Archive for the 'iPad' Category

The iPad: some niche product, eh?

[link] Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Before Apple launched the iPad, many sceptics wondered if there really was a market for such a device. Yesterday Tim Cook announced that, two weeks ago, Apple sold the 100 millionth iPad. That’s 100 million in two and a half years.

Makes you think.

The uses and abuses of Skeuomorphism

[link] Sunday, October 7th, 2012

This morning’s Observer column.

Or consider this, from Wired magazine, claiming that Apple’s iPhone app, Find My Friends, “includes astonishingly ugly, faux stitched leather that wastes screen space. On the new iCal for the Macintosh, things are odder yet: When you page forward, the sheet for the previous month rips off and floats away, an animation so artless you’d swear it was designed personally by Bill Gates.”

Ouch! What Apple’s designers are being accused of, it turns out, is the grave sin of skeuomorphism. Now there’s a conversation-stopper if ever I saw one. A skeuomorph is, according to the OED, a ‚”derivative object that retains ornamental design cues to a structure that was necessary in the original”.

Our new software monoculture

[link] Sunday, September 9th, 2012

This morning’s Observer column.

Apple has to date authorised 500,000 [Apps] for its iPhone. The corresponding number for the Android platform is 600,000. These numbers provide ample justification for the late Steve Jobs’s great insight: phones were really powerful hand-held computers that could run useful applications. And so it proved. Jobs unleashed an explosion in creativity as programmers raced to create apps that people would buy in huge volumes. The result is a world in which smartphones are basically app-running devices that can also make voice calls. Ditto for tablets, except that they don’t bother with the calls.

So that’s all right, then? Not quite. Look closer at this explosion of creativity and you find that much of what it has created is either trivial or downright crap. You can, for example, get an app to put an image of bubblewrap on your iPhone screen. Then there’s the Halloween Sound Machine (“Sneak up on your mates with the sounds of a rusty chainsaw, go on, you know you want to!”). Or how about iBeer (“turns the iPhone’s screen into a showy pint of the foamy stuff”)? And gentlemen trying to decide between a walrus moustache, Victorian sidewhiskers or a goatee beard will doubtless find Beard Booth invaluable.

I could go on, but you get the point. A large proportion of smartphone apps are the contemporary equivalent of those plastic gee-gaws my kids bought all those years ago: impulse purchases that provide a moment’s entertainment – or even delight – and are then forgotten…

iPhone, uCopy, iSue

[link] Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Eminently sane Economist piece about the Apple v Samsung patent case.

It is useful to recall why patents exist. The system was established as a trade-off that provides a public benefit: the state agrees to grant a limited monopoly to an inventor in return for disclosing how the technology works. To qualify, an innovation must be novel, useful and non-obvious, which earns the inventor 20 years of exclusivity. “Design patents”, which cover appearances and are granted after a simpler review process, are valid for 14 years.

The dispute between Apple and Samsung is less over how the devices work and more over their look and feel. At issue are features like the ability to zoom into an image with a double finger tap, pinching gestures, and the visual “rubber band” effect when you scroll to the end of a page. The case even extends to whether the device and its on-screen icons are allowed to have rounded corners. To be sure, some of these things were terrific improvements over what existed before the iPhone’s arrival, but to award a monopoly right to finger gestures and rounded rectangles is to stretch the definition of “novel” and “non-obvious” to breaking-point.

A proliferation of patents harms the public in three ways. First, it means that technology companies will compete more at the courtroom than in the marketplace—precisely what seems to be happening. Second, it hampers follow-on improvements by firms that implement an existing technology but build upon it as well. Third, it fuels many of the American patent system’s broader problems, such as patent trolls (speculative lawsuits by patent-holders who have no intention of actually making anything); defensive patenting (acquiring patents mainly to pre-empt the risk of litigation, which raises business costs); and “innovation gridlock” (the difficulty of combining multiple technologies to create a single new product because too many small patents are spread among too many players).

Some basic reforms would alleviate many of the problems exemplified by the iPhone lawsuit. The existing criteria for a patent should be applied with greater vigour. Specialised courts for patent disputes should be established, with technically minded judges in charge: the inflated patent-damage awards of recent years are largely the result of jury trials. And if patents are infringed, judges should favour monetary penalties over injunctions that ban the sale of offending products and thereby reduce consumer choice.

And it’s nuts letting this stuff go to jury trial.

Quote of the day

[link] Sunday, July 29th, 2012

“Computing has changed from being something you go to a computer to do to something that the computer comes with you to do. It’s a subtle change, but world-altering for PC makers.”

Astute observation by Charles Arthur in today’s Observer.

On the surface…

[link] Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

… this has to be a spoof. Doesn’t it?

Annoyingly good advertising

[link] Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

And it’s not even made by Apple.

The Peer and his iPad

[link] Sunday, April 1st, 2012


Lord Puttnam, originally uploaded by jjn1.

David (Lord) Puttnam checking email on his iPad after the Open University ceremony last Friday awarding an honorary doctorate to Cathy Casserly, the new CEO of Creative Commons.

As it happens, it was 30 years to the day since he won an Oscar for his film Chariots of Fire.

The dominance of Apple’s iOS

[link] Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Source: Business Insider

Apple: just another big company with stuff to sell

[link] Monday, March 12th, 2012

In my Observer column yesterday, I tried to put the new iPad in some kind of context. (It’s really just the iPad 2S.) I wish I’d been able to set the scene as amusingly as Rex Murphy did.

Thanks to Joel Greenberg for the link.