Tag - microsoft

Microsoft!

From Reuters via Information Week:

Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO)’s second-biggest investor urged Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) to raise its $42 billion bid for the Web pioneer and warned Yahoo it has few options left, raising the pressure on them to seal a deal.

Isn’t it somewhat hard to argue both of those positions at the same time? Wouldn’t that almost be like talking out of both sides of your mouth?

You would think, huh …

iPhone and greed

Ken Ollin is wondering if the biggest innovation in the iPhone is greed. At least, that’s the catchy title of his blog post.

What he’s really questioning is why the iPhone is a closed garden instead of an open software development ecosystem.

In response, of course, eager Mac users have responded with the usual flood of comments to anyone who questions Apple – mostly making good points about the software development kit that will be coming out in February or so.

But Ken’s post is still valuable, as I commented on his post:

A lot of people have made good points in the comments. The SDK, etc.

But … let’s not lose sight of the point (even if we are Mac fans – and I’m one too.)

The point is that the ecosystem is more important than an individual piece of software or hardware – and any individual company. This is the key insight that initially won Microsoft the operating system war, and losing this insight is what is costing Microsoft today.

The point for Apple: cultivate the ecosystem. The returns are huge multiples of what the closed garden generates. Apple is likely moving in this direction with the SDK.

But here’s why commentary like this is valuable: the ecosystem approach is not in Apple’s DNA. Apple *is* learning it, but true-blue Apple SOP is to go it alone.

An occasional reminder is a good thing for Apple – and a good thing for all of us who love Apple products and software and ethos.

Google has much better …

. . . Excel help than Excel.Every single time I need to find out how to do something in Excel, I try to figure it out from Excel help. Search usually gets me nowhere, but sometimes gives me a clue what I should actually be searching on. But the help I usually get is not very helpful.So I turn to Google, and usually on the first page of results, using the search terms that make sense to me (an admitted Excel weenie, and proud of it) I find the answer.Isn’t that bass-ackwards? Shouldn’t the best source of information about your product come from your company?

Now will they get the zen of Apple?

Sometimes it’s hard to convince PC users of the benefits of Apple computers and Mac OS X.

Since their computers are hardly personal, and just tools, and essentially lacking style and personality, they don’t understand, can’t grasp, cannot fit in their brains the concept of an interface that has been obsessively designed to fit, to function, to form an environment that accepts and welcomes people.

Maybe the iPhone will solve this problem. Check out what this Time reviewer says:

The user interface is crammed with smart little touches — every moment of user interaction has been quietly stage-managed and orchestrated, with such overwhelming attention to detail that when the history of digital interface design is written, whoever managed this project at Apple will be hailed as a Michelangelo, and the iPhone his or her Sistine Chapel (Steve Jobs can be Pope in this scenario). If you’re not a reviewer, chances are you won’t even bother to look at the manual. Translucent, jewel-like, artfully phrased dialogue boxes come and go on cue. Window borders bounce and flex just slightly to cue the user where and how you’re supposed to drop and drag and scroll them. When you switch the phone to “airplane mode” (no electronic transmissions, for use on planes) a tasteful little orange airplane slides into the menu bar, then zooms away when you switch out again. (This was so pleasurable that I repeatedly entered airplane mode while using the iPhone, even though I wasn’t actually on an airplane.) As soon as my phone realized it belonged to someone with a nonsense-name like Lev, it started correcting typos like “Leb” and “Lec” to match.

That’s the zen of Apple taken to a whole new level.

Umm … which one?

In a discussion on the burning question of “who Bill Gates really is,” we get the following brilliant insight:

“Bill Gates is the proxy for how Microsoft will be remembered. First and foremost, he’s a businessman. He’s not an inventor or technologist, per se, and I don’t think he would claim to be. He’s fundamentally a geek.”
Greg Papadopoulos, CTO of Sun Microsystems

Count me confused.

eWeek and iPhone: fear and loathing?

