Category Archives: Apple

“My Days of Developing for the iPhone Are Probably Done”

Link: Even Google Is Blocked With Apps for iPhone

The rejections of apps by Apple could dim the halo that has encircled the iPhone since it first became a lucrative platform for outside developers. The lengthy and opaque approval process required to get anything into the App Store has long been a source of frustration for iPhone developers and users alike.

Sean Kovacs, a 25-year-old programmer in Tampa, Fla., created GV Mobile, one of the Google Voice applications that was removed from the App Store. He said he was creating versions for the Palm Pre and other iPhone competitors instead. “My days of developing for the iPhone are probably done,” he said.

The iPhone is Not a Platform

A post on the NY Times’ “Bits” blog describes the trevails of a developer who went to the trouble to build an iPhone podcasting application only to have the application rejected because it duplicates functionality found in iTunes (which is to say, the developer’s product is competitive with Apple’s own software).

This violates our first rule of platforms (“A ‘proprietary platform’ isn’t a platform”). Put another way, if you have to ask permission to develop a piece of software on a platform, that platform isn’t open — it isn’t even a platform (it’s a walled garden or a collection of integration points). If you attempt to build a business on such a product, you run the risk that the company that owns the product can destroy your business at any time, for essentially any reason. You are, in essence, a sharecropper.

The amount of revenue that Apple will lose from a third-party podcasting application is zero. The number of developers who will think twice about developing for the iPhone because of these capricious policies is almost certainly more significant.

Update: It’ll be interesting to see if Apple relaxes their rules in response to today’s release of the Android Market, the open application store for the new Android phone.

Fake Steve Twittering Real Steve

This is not to be missed: Fake Steve Jobs attended today’s MacWorld keynote and live-Twittered it. It’s vulgar and hilarious.

I think that Dave was one of the twelve people who bought an Apple TV before they made it work right and lowered the price; it’ll be interesting to see what his upgrade experience is like.

Not excited about the MacBook Air, even if it is impossibly thin, etc. I don’t need a smaller screen and a smaller hard drive, I need a bigger hard drive, 3G wireless everywhere for a fixed rate of $20 a month, and more battery life. And more memory. And a pony.

Paying $20 apiece to equip our two iPod Touch devices with software that should have been there in the first place will make me feel like a choad, but I’ll probably do it at some point, maybe.

A movie rental that expires after 24 hours is still a stupid idea, particularly for people whose kids constantly screw up their plans. Extending the intentional bit-rot factor, even slightly (like to 27 hours) would be a big help. But even then, this feels like the flip side of the Blockbuster coin that consumers have been rejecting in droves in favor of the Netflix model. Instead of dinging you with endless late fees they simply disappear the movie you paid for. Dumb model.

A wireless terabyte network attached storage device for $500 is kind of interesting.

Still, nothing to make me leap out of my chair and run to the Apple store this year. (A 3G iPhone, maybe with more storage, might have done that this time around, and I will probably want to replace my mid-2006 MacBook Pro before the end of 2008, but there’s no rush on that.)

iPod Touch: Development Environment for the iPhone

When the iPhone was first announced, Apple was silent on the question of how developers would be able to develop applications for it. As the iPhone shipped, the developer story became slightly clearer: the iPhone has a Webkit browser, so you can write to that and everything should be OK.

Except when it’s not, like when the user flips the iPhone sideways (changing the screen resolution), or zooms in on the page. There’s no easy and accurate way to simulate this stuff on a PC — Safari can’t do the iPhone’s tricks, and iPhoney doesn’t act exactly like the real thing yet. And unlike most mobile devices, there’s no emulator for the iPhone, so until today, if you wanted to develop an iPhone application, developers had no development environment — you had to use an actual iPhone to develop your application.

With today’s announcement of the iPod Touch, the iPhone finally has an economical development environment. This is going to catalyze development of mobile applications that target the iPhone significantly now that the barrier to entry is $299 (versus thousands of dollars for a full-blown iPhone, when you factor in the pretty-much-mandatory two-year AT&T contract). This is the thing that is going to enable college kids (and small business owners like me) to develop mobile Webkit applications.

I spent some time last month helping Etelos to build an iPhone-capable application for attendees of this week’s Office 2.0 conference. Etelos’ platform for building applications like this is really terrific, but not having an iPhone to test it on drove me crazy. (Fortunately all their engineers have iPhones and they were able to take the application across the finish line.)

Because it has wifi and Webkit, the iPod Touch solves my problem 110%. I cannot wait to get my mitts on one. (It’s also going to be nice to use it to watch movies on airplanes, but I’m really looking at this as a business investment, really I am.)

