a search app (or several)
enter search terms
sort through data
select an option
phone the option
make the reservation/booking/buy
To do this, you might have to open 3-4 apps (a phone is an app), switch context at least that many times, actively personally speak (or wait on hold). Basically, you have to do it yourself.
But wouldn’t it be nice if you had a personal assistant do it all for you?
Enter iOS 5 … your personal assistant from heaven
Apple has a huge problem. That problem is a green little robot dude named Android. And while iPhone is still the best smart mobile platform in the world, Android’s hybrid vigor and essential free-ness to telcos and amazing plasticity is driving huge growth: faster growth than iPhone.
Apple doesn’t need to be bigger than Android, but it absolutely needs to be better.
So Apple is making iOS your new best friend … that does all the annoying little detail work for you. And it’s via an acquisition they made over a year ago, Siri, and a massive data center in the clouds of North Carolina.
Imagine this: pull out your iPhone and say: “I need a flight to Toronto on June 9, arriving in early afternoon, a downtown hotel that doesn’t cost more than $200/night, and tickets to a Blue Jays game that weekend. Oh, and by the way, make me dinner reservations at a good French restaurant for Friday night.”
Rocket science? Star Trek? Prerogative of wealthy execs with personal assistants and fat expense accounts? Rich man’s reality, poor man’s dream?
Think again. This is what Siri does … and this is the future of iOS.
Done is the new search. If you’re in the LOMO industry, get ready.
The one potential flaw in Apple’s ointment? Apple doesn’t do social real well … sort of like another tech giant we all know well.
As LOMO becomes SOLOMO (social/local/mobile) this opens doors for others who play nicely together.
Perhaps there’s an opportunity here …
. . .
. . .
Some background resources:
My 3-part series on the future of local search from earlier this year:
I recently upgraded from my iPhone 3GS to an iPhone 4.
Usually, I’m the first of all my friends and relatives to get the new tech, but this was a work phone … and it took some time. However, the wait only sharpened the anticipation – and one of the things I was looking forward to was better battery life.
With my 3GS, I got maybe a day and a half of battery life – less if I used my phone a lot. I was hoping for much better from the iPhone 4. It was a huge disappointment, therefore, when my new iPhone 4 seemed to lose all battery charge daily.
The loss of charge was so bad I suspected getting a lemon. Even overnight, when I put my phone in airplane mode, I’d lose about 10% or more. The 3GS had never lost more than 1 or 2% of battery charge overnight. I seriously had to recharge my iPhone4 daily. So I did some investigation.
It turns out that if you set up your new iPhone 4 from a backup of your old iPhone, some old settings which relate to battery life get installed on your new iPhone … and your battery use is totally de-optimized.
The solution: set up your iPhone 4 as an entirely new phone.
Connect your iPhone to your computer
When iTunes opens and your iPhone is active in the source list, select the Summary tab at the top
Click the Restore button
(this will delete everything off of your phone, so be sure you’ve done a recent sync and no important information is only on your phone
After your phone is restored, set it up as a new phone in iTunes
Re-sync all your data, email, songs, apps, etc. over to your new phone
Enjoy your new much longer lasting battery life!
After doing this, my iPhone 4 battery life is MUCH longer. Currently, I’m at about 2 days with reasonable usage … and my battery is still at 34%.
I’ve had a chance to play with Windows Phone 7 at South by Southwest for the past couple of days, and it’s confirmed an opinion I’ve had for a while:
Windows Phone 7 doesn’t suck.
That may sound heretical to those who know me as an iPhone-carrying, Mac-using, iPad (and iPad 2) owning Apple fan. I love the Mac OS. I love my iPhone. In fact, I’ve used Macs for over 20 years.
But still, it’s true.
While Windows users such an infrequent sighting at SXSW (I think I’ve seen 11 so far) that I almost feel sorry for them, Microsoft has a decent-sized booth on the trade show floor and a couple of other demo areas around the conference session areas. And there’s plenty of demo units to play with.
The core idea of Windows Phone 7 is unification.