Is 3 negative articles in one day a coincidence?

Holy mother, what on earth is going on here?

Could it be an extremely Windows-centric empire of analysts and business media is absolutely terrified that their comfortable bread-and-butter Windows hegemony is dissolving in front of their eyes?

I guess Linux was bad enough – it wasn’t in the MSCE textbook but at least it was technical, and needed user handholding, and ensuring lots of expensive tech support and high-end analysis was required.

But Macintosh! Is iPhone at last the trojan horse that will take Apple into the enterprise, just like iPod has in the home? The very prospect has Windows weenies running scared:

After all, the horde carrying the forthcoming Apple phone won’t be barbarians; rather, the very folks doing the work, and worse, some may well be the boss.

IT departments like devices like Blackberry’s with centralized command and control. They hate things they don’t bring in, that they haven’t first subdued with strong corporate chains. And they fear Apples’ recent success.

Their fear is both justified and unjustified. On the one hand, corporations don’t change their systems and applications overnight. On the other hand, a real alternative is slowly taking shape.

However things go, this outpour of vitriol and epidemic of trembling knees is pathetic.

Word and the web: incompatible

It’s hard to believe that people at major weblogs and web content companies don’t know this yet, but Microsoft Word and the web don’t really see eye to eye:

topic-idiocy.jpg

(At least for people on non-Microsoft browsers and platforms.)

Apple on speed?

Since when is speed the most important factor in a browser’s performance?

Safari 3 is the fastest browser running on Windows, rendering web pages up to twice as fast as IE 7 and up to 1.6 times faster than Firefox 2, based on the industry standard iBench tests.

Like others, I was a little underwhelmed by Apple’s WWDC conference. Safari for Windows was a surprise, but not the kind of wow I was hoping for. The big thing that is bugging me, though, is selling a browser on speed. Maybe that’s just because I’m a Mac user, but is IE or Firefox slow for most PC users? Do they feel slow?

I haven’t heard that from any of my friends who use PCs.

My only guess is that the average non-technical PC users junks up his PC (and his browser) with all kinds of plug-ins and toolbars – which could make IE feel slow. Safari will win that comparison simply by virtue of not being compatible with anyone’s toolbar.

But I doubt anyone on a reasonably modern PC with a fairly clean IE install is terribly worried about browser speed. I just don’t see it.

Savages with machine guns

OK, so I called my father a savage today. Trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds.

He called with a computer problem: he’s trying to install some application on his PC. Problem: he’s completely clueless about computers. So I’m doing the familiar dance … what happened, what does it look like, what do you seen on your screen.

Seems to me that the application might actually be installed – he just doesn’t know it.

So I ask him to search in his Programs folder. Doesn’t ring a bell. Open up his computer’s hard drive. No response. Doubleclick the icon where all his files are. Nope.

That’s when I called him a savage. Actually it was more of an analogy. I compared him to a savage with a machine gun … as likely to be looking down the barrel when pulling the trigger as aiming anywhere else.

Not knowing anything about how computers work – even the slightest bit – is becoming more and more of a handicap.

[tags] computers, user friendly, clueless, savage, machine gun, john koetsier [/tags]

Microsoft oPhone

Now this is how to respond to your competition:

(Doesn’t change the fact that I think iPhone is going to rock, but it’s funny, well-done, and … it’s got me listening.)

[tags] iphone, ophone, microsoft, apple, marketing, youtube, john koetsier, pr [/tags]

Microsoft & Yahoo: dumb and dumber

So Microsoft and Yahoo! are in takeover/merger talks. It’s getting major coverage. Is this a good idea?

Buying Yahoo! would be Microsoft’s dumbest move ever. Focus dilution, merge headaches, corporate culture clashes … the list goes on and one. Frankly, if I was Google or any other Microsoft competitor, I would be praying that they do buy Yahoo!

