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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WordPress Resources at SiteGround

WordPress is an award-winning web software, used by millions of webmasters worldwide for building their website or blog. SiteGround is proud to host this particular WordPress installation and to provide the following resources, which facilitate the creation of WP websites:

WordPress tutorial
The WordPress tutorial at SiteGround shows how and where to actually start creating your blog site. It includes installation and theme change instructions, management of WordPress plugins, upgrade and backup manuals, and more.

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The WordPress theme gallery at SiteGround contains a rich collection of free to use WordPress themes. The themes are suitable for any type of blog and are easy to customize for the particular use the webmaster might need.

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SiteGround servers are fully-optimized to accommodate WordPress-powered websites. Free installation of WordPress is also included in the hosting services provided by SiteGround.

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Not Bashing Apple Costs Analysts and Bloggers $18M Per Day

Flamer imageAnalysts not reporting the iPhone 4 antenna as a “problem for Apple” or “crisis” stand to lose fees, report purchases, stock opportunities, and ads linked to Web traffic — to the tune of at least $18M per day. Hoodwinking the public about Apple has turned into a lucrative business for analysts, bloggers, and now Consumer Reports.

For the record: I just made up the $18M amount. But I don’t see how my fantasy is any less real than these rantings, which seem designed to attract attention rather than report facts:

CNET: “Analyst: iPhone 4 recall would cost $1.5 billion“. This is a report that was practically written by the quoted analyst — Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi.

The key sentence in that report: “Perhaps the bigger, longer-term concern for Apple investors is the emerging pattern of hubris…” and then the analyst lists five reasons in his own pattern of hubris. Steve Jobs’ health, Apple’s cash balance, it’s “attack” on Flash, the investigation into the lost prototype, its restrictions on app development, and its dismissive characterizations of the iPhone’s antenna issues.

The problem with this analysis is (1) the health scare was Steve Jobs’ mistake, not the company’s; (2) the cash balance has been explained, and as a stockholder (though puny, with a few shares), I’m all for having it on hand; (3) the “attack” (on Flash) was actually Apple’s defense against a gang-attack by Adobe and the press; (4) the lost prototype investigation was by the police; and (5) Apple has responded to the antenna issue with facts.

Let’s examine another, this one from AppleInsider: “Every week Apple doesn’t act on iPhone 4 antenna could cost $200M“.

Another story written by the quoted analyst. Most of it is a rehash of all the potential fixes that others have suggested: providing free bumpers (or cases), repairing the units, or recalling them. But the key sentence in that report leaves no doubt where this analyst stands: “Despite the issues, [Mike Abramsky with RBC Capital Markets] said he views the situation as a potential buying opportunity for investors.” So, go out there and buy Apple, he seems to day, because we just took advantage of that huge dip in stock price and want the stock to climb again, and quickly.

Let’s go to the source, the Consumer Reports Electronics Blog: “Why Apple–and not its customers–should fix the iPhone 4“.

Consumer Reports is getting feisty to draw attention. The stunt with duct tape did the trick. Here’s a telling comment from a reader of that report: “Invariably the product models you report on are no longer available in stores, because of your delays in testing and reporting… Yet you had to rush to insult Apple (in real time this time) with that duct-tape-on-the-iPhone-4 deal, even after first lauding the phone for the tour-de-force it is. This was not objective reporting… You rate them tops on quality and service, yet immediately demean them with duct tape before there is time for any resolution. Makes me question how objective CU now is?”

But here’s the key sentence in the report demonstrating real hubris on the part of Consumer Reports: “We’ve called on Apple to do something about it.” I can just imagine that phone call. Was it from the publisher to Steve Jobs? Did they shoot from the hip?

Did they make a similar call to Toyota when its cars were putting people’s lives at risk? When Consumer Reports labelled Toyota’s Lexus GX sport-utility vehicle a “safety risk” due to its rear end sliding out, potentially causing a “rollover accident, which could cause serious injury or death,” nowhere did it say that Consumer Reports called on Toyota to recall them — it was only reported that Consumer Reports urged people not to buy them. The Consumer Reports blog about the Lexus maintained a quieter tone throughout its report and buried its response at toward the end of the report: “We urge the company to develop a remedy as quickly as possible and implement it in new vehicles produced at the assembly plant and those already purchased.”

That’s more in keeping with the style of Consumer Reports — not the grandstanding of its duct-tape solution and “call on Apple” rhetoric. Meanwhile, the testers at Consumer Reports gave the iPhone 4 the highest rating as the best mobile device, even though they can’t recommend the device.

Fortunately there are bloggers and journalists responding to this issue honestly (such as MG Siegler in “Total Recall Or Total Bull? Some Perspective On The iPhone 4 Antenna Frenzy” in Techcrunch). I urge you to read that, and my previous post, and give your support to those who tell the facts.

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Flamers Attack Apple for Fun and Profit

Flamer imageFirst, my own flame: Silicon Alley Insider (SAI), you ought to be ashamed, running the headline “Steve Jobs Is In Serious Denial Over iPhone 4 Antenna Issue” over yet another hit piece. Why not link to a serious analysis of the issue?

Same with Boy Genius, though at least your headline was moderate. But a reader has to go all the way to the comment section to find the above link to some real in-depth analysis. That link should have been in your report.

Should we trust these bloggers? No way. The headlines and even the stories are misleading and sometimes outright bullshit. Having read through the reports of the conversation with Steve Jobs, I’m more impressed with Steve’s answers. He never goes ballistic, even though the emails to him are full of vitriol and one even refers to Jobs as a “jackass” — is that any way to ask a question or make a request to a CEO?

