Posts From September 2011
There are five models of Kindle: The Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, Kindle DX, and Kindle Fire.
Only 2 of them matter: the Touch and the Fire.
So why the other models?
The Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle DX
I think these are still for sale because they are still in stock.
That family-of-Kindles banner that is on top of all the Kindle pages does not list the DX.
And if you go to the Kindle DX’s product page it is now outdated. The page doesn’t have the top banner showing the other Kindles, and in the table comparing all the Kindles only the past models are shown with their old names.
Surely it’s only a matter of time until the Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle DX are discontinued altogether. (Perhaps once the Kindle Touch or Kindle Fire start shipping?)
The plain Kindle
I think the “plain” Kindle — one with the 5-way controller — is in the product lineup primarily to help boost sales of the Kindle Touch.
If you’ve ever read about the paradox of choice, you’ve probably heard the wine theory. The idea is that someone is ordering wine at a restaurant and there are three options — an $8 glass, a $10 glass, and a $20 glass — they will most-likely pick the middle option.
The $8 glass causes the $10 glass to seem like a much better value.
Likewise with the Kindle and the Kindle Touch. The plain Kindle causes the Kindle Touch to seem like a much better value.
Why buy a Kindle that has a shorter battery life, less storage, and no touch screen, when you can upgrade to something with double the battery, double the storage, and a multi-touch screen for just $20 bucks?
At $199 the Kindle Fire is a killer product. Amazon is going to sell a ton of these. (Though I think the $99 Kindle Touch will be the most popular Kindle.)
The Fire is pretty much what we expected: a device that plays to the strengths of Amazon’s content library as well as many of the strengths that the e-ink Kindles have been known for.
For starters, just look at the main product image: it’s a lady holding the Kindle Fire by its bottom corner with just one hand. There’s no way you can hold the iPad like that.
The Kindle Fire is clearly positioned as a device intended for “consuming content” (ugh). Looking at the product page, Amazon brags on the fact that you can watch movies and TV shows, read magazines and books, listen to music, surf the Web, and download apps.
Towards the bottom of the list of things you can do with the Kindle Fire you’ll see that you can also check email and read PDFs. I guess my point isn’t that email and PDF viewing is something Amazon threw in just because, but that they are not emphasizing these some of the main features of the Fire.
The Fire is a portable media center, not a portable computer.
And that is why the Fire is not an iPad killer. Just because it’s a color tablet doesn’t mean it is competing directly against the iPad. Sure, on a sterile feature check-list there are a lot of similarities between the two devices (both have multi-touch color screens, both are tablets, you can use both to read books and watch movies), but the Kindle Fire is built as a different product with a different purpose than the iPad. The price alone tells you that.
My first mobile phone was a Qualcomm something-or-other. Later I had one those dime-a-dozen Nokias, and then another smaller Nokia that had a removable faceplate. (Remember when the cool features of phones included interchangeable faceplates?) Then there was a cool Motorola flip phone or two that I used and liked, and then I had a random Samsung candy bar slider.
Then 2007 came along and I got an iPhone. After that I got the iPhone 3G S (I held on to my original iPhone until 2009 because I thought the iPhone 3G was too ugly to justify upgrading). And then the iPhone 4.
I have now owned my iPhone 4 since the summer of 2010. And it blows all of those past phones out of the water. Sometimes I wonder if I ever even owned a cell phone before I owned an iPhone, and the 4 is the greatest iPhone to date.
Of course, a new iPhone is coming out in a few weeks. And, of course, I’ll be in line to buy it (that’s who I am and what I do). But by no means does that mean I find my iPhone 4 lacking in any way. Quite the contrary actually: the iPhone 4 is quite possibly the most amazing gadget I have ever owned or ever imagined I would own.
I carry my iPhone 4 case free — I’ve never used an iPhone case — and it is still scratch, crack, and dent free. I keep it in my front left pocket with the front facing in. I’ve dropped it once and it only suffered a very minor scuff to plastic edging up by the camera lens.
In fact, the back of my iPhone 4 has less scratches than the back of my 4th-generation iPod touch. The touch’s chrome backing practically comes out of the box with scuffs on it.
On every other phone I’ve owned the battery life was part of the cost of ownership. But with the iPhone 4, the battery lasts me for 2 days. When I’m on the road at events, I usually need a charge every night because I’m doing a lot of 3G data usage. But in my day-to-day, this-is-how-Shawn-uses-his-iPhone usage, a full charge lasts me 2 days.
On my past iPhones, when the 20% battery warning would appear it meant I needed to go into iPhone survival mode — keeping usage to a minimum to save as much battery juice as possible before I am able to charge it next. But on the 4, a 20% warning simply means charge at my earliest convenience.
The camera is just great. In fact, it is the only camera in our house that gets any use. My iPhone is my camera. My iPhone camera roll is my photo library. The photo-editing apps on my iPhone are what I use as post-processing software for the pictures I take.
