fj: (tech)
This entry on notalwaysright.com is reinforcing my desire to order everything I ever want over the web so I never have to enter a store and talk to store help again. Especially a tech store. Actually, let me just reproduce the entry here for you:

Customer: “Hello, I just bought this iPod, and I can’t make it go.”

Me: “What’s the problem?”

Customer: “It won’t go.”

Me: “Okay, how exactly?”

Customer: “IT WON’T GO.”

Me: “Can I see your iPod?”

(The customer takes out iPod Touch and shows it to me. I turn it on and open up Safari.)

Me: “It seems to be working fine.”

(I hand it back to her. She presses the home button multiple times.)

Customer: “How did you do that? It’s not working.”

Me: “Ma’am, what kind of iPod is that?”

Customer: “iPod Touch.”

Me: “Yeah… so try TOUCHING one of the icons on the screen.”

(She does.)

Customer: “OH MY GOD, THAT IS SO COOL! YOU’RE A GENIUS!”

Me: “Yeah, well.”

Look, since the first screen came out we UI makers have spent decades telling people through the systems we designed that the screen is dead. You need a knob or buttons to tune the radio, you need to press quickly to cycle through digits in an alarm, you have to look at the remote and hit the special button to cycle through system entries for the VCR, you press the arrows on the microwave to change the cooking time or hit some timer button repeatedly, we use mice and pads and trackballs to move pointers and we are supposed to laugh at pets and small children when they try to paw moving things on the TV screen. 40 years of UI experiences right there: the screen only displays. (Then UI designers had the gall to name the paradigm of moving a mouse to make something on the screen, at least a foot away from the hand doing the moving, happen 'Direct Manipulation'.)

Sure this has now changed with tablet PCs, but those never took off with the general population, and you still need a stylus for most of them. Little personal organizers also come with styluses. And yes, touch screens really are nothing new; I remember seeing billboards for touch-screen systems in the mid-to-late eighties when I was visiting Brussels -- an HP business system, with the big slogan "Touchez l'ecran. L'ecran responds" or something close to that because I cannot spell French -- but that system did not take over the world, the mouse-based systems did. (I do remember my mother's answer to me telling her excitedly of this new computer I had seen an ad for was of course something about greasy fingerprint. Bit of a wet blanket, but I now fully understand where she was coming from.)

To this day, every touch-activated kiosk has some form of "TOUCH HERE TO START" on the screen because else the majority of people will not know what to do, and certainly will not try touching screens in public without knowing on forehand that is a reasonable thing to do, lest they look in public as 'stupid' as a small child or cat pawing something on the screen. And even then, most kios touch screens have such bad tracking you end up looking like a moron anyway, repeatedly mashing the screen until you walk away in disgust. You know where you got to see touch screens widely deployed? All Star Trek series after the original one. As in, touch screens are Sci-Fi.

But not to this snotty store kid, who probably even rewrote this exchange to make him or herself look better. Well, one day they will be older too, and their years of experience with technology will stand in the way of "just" knowing something so "simple" it is worth being oblique and patronizing about to a customer, instead of sharing the joy of something new finally hitting the consumer market.

(X-Posted to TST.com)
fj: (tech)
It is always good to wait a day or two before writing about an Apple product announcement. When it comes to phones, I compare iPhones always against their main competitors, which happen to come from a former employer, Nokia, that I am also very familiar with.

iPhone 2.0 comes with new features like 3G, (a)GPS, notifications, enterprise connectivity, Office doc viewers, and a software eco system from developer tools down to a store on the phone itself. To start out, every feature that Apple announced is pretty much already available on Nokia phones. But not very well. And not in the US. Nokia's flagship 3G phones, the N-Series, weren't widely available, and those models that were weren't promoted or discounted as much as the iPhone was. In Europe they are very widely available, and thus the iPhone's capabilities were not a huge advance in the market as they were in the USA.

Let's start with the last feature, the applications and store. Symbian-based Nokia phones -- S60 as they are called these days -- have always allowed users to put on 3d party applications. Always. Nokia has a software store available on N-Series phones, it is under the 'Download' application; I use it to buy games that I pay for using SMS. The 3d party development tools have been awful for a long time but getting significantly better over the last couple of years (I may have had a small hand in that when I wrote a snippy report after using them saying we could save a lot of money and look a lot better by moving to Eclipse, a report that made the rounds internally.). But it is still not easy to write a Symbian program.

