Tag Archives: apple

Apparently, other mobile OSes assume you don’t do much

Here are screen shots of four phone home screens. The question asked is: which do you prefer? But consider a different question: what do you want to do? Or, putting it another way, how many different things might you want to do?

Each home screen has a number of different icons or other items that seem as though they might launch an app, allowing you to do some separate thing. I’m not familiar with all of these platforms, so I’m guaranteed to get this wrong, but:

Android: 11, counting the notion that clicking on the clock does something, and assuming that the bar across the top does something (more than what opening Chrome and searching, one of the other options on the screen, does), and assuming that the plain icons at the bottom do something, but not counting the back arrow at the bottom left, on the assumption that it is a function, not an app.

iOS: 22, not counting the two empty spaces, which could obviously also include apps, because all of these home screens could presumably be configured to have more options.

Windows Phone 8: 13, assuming that the blue rectangle at the lower right is unused.

Ubuntu: 13, assuming that “Home,” is a command and not just a label, and that tapping the photo stream does something, and that each of the small icons at the bottom does something.

Given the “style over substance” argument often made against Apple, it’s interesting that iOS is the clear choice for presenting access to the most app choices just one tap away from the home screen.

Tablets that are (not) going to Rule the Coming Years | TechHotshot


“Sometime back laptops made the world wire-free and mobile. One could work from anywhere; but laptop today is no longer a substance of surprise. The glamour quotient has shifted towards a new cool stream of gadgets called Tablet PCs.”

“Today we are at the altar where tablets are empowering to become the gadgets of tomorrow and witnessing the growth potential of tablet industry it would not be wrong to say that 2009 was a year of laptops and 2010 will be a year of tablets.”


This is fundamentally flawed reasoning. The author is assuming that ten years after Bill Gates first proclaimed that the laptop and desktop would be supplanted by the tablet, now just happens to be the time people are ready to make the switch. That’s no more true than the idea that one hundred years ago people decided they’d had enough of horses and it was time to adopt another mode of travel.

People are buying the iPad because the iPad works as a tablet, not because they’ve finally decided they’ve had enough of laptops. The PC industry has a ten-year history of producing tablets that few people want. There is no reason to think that just because Apple has produced the iPad, people will start snapping up the Dell Streak or the Samsung Q1.

If other manufacturers manage to copy the iPad really well, or produce something useful themselves, they have a shot. Otherwise the next ten years of tablets will be like the last ten years, only thinner and lighter and more desperate as the iPad’s market share grows.

The Dogs of War Infographic — Improved

Maybe improved. It depends on how you look at it. The original is certainly prettier. 

Here’s the article in Wired, by Gizmodo, which tries to show how there is a three-way war starting between Google, Apple, and Microsoft. The graphic that goes along with the article shows over a dozen areas where the three compete, but that’s it; no other information is conveyed. In this graphic, I’ve tried to place each of the items so they represent the current position of the three competitors. So for example, the App Store is closest to Apple because they’ve had the most success with it, but it’s slightly closer to Google than Microsoft because the Android marketplace is doing so well.
For some items, it made no sense to show the battle as being between just these three. For example, if you’re going to talk about eBooks you need to at least include Amazon, as I did below. Likewise for web software, you can’t overlook Adobe’s Flash, especially since it seems Apple is more concerned with that than Silverlight.
None of these are placed numerically. If you have the time to research market share and tell me the iPod/Zune battle should be a few pixels closer to Apple, feel free. But based on the below, this looks like Microsoft is fighting a battle on two fronts, while Apple and Google still have more in common than they do to fight about. Let me know what you think.

What does Apple have against drag and drop?

In Seriously, Apple — hire some of your engineers from the 80s I pointed out how Apple ignores/rejects perfectly obvious use cases, especially when it comes to drag and drop. I ran into another one on Friday, so here goes the hot sauce:

I have a set of people I email regularly in OS X Mail. I want to create a group, but there doesn’t seem to be any function built-in to mail for that. I’d be curious to know what Apple’s research is on how many people use their address book for anything other than email, but setting that aside, the task at hand seems simple once you understand it must be done in the address book…

Except for the fact that the people in question aren’t in my address book. They’re coming from an Exchange server. So the use case here is: I have a bunch of qualified addresses in an email and I want to get them into the Address Book application. I started by creating a group in the address book and having it open, ready to receive the new addresses.

Failure #1: select all the addresses, drag them into the group. No. They just streak back to Mail. Whenever this happens I picture Wayne Knight in Jurassic Park saying “Ah ah ah, you didn’t say the magic word.

Failure #2: drag a single address. This was a long shot, and predictably it failed as well.

Failure #3: drag the addresses to the desktop. This works, and creates a text file with the addresses in it. But then dragging the file into the Address Book application fails: it only accepts vCard format. Gee, it’s a shame that’s not the format Mail creates when you drag to the desktop. Interestingly, you can drag a vCard into an email’s address box and it works; you just can’t go the other way.

Failure #4: I notice there is a menu item available for an address: Add to Address Book. Select all the addresses, select the menu choice, and only the email address I clicked on is added to the address book even though all the addresses are still selected.

Success? One by one I use the menu to add each address to the address book. Then I add them all to the group. I wonder what will happen if any of the people’s email addresses change in Exchange. I’m assuming they won’t update in Address Book, but it’s a low probability that any of them will change.

Drag and Drop is meant to be universal: from anywhere to anywhere. It’s defined to include as many formats as the outputting application can support to increase the likelihood of the receiving application finding a format it can accept. Receiving applications are supposed to be as tolerant as possible. The lowest common denominator is text; an application should include a text representation of the data whenever possible, and the receiving application should accept text if it can. I’ve just checked, and yes, if I create a contact in the Address Book and drag an email address to the email field for that contact, it works. So Address Book understands drag and drop of text at least, it just refuses to do the reasonable thing.

I’ve used Macs for twenty-five years now, and things like this are just disappointing.

Redmond wants into the fight

In The iPad Revolution: It’s 1984 All Over Again I described how with the iPad Apple is attempting to redefine the human/computer interface, doing away with the mouse and windows and replacing it with the iPhone’s multi-touch display. Of course, if Apple is even partially successful you have to ask who will try to eat their lunch. I said Microsoft was unlikely to as , “[they have] shown no talent at producing a compelling portable touch interface.” Well, Redmond seems intent on proving me wrong. Endgadget has a hands-on demo of Windows Phone 7 Series, and they seem pretty impressed.

The demo is short and feature-light, but it definitely looks worlds better than Windows Mobile ever did. Microsoft is also taking a page from Apple’s one-size-fits-all attitude toward hardware: there will be strict specifications for what devices include, standardizing much of what was once a wild west of features. The demo looks more complex than the iPhone, but that’s to be expected; Windows devices have always opted for more options, more features, more…more.

But is it enough? At this point Microsoft is definitely the third player at the table after Apple and Google. That won’t necessarily slow them down; it didn’t in the videogame console business. Still, unlike videogames where the platform OS doesn’t matter much but the controllers are nearly identical (the Wii’s motion-sensing being the notable exception to the uniformity of push buttons and thumbpad/sticks) there is likely to be consolidation in the multi-touch device market. Just as someone who uses Windows these days can switch to a Mac and still understand how to delete a file, it will eventually be the case that someone who uses one multitouch device will have little trouble switching to another.

So who will be the template the others follow or die trying? Apple has the lead, especially now with the iPad. Google at least has several shipping phones, and several other devices either available now or soon. Microsoft has phones on the way, but apparently nothing tablet-sized. Apple once had the lead in GUI-based computers, but lost it. Whether they can hold onto it now depends on their ability to satisfy the broad market as well as keep software — serious software, not just games — flowing.

Seriously, Apple — hire some of your engineers from the 80s

One of the things that used to amaze me about Apple software (and Macintosh software in general) was how it seemed that the engineers anticipated my weird little use cases. Now it often seems that they can’t anticipate the obvious ones.

Here are the steps I’ve taken so far:

  • I took a picture with my iPhone.
  • I connected the iPhone to a MacBook (not the computer I normally connect it to).
  • I ran iPhoto.
  • The photos on the iPhone showed up in the iPhoto window — so far so good.
  • I drag one of the photos from the iPhoto window to the desktop. The photo snaps back to its location in the iPhoto window, without transferring a copy to the desktop.

Sigh. Okay, so I have to import the photo(s) first, then I can drag them to the desktop. But why? Isn’t the input I gave the computer clear? Is there any possible ambiguity as to what I want to happen? There’s a picture on my iPhone, I want it on the computer. Did no one at Apple ever think of this option? Did they think of it, but have some valid reason for rejecting it? Did they think of it, but they were just lazy?

Every valid input to the computer should have a response. If the meaning is ambiguous, ask for clarification. The appropriate response is never simply wagging your finger at the user and saying “Nuh-uh.”

Oh, and here’s the picture: