Archive for category App Store

Why Android’s team still doesn’t get it

Ok bare with me here. Android’s market share is growing very fast and yes I know it is quite popular but it is heading for a very rough reality check. The main reason why the market share is growing so fast has nothing to do with superior technology or great ideas. It has only to do with Android being better than the Symbian and Windows phones that it replaced and with the large number of East Asian manufacturers that are involved. For those it is indeed an improvement however, Google seems to believe that they are actually competing with Apple and they most definitely are not. They have never taken any significant number of iPhone users and there is a very good reason why as it stands they can never compete with Apple.

Yes, Android has a great promise and it is a good OS however, they have a huge problem and it comes in the face of Google Checkout. No offence to the Checkout team but it is the stupidest payment system ever. It has no recognition for the fact that you are selling to a global market and you have to use different currencies. If you have to use your bank to pay in a different currency then you will get hit by some massive charges and you cannot sell cheap goods like that. And if Google will be nothing than an advertising agency then why do they take 30% off your profits? Quite frankly Apple gives you a lot more for your money and it is no surprise that developers make more money there. You can release an application and sell it to everyone in their currency and you do not penalise them for living in a different country. Effectively there is no artificial barrier for the customer making the sale very easy.
And while Google might focus on technological improvements, at the end of the day they still make money from something else and since Google is not willing to pick up the slack you can bet that others will. There is an Amazon Market place which most definitely does currency conversion in the countries that Amazon exists and there are other coming out. Google is in fact in danger of being pushed out of their own operating system and that is just sad. I actually amazes me how business inapt the Android team is and how the crazy corporate policy that Google has is eating into their profits. I get it Google never uses services that compete directly with their own but when yours are clearly lacking you have to do something about it. Google needs to recognize that Android is no longer a pet project and is actually the future for Google. If you can’t fix Google Checkout please do everyone a favour and hire some financial gurus and please DO LISTEN to what they say. Otherwise Android is going to hit the glass ceiling a lot sooner. At the current rate I personally think that Android adoption rate will peak in 2012 and I don’t even think that it’ll be a flat line from there on.They will have to deal with disappointed customers and disillusioned developers and that does not equal a flat line.

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Why does iAd matter

Ok this is not going to be a comparison of advertising methods or the offerings out there. This is just my view on the subject and quite frankly I am not expert. But here is the thing, iAd is this Apple product that I never cared about. I am not the type of person that clicks on ads and I tend to avoid them like the plague. But iAds have started popping up in applications all over the iOS place so I must admit it, I clicked on one or two of them. And I must admit, iAds are by far some of the best online advertising that I have ever seen. Sorry Adobe but Flash is dead! I don’t know how hard it is to create an iAd but they are actually apps within apps. You get to watch an ad and most of the time after that you get to interact with the ad elements. Yes you can do that with Flash ads and it has always been the appeal of Flash advertising but get this, there is actually quality control on ads and I am loving it. Clicking on a flash ad actually makes me absolutely livid. Windows start popping up everywhere, the supposed games are designed by complete idiots and the add does not makes me like the product more, it makes me hate the company for using such cheap tactics. Not to mention that even well designed Flash ad campaigns take forever to load and well, do nothing other than make my surfing experience slow as molasses.
iAds are still annoying because they take up like 1/10 of my screen hight, but they actually never run unless you click on them. There is this little bit of added level of control that makes you feel in control of your workflow. And when you do click on an iAd, you are presented with stunning graphics, hardware accelerated transitions and quite a few other cool effects. The few that I have seen included a simple game, and the ability to listen to the music of the ad. Pretty cool actually. Oh and you get a link to iTunes where you can buy the song. Now that is cool if you ask me. There have been a few times when I though an advert song sounds good and finding it in google can be a real challenge and then after than you still need to find a place where you can buy the song. Well iAds seem to understand quite a few predicaments that people have (sometimes) and it’s like the designers actually knew that you had a problem and solved it for you without you even having to request it. Well that is not really the way it works but you get that feeling. And that feeling is exactly what makes a good product great. I actually think that iAds create a connection between the view and the product and they do connect a positive emotion in the user. Next time you see the product you will think of the ad and the positive emotion will surface. And if you have the money you will buy the product. If you ask me, that’s exactly the stuff that great advertising is made of.

