Wednesday, Nov 02, 2011
Update (11/4): Google has politely declined my offer. I spoke with the director of product management who oversees Reader and, while they do plan on making repairs to the UI, they don't feel that I would be a good fit at this time. I'm fine with this, and am happy that they're putting some resources into fixing some of the UX problems. Like many others, I was curious when Google announced that it would be revamping the Google Reader UI and refactor its social components into Google Plus. To that end, I wrote a brief blog post about what I felt would be a better alternative to stripping out Google Reader's social functionality. Now that the Google Reader redesign has gone live, it seems clear that the stripping of social functionality is only one of many significant problems that have come from repainting the product with the broad brush of Google's new visual style guide. Affordances have gone awry, the relative implied importance of use cases (such as subscribing) have fallen out of balance, and visual grouping of related items has been whitewashed away, to name a few problems. I believe this has happened because Google Reader was held to a mandate of refreshing Google products under a common style guide, but from what I've been told it had no full-time user experience resource to apply that guide in a way that made sense for the nuances and needs of that particular product. This product is important to me, and for many it fulfills the need for a source-centric news consumption product that has been overshadowed by the overwhelming push of 'social stream' products such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. While those products are important, they don't meet the same needs that Google Reader was designed to, and Reader should not fall by the wayside, a victim to fashion. And so I put my resources where my mouth is. As the former lead designer for Google Reader, I offer my services to Google, rejoining for a three month contract in order to restore and enhance the utility of Google Reader, while keeping it in line with Google's new visual standards requirements. I will put my current projects on hold to ensure that Google Reader keeps its place as the premier news reader, and raises the bar of what a social newsreader can be.
Friday, Oct 28, 2011
So the buzz is that Google Reader is going to lose its social sharing aspects in deference to Google Plus. Some people are raising a fuss about this, and with good reason. I can see Google's desire to consolidate its social sharing strategy, but there's a simple solution. Rebuild Google Reader's social sharing using the Google Plus API as a foundation. You make existing Google Reader users happy, you broaden their reach by extending the shares seamlessly into Google Plus, and you make a showcase for third-party developers on the kinds of products and services that can be built to enhance and extend Google Plus. * I helped design Google Reader and have opinions about it.
Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011
Today Google told the Telegraph that Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) can't be installed on the Nexus One:
Owners of the first official Google phone, the Nexus One, will not be getting the upgrade, however. Barra said the hardware was simply too old to run the new operating system.The troubling thing here is that the Nexus One only started going on sale 21 months ago, and it continued to be sold as Google's flagship Android device until last December, just 10 months ago. Since most users buy Nexus phones on a 2-year carrier contract, those who purchased Nexus Ones simply can't use the latest version of the operating system until they wait out their contracts, pay an early termination fee and change carriers, or spend a $300 premium for an unsubsidized replacement phone. I admire how quickly the Android platform continues to evolve, but it seems to be at the expense of its users. Note that I didn't say 'early adopters'. Those people only have to wait a few months for their contracts to expire. Those who waited and bought the Nexus One a year later are left with an obsolete phone that's still under contract for a year or more.
Monday, Oct 17, 2011
(or, The Problem with Anthropomorphizing Software in Blog Post Titles) Back in the early 1990s Apple introduced a voice recognition technology called 'PlainTalk' in the Centris 660AV and Quadra 840AV PowerPC Macintoshes. Like the iPhone 4s, at launch those were the only computers that could handle PlainTalk because of the computing power required. One of the cool bits about PlainTalk is that it was always listening, but would only take action when you addressed it. By default, you would address it by saying 'Computer', but this was a preference that could be changed to whatever you like. Eighteen years later, Siri has a name and won't let you change it, but she's happy to call you whatever you like.
She's a great assistant, but how discreet is she? It turns out that when you ask Siri to call you a pet name, it gets added to your contact card, and that
At least I didn't ask her to call me 'Asshole'.