Meanwhile, Steve is the voice of reason. “Calm down” etc. He even turns the other cheek — “You may be working from bad data. Not your fault. Stay tuned. We are working on it.”

What’s wrong with these flamers? What more do they want? They want blood, because it’s fun, and because it’s profitable. They have ulterior motives.

First the so-called attenna issue, a tempest in a teapot: Read this analysis. The bottom line is this: The iPhone 4 attenna is better because it’s on the outside of the unit, but it’s also a problem depending on how you hold the unit. Nevertheless, overall reception is still better than with an iPhone 3GS. Most cell phones have this problem with their antennas, but their antennas are not on the outside of the unit, so it is not as noticeable. A software update might reduce the signal-to-noise ratio, but otherwise don’t expect Apple to be able to fix this without a design tweak. In the meantime, people in very low reception areas can use a bumper, or hold it differently. Sounds okay to me, and I’m one of those people.

Besides, the most important part of the iPhone experience is iOS. If you don’t like this year’s phone, wait until next year. I’ve used my 3GS everywhere, and yes I’ve had problems in low-reception areas, but so what? It’s still a fantastic device to browse the Internet, run apps, and use as a phone. And it offers better reception than any previous phone I’ve ever used.

This is new technology, folks. You take it or leave it, depending on what you want. Lots of us want these new gadgets, and we’re willing to help these companies make them better, so that our lives will be enriched by them. It’s that simple, for consumers.

It’s not that simple for stock manipulators. They need to shoot down Apple’s stock price in order to profit from its eventual resurrection. There have been accusations and rumors (see here and here), but no proof; nevertheless, where there’s smoke there’s probably fire.

It’s also not that simple for journalist/bloggers, who need to use sensational headlines to draw in readers. Many of them jump on bandwagons without checking the facts, passing along the phrase “a faulty antenna design” because it appears in other reports. Some resort to fear-mongering, as in SAI’s “this is really spiraling out of control for Apple.” Is it really? Why do so many of them have to join the Rush Limbaugh Institute of Factual Irrelevancy, or the Sarah Palin School of Sarcastic Innuendo? Do they really think readers are that stupid?

I saw Microsoft hounded in the 1990s for being a monopolist (and I was among the hounders), and that company grew more entrenched as time went on, until now it seems incapable of real innovation. Will this happen to Apple as the jackals begin to circle around it? I hope not. Apple is truly doing something innovative, despite its mistakes.

As consumers, we should fight back against the fearmongers. For my part, I will no longer click on sensational headlines, and I’ll continue to avoid reading bloggers and journalists who tarnish their reps with this crap.

As for fighting (or anticipating) the stock manipulators while still winning big in the stock market… well, good luck with that.

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Apple and Adobe: What Would Mr. Natural Say?

I have read that Steve Jobs’ explanation for not supporting Flash was a “scathing attack on Adobe.” No, it wasn’t. Go back and read it. Jobs was polite, informative, and substantive. He explains Apple’s motivations, specifies where he feels that Flash falls short, and suggests an alternative for Adobe.

They write that Jobs “slammed Flash as unsuitable” and called it “closed and proprietary” and so forth. Well, many quieter, less obtrusive spokespeople — mostly developers and some ex-Adobe employees that were quoted at the very bottom of these stories — agree with Jobs about Flash.

I have also read that “Apple may change iPhone SDK to avoid antitrust case” — portrayed as a rumor circulated by “insiders.” Wishful thinking, perhaps, for Adobe and other vendors, but there is really is no antitrust case, is there?

The press consider this to be a fight between Apple and Adobe, and that Apple “abused its position” — as if Apple held a monopoly on smartphone technologies. Apple doesn’t have a monopoly, it simply has the lion’s share of attention for what is undoubtedly the most innovative set of mobile devices ever produced.

It is all merely a war of words, most of which are coming from the press and bloggers who are not just vying for readers but are inventing these wars and blowing them out of proportion to get mass numbers of eyeballs — at least for a few seconds.

As R. Crumb‘s Mr. Natural would say, “Don’t mean shee-it.”

I read that a basic iPhone app might cost $75,000 to build on Flash, and only a few thousand dollars more to convert it to work on Android or other mobile platforms — but with the new restrictions, a developer must spend another $75,000 to build the basic iPhone app from the ground up for a non-Apple platform.

Excuse me? Is this a requirement of Apple’s business plan — that the company must make it easier for developers to port native iPhone apps to other platforms? Who writes these reports?

Besides, do developers have to reinvent the app’s concept, its logic, and all of its data and content? No, they have to convert (or rewrite) its source code to Objective C, but its concept, logic, data, and content could be the same. What’s truly different is the user interface and OS. The problem is that Apple’s OS provides so much of the “flash” (forgive the pun) of the iPhone’s and iPad’s user interfaces that these developers either have to reinvent what Apple provides, or find substitutes in the APIs for Android and other platforms, to do the same things on another platform. And that’s not Apple’s problem to solve — it is Google’s, Adobe’s, and other vendors’ problem, or lack of innovation on their part.

Adobe recognizes this — the company is helping Wired rebuild its iPad app to be Flash-free (see Hard Labor: Adobe Rebuilds Its Wired Magazine App to Fit Apple’s Flash-Free Agenda).

Someone who can afford to shell out $75K to develop an iPhone app can probably raise half as much (or more) to develop an Android or other version, if the iPhone app is successful. The rest of us who measure our development efforts with iPhone apps in terms of months of personal work are not even going to consider other versions unless we strike it rich with our iPhone apps. And corporations that want to utilize the iPhone or iPad should consider HTML5 for Web services, rather than native apps.

As for the FTC investigating Apple, take into consideration the following critique (Ignorance and Hubris at the FTC) by an Android developer who was contacted by the FTC for information in relation to blocking Google’s acquisition of AdMob:
There is no way the FTC knows enough to support a decision to block the deal. The staff members we spoke to were not particularly knowledgeable about the mobile ad space they are considering interfering in, or about the technology sector more generally, or about mobile app development and monetization, or about the changes in the mobile advertising sector in the past year, or about the level of competition and pace of change and innovation in the market, however broadly or narrowly you define it.

In short, the FTC could be simply responding to the vicious attacks on Apple. It seems that Apple-bashing has become a fad. Perhaps some see Jobs as the rugged individualist with an attitude, who now deserves comeuppance. They forget how they once cheered him on as he fought against the goliath of Redmond. Many of us who used computers in the 1980s and 1990s greet the rise of Apple’s technology as a welcome alternative to the crusty and unreliable Microsoft-dominated technologies of the past. With an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, you hold in your hand an Internet device that is reliable, easier to use, safer, and sexier than any of the devices of the past. Lots of people will buy them in droves (Apple just sold over a million iPads in two months). If Flash won’t work on them, so be it. Technology marches on.

Somewhere buried in all these discussions is the fact that developers can write for the Apple platform and other platforms easily using the WebKit open source browser standard. But if you rely on Flash for some parts of the Web experience you provide your customers — as I do on my Rockument.com site, with some of Amazon’s Flash-based widgets — you have to hope that Flash will be replaced as it loses its dominance by something better (as I hope Amazon will update its widgets).

But I agree with Steve Jobs about Flash. In its SDK, Apple provides much of the actual code for third-party apps to perform magic in the touch environment of the iPhone OS. Why give up control of that layer? Apple would risk having companies like Adobe drag their feet and hijack its plans for systematically updating the iPhone OS development benchmark. Developers would have to wait for the appropriate version of Flash to keep up with new iPhone OS features, and that would slow down the platform’s acceptance — as Microsoft did with its Office suite on the Mac. (For my opinion about cross-platform development, see my previous entry, Apple, Adobe, Twitter: Are We Slapped Yet?).

Anacharsis, one of Greek mythology’s Seven Wise Men, warned people that the market is “the place set apart where men may deceive each other.” I would add the hyperbole, as in the statements of the press and bloggers, is a chief weapon for deception.

Apple rejects apps that call external frameworks or libraries that contain non-Apple code. In addition, you can’t download interpreted code to use in an app except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple’s published APIs and built-in interpreters. Private frameworks and interpreted code may hide functions that Apple would want to know about. Some private frameworks have been found to mine personal information from iPhone users without their knowledge.

And now, another blog asks the question, “Would you sign Apple’s iPhone Developer agreement?” My question to the writer is, do you think developers are idiots?

Note: I decided not to link to the examples of hyperbole in the press and blogs — you can easily find them yourself (you may even have trouble avoiding them), and I don’t want to continue to support this type of journalism by sending them more eyeballs.

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Apple, Adobe, Twitter: Are We Slapped Yet?

You’ve probably read how Apple slaps developers in the face, Twitter slaps developers in the face, and Adobe slaps intelligent humans in the face. These are all tempests in teapots, promoted by headline writers exaggerating to win more readers (and with my headline, I’m guilty as charged).

Developers of Twitter clients on mobile platforms are upset that Twitter bought Tweetie, a leading iPhone Twitter client, and intends to re-brand it and put it out for free. Dozens of Twitter clients have already appeared on the iPhone and competed in a features war, to the benefit of everyone involved. So Twitter is apparently “destroying” another market segment (as it says on the hastily distributed T-shirt). But really, is it so surprising that Twitter would do this? Accessing Twitter directly is of strategic importance to Twitter — it’s the natural, evolutionary path for the company to take. Developers who stake a claim on that path will most likely be run over. I wouldn’t be surprised if most Twitter client developers had already considered a Twitter acquisition as the best possible exit strategy. Besides, until Twitter comes up with a revenue model that ordinary humans can understand, developers should expect sudden shifts in offerings, new acquisitions, and new services that tread on existing ones.

According to the Apple-Adobe Flash controversy, there are iPhone and iPad developers (or wannabe developers) who feel entitled to use a non-Apple layer of software on top of Apple’s Cocoa Touch APIs to make their iPhone and iPad apps. There are complex arguments pro and con, but keep in mind that Apple never intended in the first place for the iPhone ecosystem to be open to all types of development.

From Apple’s perspective, prohibiting the use of Flash CS5 and MonoTouch to create iPhone apps makes complete sense.  As John Gruber points out (in “Why Apple Changed Section 3.3.1“), “So what Apple does not want is for some other company to establish a de facto standard software platform on top of Cocoa Touch. Not Adobe’s Flash. Not .NET (through MonoTouch). If that were to happen, there’s no lock-in advantage.” Actually, if that were to happen, control over development could shift to companies like Adobe, as Gruber points out: “Consider a world where some other company’s cross-platform toolkit proved wildly popular. Then Apple releases major new features to iPhone OS, and that other company’s toolkit is slow to adopt them. At that point, it’s the other company that controls when third-party apps can make use of these features.” Apple wouldn’t want that, and frankly, as an iPhone or iPad user and developer, I wouldn’t want that.

I know the argument that lock-ins and closed systems stifle innovation, and in particular hurt small, innovative companies. And while that notion is somewhat true in some cases, it’s not true in all cases. I wrote a book about how Microsoft nearly monopolized the desktop and laptop computer industry with lock-ins that stifled innovation.  However, as I pointed out then, its much smaller rival Apple found a way to not only survive but lead the industry forward and away from Microsoft. Cynics could liken Apple to a Napoleon stepping into the leadership vacuum left by the French Revolution (considering the Open Source movement as the Revolution). Even so, Apple’s dictatorship over its own ecosystem has produced a remarkably safe and easy computing and Web experience, and a vigorous challenge to computing-as-usual.