I am all for freedom but I think Apple’s curated advertising experience is actually the best web experience that I have ever had which kinda makes me want to stay an iPhone user even if iPhones are not quite the best business tools at times and the plans tend to be more expensive than BB ones (at least where I live). I must say that Apple made an excellent decision with iAds and I have no problem letting them control that bit of my life.

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the unexpected genius of iPad

[sorry but i went back and changed the original content. Was a bit on the rambling side]

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last year, you know how big of a success the iPad has been. Actually a calculation that I recently did tends to suggest that the iPad sales mover almost exactly like what the iPhone used to be for the first so many quarters only on a higher scale. All that aside, I think that the genius of the iPad is in providing a very minimalistic interface (3 buttons 2 of which control the volume) and basically allowing you to live out your childhood dreams. Anyone that has ever used a computer know the frustration of having to use a mouse. Sometimes you just want to grab things on the screen and move them. Well tablets give you exactly that ability and with iOS you actually have only controls that ARE designed for finger gestures (of the nice kind). But I’ll write about that some other time.

So you know how people have been talking about digital versions of things replacing the analog/physical ones? It never really happened did it? Applications help you do things faster but only after a paradigm shift i.e. there is a learning curve. iPhone and iOS in general gave  us software with almost horizontal learning curve. You didn’t even need to know how to use a computer to achieve that. Actually you would love the iPad/iPhone if you have never seen a computer. It has a very natural and almost child like approach to controls and that is the beauty of it. But what the iPad has is a large enough screen so that you actually don’t feel a need to use a computer. Ok it was not like that until recently but now that 4.2 is out you really have a self sustained computing device. And yet the device is so simple and so flexible. And that’s exactly where the appeal lies. You get a digital tub of putty, and you can create anything you like from it (provided that you have the skills). The screen is large enough so that you can actually create large interfaces and you don’t need a lot of tricks to get things to feel natural. Yes the iPad is an ebook reader but 3rd party developers have made it into so much more that that. You have digital guitar effects, drawing boards, information management and so many other things. And yes iPad cannot do everything! But what it did do and will keep doing is it makes computer usage fun and enjoyable. And it does so in a very life enriching manner. I supposed the iPad is a simple enough device yet the SDK is easy enough that you get an amazing combination.

So talking about digital substitutes of physical ones, there is this game Settlers of Catan (yeah I know it’s old news). Problem is the board version cost about £15 on Amazon and then you pay even more for each expansion. If you buy one board game in your life (for use with your family or friends) this is the one to get. It is a tat bit harder than monopoly but a lot more fun. It’s been available for iPhone for a while now and trust me it is a lot of fun even when you play against the computer. So I though I’d check if they have it for iPad. Just imagine this, you have an actual digital board game. Yeah sure, the size of the board is about 10″ but the cost is less than a 1/3 of the board game, the size of the game is … well virtually 0 and the cool factor is huge. Anyway if you have an iPad that you think was not the best investment because you do not use it enough do yourself a favour, buy Catan HD. Your whole family will love it!

It is unbelievable but a computer can actually create a social experience. This reminds me very much of what Nintendo’s party games used to do and is quite unexpected because the purpose of iPad was to provide a personal experience …

A word of caution, the game is only available in the US and UK app stores.

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Mac Gems – Part 2

So I wrote a post about Relationship a while ago. I’ve been using for some time now and it is a very good piece of software. I must admit for a free application it is an amazing iOS one. It is a bit slow on the start up but it does work very well.