Fever Builds for iPhone (Anxiety Too)

Link: Fever Builds for iPhone (Anxiety Too)

"Certainly there are skeptics. The high price will limit the phones’ appeal to true believers. The cellular network that the iPhone operates on is slower than those of many of its rivals. Several of Apple’s handset competitors hope that its decision not to include a keyboard, relying instead on a touch-screen virtual keyboard, will limit the attractiveness of the iPhone in text-intensive business markets."

Eureka: a not entirely terrible piece on the impending iPhone from the Times’ most capable technology writer, John Markoff. Although you can argue that he buries the lede — he doesn’t get around to mentioning that the hype has far outpaced the as-yet-unreleased device’s capabilities until about halfway through the piece. If he were able to get someone at Apple to admit this (which it seems like he did), you’d think that would be the main thrust of the story, no?

I suppose that no writer ever lost his job for contributing to the Steve Jobs reality distortion field, but it seems fishy to literally refer to the iPhone as "God" at the beginning of your piece and then mentioning ten grafs later that, by the way, the device is going to cost much more and do a little less than other phones on the market today.

Jobs’ Open Letter on DRM

Interesting open letter by Steve Jobs posted over on Apple.com. It’s neat that Steve is coming out so forcefully against DRM since he sells most of it; he lays the blame on record companies, which is sort of like the car dealer blaming the factory for selling you a lemon car. He may not be the prime mover behind iTunes DRM, but his hands are smudged for sure.

Also, this bit struck me as a little off:

"[The big four major labels] control the distribution of over 70% of the
world’s music. When Apple approached these companies to license their
music to distribute legally over the Internet, they were extremely
cautious and required Apple to protect their music from being illegally
copied. The solution was to create a DRM system, which envelopes each
song purchased from the iTunes store in special and secret software so
that it cannot be played on unauthorized devices….

"However, a key provision of our agreements with the music companies is
that if our DRM system is compromised and their music becomes playable
on unauthorized devices, we have only a small number of weeks to fix
the problem or they can withdraw their entire music catalog from our
iTunes store."

I’m not going to call this statement "disingenuous" but it sure seems fishy to me. Burning DRM music to CD then re-importing it as MP3 (presumably so you can play it on other devices) has been a supported mode of operation for iTunes since the beginning. Why, then, haven’t the music labels lowered the hammer?

It’s almost as if the objective wasn’t to prevent piracy, but instead to cause pain for paying customers. It sure isn’t stopping "music pirates," who presumably have figured out that with five minutes and a CD-RW you can legally unprotect any song ever sold on iTunes. But then there’s this:

"Apple has concluded that if it licenses FairPlay to others, it can no
longer guarantee to protect the music it licenses from the big four
music companies."

That may be true, but since Fairplay is easily and legally circumvented today, keeping Fairplay proprietary seems more than anything like a method of defending an oligopoly (as many, including European regulators, have alleged).

"Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded
in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music
purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is
playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for
consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four
music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement
that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only
DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this
DRM-free music."

This sounds like a far-out utopian vision, but we actually don’t have to imagine. We can just look at eMusic, which competes against iTunes as the #2 online music retailer and just happens to be 100% DRM-free. Of course, there is also the venerable DRM-free CD, as Steve points out next:

"In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by
online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely
DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves. The
music companies sell the vast majority of their music DRM-free, and
show no signs of changing this behavior, since the overwhelming
majority of their revenues depend on selling CDs which must play in CD
players that support no DRM system.

"So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music
DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small
percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to
be none."

This is an excellent point, although the pain-in-the-ass factor associated with ripping a CD is more or less the same as the pain-in-the-ass factor associated burning some DRM music to a CD-RW and ripping it back in some sensible format.

"Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European countries. Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their
energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music
DRM-free."

Which is to say, the Norwegians are going to outlaw your product if you don’t fix it. This is the money shot of Steve’s piece. He’s not talking to his customers — he’s not even talking to record companies (who have undoubtedly heard this message from him and every other seller of DRM-disabled music for years now). Jobs is really talking to European regulators.

I wonder if they actually give a hoot?

Update: Tonight’s NY Times story on this has a hilarious quote from an unnamed music industry executive who says "we’re not going to broadly license our content for unprotected digital distribution." Hello! Ninety percent of the music you sell is licensed for unprotected digital distribution, in the form of compact discs. Which is a fact that Jobs actually pointed out in his letter today. Jeez.