Microsoft’s niche – OK, ecosystem – is not the web. That’s not what they do best. They’re desktop and server. That’s where they win. It’s not clear to me that buying Yahoo! makes them any more web-native.

Microsoft would effectively be granting competitors a 6-month headstart – at least – while they tie themselves and Yahoo! up in interminable negotiations, strategizing, and what/who stays/goes triage.

Finally, Microsoft’s ace in the hole – one of them, anyways – is their massive cash hoard. That loot buys them 5-6 mulligans in just about any business sector they’re in. If they use up all or a significant part of their cash, they become that much more vulnerable to the consequences of screwing up.

And screwing up is easy to do when you take your eye off your ball.

Apple: welcome to life as Microsoft

It’s a great story to be the underdog … but it’s nicer to be the top dog.

Unfortunately, being top dog means being treated like one. Apple is now being hit with intellectual property and patent lawsuits almost weekly. The latest one, from Individual Networks, hits Apple where it hurts: the iTunes/iPod empire.

As AppleInsider reports …

Individual Network’s complaint accuses Apple’s entire music ecosystem of profiteering from iTunes sales and points to anything which can download copies of that content, including the iPod, as contributing to the reported damage. If won under ideal circumstances, the suit would grant the plaintiff not just royalties for every iTunes song or video sold but also a “reasonable” percentage of the revenue from associated devices such as all iPods. The Apple TV and iPhone may also be subject to a future ruling.

While it’s incredibly annoying that companies that do nothing but dream up squiggles on paper and then get them patented could potentially make billions off of others’ hard work of actually building a real product and a real business, that’s the business/legal world of the USA today.

Welcome to Microsoft’s world, Apple.

[tags] apple, legal, IP, patents, microsoft, john koetsier [/tags]

My very first Mac virus: fake Flip4Mac?

I just received this in my mailbox:

mac-virus.png

That really, really looks like a virus infiltration attempt. Which is amazing, because although I’ve seen many of those, they always end in a .exe or some such Windows extension. This is the first I’ve seen targeted for Mac.

A quick google reveals that Flip4Mac, which is an actual legit Mac application for viewing Windows Media files, has a vulnerability … but nothing that suggests that there is a virus out there masquerading as Flip4Mac, or Flip4Mac components.

Sounds new. Anyone else seen it yet?

[tags] virus, mac, flip4mac, security, apple, windows, john koetsier [/tags]

Sony camcorder & Mac OS X: not happy together?

Yesterday I bought a new camcorder – the Sony DCR-SR82 with a 60 GB hard drive. Today I shot some video, and tonight I tried to hook it up to my Mac and play in iMovie HD.

No such luck.

  1. Sony wants you to use their proprietary software … which is Windows only
  2. Sony provides a sort of a dock for this camera, which you are then supposed to connect to your computer – there’s no real USB output on this camera
  3. iMovie HD doesn’t recognize that a camcorder is attached, and won’t import any video from it
  4. The Mac finder can see the camera via disk mode, and I can see my movie clips in QuickTime format … but I can’t open them. They’re “muxed,” meaning that the audio and video are mixed together and QuickTime can’t open them
  5. Well, actually QuickTime can open them … if I spring for a $20 plug-in to QuickTime. Hrm … do I look stupid? Shouldn’t QuickTime just come with this needed component in the first time? Isn’t this the zen of Mac we’re talking about here … stuff just works?
  6. But even if QuickTime can open them after I pay extortion, iMovie HD will still not like me very much … iMovie HD won’t import, play, or edit muxed files

This is just wrong. OK, there’s only one course of action:

  1. Return crappy camcorder
  2. Buy new camcorder with better outputs and Mac compatibility
  3. Write nasty blog post about this hassle (check!)

To be completely frank, being on a Mac should mean that I never have to think of or even hear something so esoteric as “muxed video.” That’s what Apple engineers are paid for.

To be completely george, Sony is smoking something powerful if they think I’m going to change my computer to work with their camera. Not bloody likely.

