Protecting the Cash Cow: Why the iPad Does Not Have Multitasking Ability

Why Apple does not allow multitasking on the iPadThe internet is abuzz with what the iPad is missing, but for each statement there is a very specific and reasoned answer.  I’ve been happy to see Daring Fireball give background on the reason Flash is not and should never be built into Apple’s Touch platform.  With that properly explained, let’s look at why the iPad does not allow multi-tasking of applications.

Apple enthusiasts are often quick to point out that the iPhone would run out of batteries too quickly or the processor would not be strong enough to support snappy use of multiple applications.  This proves true in testing a jailbroken iPhone.  But the iPad Apple tablet does not get the same defense.  The carefully touted A4 chip should have no problem running a sophisticated 3rd party application and the native mail client at the same time.

This is big trouble as more complex games for the device are introduced.  For example Grand Theft Auto, The China Town Wars, is a complex 3D game recently released for the iPhone and iPod Touch. GTA: CTW has the potential to lose mission progress by dropping you back to your apartment every time the game is left unexpectedly.  While this clearly negatively affects the gamer experience, imagine how frequent push notifications begging gamers to leave for just a moment will affect more persistent, longer-session games like World of Warcraft.

The A4 is pretty tough chip and conceivably should have the ability to safely run multiple iPhone and iPod Touch applications, if not the more weighty future iPad-specfic titles.  So why isn’t multitasking being allowed?

Apple does not want people to use streaming music services like Pandora and Last.fm until it is ready with its own cloud-based, Genius-powered streaming music recommendation engine a seamless listening experience through the iPod application and iTunes.

Currently, the only ways to play back audio while running another application (crippled multitasking) are:

  • Using the iPod application
  • Downloading an mp3 or other audio attachment from an email and hitting play. (Plays back from within the mail application)
  • Downloading an mp3 or other audio from the web. (Safari plays it back)

Similarly, the only way to playback streaming audio is using the Last.fm application, the Pandora application or a few other apps that use a recommendation engine to create lists of songs you do not own and stream them to you.  If Apple were to allow you to playback Pandora today on the iPad and work with the iLife suite to author documents they will be training you not to use iTunes!

“But they can’t get away with that!” That’s right, they can’t.  That’s why Apple will introduce its cloud-based iTunes offering either before or in tandem with the release of the next generation iPhone this coming around June. Using the brains acquired in the purchase of Lala, Apple will be introducing a mixed-mode local and cloudbased listening experience where any iTunes music collection can be played back in part on the locally stored disk or streamed from the cloud using an iPad.

Apple will use Genius to identify and stream audio to iPad users in its own competitive play against Pandora and Last.fm.  Once a strong streaming, Genius-powered solution is available to iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users future devices will be able to multi-task all applications, including the most threatening, streaming audio services.

Jobs made it a point to illustrate Apple has 125 million credit cards on file through iTunes.  Every streaming audio selection that is in turn bought by the user can be facilitated using that payment information.  Not the case with Pandora or Last.fm!  Denying these applications the ability to gain traction gives the iTunes ecosystem time to evolve to include their services.  This will make the future allowance of multitasking apps delivering this music less impactful in pulling users away from greatest cash cow in software’s history: iTunes.

M.I.A. Uses Twitter, "Space Odyssey" to Bring Attention to the Continued Plight of Tamil Civilians in Sri Lanka

Musician M.I.A. released a song titled “Space Odyssey” this past week that has become notable for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was her reaction to a New York Times travel guide spotlighting Sri Lanka as a travel destination in 2010.

First, new work from M.I.A. is eagerly anticipated as she went on hiatus following a tour for her Grammy nominated record, Kaya. I was at the far edges of the crowd with my sister when she told the audience at Bonnaroo in 2008 that it would be her last performance.  Since then, M.I.A. has largely kept away from music creation.

Second, M.I.A. chose to deliver “Space Odyssey” to fans via a twitter update, where she shared the video via TwitVid, a popular 3rd party service for video hosting that competes directly with Vidly.  While M.I.A’s choice of TwitVid as the media player allowed her to use her Twitter feed to deliver new music directly to her fans, it also has forced everyone to listen to this critically important release in terrible quality video and audio.  Check out the embed above.

