Apple Fanboys

There’s something I’ve had swirling around my head for a while regarding Apple “fanboys” – a group I consider myself part of and most my friends would agree.
The thought is, the sales of the iPhones far outnumber how many supposed fanboys there are. Mac owners have always been a minority in the world of personal computers, but Apple ceased to be just a computer maker a decade ago. The iPod is best selling MP3 player in history. While the iPhone doesn’t have those bragging rights, as of Q4 2009 it sold over 33 million units.
People besides Apple fanboys are buying iPhones.


Music, Technology


and by taking control, Google confuses

Adam Richardson over at frog design talks about Why Google had to take control of Android with Nexus One.
I agree with Adam, that this move by Google to make it’s own phone is its attempt to ‘do Android the right way’. But is Google going to make any progress with the Nexus One? I’m not convinced they will.
For one thing, the Nexus One doesn’t sound like it’s much different than any other Android phones on the market (Boy Genius Report, NYTimes, WSJ, TechCrunch). Secondly, I don’t see how Google producing their own phone is going to stop fragmentation of the Android market.
Adam concludes:

The lackluster success of the early Android phones has surely made Google realize that they need to take a much stronger role in order to bring all the pieces of the experience together. The catch-as-catch can approach they’ve had to far just isn’t going to cut it. Fragmentation is a death knell for a product like this at this stage of maturity. Google needs to lead the charge with an integrated platform until the experience gap is fully closed.

Ironically, it seems possible that the better Google’s Nexus One gets the more fragmented the Android platform could become as partners such as Motorola and Samsung continue to improve their ‘flavors’ of Android.
Google wants to have their cake and eat it too. They want to be like Linux, open source and customizable and simultaneously like Apple, closed and consistent across devices.
Google, honey-baby, you can’t have both.


the one sheet, having some fun

I’m going into my second year with Roundarch and with the end of 2009 comes our annual reviews.
When managers conduct our annual reviews, they project our ‘one sheet’ on the wall for all the other managers to see. The point is to be creative, whether you’re a designer or not. I wrote about my first one sheet last year.
This year I decided to base it on the oldey timey WANTED posters, but update it and make it a more edgy and add some technological flourishes like the QR code (which actually works if you download a QR Code reader app for your iPhone, Blackberry or Android unit).
Designers like to consider themselves badasses when in reality the only thing they usually push around are pixels.
Guilty as charged.


Advertising, Branding, Film


super-dumb product categories

Official Google Blog: Our new approach to buying a mobile phone:

The first phone we’ll be selling through this new web store is the Nexus One — a convergence point for mobile technology, apps and the Internet. Nexus One is an exemplar of what’s possible on mobile devices through Android — when cool apps meet a fast, bright and connected computer that fits in your pocket. The Nexus One belongs in the emerging class of devices which we call “superphones.” It’s the first in what we expect to be a series of products which we will bring to market with our operator and hardware partners and sell through our online store. [emphasis mine]

Superphones. What bullshit. So this is where Mossberg got the term. Shame on you Walt.




Android phones = modded Honda Civics

Om Malik used a great word in a post from a few weeks ago – Androidification. He was talking about how every hardware maker, save for Apple, is coming out with Android models for their phones and other portable devices.
Three thoughts come to mind about this reaction to Android:
1) Google is really becoming the new Microsoft – run by engineers, business-focused, doesn’t focus on design and experience (well, maybe a little more design focus than Microsoft)
2) Great mobile software solutions are non-existent and hardware makers are hungry for something better than Windows Mobile
3) In light of thought #2 above – if HP, Motorola, HTC, Samsung and Dell are all building Android models, what’s the difference?
It just seems to me that all these hardware makers are like different car makers creating their cars on the same assembly line with the same engines. Sure, they’re all modifying their units so they can claim they have a unique value proposition and they’re better than each other, but at the end of the day, they’re all really pretty similar.
I’d like to say that Android is the BMW 3 Series (very popular in the modder community) of mobile OSs, but after inspecting a few of my coworkers Motorola Droids and having watched enough demo videos, I’ve come to the conclusion that Android is more like the Honda Civic of mobile OSs. This is not a bad thing. The Honda Civic is one of the most popular cars on the planet. They’re well built, get great gas mileage and are easy to customize – but the Honda Civic has never had the attention to detail and focus on design that a BMW 3 Series has had. That’s just a fact.
David Pogue confirms what I’ve seen myself in his review of the new Nexus One:

Finally, the Nexus just doesn’t attain the iPhone’s fit and finish. The buttons under the screen (Back, Menu, Home, Search) are balky, often ignoring your finger-presses completely. One of the animated wallpapers freezes the phone with a message that says: “Sorry! The application Android Live Wallpapers has stopped unexpectedly. Please try again.” (Note to Google: I did. The same thing happened.)