I have been looking for an app that lets me scan business cards and sadly none work as well as they should. I ended up buying WorldCard only to find out that while it does support multiple languages it does not support multiple languages on the same side of a business card. Also I ended up facing the horrors on iOS contact management. Apparently when you decide to use contacts from a server and particularly from an exchange server, you open a huge bag of hurt. I cannot describe how much I hate exchange after the last 2 months. I have had my battery drained a couple of times due to exchange not being able to sync to the server, constant crashed when attempting to delete contacts that got synced to an exchange account and several other problems.

It turns out that iOS makes Exchange the default account even for your address book and unfortunately certain management tasks are not that easy to do in iOS.

Anyway back to the business card issue. It is nice that you can scan cards with a picture but you should be warned. It works best on iPhone 4 (more resolution) and under a very well lit conditions. The OCR algorithm that WorldCard uses is good however it cannot deal with tilted letters so you have to have your camera as parallel to the business card as possible. Once you get the hang of it, and if you have no contacts problems, it all works well. Plus there is a desktop application that you can sync to (other than Address Book). Still, the solution is very far from what I would like it to be so I am still looking for a better one. I really would like to not spend £100+ on a business card scanner but it might be the best solution given the state of affairs.

[EDIT:] Ok so apparently I was having a problem with some of the Address Book preference files. Had to export the library, delete the /Home/Library files and then restore. All in all syncing is back to normal and the business cards are a heck of a lot more useful now. Still the auto OCR is not perfect but at least my computer setup is working now. In all honesty should’ve known that something was wrong when the add button in Address Book for some of the categories disappeared …

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Mac Gems – Part 1

So here are a couple of applications that I have found quite useful and somewhat of a surprise.

Recently discovered Jumpsoft’s Relationship. Amazing tool and is exactly what I have been missing. Ok the company has this other project management tool which I wish was integrated with Relationship but oh well.

So anywho, Relationship is a task manager that lets you create and manage teams of users, projects, and assign users to projects. You can also add simple notes and a whole bunch of cool little things like that. Learning curve is almost nonexistent and is simply a beautiful piece of software. Oh and on top of that there is a free iPhone version. You know how the Calendar on the iPhone is a bit … well  basic? Well Relationship gives you full access to the Calendar that you already know (same interface) and then a whole bunch more things. You have your address book, to-do list, notes, projects. And all that is for free. I actually think I’ll start using it as a Calendar replacement. Oh yeah and it all integrates with the desktop version. Not as well as Thinks but hey it is cheaper and more capable and with better integration with tools that you already use.

All that aside, you know how Apple canceled the Xserver line? Well I have had this thought for over a week now and I am pretty sure now that Apple is not done with the server world. Not by a long shot. If you have followed the server world for a while you know that cloud computing is going to be big one day. Only while it stands very little chance for a desktop replacement (read personal computer) because of the constantly dropping price of portable devices and the ever increasing power that they hold. Only there is another place where you can use cloud computing and quite successfully too. I’m talking about servers. Why buy your own if you can use a hired one? You don’t even need an actual physical server. You can actually sell virtual ones if you can convince your clients that you can securely store their data and provide them with the highest possible accessibility. Right? I think so. Actually I am absolutely convinced that Apple will one day sell virtual servers. And it has a very strong business case. You get amazing performance (virtual CPUs, GPUs, etc.), enough storage and secure storage of data, and the best internet connectivity possible. Oh and all that on one single bill much lower than the sum of the individual costs that it replaces. Yeah there is a great business case and just like everything else that Apple makes it does not try to target the whole market but rather a specific forward thinking part of it. And we can go on and on why it makes sense but the point is that I personally ting that Apple is building the NC datacenter as a server for hire farm. And if successful this is one of several around the globe. It is a massive project and would also explain why Apple has been hoarding all that cash.

I am so excited about this prospect that I actually really want to see this happening. Ha ha … it will make stupid IT admins finally aware of the benefits of using OS X. And who knows, maybe one day my work computer would be some kind of Macbook rather then a stupid Dell Adamo wannabe ….

Oh and as far as announcing it, I think Apple will wait until Lion is ready for release (at the least). Tomorrow’s even is not about the NC facility. Tomorrow is about iPhone and iPad and the Mac App Store. Anyway, that’s from me for now.

