April 25th & 26th
287 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Abstract Submission Deadline: January 19th
What does it mean that digital technologies are increasingly a part of...
Roger Cohen, The Quest to Belong
Next year’s Thanksgiving grace.
Battelle has an interesting theory about Apple’s purchase of Topsy. It’s not, he says, about Twitter at all: it’s about making search the central metaphor of a new iOS UX.
In Apple Won’t Build a (Web) Search Engine and Of Course Apple Is Going to Do Search, I argued that Apple must get into the “app search” game. Just as web search became the coin of the web realm, app search will be next. It won’t look like web search, I argued, but at its core, it’s quite similar.
That was three years ago, right after Apple bought Siri, launched iAds, and was relentlessly touting the growth of its app ecosystem. I was certain Apple was going to figure out a way to create value above the level of a particular app, using all that tasty data it had within its restrictive walled garden to build the next generation iOS interface.
But so far, Apple has failed to innovate inside its own ecosystem (unless you count minimalist icons and bright base colors as innovation). Three years later, we’re still stuck in a user interface of app-filled screens, most of which we never use, each disconnected from the other save for the fact they happen to reside on your phone, possibly right next to each other, but otherwise unaware of the value they might reap should they magically start sharing links and data with each other. (You know, the way the web works.)
This has to change.
Google knows it, which is why I find Google Now so fascinating. Apple knows it too – the days of home screens littered with app icons are numbered. What will replace it?
My guess is some kind of intelligent, search-driven interface that “understands” you, based on the intent you signal through your use of all kinds of apps – including browser apps, of course, as well as true search apps like Siri (or Google Now). This new kind of interface responds to your voice as well as your location, your history, and anything else you might willingly (or unwittingly) feed it. It will strive to always put the very thing you need at your fingertips – something that simply isn’t possible without understanding your interactions as the equivalent of …. well, a personal interest graph.
And to do that, Apple needs a powerful engine, the kind of engine that, say, has been hard at work understanding a massive corpus of interest data for, say, six or so years. Something like Topsy.
I go along with some of John’s complaints. As I have added a few dozen apps that I use regularly to my iPhone, the UX has become an impediment. Yes, iOS 7 is an improvement, but its the same old restaurant with better tablecloths.
I’d like to see a better UX, and search offers some great angles. And it’s a good idea to buy new talent, considering how bad Spotlight was for so long (and it’s still not wonderful). In particular, creating elements in the OS where apps could register and allow a search to index their data stores, so that I could search against the data and not just apps. Including, of course, Twitter data, and all sorts of other things that could be relevant.
So, maybe we should call this app-centric search, not app search.
The authors of this NY Times piece ask an interesting question about the compatibility of Snapchat’s imagined world and Facebook’s:
As for Snapchat, its compatibility with Facebook is unclear. Snapchat is centered on impermanence and offers privacy and anonymity. Facebook constantly pushes users to share more and is rooted in real-world identities and creating a permanent, largely public record of people’s daily lives and interactions.
Given these differences, the Snapchat bid looks like an attempt to corral back some of the cool factor in the form of young eyeballs. Three years ago, Snapchat did not even exist, and Facebook, with a valuation of $100 billion before its public offering, was the hot company. Now with younger users preferring Snapchat — which says it processes nearly as many photos as Facebook each day — Snapchat may well have the upper hand.
“It’s head-scratching,” said Christopher Poole, 25, the founder of 4chan, the message board. “From a business perspective, I understand it. But from a cultural perspective, it’s like, ‘Wait, what?’ ”
Mr. Poole said Facebook’s aggressive pursuit of Snapchat may point to an identity crisis of sorts.
“Does that mean that they’re willing to embrace an alternative to Facebook identity, or does it mean that they feel that threatened by it that they’d leave their own wheelhouse?”
But what of the larger question: is society (starting with the Snapchatting young) rejecting the Facebook notion of a single, unchanging identity and a global social network based on publicy? Yes. The fall of Facebook has started. Peak Facebook has already passed or will soon. Why?
The Benthamite underpinnings of Facebook are becoming unpopular. Young people in particular don’t want their teachers, parents, employers, and even all their friends to know everything going on in their lives. Oh, and the government. People want to have multiple, contextually defined identities, different circles of knowing, different non-overlapping rules of attraction. Everything is not everything.
Google is involved in a huge brouhaha now about imposing Google+ ‘real identities’ on YouTube commenting, which is an echo of the same shout for identity freedom.
My bet for the next answer is on social operating systems, although Google is moving down a dark road with Google+ identities, and Apple seems oddly reluctant to do anything social, natively. Perhaps the failure of Apple’s Ping has frightened them off it.