Friday, Oct 07, 2011
I'd meant to have this out a couple days ago but, well, you know. Over the past month or so I've made a lot of predictions about the immediate future of the iPhone and iPod lines. Now that the big reveals are complete, it's time to see what I got right, and what I missed.
iPodsThis was the first year in a long while that didn't have an Apple 'Music Event' in the Fall. The changes made to the iPod line were just refinements here and there. None would have warranted an event of their own, not even if they were all combined. I imagine this is why we didn't get a music event, instead getting the updates rolled into the larger event. From Cancel the iPod Touch? Lunacy. (August 31):
John Gruber and VintageZen think it would be a good idea to cancel the iPod Touch, replacing it with a contract-free $200-300 iPhone. I think this is crazy.Spot on. Grade: A From Preview: This Year's iPhones (September 21):
I think we’ll see a bump in the Touch, but nothing breathtaking. Something like this: [New rear-facing camera, WiFi+3G data model]The only changes were the addition of white as a color option and a $30 price drop for the 8GB model. The hardware didn't change at all. I was right about no major changes or new model, but I was wrong about which small things would change. Grade: C+ From Shuffling up the iPod line (September 28), a post written in reaction to rumors that the Shuffle and Classic would be axed:
Ditching the Classic makes a lot of sense. The last torchbearer of the original iPod’s form factor only exists today because its use of a hard drive enables it to store 160GB of media, 2.5x as much as the 64GB Touch, at just over half the price. With the release of iCloud and Music Match, 160GB is no longer needed. Those deep tracks can be downloaded to your device on demand, so as long as you have wifi or a mobile connection you’ll have your whole catalog. If they drop the Classic, I wouldn’t expect them to mention it during next week’s presentation. If they drop the Shuffle and move the Nano farther down the line, they might mention that.The Classic is no longer marketed as part of Apple's holiday iPod lineup, and will almost certainly quietly vanish from the site once current inventories are depleted. Grade: A
Eliminating the Shuffle is where things get dicey. It’s not an iOS device and it doesn’t pretend to be, unlike the Nano who’s multitouch UI seems like iOS though it’s completely different under the hood. Getting rid of the Shuffle would clean up the product line, but would leave a huge hole in the bottom end. The Shuffle costs $49 but the Nano starts at $149, and $149 is just too high a price for an entry-level music player with no video capability or mobile connectivity. The 16GB Nano is only $30 less than a new Kindle Fire tablet. Could the Shuffle be eliminated next week? Yes. But only if the price of the Nano was lowered a great deal. I would guess that $79 would be the sweet spot, though Apple may keep the price as high as $99. Pricing the Nano at $79 would represent a 47% cut from the current price, but the manufacturing and material costs for a Nano continue to drop, and this would probably still represent a healthy profit margin, while keep Apple’s market share at the low end of the product space.I didn't give a solid prediction here, but Apple's moves this week seem to support my theory. They're emphasizing the iPod nano, giving it new software functionality, inclusion of Nike+ internally, and a $20-30 price cut to $129 and $149. Meanwhile the Shuffle was only mentioned as being part of Apple's holiday iPod lineup. It seems likely that the Shuffle will be eliminated once Apple gets the Nano's cost (and price) down to a certain level, which is probably between $79-99. Grade: B Overall iPod prediction grade: B+ Now on to...
iPhonesSo this is a harder one to grade, because I viewed 'new phone' and 'new industrial design' to be the same thing. This was clearly a mistake. The iPhone 4s is a completely redesigned phone on the inside, and if put in another chassis would be called the iPhone 5. Many of my predictions ignored this possibility, so I'm going to try to have to separate 'new phone' from 'new industrial design' when grading. As an aside, I felt disappointed at first that we wouldn't be getting a new svelte unibody phone, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made for Apple to decouple industrial design from the internals. I was eager to replace my almost-new Macbook Air 11" with a Sandy Bridge Macbook Air because it had much higher performance. I didn't feel let down that the machine looked the same because I'm very happy with the design. So it should be with the iPhone. The 4's industrial design is still unique and, with the changes made to the antenna in the 4s, the only major shortcoming I have is reportedly overcome in the 4s. In Preview: This Year's iPhones I talked about two phones, a 'low end' iPhone 4s and a flagship iPhone 5. While Apple is sticking to the tiered model (and added a 3rd tier by keeping the 3Gs around a while longer) what we actually got in the 4s was a blend of my predictions for the 4s and the 5. I predicted that the new flagship model would have a single model with CDMA+GSM and an A5 processor, a new brushed aluminum form factor, a 4" screen, an 8MP rear camera and a FaceTime HD front camera. I would give it a C, if not for being wrong overall with the two-new-phone strategy. I believe the iPhone 5 I described will probably come out in 2012, along with the FaceTime HD camera, new enclosure, and larger screen that I missed on this time. Timing is everything though, so… Grade: C- My 'loose ends predictions in that article:
Two and a half for three. No NFC mentioned at all. I do know one thing though, that unlike Google with their Nexus S, Apple wouldn't unveil NFC in the iPhone until it has a solid wallet story to launch with it. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that the 4s has an NFC chip in it, unavailable to developers, lying in wait for Apple's wallet to be ready. We'll probably find out when iFixit gets their hands on a 4s and tears it limb from limb. Until then: B+ In my blog post '1 iPhone' does't mean what you think, I made a lot of ruckus about there being a hidden meaning in the Apple invitation.
When Apple puts a clue into an invitation, it’s a clue about a feature or other positive. Hinting about a single phone amidst widespread speculation about two phones is lowering expectations, and this is not in keeping with Apple’s track record on how they use invitations. If one wanted to be so literal, they might also note that the ’1′ badge would only appear on an iPhone if someone missed a call, or if there was a voicemail waiting, but of course those don’t make sense in this scenario, so we’re left to guess, and I think most folks are guessing wrong. So what does the ’1′ mean? Yes, it means one phone. But not ’4s or 5′. It means GSM+CDMA. One phone for the world. One phone for all 288+ carriers.Spot on, though in hindsight I don't think the '1' had anything to do with it. On the other hand:
As for the 4s vs. 5 debate, I’m still firmly in the ‘both’ camp but, as I’ve said before, the 5 will be the star of our show. The 4s will be mentioned as a welcome revision to an old model, making it an excellent low cost option.Swing and a miss. It turns out that Apple did have a 'hindsight clue' in their invitation, but it had nothing to do with the icons. The tagline, "Let's talk iPhone" was actually a reference to Siri. Put in a comma and you get "Let's talk, iPhone". Clever. The biggest miss was in the overall spirit of a new hardware launch instead of an incremental release (however substantial it may be). Therefore… Overall iPhone prediction grade: C+
iOSFrom Preview: This Year's iPhones:
and later, from More on Tuesday's iPhone announcements:
The robustness of Siri's integration was a surprise, but its inclusion, along with the new Cards and Find My Friends apps, were well-predicted here. Grade: A+
Overall grade: B+At least that's my opinion.
Wednesday, Oct 05, 2011
I work in technology because of Steve. My first computer was a Mac 128K when I was in the 6th grade. I learned to program so I could program my Mac (and later, my Newton and my iPhone). I made pilgrimages to Macworld expo when I was 16, and later worked the expo for a variety of companies (Dantz Development, BMUG, Casady & Greene) because I loved the community and the products. When I left for college, I decided that my path in life wouldn't be in computers, but I went to Berkeley and within two weeks I was a volunteer on the BMUG helpline. Two months later I was a BMUG employee. A year later I was an intern at MacWEEK Magazine, a weekly I cherished so much because it brought me news and rumors of the Mac world months before they became reality. I got my Newton development toolkit two months before I got my Newton, and taught myself object-oriented programming. A year later, Casady & Greene was selling my first ever piece of commercial software. Apple taught me the importance of interaction design, which led me to choose it for a career path. While designing Gmail, the Apple mentality led me to approach design decisions from the standpoint of 'what can I remove' rather than 'what can I add'. Apple's the only company that I love which I haven't worked for, yet more of my time has spent in orbit around it than any other. Thank you Steve, for sharing your dreams and letting so many others take flight as a result. In the words of Guy Kawasaki, I will always bleed six colors.
Wednesday, Oct 05, 2011
Monday, Oct 03, 2011
Apple's press event invitations are works of art. On the surface they're clear, but they usually have a deeper meaning that is intended to make sense only after the big reveal. It's a way that Apple generates even more interest about its announcements. When people are clamoring for any clue they can, they get a single image or phrase from Apple, an official but obfuscated message from on high, which inspires another fresh round of speculation about what surprises will be revealed at the event. This year's iPhone event invitation is clever and simple, but with a single data point which has caused a lot of discussion:
The date, time, and place icons are all straightforward. The phone icon with a '1' badge has got analysts and pundits alike wondering if we're getting a single phone this season, and the camps are split on whether it's the 4s or the 5. I think we're missing the point. When Apple puts a clue into an invitation, it's a clue about a feature or other positive. Hinting about a single phone amidst widespread speculation about two phones is lowering expectations, and this is not in keeping with Apple's track record on how they use invitations. If one wanted to be so literal, they might also note that the '1' badge would only appear on an iPhone if someone missed a call, or if there was a voicemail waiting, but of course those don't make sense in this scenario, so we're left to guess, and I think most folks are guessing wrong. So what does the '1' mean? Yes, it means one phone. But not '4s or 5'. It means GSM+CDMA. One phone for the world. One phone for all 288+ carriers. One phone for the user. One phone for a person regardless of whether they decide to switch carriers after a year or two. As for the 4s vs. 5 debate, I'm still firmly in the 'both' camp but, as I've said before, the 5 will be the star of our show. The 4s will be mentioned as a welcome revision to an old model, making it an excellent low cost option. Which is more likely, that Apple would put a '1' where we're expecting and hoping for '2' (models) or that they'd use a '1' where '1' is better than the current '2' (GSM and CDMA)? I guess we'll see. Happy Christmas Eve! PS: For those coming here for the first time, here are my predictions for what Apple will be announcing and a short follow-up.