In any case, Apple really doesn’t have a monopoly (yet) on mobile computing. And Adobe is being far from altruistic — while its Flash layer enables Flash developers to port their apps to the iPhone, Adobe’s goal is to promote Flash development, not iPhone development. Adobe makes some of the best creative tools ever invented for managing media, and has enjoyed dominating the Web with Flash for a decade. Apple doesn’t want to lose any control over its platform, and it’s in Apple’s best interest to keep me-too Flash apps, which can run on other smart phones, from devaluing the the uniqueness of the native-iPhone-app experience.

While Apple’s rejection of Flash may be bad news to Flash developers, native iPhone developers who play by Apple’s rules are not affected. Web developers already enjoy a multiplicity of options and devices to develop for (whether that’s a blessing or a curse is anyone’s guess).

iPhone users actually benefit by Apple’s restrictive policies. Rejecting Flash means that Apple can offer a more battery-efficient multitasking model and keep its secure, sandbox approach for running apps. Developers relying on cross-platform tools to bring their designs to the iPhone-iPad world could end up with apps that are sluggish or don’t adhere strictly to Apple’s user interface guidelines. Users are spared having to navigate a plethora of inappropriately-designed apps to get to the good ones.

This last point is best expressed by Gruber: “Cross-platform software toolkits have never — ever — produced top-notch native apps for Apple platforms.” My experience with cross-platform development in the late 1990s, and with Mac versions of applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and open-source software such as OpenOffice (vs. NeoOffice), confirm Gruber’s point. You won’t believe how happy I felt when I was finally able to move my work away from Word (and NeoOffice) to Apple’s native Pages application, now that the elegantly-designed Pages has all the features I need. I even like slideshows, now that I can use Keynote over PowerPoint.

And my point is this: developers are not really entitled to anything. The risk is great, but the payoff can also be great. Twitter developers need to steer clear of strategic paths that Twitter might take. Adobe Flash developers need to rethink their designs for the iPhone and iPad, and forget about using cross-platform tools. And all iPhone and iPad developers have to take Apple’s rules and guidelines seriously if they want to take advantage of its totally innovative approach to apps and computing. To ride that train, you have to jump on board. Watch out for the bulls, and don’t put your face up to be slapped — you gotta roll with the punches.

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What Makes a Killer iPad App

Has anyone noticed that with the iPad, Douglas Adams’ fantasy has come true?

The late Douglas Adams, in his bestseller The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (conceived in 1971 and published in 1979), introduced the idea of a handy travel guide that looked “rather like a largish electronic calculator,” with a hundred tiny flat press buttons and a screen “on which any one of a million ‘pages’ could be summoned at a moment’s notice. It looked insanely complicated, and this is one of the reasons why the snug plastic cover it fitted into had the words DON’T PANIC printed on it in large friendly letters.” According to Adams, this guide was published in this form because “if it were printed in normal book form, an interstellar hitchhiker would require several inconveniently large buildings to carry it around in.”

The iPad fits the description, except that it doesn’t look insanely complicated. Its sexiness and sleek design is a triumph of style over function. It’s a powerful experience to hold full Web or e-book pages in your hands in a device that weighs little more than a thick magazine. But the iPad experience also includes knowing where you are, changing the display depending on how you hold or rotate it, and responding to multiple-finger touches and gestures.

The only insanely complicated part of the iPad is trying to develop a killer app that best exemplifies the iPad experience.

Rethink Your App Design

If you’ve developed applications for a desktop or laptop, or even for an iPhone or iPod touch, you have to rethink your design for the iPad. For many iPhone app developers, the iPad’s larger display alone changes everything. Apple demonstrated exactly how far things have changed when the company demonstrated the iWork suite of productivity tools (Keynote for presentations, Numbers for spreadsheets, and Pages for word processing and page formatting) on the iPad, which would be unthinkable for the iPhone simply because there isn’t enough display space to perform functions such as slide or page layout. The iPad allows both immediacy and intimacy as it blends mobility and the power of the desktop to create a new kind of freedom. It lets you develop a totally new kind of application — one that integrates seamlessly with what the user is doing when he or she is living in the real world.

Douglas Adams, in his own inimitable style, wrote about sexiness and how it can make a product more popular. According to Adams, The Encyclopedia Galactica describes alcohol as “a colorless volatile liquid formed by the fermentation of sugars” and also notes “its intoxicating effect on certain carbon-based life forms.” On the other hand, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy not only tells you what alcohol is, it also tells you that “the best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster,” describes its effect as “like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick,” tells you which planets have bars that offer it and at what prices, and then shows you how to mix one yourself. As Adams points out, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sells rather better than The Encyclopedia Galactica.”

Simply converting an iPhone app (or even worse, an app for a Windows netbook or other smartphone) may result in something like The Encyclopedia Galactica —nowhere near as sexy as it should be. You can create iPad apps that are not just a little bit better than their iPhone counterparts, but a lot better (and an order of magnitude more powerful), with an interface that’s simpler to use than a Mac.

Provide an Immersive Experience

An iPad app can offer a more immersive experience compared with an iPhone app by adding more content — full pages from the Internet or in memory, maps you can zoom into, full-screen videos and slideshows with music, and so on. Whenever possible, add a realistic, physical dimension. Electronic Arts created a version of its popular car-racing game Need for Speed for the iPad that almost feels like you’re driving with your hands as you use the iPad like a steering wheel. The high-definition screen is just inches from your face — the field of view and the sensation of speed you get is incredible. The full-screen display is also fully touch sensitive — you can tap on a car and see inside it, flick a lifelike gear shifter to shift gears, and tap the rear-view mirror to look behind you.


The more true to life your app looks and behaves, the easier it is for people to understand how it works and the more they enjoy using it. E-books look like real books, and you can even turn a page with a flick of the finger. The New York Times app for the iPad app offers an immersive experience with what looks like a newspaper, with embedded, fully functional videos (not just videos that appear in a separate window). You can tap the page to change the layout of columns, resize the text with a pinch, or show pop-up menus for more stories. These are very basic features, and if you’re designing an e-newspaper for the iPad, you will have to think beyond them — to advertisements that pop up and engage the reader in novel ways, and social connections for sharing stories, photos, and videos with others.

Make Content Relevant

An iPad app can present information relevant to where you are, what time it is, what your next activity might be, and how you’re holding the device (in portrait or landscape view, tilting and shaking it, and so on), just like an iPhone or iPod touch app. For example, the version of Maps for the iPad displays a full-screen map that can show your location and immediately find commercial establishments nearby (you can search for “sushi” to find sushi restaurants). As people move, it may make sense for your app to tailor itself to where the user is, moment by moment.

The iPad platform also offers a strong foundation for controlling views, managing data, playing multimedia content, switching display orientations, and processing gestures. Because the iPad can do all that, an app can know your current location, the hotels or campgrounds you’re going to stay at, and the planets you’re planning to visit. It can even show videos and play the music of the stars all at the same time. Rather than orbiting some moon while searching maps and brochures, you can know at a glance where you are, how to get to your destination, and what the weather’s like so that you know what to wear.

As a developer, you need to consider the context of what the user is doing and the user’s location, and provide as much content as possible that is relevant for that user in that location. For example, your app can show a special keyboard unique to the task, such as the numbers-and-formulas keyboard that appears in the Numbers app for the iPad. Your app could help the user grab and use personal content from Apple’s supplied apps (such as Contacts and Photos). And with the Internet always available (within reach of Wi-Fi or 3G), your app can provide real-time information. This kind of access also allows you, as the developer, to go beyond the limited memory and processing power of the device and access large amounts of data stored on servers, or even offload the processing. You don’t need all the information for every city in the world stored on your iPad for your travel app — you can send the request to a server for all that information, especially information that changes often.

Design for Touch

The important design decision to make, whether you’re starting from scratch with a new iPad app or evolving one from an iPhone app, is to use the iPad display and user interface elements to give people access to more information in one place. Although you don’t want to pack too much information into one view, you also want to prevent people from feeling that they must visit many different views to find what they want. An iPad app can offer the primary content on the main view and provide additional information or tools in an auxiliary view (such as a popover that appears semi-transparently above the main view) to give users access to functions without requiring them to leave the context of the main view.

The iPad display also gives you a lot more room for multifinger gestures, including gestures made by more than one person. An iPad app can react to gestures and offer touch controls and pop-up settings that are relevant to what you’re actually doing in the app and where you place your fingers. With a display the size of a netbook, you have a lot more screen real estate to allow dragging and two-finger gestures with graphics and images, and depending on what you’re doing, a tap or gesture on a particular part of the screen can have a particular function. For example, in the Gameloft version of the first-person shooter called Nova (as adapted to the iPad), the display size gives you more flexibility than the iPhone version, with more controls and objects such as mini-maps, and you can slide two fingers across the screen to throw grenades. If you design an app that simply uses a single finger tap as if it were a mouse click, you may be missing an opportunity to design a better user experience.

Keep Apple’s Expectations in Mind

Just as the iPad can extend the reach of the user, the device possibilities and the development environment can extend your reach as a developer. It helps to understand Apple’s perspective on what iPad apps should be — the company clearly has done some serious thinking about it.

So what does Apple think? Spokespeople often talk about three different application styles:

  • Productivity applications use and manipulate information. Bento (FileMaker) is an example, as are Apple’s iWorks apps — Keynote, Pages, and Numbers. Common to all these apps is the use and manipulation of multiple types of information. (I’m not talking about the Productivity category in the App Store — that’s a marketing designation.)
  • Utility applications perform simple, highly defined tasks. The preinstalled Weather app is an example — it deals only with the weather data. The Brushes app for painting (Steve Sprang) is considered a utility, as it performs a simple, highly defined task. (Again, I’m not talking about the Utilities category in the App Store, although many of those apps are considered utility apps because they perform simple, highly defined tasks.)
  • Immersive applications are focused on delivering — and having the user interact with — content in a visually rich environment. A game is a typical example of an immersive application.

These categories help you understand how Apple thinks about iPad apps (at least publicly). Pay attention to what Apple thinks. To make you development effort pay off, you need to spend time upfront understanding the iPad user experience, how applications work in the iPad environment, and the guidelines that Apple enforces for apps to be approved for the App Store. You also need some marketing advice to keep your app from being insignificant in the vast galaxy of apps. For the App Store is like space itself, and as Douglas Adams notes, space is “big, really big . . . you just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is,” and suggests that you bring a towel.

The next installment gets into a bit more detail about exploiting the iPad platform features and embracing its limitations, and the third provides tips on avoiding the Apple rejection slip.

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The iPad Magic Market Ride

Steve Jobs said in his keynote on Jan. 26 that the newly announced iPad is “our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.”

Do you believe in iPad magic? Yes, if the music is groovy. And the iPad is more than groovy: it’s a game changer for the Internet as a publishing medium, for the software industry with regard to applications, and for the mobile device industry with regard to the overall digital media experience.

