Hmmm… The interesting thing for me is the dominance of Amazon. Not what I would have predicted.
This morning’s Observer column about the obsession with ‘datifying’ our bodies.
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who are obsessed with the datafication of their bodies and those who are not. I belong to the latter category: the only thing that interests me about my heart is that it is still beating. And when it isn’t I shall be past caring. But if the current craze for wearable devices such as fitness trackers is anything to go by, I may soon find myself a member of a despised minority, rather like cigarette smokers, whisky drinkers and followers of David Icke…
This morning’s Observer column:
The novelist Umberto Eco wrote a deliciously insightful essay in 1994, in which he argued that the Apple Mac was a Catholic machine, in contrast to the PC, which, he argued, was clearly a Protestant device. How so? Simply this: the Mac freed its users/believers from the need to make decisions. All they had to do to find salvation was to follow the Apple Way. When the Mac was launched, for example, a vigorous debate broke out among user-interface geeks about whether a computer mouse should have one or two buttons. Some were critical of the fact that the Macintosh mouse had only one button. But when queried about this, Steve Jobs – then, as later, the supreme pontiff of the Church of Apple – was adamant and unrepentant. Two buttons would undermine the rationale of the Mac user interface. He spoke – as his Vatican counterpart still does – ex cathedra, and that was that.
In contrast, Eco pointed out, the poor wretches who used a PC had, like the Calvinists of yore – to make their own salvation. For them, there was no One True Way. Instead they had to choose and install their own expansion cards and anti-virus software, wrestle with incompatible peripherals and so on. They were condemned to an endless round of decisions about matters that were incomprehensible to them but on which their computational happiness depended.
Spool forward 21 years to today and nothing much has changed, other than that the chasm between computational Catholics and Protestants now applies to handheld computers called smartphones, rather than to the desktop machines of yore…
This morning’s Observer column.
You know the problem: you’re sitting there reading an email from a friend on your smartphone or tablet and there is a link in the message to what looks like an interesting website. So you tap on it and the web page begins to load. And then suddenly up pops a dialogue box with text that looks like an escapee from the MySpace museum saying something like: “Hey! Why not download our cool new App?”, an invitation helpfully translated by the wonderful XKCD site as: “Want to visit an incomplete version of our website where you can’t zoom?”
Welcome to appworld. Personally, I blame Steve Jobs. He understood that since smartphones were really small computers then they could also run programs. So he set up the Apple’s app store to make this happen, and in the process ensured that the firm took 30% of everything sold on it.
It was significant also that on the day that Jobs revealed this insight to the world, standing next to him on the stage was John Doerr, one of Silicon Valley’s smartest investors, who was there to announce the setting up of a $100m investment fund for app developers.
Which is how we got to where we are now – awash with smartphone and tablet apps, more than 90% of which are crap…
This morning’s Observer column:
Bruce Chatwin has a lot to answer for. Specifically, he’s responsible for a forthcoming initial public offering (IPO) on the Italian stock market. It all goes back to something he wrote in his book The Songlines. He had arrived in Australia and was setting up a work space in a caravan. “With the obsessive neatness that goes with the beginning of a project,” he wrote, “I made three neat stacks of my ‘Paris’ notebooks. In France, these notebooks are known as carnets moleskines: ‘moleskine’, in this case, being its black oilcloth binding. Each time I went to Paris, I would buy a fresh supply from a papeterie in the Rue de l’Ancienne-Comédie.”
Chatwin goes on to relate how the notebooks were made by a small firm in Tours, the owner of which had died and whose heirs had sold the business. So he assumed that the source of his beloved notebooks had dried up. What he didn’t know was that the business had been bought by a Milanese stationer who eventually began producing the notebooks again. And what he could not have known was that the business would one day be floated on the stock market (3 April, to be precise). The IPO could value the company at up to €560m (£473m)…
I’d always assumed that the price of apps in the Apple App Store ranged between free at the low end and $39.99 at the expensive end. But no — there’s an interesting ecosystem at the stratospheric level, as this piece in the WSJ reveals.
Thoughtful ZDNet piece by Jason Perlow arguing that the fact that the iPad mini is more expensive than the Nexus 7 is actually irrelevant. Why? Because it’s not just about comparing hardware. It’s really about comparing apps and content ecosystems. As someone who runs both a Nexus and an iPad, I’m afraid that I have to agree with him.