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Digital Software Distribution

So yesterday Apple announced OS X 10.7 Lion and the availability of an OS X App Store. This all got me thinking and here are some things that Apple is not really saying. Sure the new App Store is not for every developer but it does have it’s appeal when you think about it. The obvious reasons for using it as a developer are:

*  lower piracy rate (if you choose to distribute only the AppStore version)

*  low advertising costs (if Apple does it’s job right)

*  a fully digital distribution channel with virtually no additional staff on your side

 

As far as the users go the reasons to use the App Store are:

*  easy way to search to tools

*  software is tested to work and not contain viruses

*  never have to go to store you have a one click purchasing option for every software available on the App Store.

*  all of your software practically updates itself

 

The problem is, that even if we overlook the minor details that Apple is conveniently forgetting to mention, the company still has a long way to go before they can fulfill the promise of a digital distribution channel. Oh first glance 30% of your revenues just so you can use the App Store is a lot. But is it really? If you ask Apple whey will probably point our that you won’t have to maintain any outbound logistics channels and they are correct to an extent. There is still outbound logistics only you are in a way selling to Apple rather than your end consumer. This in turn makes Apple a Tesco or a Walmart or a BestBuy. And why Apple would like you to believe that all they are doing is providing developers with a way to reach a new customer base, I think they are trying to do a lot more than that. In fact Apple is trying to be both a manufacturer of devices i.e. a creator of a market. And a retail chain for that same market. It is a brilliant idea if they manage to pull it off. However, Apple should thread lightly. There is a great chance of upsetting their longtime consumers and those are indeed the people behind the “Cult of Mac” and the ones that got the company through it’s darkest years.

Anyway, personal feeling aside I think that the best feature that Apple is overlooking is the fact that the App Store has an almost one click buy option. I say almost because if the implementation is the same as the one on iOS then you would be asked for a password every once in a while. Everything else that Apple said about the store is marketing hype. Yes you can update all your applications in one place but I can do that today with MacUpdate Desktop and it costs me only $20 a year. Ok I would get a lot more value if my girl friend or sister or any other member of my family would decide to switch to Mac but even as it is $20 a year is not that bad of a deal. Oh and none of the developers have to change their software in anyway. Even if you don’t care about a $20 a year solution, most of Apple’s software has some form of autoupdate option. Provided that you really do use the software on a regular basis and you have an internet connection then you will get updates on a regular basis. And quite frankly if you don’t really use the software or you don’t have internet (basically you are a modern day Robinson Crusoe) then who cares if your applications are not up to date.

So apple says that an App Store greatly reduces piracy. Really? How so? Your system is not locked in any particular way, you have access to all the files on it and therefore you can change the files. You know how jailbreaking works and how you can install apps for free on a jailbroken iOS device? Well it would take a very minor effort to do the same on an OS X computer. You won’t even have to jailbreak anything. All you would be required to do is patch the App Store. It’s possible that Apple has some grand plans of actually locking the App Store by using some trick but I know enough about software development to know the only reason why the iOS is protected is because you have no access to the files. There is no magic there. And no one is even thinking about locking the Mac because that would be plain stupid. You cannot stop piracy and for Apple to claim that the App Store would do that is silly. Also companies never price their products based on the piracy that they expect. Oh sorry almost never. Remember Microsoft? Well in certain countries you can actually get a free licence for MS software if you a from a certain type of organisation or get it at a very very low price otherwise.

And all this is just the top of the iceberg. Apple would have to fix the upgrade problem that they have with applications, figure out how to allow demo version, make the App Store an integral part of the OS, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that the App Store is the way of the future for software distribution but Apple has a very rocky road ahead of them. And why should there be a separate application to deal with software installations? I don’t want a package manager like every linux distribution out there. Be smart about it and integrate the App Store much like widgets and exposé are integrated into the system. I don’t mind change but I have just come to expect more from Apple than a half thought out 1/3 integrated system. But hey it’s possible that Lion brings that much wanted integration and more …

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