Most notably, following the surprise release of the song, M.I.A.’s publicist confirmed that “Space Odyssey”  was released specifically in reaction to a recent New York Times story on the Top 31 Places to Go in 2010 written by Lionel Beehner.  In the NYT piece, Beehner acknowledges that the country has been “plagued by misfortune…but the conflict ended last May.” and goes on to suggest that “miles of sugary white sand flanked by bamboo groves that were off-limits until recently are a happy, if unintended byproduct of the war.”

If you are unfamiliar, a brutal civil war was being fought between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).  Leading up to the end of major conflict in May of 2009, many civilians were killed in efforts by the government to put down the rebel group.  The US State Department has issued a report outlining areas of concern (pdf) where International Humanitarian Law is believed to have been violated.

For some time following the end of combat, a quarter million people from the Tamil minority were forced to remain in refugee camps for months.  Between the brutality on both sides during the war and subsequent forced confinement afterwards, Sri Lanka’s international standing is quite low.  M.I.A. is of Tamil ancestry and fled the country as a refugee.  She has specifically decried (see her explanation at 3:25) the violence on both sides of the war.

M.I.A’s made a bold move in connecting her new artistry directly to a major US news publication’s pithy and embarrassing portrayal of Sri Lanka as a top tourist destination.  She did so using her platform of roughly 82,000 Twitter followers, all eager to hear what she would follow Paper Planes with.  M.I.A. has hit upon a near perfect mix of social networking, social action and artistic expression, most certainly setting her apart as an artist to watch in 2010.

Killer Application for Apple Tablet is Board Games

There’s a lot more speculation about the tablet since a New York Times blog entry that included a quote that people will be “surprised how you interact with the new tablet.”  A lot of the conjecture is based on applications for patents that Apple has filed in the past few years.  I have an angle that offers interesting interaction with the Apple Tablet, iSlate, iGuide or Apple Slate with a killer application is decidedly low-tech.

The idea is that the iSlate will communicate and be driven in part by nearby iPhones and iPod Touch devices over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.  Authorized iPhone and iPod Touch devices nearby the iSlate will act as sophisticated remote controls.  This use case takes advantage of the user’s likely existing Apple hardware in the Touch platform and focuses on the fact that the iSlate will likely have a large, bright screen with a reasonable viewing angle. Let’s examine a potential killer application of this idea.

The tablet screen will be able to lie flat on a table between two or more people.  Through iTunes, the owner of the tablet will purchase an application that runs full screen on the tablet.  The publisher of the tablet application will also make available free applications that run on the iPhone and iPod Touch and communicate directly with the app running on the tablet.

Using the Apple Tablet as a Centerpiece to Electronic Board Games

A great example would be the classic board game, Scrabble.  In Scrabble, you have a board that requires physical placement of letters on a major center area.  It also requires players to keep the letters in their tray secret from other players.  In a Scrabble for the iSlate scenario, players need only to have an iPhone or iPod Touch to virtually hold their letters.

The iPod Touch or iPhone could vibrate or make a noise when it is a player’s turn and it would be used to send the results of the player’s decisions to the Apple tablet at the center of the table.

One important aspect of this is size, the traditional Scrabble board is a fair bit larger than the expected 10.1″ Pixel Qi powered display.  I believe that this type of thing could be overcome by the tablet giving intelligent focus to the most relevant portions of the board.  Additionally, the iPod Touch and iPhone could be used to manipulate the current viewing area on the tablet, or that area could be manipulated directly using standard multi-touch.

Many other board games would work in this scenario, including Monopoly, where you are handling all kinds of cash, property cards and frequent score calculations. The value you get out of the pairing of a Tablet and the iPhone is that there is a new bridge between physical social interaction and the convenience of an electronic presentation.

