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Android invades the desktop - John Morris

http://www.zdnet.com/android-invades-the-desktop-7000017286/

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.

Software Design Approach At Apple Changing?

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:

Orchestra’s Mailbox makes email triage effortless - Stowe Boyd via GigaOM Research

http://pro.gigaom.com/blog/mailbox-makes-email-triage-effortless/

I managed to get invited to Orchestra’s Mailbox launch — if you try to sign up today there are 433,636 people waiting — and the app kills. It implement the email triage I have been doing with external task management tools like Asana and Todoist for years. And it’s so fast because of the gestural interface.

Here’s ‘swipe left to snooze email’ —

image

— which leads to a second screen where you can quickly assign a day when the snoozed email should be returned to your inbox from the Gmail archive. Yes, it only works on Gmail accounts, and only runs on iOS, at the present time.

My bottom line from the piece at GigaOM Research:

Inbox triage has long been a necessary chore, but Mailbox makes it simple and intuitive. My bet is that Mailbox will be an enormous hit, and will become one of the apps that define and confirm the new gestural UX that we are moving into so quickly. Also, I am sure that all other email clients will knock off the principles of email triage à la Mailbox. I envision a browser version of this working PCs in combination with Leap Motion, but it’s killer as is, and for people on iOS devices it will quickly become the default mail client of choice.

Go read the whole post, if you want.

PS Apple should buy them immediately.

Nook Is Done: Can Barnes & Noble Survive?

Barnes & Noble has risked a lot on Nook, and it’s not panning out. In fact, it’s hard to see how they can stem the fall of the retail giant.

Barnes & Noble Faces Steep Challenge as Holiday Nook Sales Decline - Leslie Kaufman

The results, covering a period that ended Dec. 29, are a sobering development for the nation’s largest bookstore chain. The declines occurred during what is supposed to be peak buying season. And the Nook unit’s sagging fortunes came despite a 13 percent increase in sales of digital content, suggesting that it is the tepid demand for Nook devices that is dragging down the unit’s performance.

Barnes & Noble has invested heavily in developing a tablet that can compete with offerings from media giants like GoogleApple and Amazon.com. Last April, in announcing a $300 million investment in Nook by Microsoft, the chief executive of Barnes & Noble’s chief executive, William J. Lynch, said the company wanted “to solidify our position as a leader in the exploding market for digital content in the consumer and education segments.”

A few months after that, the bookseller began breaking out the financial results of the Nook division, In October it completed its strategic partnership with Microsoft by creating Nook Media, a subsidiary and a signal that it was ready to ride its digital business into the future.

But while Barnes & Noble’s most recent Nooks have won critical praise, they have failed to gain significant traction with consumers.

Other companies do not break out sales of their digital tablets, but Amazonhas been saying sales of its Kindle Fire were strong. Analysts say Apple’s iPads also appear to be doing well.

“The problem is not whether or not the Nook is good,” said James L. McQuivey, a media analyst for Forrester Research. “What matters is whether you are locked into a Kindle library or an iTunes library or a Nook library. In the end, who holds the content that you value?”

For an increasing number of consumers, he said, the answer is not Barnes & Noble.

Though the company’s stock was down only slightly — falling 2 percent to $14.22 — the reaction in the financial world was unsparing. Analysts stopped short of saying that this was a do-or-die moment for the Nook Media division, but they acknowledged that options for a strong digital future were narrowing.

In a note to clients, S&P Capital IQ said, “We think this portends greater market share losses for the Nook over the medium term” and downgraded its recommendation on Barnes & Noble stock from hold to sell. Barclays said in a note that the Nook’s precipitous decline was “quite concerning” and “below even our modest expectations.”

[…]

Last month, Barnes & Noble announced that Pearson, the British education and publishing conglomerate, was taking a 5 percent stake in Nook for $89.5 million. Analysts said that cash investment was welcome and the partnership with Pearson, a major publisher of educational textbooks, might herald a strategy to move toward dominating an education niche market. Still, that would be a significantly smaller business.

My bet: Barnes & Noble will have to bail, even if Microsoft decides to increase its investment in the technology. (I doubt that Microsoft is ready to invest more heavily in a company building on Android technology, at least not until Ballmer leaves, and they bring in a new CEO who gives up on Windows.)

