Friday, June 29, 2012

Google I/O

A lot has happened since Apple's WWDC in San Francisco.  At WWDC Apple announced iOS 6, but nothing ground breaking was released, no new mobile hardware (which is what we all want now).  The following week Microsoft announced their 7" tablet (called Surface) which immediately got bad reviews from all the Microsoft vendors (I'm guessing they don't want the "mother ship" competing with them), we have rumors of 2 new Fire tablets coming this summer (a new 7" and a 10") and now a new Google 7" tablet that's already for sale and should be shipping in a couple of weeks.

Nexus Tablet

While the Nexus Tablet has a very powerful chipset with a quad-core processor and impressive graphics most are not comparing it to the iPad, but instead comparing it to the Kindle Fire (this has to be a disappointment to Google).  Partially I'd agree, the 7" form factor is ideal for reading, though it's also ideal for small hands, so kids would love this platform, add to it the price of $199, if it gets broken it's not the end of the world.

Nexus Q

The Nexus Q is a brilliant concept, though it'll be interesting to see if it leads to any divorces or shouting matches between kids or roommates.  The Q is called the first social entertainment hub, essentially what the Q does is stream content from your Google Play cloud to the device and then broadcast that via your entertainment system (speakers/TV).  How it connects to your device and Google Play cloud is interesting.  If your android phone has an NFC chip in it, you simply tap the Q with your phone and this pairs your phone via bluetooth to the Q, you can then control the Q's playlist via your phone.  What's interesting though is let's say a friend comes to visit and wants to add something to the Q's playlist from their phone, they can also tap the Q, have their device paired with the Q and then they can add songs, modify the playlist or even stop what you're playing and play what they want (this is where I see fights happening).  

Seeing this is a bluetooth function, you shouldn't have issues with neighbors who happened to pair with your Q modifying your device.  There could be a slight security issue though.  In theory if someone pairs with your device and are good hackers they may be able to hack into your Q, since your Q is attached to your local network, then this person could possibly get to your local network.  I'm hoping that Google has built some good firewalls between the bluetooth accessibility and the wireless networking.

Google Glass

It seems that Google is preselling prototypes of Google Glass to participants at Google I/O.  Google Demo'd their new very cool glasses based device with a skydive stunt (Google Glass Skydive).  The skydivers jumped out of a zeppelin that seems to be a constant on the San Francisco skyline.  If you haven't seen the video yet, you can watch it above.

Other

Google is also pushing Google+, Google Drive (like Dropbox) and now Chrome for the iPad.  I've been using Chrome on my mac for a few months now and I'm liking it.  I never liked Safari on my mac and Firefox was very slow.  What's cool about Chrome is that all my saved passwords, bookmarks, etc... are now available on ALL my devices.  This is very similar to what's coming out in the next versions of Safari and iOS6.  The concept of being able to start up where you left off without regard to device is coming to us quickly, in the next few years you'll be annoyed when you have to remember where you left off when you go from one device to another.

BlackBerry

Well how does BlackBerry compete with all of this? Well they don't, they announced a loss of 28 cents per share (well above even the worst estimate of 14 cents per share and making the average worst estimate of 3 cents per share seem paltry).  RIM is in serious trouble, they aren't even in the same league of Apple and Google and with Windows 8 coming out soon, RIM seriously needs to consider who to sell their patents to and then shut the doors.  RIM is doing it's best to be the next PalmOS.  In premarket trading RIM is down 15% to $7.75, this is from a high of $17.57 in January this year and an all time high of $144 in June of 2008.  I feel bad for the developers and people who work at RIM, but the leaders refused to open their eyes to the needs of a modern society, they never thought that desire to use an advanced platform would trump the need of 100% device security.

Friday, June 22, 2012

WWDC Review

Apple's World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) was last week, while it was interesting to attend and the sessions were great, it was a lesson on what it is to be Apple.  Unlike most conferences I've attended in the past, Apple doesn't allow vendors inside of WWDC, to get around this most vendors were located outside the Moscone Center and were passing out cards for their services (this reminded me a little of when I went to Las Vegas some 20 years ago), once you get into the Moscone Center everything became Apple, the speakers were all Apple and the sessions were all Apple (though one of the lunch time keynotes did say that their app would be available on other tablets, then said "oops I wasn't suppose to say that").

