Because No Column Is Complete Without Some iOS/Android/Windows Phone Links
Ryan Heise decided to keep a running blog of his experiences using Android, coming from the background of an iOS user. I’m following it, so I can keep up, but he’s had some surprising insights. Here’s a couple of my favorites: “An unexpected result of switching to Android is that I pull out my phone significantly less.” Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing for him! Oh, and:
With all of these add-ons and skins and plug-ins, you have to wonder what the actual Android experience is. With iOS, the experience is what Apple dictates… Adding customizations [to Android] have, for the most part, made the experience worse.
We missed this at the time, but after reading Ryan Heise’s experience, I came across Chris Clark’s log of his own experience with the Nexus S back in March. The short version is that there are a few small areas where Android is clearly superior (like notifications, why Apple is revamping them in iOS 5) and most of the rest in which Apple’s greater attention to polish and better-integrated hardware/software development lead to much better results. So far, my experience with my friends and colleagues has been the same as Clark’s: if an Android phone is your first smartphone, it sounds great and you probably love it; and of course if you’re a hardcore geek or a Richard M. Stallman fan, you’ll prefer Android. But once you’ve used an iPhone, an Android device is going to seem under-polished. I have a colleague who said almost exactly that after she switched from a Galaxy S to an iPhone.
Microsoft Makes More Money Off Android Than Windows Phone
In the fun annals of “other things on which companies make money,” Microsoft gets $5 for every HTC phone running Android because of a patent settlement the two companies made over IP infringement. Horace Dediu does the math and discovers that Microsoft has made $150 million off Android, and has only gotten $30 million in Windows Phone revenues to date, at $15 per license. (He doesn’t clarify if that’s Windows Phone 7 or all versions of Windows Phone.) That’s quite remarkable, isn’t it?
HTC Cancels Gingerbread Support for Newest Device, then Backtracks
HTC’s engineering department made an announcement—via Facebook—that they were going to cancel development work on supporting the latest version of Android, Gingerbread, on the HTC Desire. Which is basically their newest, greatest device. They said it was because of memory limitations. (Word on the street is that it was HTC’s Sense custom user interface that is the memory hog.) However, after a big outcry, two days later they backtracked and said that they would “cut select apps from the release” in order to “resolve Desire’s memory issue.” Hmm.
Marco Arment observes that, when the original iPhone was released, everyone complained that it didn’t meet certain feature requirements: no 3G, no GPS, no copy-and-paste support, no Exchange support, etc., and predicted that customers would flock to an alternative. But they didn’t, and with each subsequent release of the iPhone, they have “steamrolled over almost every meaningful advantage that competitors have.” iOS 5 brings a new notification system, a hardware camera shutter button, etc. What’s left? Are people really holding out for an FM radio or removable battery? At some point you have to acknowledge that the people who make these lists of missing features are the sort of people who would never buy an iPhone, regardless of its features.
MG Siegler Discovers the Verizon iPhone Slowly Halted Android’s Market-Share March
Writing in TechCrunch, MG Siegler runs the numbers on the last quarter of iPhone sales in the US, in which the iPhone became available for sale on Verizon. It turns out, according to a BTIG Research report, that the iPhone is now both AT&T’s and Verizon’s best-selling phone. According to the market share numbers in the report, the iPhone is actually outselling Verizon’s Android devices. As he points out, it’s likely that there are still more Android devices being sold than iPhones, but that’s not bad for one model of phone versus hundreds. Siegler suggests the doors could really get blown off this one whenever Apple announces the iPhone 5.
On iCloud Nine
At WWDC this year, Apple unveiled their new iCloud service for remotely storing user data, including the existing MobileMe services plus iTunes Music Store music. This is, as Timothy Lee writes in Ars Technica, now Apple’s fourth attempt at creating a cloud-computing service. He argues, and I’m inclined to agree with the argument, that Apple’s design-first philosophy works wonderfully for creating discrete products but falls flat relative to Google’s engineering-first culture at creating services. Apple needs to find a way to develop the services’ requirements, it seems to me, and then design a user interface around it, rather than the way that they do go about it. MobileMe had lots of resource and performance issues when it first launched, and it’s possible and even likely that they’ll have similar issues with iCloud. Lee argues that they should open up a public beta to help iron out the kinks before open launch, like Google does with many of their products.
What Does iCloud Mean for MobileMe Subscribers?