They just lost a customer.

[tags] apple, mac os x, mac, sony, DCR-SR82, incompatible, muxed, iMovie, john koetsier [/tags]

Adlinks will ruin the web

fake-links.pngIf every page starts to look like this, we’re in big, big trouble.

All those links are fake links – ad links … what I’m going to call adlinks. This particular bit on nonsense is featured on /Film’s Indiana Jones story.

They don’t actually go anywhere that you might think they do, they’re only ads, and they’re either selling something at best barely related to what you’re reading about, or they’re just a way to benefit from adwords arbitrage (insert whatever pay-per-click program you wish, even Microsoft’s).

Plus, they’re too dense, meaning that the value of each individual link is less. And finally, since they bear no relationship to the story/post, they actually inhibit communication.

fake-links2.jpgWhen you mouse over them, they look like this.

Links are the roads and the currency of the web. When they don’t do what they’re supposed to do, we’re putting potholes in our roads. We’re inflating the currency.

And we’re pissing in our own well.

[tags] adlinks, ads, links, advertising, online, john koetsier [/tags]

Sorry, Bill: you’re dull

The big BG is lashing out at Apple’s ad campaign, which portays PC users as old, stodgy, and slightly stupid:

Denying he had seen that particular commercial, Mr. Gates said, “I don’t think the over 90 percent of the [population] who use Windows PCs think of themselves as dullards, or the kind of klutzes that somebody is trying to say they are.”

I hate to say – and don’t get all self-referential on me – but anyone who uses the word “dullard” is probably a dullard.

[tags] bg, bill gates, microsoft, apple, ads, advertising, john koetsier [/tags]

MAC is not Mac

For all those who languish in the valley of the shadow of Windows, MAC is not Mac.

MAC is something geeky and technical and abstruse. Mac is something simple, elegant, and powerful.

OK?

[tags] MAC, mac, apple, ethernet, language, pet peeves, john koetsier [/tags]

Instant mood changer: CEO wealth meter

If you want to feel bad but you’re feeling good, or if you want to feel good but you’re feeling bad, I have the perfect solution for you:

The CEO Wealth Meter

Today, Steve Ballmer is work almost $200 million more than yesterday. Google’s Eric Schmidt is up $150 mill or so too. That’s gotta be a downer if you, like most, have a $1500 mortgage payment due at the end of the month.

On the other hand, Michael Dell dropped $80 mill. That’s gotta suck. Larry Ellison of Oracle lost $40 million of net worth – nasty. Barry Diller of InterActiveCorp, on the other hand, lost just $2 mill – must be an amateur.

😉

[tags] ceo, wealth, money, john koetsier [/tags]

I want people this passionate about the tools I’m building

Thomas Hawk just bought a Mac after 18 years of wandering about in the valley of the shadow of Windows.

Here’s what he has to say:

I never in a million years would have thought that the design of a laptop would ever matter to me at all. It’s not about the aesthetics of a machine. It’s what it does for you right? Well, maybe. But this machine is damn sexy. I love the way that the keyboard is lit at night so that I can work in the dark. I love that glassy screen. There is something about the feel of the polished aluminum as I hold, no caress, the thing in my hands. It types perfectly. I love how I can use two fingers on the touch pad to move my screen down. I love how it has a hidden built in microphone and a small little video camera in the screen so that I can do video phone stuff through Skype super easily. I love how the little power supply has a magnet built into it and just kind of plugs itself in. And yes, I even love that glowing little Apple logo on the back of the case that I’ve scoffed at in the past at the various conferences and tech meetups that I’ve gone to.

(Every time I see some crappy Dell laptop or an IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad I look at all the sharp angles, notches, odd bulges, and unsimple lids and just shake my head.)

That aside, however, here’s the point: how extravagantly wonderful is it when people rave like this about a product, service, or tool that you’ve create? I passionately want people who use the stuff I build or contribute to to passionately love them.