Maybe we should be on the lookout for some crazy developers that build streaming at the OS level, or near to it. Dropbox and other virtual distributed file systems are close enough to do something like that, constantly syncing in the background, and implementing a distributed model of sharing. Imagine if Dropbox supported plugins to provide the equivalent of Snapchat, or Facebook-like sharing of updates with friends, but where the user can define the visibility of interactions, not Facebook. And — if they want — users could opt to share some things in closed contexts, like private accounts on Twitter, and others in more open settings. People are after a spectrum of identity sharing, and Facebook just won’t go there.
People don’t want Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, per se. In fact, those apps are generally considered bloatware, with confusing, UX-challenged, and overwrought design. What people want is something that doesn’t exist, but which Google and Apple are moving toward. People want to be able to view, edit, and create documents that are largely compatible with the de facto core standard of Office documents, the basic 20% of the three apps. And they want those documents to be sharable with other people, no matter what solutions those other people are using.
The big shift here is that in this era, the hegemony of Office is not going to dictate hardware decisions. People won’t put up with the limitations of Windows-based tablets from Microsoft or Nokia because they are the only place to get full-fidelity Office. And the simple reason is that people don’t want full-fidelity office, really.
Our work communications have moved outside of the interior of documents. The pattern of reviewing a Word document with internal comments and tracking changes is being displaced by external comments — in a work media tool (Yammer, Chatter, etc.) or in a social editing tool like Quip (see I want a social editor, but Quip isn’t there quite yet) or Draft (see Draft is a small and simple co-editor). In the heyday of Office, email with attachments was state of the art. Microsoft has acquired Yammer and moved Office to the cloud with Office 365, but they haven’t seen the change that is going on the perimeter of their model of office work.
So Frank Shaw is saying that Microsoft — at least under this CEO — is still fighting the last war for office productivity, while the world has moved on to a new form factor for work, where the social interactions of people cooperating are not concealed inside documents, but are instead mediated outside of them. And, as a result, the documents themselves can be much simpler in their internal architecture. We are relying on social architecture, now, instead.
The advantages to the store-as-fulfillment center plan are that Best Buy can deliver products faster and cheaply. The downside to that strategy is that Best Buy’s in-store inventory visibility isn’t good and the staff may not be as efficient as people in a distribution center.
The conventional wisdom would say that Best Buy’s stores are an albatross around their neck — much like they were for Blockbuster. But what if they can shift them into being more along the lines of warehouses — much like the ones Amazon is trying to build as quickly as possible — for fast local delivery? And what if only a small area of those warehouses were actually a storefront to show off their goods?
This would all take a lot of logistics (and possibly some re-zoning?) but it doesn’t sound like the craziest idea in the world. Again, what if your weakness is actually your strength?
Sounds like Joly might be onto something. But he can forget the ‘Microsoft Experience Stores’.
Hardly any touch screen PCs are being bought, so the world is breaking into a small number of successes: growing number of touch-oriented smartphones and tablets, stable numbers of keyboard + touchpad laptops, and a falling number of keyboard + mouse desktops. Strangely, PC manufacturers continue to over estimate people’s desire for oddball hybrids and touch laptops.
from the article
Acer and Asustek this week said touchscreen laptops championed by Microsoft Corp. haven’t made as a big a splash with consumers as previously estimated.
"Our first wave of Vivobooks was not a success," said Asustek CEO Jerry Shen at an investor conference Friday, referring to the company’s line of touch notebooks. "We are working very closely with Microsoft and Intelin an effort develop game-changing devices to launch in September.”
Mr. Shen said Asustek also plans to “attack” the nontouch notebook segment in coming months, as many customers still aren’t willing to pay extra for a touchscreen.
Acer and Asustek have pushed heavily into the low-cost tablet market this year to try to counteract the consumer preference shift away from laptops, but so far it isn’t clear whether sales of their Android tablets, which sell for less than $200, can offset the sales decline of more-expensive laptops.
Acer Chairman J.T. Wang said the company is shifting its product mix away from the traditional Windows system “as soon as possible,” with its percentage of devices running Google Inc.’s Android or Chrome operating systems to grow from about 10% this year to as much as 30% next year.
Asustek, which sells under the brand Asus, had up until this spring managed a better performance than many PC industry peers, partly because of a partnership with Google to make the popular Nexus 7 tablet. The sales helped boost Asustek ahead of Kindle-maker Amazon.com to become the No. 3 tablet maker behind Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.
But even with the success of the Nexus 7, Asustek is now struggling. After the release of the second-generation Nexus tablet, Asustek was hit by a crush of inventory of the first generation, as well as poorer-than-expected sales of Windows RT tablets, analysts said. Windows RT is a version of Windows 8 geared to work with ARM mobile-device processors.