Sessions

The sessions cover everything from highly technical animation sessions to sessions about how to use iTunesConnect, though to be honest if you are having issues with iTunesConnect then maybe you shouldn't be developing apps.  Overall WWDC is meant for developers, the folks talking are normally developers and they expect the people listening are developers, so if you're a designer or some other non-geek this may not be a great conference for you.  There are some design sessions, but they are geared towards developers.  Maybe Apple should run a WWDC where the "D" stands for "Design".

As a "recovering" developer the sessions were good for me, while I didn't follow everything, I was able to get enough out of the sessions to have a general feel for how apps should be designed and work.  These were tools I was able to use almost immediately on returning back to the office and apply to an app we're working on, the session on "Building Concurrent User Interfaces on iOS" was brilliant and not only was I able to make suggestions, but I was able to give the developer a video to review for ideas (he was able to download the video from the developer iTunes store).  The session talks about how to load UX and Data at the same time and keep the interface working and fluid while the system is chugging along behind the scenes doing work.

Oops I Missed It

If you went and missed a session or would like to hear a session again or you weren't one of the 5,000 developers to respond in the first 100+ minutes tickets were available, then you should still be able to view the sessions online (assuming you're a registered Apple developer).  For the most part the sessions I went to were very good, there was one that was sort of monotonous, but overall it was good.  The speakers were all VERY well trained and practiced in giving their sessions.  I think the sessions on concurrent user interfaces and developer tools were excellent.  There are a lot of new shortcuts that Apple has created and reviewing the videos will help you learn some of the new tools and shortcuts.

Future Attendees

If you're going to a future WWDC be sure to wear comfy shoes, there are a lot of lines, also be prepared to skip sessions or leave sessions early if you want to attend what you think will be a popular session.  If you want to go to the keynote, get there at least 3 hours early, maybe 4-5 hours early, it seems one of the traits of Apple folk is the love of waiting in lines.

The hidden gem for the event are the labs, be prepared to take your problems with you, even if they're conceptual you'll have the ability to discuss problems in detail with the best of the Apple design and developers, and of course get there early to do this, the slots for these people fill up quickly.  It won't be a "I'm here, can you solve my problem", it'll be more like you sign up and they'll tell you when to return.

SWAG

Don't expect much in the way of SWAG from Apple, for WWDC 2012 we got a simple jacket (to be honest I like my BlackBerry jacket better, it's warm and it's packed with pockets).  I like the fact that there was no paper used for sessions and such, everything was on the App for the conference, but because of that there was no need for Apple to give you a nice bag or anything.

Parties

With any big event like this there are a lot of parties, I only attended the main party for the event, but if you're wanting to party I suggest both talking to the people outside the event (the ones handling out cards) and searching twitter for "Party WWDC".  The main party at WWDC had a decent band "Neon Trees" (I'm sad to say that I'm old enough that I hadn't heard of them), the food at the party wasn't great (actually the food throughout the event wasn't great, for breakfast it's best to hit a Starbucks).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

WWDC - Day 2

Lines!

WWDC day 2 was a bit interesting, it seems that either Apple or the Moscone Center like to present a lot of lines to the users.  For me this has been a bit of a problem, I tried to get to the Moscone Center early to do some work, but it seems that the center doesn't open until an hour before the first meeting and when I got there I was presented with... A line.  Then I went upstairs to catch the Developer Tools Kickoff session, but had to stand in line first.  I've had to go to my second choices for several sessions so far or I've had to sneak out before hand to catch a session.  While this is my first WWDC, this isn't my first large conference and this is the first time I've seen so many lines.  I have to give this one to RIM, at their large conference you were asked to register for a session, you were then scanned on the way in, they still had large crowded sessions, but this meant that there were no lines.  If you hear someone say that WWDC is like Disneyland for developers, they're talking about the lines.

With pretty much everyone there having an iPhone or iPad and using the app to determine which meetings they wish to go to, you'd think that Apple could do better with providing an app that helped the user register for a session and then use a scan code on the phone to get into a session.  That would help with the lines I'm sure.

Sessions

The sessions (if you can get into them) are very good.  It's obvious that Apple is looking to make life easier on the developer by providing refactoring tools and shortcuts to help make the language less verbose.  The speakers have all trained for the sessions and give a very professional presentation, though I found in one session though that if you got the speaker off path they would fumble some.  My big relief is that the new mapping application in iOS 6 will use the same API as the mapping tool that is used in iOS 5 and below, this should make the app I have that uses maps still work (and hopefully work better). 

iBookstore

I did speak with a representative of the iBookstore and ask them to suggest that the iBookstore allows the use of Keywords for users searching the book.  Currently the iBookstore only indexes the books title, subtitle and author/publisher, so if your book doesn't have the keywords in those fields then end-users will never find your book by searching for it.  This alone is possibly the biggest reason not to use the iBookstore, you're book won't be found by searching.  I did have a good conversation with the guy who helped me out, he was very nice and listened to my gripes in a very professional manner.  Also suggested that Apple could provide an XML input path to iBooks Author, though knowing XML I'm not sure how that would really happen (unless Apple provided the schema for the XML to input), personally I think inputting ePub would do the job.