As well as Walt Mossberg (see my post from yesterday for a breakdown of Mossberg’s contradictory review):

In addition, the Nexus One, and other Android devices, still pale beside the iPhone for playing music, video and games. The apps available for these functions aren’t nearly as sophisticated as on the Apple devices.

I’ve read posts pointing out the fact that because so many vendors are making their own ‘flavors’ of Android, that there’s the potential for the platform to fragment and with fragmentation, comes the chance that applications built for Android won’t work correctly on all these ‘flavors’. The iPhone doesn’t suffer this because while there are newer and different models, they all run the same iPhone OS.
The Register quotes Sanjay Jha of Qualcomm, who says Google wants fragmentation.
From the post:

If mobile devices converge on one or two platforms, then developers will decide it’s worth porting native applications only to these platforms – as in the desktop world. But with fragmented environments Web 2.0 technologies become the only effective way to create mobile applications. These are the kinds of applications at which Google excels. Launching a new platform, and putting considerable resources behind it, is an effective way of preventing platform consolidation.

If it’s true that this is Google’s strategy, it makes a lot of sense, and will further ensure that no hardware vendor will come out on top.
Perhaps hardware vendors are fine not selling the most units. Perhaps they’re happy sharing the same OS with their competition. Perhaps they openly admit they don’t want or know how to make their own software.
Just don’t expect your Civic to stand out from the pack of other Civics on the road, It’s never going to be a 3 Series.

*note – I know my analogy of iPhones-to-BMW’s isn’t entirely accurate. From a design standpoint it is, from a cost standpoint, it’s not, and that’s a good thing (you can get an iPhone for $99)




Sherlock Holmes – closing credits

Sherlock Holmes was a really good movie. It helps that I’m a fan of Robert Downey and ‘bad good guys’ that he plays (and happens to be off camera). I’m also happy to see that Guy Richie (Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) might be back on his A-game now that he’s ditched Madonna.
Film aside, one of my favorite parts was the closing credits, done by Prologue Films. They were comprised of sort cuts from the movie that transitioned into beautiful sketches on parchment paper, complete with stains, smudges and ink blotches.
Simply gorgeous.
Sherlock Holmes the Movie, closing credits
Sherlock Holmes the Movie, closing credits
Sherlock Holmes the Movie, closing credits
Sherlock Holmes the Movie, closing credits
Sherlock Holmes the Movie, closing credits
Sherlock Holmes the Movie, closing credits
Sherlock Holmes the Movie, closing credits
Check the video on YouTube.


Art, Film, Music


Google’s Nexus (Negative) One

I’ve been reading a handful of posts and tweets out on the tubes about the Nexus One and a clear picture is forming as to what this phone is really like.
Walt Mossberg’s piece at the WSJ is titled, Google’s Nexus One Is Bold New Face in Super-Smartphones.
So it’s a bold new face in super-smartphones? Hmm. Super-smartphone. This sounds like a ridiculous new category, but maybe Walt will prove me wrong.
So Walty, tell me what’s super about the Nexus One?

The Nexus One finally has the right combination of hardware and software to give Android a champion that might attract more people away from their iconic iPhones and BlackBerrys. It has a larger screen than Apple’s phone, and is a bit thinner, narrower and lighter—if a tad longer. And it boasts a better camera and longer talk time between battery charges.

Awesome. Sounds great. Tell me more “super” stuff.

On the Nexus One, only 190 megabytes of its total 4.5 gigabytes of memory is allowed for storing apps. On the $199 iPhone, nearly all of the 16 gigabytes of memory can be used for apps.

Ew. ok. Well, tell me something positive.

In fact, the $199 iPhone 3GS has roughly four times as much user-accessible memory out of the box, though the memory on the Nexus One can be expanded via memory cards. Apple also has a more-fluid user interface, with multitouch gestures for handling photos and Web pages.

I know Walt’s saving all the super features for the end.

The phone also has handsome new visual features, including “live wallpaper,” with waving grass or pulsing colored lines

Wow. A wallpaper capable of animating. Sounds like a big productivity booster. Give me some more upsides to the Nexus One. Hit me!

But there are some downsides to the Nexus One. Like all Android phones, it relies too much, in my view, on menus that create extra steps, including some menus that have a built-in “more” button to display a secondary menu of choices.

So the software is sub-par. Seriously? I can’t believe that, coming from a company run by engineers, not designers. Crazy. But at least the hardware is solid, right?

I also found the four buttons etched into the phone’s bottom panel sticky and hard to press.

Well, it sounds like they’re trying to attract the general consumer, as opposed to the business consumer, so the entertainment software must be good right?

In addition, the Nexus One, and other Android devices, still pale beside the iPhone for playing music, video and games. The apps available for these functions aren’t nearly as sophisticated as on the Apple devices.

Anything else, Walt?

Finally, the iPhone is still a better apps platform. Not only are there more apps, but, in my experience, iPhone apps are generally more polished and come in more varieties.