Building a smartphone on the hardware available in 2002 was not easy. Nokia did this by using software from Symbian, a company that made a smartphone based on code from Psion. The resulting programming language goes to great great lengths make sure a program plays nice, gets told whether every piece of memory it wants is available or not so the program can tell the user to quit other stuff, can be suspended and restarted at a moments notice (like when a user gets a call, which is supposed to interrupt everything), and can be kept running or suspended in the background for months without crashing. Theoretically. The result is a very subtle and rigid programming environment that is difficult to master. Now Nokia has also made JAVA and FlashLite available for commercial software, but those are not as fast, nor can they reach all the cool facilities of the phone as well as a Symbian program.

Apple has the advantage of starting over on pretty big hardware, but also looked at the whole problem of programs having to run in the background in memory, sharing space and cycles, and said "Well screw this. Only one thing runs at any type. If you get interrupted, you just stop, save to memory, end of story, program is over." This models doesn't allow cool stuff to happen in the background, but really simplifies programming.

This makes Apple's ecosystem a lot more viable, since, by using newer technology, it can offer a very nice experience building applications. It also offers a phone to deploy those applications on that somehow encourages exploration and finding features and using a lot of them. Steve Jobs' hyperbole aside, the network stats show that iPhone users use an awful lot of data time, which means they are comfortable browsing and using YouTube and what not. I am not sure the N-Series encourages as much exploration and adding, even if Google Maps and Yahoo Go are really neat programs to have. Apple's iPhone got a lot of websites to make iPhone optimized sites, the N-Series did not.

Apple really hasn't offered anything really new on Monday -- I could rattle off the technologies used behind the scenes when I read the reports -- except really integrated packaging. Apple's syncing technology really does make it easier to integrate the PC with the phone, something that is ok for Nokia on the mac with the Nokia Multimedia Transfer tools, but sucks with the N-Series PC Suite 2.0. I recently had to write a report on it so I installed and played with it, and in the words of my manager, the design and usability of it is "totally retarded". It's just a bad disheveled mess, the result of many unaligned groups doing their own little thing and one desperate product group having to integrate it all. Comared to the iTunes for iPhone experience, it's a joke.

And now MobileMe has eclipsed that and, for $99 a year, you don't even need difficult synchronization software to keep your PC or Mac and iPhone synchronized and your address book editable from ever web browser out there. It Just Works. Nokia was trying to create a wireless cloud destination for your games and photos and music called Ovi, but the announcements for it are over a year old and there is no useful syncing there, music  just jumps to a music store that blocks mac users and uses a DRM scheme Microsoft either has or will ditch, N-Gage gaming is late for most N-series phones, and Ovi certainly does  not integrate with your documents on the computer or give you 20Gb storage space. And that is just sad. I am using mobical.net for mobile wireless syncing of my calendar and contacts, it's been working for years, but Ovi is just still nowhere (and won't even have single sign on between the syncing and gaming components from all I hear). And what is the relationship between Ovi Share and Mosh? Does anyone know?

All the pieces have been available for years by Nokia, and yet they can't seem to pull it together into a whole system that is fun to use. Instead we get crappy PC Suites, 3 different logins, delayed advanced gaming, and not very compelling products except generic JAVA games on the download store. Nokia, step up, your lunch is being eaten. Right now the only advantage you have is actual keys for people who like tactile keyboard experiences, your phones are slightly smaller, and the cameras are far better. But every time I see someone slide their finger across a screen and start up a browser on which they can actually see things, I kinda wonder hmmmmm....
fj: (LA)
First thought upon queuing the video: I wonder if John has a SAG card by now.








Does anyone want my thoughts on yesterday vs Nokia S60?
fj: (tech)
Look, it was either this or Vista )

And before that, [livejournal.com profile] iejw and I met in Cambridge Circus and went to a hidden bar where they mixed outrageous cocktails, and ate at a tiny interesting Korean place where one of the dishes was raw shreds of beef over almost frozen pear mixed with a cracked raw egg, and then we had delicious gelato.