People

I think it's kind of funny that some of the people I've spoken with either work for my parent company, work for a competitor or work at my old university.  It's a small world.

Monday, June 11, 2012

WWDC Keynote


Getting In

I had picked up my badge and very stylish running jacket the day before, so for the keynote I just had to get in.  I arrived to get in line around 7:30am (several people started lining up the day before), the line worked it's way all the way around the Moscone Center and a little bit more, I was in line for close to 2 hours and then they stopped letting us in when I could see the doors (I was about 40 people shy of the front doors), finally with about 20 minutes to go they let several of us into the main auditorium and everyone else into the standby second auditorium.  As I was in line I was almost interviewed by someone from a Chinese news agency, but then the doors opened and I lost my chance to be famous in China.

MacBook

The refresh of the MacBook line is impressive, it's faster and cheaper than before.  What was most impressive was the MacBook Pro Retina.  This is a hybrid between the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro, though it's better than both put together.  The new MBP Retina will allow 16GB of RAM and it uses a very large solid state drive, which means it's drive is most likely very fast.  What's bad about this is in it's name, Retina.  I think the Retina display could cause you more problems than it solves, they mentioned this in passing during the keynote.  If your program isn't ready for the Retina mac, then the Mac will attempt to "fix" the images, this works pretty well with any image that doesn't have images, but if you have images with text in it, then your images will look blurry.  To compensate for this a developer will need to build an app with two sets of image assets, one for regular macs and one for Retina macs.  Well if you're developing programs I'm sure you'll be OK with rebuilding your app (even though it's going to cost you time and money), but what about websites.  Many websites use text in images for everything from buttons to pages, what's going to be the solution for this?  Will you have to put up with fuzzy text on websites when you're using your new expensive state-of-the-art laptop?

OSX Mountain Lion

To be honest there's nothing that Mountain Lion is going to offer that doesn't exist in other apps, such as dropbox.  What Apple's done is connect everything in the OS verses different programs for this.  For many messaging and browser based functions, you'll be able to move from iPhone to iPad to Mac and be able to get all your messages.  As a matter of fact someone will be able to call your phone via FaceTime and have it also ring your Mac and iPad.  I hate to say it, but if Apple were Microsoft, there would be plenty of monopoly concerns about the moves that Apple is doing.  Is it cool, yeah it'll make life easier for many and it's the way it "Should" work.

iOS 6

iOS 6 was announced and it had many of the items people were guessing, the coolest of course is the mapping application.  There is also a new ticketing app that will allow you to keep all your tickets for movies, planes, etc… in one location.  The app will show you your ticket in the lock screen as you get to the location, that could be cool.  Apple also is understanding that people need to NOT be bothered sometimes, they added in the ability have a Do Not Disturb feature on notifications from the app, you can also allow certain people to contact you (even if you've set the DND up) and you can allow people who call you twice in 3 minutes to bypass the DND (this was optional).  Most of the DND features could be seen in my old Motorola.

Missing
What's missing? Hmmm no mention of a new Apple TV, no mention of a new iPhone or a new iPad mini.

Overall?

Overall other than the Maps, I feel this is more of a further refinement of the tools.  The new MacBook Pro is very cool, but it's a natural progression of the MacBook line.

Friday, June 8, 2012

WWDC - Pregame

Next week I'll be attending Apple's World Wide Developers Conference (AKA WWDC), this is where Apple tries to encourage developers to use their platform and to teach them some tricks that may not be as obvious to many.  Apple will also use this as a time to showcase their products (and it seems that Google is using it as a time to announce their new mapping tools).  WWDC is held yearly and usually in San Francisco and usually in the June-ish timeframe.  This will of course be the first WWDC since the passing of Steve Jobs, so it will be interesting to see how Apple and the "faithful" are holding up.  As always there is a lot of prognosticating going on as to what will be released at WWDC, so being a "geek" I decided to give my shot also.