Macworld takes a look at what the iCloud announcement means for current MobileMe subscribers: free e-mail, bookmark syncing, and calendar, plus some other features that they think will likely be included for free (Galleries, iDisk, etc.) and one Apple has already made free (Find My iPhone).
iOS Everywhere: Not Just a Slogan
Do The White and Black iPhones Have Different Cameras?
PC World noticed that the photos that the iPhone 4 generates are very different in the black and white models. They hypothesize that the color difference caused problems for the sensors, based on the reflectivity of white. In their tests they determined that, although the quality wasn’t necessarily worse per se, the flash and color performance was definitely different.
Tony Bradley of PC World argues that, with the new features Apple has announced for iOS 5 and iCloud, iOS will surpass RIM’s BlackBerry as the preferred mobile platform for business. He goes further than I would—I would argue that all that was holding back big companies was stuff like BlackBerry Messenger, improved enterprise IT support, and device cost—but he points out that the e-mail functionality itself will now be better than RIM’s, in addition to the ability to maintain a device independent of a PC and all the nifty iCloud stuff. (I think there are going to be security concerns about iCloud in the enterprise, for what it’s worth. Big companies with IT departments and server farms are still going to prefer Exchange, which they can host themselves.) It’s a bold challenge. How do you replace the de facto platform of businesses everywhere? I think it’s already under way.
John Paczkowski: “Consumers Don’t Want Tablets, They Want iPads”
Writing at All Things D, John Paczkowski makes an argument we’ve heard before but that it’s always fun repeating. He says, based on sales figures and brand strength, customers are buying the iPad in the same way that they bought the iPod: in replacement for a generic. Fewer than 15% of respondents in a research survey were interested in a 7″ model; more than 50% of potential tablet buyers say they plan to buy an Apple device, and the next-closest competitor is Samsung with 13 percent. No matter how many times pundits declare this to be the Year of the Tablet, it seems that people don’t want “tablets”; they just want an iPad.
Following up on John Paczkowski, Harry McCracken, writing in Technologizer, points out that no device currently on the market has an effective answer to the question, “Why should somebody buy this [device] instead of an iPad?” He lists 13 ways in which device manufacturers could differentiate themselves (“more and/or better apps,” “noticeably better hardware,” “better entertainment services”), but then he points out that very few devices actually meet those bars. It’s a solid read if you’re curious about why it is that the iPad does so much better than its seemingly carbon-copied competitors.
Apparently, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Isn’t That Great
Clayton Morris of Fox News is unimpressed by the Samsung Galaxy Tab. (Contrast this with Darren Murph of Engadget.) Morris takes a strong line; the hardware is nice, he says, but who really cares about the hardware—in and of itself—when you buy one to use software? He writes:
I say experience because it’s really the software that matters here, not the hardware. Sure, the Galaxy Tab feels nice in the the hand, it’s light, it’s fast, and it takes okay photos but who cares anymore about that?
I’m not sure I agree with his line of reasoning—the reason Apple has been so successful in the Steve Jobs era is that it marries the great Mac “software experience” that goes back to the original Mac with a great consumer-level “hardware experience”—but when he observes that there are “simply too few quality third-party apps built for Honeycomb worth mentioning,” I think that bears note.
Darren Murph of Engadget Is More Impressed By the Galaxy Tab 10.1
Darren Murph, writing in Engadget, had his hands on a Galaxy Tab 10.1 Limited Edition at Google I/O. He got a regular-model 10.1, which he says is virtually identical except for a software point-release difference (Android 3.1 instead of 3.0) and no design on the back. He was very impressed by the hardware, with particular emphasis on the screen and the weight and overall form factor of the Galaxy Tab 10.1. But he gives Samsung credit for stuff that isn’t available, like the Movies section of the Android Market, which he couldn’t use because it’s only open to Android 3.1 tablets with 3G radio and his model was WiFi-only. This is what John Gruber calls “grading on a curve.” Murph also notes:
[T]he Android Market still isn’t home to many tablet apps; Apple just announced at WWDC that the App Store is home to some 95,000 tablet programs. El Goog hasn’t shared its numbers in this regard, but it doesn’t take an awful lot of poking around to see that it’s nowhere near.