Portables

Jan. 22nd, 2008 08:58 pm
fj: (tech)
My bet is that when the music labels allow iTunes to drop DRM, the biggest losers will not be those studios. I doubt their wares will be pirated any more or less. No, the biggest loser will be Apple as suddenly all kinds of other players besides iPods will be usable for the contents of the store. I want to use my phone as my player, but can't yet.

In other brainstorms, Apple is saying the WiFi-enabled iPod Touch could be a whole new computer platform. Well, Nokia has had one for a while, pretty equivalent in many ways, but I think it has been positioned wrong. It shouldn't now be positioned as some kind of media player, no, that space is taken, and certainly the current branding as Your Mobile SSH Solution is, um, limiting. But it would be really useful and notable if it was an adjunct to the phone, a real one, with which I could SMS and MMS and email and browse the phone-book and adjust the settings of the phone it is paired with when in proximity. In fact, when it can see the phone it has been paired with over Bluetooth, the N pads should be the ones that ring when a message has been received, and some trials should be done how headsets and cameras should be distributed across the hardware for video calling or browsing while calling. This way I could have a tiny phone, comparable in size to the 6100 or even the 7380 that I could carry everywhere, even in the shank of my boot, when I am in a state where my outfit uh, has very few pockets, yet when I have jackets and cargo pants I can also carry a messaging and media device that is comfortable and has lots of storage, and these items work together and apart. I kept seeing this weekend people having to make trade-offs between having usable small phones and liking full thumb keyboards or large surfaces to get with their friends and have plenty of music to play. Usually they had committed to some kind of hardware that was ok in some situations, but making other situations difficult.
fj: (Default)
Jobs, I don't care about thin, I care about being able to travel with a small bag. B5 at most.

Posted with AutoPostBot
fj: (tech)
When the Motorola RAZR was introduced in 2004, it's unsubsidized price was somewhere between $800 and $600, with subsidized versions -- 2 year contract required -- starting at $300 if you were very lucky. Right now, about 3 years later, you can practically get it as the prize at the bottom of your box of Wheaties (and Motorola has basically run the design into the ground by overexposure). Let this be a lesson to any high-end mobile phone buyer: you pay your money to have it now.

Also, if the latest rumors are true and the iPod Touch has, or will soon have, Bluetooth, the whole Nokia Tablet effort now has a fierce fierce new competitor. One that has effectively disguised itself from a geeky multimedia device into an iPod "that also can do other stuff". Which is probably a better strategy to make a device like this sell bigtime to consumers.

99c is expensive for a ringtone of music you already have -- in effect you end up paying for the convenience to splice out the 30 seconds of ringing exactly like you want, not like some ringtone aggregator thinks you should want, with a minimum of hassle. Customization is a huge seller for these intensely personal devices, and being able to make your exact ringtone like you want is a win here. Apple did manage to irritate both ends of the market, though: 1) the ringtone-maker costs less than buying a ringtone would if you had already bought the song, so aggregators are being undercut 2) people end up paying twice for music they already have, pissing consumers who know what is going technology-wise off, and mildly annoying the consumers already used to paying two bucks fifty for a ringtone of music they already acquired otherwise. I predict a huge success.
fj: (Default)
In honor of the fact that you can't set a custom ringtone on the iPhone, I took an iTunes song I bought and edited it down to a small sound to use as an SMS alert. Been wanting to do this one for a while. It's been set in my phone and I like it.
fj: (Hector The Protector)

  • I have a little time left in the evenings, so I started toying with the idea of writing a book. Unfortunately, I have nothing to say and no idea for a plot. I suspect it will just be an expose of the lurid world of New England folk-dance homo hippies. Everybody in New England I met through [livejournal.com profile] pinkfish will end up recognizing themselves. I'll have to be kind to the ones with enough money to sue. Fortunately, it is within my capabilities to be kind to only two or three people or so. Ooops, snark's starting already; I predict a best-seller.