MacBook Pro Air

I'm not sure if it will be the MacBook Pro Air or MacBook Air Pro, but either way I'm expecting to see a MacBook Pro that is as light and tiny as a MacBook Air, but as powerful as a MacBook Pro, the device will also have a retina display.  The retina display could prove tricky on a PC, for it to work properly on the iPhone/iPad the developers of code have to re-release their products with images that support the retina display.  I don't see this happening for desktop software (at least not overnight), this could cause some problems with any text that has been created as an image, on the iPad any textual image that hasn't been re-rendered for the retina display will appear fuzzy.  Besides the retina display, a MacBook Pro Air means that more than likely they'll remove the DVD tray and they'll need to find a way to cool the processors more efficiently.

Apple TV

Before his death it was said that Jobs had cracked the code for making Apple TV successful.  At WWDC I wouldn't be at all surprised to a new Apple TV.  The current version, while inexpensive, isn't great.  The biggest problem is that you can't place it inline with your cable box, which means that you need to change inputs.  While this is trivial in the world of programmable remotes, it's a very bad design flaw and one that the GoogleTV produced by Sony doesn't share.  I think though that the new Apple TV will be more than that, I wouldn't be surprised to hear programming partners joining and possible a whole new way to look at cable and TV.  If Apple can't get cable or local providers on board, then they will have serious problems, the key will be allowing local commercials to be played on AppleTV, since it's the local advertisers that pay for a lot of the programming you see.

iOS 6

Most likely we'll see iOS 6 and I'll need to decide if I'm going to go another summer using a beta OS on my phone.  I did OK with iOS 5 last year on my phone, but there were times that I was afraid I'd loose all my content.  What I'd like to see in iOS 6?
  • iTunes - As someone who tests a lot of apps, I'd like to see the removal of iTunes from the development process, actually I'd like to see iTunes turned into a cloud service and removed from desktops (I'm not a huge fan of iTunes).
  • Notifications - The ability to mute notifications would be great, especially since people are using iPads to give presentations.  Not much is worse than giving a presentation and then seeing a notification that someone has knocked you out as mayor of Chick-Fil-A on FourSquare.
  • Maps - It looks like Google Maps is on the way out and Apple will be providing their own 3D mapping system.  This will either be brilliant or a complete failure.  The problem for Apple is that Google does maps VERY well.
  • Facebook - There could be tighter Facebook integration, maybe this will help Facebook's stock some.
  • Ring Customization - The ability to say that between 9pm and 9am I don't want my phone to ring unless it's from a specific number.  I don't think this will make it, but it would be very cool if it did.
  • Siri - Siri on the iPad
  • Widgets - Apple doesn't do widgets on the iPhone, but it would be nice to be able to have a widget like front screen, something that could tell you the weather, stock price, game score or when the next metro will be coming by.
iPhone 5

Finally we'll see the iPhone 5.  As a consumer I'm looking forward to the iPhone 5, as someone with existing apps, I'm loathing it a bit, it could mean that we need to completely redo all of our existing iPhone apps to take into account the new size, if the change in size were proportionate then the issue wouldn't be that bad, but the new iPhone is supposed to be more on the scale of an HD tv (while the iPhone 4 is scaled like a standard TV). 
  • Size - Best guess on this is that it will be taller than the iPhone 4, but about the same width and possibly thinner.
  • Construction - It will have more metal on it than glass (turns out that glass isn't great for signal strength).  
  • Haptic Display - Possibly it will have a haptic display, meaning you'll feel like you're touching a keyboard when no keyboard exists.
  • Camera - Both front and rear facing cameras should get more mega-pixels and will finally be HD in quality.
  • Facial Recognition - The phone will know you're you and work for you by looking at you.  I find this a bit creepy also, especially if this will require a call to a network server as Siri does.
  • RFID - You'll be able to use your phone as a credit card, of course this will ONLY work in places that allow your phone to be used as a credit card.  Google is doing this now with Android (I'm not sure how well it's doing though).
  • Inductive Charging - This is a favorite desire of mine, to remove the docks on the iPhone and have it use Inductive Charging to charge.  This means that you'll be able to lay your phone down on a mat and have it charge for you, no more "plugging" the phone in.
I'll try to keep my blog up to date with changes at WWDC as the week continues and I'll publish my wrap-up blog when I get.  If you'd like to follow me at WWDC feel free to follow me on Twitter @QEDMethods or at http://www.fullmetalbreakfast.com.  If you're at WWDC and want to say hi feel free to contact me on Twitter.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Publishing Game Changers

I've been participating in several forums in order to see what other's have to think on topics.  Many are wondering "What's next" in publishing, this is a world that gets a great idea, moves to that idea and then stay stagnant for the next several hundred/thousand years.  Over the years publishing has gone from cave paintings that depict the hunt, to using cuneiform and hieroglyphic writing on tablets, to using paper that's made by hand and ink made from berries and other natural pigments, to printing presses where everything was typeset by hand, to automatic typeset machines, etc... but really for the last couple thousand years we've been printing primarily on paper, enough paper to fill many thousand libraries across the world.  Needless to say that after using paper for that long, it's going to be a difficult task to move people from paper to electronic (just as I'm sure there was in getting people to move from rock to paper).  There are some similarities in the move from rock/mud to paper as there are from paper to electronic.  The biggest similarities are storage and portability.  