I agree mostly with Daring Fireball’s “iPad Big Picture” that Apple is “taking over the penthouse suite as the strongest and best company in the whole ones-and-zeroes racket.” While the iPad’s first instance is not its best, the device marks an entirely new territory.

It’s a big deal, more than just a big iPod touch. People will be able to enjoy content on the Internet away from their desks — on living room couches, in coffee shops, on the train, etc. — and more easily share it with others, far more than they do now with the iPhone or iPod touch. The form factor, portability, swift performance and software experience changes the game with all devices that access the Internet. In particular, the iPad is a fantastic social media device — easy to organize and share photos, easy to type messages quickly, easy to grab links from Web pages to include in your posts, and so  on.

Steve Jobs said it best at the event: “It’s the best [Web] browsing experience you’ve ever had. A whole Web page right in front of you that you can manipulate with your fingers. Way better than a laptop.”

And Michael Swaine, the editor of PragPub, emailed me with a perspective that I completely agree with. “The actual presentation was utterly routine. Here’s a Web page. Here’s another. Look at this email page. etc. But the whole point of having the couch on stage was, don’t focus on the screen, focus on the user. In this case, Steve Jobs. Look how comfortable he is, how easy it all is. Jobs was offering a subtle message for those who could pick up on it: focus on the user’s experience. It’s what Apple always does. It’s what makes them great.”

The iPad makes the Internet more useful as a publishing medium. It actually extends the reach of Internet content by making Web pages more available in places you never used the Web before, from the kitchen table or living room, to walking down a street. (One could argue that the iPhone does this — I certainly use it that way — but Web pages are still difficult to use and interact with on an iPhone or iPod touch due to the smaller display.)

The iPad — iPhone — iPod — iTunes — iBook Store ecosystem helps creators monetize content, and it guarantees a healthy advertising market. People may actually read more. (Remember Steve Jobs’ statement years ago that people don’t read anymore. This device brings back conventional media in a truly accessible form.)

The iPad — iPhone — iPod touch — App Store ecosystem also changes the game for software, especially for productivity and Office-like applications, which are now one-tenth the price (the Keynote app for the iPad, for example, is $10, while PowerPoint is about $100). Opportunities are wide open for inventions that build on all the strengths of iPhone apps and take advantage of the larger display. Games are huge — this is the perfect game machine. Content becomes more important as a differentiator.

Does the iPad kill the Kindle? I think it marginalizes Kindle and other devices that don’t offer multiple types of content — which appeal only to smaller, segmented markets. But Amazon, which separated its hardware division from book sales, understands the book market and offers an excellent recommendation system, and could easily sell more books on the iPad (with a Kindle app) than Apple will through its new iBook Store.

Books will sell well (though not better than paper editions). On the other hand, if textbooks drop in price drastically, sales could outstrip paper versions. Newspapers may come back to life if they can take some market share back from Google, craigslist and eBay — or find ways to monetize connections with these services. Streaming TV shows and live broadcasts will be more ubiquitous. And yes, most of this is due to the mobile device explosion, but the iPad will kick this into overdrive.

The biggest shortcomings of the current iPad is the lack of multitasking, but I assume this is temporary, and you’ll be able to run several iPhone-sized apps at the same time on the iPad display. I would like to see video conferencing and video chat (so would everyone), but it is not a deal breaker — I already carry a camera and video camera in my iPhone. The lack of GPS is probably temporary also, and compensated for with the same location services as an iPod touch (through Wi-Fi). I expect all these shortcomings to be fixed before 2011.

The current iPad’s biggest strength is its speed. The iPad is screamingly fast for Web browsing. The Apple-designed custom processor, A4, is a System-on-a-Chip, or SOC. This is one of main reasons why iPad can deliver a lively Internet experience. The A4 is also good at managing power. But the real advantage is, of course, the iPhone operating system and the App Store and iTunes ecosystem.

Apple’s magic carpet ride takes off with 125 million credit card accounts in the iTunes Store and App Store, and 75 million people who already know how to use it before they even get it.

Will I buy one? No question about it, I’ll be standing in line for it. It’s my next laptop. I can take care of all my computing needs with one desktop system at home (that’s always on and connected, and with all the trimmings to create multimedia content), and my iPad and iPhone on the road.

For people who use a single laptop with a DVD drive, the iPad won’t be attractive yet. But as laptops are far more fragile and prone to mechanical failures, and become obsolete in about three years, people will come around to this type of device. By then, the software world will have changed to support more low-cost apps, more videos will stream from the Internet, and you won’t care about having a DVD drive on the road anyway — you’ll want an iPad or something like it.

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iPhone Marketing 101: Gaming the App Store is Not Enough

That old song “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” (Roger Miller) comes to mind as I try to increase sales for my app, Tony’s Tips for iPhone Users, through the App Store. As an early developer I thought I could skate downhill, using the App Store’s own momentum as it grew (and pretty much that’s what I’ve done so far). But the roar I’m hearing is 3 billion app downloads in 18 months for more than 125,000 apps.

The App Store offers lists of the top paid and free apps in each category, and also lists the newest apps by release date, but unless your app is already successful and in the top paid or top free lists, its fleeting appearance in the list sorted by release date may only provide a short spike in sales.

The Release Date lists in each App Store category is the only list you have any control over. To game this system, some developers release updates often. These updates show up on the Release Date list, reaching more eyeballs. The problem with this trick is that Apple could change its policy overnight and not list minor updates in the Release Dates list. Even worse, customers might be irritated by frequent updates — it violates the first rule of marketing, which is to give your customers an overall better experience. And if you try to publish an “update” that is nothing more than a facelift, Apple might just reject it.

The Free Store (with Apologies to the Diggers)

A better method is to develop a free, or “lite” version of an app to draw attention to the paid version. Free apps are more likely to be downloaded because, duh, they’re free. And according to AdMob, upgrading from the lite version was the top reason given when users were asked what drives them to purchase a paid app.

Note, however, that the free “lite” version of your paid app must be a fully functional app, and can’t reference features that are not implemented or point users directly to the full paid version. What this means is that although you can publish a free “lite” app with fewer features than the paid version, the free version must be a complete app in its own right, and you can’t badger the free app’s users with reminders to upgrade to the paid version, nor can you use placeholders in your app’s interface for missing functionality that, when tapped, points users to the paid version. Tricks like these will get your free “lite” app rejected.

App Store Setup Tips

If you have properly categorized your app, it should appear in the proper category on the App Store Categories screen — in the Release Date list as soon as you release it. Attaching your app to the appropriate category is extremely important. Customers looking for a social networking app will go right to the Social Networking category to find the Top Paid, Top Free, and Release Date lists. Your new app may last a bit longer in the Release Date list of your category.

Some customers will take the time to tap the Search icon to search the store, and tap the entry field to bring up the on-screen keyboard. As they type a keyword you assigned to your new app, or something close to its name, your app should pop up right away as a suggestion. It is therefore important to use an appropriate name for your app (with terms that people might search for) and to assign appropriate keywords.

Developers also have In App Purchase at their disposal to offer their existing customers the opportunity to buy other apps, merchandise, game levels, premium features, e-books, and so on. You can’t sell real-world goods and services, only digital content, functionality, services, or subscriptions that work within your app. No intermediary currency is allowed (such as a virtual world’s currency), and no real gambling (although simulated gambling is OK).

You may also want to consider offering your customers an incentive, such as free deals through In App Purchasing, if they tell their friends about your app. Anyone browsing the App Store can tap the Tell a Friend button at the bottom of the app’s information screen to send the app information in an email.

Price Your App Right

The literature about marketing could probably fill all the Trump Towers in the world, but if you want to learn about marketing quickly, there are at least two apps for that. Marketing Master and MarketingProfs walk you through the basic concepts, and while you certainly could do better by enrolling at Wharton (where the first Marketing 101 course was taught in 1909), it’s a place to start.

One of the biggest lessons of Marketing 101 is to determine your target audience for your product. Assemble as much information about your target customer as possible — demographics, education, income level, and so on — because this information will influence all of your marketing decisions from the messaging you write in your descriptions and ads, to the channels you use to distribute your message.

Another big lesson is to determine the cost of acquiring new customers. The simple math here is to divide all the dollars you spend in marketing per month by all the new dollars you receive each month in sales. Once you know this, it begs the question of how much you should be spending. To figure that out, you need to know how much your customers are worth to you — the lifetime value of your customer. The secret to increasing the lifetime value of your customer is to increase the quality of the customer experience, thereby encouraging repeat business. You are not in the iPhone app game to do just one app; you need to develop more apps and build a customer base that will be happy to buy them.

Keep in mind that iPhone users download approximately ten new apps a month, according to AdMob, and those who regularly download paid apps spend approximately $9 on an average of five paid downloads per month. More than 90 percent of iPhone users browse and search for apps directly on their mobile device instead of their computer — more or less an “impulse” buy. You need to attract the right people, not just anyone — potential customers are those that will understand the value of your app.

But at what price? Much has been written about iPhone app pricing strategies. At the beginning of this gold rush, pricing an app at $0.99 helped to get the app into the Top 100. But now, with over 125,000 apps, that’s no longer true. All good marketers know that price is never a good selling point; anyone can come along and be cheaper. A better approach is to determine the true value of the app. People will pay for quality (at least I hope they will) — and as more business apps become available, their prices will likely reflect their value.

The best approach is to check out similar apps, especially competing ones (if any). Remember how costly it is to acquire customers. Starting at a higher price gives you some room to offer discounted prices at different times, such as the “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” that follow Thanksgiving, or the start of the annual Apple Developer Conference.

Find a Way to Measure Success

The trouble with using any kind of technology to reach customers is the same, old or new: measuring the results. “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half,” said John Wanamaker, founder of the first department store in Philadelphia (one of the first department stores in the United States) in 1861.

One of the biggest problems facing the iPhone app marketer is that the App Store doesn’t tell you who your customers are. Sure, you know how many customers you have, and you also know from which countries, and how many of them have updated your app (if you provided an update). You even know how much they spent. What you don’t know, however, can hurt you. How can you possibly build relationships with customers you don’t know?

The vast majority of apps downloaded from the App Store are in use by less than five percent of users a month after downloading, according to Pinch Media. Just 20 percent of users return to run a free application one day after downloading. As time goes by, that decline continues, eventually settling below five percent after one month and nearing zero after three months. Category matters, too — games are used for longer periods than any other genre. Pinch Media found the long-term audience for the average app is just one percent of the total number of downloads.

So customer loyalty is hard to build — it is difficult to determine if a user’s positive experience with your app will translate into sales of your next app or your more expensive desktop app. There are no guarantees. You need to get as much data about your customers as you can find.

Apple releases daily sales reports in iTunes Connect, which you can view online or download, with the name of the app, how many were sold and in which country, and your profit. You can import these reports into any spreadsheet program, like Excel or iWorks Numbers. A number of desktop applications have appeared to download and graph this data for you. AppViz is a Mac application that can import the reports from the Web or from a downloaded file, and display charts of your daily, weekly, and monthly sales. AppFigures is a Web-based solution for tracking app sales that can download and graph your reports from iTunes Connect.