The Latest in Lodsys Case: Lodsys Files Suit, Apple Fires Back
In the latest development in Lodsys’ patent-infringement case, which happened right after the June edition went to press, the company filed suit against seven iOS app developers (Combay, Inc., Iconfactory, Inc., Illusion Labs AB, Michael G. Karr, Quickoffice, Richard Shinderman, and Wulven Games) in Tyler, TX. According to Lodsys, they moved up when they were going to file suit because of Apple’s letter, also released on May 31. I agree with Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents here, that what they were really trying to do was pre-empt the possibility that Apple might get a declaratory judgment of non-infringement in another jurisdiction. The company is acting like they’re positive they’re right, which is not a surprising position for a patent troll to take. Apple perhaps should’ve moved sooner; but you never know how these things are going to play out.
Apple Moves to Intervene in Lodsys Lawsuit Against App Developers
Macworld reports that Apple has moved to intervene in the Lodsys lawsuit against developers. In short, Apple is arguing that it, not the developers Lodsys sued, should be the defendant in the case, and that they should be able to file a counterclaim against Lodsys. They are now making the legal argument that they made in their open letter to Lodsys, that they are “expressly licensed to provide… products and services that embody the patents in suit, free from claims of infringement.” Apple has already released their proposed counterclaim, in fact, in which they pursue “a declaration that Lodsys’s claims against the developers are barred by the doctrines of patent exhaustion and first sale.” This is all starting to get interesting, if a little legalistic.
Florian Mueller, whom I have been quoting a lot in the Lodsys case, has a very astute analysis of Apple’s filing to intervene in the case as a defendant. He suggests that he thinks, even though Lodsys will likely oppose the motion, the company will indeed be admitted as a defendant; and that Apple’s defense is almost exclusively going to be that the case is moot, because of the previously mentioned doctrine of first sale (etc). He also speculates that Apple may be paying the defendants’ legal costs in order to fight other aspects of the case, because there are defenses that it makes sense for the developers to offer that it does not make sense for Apple to offer (notably that the patent itself is invalid or doesn’t apply to the affected products). We won’t know—probably ever—if Apple paid their costs, because they’re bound by a non-disclosure agreement—but I think this is an interesting twist…and a great analysis.
Next Round of Windows-Versus-Mac: Windows 8 Against iOS
Microsoft Releases Windows 8 Preview, Including Touch Interface
In a fun video to watch, the guys at Microsoft released a preview of how they are building Windows 8. I think it’s a really interesting look, but I was also really struck by how Microsoft is now bringing the Windows Phone 7 UI (Metro) to the desktop, in the same way that Apple is bringing iOS back to the Mac. It’s intriguing. I wonder how well this will work on non-touch interfaces, and it’s still not proven to me that I’m going to want to interact with an upright screen with my fingers. (This is the mode in which I like interacting with my iPad least.) But it’s all very interesting. On the other hand, as John Gruber points out, the production quality of this video is atrocious. I mean, Microsoft is the most powerful software company on Earth. Can’t they do better than this?
Why Windows 8 Isn’t a Good Response to the iPad
Jason Snell makes a solid argument about Windows 8 and its general unsuitability as a response to the success of iOS and the iPad: it’s built on top of conventional Windows. As soon as the video from Microsoft shows you interacting with ordinary Windows apps with your fingers, that’s where you lose people. Microsoft isn’t willing to commit to the tablet as a distinct device, and release an Office developed for a touch interface. Do they think that sometimes you’ll interact with your hands, and sometimes you’ll interact with a mouse? I’m not sure I understand.
Odds and Ends
Justin Williams on Microsoft Hoping for Higher Windows 7 App Prices
Justin Williams—yes, I know he’s become a frequent source here—takes a look at an interesting quote from the guys at Microsoft: “If we can support a higher price point [for apps] that’s good for developers.” He observes that people complain about paying $5 for an app (like his Elements editor) on the iPhone or iPad, when the same individuals wouldn’t bat an eyelash at paying five or ten times that for a Mac version of the app. (I think this is a perceptual issue; because it’s a phone, or a tablet, and the devices are less expensive, we wrongly think of the apps as less valuable than their desktop counterparts.) But he thinks that Microsoft’s strategy, although it might’ve actually worked for Apple if they’d encouraged it, will likely fail for Windows Phone 7 because they’re not the leading platform. As users compare apps across platforms, they’re going to see, he says, the same app for $2.99 on the iPhone, free with ads on Android and $9.99 on Windows Phone 7. Is that going to fly?