Touchscreen laptops, which PC makers initially saw as their defense against threat from the mobile advance, haven’t taken off.
I expect that we’ll see a huge surge in Android and Chrome laptops, and the near-term collapse of Windows. It will be Apple OS X and iOS v Google Chrome and Android, and maybe Ubuntu as a distant third, starting with smartphones.
I think the Google TV team have a huge opportunity with the new Chromecast device. Despite all of the previous awful efforts at Google to get into the living room, Chromecast is really different. It’s simple — a wireless dongle that plugs into the back of the TV, no wires, and a wireless connection to the internet that allows control of the TV as a video streaming device from smartphones, tablets, and PCs. It especially does not require a remote.
Google has blindsided Apple with what I think will be the TV device of the decade.
I read a number of posts about the changes/no changes NSFW/Adult policies controversy at Tumblr. David Karp’s post raises more questions than it answers. Sarah Perez is a long complex blow-for-blow that shows that Tumblr has been changing its policies all year, despite saying otherwise.
Liz Gannes has be best summary, I think:
Liz Gannes via AllThingsD
CEO David Karp wrote in a blog post last night that “there haven’t been any recent changes to Tumblr’s treatment of NSFW content, and our view on the topic hasn’t changed.”
He also explained that Tumblr is blocking some widely applicable tags — like #gay — within some apps (this means Apple’s iOS, where Tumblr’s app is at risk of getting blocked). Tumblr’s staff has picked some apparently less popular tags — like #lgbtq — to moderate by hand so they can appear in the apps. It’s kind of odd.
Close readsof Karp’s post have not been friendly, citing differing public explanations of Tumblr policies over the past year, as well as things like Tumblr’s alleged pullback from earlier supportof a category devoted to erotica.
But if you read those close reads closely, the issue seems to be that Tumblr should make it clearer what the difference is between what it calls NSFW (occasional nudity) blogs and adult (substantial nudity) blogs, and explain who gets to decide that, and why.
In fact, TechCrunch’s takedown of Tumblr’s explanation actually shows that Tumblr policy has apparently made so-called NSFW content more findable over the past year. It used to be withheld from Google search, and now it isn’t.
According to the most current policy page (which actually says it’s outdated!), the adult blogs are the ones that are explicitly blocked from most mobile apps, Tumblr searches and third-party search engines. The NSFW ones aren’t (or shouldn’t be).
So perhaps people should stop complaining about Tumblr changing the rules, and ask it to actually explain the rules.
Yes. Tumblr, please explain the rules. And then stop changing them.
And it would be helpful to answer the elephant-in-the-room question: has Yahoo been behind these rule changes? Apple hasn’t changed its policies, so its not just some response to new iOS policies.
Morris gives a quick summary of some Android ‘desktop’ machines — mostly tablets that can dock with a keyboard, like HP’s Slate 21, various Acer products, and Samsung’s ATIV Q — but misses the point completely, sounding almost apologetic for suggesting these things might have utility.
I’ll go strongly in the opposite direction. Windows is (nearly) dead, especially on smartphones and tablets. Android will soon be the largest OS in the world. Inevitably, Android will become the largest player in the shrinking laptop/desktop market. Mac OS X and Android are the one-two punch for Windows, and that includes the desktop/laptop market, too.
What sort of progress has been made in Apple’s new approach to design since Jonny Ive has started to influence the software side of things? Not much, yet.
Jessica Lessin, Apple Design Teams Get Cozier
Some suggested that in Apple’s next mobile operating system, Ive is pushing a more “flat design” that is starker and simpler, according to developers who have spoken to Apple employees but didn’t have further details. Overall, they expect any changes to be pretty conservative. For the past few years, Apple has unveiled versions of its mobile operating system in the summer.
Design is one example of the increased “collaboration across hardware, software and services” that Apple said it was aiming for when Cook pushed senior vice president and mobile software chief Scott Forstall out of the company last year.
The move united Apple’s Mac and iOS software teams under senior vice president Craig Federighi. Change in that new group is happening slowly.
Federighi has indicated to some employees that he plans to keep the Mac and iOS engineering teams separate for now, one of the people said. There is lots of overlap between the two groups, such as two teams working on calendar software; whether the two would be combined after Federighi took over both was a big question among employees in the division, the people close to the company say. One of the people said that some employees are expecting further reorganization of the two groups this summer.
Sounds like we should look at the next round of calendar software to see what ‘flat design’ means. At the very least, can we get rid of the dumb skeuomorphs, like leather and stitching? Here’s a mock-up: