Developing iPhone and iPad Apps: New Video for Beginners

Infinite Skills videoMy newest video, Non-Programmers Guide To Building iOS Apps, is now available from Infinite Skills. iOS, of course, is the operating system for the iPhone and iPad. When you develop an app for iOS, you are developing a native app for the iPhone or iPad (or both). The iPod touch works just like an iPhone (as far as apps are concerned), so your iPhone app would also run on an iPod touch.

Anyone can learn how to develop iOS apps. It doesn’t require super-human intelligence, even though it may seem like magic. To compare it to an alchemical experiment, the iOS Software Development Kit, or SDK, and the Xcode development environment, are the forge and crucible. You speak, or rather write code, in the programming language called Objective-C. The SDK comes with all the frameworks you need to forge an app, and Xcode is the tool you use to bring it all together. 

Developing iOS apps can also be the most fun you’ve had in years, with very little investment of time and money. iOS apps are small enough to figure out how to do. A single developer — or one with a partner and maybe some graphics support — can do an app. You don’t need a 20-person project with endless procedures and processes and meetings.

Before plunging into Objective-C and doing some coding, you need to know a bit more about what makes a good iOS app. This course will show you. You also need to know more (actually quite a bit more) about the iOS technologies that work behind the screen — such as frameworks, windows, views, and view controllers, which I introduce in this course. And when you’re done developing the app, you need to become acquainted the details about getting your app ready for the App Store and the public. I go over all these details in this course.

iOS app development can be simplified to a 3-step process:

  1. Design the user interface.
  2. Write the code in Objective-C.
  3. Build, run, and test your app.

You can do steps 1 and 3 without knowing how to write code in Objective-C. You can learn the mechanics of creating an app and taking it all the way to the distribution process, before learning Objective-C. So, you can learn a lot from this training — even if you don’t know what this Objective-C code does.

So follow along with this training course and you too will have more fun programming than ever before!

 

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iTunes Questions Answered: Files, Transfers, Store, and More

itunes10logo

I recently answered a lot of questions about iTunes in other forums, and those answers are reproduced here so that others can benefit. They are segmented into sections on file management, transferring to or from devices, iTunes Store accounts, iTunes playlists, and iTunes performance.

You can learn more about iTunes in the most recent edition of my book iPod and iTunes For Dummies

File Management in iTunes

  • “What is the best way to manage music files, i.e. backing them up, with iTunes?”

The best way to manage your iTunes library is to use Apple’s Time Machine (with Time Capsule) — you did ask for the “best” way. You don’t have to worry about it. Your Time Capsule always has a backup. You can then use iTunes Match to copy most (though not all) of your music to iCloud, for a second backup. That’s basically what I do.

  • “How does iTunes keep track of its music library?”

Songs ripped or downloaded are copied to the iTunes Media folder — unless you uncheck the “Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to the library” option under the Advanced tab in Preferences. So normally, iTunes makes a copy of the music file, and stores it in the iTunes Media folder. If you delete the original file, the copy still exists in the iTunes Media folder.

If you uncheck the “Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to the library” option, iTunes doesn’t make copies of the files, and instead points to the original files. If you delete the original file, it’s gone. iTunes may display it, but won’t be able to find it — you’ll see an exclamation point next to it in your iTunes library.

  • “Some of my stored CDs are fragmented i.e. if an artist has recorded with another artist then the track is stored separately and not in the overall CD. How can I consolidate separated tracks so they are included where they should be?”

The filename and location within artist and album folders change when you change the information for a song in the information fields. For example, if you change the song title, the filename also changes. If you change the artist name, the folder name for the artist might change or the file might move to a new folder by that name.

If you want a compilation album to be stored within an artist folder, you could change the Artist field. You could, for example, create a new artist “name” that combines two artists (Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, for example) and use that name for the albums, to store it in the “Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel” folder.

On the other hand, if you just want the songs/albums to sort in the list as if they were by the same artist, you can change the Sort Artist field for the artist under the Sorting tab in the Get Info window. You can add the artist name the way you want it to be sorted, as I do with “Hartford, John” in the Sort Artist field, so that John Hartford songs show up in the H artists (as if the artist is “Hartford, John”) rather than in the J artists when sorted alphabetically, but the artist name still appears as “John Hartford.”

You may want to change the Album Artist field under the Info tab in in the Get Info window and the Sort Album Artist field under the Sorting tab in the Get Info window, or fill them in if they’re blank, for certain songs on compilation albums or music from box sets. iTunes offers both Artist and Album Artist fields for a song so that you can include the album artist name if it’s different — such as the artist name for a compilation album that features songs by different artists (for example, a duet album by an artist who brings in other guest artists). This is a sorting trick, not a way to reorganize the way the files are stored.

Transfer to or from Devices

  • “Tony, this may be too basic a question, but here goes: Would tips cover how to transfer the data on my iTouch 4 to my new iTouch 5? (OK, you guessed it; I’m near 70.)”

If you first synchronized your iTouch 4 music, videos, apps, and other content with your iTunes library, and your contacts, calendars, bookmarks etc. with iCloud (or using iTunes with your browser, desktop contacts, and calendars applications), and your photos with iPhoto or a photo folder, you can simply synchronize your iTouch 5 to the same iTunes library for content, and iCloud (or your desktop applications through iTunes) for your contacts etc., and iPhoto or photo folder (through iTunes) for photos.

If that’s not an option for some reason, most alternative solutions will copy your music, videos, podcasts and some data (contacts, calendars) to your computer (either to an iTunes library or just the files). You can then use iTunes to synch them with your iTouch 5. You can find these utilities at the bottom of this article: ”Tips on Using iPod and iPhone Models“.

  • “Your book refers to Tip #3 on your website for moving files from an iPad to iTunes with 3rd party software. I cannot find it.”

My apologies. Somehow it was left off the end of the “Tips on Using iPod and iPhone Models” page. You can find it at the end of that page under “Using Utilities to Copy Files and Music”. Thanks!

iTunes Store

  • “How do I get rid of this error on iTunes: ‘This Apple id has not yet been used with the iTunes store. Please review your account information.’?”

You should log into the iTunes Store (click iTunes Store button in the top right corner), and click Account in the Quick Links section on the right side of the page. The Account Information should appear (you may have type your password first). If there is a problem, it would be listed there.

  • “What happens to the songs I’ve already bought if I change my region settings in iTunes?”

Your purchases won’t vanish, but you won’t be able to buy in both regions at the same time. To do that you would need to create a separate account for each region.

  • “What was the first song ever downloaded from iTunes?”

I couldn’t find the very first song downloaded. The day iTunes Store opened in 2003, the top seller was “Stuck in a Moment” by U2, and the top album “Sea Change” by Beck. (My first download was the exclusive iTunes offering “Diamond Joe” by Bob Dylan.) More than a million songs sold in the first week, which is amazing considering only Mac users could purchase them.

 iTunes Playlists

  • “How do I create a Smart Playlist that includes videos I have started watching but have not finished?”

This is almost a trick question, because you can’t really do it in iTunes exactly as you want it. However, these instructions get you closer to what you want (i.e. “You can’t always get what you want / but if you try sometimes / well you might find / you get what you need”).

When creating or editing a Smart Playlist…

Create the first condition by choosing from the pop-up menus:

  1. Media Kind, is, and TV Show (“Media Kind is TV Show”). The Match pop-up menu appears. Choose to Match All from the pop-up menu. Then create the second condition:
  2. Plays, is, 0 (“Plays is zero”). The Plays measure is a play count. You have to play the last moment of the show, i.e., all the way to the end of the credits, for it to count as being played. So any TV shows you’ve already started will show up on the list, but unfortunately mixed in with unplayed shows. You can then add a third condition, such as:
  3. Date Added, in the last, 4, months (“Date Added in the last 4 months”) to get only the most recently added shows.

However, I prefer stopping at 2 conditions, and then adding the Date Added column and sorting the playlist by clicking the column heading Date Added, so that the most recent rise to the top.

You have to create separate Smart Playlists for TV Shows and Movies — change TV Show to Movie in the Media Kind condition above.

Comment on the answer:
“Thanks. I already do something like that. But I’m running my own DVR, so I have a host of recently added, unwatched content. So this works for browsing the smart playlist within iTunes, but it doesn’t work for syncing my recent shows I started watching to my iPhone.”

  • “How can you open multiple playlists in iTunes v11?”

Apple removed that feature. You can duplicate a playlist and then edit it, and you can use the Add To button under the Playlists tab to add albums and songs (but not playlists) to a playlist. That’s about it.

iTunes Performance

  • “What does iTunes do when it says ‘Determining Gapless Playback Information’?”

Albums on CD, or downloaded albums, that are “gapless” (no gaps between songs) are detected by iTunes so that they play properly. Gapless playback is always on unless you turn on the Crossfade Songs option under the Playback tab in Preferences.

  • “How can I cut down on the amount of memory iTunes uses on Mac OS X?”

Mac OS X has very efficient memory management that automatically allocates memory and adjusts the contents of memory as needed. You don’t have obvious control over it. iTunes when first opened doesn’t use as much RAM at first, but uses more as it plays more songs and especially long playlists. The only way to reduce its memory footprint is to quit and then reopen.

 

 

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Google Glass Makes Us Look Ridiculous

A model poses with Google Glass

A model poses with Google Glass

I don’t mean in a fashion sense (someone else made that argument well). I mean it makes the tech industry look ridiculous. It makes us look like we’re out of touch with what real people need.

In this real world, filled with starving infants, poverty-stricken families, rampant curable diseases, chronic homelessness, corrupt politics, a poisoned environment, you-name-it… this is the only tech innovation we could come up with in the last three years (since the iPad)? Google Glass is a device you wear so that you don’t have to look down at your smartphone in your hand. And oh yes, you can take pictures and videos in the blink of an eye.

So I guess it’s more important to us — more important than solving any of the real world’s problems — that we shouldn’t have to pull a smartphone out of our pockets when we want to search or communicate.

And we think that wearing these things will make us more social, or more polite, because the wearer doesn’t need to look away from a person to use Google, or get directions, or do other tasks. But I think that most of us will approach Google Glass wearers with suspicion. Are they recording everything? Snapping candid shots of me without my knowing it? Fact is, wearing the glasses is a dead giveaway that you’re more interested in your messages or searches, or in taking pictures, than in interacting with other live humans. I think it would be awkward in the middle of a conversation to say, “Excuse me” and roll your eyes up to see your Google Glass display. It may be more polite to say, “Excuse me” and step aside to check your smartphone.

The point is, are we really so obsessed with gadgets that we think this is “the future”? How much money was spent on this idea? It’s embarrassing to think that the entire tech industry is so enamored with this.

I got excited about personal computers, workstations, multimedia, the Internet, web services, smartphones, and tablets. Each invention was a powerful tool to increase and enhance communication and expression, solve significant problems, and work on social and political causes.

I can see Google Glass being useful for some applications. Maybe a surgeon could wear it and view X-rays while performing surgery. There are some powerful applications for hands-free tablet viewing and interaction. There are powerful uses for voice-command technology, Google Glass-like displays (perhaps in cars), and continuous photography and videography. But these are not everyday uses for everyday people.

While I agree that wearable smart digital devices can be popular and useful (I still wear an iPod nano when exercising), they also have to be stylish and convenient. Google Glass is more in line with Borg fashion (that is, the Borg of Star Trek fame). I would be more inclined to try a smart watch, first envisioned in Dick Tracy comics by Chester Gould in 1946.

The actual Google Glass prototype all the pundits are wearing is not really ready for prime time. Too bad they had to pay $1500 for it. My guess is, that’s why the prototype wearers are so enthusiastic. Who would want to admit that they blew $1500? Besides, until the tech industry invents something truly powerful and useful, there’s not much for a technical journalist to write about.

 

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A Decade of iTunes Stuck in a Moment

Apple iTunes Store home page

Apple iTunes Store

Today is the 10th birthday of the iTunes Store — that is, for Mac users. (It went live for Windows users on Oct. 16, 2003.) See the following celebrations:

The day it opened in 2003, the top seller was “Stuck in a Moment” by U2, and the top album “Sea Change” by Beck. (My first download was the exclusive iTunes offering “Diamond Joe” by Bob Dylan.) More than a million songs sold in the first week, which is amazing considering only Mac users could purchase them.

iTunes was a sea change for the music industry then, but it’s stuck in a moment now. Back then, Apple invented the digital music business. When Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave personal demonstrations of the iTunes Store and the iPod to Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger before introducing the online store in 2003 (with Jagger on stage), Jobs reported to Newsweek that “They both totally get it” (according to Steven Levy at Newsweek (May 12, 2003). The former Beatle and the Stones’ front man were no slouches: both had conducted music-business affairs personally and had extensive back catalogs of music. At the meetings they knew all about the free music-swapping services on the Internet, but they agreed with Jobs that most people were willing to pay for high-quality music rather than download free copies of questionable quality. And they were right.

Ten years after, the store offers a wide variety of content, but does not yet dominate most of those content types (movies, TV shows, e-books) the way it still dominates music. And it likely won’t dominate movies and TV shows, because the entertainment industry has learned the lessons of the music industry, which has grown to regret giving Apple so much power. iTunes also won’t dominate in e-books as long as Amazon is around. But a good many of us are locked into the Apple music closet by virtue of convenience, and because it is too inconvenient to manage multiple music libraries.

Ten years after, iTunes is also stuck in a moment of truth. Competition is building from Amazon to challenge iTunes in market share for music downloads. Reports are rampant with premature conclusions that streaming music services will overcome iTunes (here’s one from Businessweek).

Streaming services are ideal for discovering new music. Apple hasn’t yet focused on this problem. Ping failed as a social service because it really wasn’t designed to share music — you could only share a preview. The Genius feature is only occasionally intriguing but is mostly dissatisfying. I discover new music through other channels, and only buy the classic tunes and albums that appear in iTunes email alerts. Email is just not as effective for discovering new music, which I have to listen to first before buying. So I listen to music through social networks and streaming radio-like services (Pandora, Spotify, etc.).

But make no mistake: No matter where I discover music, I still purchase it on iTunes, or on Amazon. The streaming services don’t connect me to ownership, and I want to own the music I listen to all the time (even though I don’t really own the music itself, just a license to play it). The iTunes and Amazon juggernauts are not going to be dethroned anytime soon. If anything changes, it will be Apple improving its ability to entice me to buy music by launching a streaming radio-like service. And it will be a lot easier for most of us to click that “Subscribe” button — because the iTunes Store already has our credit card information. So Apple’s service will join the others to compete for my time.

I’ve been elated with the iTunes application, and I’ve been frustrated. Every time Apple added features, updated functions, and changed its user interface, I’ve had to scramble to update my books about iTunes. I miss some of the features that are now automatic, such as the “gapless playback” setting. It took me time to get used to use the new Up Next menu to dynamically build a playlist, which in some ways is better than the old iTunes DJ feature (easier to quickly pick songs) but also worse (harder to rearrange them).

But I still use the iTunes application to play everything from albums and TV shows to movies and education lessons, all downloaded from the online store. And I will continue to do so for a long time to come. I welcome more choices for downloading content, but the iTunes Store is the one that feeds my library the most, and it will most certainly survive another decade.

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Estimated Charges (iTunes album)
by the Flying Other Brothers

 

 

 

 

 

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Get Smart About Smart Playlists

iTunes can help you organize the music or video you watch or listen to the most, or listen to or watch the least. By programming a smart playlist based on the number of plays or the date added, you can automatically create a playlist of what you haven’t heard or watched yet, or what you’ve added recently.

Of course, smart playlists are ignorant of your taste in music or video. For example, you can create a smart playlist that uses the Year field to grab all the songs from 1966. This list, in no particular order, might include The Beatles (“Eleanor Rigby”), Frank Sinatra (“Strangers in the Night”), The Yardbirds (“Over Under Sideways Down”), and Ike and Tina Turner (“River Deep, Mountain High”) — a far-out playlist, no doubt, but not necessarily what you want.

Under the Playlists tab in the iTunes window (after selecting Music in the source pop-up menu), you can find smart playlists supplied by Apple, which are indicated by a gear-in-a-document icon — such as My Top Rated and Recently Added. The ones you create also appear here. Smart playlists add items to themselves based on prearranged criteria, or rules. For example, when you rate your content items, My Top Rated changes to reflect your new ratings. You don’t have to set up anything because My Top Rated and Recently Added are already defined for you.

To create your own, you can use other fields of information that you entered (such as ratings, artist name, or composer) to fine-tune your criteria. You can also use view options such as Plays (the number of times the item was played) or Date Added (the date the item was added to the library).

To create a new smart playlist, choose File>New Smart Playlist. The Smart Playlist dialog appears:

smart_playlist1

Smart playlist based on composer

The dialog offers the following choices for setting rules:

Match the Following Rule: From the first pop-up menu, you can choose any of the categories used for information, such as Artist, Composer, or Last Played. From the second pop-up menu, you can choose an operator, such as the greater-than or less-than operator. The selections that you make in these two pop-up menus combine to create a rule, such as Year is greater than 1966 or, as in the above figure, Composer contains (the words) Woody Guthrie.

You can also add multiple conditions by clicking the + button on the right of a rule. The Match xx of the Following Rules option appears when you set more that one rule. You then decide whether to match all or any of these rules:

  • All combines the rules with the AND operator (all the rules must be true).
  • Any combines the rules with the OR operator (any of the rules can be true).

Limit To: You can limit the smart playlist to a specific duration, measured by the number of songs (items), time, or size in megabytes or gigabytes, as shown below. You can have items selected by various methods, such as random, most recently played, and so on.

smart_playlist2

Smart playlist based on date added.

Match Only Checked Items: This option selects only those songs or other items in the library that have a check mark beside them, along with the rest of the criteria. Selecting and deselecting items is an easy way to fine-tune your selection for a smart playlist.

Live Updating: This allows iTunes to continually update the playlist while you play items, add or remove items from the library, change their ratings, and so on.

After setting up the rules, click the OK button. iTunes creates the playlist, noted by a gear-in-a-document icon and the name untitled playlist (or whatever phrase you used for the first condition, such as the album or artist name). You can click in the playlist field and then type a new name for it.

Setting up rules gives you the opportunity to create playlists that are smarter than the ones supplied with iTunes. For example, I created a smart playlist with criteria (as shown in the figure above, “Smart playlist based on date added”) that does the following:

  • Includes any item added to the library in the past week that also has a rating greater than three stars.
  • Limits the playlist to 72 minutes to be sure that it fits on a 74-minute audio CD, even with gaps between the songs. It also refines the selection to the most recently added if the entire selection becomes greater than 72 minutes.
  • Matches only selected items.
  • Performs live updating.

To edit a smart playlist, select it from the Playlists section of the source pane and choose File>Edit Smart Playlist. The Smart Playlist window appears with the criteria for the smart playlist.

For example, to modify the smart playlist so that items with a higher rating are picked, simply add another star or two to the My Rating criteria.

The Plays field is useful for limiting smart playlists to items you haven’t yet watched or listened to. Plays is a a play count. You have to play the last moment of the song or show (all the way to the end of the credits of a movie or TV show) for it to count as being played. So any songs or TV shows you’ve already started will show up on the list, but also mixed in with unplayed songs and shows.

To create a smart playlist that is limited to TV shows you haven’t finished watching, create these rules:

  1. Choose Media Kind, is, and TV Show (“Media Kind is TV Show”) from the pop-up menus for the first rule.
  2. Click the + button on the right of the first rule to create a second rule.
  3. Choose All from the pop-up menu in the Match xx of the Following Rules option at the top.
  4. Choose Plays, is, 0 (“Plays is zero”) for the second rule.

With this smart playlist, any TV shows you have not played to the finish appear in the list.

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No More Money for Nothing, No More Chicks for Free

$100 bill

A band’s annual royalties from a well-known streaming music service.

On the eve of the San Francisco MusicTech Summit conference (one of the more interesting conferences of the year), I took another look at the music business and the ways that musicians can make a living. It’s not a pretty picture.

I applaud the myriad ways that technology has unleashed the creative spark in people to create music. With millions of musicians plying the planet waves, there’s an awful lot of good music out there, some of it great. While many of us pay for and download the albums by artists we know about, the most popular method of exploring this universe of unfamiliar music is through streaming services like Pandora and Spotify — either free (with ads), or by paying a low premium equivalent to buying an album each month.

The problem is that royalty rates from streaming services are low. A recent New York Times article (“As Music Streaming Grows, Royalties Slow to a Trickle“) called some attention to this fact. Spotify, for example, pays 0.5 to 0.7 cent a stream (or $5,000 to $7,000 per million plays) for its paid tier, and as much as 90 percent less for its free tier. By comparison, a typical artist may earn 7 to 10 cents on a 99-cent download, after deducting amounts for the retailer, the record company, and the songwriter.

The key to increasing these royalty streams is for the artist to write the songs and be the record company. The key to increasing exposure while also earning a living as a musician is to play live. “No artist will be able to survive to be professionals except those who have a significant live business, and that’s very few,” said Hartwig Masuch, chief executive of BMG Rights Management, in the New York Times piece.

Between the artist and the consumer are businesses making significantly more revenue than the artist. With new technology disrupting old-style businesses in almost every other sector, what will it take for distribution technologies to close this gap? Rock bands knew about songwriting and having their own record labels way back in the dinosaur age. Bob Dylan decided he was a “folk” too and could write his own songs, and proceeded to graft new lyrics onto old folk tunes. The Beatles eventually became their own record company (Apple Records), the Rolling Stones started their own label, and many others sought to close the gap between the artist and the consumer.

I know bands that not only book their own live shows and handle their own publicity and social media connections, but also rent out venues themselves and charge admission. Some bands put on their own festivals. But it’s a hard road, requiring business sense that artists are not known for having.

Nevertheless, the current wisdom is for artists to make use of these streaming services to get their music out there. The worry for successful acts is that streaming services cannibalize paid downloads and CD sales, and until there are enough streaming subscribers, they will lose potential revenue. History may be repeating itself, though. When the CD was first introduced, royalty rates were lower for CDs than for vinyl records. It took a while for CDs to become mainstream and replace vinyl for the royalty rates to rise.

And so, the rumbling distribution side of the music industry lurches on, overdue for a disruption and still blocking the lanes of progress.

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Estimated Charges (iTunes album)
by the Flying Other Brothers

 

 

 

 

 

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Give Me Some Truth (and Hire Tech Writers)

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At a time when many writers, and especially technical writers, are suffering from unemployment, the industry is being led by the nose into faux controversies driven by business-oriented editors and bloggers seeking more traffic and offering less accuracy. They could use a few technical writers to set them straight – or Steve Jobs, the best tech writer in the industry.

First there was the Adobe Flash controversy. Then, antenna-gate.


Now we have location-gate. In all these cases, the headline writers got it wrong, and it took a response from Steve Jobs himself to set it right. Maybe they didn’t read the technical reports closely enough. But in their haste to bash Apple and garner traffic with bogus headlines, business editors aren’t paying enough attention to the technical writers who can not only test these theories but report on them far more accurately.

With location-gate, Jobs pointed out in an email to a customer that the info circulating around is false, and that not only does Apple not track its users, but Google Android in fact does track users. (Steve Jobs to customer via email: “We don’t track anyone.”) Indeed, Android has been shown to gather location information and report it back to Google on a daily basis.

Google points out that the location data is anonymous when Google receives it. However, the company is still tracking and then using the data.

Meanwhile, The Boston Herald, who at least read a technical report, points out that researchers emphasize that there’s no evidence that Apple itself has access to this data. The data apparently stays on the device itself, and computers the data is backed up to.

Tracking is a normal part of owning a cell phone. All the big high-tech companies, including Google, Twitter, Facebook, AT&T, and Verizon, as well as Apple, have recently added (or are on the verge of adding) location-centric services. (See PC World article.)

Most of this location tracking is voluntary. And much of the data gathering, like Apple’s with the iPhone, is done anonymously. The much-maligned tracking file is just a cache for location data, and the historical data probably isn’t being cleared due to a bug or an oversight.

One typical overreaction is Henry Blodget’s demand for an apology from Apple. it’s an example of some of the worst aspects of business journalism (if you can call it that). If you read the comments to his article, you find that most readers are smarter than he is. I bet many of them are tech writers.

If the news media, and now politicians, are capitalizing off these tech issues, the least they could do is hire a few competent tech writers to get it right the first time.

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Wrongheaded Opinions About Apple

Critics of Apple, and in particular of Steve Jobs, often point to his arrogance, ego, stubbornness, and proprietary nature. They also frame the success of Apple as fleeting — a case of a closed, proprietary maverick versus the the rest of the open world where companies collaborate.

Here’s what they miss. The arrogant, stubborn, and proprietary creator has a master plan: the Apple ecosystem is wildly successful as a platform. It no longer matters whether it is “open” or “closed” — the network effect of the Apple platform wins, and is now driving the industry.


The Power of the Platform at Apple” (by Steve Lohr, The New York Times) points out why this strategy is winning:

These days, Apple is a platform player, though it is taking a hybrid approach. It has courted outside partners and suppliers but has fairly strict rules for how applications look and behave in its devices… It all works better together, the company says, so a person’s second or third Apple product will make the first and second device more useful. The strategy is working so far.

It takes a platform to build an ecosystem, which in turn can build an industry. Openness by itself may lead to an ecosystem, but the ecosystem doesn’t always lead to a profitable industry.

There are many misguided opinions masquerading as facts among Apple’s critics, and most of them were laid out concisely in Netgear CEO Patrick Lo’s attack on Apple – see “Closed Apple headed for trouble as Jobs’s ego bites: Netgear CEO.” Here are some big ones:

1. Android is not an “open-source” platform — not entirely. Even though most of Android OS is open source, phones come packaged with closed-source Google applications for functionality such as the application store and GPS navigation — both of which are essential features of the Android ecosystem.

2. “Android … recently overtook iPhone in market share in the US.” This is misleading, comparing Android, an operating system for many different phones and from different carriers, to iOS running on an AT&T-only iPhone. The iPod touch and iPad were not included, and the Verizon iPhone, arriving this week, will most likely upset this balance of market share. Besides, market share is fleeting — only profit counts in the long term. And according to this report from Asymco’s Horace Dediu, the iPhone, with just 4.2 percent of the global mobile phone market, accounts for a massive 51 percent of the total profits.

3. Referring to the Android vs. Apple “open vs. closed” war, Lo said the industry had “seen this movie play several times,” pointing to the Betamax vs. VHS video format war. Huh? Neither were “open” in any sense of the word. For a concise description of this battle, see “The Betamax vs VHS Format War.” Lo may be indirectly referring to Apple’s rejecting apps from its App Store, but now Google is doing the same with Android Market (see “Has Google Begun Cleaning the Android Market? Do You Care?“).

4. Lo said Apple’s closed model only worked because, in many product categories like MP3 players, “they own the market.” Actually, this is paraphrasing the idea that Apple’s ecosystem approach is successful. But Lo implies that Apple somehow cheated. Apple won the MP3 market, it did not own it at first. There were many MP3 players and music services for at least a year after the iPod and iTunes were introduced. Zune and others didn’t survive, but that doesn’t mean Apple cheated.

5. Lo said “content providers such as the movie studios were very ‘wary’ of Jobs as the closed model of iTunes meant they were forced to pay a ‘ransom’ to Jobs for selling their content on the service.” Maybe they are wary, but music labels get a significant portion of their revenues from iTunes. Music labels seem to prefer iTunes to services like Spotify — see “Spotify Blames Apple For Difficulties Launching In The US” and “Spotify: iTunes, Labels Fear Us in the U.S.“.

6. “What’s the reason for him [Jobs] to trash Flash? There’s no reason other than ego.” Actually, Jobs listed quite a number of coherent reasons why Flash performs poorly on mobile devices. See “Thoughts on Flash” by Steve Jobs.

7. Lo said, “Steve Jobs doesn’t give me a minute!” Now that’s the truth!

Buried in Lo’s attack is his acknowledgement of the success of Apple’s approach: “Consumers have also benefited [from Apple's approach] because they get a consistent experience and products that are easier to use.”

So who is hurt by Apple’s stance? Competitors, mostly — and perhaps Netgear in particular. As consumers, do we really care? A plethora of choices may not further innovation at all. In a walk down any supermarket aisle you can see lots of branded choices that are essentially the same. I think most consumers could care less about “open” or “proprietary” — they care about innovation. And that’s why they choose Apple — the company has clearly led the industry by innovating the customer’s experience. This is what counts for consumers, and this is why Apple continues to dominate.

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Beatles Come Together Over iTunes

When the “Beatles for Sale” rumors reported by The Financial Times and The Wall St. Journal hit, there was “No Reply” from Apple (though Steve Jobs was overheard humming “Don’t Bother Me” and Microsoft Zune employees could be heard singing “I’m a Loser”). Asked why it took so long, the label’s spokesperson merely referred to the song “You Never Give Me Your Money”. “Her Majesty” had no comment. Fans everywhere could be heard singing “Don’t Let Me Down!”

This morning, Apple and Apple Corps (label for the Beatles, distributed by EMI) finally made a deal and put The Beatles on iTunes, with great fanfare, streaming video, and an online Beatles Box Set for $149 (a sort of super-iTunes LP).

I have always thought the two should be paired. The Beatles were cool and relevant; Apple is cool and relevant. The Beatles changed everything; Apple changed everything. The Beatles put out a white album with an Apple on the label; Apple uses white and the Apple logo. The Beatles started Apple Electronics to drive forward electronic music (and even experimented with music “stored” in a box that you could play); Apple invented the iPod.

So finally, the Beatles and Apple sing “We Can Work it Out”. iTunes is “Getting Better” all the time. It should have happened sooner. Note that in 2012 the rights for the earliest songs, such as “Love Me Do” will be “Free as a Bird”; i.e., in the public domain.

I wrote back in 2007 (Splendid Time is Guaranteed For All) about how all 13 core albums — the ones originally released on CD in 1987 — were remastered for CD and presumably for online distribution, though it didn’t happen. I speculated that since Beatles music was a turning point in the history of pop music, and its CDs were a turning point in the history of CD sales, the Beatles catalog would once again prove to be a turning point in the history of online music. Besides, baby boomers would be excited, and that would stimulate downloads for record labels.

Well of course the latter happened without the Beatles. In fact, The Beatles: Rock Band game, which did come out, did not light any fires under the game industry, which has already soared without them.

It simply took too long to get all the rights lined up. That is has taken so long means its impact is reduced from what it would have been in 2007. The Beatles may command the power to legitimize a medium, but the iTunes Store is way ahead of the game. What the Beatles remastered catalog has the power to do is to forge a new format for historic albums on iTunes.

I expected far more of an immersive experience with everything the Beatles ever released, including all movies, trailers, Christmas specials, the entire Anthology documentary, and even new surprises such as Carnival of Light and more about the magical mystery chord. Alas, these items will probably be sold separately over time; right now, all you get are the 13 albums plus the 2 compilations. Soon, I hope, you will be able to get the Anthology.

I care most about the iTunes album goodies, which will indeed cause me to open my wallet for music I already own. I care about the remastered music, which will be available quickly for downloading. And I mostly care about the influence the Beatles may yet have on the next generation with these new products — including the message that the love you make must equal the love you take. May we all someday live in a Yellow Submarine.

“I am the Walrus” covered by other bands:

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Did Apple Get it Wrong with Ping and Apple TV?

Apple TV and televisionWith regard to the new Apple TV, and the Ping social network built into iTunes 10, many bloggers and journalists seem to think Apple got it wrong. I’m not one of them, except that I’ve adopted their tactics and shamelessly put “wrong” in the title to get your attention.

Steve Jobs complained a while back that technology existed to disrupt the current cable TV industry but lacked a “go-to-market” strategy. Apple always has a go-to-market strategy. In the case of Apple TV, the strategy is to proceed cautiously with a neat, tidy package of technology for $99 as a first step to get the content pricing right for TV shows.

Steve is right when he says that owners of the previous Apple TV were mostly happy with the device. Now they’ll be even happier, and new customers will be found more easily at the $99 price point.

Alas, there is criticism — as there should be, to move the discussions forward. According to Don MacAskill, in “What the AppleTV should have been” (SmugMug): ”Customers are dying for some disruption to the cable business, and instead we get a tiny fraction of cable’s content.” He goes on to write about the need for apps on Apple TV. “Just require the use of an iPod, iPhone, or iPad to control it. Put the whole UI on the iOS device in your hand, with full multi-touch.”

Not a bad idea, really, except that Steve Jobs was quite clear about the notion that people “don’t want a computer on their TV.” Steve: “They go to their wide-screen TVs for entertainment. Not to have another computer. This is a hard one for people in the computer industry to understand, but it’s really easy for consumers to understand.” According to Dan Frommer in “Here’s The Difference Between Apple TV And Google TV” (Business Insider), the strategy is to “ease people into the idea of using an Internet device in their living room.”

A tipping point will occur in 2011 when enough iPad users are streaming live TV to the Apple TV device that the device evolves as a viewer for iPad apps on the widescreen TV — apps you control on your iPad with your fingers. In this scenario, there is no need for a UI or apps on the Apple TV itself; it simply receives streaming audio and video. You could launch any network TV app on your iPad to watch it on the screen. Not a bad idea, and far less complex than creating an entirely new type of “TV-app” and adding an Apple TV section to the App Store.

But I do think both are coming, after the tipping point: TV-like apps (especially multiplayer games and the Game Center), and an Apple TV section in the App Store. Apple TV will most likely run iOS at some point; at which time it will evolve as a living room entertainment center with apps. Not a computer in the living room, but an app machine that interacts with your iPad.

Second, Ping. (That sigh you hear is my frustration at having to go through the process of adding my profile and following others in yet another social network.) Overall, I agree with Richard MacManus in “Ping: First Look at the iTunes Social Network” (ReadWriteWeb): “Overall, I can see Ping being useful for following friends who have similar tastes in music to me…. However, Ping is probably not going to be very useful for following friends who don’t share my music tastes.”

Indeed. With Facebook already taking care of the Big Picture of my social life, I don’t need another social network to link me to all my friends, yet again. What I would rather have is a place to go to mix with some friends and some strangers (maybe a bar, with music). Ping doesn’t come close to that, but maybe we are all looking for something Apple isn’t in business to provide. Apple is not a social networking company; it is a consumer electronics company and media retailer.

Look again at iTunes 10, in which Ping is just a feature, like Genius. As Om Malik points out in “Why Ping Is the Future of Social Commerce” (GigaOM), “With 12 million songs and 250,000 apps, the best way for Apple to enhance the iTunes store — aka its shopping experience — is through the use of social.” Apple is embedding social features into iTunes, that’s all. Ping drives people toward paid music downloads; it’s meant as a complement to the usual discovery and search methods in the iTunes Store. With so many titles to browse, the traditional search methods are simply not enough.

I predict that Ping will survive the slings and arrows of criticism (which, by the way, also plagued Twitter at its inception, and more to the point, also haunted the Genius feature of iTunes) and become useful as a way to navigate the iTunes Store. I have, of course, misgivings about this disruption, since my Rockument site survives on clicks and purchases on Amazon and iTunes. But you can’t stop the network effect from disrupting businesses. Affiliate sites like mine will eventually have to change business models, and I might as well give myself the same advice I’d give others: good luck with that.

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