There are several analytics options for iPhone apps, if you are willing to compile the necessary code into your app. Pinch Analytics from Pinch Media is used in thousands of popular apps because it can track any action anywhere in your app. Armed with this information, you can fine-tune the user experience in your updates, and offer new features to try to catch usage drop-off as early as possible and retain more customers. You can also measure all types of revenue, from paid downloads and subscriptions to advertising and in-app purchases.

AdMob, recently acquired by Google, offers Analytics that works with your Web site to track customers that access pages on the site through your app. All you have to do is install a code snippet onto each page you want to analyze, and AdMob does the rest. When your app requests a page from your site, your server passes analytics-related data to AdMob, which processes your data and makes it available on analytics.admob.com. It can track the number of unique visitors and pages consumed on your site, and monitor user engagement metrics such as the length and depth of each visit.

Get Publicity

Take a tip from Apple itself: put on a show. Publicity offers the biggest payoff in the short term, and the best way to get it is to pay an excellent PR firm. Good publicity can create a spike in sales that could be misleading, but if you’ve implemented other marketing campaigns to take advantage of it, sales could level out at a much higher rate that before the publicity hit. The best of the PR firms can help you with your entire marketing strategy.

But if you can’t afford that… Publicity stunts work well if received well by the public. Some of world’s most beloved annual events began their existence as cheap publicity stunts. In 1903, publisher Henri Desgrange started a bicycle road race as a publicity stunt to promote his newspaper, never imagining that the Tour de France would be going strong more than 100 years later. The Rose Bowl grew out of an 1890 stunt designed to promote Pasadena, Calif., the Miss America pageant began in 1921 as a publicity stunt to lure tourists to Atlantic City after Labor Day, and the Academy Awards began in 1929 as a cheap publicity stunt for the movie industry. As Lenny Bruce put it, “Publicity is stronger than sanity: given the right PR, armpit hair on female singers could become a national fetish.” (It did, about 15 years later.)

If you can generate publicity, be sure to have a demo on hand — something to titillate the public whether they have their iPhones in hand or not. Create a video on YouTube and link it to your press release. Offer a free “lite” version of your app and time its release to occur at the start of the publicity campaign. Leave no stone unturned in looking for promotional opportunities as part of the campaign. And make sure your demo works — a sacrifice to the demo gods can’t hurt. Or just keep repeating the mantra from the patron prophet of demos, Demosthenes: “Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.”

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A Season of iPhone Wonders

This autumn has seen a flurry of new iPhone and iPod touch apps and Apple-related news. Here’s a summary of my iPhone-related tweets, going backwards of course from most recent:

Dec. 2, 2009: Twitter: This is cool: use your iPhone to find your car with Park’n Find app, which marks your car accurately with GPS on a map and provides directions to find it.

Dec. 2, 2009: Twitter: RedEye for iPhone and iPod touch is a universal remote for home entertainment systems that turns Wi-Fi to RF.

Nov. 24, 2009: Twitter: Another serious worm that attacks jailbroken iPhones and iPod touches, this one stealing personal data — another reason not to jailbreak your iPhone.


Nov. 24, 2009: Twitter: The Andoid app experience is inconsistent compared to the iPhone app experience, and here’s why.

Nov. 21, 2009: Twitter: I’m attending SF MusicTech Summit on 12/7, to meet the best minds in music and come up new iPhone app ideas.

Nov. 19, 2009: Twitter: iPhone App Status Tracker — I’m quoted in this, about developer issues and customer trust.

Nov. 15, 2009: Twitter: Over 100 user stories of using the iPhone with T-Mobile and other tales of jailbreaking.

Nov. 13, 2009: Twitter: Jailbroken iPhones have been targeted by worms (which is another reason why not to jailbreak your iPhone). But worms can be stopped — see How to Secure Your Jailbroken iPhone.

Nov. 2, 2009: Twitter: Interesting comparison of DIY iPhone app developing services, which charge a monthly subscription fee or a percentage of your app’s sales.

Oct. 22, 2009: Twitter: There are, by my rough estimates, about nine iPhone apps born in the App Store every hour of every day.

Oct. 19, 2009: Twitter: Rock Band on iPhone. “It Won’t Be Long” for Beatles version? Don’t Let Me Down, Apple Records!

Oct. 19, 2009: Twitter: “My iPhone is an 8-Track Recorder” is an excellent review of several multitrack recording apps and add-ons to overcome the iPhone’s microphone recording limitations.

Oct. 13, 2009: Twitter: What’s Shakin’ iPhone percussion app very cool — it feels and sounds just like an acoustic instrument, varying playback based on orientation, direction, and magnitude of your motion.

Oct. 9, 2009: Twitter: A friend asked about using an external keyboard with the iPhone. Here is a hardware/software solution for infrared keyboards for typing on the iPhone, no jailbreaking required. And here’s video of an iPhone interacting with a wireless Apple keyboard via Bluetooth, using a jailbreak method.

Oct. 8, 2009: Twitter: AT&T needs to do fine tuning to its systems before offering iPhone tethering, and the wait is on…

Sep. 30, 2009: Twitter: Free Dropbox iPhone app works with free Mac version so that you can sync your files online and across Macs, and download/share using your iPhone.

Sep. 29, 2009: Twitter: With EyeTV on Mac and EyeTV app, watch live & recorded TV on your iPhone.

Sep. 16, 2009: Twitter: Love Guinness? Gonna love this iPhone app. Frothy? Brilliant!

Sep. 15, 2009: Twitter: Why so hard to find apps in App Store in certain categories with iTunes 9? Here’s one person’s method around this problem of finding useful but unknown apps within categories.


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