Posts From February 2012
In his iOS 6 wish list, Federico Viticci wishes for a new iOS Home screen. Viticci has written about the problem of the iOS Home screen before, concluding that “Apple needs to tear apart the whole concept and rebuild it from the ground up.”
I agree. I think Apple does intend to rebuild the iOS Home screen from the ground up. I also think their intentions for the new Home screen are exciting, ambitious, and will prove to be a big deal.
Not until recently have we felt much of a need for a revamped home screen. Since 2007 iOS has evolved significantly in both its functionality (i.e. multitasking and Notification Center) and in the amount of available apps (thus folders, and multiple Home screens). After five years the Home screen is feeling cramped and outdated.
If I were a betting man, I would wager that the iOS Home screen as we know it today is not Apple’s long-term plan. My hunch is that the Home screen is still the way it is because the long-term ramifications of what it could be are huge.
A reimagined springboard is a prime opportunity for significant innovation. And significant innovation takes time.
Rebuilding the Home screen isn’t just about increasing usability. It is also about innovating at that “front-door interface” of how and where we get to the stuff on our devices (you can hardly do anything on your iPhone without going through the Home screen). Moreover, the ramifications of a reimagined Home screen go beyond iOS. As we are now learning via Lion and Mountain Lion, innovation on iOS is a setting of the stage for innovation on OS X.
During a recent episode of The Talk Show, John Gruber talked about how OS X is stuck with the “Desktop” whether they like it or not. Twenty years ago the Desktop as a folder for quick access to your files and your file system made sense. But that was when people predominantly interacted with files first before launching an app. Apple is now steering people away from the need to interact with the file system. With iCloud, automatic and in-app document saving, and versioning, we are seeing a shift in personal computing where people interact less with files first and more with apps first.
Khoi Vinh recently said:
Right now the most interesting [design] thing happening on the desktop, by far, is Apple’s iOS-ification of OS X. They’re clearly in the process of upending a decades-old paradigm for thinking about desktop software, and whether it’s successful or not is going to be very interesting.
A new iOS Home screen is Apple’s chance to get the “front-door interface” right. When they change the Home screen it’s going to be a big deal, and it will become a core part of iOS for the next decade.
Another reason why a new Home screen is such a big deal is because what Apple does to reimagine it on iOS will impact OS X and the Desktop and Dock (or perhaps the next evolution of Launchpad).
Put another way: I don’t see Apple just stealing ideas from Android and Windows Phone and implementing “live widgets” onto the iOS Home screen. When they update the Home screen they’ll have skated to where the puck is going to be.
Who are you, what do you do, etc…?
I’m Dan Frommer, based in Brooklyn NY, but always a Chicagoan at heart.
My main gig since 2005 has been writing about technology news, particularly from a business angle. My most recent project is SplatF.com, a site I started by myself in July, 2011, and hope to be working on forever. Right now it’s a mix of news analysis, reporting, data mining, chart porn, and link aggregation. In the future, who knows what it’s going to turn into. (I’m also, more recently, Editor at Large for a larger tech site called ReadWriteWeb.)
Before that, I helped start a site called Silicon Alley Insider in 2007: A New York-centric tech site that kept growing and morphed into Business Insider, which is now a huge and popular general-purpose news site. I started writing professionally at Forbes, writing about Internet infrastructure and telecom. I’ve also been a part- to full-time web designer since 1995, and I helped work on a few now-defunct Mac sites in the mid-to-late 90s.
What is your current setup?
I work mostly from a home office in Brooklyn, but I do a fair (and increasing) amount of travel. My main rig is a 2009 quad-core iMac, 27 inches, with an old 24-inch secondary Dell screen (not pictured) that we use to watch videos on from a different angle. I prefer a wired keyboard to wireless (same for mice when I used them) but I’ve gotten used to the Magic Trackpad. My desktop image is an aerial photo of lower Manhattan that I shot out of the window of a plane a few years ago.