The Retina display. Oh, the Retina display. A year and a half later and this display still doesn’t feel normal to me. It still strikes me how it looks as if the pixels are painted onto the glass and how the images and type are so crisp.
Form factor. The original iPhone will always have a soft spot in my heart as being one of the finest looking devices I’ve ever owned. But nostalgia aside, the iPhone 4 truly is a gorgeous device. The black glass and the metal band with matching buttons are a hallmark of industrial design.
The design of the original iPhone was great, except it hindered signal strength. The design of the iPhone 3G /S was a necessary evil to makes sure that signal strength was good enough. The iPhone 4 is finally that balance of form and function.
The iPhone 4 is the completion of what Apple originally set out to build when they launched the iPhone in 2007. This current model is the last page of this chapter, and I believe the next iPhone will be the opening of a new chapter for the iPhone.
It’s hard to imagine what the next iPhone will be. Sure it’ll have a faster processor, and a better camera, and probably a longer battery. But who knows what it will look like? Who knows what other factors — factors which are still unknown to us — that will come into play and will give reason for the next iPhone to be that much more incredible?
We are content with the current iPhone, and yet we suspect the next one will be another hallmark.
Who are you, what do you do, etc…?
I am a freelance designer, hobbyist photographer and musician. I am also the designer behind many ads found on the Fusion Ad Network. Recently I joined the team behind QuickCal as the app’s UI designer.
What is your current setup?
I’m using a 15″ Unibody MacBook Pro I bought in 2009, with a 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of Ram, and the 500GB 7200RPM HD. At home, the Macbook Pro is hooked up to the 27″ Apple Cinema Display. On your recommendation, I recently purchased the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 3G 115GB SSD. I’ve set up the SSD as my boot drive and use the HDD as my media/working files drive.
I’m using the short wireless Apple Keyboard for typing and the Magic Trackpad for trackpadding. I’ve tried numerous mice over the years, from the Mighty Mouse to the Magic Mouse and even a Logitech MX Revolution. The Magic Trackpad is the first input device that just feels right. For Wi-Fi and Time Machine I use the Apple Time Capsule.
I listen to music through an old Kenmore receiver I bought from a friend for $50 over 5 years ago. Listening to music through headphones for extended periods of time never felt right to me.
I take pictures with a Nikon D90 with a 50mm prime lens. My lighting setup currently consists of an Opus OPL-H250 strobe with a 48″ reflective umbrella, as well as a newly-purchased Nikon SB-600. I trigger my lights remotely using two PocketWizard Plus II transceivers.
Lastly, I can’t write about what I create without mentioning my music setup. I own two acoustic guitars: an old Cort acoustic I bought nearly 9 years ago and a Takamine Steve Wariner Limited Edition a friend gave me as a gift. For my Boss Rebel gig, I go between my white Fender Stratocaster and a custom Telecaster by “Ed’s Guitars”, both of which were purchased from Jonathan Steingard of Hawk Nelson. The signal is sent through my pedal board, consisting of the following pedals:
- Ernie Ball Junior Volume Pedal
- Boss TU-2 Tuner
- Line 6 DL-4 Delay Modeler
- Boss OD-3 Overdrive
- Boss LS-2 Line Selector
The signal goes through the pedals to my Vox AC30CC. I use the LS-2 Line Selector to switch between the clean and dirty channels and the OD-3 Overdrive to add a little compression/crunch for solos.
Pat Dryburgh. Photo credit, Edward Platero.
Why are you using this setup?
I purchased my first Mac while working at a church. When I started, I was given an old Toshiba laptop that didn’t have enough power to run PowerPoint (in fact, it had been discarded by the children’s ministry for being so terrible). About 3 months into my time there, I bought the 13″ white MacBook and instantly fell in love with the Mac ecosystem.
When I began working in design the MacBook was adequate, but surely not exceptional. I saved up and bought the 15″ Unibody MacBook Pro which was a huge leap forward.
The main reason I stick with the Mac setup is its ease of use and the quality of the software. Software from large companies like Apple and Adobe perform so well on the Mac, and obviously the Mac community boasts some of the best indie developers in the world.
What software do you use on a daily basis, and for what do you use it?
I absolutely love the Mac developer community and use a ton of different apps to make my work and play better.
Design work happens in Adobe’s Creative Suite. Development happens in Coda, though I have been flirting with both TextMate and BBEdit over the last month. Photo editing happens in Adobe Lightroom, which is the only Adobe product I have ever loved.
I write in nvALT, a fork of the brilliant Notational Velocity. This syncs with Simplenote on my iPad and iPhone. I also keep all of my notes as .txt files in a Dropbox folder. Dropbox is also where all of my work files live.