(And yes, I am building something. Still pre-alpha, though.)

As I saw recently on a design site: design like you give a damn.

[tags] design, mac, thomas hawk, john koetsier [/tags]

Been nice knowing you, Rollyo

Looks like Google has just fired a shot across the bow of Rollyo, which promised that anyone could have his or her own search engine:

Rollyo is the fast, easy way to create personal search engines using only the sources you trust.

New from Google, the great innovator, a personal search engine:

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could easily build a search engine on your blog or website tailored to the topics and areas you know and love the most?

Hmmm … the new Microsoft?

. . .
. . .

Update: Mathew Ingram got in on this one before me. See also Matt Cutts and Om Malik.

[tags] microsoft, google, rollyo, innovation, competition, john koetsier [/tags]

Xbox: bringing families closer together

I was chatting with our director of sales today when he mentioned that he was playing Xbox with his son last night. Now, he’s on the west coast – Bellingham, WA – and his son is back in Chicago.

This is one of the key activities that brings them together.

They both have Xboxes. They join network games at preset times, playing the game, chatting, even video chatting. This is their new normal – fairly cool, I thought.

But it would be science fiction even a decade ago.

[tags] xbox, video, chat, family, games, john koetsier [/tags]

Podcasting dead, long live Zunecasting!

I swear, Apple Legal does its level best every single day to do whatever it can in every way to do the maximum possible damage to Apple Computers Inc.

How can ostensibly smart people – I mean, they passed the bar, right – be so absolutely, abysmally, galactically stupid?

Now they want to take over “podcasting.” Find the details at Calacanis’ blog, the Wired blog, Scobleizer, ZDnet, and MacNewsWorld .

“Podcasting” as a term for personal audio publishing online is a term that does nothing but good for Apple, the iPod, and the whole iPod economy. Conversely, coming down with the legal fireworks ticks off potential clients, alienates Apple Computer Inc., and provides fodder for rivers of bad press.

Imagine the alternative: Zunecasting.

Perhaps Apple would prefer that?

[tags] podcasting, apple, legal, lawyers, IP, trademarks, zunecasting, john koetsier [/tags]

Blogged with Flock

Google @ school

I hate to say I knew it would happen, but 3-4 months ago I put together this strategy map of where I thought Google was heading.

I focused on education because I work for an education company. But this will happen in the corporate world too.


(click for a larger PDF)

Google will offer an integrated suite of single sign-on private labeled applications in all of these areas, and more:

All roads lead to Rome? All roads lead to Google.

If anyone is still wondering why Microsoft increased their projected R&D spend enormously just a few months ago, you can stop. Now you know.

.Net Passport is .Annoying

I wanted to comment on a MSN Spaces blog posting today. Unfortunately, it requires a .Net Passport.

Like many other Mac and Linux types, I’ve always resisted getting one … Microsoft and security and all that. But the thought struck me: I have an account at just about every other web service on the planet. Get over your prejudices and go get that Passport account.

Well. Somebody pinch me and wake me up. Identity management shouldn’t be this hard. .Net Passport is a Microsoft trademarked name that bears significant resemblance to Plug & Play: both are oxymorons.

The first stage (and yes, there are many) starts with way too much information (I don’t want to give Microsoft my email address, or create one with Microsoft) and ends with way too little: the now-ubiquitous prove-you’re-human guess what the squiggly lines mean step:

This is my second chance; I failed the first one. Wonder if I’d pass the Turing test.

That’s minor, though, compared to the next step. It’s titled personal information, and contrary to the name of this whole identity management service, it means what it says. Emphasis on the personal.

Birth date. Gender (they mean sex; there are 3 genders and 2 sexes … well, mostly). OK, I can kind of swallow those.

But occupation? Industry? Job title? Marital status? Children in home?

It seems to me that these questions have a lot more to do with Microsoft’s (or someone’s) ability to classify me as a consumer – a particular level of consumer – and market specifically to me. Sorry, not interested.