Storage

When paper came along it became much easier to carry your work with you, no longer did you need a horse drawn wagon to read the latest news, you could roll up a scroll, stick it in your pocket or bag and read it at your convenience, you could also store several scrolls in your own home, you didn't need a warehouse to store all your information.   Using an ebook reader I can store 3000+ books, essentially a small library of books, but these are books that I'm interested in and if I want to add a book to my library, it's usually as simple as going to an online bookstore and buying the book.  I also don't need to keep my library at home, my library can be carried in my front pocket if I want.  So I think in storage the ebook vs paper can easily be compared to paper vs stone tablet.

Portability

Bathroom Test - When I got into publishing, in the early 90's, everyone discussed the bathroom test.  If you couldn't read something in the bathroom, then it wasn't of much good as a complete solution.  Stone tablets only partially passed the bathroom test, you could easily read 1-2 pages of information in the potty, but when it came time to change pages, well it's difficult.  Paper obviously solves this problem, you can read and read and read.  Computers were bad at this, both in desktop and laptop form (not that I've tried), ebooks do pass this test (though if you're stranded on a desert island with only your ebook, well... you'll need to use leaves).  

Travel Test - If I'm going somewhere for several days or weeks, then I can load up my reader with all the books I need and stay entertained for days, for people like my daughter this could save you from having to lug around 5-10 books.  Currently ebooks do fall short on the take-off and landing test, paper books win here.  Since they didn't have airplanes in the time of stone tablets there isn't any hard evidence that stone tablets where difficult to use on planes, but given the fact that only a few pages worth of material would fit under the seat in front of you and that they could be problematic to xray, let's assume that stone tablets wouldn't work.  

Mass Transit Test - If you look on any subway now days (OK the DC-Area subway at least) you'll notice more and more people are reading with ebooks, I think on the DC metro the number of people reading ebooks is greater than that reading paper books.  As someone who's used mass transit for the last 18 years, I've gone through the same process as everyone else.  While using mass transit I read my ebooks on my iPhone, it's easy for me to stand there and just read, plus now I can read things that a guy my age shouldn't be reading (I'm liking my latest Star Wars book, note that I also read "grown up" books, but I just needed to relax some).

So again I think you could compare ebook vs paper to paper vs stone tablet. Paper does win over ebooks in the desert island test in another way, paper doesn't run out of batteries.

Paper == Stone

In the game of rock/paper/scissors, paper covers rock, in our new game of rock/paper/ebook I think that paper is zapped by ebook (though you could easily smash an ebook with a rock, again not that I've tried, but it's fairly obvious).  But I think that today we're at a similar crossroad where people are slowly dropping the old medium (paper) and converting to the new medium (electronic), for many of the same reasons that people went from stone to paper.  

There's also the monetary aspect of this, where it took many artisans to chisel stone, it took fewer to produce items in paper and many more items could be delivered in paper for a cheaper price.  Electronic is the same, the same pre-press needs to happen, but once a single ebook is delivered, the cost of reprints is nothing.  At some point the ability to reissue a book will be cheaper, but as long as paper books are also needed, the cost of books will be high (the cost of the paper book needs to be figured into the price of the electronic book).

Bye Bye Paper

Now I don't think paper will go the way of stone over night and I do think it could take many decades at least to get the point where paper is something that you need to ask for.  Soon ereaders will be cheap enough and sophisticated enough that everyone will have one.  I think the biggest constraint on this move isn't technology, but it's business.  I feel that Amazon has done a lot to hurt this move with their "Everything's a Novel" approach, this is hurting the ability to move professional and textbook publishing to electronic devices.  This "novel" wall that Amazon has built will be broken down by Apple or Microsoft (B&N).  Without the competition from the iPad and the Nook Amazon would have been content on publishing everything in e-ink (which is all you need with novels).  Once this wall has been broken down the demise of paper be written in binary not ink.