The panes (yes, window panes …) on the front of Windows Phone 7 integrate information from a variety of sources and attempt in aggregate to present a holistic version of your digital phonish self: what you’re doing, who you know, news you follow, games you play, people you’re connected to, and so on.
That core idea is smart.
It’s directly opposed to the iPhone/Apple current app-centric model. The opposition is visual, branding, marketing, and some reality: there is a lot of sharing built into the Apple iPhone model of common data such as calendar and contacts … but not as much.
I’m sure Apple will address this to a degree: siloing our lives into apps is problematic. Not because we don’t want great apps that are entirely internally consistent and solve a specific problem in a comprehensive, elegant manner … but because we want our apps to be smart not only about what we’re doing in them, but in other apps, sites, and places as well.
I still MUCH prefer my iPhone. But props to Microsoft for smart positioning.
In 1984 Apple released the most famous and least-broadcasted television ad of all time: 1984, celebrating individuality and creativity. Man against the machine, one again the collective, a woman against Big Brother.
Motorola’s 2011 Xoom ad brilliantly references 1984 and juxtaposes Apple then – challenger, upstart, weak, facing established titans against insurmountable odds – with Apple now – the giant of the mobile device industry.
Where 1984 shows grey assembly-line men in grey lines in a grey room (reminiscent in post-iMac times as the omnipresent beige of pre-second-coming-of-Steve PCs), Xoom shows white-clothed clones with white wires leading to their ears. Where 1984’s hero(ine) is a woman; Xoom’s hero is a man. 1984 is colorless in blacks and greys; Xoom is colorless in whites, stainless steel, and glass.
The symbolism could not be clearer.
It’s brilliant and evocative, as well as dangerous. By explicitly referencing Apple as leader, Motorola is casting itself as underdog. True, but not necessarily the positioning of a winner.
The penultimate point of the ad comes when the hero uses his Xoom to take a picture (which an iPad can’t yet do) of flowers and send it to a white girl in a white hood. She gets it … and then in a movement exploding with symbolism pulls her white iPod-like earbuds out.
The ad cuts to a Xoom tablet with the words: “the tablet to create a better world.” Which of course also explicitly references Apple’s desire – embodied in the 1984 ad – to improve people’s lives.
Brilliant. Exquisitely shot and edited. And it even works well on a product placement level.
I can understand not loving Apple, who dethroned RIM as the smartphone leader. And I can understand not promoting BlackBerries to Mac users, who are much more likely to use iPhone.
But actively discouraging Mac users from even exploring App World? It’s passive aggressive nonsense that does nothing to evangelize their platform or their product. And … did RIM not notice that Microsoft now has their own phone platform out? Will App World block Windows next?
You buy it in physical form from Amazon, they win. You buy it in physical form on Amazon from another retailer, they win. You buy it digitally on a Kindle, they win. You buy it digitally on Kindle on iPad, they win. You buy it digitally on a PC or Mac, they win:
Plug in whatever device you want … smartphone, PC, eReader … Amazon has it covered.
This is smart, and this is the future: device ubiquity.
In other words, don’t force your customer to choose. Provide your product or service wherever your customer is. Make it simple, make it easy. And … go the extra step to ensure synchronicity within your ubiquity – so that, as Amazon enables, a user can start reading on Kindle on the iPad, and finish on their PC. Same place, same bookmarks, same notes.
There is only one reason why Google is investing in Android. And it’s the same reason that Google invests in just about anything else:
To gain access to (and if possible to control access to) information … so that it can sell ads and otherwise monetize data flows and resultant behavior.
Android is of course a mobile play, and mobile/social is where there is tremendous growth. So if Google is going to parlay its amazing success in traditional search, Google needs to be on the phone. In Apple’s new mobile garden, data access and behavior flows are app-centric … not web-centric. They use the internet, but not the WWW.
That’s deadly for Google, because it conceals activity and favors silos of data over the all-knowing oracular Googleplex. This is precisely the reason why Android development kicked into extreme high gear well after the release of the Apple iPhone … when it became clear that apps and not the web was the focus. So Android is a power play to ensure that the mobile internet/web is open to Google (and perhaps favors Google).
But Google has a problem.
And the problem is this: Android is open source and anyone can do anything to it that they wish. More precisely, Android uses an Apache-style license, not a GPL-style license (see a good explanation here). Most precisely of all: organizations that want to modify open source software released with an Apache-style license can integrate it with closed-source code and do NOT have re-release their modifications.
Mix that together with a carrier-centric distribution model where the telcoms all want to do exactly what is in their own best interests … and you have a recipe for fragmentation, for forking, for slowing development (or at least release), and many (slightly) different proprietary forms of Android – if not significantly at the code level, at least at the user interface level.
And that means that Google’s attempt to remain the arbiter of all information in the mobile world is at the tender mercies of the telecoms’ desires to make money. Hmm … smell any problems yet?
MG Siegler laid out some of these problems in a TechCruch article recently: Android Is As Open As The Clenched Fist I’d Like To Punch The Carriers With. Imagine multiple apps stores, where developers have to add and validate their apps in 5-10 stores instead of one. Imagine crapware pre-loaded onto phones, just like cheap PCs at Circuit City, because the carrier will be paid for placement or use. Imagine limits on what software you can or can’t install. Imagine funky UIs dreamed up by HCI neophytes who thinks it “looks cool,” even though it’s completely unusable. All this adds up to a bad user experience and an annoying client/provider relationship … none of which will help in a fight against the iEmpire.
But the worst possible news from Google’s perspective is getting kicked off their own phone platform. And that’s precisely what might happen, if Microsoft’s marketing and financial muscle is put in play. There’s already rumors that Bing will replace Google on Verizon phones. Just imagine the consequences for Google.
And yet, it might serve them right.
Google has gotten to where it is by destroying a lot of business models. Gmail commoditizes email; Android and Chrome commoditize operating systems, Google Docs commoditizes productivity apps … the list goes on, and on, and on.
Wouldn’t it be poetic justice if Android ended up commoditizing Google?
If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s an e-reader. But not like the iPad, not like the Kindle, and not like the myriad of competing Android-based tablets in the marketplace today.
The Kno is aimed straight at education, and is designed to replicate the physical experience of a book … while adding enhanced digital features. So is every other e-reading tablet, you might think. But not quite. When I say replicate, I mean replicate. As in size … lots of it.
The Kno is not one tablet but two. And it’s not 7″ or 10″ … it’s 14″. Times two.
That’s right … two 14″ tablets joined together that open like a book and aim to faithfully replicate the experience of cracking open a full-size textbook and reading it. Pixel-for-pixel.
Here’s the part that I seem to be terminally confused on: is this a good idea, or is this just slavishly adhering to an old paradigm? In other words … is this the best thing ever, a new revolution in digital technology, or is it just a better buggy whip in the day of the horseless carriage?
I’m not quite sure.
More screen space is always better. But the price … probably $1000, and the size, and the weight, and the probably battery life, and the probable slow user interface (small processor driving a huge screen) … make me think this is not a winner.
But it certainly is intriguing. As long as you don’t try to fit it in your pocket.
The iPhone 4 fiasco continues unabated today, given that numerous independent testing agencies have found its reception lacking. The highly-respected Consumer Reports review might be the final straw:
Apple will be forced to recall the iPhone 4 following Consumer Reports tests proving the “Death Grip” antenna issue is not software related, but a hardware flaw, PR experts say.
“Apple will be forced to do a recall of this product,” said Professor Matthew Seeger, an expert in crisis communication. “It’s critically important. The brand image is the most important thing Apple has. This is potentially devastating.”
So much for the thin excuse that it’s a software issue …
It’s official. Consumer Reports engineers have just completed testing the iPhone 4, and have confirmed that there is a problem with its reception. When your finger or hand touches a spot on the phones lower left side—an easy thing, especially for lefties—the signal can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if youre in an area with a weak signal. Due to this problem, we cant recommend the iPhone 4.
Why, why, why, Wired? 400 MBs of images in your 500 MB iPad app. Extremely uncool.