I had to cancel – and all I wanted was to post a single comment on an MSN Spaces blog.

I think this is what happens when you have MBAs designing web services. Please, please take a lesson from 37 Signals: only ask for the information you need, when you need it. You can always get more later: if it makes sense. If it’s tied to something your client wants to do.

But if you ask too much, you may not get anything at all.

[tags] microsoft, .Net, Passport, identity, Sxip, MSN, Spaces, john koetsier [/tags]

Jason Fried on Collaboration

I tried to watch Jason’s presentation at Collaboration Loop tonight.

Unfortunately Collaboration Loop uses Windows Media player, and it’s driving me nuts.

  1. it keeps stopping part way
  2. the play head is not scrubbable, so I can’t restart it partway
  3. and when I try to give them some feedback, the feedback form is braindead

I’ve noticed that others are having trouble too. Fix your site and use QuickTime or Flash, Collaboration Loop!

[tags] signal vs. noise, jason fried, collaboration loop, annoying, windows media player, john koetsier [/tags]

Bumptop Piles: Apple, are you listening?

Check this out.

It reminds me of Apple’s Piles concept, which never really saw the light of day. But this is much cooler, and may be a significant step forward in UI design … if some big company takes the hint.

[ update July 1 ]

Niko Nyman disagrees with the idea that Bumptop has possibilities. Some good points.

My rejoinder, posted as a comment on his post, and recycled here:

There’s absolutely no question that as a metaphor for 1.5 million files, the desktop fails, and fails miserably.

Where I see something like Bumptop as useful, however, is the transient stuff: the files for the 5 projects you have on the go right now. That’s what is on your physical desktop: not all 1.5 million pieces of paper you’ve seen/touched/needed/wanted at some point in your entire life. And that’s what’s on your virtual desktop.

However, ultimately you’re right. The question is: what do we have to replace the desktop metaphor?

[tags] apple, microsoft, UI, desktop, john koetsier [/tags]

Star bloggers getting traded: consequences?

Nicholas Carr recently posted an article about corporate bloggers and risk. If high-profile people like Robert Scoble leave, what does that do to the company?

(His comments on Roughtype are screwed up, so I’m posting this here.)

Among other things, he said:

So Microsoft’s self-styled human face is now some other company’s human face. This must be the first corporate human face transplant ever attempted. Will it take? Or will the new body reject the used puss?

… and …

A company should probably be a little nervous about letting some blogger set up shop as its human face. The earnings the blogger pulls in through the attention economy may accrue more to his own bottom line than the firm’s.

My reply, which I would have posted in his comments, but Typepad thinks I’m logged in but won’t post my comment, and then won’t let me log in, because I’m already logged in, even after I log out. Yay.

Agree it’s a problem. but …

What’s the alternative? Same old same old mass media we talk you listen approach? Won’t last long.

The better way is in good old-fashioned business logic: never put all your eggs in one basket. Encourage many employees to blog, rather than just one superstar.

And that is indeed the revolution that Scoble led at Microsoft.

Fix your comments, Nicholas!

[tags] nicholas carr, robert scoble, blogging, corporate, john koetsier [/tags]

IE 6 unsuitable for web 2.0 apps?

I read Richard McManus’ blog posting yesterday on whether IE 6 is unsuitable for web 2.0 apps.

Among other things, he cites Ross Dargahi’s blog post at Zimbra:

From a Web 2.0 application developers perspective (developers who use a lot of JavaScript and DOM manipulaion), IE 6 is plagued by a number of well known problems such as its ability to readily leak memory. Regrettably, Microsoft’s next release of Internet Explorer, IE 7, does little to resolve these issues.

There’s no question that it’s very easy to cause all kinds of memory leaks in IE 6. When we developed an Ajax-powered calendar creation site last fall, getting it working in IE 6 was a huge issue.

