Archive for the ‘Apple’ category

My APPfliction

March 27, 2012

I evaluate apps like a teenage girl tries on clothes. I’m voracious about it. More importantly, I have terribly harsh standards and I have a problem committing to an app: They’re all too easy to discard and replace with the new shiny. It’s unfair, I know. But, I’m finding the most inconsequential features can sometimes (not always) compensate for otherwise nominal shortcomings. And I mean PETTY stuff like an amazing icon or splash screen. Typography. Colors. Speed! There are little tricks some developers utilize that I find myself envious of. It’s a healthy respect and nod to the person who toiled over the app. As a fellow developer I have an appreciation for the effort of conceiving, authoring and marketing one’s work.

Now, when I say “app” I’m not drawing a distinction between iPhone, Android or Mac. I’m certainly not elevating one type of app over another either. If a web app rocks where a native app just didn’t cut it… Well, let’s call it what it is. I do genuinely like the idea of an App Store. With a few important (to me) exceptions.

App Stores as we understand them today are walled gardens for software that will only run on it’s particular flavor of device. That’s maybe not entirely necessary. It’s just the way it is. There are apps for other platforms I wish I had the ability to try out on my phone, tablet, tv. But the walled garden is impenetrable. I can’t get there from here. Meh. OK. Small gripe.

Discovery is a MUCH bigger problem though. If you’ve used iTunes much you’re probably familiar with it’s Ping function. It’s Apple’s recommendation engine. I don’t pretend to understand the logic or algorithms it uses to arrive at suggestions. Some are spot on. Others seem to come from left field. [I'm not that varied in my musical tastes Apple!] The genius behind Ping is it’s ability to summize my interests in content and hazard an intelligent guess at what else I might want to try out.

App Stores should do this. Now! I jettison more apps than I keep. Many of them are paid. But, they’re of no use to me and are easily discarded. I can’t thing of one I’ve plucked back from the grave. I would suggest to Apple… please, please, please… factor this into your next iteration of whatever Ping’ness you bring to the App Store. It should factor… they did NOT like THAT, but DID like THIS. Or more importantly did NOT keep THAT… Now, what apps have others installed (and kept) that are good candidates?

In this way your ratio of HITS v. misses is more appropriate.

Might I also suggest a better way of discovering WEB APPS! (Yes, Apple, I know there’s no 30% take for you in web apps…) But, helping to make my APPfliction complete I would hope you’d not turn a blind eye to the many non-native apps out there. Some are spectacularly good and rival the finer native apps on my devices. For whatever reason your staff stopped “picking” web apps in late 2010. Please, pick that ball back up and run with it!

Smart. Phone. Distracted. Driving.

March 27, 2012

We want it all too quickly don’t we?

A nifty device lands in our life in the form of a smartphone. One iteration after another it’s improved upon until we reach the intersections of dependence, need and technical capability. I’m of course talking about my iPhone and it’s current OS (version 5.1).

Siri intrigued me as a potential virtual private assistant. The concept is sound and the execution is promising. But, it’s also clear why Apple would label it “beta” at this point in time. It’s tantalizing to the point of leaving me wanting it to do more than it does (or perhaps is capable of at this time).

Point in case, Siri can handily manage my text messages plus respond to simply queries. Which is really quite nice. But, not particularly habit forming as texting just isn’t my cuppa. But, email IS my domain. There are so many things I’d have Siri do for me in the email department such as finding, reading, writing, responding, filing certain emails for me. Some would be routine such as notify me ONLY when an email from Alexander or Tania arrives and file it in the Important folder.

I know we’ll get there. But, as fast as technology is moving wouldn’t it be great to have Version 21.0 right out of the gate?

Sorry, Windows 8 Only Ushers OUT Windows 7

September 14, 2011

For all the good Zach Epstein tries to accomplish with his claim that Windows 8 is the one to usher in the Post PC era… all he does is underscore Apple ushered in the Post PC era and that Windows 8 is (in true Microsoft fashion) a close follower. Think Zune. Think Windows Mobile. Hell, think Windows!