Using the Apple Tablet to Share Presentations in Small Groups

There are many other killer applications where the iPhone and iPod Touch serve as input devices to the iSlate or Apple tablet.  One I would use in my meetings for my iPhone application design company, Neutrinos, LLC is a business application is in small group presentations.  The tablet is set up to run a presentation application full screen.

The tablet is handed to one or more clients seated near each other.  The presenter uses an iPod Touch or iPhone to control playback of the presentation.  The presenter’s multi-touch device offers presentation notes, previous and next slide previews and allows them to trigger in-presentation events like animations or even jumping out to a web-view for the clients to explore.  This gives the presenter an opportunity to give a private and engaging presentation in the middle of any cafe, airport or public space.

Using the Apple Tablet for Illustration and as a Supplemental Display Area for Floating Windows

A final use case scenario for using the iPhone and iPod Touch to drive the Tablet is in illustration.  I’ve been working directly with Portland artist Carolyn Main who spends a lot of time with her Wacom tablet.  While the Wacom offers a great deal of pressure point precision that the Apple Touch Platform is unlikely to compete with any time soon, it is reasonable to think that app developers will try to deliver illustration and animation applications that allow creation on the go.

Having an illustration application like Adobe Illustrator running on the tablet, and then being able to use an iPhone or iPod touch for swatch, tool or layer management would leave more of the iSlate’s screen real estate for drawing.

In John Gruber’s recent post about the tablet he writes: “And so in answer to my central question, regarding why buy The Tablet if you already have an iPhone and a MacBook, my best guess is that ultimately, The Tablet is something you’ll buy instead of a MacBook.”  My suggestion is that people buy the tablet because they already have an iPhone or iPod Touch.  Having both a Tablet and a touch makes the Tablet more useful with some great use case scenarios the low-tech realm of board gaming to business.

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When Business and Personal Life Collides – New Facebook Privacy Settings and the Status of Tiger Woods' Endorsement Contracts

Exactly what counts as private personal details has been a major theme underlying discussion in new media and old media in the past few weeks.  Here are two interesting examples of how business and people’s personal details are colliding right now.

New Media: Facebook’s Privacy Settings Updates

Facebook has made major changes to how it handles privacy settings for users.  Most likely you are familiar with the outcry and acceptance around Facebook’s push to make your updates more transparent.

Facebook was conceived around the idea of sharing detailed content like photos and notes only with your social net, which was supposed to represent your core group of friends in the meatspace.  Twitter’s growth has been in addressing the extreme opposite: sharing 140 characters worth of insight with the entire world instantly.

Facebook relies on deep engagement with its users in order to get its advertisements clicked on.  Facebook was forced to change its strategy because it was losing opportunities for interaction with its users to Twitter.  In addition, Facebook is missing out on buzz because Facebook it is seen as lacking the real time relevance of Twitter.

The update to Facebook’s Privacy Settings is a tactic in the company’s strategy to get more Facebook users to share their updates with the public or at least make it obvious that users are welcome to do so.

The problem is that average internet users are not capable of building and utilizing a set of sophisticated privacy settings.  The result is that many are unwittingly sharing what they believe is private information.  Rafe Needleman makes a great point that the initial user interface designed to guide Facebook users does more to guide them to exposing their information rather than creating the controls they want.

If these ideas are to be accepted, it suggests that Facebook is knowingly creating conditions where the details of user’s personal lives are made public because it will lead the company towards greater market share and profits.

Old Media: Tiger Woods Endorsement Contracts

Let it be known that I am not a huge fan of old media.  To be clear, this includes broadcast and time shifted television advertisements, magazine advertising and  just about any electronic sign found in sports arenas like the Rose Garden. (Go Blazers.)  My reasoning is that old media too often lacks any real context and is more about blanketing the masses with the critical six exposures rather than seeking to engage individual interests.

Celebrity endorsements or testimonials are a classic tool of old media and I couldn’t help but notice the full page advertisement for Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer, which features their “official partner” Tiger Woods.

Woods is currently deep in allegations of adultery, and after being dropped from Accenture this past Sunday the Tag Heuer made the statement that Woods’ personal life is “not our business.”