No matter how much hardware you stuff into a device at less cost than your competitor, if your ecosystem is inferior, and your apps just aren’t as good, then it doesnt matter what you put in that pile of silicon, plastic and metal.
As a device manufacturer, the ecosystem that you are capable of offering to your customers is worth more than all of your component integration, period.
However, it just so happens that Apple’s component integration is also better than the Nexus 7. Don’t believe me? I own a Nexus 7 and I’ve been travelling with it as my only tablet device since the device was released.
Also Read: Nexus 7, Push comes to shove, I prefer my iPad
I also own an iPad 3 and an iPhone. The only reason why I own a Nexus 7 is that I like to travel with at least one current generation iOS and Android device at any time, because I actually write about this stuff.
But as a consumer? If I had to choose between the Nexus 7 and and iPad mini, I’d much rather have an iPad mini. And I’m a real bona fide, certified geek, a Linux and open source evangelist, and a professional technologist that actually works as one for a living. I don’t just play one on TV, folks.
It’s true that on paper that the 8GB version of the Nexus 7 is only $199 (the 16GB version is $249, and the iPad mini starts at with 16GB at $329) and has some theoretically better components in it, such as a quad core processor, more integrated RAM, and a higher resolution display. It also has a similar resolution front-facing camera.
Have you ever actually USED most Android apps on a Nexus 7 versus an iPad 2, which shares the same SoC and screen resolution as the iPad mini? No? Well I have.
Despite the fact that the Nexus 7 has more horsepower and more memory, the iOS apps on balance are better, run faster, and are more stable.
The Skype implementation on Android is a joke, the video rendering and capture is pathetic and the audio transcode is horrendous, so if you plan to do video chats with that 720p camera, fuhgeddaboudit. And Google Video Chat on G+ is even worse.
Worth reading in full.
Thomas Kuhn portrayed scientific research as long periods of “puzzle-solving” based on an accepted paradigm, with occasional bouts of revolutionary upheaval during which one paradigm is replaced by another. (See my extended essay on Kuhn, celebrating the 50th anniversary of his great book.) Much the same goes on in technology, IMHO. At the moment, we’re in a phase of “normal” technology with everything based around the paradigm of a smartphone laid down by Apple with the iPhone. This graphic (from CultOfMac) makes the point well.
This NYTimes piece starts to make the same point, but then gets a bit lost. Still, good in parts.
The iPhone 5 that Apple introduced last week with only incremental changes seemed to signal that the industry has entered an era of technological bunny hops.
Faster chips, bigger screens and speedier wireless Internet connections are among the refinements smartphone users can count on year after year in new models, most of them in familiar rectangular packages. They are improvements, to be sure, but they lack the breathtaking impact the first iPhone had, with its pioneering fusion of software and touch screens.
“Since then, it has been kind of incremental,” said Chetan Sharma, an independent mobile analyst. “It does not feel like there is a big shift.”
Yep. See also this Observer column about how we’re stuck in an app-centric rut for the time being.
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…
This morning’s Observer column about the latest Ofcom survey of the communications market.
The Ofcom document runs to 411 pages, so it is custom-built for empirical masochists. Given that life is short, and you may have other things to do on a Sunday morning, I will just focus on some findings in the report that leapt out at me, and ponder their implications. The survey shows that home internet access in the UK rose by 3% between 2011 and 2012 and now stands at 80%. So eight out of 10 people have access to the network. And the speed of that access is increasing: by the first quarter of 2012, for example, 76% of UK homes had a broadband connection of some description. Equally interesting is the discovery that the largest rise in internet access over the last year – 9% – was among 65 to 74-year-olds. So the idea of “silver surfers” as an endangered minority needs recalibrating.
Next, we find that two-fifths of UK adults are now smartphone users. Take-up has risen from 27% in 2011 to 39%. This is interesting because the mobile networks and the telecoms industry have in the past consistently underestimated the popularity of internet-enabled mobile phones. It’s also one of the reasons why Nokia finds itself in so much trouble.
It’s hard to exaggerate the significance of the smartphone tsunami, especially when we see Ofcom’s discovery that more than four in 10 smartphone users say their phone is more important for accessing the internet than any other device…