I work with a great team of guys to develop an app called QuickCal, which lets you enter events and to-dos into your calendar with plain English, and then it gets out of your way so you can get back to work. The version I am working on will be out soon, but you are more than welcome to buy the current version now and receive the next version as a free upgrade.
I use Quicksilver to launch apps and trigger keyboard shortcuts. TextExpander expands common snippets of text. Droplr lets me share screenshots, images and bits of text with friends easily. Pastebot is an incredibly easy way to share text between my Mac and iPhone. Caffeine keeps my monitor awake when I’m watching video. Seamless helps me keep my musical groove when I leave my desk. Take Five pauses my music for a few minutes if I need to take a quick call. 1Password keeps track of my passwords and credit card info securely. RSS feeds are read in NetNewsWire.
How does this setup help you do your best creative work?
OS X strikes the perfect balance between giving you what you need to do your work, while also getting out of your way if you want to go a different route. The developer community that has formed around this platform is second to none and I owe much of my gratitude to them.
How would your ideal setup look and function?
Other than anticipating what the next 15″ MacBook Pro will look like, I’m pretty happy with my current setup. Oh, maybe a Gibson ES-137.
More Sweet Setups
Pat’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.
Below are listed the proper spellings and capitalizations of certain tech names which are commonly capitalized incorrectly.
One Word, Medial Capitals
- MacBook (Air/Pro)
One Word, no Medial Capitals
Two words, not Title Case
- iPod touch
- iPod nano
- iPod shuffle
- iPod classic
- Mac mini
- Home screen
- Retina display
Product Names That Don’t Even Exist
TextExpander Snippet Group
Download and import this TextExpander snippet group to help you properly capitalize these names for the times you accidentally miscapitalize them.
Suppose that one morning this Fall we woke up to an email from Apple that read: “We have a new iPhone, and we think it’s pretty great. It will be on sale tomorrow at Apple retail stores and on our website.”
No pictures, no description, no Press Event, and no information about the new iPhone other than the fact that Apple likes it and it will be available tomorrow.
There would be lines for that unseen iPhone.
Good marketing may get people in the door the first time, but it’s good product development that gets them in the door the second time and the third time. (Or, in Apple’s case this coming Fall, the fifth time.)
There was a time when advertising was glamorous and brands were built 30 seconds at a time. In those days all you had to do to build your customer base was buy enough television and radio commercials. Getting a new customer was about as easy as getting their attention. Brand loyalty was a two step process:
Discovery → Use
Today, brands are built one conversation at a time. People pay little attention to commercials now and are weary of the new guy who’s selling something. Now people try before they commit:
Discovery → Trial → Use
But it’s not just about using things. We want the best. We want the best lawnmower, the best charcoal grill, the best coffee maker, the best local restaurant, and the best mobile phone. We want to use products and services that we enjoy and appreciate, and we want to tell our friends about them.
Discovery → Trial → Delight → Evangelism
Evangelism is word-of-mouth marketing. It’s the best kind of marketing because it’s honest and personal. We don’t pay attention to television commercials and magazine ads because we don’t trust them. We do, however, trust our friends recommending something to us.
And so, companies want their customers to tell their friends about the product. But try as you may, you can’t force people to talk about your product, which means that the next best thing is to try and get people to at least use it.
Therefore, instead of spending $500 to put their logo and tagline in front of a potential customer, companies are spending that $500, plus operating at a loss, to put their product directly into someone’s hand. They are basically paying us to use their product.
- It’s why networks like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook let people use their service for free.
- It’s what local businesses are doing when they use Groupon.
- It’s what retailers are hoping for when they sell something on Fab.com
- It’s what HP accidentally fell into when it sold the TouchPad for $99.
Companies are hoping to skip Discovery and Trial altogether with the dream that their product is sure to delight anyone that touches it. They have seen the power of word-of-mouth marketing and now the thrust of their advertising has changed. Advertising has gone from “look at me” to “try me” to “like me” to “please like me so much that you’ll tell your friends about me.”
But if you step back and look at the successful companies that have grown, you’ll see that their success lies primarily in great product development that lead to natural evangelism.
Companies that choose not to spend money on advertising are willfully skipping Discovery and Trial in the hopes of going straight to Delight. This is doable, but it takes either a lot of time or a lot of money.
You can start small and slowly iterate and improve upon your product while gradually increasing your user base through word of mouth. Or you can grow quickly by throwing a lot of money behind your product and paying for people to use it instead of selling it to them.
Both are risky.
If you’re going to slowly build your customer base then you’ll need another source of income to sustain you during that time of growth. But if you’re the one who’s going to pay for the product your customers are using, then you’ll need another source of income indefinitely.
Who are you, what do you do, etc…?
I am Federico Viticci, editor in chief of MacStories. I started MacStories in April 2009, and it’s become a place where I (and my team) can write about all things Apple including news, reviews, and discussion about Apple products. I also tweet as @viticci.