It’s Not Done Until iTunes Won’t Run

Link: Apple: ITunes Users Should Wait on Vista

Apple Inc. is urging some iPod and iTunes users to hold off on upgrading computers to Windows Vista, warning that the iTunes music software may not work well with the new operating system from rival Microsoft Corp.

Apple said iTunes may work with many Vista computers, but the company knows of some compatibility problems and recommends that users wait until it resolves the issues with an iTunes update in the next few weeks.

Update: Apple has posted a tech note on the Vista/iTunes incompatibility.

iPhone, the Morning After

Link: The Five Biggest Issues with iPhone.

Is Apple serious that it won’t let third-party developers build software for the thing? If so, and put simply, the device will fail. A closed-box consumer electronics mentality will work in music players, but the future of mobile devices is as a platform, and that requires developers.

Paul Kedrosky nails some of the concerns I had while taking in the live blogging of the MacWorld keynote yesterday. Making the phone into a platform is the big one for me (it’s why I paid the big bucks for a Treo 700w). Based on my experience as a Cingular customer in years past, I suspect that Apple may regret making those guys the exclusive carrier partner for this product. Here’s what would get me to pay $600 for a new phone:

  • Make the phone hackable (by the masses, not just blessed partners) in a productive, well-supported programming language. For me that probably means C#, but I could resort to Python if necessary).
  • Encourage the use of the phone as a wireless modem. An Apple phone should be supported as a Macintosh (or PC) peripheral. I was stunned that this use case hasn’t been mentioned anywhere yet — to me, it’s such an obvious synergy for Apple. If they’re really looking to get 1% of the mobile market by getting people to spend $600 with a two-year commitment to the vile Cingular, this is how they would do it.
  • Bag the single-carrier partnership and open the device to any carrier. Support EVDO so you don’t have to wait hours for pages to load on the shiny new web browser.

Missing Sync adds Windows Mobile 5 support

Link: Macworld: News: Missing Sync adds Windows Mobile 5 support.

Mark/Space on Tuesday announced the release of The Missing Sync for Windows Mobile v2.5. The new version is a free upgrade for users of 2.0, The Missing Sync for Windows Mobile 2.5 costs $39.95.

I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. I haven’t tried this out yet, but this actually looks better than the despised ActiveSync for Windows.

Before I plunk down 40 clams for this, I’d be interested to know about peoples’ experience using Missing Sync to sync up a Mac with a Palm 700w.

Update: I held my breath and bought Missing Sync sight unseen and after some struggling and a hard reset of my phone, got it working. (I blame this on the phone, not on Missing Sync, it had been overdue for a brainwipe for a while.) Also, I am here to say that syncing via Bluetooth is the bomb once you get it working.

Update: After struggling with it I bagged the Bluetooth sync and changed to USB sync. I was able to get Bluetooth sync working once or twice but there was way too much fiddling around and a few times it didn’t work at all. Sending the bits over a wire seems to work better.

Max out your MacBook Pro’s RAM

This is a general recommendation for any laptop, not just my beloved MacBook Pro: max out your memory. Buy as much as you can jam in there, and install it. Don’t delay. There’s no reason to suffer with slow task-switching, etc. I do this with every laptop I use and I’m always absurdly happy after I do the upgrade.

The RAM slam is particularly dicey if you’re also running Windows on OS X using Parallels Desktop. I’ve run Parallels in 1GB of RAM and I can say that 2GB makes a huge difference — the extra RAM means you can switch back and forth between Parallels and OS X in less than a second instead of like 10 to 20 seconds with 1 gig of RAM. (I should say that other than memory consumption I am totally loving Parallels; just for chuckles I installed Ubuntu on my Mac in addition to Windows Server 2003 and it’s all working quite well.)

Now, that said, it nearly never makes sense to buy laptop RAM from the actual laptop manufacturer, since they kill you on the markup. Buy it from a reputable aftermarket retailer like Crucial, or from a brick-and-mortar retailer who knows what they’re talking about. (If you walk in and tell them what kind of laptop you have and they can’t tell you what kind of RAM it takes, they don’t know what they’re talking about.) I popped by Fry’s Electronics in Palo Alto today and bought the memory I needed for a smidge less than the prices I found online, hooray.

One other thing. I couldn’t figure out how to determine what the factory memory configuration on my 15.4" MacBook Pro was without opening the case. This caused me to buy two RAM chips instead of the one I needed, since the default configuration Apple used on my machine is a single 1GB chip in the first slot and nothing in the second slot. This made me ecstatic since it made the upgrade much easier, but now I gotta go back to Fry’s and return the extra 1GB chip I mistakenly bought.

Update: Well of course there is a way to view your memory configuration without opening the case, duh.