  • One of my IM friends who works at an Apple store opened our day-long conversation yesterday with "What did you say? I can't hear you over the noise of my new iPhone!" In return, he does get to have to work today. His IM Away message? "iPhone Apocalypse" I hear they do good in-store snacks and punch. Also, maybe one day his phone will be able to send pictures directly to other phones, like mine have done since 2001. God bless you on this historic day for retail, [livejournal.com profile] jpeace. You're the one man I trust to only hand out scarce iPhones to people who deserve them and beat the rest with a stick until they leave the store.

  • I forgot item three, but I know every list should have one. Oh yeah, [livejournal.com profile] slinkr and Mrs. [livejournal.com profile] slinkr are in my apartment right now. And they think it is beautiful.

fj: (tech)
One thing about the iPhone: I no longer feel the need to mumble about the price or apologize for owning a 500 dollar phone myself. "I just wanted a really good lens." Which is also why the iPhone is not a compelling phone for me personally, all its quirks and compromises aside.

But looking at how much damage my expensive phone has taken in a year, I foresee many iPhone tears.
fj: (tech)
6 months from now: iPhone Nano. Smaller form factor, more standard keypad, stripped down functionality (calls, messaging, music, cam, limited browsing), same ease of synchronization. It is the sync that will make people so happy. Can you sync with Windows PCs?

My off-the-cuff advice to Nokia and SE: dump Symbian now. It won't catch up to this kind of experience. Linux barely will unless you put a fuckload of work in it, in-house, using enlightment. Sign an agreement with Adobe and concentrate on having your high-end phones run FlashLite as much as possible in the OS stack, with a J2ME subsystem for compatibility. The tech can handle it, and the UIs 3d partys will make will be amazing.
fj: (tech)
The Apple Phone is an astounding technological marvel. Where Microsoft set up a whole new OS product line for years, at great cost, to bring the Windows experience to mobile users, Steve, in standard Steve fashion, just waited until the hardware caught up to be able to leverage his current software assets. It's his style. Just like when he was leading NeXT: they were one of the last workstation makers to stay exclusively Black & White, waiting until they could offer color without all the compromises like color mapping X11 required.

Cingular, I am totally guessing and speaking on my own behalf, is subsidizing this for around 200 dollars. Which means that this device's real market price is around 800 to 900 dollars. For that price he is in the same ballpark as the Microsoft-powered big smartphones like the high-end GPS enabled HTCs and iPaqs. He has blown them out of the water with their interface, though. It looks amazing and will be a joy to use just for the eyecandy.

However, he is taking two big risks in that UI. One is text entry. Soft keyboards are not as well liked as thumbboards. No, I cannot point to a reference for that. Just trust me on it: people would rather use their two thumbs to enter text that having to use their pointing finger while holding the device in the other hand. Mac OS X does have handwriting recognition built in, it is called Inkwell, so maybe that will be a text-entry modality that will make this more pleasant for a minority of users.

The second big risk is the touch screen itself. You can't dial this thing blind. You can't feel your way around the keys. Touch feedback is always a concern for users when they use keypads. Yes, the controls can be totally flexible when you have no defined hardware buttons, but without the spring of the key back to your finger, users feel lost, insecure, unhappy. This has been reported since the Timex Sinclair ZX81 became a global hit in home hobby computers in the early eighties. I truly hope Apple got the engineering right on this touch screen to make it a joy to use. I do not see it. It still am not entirely happy using [livejournal.com profile] pinkfish's click wheel on his iPod.

Then there's the next little issue nobody noticed yet, well, except for the guys at Gizmodo: its size. Yeah, that hand model they are using for the promo shots of the Apple phone? <insert big hands / big wrists joke here>. This thing is marginally more pocketable than a Newton was, and that was one of the big minusses against the Newton.[livejournal.com profile] dpnash did some fact checking and found out that Apple lists a different size for it than Gizmodo does. This new size is far more viable as a pocketable device. Still on the big size, but not ridiculously so. No longer in MessagePad territory.

[livejournal.com profile] ranger1 just pointed out to me that, four, this thing may just be terribly fragile. Mobile devices like phones have to be engineered to withstand actual life. That people throw their phones arouns is a fact, whether people mean to do so or not. Nokia phones, for example, can take drops that would destroy most other equipment. Even the hard-disk N91 can be dropped from heights on floors that would make iPods cry anguished tears.

