My daily readings 04/03/2010

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  • tags: Google, book

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  • tags: iPad

    • Return of the Thick Client

      Five years ago, desktop apps were dead. Everything, we were told, was going to be a webapp, as epitomized by Google’s efforts to put together an Office rival that ran entirely within the context of a web page.

      And then a funny happened on the way to the cloud: people discovered that native, local applications offer a better user experience than webapps.

    • But the huge interest in the “jailbreak” community, at least some of which was motivated by an honest desire to understand and employ the native APIs, proved that there was tremendous interest in delivering native applications on par with those that Apple shipped with the device. Maybe this forced Apple’s hand, maybe it was their plan all along, but at any rate, Apple eventually offered a native SDK, and everyone knows how that’s turned out.

      But how is it that the same users who were perfectly happy to use webapps a few years ago are now insisting on custom mobile client apps for Facebook and Twitter, even when each has a perfectly good mobile website?

    • The win of webapps was always that they didn’t require any client-side installation process: no installer to run, no arguments with sysadmins about “approved” software, and no hassles for developers trying to update thousands or millions of client installations. To cite my own experience, I wrote a Java Swing client application in 1999, and in 2003 I found myself assigned to rewrite it as an IE-only webapp, a huge step backwards in usability and compatibility, but so much easier for customers to maintain that it was a no-brainer. Not having to drive out to client sites to debug botched installs or unanticipated network hassles got me over my aesthetic qualms pretty quickly.

      With the iPhone and the App Store, many of these problems go away.  With the filesystem abstracted away, many of the installation hassles disappear: click “buy” or “download” and the app is on your device, ready to run, and impossible for the user to mess up by moving or deleting needed files. Updates are trivial to perform, and a red badge on the App Store makes sure the user always knows that he or she has new features or fixes available.

      iPhone OS makes distribution and maintenance of native applications nearly as easy as webapps, and this has led to a renaissance of thick-client programming. (Between the iPhone and iPad, we need a new term for this style of programming. These devices aren’t “desktops,” and when the user is working in a local productivity app, they’re not really a “client” to anything either.) Developers who’d been forced to adapt to JavaScript and the fractured world of browser semi-standards are delighted to return to a proper user-facing API, particularly one as thoughtful and elegant as Cocoa Touch.

    • This phenomenon may be very difficult to recreate on the iPad, Apple’s promises of a “new gold rush” notwithstanding.

      The difference is one of scope and shape. The iPad’s larger screen calls for more substantial applications, as does the imagined use scenarios of sitting on the couch for a long stretch with your iPad, as opposed to whipping out your iPhone for short sessions, like checking Twitter while in line at the store. Apple’s guidance to developers is noteworthy here. The message to iPhone developers thus far has been one of minimalism: only include the essential feature set your app needs, plan for short periods of use, keep it simple and responsive. With the iPad, the early message to developers stresses appearance: lavish graphics, on-screen objects that closely resemble their real-world counterparts, and a deeply immersive experience. What we’ve seen of Apple’s initial iPad apps, like the book reader with the photo-realistic bookshelf and e-books, exceptional layout and typography, and beautifully animated page flips, typifies this philosophy.

    • unit converters and Twitter clients come to mind—are primarily differentiated by their appearance, with developers one-upping each other in the presentation department.  It’s not vanity that drives them, it’s sales: with app review sites overwhelmed and no “try before you buy” option (the usefulness of which is debatable anyways), the most obvious clue to the quality of an application is the screenshots that are so prominently featured in the App Store’s desktop and mobile GUIs. If developers care enough to make an app look good, shoppers sensibly conclude that the rest of the app is a quality production, and therefore a good purchase.
    • In an earlier analysis of the App Store economy, Twitterific developer Craig Hockenberry wrote about the lamentable rise of the “ringtone app”, saying that his company was focusing on inconsequential 99-cent novelties rather than more substantial applications, because market conditions made it too risky to spend the developer months required to create more sophisticated apps. True to his word, his latest work is a premium flashlight application.
    • Outside of the opportunities for early-adopting developers to get some sales from early-adopting users eager for any iPad-optimized apps, the best hope for iPad developer might be higher prices. If users will pay $20 or more for iPad apps, they might justify developers and artists putting in months of work on them. But Apple has priced its iWork apps at $9.99 each, setting a price standard much lower than comparable desktop titles command (the three iWork apps cost $80 in a bundle for Mac).  If the iPad economy then experiences the same kind of “race to the bottom” that occurred on the iPhone, it’s hard to see how the romanticized “developer in the garage” has any chance of paying his or her bills with iPad development.

      Oh, there will be plenty of opportunities for iPad developers, in contracting, vertical markets, and corporate development. There are a lot of businesses for which the combination of custom software and the iPad form-factor and feature set will be a compelling solution, and they’ll surely be hiring. But in a way, this gets us right back to where the desktop was before the web, with most developers doing corporate or contract work, with code more likely to support a business use than to be something sold directly to the end user.