No Zach, the convergence of devices and platforms has been under way for a LONG time. Everyone WANTS a spot at the table. But, friend… Apple was the one to finally say “Here’s how it’s done. The table is now set.” Microsoft may come in and gorge themselves at the table. But, as you so eloquently CORRECT yourself throughout your screed… Apple brought us to the Post PC era. It’s up to Window (8 or 9 or 10…) or some other platform to beat the champ.

Point to something other than the Office platform (PC or Mac) that is pulling it’s weight at Microsoft. XBox? Bing? BingHoo? Can Microsoft even execute anymore? I wonder… I think Microsoft is precipitously close to ushering ITSELF out of the PC era and closely following Apple into newer, more fertile field. IMHO

Who is AAPL’s next COO

August 26, 2011

Everyone’s all rev’d up about Job’s resignation as CEO, Tim Cook’s ascencion to CEO.

No one is yet talking about who replaces COOK! Tim is a brilliant ops guy. Sure, he gets strategy. He’s helped drive it at Apple now for nearly a decade for crying out loud. The guy “gets it”. No question.

But, who becomes Apple’s next COO is really pretty important.

In fact, AAPL has several key executive jobs to fill. Serlet – Developer Relations. Johnson – Retail. Very quickly Tim Cook will have the opportunity – nĂ© the responsibility of hiring in his “Cabinet” to carry the ball for the next [several] years. So, are these internal young stars we’ve not seen much of yet? Are these people we’ll say… oh, yeah, that makes total sense? I’m betting we already know these people.

See, Apple has a University internally for continuity. They want everyone to know… Apple isn’t going to change too very much. We like them the way they are. They like them the way they are. So, sure, people come and go… even higher ups. Continuity and panic control were expected and factored for.

So, here’s the 64-bit question… Who is the Apple management dream team?

IS Steve Jobs Coming Back? Ever?

March 21, 2011

Some time back I predicted Steve Jobs would “retire” across the board (Apple, Disney, etc). Kinda happy to have gotten that one a wee wrong.

Something’s really niggling me about his return though… I just don’t see it happening. It’s time to wonder now… will Steve Jobs return to the office off this most recent medical leave? I love to think he’s coming back. If for no other reason than to tell us all he’s licked the sicknesses plaguing him. To see his home built. To see old and new friends enjoying their lives. To build his “one more thing” that we fall in love with all over again.

Tim Cook has done a MARVELOUS job of showing Wall Street he’s not only capable of running the business. But that he’s capable of LEADING the business too! Which, let’s admit it… we fan boys love Steve for his charisma and chutzpah as much as anything he’s done on the business savvy side of things. In Tim we have another LEADER. Someone who gets the gestalt of design, business, supply-side. Someone who’s had his fill of the kool-aid alongside us. He’s as much a fanboy as the rest of us. He’s one amazingly driven gentleman.

Will the existing leadership take hills for him should his day come? Hell yes. Will the legion fanboy hang on his every word? You know?… I believe we will. It may take some getting used to him. Getting to know him. What makes him tick. But, I think all our love for Steve will be transferrable to Apple’s next full-time CEO. And I honestly think that’s Tim Cook. Retention of the existing talent set will be crucial. Forstall, Cue, Schiller, Ive, ALL the hardware and retail leadership, Serlet… Man, what a phenomenal bench! and that’s just the top of mind crowd. The veeps and directors and engineers and evangelists that bust their humps to get all this magical stuff done. Again, if anyone has the leadership chops to keep the house that Steve built together… It’s Tim.

An Apple, Inc. without Steve is a lesser place. To be sure. But, the Apple we all know and love is chock full of Steve-inspired, Steve-vetted goodness for many years to come. And, there’s no one better than Tim Cook to see that legacy executed and ultimately built upon and surpassed. I can think of no more appropriate homage to Steve Jobs than to take Apple Inc to the next level under able adult supervision WHILE he’s still kicking.