What is your current setup?
I switch back and forth between my office, and my “home office”.
Back home, I have a 21.5-inch mid-2010 iMac with 4 GB of RAM, and 3.06 GHz Core i3 processor. I’m not a fan of glossy screens, but I haven’t found the lack of matte finish on my desktop displays a huge annoyance as many others on the web would tell you. To back up my iMac, I use a combination of Time Machine and SuperDuper through a partitioned 1 TB Western Digital external drive. I have a simple white desk I bought from IKEA years ago (sorry, can’t remember its name), which makes for a good surface to host an additional Just Mobile Xtand and, occasionally, my Jawbone Jambox. My home network is powered by a terrible modem provided by Telecom Italia, which, fortunately, is slightly improved thanks to Apple’s AirPort Express. The AirPort Express used to be connected to some old external speakers to use with AirPlay and Airfoil, but last week I removed the speakers altogether as I’m planning on buying new ones soon.
The real office is where I spend most of time writing for MacStories. I’ve got a mid-2011 13.3-inch MacBook Air in there, connected to an AirPort Extreme which shares a single IP address from (another) terrible modem, this time from Fastweb. The AirPort Extreme (4th generation, not the latest one) allows for external disks, so I’ve taken advantage of such functionality to connect a 750 GB Western Digital drive for wireless Time Machine backups, and media archiving. I keep all my music, movies, TV shows and photos on that drive. Because the MacBook Air is so portable, I often find myself bringing it home for those times I don’t want to use an iMac (usually when I want to focus on writing a long piece — the Air keeps me more focused on the task). The Jambox travels daily from my home office to the “real” office, too.
Last, my iOS setup consists of an iPhone 4, and iPad 2. I like to keep my iPhone 4 “naked” with no case, whilst the iPad is protected (and propped up) by a polyurethane gray Smart Cover. I use my iPhone as, well, a phone and Internet communicator most of the time, whereas my iPad is mainly a writing and reading device. My girlfriend and I still prefer watching movies on my MacBook Air or, if it’s a really good one, on my Apple TV 2nd-gen, which I also own. I couldn’t live without my daily music dose, and for that I rely on AKG’s K390NC in-ear earphones, Black Mamba version. I like AKG’s noise canceling functionality, and the fact that these earbuds come with an iPhone-compatible mic and music controller also helps. To charge my iPhone, I use a first-generation Apple Dock (in which the iPhone 4 fits nicely) or the Powermat, according to my mood.
Why this rig?
Having to travel back and forth between my office and home, I needed two different setups. For as much as it’s lightweight and extremely portable, I don’t want to carry the MacBook Air with me all the time, nor do I want to see it on the driver’s seat every day. And because my workflow is heavily cloud-based, I can effortlessly switch between my two machines without losing the documents and data I work with. As iCloud approaches, keeping multiple devices in sync all the time is making more sense than ever.
What software do you use and for what do you use it?
With my job, I test and fiddle with too many apps, so I’ll mention the ones that I really couldn’t work without.
- Dropbox keeps my files, work documents, app libraries and preferences in sync everywhere.
- Clipmenu is a superb addition to the Mac’s system clipboard that I’ve been using since 2008 on a daily basis.
- Evernote: is my digital drawer. I store notes, thoughts, links, images, PDF…everything inside the app, and its recent updates both on iOS and OS X made note-taking incredibly better.
- OmniFocus for task management. I’ve tried almost every “serious” (or you could say, “popular”) GTD-oriented application out there, but I keep coming back to the Omni Group. You just can’t beat it.
- OmniOutliner for jotting down ideas, structure my thoughts, and track expenses. Combined with DropDAV and Captio (which I use to quickly email expenses to myself on the go), it’s become a must have in my dock.
- Text Edit and Byword: I write in plain text using Apple’s default app, and proofread / check Markdown in Byword. Plain text files are stored in Dropbox, and accessed from my iPad and iPhone using Notely — again, I’ve tried many “writing apps”, but Notely impressed me for its reliability and customizable keyboard. This combination of tools is used for MacStories articles, not the stuff I keep in Evernote.
- Spotify lets me listen to music on my Mac and iPhone. I’m trying Rdio this week, but I don’t think I’ll switch.
- Google Chrome Canary is my default browser. I like Chrome better than Safari as it uses less memory, it’s got terrific support for extensions, pinned tabs, and free Google sync. The Canary build gives me early access to features I’d otherwise have to wait months for.
- Day One is a new entry, but I’ve fallen in love with it. I’ve never kept a daily journal, and Day One changed that.
- CloudApp to share images, links and files with my Twitter followers or co-workers.
- 1Password to securely store logins, credit card information and other private notes. I use AgileBits’ app on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
- TextExpander for text snippets and automatic expansion because, really, you’d be a fool not to use it if you type a lot every day.