I also have a 13-inch MacBook Air for cafes and travel and an old Mac mini hooked up to my TV in the living room. Around the house, I also have a bunch of old Macs collecting dust, including my “Windtunnel” G4 tower (dual-DVD drives!) from 2003 and some old PowerBooks. And an Apple II floppy drive that Steve Wozniak autographed for me.
As far as post-PC living… I have an old iPad 3G, which I’ll be replacing with the new iPad whenever it comes out. And my current smartphone is a factory-unlocked iPhone 4S, which I bought to experiment with overseas SIM cards during my travels this year.
Oh, I also have one of those fake-plastic-grass charging stations, which I mostly use to add some color and life to my desk. Love it.
Why this rig?
I bought the 27-inch iMac soon after they first came out because the screen was just amazing. (It still is.) On most days, it’s still fast enough that I haven’t felt the urge to replace it. Though having the SSD boot drive on my Air has really changed my perception of how quick a Mac should be, so maybe this year I’ll pick up a new iMac with an SSD boot drive, depending on how things go. (I’m in no hurry.)
I started with the 11-inch Air but gave it to my wife after I spent a little time with the 13-inch model. The extra screen size and battery life on the 13-inch is well worth the extra bulk to me, especially considering how light it is relative to my old 13-inch plastic MacBook. The MacBook Air is really the laptop I’ve always wanted but never had: Light enough to take everywhere and not secretly hate it for making my bag heavy. I was so excited about the 12-inch PowerBook G4 when I got it in 2005 but it was always so heavy that I never really took it anywhere. The Air is really magical.
What software do you use and for what do you use it?
I was really into little hacks and automation and shortcut-type stuff in MacOS 8 and 9, but after switching to OS X in 2001, I’ve tried to use as much of a stock install as I can. It’s nice to keep things simple, I think.
Most of my work is in Chrome, using WordPress for SplatF and Movable Type for ReadWriteWeb. I also use TweetDeck almost all day (the old, Adobe AIR version; like it more than the new one so far). I have Photoshop Elements, Fireworks, and Acorn for graphics stuff, but I don’t do much that’s more elaborate than cropping and resizing images, and maybe adding a little text to them. For photos, I mostly use Image Capture and the Finder to organize them. I do a lot of charts for SplatF, and almost all of that is done in Numbers from the Mac App Store. Other than that, I use Adium for IM and Mail for email.
I’m still running Snow Leopard on my main iMac — haven’t felt the need to upgrade — but have Lion on my Air. It’s… okay.
The old Mac software I miss the most was an app called Hotline, which was most popular around 1998-1999. It was a cool mashup of FTP, IRC, and newsgroups, and there was a great community. I spent hundreds of hours on Hotline in high school, and then a lot of time on Carracho, a Hotline successor. But I don’t think any of that stuff still exists.
How does this setup help you do your best creative work?
My main job is to find and sift through endless streams and piles of information, so being able to have 2 or 3 windows open at the same time, large enough to see a bunch of data, is why I love the big iMac so much. At Business Insider, I had a second 24-inch screen open to TweetDeck all day, but I don’t really like multi-screen setups. I’m really big on symmetry. During baseball season, sometimes I’ll prop up my iPad next to me to keep the Cubs game on, because the iOS version of MLB’s stream is better than the Flash-based web version.
How would your ideal setup look and function?
My desk is pretty big, but once I move in a few months I might investigate some sort of hybrid sit-stand system. I really like standing, and feel like a jerk sitting around all day. Other than that, I’d just like to always have the biggest screen that makes sense to have. If Apple made a 42-inch iMac, I’d probably buy one.
I like having separate desktop and laptop computers so that I can leave my desktop on all the time (acting as a home server of sorts) and keep a subset of my data on my laptop. Most of my work is on the web so I don’t really care about syncing.
I’m blown away by how efficient, quick, and quiet Macs are these days. When I was home over the holidays, I booted up my old IIci and my old Performa, and the CPUs were both so big, so heavy, and so loud for the little processing power they provided.
More Sweet Setups
Dan’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.