Wonderful. So it has a few solid features, but Google’s not taking it to a new level.

But, with its fresh phone and bold business model, Google is taking Android to a new level, and that should ramp up the competition in the super-smartphone space.

Walt, what the hell are you smoking?




All the world’s a stage

There’s a great interview with Bruce Sterling at The Well (via
It starts out:

For the eleventh time, Inkwell rings in the New Year with a visit from Well
member Bruce Sterling, to address the State of the World and Things Various
and Sundry. Bruce used to write novels when there were bookstores, and used
to write for magazines and newspapers when magazines and newspapers existed.
Nowadays he travels a lot when trains are running and when airports aren’t
clogged by security theater. [emphasis mine]

What first caught my attention, before I even hit the interview, was a word the interviewer used in reference to the bullshit we endure at the airport – security theater.
And that’s exactly what all those metal detectors, fluid requirements and jackets-and-shoes-off procedures are – theater.
Airports don’t provide security, but the appearance of security.




Palm Pixi to suffer the same fate as the RAZR?

From a few months ago (but the price is still the same), Palm Pixi one step closer to free, now $25 on Amazon.
Let me first say that I don’t know what profit agreement Palm and Sprint have for Pre and Pixi sales, but offering the Pixi for this low a price just smells like the Motorola RAZR all over again.
What I mean by this is when the RAZR rose to become the most popular clamshell phone of all time, Motorola continued to slash prices until they, as the Pixi now, started to approach zero. They had sold over 50 million RAZRs by 18 July 2006.
From Forbes, 20 February 2007:

Because Motorola has not recently had products that cellphone companies wanted to offer, it has sold tens of millions of Razrs and their offshoots by slashing prices. Margins have collapsed in the process.

I agree with John Gruber, the future of Palm depends on a genuine hit to keep the company alive, and I don’t see how slashing prices on their new models is going to help their business.


Music, Technology


Nokia asks ITC to ban iPhone

Via Engadget:

The biggest bombshell so far is the ITC complaint, in which Nokia’s asking the commission to ban imports of basically every Apple mobile product from the MacBook to the iPhone for infringing its device patents

In related news, Nokia also told the ITC that Apple’s been cheating and looking off their pages during the final exam. ITC told Nokia to stop crying, keep their eyes on their own paper and ignore what Apple is doing.




Mutants Will Survive

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change — Charles Darwin

Yes, I love that quote, it makes me sound cool and sure, I’m a little late to the game in having found out about it only a few months ago.

But is it true?

Better yet, in what context is it true and to what degree of change are we talking about? My interests lie in interactive design, web technologies and mobile computing so I’m going to this as the backdrop for the topic of change and mutation.

As an interactive designer I have to be able to adopt, interpret and reject various new technologies, web services and gadgets in order to keep myself relevant/marketable/employed.

I consider myself a ‘hybrid’ designer – one that has an understanding of both the technical and aesthetic sides of a project. Coincidentally, I also consider this one of the most important traits for all interactive designers to have. You almost inherently have to to be one. As a hybrid, you’re always in flux. Jumping from design to technology programs. Testing new web sites and web services. Hybrids are constantly mutating.

Because you don’t always know what the next project is going to require. It could require Flash or XHTML or AJAX or PaperVision3D or XML or MySQL or Java or an iPhone SDK or a Palm webOS SDK or a 3-inch screen or a 30-inch screen. While there’s plenty of fundamentals that are still relevant after 10 years of doing interactive design, I’m constantly having to learn new things, be it design-, technology- or Human Experience-related.

Since there are so many new things happening within the (broad) fields of design and technology I have to cherry-pick which technologies, user interface paradigms and gadgets and therein lies the secret – isn’t how many new ‘things’ you adopt and understand but which ones. Which brings me to the other quote I came across on Ars Technica regarding mutation rates among bacteria:

For the first week or so, normal strains actually outgrew the competition. But, after a few weeks, mutator strains began to pick up helpful adaptations, and quickly came to the fore. By 30 days, only 8 strains (out of 66 initially) survived in culture: all the wild type and low-mutation versions had been driven out by the competition. But so had the strains prone to the most mutations; instead, all the strains fell in a narrow range, with somewhere between three and 47 times the normal mutation rate, with most on the high end of that range.

I think we share a lot in common with bacteria and this is one example from which we can learn. Be open to mutating within your chosen field, but be selective and don’t learn new technologies just for the sake of it. Don’t buy an iPhone if you think it’s crap. You almost need to become a curator of design and technology. You have to know how to spot talent and innovative ideas 10 miles away.

And that brings me to my final point, Apple’s rumored iTablet. We know it’s coming and that’s all we know. Victor pointed me to a a discussion that happened last month on “how developers can proactively prepare their place in a new market”. Smart move if you ask me.

Much smarter, I would say, than preparing for a Microsoft Surface market.


Innovation, Technology