- Reeder and Mr. Reader to catch up on RSS feeds on my Mac/iPhone and iPad, respectively. I like Mr. Reader because it’s fast and integrated with a lot of services, such as Evernote and Send2Mac.
- Instapaper is where I keep articles I want to read later. I’ve been using it every day for the past two years, and I can’t wait for version 4.0 to be released.
These are the apps I use more frequently than others. It’s the software I immediately re-install when I set up a new Mac, or iOS device.
How does this setup help you do your best creative work?
I write for a living, and Apple devices combined with the apps I use help me stay focused, connected and secure with a reliable environment I know I can trust. It’s not only about the “it just works” philosophy, it’s “it just works and lasts” for me. I haven’t looked back to Windows PCs since 2008, as switching to a Mac setup has been the best decision I’ve ever made — it got me where I am today.
How would your ideal setup look and function?
It wouldn’t be really different from today’s rig, except for a couple of additions. First, I really want new headphones. I’m torn between Sony’s MDR7506 and Sennheiser’s PX 360 at the moment, but I guess I’ll go with Sennheiser as the brand has served me well over the years. As I said above I also need new external speakers, and the M-Audio Studiophile AV40 look like a good solution. Thunderbolt was a big factor in choosing this year’s MacBook Air model, and I look forward to having a high-speed, relatively affordable external Thunderbolt drive soon (the current offerings are just too expensive and “pro” for me). My last summer vacation taught me that when you work with iOS devices 24/7 battery is never enough, so I’ll buy a JustMobile Gum Plus backup battery soon.
Other than these “accessories”, I’m very happy with my Mac setup.
More Sweet Setups
Federico’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.
Goodfoot is an iPhone app that helps you find cool, nearby places. And it does so by using the Gowalla API in one of the most clever ways I’ve seen.
I came across this app while doing research and preparation for our Creatiplicty episode with Trent Walton.
Goodfoot works by taking the most popular spots on Gowalla and then sorting them by distance (walking, biking, or driving distance) from where you currently are. Then it removes all the non-interesting spots from the list (such as big-brand locations, doctors offices, grocery stores, etc.) and does a pretty good job at only showing you worthwhile locations.
As you’re looking at each location Goodfoot has its own built-in Awesometer®. Goodfoot’s Awesometrics System rates the likelihood of that location being awesome by looking at how many total check-ins the location has compared to how many of those check-ins are unique. So, for example, a place with 100 check-ins from 100 unique people is probably a tourist hotspot and thus not that awesome (unless you think gift shops are awesome). A place with 100 check-ins from 20 people is clearly a local favorite and thus more likely to be awesome.
Once you find a spot that you want to go to, you can view that site in Gowalla or use Google Maps to get the exact location and directions.
Goodfoot is just a buck in the App Store and works wherever Gowalla users have been.
On Friday I picked up the Tools & Toys t-shirts from the print-house and they look fantastic. Over the weekend Anna and I arm-wrestled PayPal, printed shipping labels, folded shirts, and packed the shipments. I am going to the Post Office this morning to drop everything off, which means the shirts will be arriving at your door within the next several days.
If you ordered a large shirt, they are unfortunately back ordered from American Apparel. The local shop that printed my order is expecting the shirts to arrive from American Apparel later this week, and as soon as they do your shirts will be the first to get printed.
Again, thanks to everyone that ordered a shirt. Wear it often, and wear it proudly.
Apple has but one product: Their products. Their product lineup is, in a sense, one single product. The “walled garden” is the whole point.
It hasn’t always been like this. Their products used to be silos — they were individual pieces of hardware that ran independently of one another. You could buy a desktop or a laptop and the files you kept on those computers stayed on those computers unless you intentionally and manually did something about it.
In 2001 the iPod was introduced, and with it you could take the music that was on your computer and put it onto a portable device. And that music could still exist on your computer at the same time it was on your iPod. In 2004 your iPod could also hold photos; in 2005, video.
For those with one or more laptops or desktops then there was probably a frustrating attempt to keep them somewhat in sync. Apple offered .Mac as a subscription service which in part allowed users to keep more than one computer in sync, but it was mostly just the smaller details and data of your computer that were synced. Things like passwords, contacts, and email rules. The big items, which comprise the actual work and play we do on our computers, were not synced.
It wasn’t until 2007, with the advent of the iPhone, that it became clear Apple was trying to incorporate everything together and to build a single product.
I think that Apple is just now finishing the first step of what it began in 2007.
Up until recently, they have been selling tangible products: devices with software. Soon, Apple will be selling universal, ubiquitous access. Or: all your stuff on all your devices in any place.