The Nook HD is based on the Android Ice Cream Sandwich platform and has a roughly equivalent hardware and software platform as the Kindle Fire HD. It’s slightly cheaper — like $30 — but Kindle has first mover advantage and huge capital resources. And any comparison to an iPad makes Nook look like something from a few years ago.

Maybe Texas Instruments — who make the chipset in Nooks — wants to get back into retail products? Not likely. However, Intel has been making motions to shake up their business model with the collapse of the netbook market, and the decline of PC/Windows sales, and with a market cap of over $100B they might have the money to take a run. But would they have to buy Barnes & Noble to do so? I wouldn’t buy that side of things.

Google’s another player who might want to play with Nook, but not Barnes & Noble, per se. But it would be interesting if Google decided to go retail with their own gear, as well as do something different in bookstore retail. Imagine, for example, if bookstores were reconfigured to be like gigantic Redbox machines, where you could type in any of millions of books, ten thousand of which are actually in the machine, and are delivered on the spot into your hands. All others delivered next day to your home. One percent of the staff costs. But I have no reason to believe Google is tending in this direction.

A 2013 prediction: Barnes & Noble with sell, spin out or shut down the Nook business. Pearson might be a fallback, with Nook becoming a niche educational tool.

Apple Fires Maps Lead Following iOS Chief's Ouster | Gadget Lab | Wired.com

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/11/apple-fires-maps-lead/

Rich Williams, the manager responsible for the horrible, horrible iOS Maps app, has been shown the door by Apple’s SVP Eddie Cue, following the sacking of Scott Forstall last month.

He apparently was unwilling to formally apologize for the app. In another time and place he would have been asked to cut open his stomach with a meathook.

Touchscreen Chrome OS hybrid tablet/laptop coming soon? - Richi Jennings

http://blogs.computerworld.com/cloud-computing/21391/touchscreen-chrome-os-hybrid-tabletlaptop-coming-soon-itbwcw

Jennings pulls together many rumors pointing toward a touchscreen Chrome OS hybrid tablet/laptop designed and developed by Google. 

If the Android/iOS one-two punch is a precedent, the emergence of a Chrome OS laptop/tablet is more of a threat to Microsoft’s push on Surface than Apple. And the Surface looks like it’s heading nowhere, according to Piper Jaffray’s Black Friday stats.

Why Google, Amazon, And Apple Might Build Cell Networks

An interesting rumor making the rounds, that Google is discussing building out a wireless netwrok in partnership with Dish:

Google Wireless: Could an Alliance with Dish Make It Happen? | TIME.com

According to “people familiar with the discussions,” Google has talked with Dish Network about the possibility of creating a new wireless service. Although Dish is known mainly for its satellite TV offerings, the company is sitting on some unused wireless spectrum and has openly talked about building a new network with a partner. Google is one of the companies who has showed interest.

The negotiations weren’t in advanced stages, the Journal reports, so this could turn out to be nothing. Still, the idea of a wireless service from Google is interesting to think about, and it would make sense both to the company and to users.

Wireless carriers need disruption. They slather their phones–particularly Android devices–in bloatware that you can’t remove. They invent new fees without good reason. They find ways to charge you extra to use the data you already pay for. They stick their logos in unsightly places presumably just to remind you who’s boss.

There’s no guarantee a Google wireless service would provide the opposite experience, but at least Google has different motivations. Instead of simply trying to juice average revenue per user, Google’s priority is to get people hooked on Android so that they’re always buying apps and media and relying heavily on Google search.

A more general and more persuasive argument could be the benefits of better user experience in integrated solutions. For example, Amazon’s provisioning of WhisperNet for its Kindle devices — provided free, by the way — is a great example. A user simply buys a device and a minute later is downloading their first book, and reading it a minute after that.

Leaving aside the basic argument of Whispernet immediacy, consider other capabilities. Imagine if Apple was running the network I am using at this moment, tethered through my iPhone (on a train headed to NYC) instead of AT&T. I bet Apple, Amazon, or Google could figure out how to give me more bandwidth, so that I could really watch streaming video, wherever I go. 

If the mobile device becomes as fast as it needs to to support full video, why would we need cable in our homes and offices? We wouldn’t. Everyone would have their internet access with them everywhere, all the time.

And if the mobile device becomes the primary connect to the internet, then Apple, Google, and Amazon could pull a complete end run on the wireless companies and the cable companies. They could go directly to the TV networks and the sports cartels (NBA, NFL, Premier League), and pipe them through this new distribution system. 

Get ready for a huge shift.

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