From the story on Interface Lab:
With the Wired app weighing in at a whopping 500 megabytes – just 100 shy of a full CD-ROM – how do they intend to maintain new editions of the magazine? 500 MB is too large for a 3G download (no help from AT&T’s less than spectacular network performance) and for those with iPad’s with the smaller storage, each issue will take a significant chunk of space on the device. With no apparent means for managing which issues you keep on your device, this will become huge issue for a lot of people. Obviously they will fix this with updates to the application, but I’m still wondering what they were thinking to begin with. I’m hoping there were voices of dissent that pointed out the end product was not worth it’s weight in megabytes. A PDF version would have been a tenth of the size, though without the interactivity. But is the interactivity worth the 500MB price? I personally don’t think so.
Why is the magazine so large? Being the intrepid hacker that I am (*wink*) I mounted my jail broken iPad via AppleTalk and quickly tore into the app itself to see how it was constructed. Similar to the PopSci+ magazine application, each Wired issue is actually a bunch of XML files that lay out a bunch of images. And by “a bunch of images” I mean 4,109 images weighing in at 397MB.
This is part of an occasional series on iPad use cases … or, more generally, tablet computing. All are written on my iPad.
Today I needed a break from the office – a break from my desk, and a break from sitting. But I had an important email to review, with a long PDF document that I had to read, understand, and respond to.
So I picked up my iPad, opened Mail, and headed outside. Found the message and opened the PDF … and started to review the document in the fresh air of a beautiful morning. PDF documents are wonderful to read on iPad … each page basically is a screenful in portrait (vertical) mode, and looks stunning.
It was a perfect to both recharge the batteries a little and get some work done.
Easy to carry, easy to view, great visual quality even outdoors with bright sunlight nearby.
Can’t thin, of anything bad at the moment.
Would have been nice to be able to annotate that PDF and send it back
An interesting argument from RoughlyDrafted Magazine:
What better curse could one wish upon one’s mobile platform competitors than a bunch of performance and security problems, poor battery life, a mess of user interface inconsistencies, and a malignant boil upon their efforts to develop their own third party development platforms? Jobs didn’t express such schadenfreude himself, but he can’t possibly not be ecstatic that his competitors are all rushing to wrap themselves around the neck with the dead albatross that is Adobe’s Flash.
That’s why I’ve got a few thousand followers on Twitter, why I blog, why I save links to del.icio.us, post videos to YouTube, and so on …
Mobile Safari lacks this, at least so far as I’ve seen:
You can add a bookmark, add a web page to the home screen, or mail a link (how 1990s!) … but I can’t yet find how to share it on Twitter, ideally with the Bit.ly URL shortening engine.
I’m not sure yet if they can be added, or if I’m going to have to move to Opera, or if Apple will update Safari.
All I can say is: there has be a better way than:
Tapping and holding
Selecting “select all”
Switching to a new browser tab with Twitter active
Tapping and holding
Writing a blurb about the link
If and when I find a solution, I’ll update this post.
In its first 10 days, Apple’s iPad has captured almost as much online usage share as the BlackBerry or Google’s Android operating system, a Web metrics firm said today.
According to data from Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based NetApplications.com, the iPad’s share has averaged 0.03% since April 3, the day Apple started selling the media tablet. Although that number is puny compared to the major operating systems — Windows XP, for example, accounts for 64.5% of the total market — it’s within striking distance of longer-available rivals.
Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, for example, had a usage share of 0.04% for the month of March. Android, meanwhile, accounted for the same figure, split evenly between Android 1.5 and Android 1.6, NetApplications said.
Who, in his right mind, expects Steve Jobs to let Adobe (and other) cross-platform application development tools control his (I mean the iPhone OS) future? Cross-platform tools dangle the old “write once, run everywhere” promise. But, by being cross-platform, they don’t use, they erase “uncommon” features. To Apple, this is anathema as it wants apps developers to use, to promote its differentiation. It’s that simple. Losing differentiation is death by low margins. It’s that simple. It’s business. Apple is right to keep control of its platform’s future.