The future of technology is extreme usability coupled with extreme simplicity. Up until now we have only ever known that as product silos. Look how great this divide is or that app. But the GSMA is predicting 7 internet-connected devices per person in the next 15 years. My home already has 10. And so the future of simple and usable technology will require devices that are connected. And the more simple and usable that interconnectedness is, the better.
Through this lens we can see that the past four and half years have been one single, epic product rollout for Apple:
2007: iPhone (noteworthy refresh in 2010)
2007: Apple TV (noteworthy refresh in 2010)
2008: MacBook Air (noteworthy refresh in 2011)
2008: MobileMe (noteworthy refresh (iCloud) coming)
2008: App Store
2010: iPad (noteworthy refresh coming)
2011: Mac App Store
2011: OS X Lion
The iPhone, iCloud, iPad, iTunes, OS X Lion, iOS, Apple TV, the MacBook Air, and the iMac are all Apple products. But they are more than that. In aggregate they are one single product. Apple’s product lineup is, in and of itself, a single product.
These are devices which are built to be connected. They are built to work with one another. They are built for the purpose of having all your digital media accessible on any (Apple) device at any time.
The chapter that was opened with the iPhone in 2007 is coming to a close this fall with the advent of iCloud. Mobile computing, cloud computing, simpler computing… it is all phase one of the future. And it is now upon us.
The hardware are vessels for accessing your music, movies, apps, websites, documents, and more. Pick the device you want to use at the moment. The rest is just details.
Each of the above products didn’t start out perfect. There has been significant improvement and iteration upon the original versions, but I think that in the next few months we will see the attainment of the original goals of each of the hardware and software products that have shipped over the past four years.
- I think the iPhone 4 is the attainment of the goal that was set forth with the original iPhone.
- The iPad 3 will be the attainment of the goal that was set forth with the original iPad.
- iCloud is the attainment of the goal that was set forth with MobileMe (yea .Mac; yea iTools).
- The 2011 MacBook Air is the attainment of the goal that was set forth with the first Air.
- The current Apple TV and its upcoming software updates are the attainment of the goal that was set forth with the first iTV.
Or, put more simply: this next season of Apple product releases will mean the drying of the cement that is the foundation for where Apple is headed. The first “phase” is now complete.
Of course there will still be growth and innovation in the days to come, but Apple’s original vision for their product lineup is now nearly realized. They began simple, and they have slowly built upon each product to bring them to where they are today.
The Apple Ante
A common argument against Apple and their walled garden is that their products are too expensive. Those of you reading this likely already know the truth that that claim never actually held up. Just because Apple never sold a $250 laptop doesn’t mean their products were not fairly priced for the quality and value of the product.
But now, that argument has even less ground. Consider this excerpt from John Gruber’s review of the iPhone 3G:
“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.” — ANDY WARHOL
So too with the iPhone. A billionaire can buy homes, cars, clothes that the rest of us cannot afford. But he cannot buy a better phone, at any price, than the iPhone that you can have in your pocket today.
It is not just for the iPhone. It goes for virtually Apple’s entire product lineup (software included).
- For $29 you can’t buy a better operating system than OS X Lion.
- For $0.99 there’s not an easier way to buy a song — regardless of where you are — than on iTunes.
- For $199 you can’t buy a better phone than the iPhone.
- For $999 you can’t buy a better laptop than the 11-inch MacBook Air.
- For $499 you can’t buy a better tablet than the iPad.
Suppose you buy the cheaper variants: some $250 Windows netbook, a $99 HP TouchPad (if you can find one), and a free Android phone of the month. Those products are silos. You’ll be able to sync your email and calendars over the air but that’s about it. You’ll have to sync them all independently of one another to have your media, and documents available on each one.
The future of simplicity and usability in technology means connectedness. It means hardware devices that don’t operate as silos independent of our documents and media and communication channels. But that future is now upon us. Apple’s version has always been the most delightful, but now it is one of the more affordable offerings as well.
I heard about Airfoil via Twitter one day when I was wishing out loud that I could play the music from my Rdio desktop app through my home stereo which is connected to my Apple TV.
By default, I can only play music in my iTunes library through the Apple TV. Therefore, if I am listening to Rdio or Pandora while working in my office, I have to play the music through the laptop speakers. But that is where Airfoil comes in.
Airfoil acts like a middleman for my audio and video by taking the audio from any source and send it to any speaker on your network. It certainly has many more use-case scenarios, but this is what I use it for and I am quite happy with it.
Moreover, Airfoil has its own EQ. This truly seals the deal for making it perfect companion to Rdio because Rdio does not have any way to adjust EQ. Even if you’re only using Airfoil to listen to Rdio on your laptop, it’s practically worth it to get a perfect EQ setting anyway.
I even adjusted my Keyboard Maestro macro for launching Rdio to now launch Airfoil first, wait a couple seconds, and then launch Rdio so that Airfoil can have the slight head start it needs in order to hijack the Rdio audio.