I can tell you all one thing, though: the mobile Researchers, Product Managers, designers, and all other staff involved in the high-end Nokia N and E series lines are right now in need of a stiff stif stiff drink. Maybe two. Same for the Walkman people at Sony-Ericsson. Because whether the Apple Phone is a success despite its size and interface or not -- both issues did hamper the also insanely marketed Sony PSP after all -- the whole set of expectations people will have for a high-end mobile media phone device just changed. Offering the N93 feature set for 800 Euros simply will not do anymore. Over. Go make something hugely better. In fact, stop dicking around and just rush this into production now.
fj: (tech)
My god I can't remember a Macworld keynote as porno as this one. It's all moneyshot after moneyshot, culminating now in a tech threeway. However, the big climax keeps not coming.
[livejournal.com profile] ranger1 (ranger1@livejournal.com) i wonder if the gravitational pull of steve's distortion field is preventing the price from escaping his mouth.

Oh Look!

Sep. 12th, 2006 01:40 pm
fj: (Hector The Protector)
As few movies as the iTunes Movie Store launched with, it is nice that they made sure to include my favorite Stallone Masterpiece.
fj: (phkl)
Dear Apple,

Nice new products. But honey, it is the wrong shade of pink for this year. Call me about that first, next time.

Love, FJ!!
fj: (Default)
"I want you to know that I have lost all respect for you now that I have browsed your iTunes collection."

He took it in stride. He knows he is way hipper than me anyway.



Of course I haven't brough my music in. Like I am going to allow my cow-orkers to see my wasteland of one-hit-wonders...

Baffled

Jun. 14th, 2006 05:53 pm
fj: (tech)
Mac Gurus are encouraged to IM me. I've got a box here on which clicking the + on the Accounts panel does not open a subwindow to create a new account, and on which the box to de-admin a user account is grayed out for one user, eventhough I am logged in as rooy (yeah, I enabled it). I suspect a strangely hosed system.

Mac OS X 10.3.9, btw
fj: (tech)
Thoughts on the introduction of the iPod/iTunes Store with video capabilities:

  1. For a portable media player [PMP], it has a small screen. However, it is an iPod. It has 81% of the current market. The current ones will be dropped, broken, wear out, and then when Joe and Jane Public go out to replace them, they will get one of the video ones. They will be the best sold PMP in no time.

  2. Two of ABC's top shows are available. They are now in Season 2. You can buy a 'boxed set' of Season 1 for both shows for 35 bucks, but not individual shows from Season 1.

  3. This really confronts you with how much commercials are in a TV show. The single episodes around 43 minutes long. This for an hour of TV.

  4. THis won't be a significant revenue stream for TV. Every episode would have to be downloaded 600.000 times, assuming a 20% cut for Apple and no overhead over a budget of a million bucks per episode for ABC -- which is no way in hell true for their flagship shows -- before ABC has recouped just costs. But for cheaper cult shows...

Hey Susan!

Feb. 2nd, 2005 11:14 am
fj: (tech)
How many white earbuds are you seeing at work -- being hidden from Bill?
fj: (tech)
The account I made for song-shopping on iTunes, the one with my credit card and address already filled in, is actually also a full Apple store account name, with which I can shop for hardware without ever having to fill in a form or pull out a wallet. I know this because an iPod Shuffle + armband is on its slow, slow, slow way to me now, and when ordering it, the store told me the account name I tried to create for this store -- I have a system for names based on the website so they are all distinct on different shops, but easily remembered by me -- was already in use. I was confused because I had never ordered from the Apple store before, how could I have an account? The only transaction I had had was when shopping on iTunes...I tried that  password and there I went. All form fields filled in. All I needed to do was click "Buy! Give Apple Your Money! Succumb To The Whiteness And Beauty! It Is So Easy, FJ!!"

Unless I breathe in resolve every time I go to that site, I am doomed.

And I don't even need mac hardware. My home is fully stocked CPU wise, and my laptop couldn't drive even their lowly 20" LCD screen if it tried.

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