Tiger Woods Tag Heuer Celebrity Endorsement So I had a closer look at this big magazine advertisement and the text reads: “I first swung a golf club when I was nine months old…Since 1996, my Foundation has inspired more than 10 million youth…Together with TAG Heuer, I’m helping young people believe in themselves.”

My question to Tag Heuer is if you’re going to have a representative for your brand make claims about his ability to connect with and inspire children, is your representative’s personal life really not your business?  It is one thing if you are going to depict your representative as a an accomplished athlete and another if he is going to be talking about his influence on kids.

Closing

I selected these to examples because I was interested in them.  Facebook is social media, which I enjoy and Woods’ sex scandal has become interesting because of the business aspect and the general extent of what he’s described as “transgressions.”

But the greater comment I’m after is that it is easy to say that Facebook or major media has taken away people’s right to privacy.  Or to believe that there is complete compromise in participating in social networking or great accomplishment that puts you in the public spotlight.

However, who controls your personal information and the judgement of exactly what is a constitutes “personal life” is a moving target.  New technologies and dollars and cents will affect what you get to keep private as much as evolving social mores.

Apple Touch Platform, Tablet, iTunes, Social Gaming and OpenFeint

I’ve returned my focus to  Apple’s Touch platform, and in so doing I’ve been diving into a variety of interesting subject areas.  Since my company’s last release, Apple has added access to a great deal of new services on the touch devices through the iPhone SDK.  While some fantastic innovations have already been created for the iPhone, we have only scratched the surface of how its unique ecosystem can improve our lives.

I went to a presentation at Mobile Portland by Dan Grigsby, creator of iPhone developer blog,  Mobile Orchard.  Dan presented statistics suggesting that the gold rush of the app store is over and that we are now entering a new phase of development for the iPhone. Generally, applications lacking aesthetic and substance simply aren’t getting the sales to justify development.  Writing great software for the iPhone is difficult and in order to stand out, applications are receiving more time and attention before being released.

The Apple Tablet,  iTunes, the Future of Print Publishing and Augmented Reality

All this is leading to some very sharp Objective C development teams who will be ripe to tackle all of the new opportunities born out of the SDK for the coming Apple tablet device.  This device, named the “Slate” or otherwise will change how people share with each other in the meatspace.  A minor illustration: No one actually likes using a netbook.  People will love using this tablet.

Apple used iTunes to train a generation how to feel good about buying physically intangible goods and is now building a series of devices that are breaking down the boundaries between digital and physical.  Touching and shaking aside, the iPod Touch and iPhone offer only a glimpse at the promise of augmented reality.

Apple’s tablet will create enormous new opportunities for print publishers.  iTunes will serve as a subscription vehicle.  Newspapers, magazines and comics are poised explosive growth via the scale of digital distribution iTunes can provide.  (Update: A day after this blog post, five publishers announced a new digital reading platform meant to compete with what iTunes will provide.

Social Gaming

Finally, I’ve been tracking OpenFeint recently and believe it represents something of a hat-trick of awesome concepts and topics: social networking, gaming, and and mobile software.  Plus+ is another emerging social gaming platform and while it is far less open to the public, the concept behind these platforms is so hot you could cook smores over it.

2010 is going to be another breakout year for developers and users of Apple’s touch platform.  What trends are you seeing and excited about?

My Gmail Account is Down (I am not alone)

I noticed gmail was not working and on a whim searched the news for “gmail down.” It seems I am afflicted by the same  temporary service interruption that others have been seeing.  Things were working fine until about 10 minutes ago.

I consider myself a gmail power user and recently chose to upgrade my account with a $20 / year payment for 10 gigs of additional storage.  I route a number of accounts to my primary gmail account and use it throughougt the day, almost every day.  So it was a no-brainer to pour some money into more cloud storage.  However, it is worth noting: paid or unpaid my account went down like the rest.

Since it is 1:30am, I’m not really upset about the outage–but article linked above does point out the important idea of forwarding copies of all mail you receive from gmail to a second, different cloud storage provider.