There’s a new gold rush in California, but it’s a little more abstract than the last: mobile payments. Google announced a trial of Google Wallet in New York and San Francisco, using Near Field Communication. They have a network partner in Sprint, a credit processor in Mastercard, a bank in Citi, and a lot of large retailers. But the other three major operators are holding back, and so are Apple, RIM, and Microsoft. (The carriers are working on their own system, Isis. Although, as Macworld points out, the pilot won’t be until 2012.) So Wallet goes first, and success might peel operators off of their own system. However, there are two things they need to succeed: the other carriers must go along, and Google might have to forego a cut of the loot to get them to the table; and they’re going to need to work with Microsoft, Apple, and RIM. There’s one last, giant hurdle for Google Wallet: does anyone want Google knowing that much about them? After all, that’s how they’ll make money off this.
PC World’s Security Alert blog asks one of the questions I had while researching and writing about Google Wallet: can you trust your financial data with Google, and can they keep it safe? The glib answer is, they already know everything else about you—why not this? But security analysts suggest that the data is safe, at least in the current Android requirements and devices, from hackers and other compromises: the credit card info is stored on a separate chip; only authorized programs can access the data; and you set your own, Wallet-specific PIN in addition to the option of setting a phone PIN. The takeaway is that, with these safeguards, your info should be no less safe than a physical credit card: they argue that hackers would be better off stealing your (real) wallet. In fact, this sounds more like the security associated with credit and debit cards in Europe (with onboard security chips) than Americans’ cheaper but highly insecure magnetically encoded PINs and signature checks.
Dan Frakes Is Not Crazy About Amazon’s Mac Software Downloads Store
Macworld’s Dan Frakes takes a spin through Amazon’s Mac Software Downloads store. (Is that really the name, guys? Talk about punting on marketing.) He points out that the selection is a little lackluster, other than the flagship stuff that Apple isn’t selling (because I have to imagine Microsoft and Adobe won’t give up 30% of three-digit purchases!). The experience sounds fairly crappy to me, too: first, you download a disk image containing a downloader app that is specific to the app you purchased; then, you run the downloader app that downloads the program itself. And if you buy an app that comes with its own installer, then the downloader app just downloads the installer, and then you have to run the installer. (At a million levels of recursion, your head explodes.) Frakes points out that what Amazon is, in effect, selling you is a digital version of optical media to install; there’s no handoff of the installation process like with the App Store.
How did I miss this? If you’re an OmniOutliner fanatic like me, you’ve tried every outliner for the iPad in the hope that it would even hold a candle to that amazing app. So far, the answer has been “no,” at least for me…but now OmniGroup’s released the real McCoy! OmniOutliner for iPad, out now. It’s $20. I haven’t used it much but I am loving it.
This year’s Apple Design Award winners, announced at WWDC 2011. Several of these are excellent apps, and they’re all beautiful. Congratulations!
Brent Simmons Announces the Sale of NetNewsWire
That essential app for so many of us Mac nerds with a prolific reading habit—like yours truly—has always been NetNewsWire. It’s actually what got me started writing this column in the first place! I’d never heard of ATPM before I started seeing it in NetNewsWire. So it brings a bit of a tear to me eye when I hear that Brent Simmons is selling it to Black Pixel Software. He seems really psyched about the guys at Black Pixel, and I know he’s moving on to other kinds of software. But it’s hard for me, as an end user, as someone who’s corresponded with the developer who knows how many times about a feature or a bug or just to say thank you, to move on. Thank you, Brent, in case it isn’t clear. And to the guys at Black Pixel, I will have my eyes on you. If you do great, you will do great; and if not, I’ll keep using NetNewsWire 3.2.
John C. Welch: What Lion Server Has to Offer IT Departments
If you’re in an IT department, Lion Server has a lot of benefits for you, John C. Welch points out. One of the big ones is better (and free) Xsan support; another is built-in iOS device management. Should make a big difference to Mac-friendly IT departments. (And probably not so much for the kind of IT departments that begrudgingly support the art department’s Macs.)
Ars Technica reports that Apple has, in its iOS app review guidelines, loosened restrictions that require that in-app purchase options for subscriptions be offered at the same price or better as elsewhere. (This is, I remind you, the infamous Sony Reader rule, but it also would have affected Amazon, the Financial Times, and other publishers who didn’t offer in-app subscriptions at all.) After much interest from notables as the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association and the US Department of Justice, Apple has revised the rules to state that apps are no longer required to offer the option for in-app subscription. However, if subscribers can pay within the app, the app must use Apple’s in-app purchasing APIs (which means Apple gets their 30% cut) although you’re free to set the price. Interesting.