Saturday, Oct 01, 2011
It's a rare thing lately to be so close to an Apple Event and not yet have the surprise spoiled. Sure there will be a new version of the iPhone, but what will it be? I've written up my best guesses and many others have done the same. I especially liked John Gruber's recent post about the inelegance of the teardrop design. With just a few days to go though, there's still a great deal of speculation as to what the new phone will look like, or even if it will be anything beyond a processor bump of the current design. That kind of uncertainty is so much more fun than the spoiled surprise of a lost iPhone in a bar, followed by the letdown felt by the child who peeked into the back of the closet early and was left without a surprise on Christmas day. Given last year's Gizmodo iPhone 4 debacle it wouldn't surprise me if Apple hasn't let a single iPhone 5 off of the Apple campus. The only glints of evidence we have for a new form factor are 3rd party cases already arriving in stores, and many have doubts of their credibility. This time around it's very unlikely that Apple has given case makers the form-factor in advance, an opinion bolstered by the fact that those companies revealed to be making 'iPhone 5 cases' are not the major brands. I wouldn't be surprised if a Foxconn employee snuck some silicone putty into the factory to make a 3-minute mold of new iPhone hardware, considering how valuable a month's head start on case design would be to accessory manufacturers. Do the cases accurately portray the next iPhone? Are we getting nothing more than a bump to an 8MP camera and A5 processor in an iPhone 4 case? I've heard smart people say that each of these is true and the other is not, but more than any rumor I believe that Apple has taken information segmentation further year by year, and that even many members of the iPhone team are only given enough information to perform their role, and they may get surprises as well. The uncertainty is exciting, and even as the tightest lips seem to loosen in the days and hours before a big event, I hope to be in the dark up until Tuesday's reveal, because while guessing is a lot of fun, who really wants to be the Grinch?
Friday, Sep 30, 2011
[This is the third in a series of posts leading up to Tuesday's iPhone announcements. For more, check out Preview: This Year's iPhones and Shuffling up the iPod line.] As more rumors swirl in the run-up to Tuesday's big reveal, I have a few more thoughts to share, an in one case, reiterate.« Newer Posts Older Posts »
One iPhone or two?There's been a new round of speculation that the iPhone 5 will be the only new iPhone, because the event invitation had a '1' badge on the iPhone icon. I think it's still very likely that there will be an iPhone 4S, though it won't be talked about much at the event. Much like the current 3Gs, the 4S will be downplayed by Apple, given a brief moment of attention as a 'budget iPhone' plus a brief mention that it has Apple's latest A5 processor, but it will never be given the stage. This is the iPhone 5's coming out party, and nothing's going to steal its sunshine.
Surprises in iOS 5Today Apple released iTunes beta 9, and this marks the first time this beta cycle that an iTunes beta hasn't been accompanied by a corresponding iOS beta. Given that the final version of iOS 5 is reported to have been handed off to the Asian manufacturers earlier this week, it would be unusual for the developer community to not be given a Release Candidate or Golden Master version prior to wide release. This leads to the likely conclusion that there are surprises in the final OS that were left out of the betas, but couldn't be left out any longer for final internal testing or (naturally) in the final release. There's widespread speculation that that 'something' is much broader voice recognition integration throughout the OS, and this seems very likely. I wouldn't count out another new app or two as well.
Tossing the ClassicYesterday, Apple removed click-wheel games from the iTunes store. The first games ever sold in the store, they were specifically for click-wheel-based iPods like the Classic and the previous generation Nano. With the elimination of these games, the rumor of the Classic's demise is virtually certain. One has to wonder if they'll be replaced by games for the Nano, and/or if an iOS-based Nano is in the works. It wouldn't be the first time that Apple released a product without iOS, only to port it to iOS without any major changes to the front-end experience. That claim to fame goes to the Apple TV. This still leaves the question of whether the Shuffle will join the Classic on the bench, and whether such a cut would be accompanied by a big Nano price cut.
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