Archive for September, 2008

iPhone 2009: Apple to sell 68 million iPhones?

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Remember last year that optimistic forecast from Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster that Apple would sell 45 million iPhones in 2009?

- Yeah. How’s that look now?

Well, according to Businessweek, Apple plans to build 40-45 million iPhone 3Gs in the 12 months through August 2009 — 52% more than even Gene Munster expects.

- So how many would that be total?

In 2009? Oh, about 68 million iPhones.

Many people turning Genius off

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Last week’s brief two-line tip explaining how to disable the new Genius sidebar in iTunes 8 continues to generate a surprising amount of search traffic. From that, you might loosely conclude that:

  1. Many people don’t like Genius
  2. Apple needs to make it clearer how to turn Genius off

What people are Googling for: turn off genius, disable genius, disable itunes genius, turn off itunes genius, disable genius itunes, turn off genius in itunes

Fighting entropy on the App Store

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Scientists use the second law of thermodynamics to say that things gain entropy over time, but what it means to me and you is that, without a guiding hand, things fall apart. Kids experience this at the beach when their sand castles get creamed by a rogue wave; companies experience it when they open their doors to the public.

Kids improve their strategic position by moving the castle higher up the beach, away from the waves. Companies improve their positions online by refining their policies.

You can see entropy on the App Store easiest by reading the application reviews, as pointed out this morning by Michael Long:

Is it just me, or are you also getting tired of all of the application “reviews” on the App Store that say nothing more than “first post”, ask “who would want this”, complain about the price, or offer some other in-depth opinion of an application… that they don’t even own.

Worthless App Store “Reviews”, Michael Long, iSights.org, September 15th, 2008

Apple built a nice system for online comments intended to help viewers decide whether or not to purchase an application, but like a kid’s sand castle, that system is getting pummeled pretty hard by wave after wave of junk and nonsense, rendering it only moderately useful. Perhaps, as Michael Long urges, Apple will institute new rules requiring you to actually buy an application before commenting upon it, but Apple may also decide that these trolls will go away once the novelty of the App Store fades. Amazon’s comments, as an example, remain reasonably high-quality without posting restrictions.

You can see entropy in another form by surveying the quality and nature of applications posted to the App Store. When the App Store opened, some of its applications were partitions of a larger whole broken out into separate applications to maximize exposure and revenue. This remains true today, and is made possible by the low barrier to entry to the App Store, where developers pay a one-time fee to gain the right to post but do not therefter pay a per-application fee. Perhaps Apple will consider such a nuisance fee in the future to combat that particular form of entropy.

Apple has also been criticized for blocking the release of several applications, but it’s been clear so far that it has done so to maintain the quality of its marketplace. Apple blocked a fart joke application to keep the tone of the App Store from degenerating too quickly, and most recently reportedly blocked a podcasting application for “duplicating the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes”, though Apple’s position on this might be more justified that it appears.

In his examination of some the difficulties has Apple faced while maintaining order on the App Store, Daniel Eran Dilger expressed a key point [emphasis mine]:

Deciding where to draw the line between classy and restraint of expression is difficult, and Apple needs to take caution that it does not set up an entirely lifeless monotony of apps burdened by excessive rules. However, it is far easier to decay into a cesspool of junk than it is to accidently become too sophisticated and elite.

SDK 3.3.3: The iPhone Podcaster Surprise Myth, Daniel Eran Dilger, RoughlyDrafted Magazine, September 15th, 2008

Entropy happens naturally and inevitably—and is usually undesired. When Apple appears to censor or restrict things on the App Store, consider that Apple is merely trying to maintain order in its marketplace. The App Store doors were flung wide, the crowd rushed in—both shoppers and developers—and things got jostled in the rush.

Apple will right things because Apple wants to make money, but it’s probably hard to determine what right means initially in many cases. Certainly, seeing a fart joke application while you’re shopping for a business application is going to color your experience, and Apple is justified in being concerned about that, even if it’s not immediately clear what to do about it. The easiest thing initially is to say you can’t publish that to buy time until it can determine a better solution, and that may be exactly what Apple has done.

Apple is creating a marketplace, not a playground. It’s good that visitors enjoy themselves, but when the nature of the play restricts the workings of the marketplace, expect Apple to step in.