When we ran compatibility testing with iBeta, and even when we were doing usability testing with The UE Group, we were experiencing chronic crashing problems in IE 6. Memory leaks where killing the browser after people were on the site for more than 15 minutes or so. And, of course when that happens, people don’t blame their browser, they blame the website they were on.

However, we actually managed to fix the memory leaks – Mike Skovgaard, the primary developer on the site, worked crazy hours to trace every single instance where anything was called in the browser and explicitly release that memory.

So eventually IE 6 worked out OK for us – although getting it working was a lot tougher than Firefox, no question. Certainly, however, we’re hoping that IE 7 will be better.

I’m guessing, however, that Zimbra’s app is probably a lot heavier-duty than ours … and that probably has a lot to do with their issues.

. . .
. . .

Note:

I would have posted this as a comment at the ZDNet blog but didn’t, for these reasons.

[tags] IE6, explorer, web 2.0, memory leaks, web apps [/tags]

iTunes Education Store (and library) Coming Soon?

This past Friday I spent some time publishing a course on my iPod. (Find out how you can, too).

It’s fairly simple to create a course to run on an iPod, but there’s one problem: installing.

Installing the course takes too many steps for the average person … dragging the audio content into iTunes, syncing, then putting the iPod into disk mode, and dragging the course’s text files into the Notes section of their iPod. (More info on installing.)

There has to be a better way – and there’s a couple of forms it could take. One is very simple and immediate. The other is long-term and strategic … and that’s the one that I think Apple will do.

One: iPod Markup Language, zipped course packages
Option A would be for Apple to extend the markup language that iPods already speak, making it just a little more sophisticated. In this scenario, Apple would invent some kind of configuration format that would tell iTunes just what to do with all the course components.

Example:

A course might consist of audio content, text content, some pictures, and perhaps a few videos. The configuration file would simply be used during installation – telling iTunes what’s included, where to put it, and how it’s all linked together.

Then content providers could zip up course packages and distribute them online. People who want to install the courses would just download the file and import it into iTunes. During the next sync with their iPod, iTunes would put the components in the right places on the iPod, and users would find the courses either in the Notes section of their iPod as they currently do, or, preferably, in a dedicated courses/learning section.

Two: iTunes Education Store (and library)
That’d be a great easy solution, but here’s what I think Apple will actually do.

Apple will do for iPod-based e-learning exactly what they did for podcasts: build in the ability for content providers (both professional and amateur) to register their content at the iTunes music store.

They’ve already done this for major universities, in a sense. Currently, it’s only for audio and maybe video content. But eventually, it will be for complex content that is a mix of text, audio, video, images, and even assessment.

Once that’s been done, then Apple will make it discoverable for people browsing the iTunes Music, err everything store. You’ll be able to can “subscribe” to it just like a podcast, and bango-wango, it’ll auto-magically appear on your iPods.

There’ll be a free option for free content (that’s the library part) and, you guessed it, a commercial model for courses people and companies want to sell.

(As an aside, this is why Microsoft is so worried about Apple’s iTunes/iPod empire. It’s not the music, it’s the ecosystem. What Apple has built is a media-delivery monster, and the only limit to what this pipe can carry is the rate at which people can absorb new uses for it without getting information overload and reacting against it.)

This will be completely revolutionary, because now you will not only have an easy way to create and publish courses, you’ve got a popular, common platform on which to do it. Who needs e-books? iPod is already here!

The content is easy to create – it took me about an hour to get from having no clue how to do it to successfully publishing my course on my iPod. And the reach of the platform is unparalleled, with probably 45 million iPods in the wild today.

It’s a content provider’s dream: fairly cheap, extremely portable, good battery life, flexible, easy to publish to, a built-in distribution model, and an ecosystem full of people used to paying for content.

Is this what Duke University had in mind when they did their iPod Duke Digital Initiative? Perhaps. I’m convinced it’s going to happen.

The only question is when.