Here’s a thought: the iPhone and iPad are testing grounds for each other.
Steve Jobs said that Apple began building a touch device by first working on the iPad. But they set it aside to build the iPhone first instead. The iPad was the first idea, the iPhone was the first product shipped. The technology and operating system of the iPhone was then used as the foundation to build and ship the iPad.
The iPad was the first device with the A4 chip. Now the iPhone has it as well. The iPad now has the A5, and that is likely coming to the next iPhone.
The iPhone was the first with a front-facing camera and a Retina Display. The iPad has the former and it will soon have the latter.
The iPad has 3G data connectivity without a carrier contract. The iPhone doesn’t (yet).
The two devices keep leapfrogging each other. They swerve in and out of each other’s development cycles. Each one gets its own and different type of technology and then passes it on to the other. Sometimes the iPhone gets it before the iPad, and sometimes the iPad gets it before the iPhone.
Who are you, what do you do, etc…?
I’m Garrett Murray. I’m the Founder and Creative Director of Karbon, where we design & build awesome, award-winning iOS applications. We’ve worked with Google, Yelp, Condé Nast and ING Direct, among others.
What is your current setup?
My primary machine is a 2011 Thunderbolt 27-inch iMac with 16GB of RAM and the SSD+HDD option (250GB/1TB respectively). It’s the best computer I’ve ever owned — it has only one cable, it’s beautiful, and most importantly, it’s amazingly, mind-blowingly fast. I use the standard peripheral fare (Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, Wireless Keyboard), and I play music at my desk through Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 speakers. Everything rests on a Herman Miller Airia desk and I sit in a Herman Miller Mirra chair. When not at my desk, I use a 13-inch MacBook Air.
In the office I’ve got a nice comfortable couch (that folds down to double as sleeping room for guests), dimmable lighting via a floor lamp and a cube lamp (that also doubles as a table for the couch), as well as a book shelf with all my various testing iOS/other devices, a wireless printer, and my FW800 Drobo. My wife and I share this office space so we’ve also got her desk and Cinema Display, as well as a media center that holds a TV, video games, and a Mac Mini for TV and video streaming.
Why this rig?
I’ve struggled for years to decide whether I want a laptop or a desktop, and this year I finally came to the conclusion I need both. When I’m sitting at my desk, I want a fast, large-screened computer. The iMac is that and then some. But when I’m away from the office I want a light, capable machine. Thankfully, the MacBook Air suits those needs very well. These days I basically live off Dropbox, so sharing data between the two computers is trivial.
What software do you use and for what do you use it?
- I design and build iOS applications using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Xcode, Unretiner and Hues
- I edit photos and video using Adobe Lightroom 3 and Final Cut Pro X
- I develop web stuff using TextMate, CSSEdit and Transmit
- I manage Karbon with GitHub, Basecamp, Campfire, Billings, TestFlight, Fantastical and Dropbox
- I do everything else with Safari, Sparrow, Reeder, iA Writer, Alfred, Skype, CloudApp and Twitter for Mac
I recently reinstalled OS X from scratch and it presented a great opportunity to re-think what I installed. I kept the number of applications far lower than in the past and now my computer is less cluttered and faster.
How does this setup help you do your best creative work?
I spend most of my time these days designing interfaces, so it’s very important that my work space be clean, well-organized and functional. There’s nothing worse for me than trying to make a pixel-perfect UI with a mess in my peripheral vision. I’m a bit obsessive, so order helps me focus. Of course, comfort is also very important. I like to play music while I work, so good speakers are a must. And I tend to spend the last few hours of the day listening to NPR while catching up on email and project management. It’s nice to be able to dim the lights in the evening and relax while closing out the day or working late.
When we moved to LA, we decided to make the larger bedroom a shared office, so now my wife and I can work in the same space and interact more during the day. That in addition to Campfire chat with the Karbon guys makes working from home feel surprisingly social.
Being surrounded by vibrant colors, art and prints, comfortable furniture — it all helps fuel my creativity. Whenever I’m stuck, I can usually look around the office and find some color or design element that will inspire an idea.
And it doesn’t hurt that the iMac is a fantastic beast.
How would your ideal setup look and function?
Honestly, this is very close to my ideal setup and to how I imagine working for several years to come.
My pipe dream is an iMac with an external slot for an SSD drive and a MacBook Air with the same feature, so I could simply move one single drive between them easily. That would cut down on data duplication and make it effortless to work with either machine at any time. Thankfully, until that exists, there’s Dropbox and iCloud.
A 35-inch display might be nice, too. My eyes aren’t what they used to be.
More Sweet Setups
Garrett’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.
In the tech industry August is usually a slow month. This year we saw a slew of new product launches as well as some historically significant industry news.
Here is a look at some of the highlights and notable moments of the month.
August 1: iCloud Web Beta.