Pixar’s building is Steve Jobs’s brainchild

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

In a Harvard Business Review article detailing how Pixar stays creative, Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull says it’s important to break down walls between disciplines. He says strong ties to academia are worth more than any ideas that may be revealed, and that cross-training employees helps them to appreciate what everyone else does.

He also credits Steve Jobs for Pixar’s innovative building layout and how it helps creativity:

Our building, which is Steve Jobs’s brainchild, is another way we try to get people from different departments to interact. Most buildings are designed for some functional purpose, but ours is structured to maximize inadvertent encounters. At its center is a large atrium, which contains the cafeteria, meeting rooms, bathrooms, and mailboxes. As a result, everyone has strong reasons to go there repeatedly during the course of the workday. It’s hard to describe just how valuable the resulting chance encounters are.

How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity, Ed Catmull, Harvard Business Review, September 2008

When the Pixar campus was being built the press often focused on Jobs’s attention to aesthetics, but I don’t remember much press on just putting the important stuff in the atrium.

Elegant, simple, and practical.

Tip: Use Auto-complete while typing

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Most applications on your Mac include built-in support for auto-completion. Press either the Esc key or the F5 key and you’ll see a drop-down list of possible completions for the word you’re typing:

african_queen.png

Press Esc or F5 again to hide the list.

Tip: How to disable Genius in iTunes 8

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Here’s how to disable the new Genius sidebar in iTunes 8:

In iTunes 8, choose Turn Off Genius in the Store menu.

Elliott Carter vs. iTunes 8 Genius

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

iTunes’s new Genius sidebar happily recommends Pink and other top songs and albums when it can’t find any matches for your current selection within iTunes, even when your current selection is A Symphony of Three Orchestras, a composition by Elliott Carter, a distinguished American composer still actively composing as he nears his 100th birthday—about as far away as you can possibly get from Pink. These wildly incongruous recommendations alone are reason enough to disable the Genius sidebar.

But hey, look! Carter’s Symphonia shows actual recommendations.

What’s that first one? Adams: The Dhar…, hmm, that’s probably John Adams, but whoa, he’s like in a separate universe from Elliott Carter. We’re not talking a Pink universe, but separate anyway.

What’s that next one? Berstein Conduc…, probably Leonard Bernstein, but could be Elmer too. And conducts what?

Heh, look at that last one, Requiem in D Minor, K…. If it wasn’t for that last K, I’d have little clue whose Requiem, but the K probably means Mozart.

Notice how in the Top Songs list, song title and artist name are generally quite short. Only three ellipses in the Top Songs section, in fact. Now notice how every one of the classical music recommendations has an ellipsized title and artist.

So close. Well, not too close at all really. The Genius might turn out to be great for commercial music, but for art music? Not a chance.

Hey Apple designers, why isn’t the Genius resizable?

genius_carter.png

genius_lists.png

Ew, you wascally Dock!

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Have you ever meant to click and drag in an application (like Photoshop) but accidentally clicked and dragged in the Dock instead, only to see the Poof! cloud as the clicked Dock item was deleted? It’s not your fault—the Dock’s partial transparency is attractive but confuses the eye, and the Dock’s attractively simple drag-to-delete makes it too easy to delete items.

Have you ever somehow resized a window, perhaps to full-height, only to find the window grow box now lies beneath the Dock at the bottom of your screen? Also not your fault—the Dock floats above working real screen estate confusingly, made worse by the Dock’s changing size.

How about trying to drag a folder into the Dock but it won’t work? You try again, but no. Then you remember, oh yeah, and you drag it to the right side of the separator and it works. You know what? Not your fault—the Dock doesn’t present enough visual distinction between the Application section where the system places its icons, and the User section where you place your icons.

And when you want to drag something to the Trash, but can’t find the Trash? Of course, it’s on the far end of the Dock. You knew that, but still, it seemed just hard enough to find that you’re now distracted from what you were doing before. Not your fault—the Trash moves around and changes size as the Dock grows and shrinks, preventing you from acquiring any motor-memory relating to the action of placing something in the Trash. And because you have to think, you’re distracted from your work.