My hope is the AAPL board will name a successor while Jobs has the steam to bless the new Don.

The Quandry: Web App or Native App?

February 19, 2011

I’ve been wrestling a lot lately trying to pick a path forward for my next big iterations of our mobile app strategy at Grocio.

The dilemma for us is a little unique. Most of what we produce (locally aggregated store circulars) are fed today to the iPad only through the NATIVE client over http. So, we can afford to be agnostic in our approach forward at this point. We’re actually in a great position to deliver a web app experience that for the most part is consistent across all devices. And, I’m excited about that truth be told. The nice thing about the web apps route… EVERYONE has the same point version release. No lengthy delays for approvals. As it turns out these are compelling cases for choosing the web app route. The dilemma comes down to one of monetization.

Shoppers are paying for the “Store Circulars” app today via the iTunes App Store. It’s important to continue making revenue from the app. So, do we hook a web app into this new Google subscription doohicky and charge that way? I’m adamant that we’re NOT going to rely solely on advertising/sponsorship. CPM and CPX is all fine and good. But, having made my living by the fickle ups and downs that way a few times before. It’s not something I’m excited about doing again.

Conversely… do we remain on the native path? Supporting multiple platforms (even within the same OS). The emerging App Stores give us some super distribution and reach. But, with it comes the expense of some % of revenues that are split with the hosting App Store. Not to mention the ugly need to actually develop distinctly different apps for each of those platforms. I don’t dispute the value of what the App Stores provide or the % of revenues for each sold app they take. They earn it. No argument there.

The problems are compounding for app developers though… More platforms means we face more choices which ones to develop for and which ones we’ll forego.

It’s the reason I like the idea of wrapper software frameworks like PhoneGap. I’m not savvy enough yet to build a universal app from the ground up. I still hire out some parts of the app that are beyond me. Anything that gives me a leg up on building once and deploying across multiple platforms AND app stores… I’m going to like a lot. Even to the point that’s a pure web app.

Are you other mobile developers facing similar issues? How did you solve for your situation? And, of particular interest, how did you manage to monetize your apps?

When School Boards Fail

January 30, 2011

Imagine this – Your State Legislature takes a bill through to signed law. Happens all the time. It’s controversial to the point of being called “unconstitutional”.

This new law requires your (elected) state school boards to do something specific. Most comply but seven in your county don’t. In fact, they VOTE not to follow the law.

Scores of affected families get together and try mightily to persuade the districts to recognize what they’re doing is willful misconduct. These districts maintain what they’re doing is trying to figure out which law to follow – the constitution of the state or the recently passed law. State precedent is clear though – All state laws are considered constitutional until adjudged otherwise AND that only courts have the jurisdiction to adjudge in such a way.

At this point the school boards are dug in past the point of reasonable dialogue: They are intent on interpretting laws. The families recognize this can’t stand and sets a bad precedent.

The families float a little known, little used statute they call “Writs of Ouster” which simply requires a number of signatures equivalent of 1% of the last election for the office(s) in question or 15 signatures, whichever is higher. One such Writ of Ouster is filed against a district and immediately three of the districts rescind their positions because it’s certain the board members are personally responsible for their own legal fees. It has now become a personal liability the districts can’t cover. They’ve lost their shield.

Shortly thereafter the remaining four districts are told by the State Attorney General, “We’re taking similar action. You have four days to rescind your positions.” The boards do so. But, not without also belligerently voting to sue the Attorney General ASAP.

The parents have had enough of the rogue and defiant behavior of the district boards and file Writs of Ouster against them all.

At this point you have no idea what law these boards are objecting to. At this point you simply know they’re doing things they ought not be doing on principle alone. There is no legal position to support their actions. They’re simply rogue elected officials who won’t respond to reason.

Can you blame the parents for taking drastic measures to reel in their education system?


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