  • tags: Enterprise

  • tags: iPad

    • It’s the first Personal Computer- good for hanging out in the living room, terrible for ‘real’ work. That’s why it’s fantastic! You can leave your ‘pad on the kitchen table, wake up, make yourself a cup of coffee, and browse a couple sites as you sip coffee. Then, when you’re done, you walk away and go to your ‘real’ computer to get work done.

      The iPad is there for 1 or 2 hours a day, after work, before work, at the coffee shop, on a plane. Everywhere that your goal is specifically not to be efficient, but rather to chill out. The iPad’s a personal computer. Right now, we only have work computers.

  • tags: Startup

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  • tags: iPad, Gmail

    • While surfing the web on your iPad, we expect many of you will want to check your Gmail. If you go to gmail.com in your browser, you’ll see something different than what you’re used to on the desktop. We’re releasing an experimental user interface for the iPad built on the Gmail for mobile HTML5 web app that we launched last year for the iPhone and Android devices. Those devices have large screens compared to other phones, and tablets like the iPad give us even more room to innovate. To take advantage of the iPad’s large display, we’ve created a two-pane view with your list of conversations on the left and messages to the right.
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    • “We’re mindful of history,” said Bart Decrem, CEO of Tapulous of Palo Alto, which creates rhythm games. “On the App Store launch day, there were 3,000 apps, and 90 days later, there were 10 times as many. The only reason we’re here today is because we were there early.”
    • Aaron Higgins, founder and president of Sound Trends, maker of the Looptastic apps for the iPhone, said the iPad is a perfect fit for larger musical apps like his new Looptastic HD, which will make use of the iPad’s additional screen real estate and horsepower.

      He said unlike the Looptastic Producer iPhone app, which hides some of the music mixing tools and song sets, Looptastic HD will be able to display more of them on one screen, providing a better experience for users.

      “It’s mind-blowing how much screen there is, and you don’t have to tile things,” Higgins said. “It’s like unfolding a newspaper; you see it all at one time. For music creation, it opens up a lot of creative possibilities.”

    • But he said getting out early and incorporating feedback will allow him to refine the app quickly. And it helps him to shoot up to the top of the early rankings.

      “It’s an attention and rankings grab,” he said.

      Raven Zachary, an iPhone developer and founder of the iPhoneDevCamp, a training workshop for developers, said the early days of the iPad may not provide the same oomph for developers as the App Store opening did.

    • When the App Store opened in July 2008, there were already about 6 million iPhones that could access the store. There may be only several hundred thousand iPads sold through this first weekend.
    • Still, for many developers, the promise of the iPad lies not only in selling more units but extracting more money from each app. Developers such as Higgins are charging more for iPad apps, a welcome change in an app market driven by 99-cent programs.
    • Keith Lee, CEO and founder of Booyah, said the average iPhone player on his MyTown social game spends 70 minutes a day on the game. But he thinks it could top two hours on an iPad. The longer the playing time, the more inclined a person might be to pay for extras.

      “If we have increased time, you derive more value from your investment in the social network,” Lee said.

  • tags: HTML5, Game

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  • tags: iPad, ideas

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    • Enter the iCade iPad Arcade Cabinet! To use the iCade, gently slide the iPad into the docking cradle. The docking cradle uses a standard 30 pin connector to link the iPad to the professional-grade arcade controls. Once the iPad is in place, launch the iCade App (available free in the App Store April 3rd) and it’s game on! We didn’t want to take any chances you’d run out of juice during your favorite game, so we included a 10w USB power adapter so you can charge the iPad through any electrical outlet. Now you’re all set to make an uninterrupted run on the Dig Dug World Record!
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  • tags: Google

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    • At first, the statement sounds trivial, vague and
      horribly ungenerous. Closer scrutiny will however reveal
      its realistic veracity. No matter how high are one’s
      estimates of human stupidity, one is repeatedly and
      recurrently startled by the fact that:
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    • Cultural trends now fashionable in the West favour an egalitarian approach
      to life. People like to think of human beings as the output of a perfectly
      engineered mass production machine. Geneticists and sociologists especially
      go out of their way to prove, with an impressive apparatus of scientific
      data and formulations that all men are naturally equal and if some are more
      equal than others, this is attributable to nurture and not to nature.
      I take an exception to this general view. It is my firm conviction, supported
      by years of observation and experimentation, that men are not equal, that
      some are stupid and others are not, and that the difference is determined
      by nature and not by cultural forces or factors. One is stupid in the
      same way one is red-haired; one belongs to the stupid set as one belongs
      to a blood group. A stupid man is born a stupid man by an act of Providence.
      Although convinced that fraction of human beings are stupid and that they
      are so because of genetic traits, I am not a reactionary trying to reintroduce
      surreptitiously class or race discrimination. I firmly believe that stupidity
      is an indiscriminate privilege of all human groups and is uniformly distributed
      according to a constant proportion. This fact is scientifically expressed
      by the Second Basic Law which states that
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2 Responses to “My daily readings 04/03/2010”

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