I shudder at the idea of using Yahoo or Hotmail even as a backup.  Simply seeing these domains in people’s primary email addresses gathers up some initial judgment about the person’s basic computer saviness.

Email is like electric power.  You expect it to be cheap and ubiquotous.  For the rare times that there is a brownout in your neighborhood, it does make sense to look at having a full backup of mail destined for your gmail on a different service provider.

I just checked and gmail is working again for me.  Back to it.  I’ll spend some more time thinking about a backup cloud for my gmails.

A Guide to Hacking Your Facebook Profile Photo

Hacking Your Facebook Profile Photo
Coolwhip hair dude.

One of the most important parts of a person’s Facebook presence is their profile photo. This is displayed in the top left corner of a page. The photo can be a newly uploaded image or it may be drawn from any of your online albums.

Typically, a profile photo shows someone’s face, and appears in front of the light blue-grey line that connects from the left side of the profile to the left-most tab. View an example of a typical profile page with a normal photo.

Unlike Myspace, Facebook’s uses a common color and layout for every profile. This makes the site look better overall, but also limits your ability to affect the look of your profile. You can display Facebook applications on the left sidebar, and have them in tabs, but any changes to how the page’s style or how it is displayed overall are limited.

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Download Rock Show, the Concert Posters app for the iPhone and iPad

Hacking the Facebook Profile Photo

There isn’t a legal way to ‘hack’ Facebook, but there is a method to changing your profile photo to make your profile look subtly different and cooler. It isn’t obvious, but the placement of a profile photo allows you to lightly innovate on Facebook’s sacred profile layout. Continue reading A Guide to Hacking Your Facebook Profile Photo

Quake Live Beta

I received an unsolicited email a few days ago from id Software requesting that I join their beta program for Quake Live.  I haven’t played Quake since since 1999, but remember playing quite a bit of Quake 3 Arena–especially capture the flag.

In order to beta test, you first create an id Software user account, and then you have to create a second beta tester account just for Quake Live.   Both accounts require you to go through a registration/authentication email loop.

The gameplay is quite good, it feels just like Quake 3 Arena with a number of the original maps available for play.  The most impressive thing is that the game runs smoothly within a browser tab.  You can easily change game settings, including resolution changes on the fly, with a brief loading routine by the app.

Continue reading Quake Live Beta

Fixing a Broken Badger 5 Plus Insinkerator Garbage Disposal

Badger 5 plus garbage disposal broken help

My Badger 5 Plus garbage disposal seized up a few weeks ago after some mango peels made their way down into the drain. The disposal simply made this humming noise when it was on.  It sounded like the motor was going but the blades were not turning.

At first, I was ambivalent.  “Maybe it will fix itself” I thought.  But it didn’t.  And then the sink stopped draining.  So, I did the horror-movie thing and reached down into the bog of coffee grounds, lettuce and bloated cereal flakes to check if the blades were moving. Continue reading Fixing a Broken Badger 5 Plus Insinkerator Garbage Disposal

World of Warcraft Patches Require Obscene Amounts of Hard Drive Space

I recently wrote a brief paper on World of Warcraft, a game I’ve never played before, for the Service Strategies course I’m taking at Babson.  My paper discusses what about Blizzard Software’s functionality with the MMORPG of WoW was innovative or offered a bit of service differentiation.  You can read the whole thing here. (pdf)

I had chosen WoW for as my topic for three reasons.  One, it was among the suggested topics Professor Rao offered for the assignment, two, I love sci-fi and I played Magic in high school,  and three, my sister has played some WoW and she’s cool.

After spending a few hours working on that paper I realized that I should really have a crack at the actual gameplay for the good of scholarship.  Not because I have a lot of serious work to do that I’m trying to avoid.  Not that at all.

With a 10 day free trial, I couldn’t go wrong, so I started the download of the game and it was 3.6 gigs of data streaming over some type of resumabale http stream.  Oh well, I thought, I’ll let it go over night and try it out in the morning.

Continue reading World of Warcraft Patches Require Obscene Amounts of Hard Drive Space