August 1: Apple TV software update 4.3 adds support for accessing previously purchased TV shows.
August 1: Adobe launches Adobe Edge
August 2: Push Pop Press acquired by Facebook.
August 8: Apple briefly passes Exxon Mobile as the most valuable company in the world.
August 10: Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader.
August 11:The Last Rocket.
August 14: Elements 2.0.
August 14: Adobe launches Muse.
August 15: Google buys Motorola.
August 17: AT&T announces new text-messaging plans.
August 19: HP TouchPads go on sale for $99, nerds everywhere gobble them up.
August 22: Glassboard.
August 30: HP announces they will make a few more TouchPads to fulfill the final unmet demand. Seriously?
August 31: And just before the buzzer, someone, once again, seems to have lost an iPhone 5 prototype at a bar.
The future of technology is this: extreme usability coupled with extreme simplicity.
The more we learn about technology — and the more we learn about ourselves — the more we discover and realize how technology can serve us best and make our lives better. As the industry progresses we grow in our understanding of how to make things more usable and simple.
Technology wants to be usable and simple. This is the natural path it will take. It is a rocky road, but an inevitable one. Inevitable for two reasons: (1) the industry will learn how to build more usable devices (both hardware and software); and (2) as users living in a digital age, we will learn how better to use the technology around us. From the development aspect and from the user aspect, technology is sure to become more usable and more simple.
But there is a third element that is not a surety in the future of tech. And that is emotion. Or: a device that delights.
We know that delight matters because there is a market for Ferraris. And even soda pop. If the utility and practicality of an item was all that mattered, then people would only ever drive Honda Accords and drink water. The function of a Ferrari is the same as a Honda: get the driver from point A to point B. However, a Ferrari gets you there with a bit more delight than the Accord. Likewise, a Coke tastes better than a glass of water even though it has no nutritional value.
And so, as the future of technology marches on toward increased usability and increased simplicity, the successes and breakthroughs will be marked by those who also imagined ways to incorporate delight into their products.
It’s Not Over
It was a sad moment when HP killed the TouchPad. I know that many of us, myself included, were hopeful and expectant about the future of webOS. Though the TouchPad’s hardware was left wanting (and some claim that it was the hardware itself that hindered webOS’s performance), the software of webOS 3.0 was clearly showing signs of potential.
When HP made the decision to cease their support of webOS devices and to have a national fire sale of all their TouchPads, many people claimed that the tablet race was officially over. With HP throwing in the towel and no other worthy contender in sight, then it meant Apple had won. K.O.
And maybe that’s true. Maybe the iPad will never be beat. Perhaps it will be the king of the hill for the next 20 years and set the standard for where personal computing is going. And, in a way, I think it is true.
Though where personal computing is going is not the iPad as we know it today, nor the competition that Apple is facing today. The mobile computing industry of tablets and smartphones is still in its infancy. Even the PC industry could still be considered young by comparison to its peer markets. PCs are just a few decades old — younger than some of you reading this paragraph.
Almost 30 years ago, the revolutionary Macintosh looked like this:
In the past 30 years computers have evolved to become significantly more simple, more affordable, more powerful, and more usable. We now have beautiful displays with graphical user interfaces, improved mouse and trackpad technology, and connectivity through the Internet.
After all the maturing computers have done in the past 30 years, imagine what they will look like in another 30 years. If they even exist as we know them today…
Now imagine what tablets and smartphones will look like in 30 years. We have no idea.
In 2007 the iPhone changed everything. Now there is a new game and a new industry of smart phones and mobile computing. But it is by no means in its final state. Those familiar with the iPhone and iOS can instantly spot the advancements between the first iPhone and its operating system and the ones we use today. Someone just coming in, however, — especially if they are not tech savvy — wouldn’t see much of a difference. There is still much to improve upon, much to innovate, and much to invent.
I think that Apple is just now finishing the first step of what it began in 2007. I think that the past four and half years have been one single, epic product rollout for Apple.
The iPhone, iCloud, iPad, iTunes, OS X Lion, Apple TV, and the MacBook Air are, in a way, one single product. And they are today’s quintessential example of technology that is extremely usable, extremely simple, and evokes great delight.
This next season of Apple product releases will mean the drying of the cement that is the foundation for where Apple is headed. The sky will be the limit.
As innovation and adaptation advance we will no doubt see an increase in usefulness and simplicity across all technological markets and industries. The race is no longer about who can make the most useful product. Now the race is about who can make the most delightful product at the most affordable cost.
Apple knows this. It’s why they’re not afraid to cannibalize their own products. It’s why we’re seeing the amalgamation of OS X and iOS. It’s why the iPhone and the iPad are so wildly successful. It’s why the Apple developer community is thriving — because others get it too.
But even Apple — though they are closer than anyone else — isn’t there yet. Nobody is. There is still a long and bright road ahead.