Cutting out the metaphors

Kamangar claims putting traditional TV shows on YouTube would be analogous to putting radio on television, taking a “one-way experience and putting it on a platform that goes two ways.”

Exactly. Kamangar really brings out a real problem in today’s applications. It’s the same as one of the main problems I have with Apple’s textbook program as well. Just throwing in animations and audio doesn’t make education better; completely missing the point. Stop repeating the past when the internet and all these devices can do so much more than their current counterparts. It’s time to take advantage of the technology we have at hand. Cut out the “real-life” metaphors. Don’t “reinvent” and “tweak” – create something new and powerful.

Why I’m Excited About Windows 8

The computing world is fragmented. It’s been fragmented for an incredibly long time, and there’s almost nothing we can do about it. It’s a consequence of competition and demand. But recently, about three years ago, we’ve been faced with even a bigger problem. Up till now there was fragmentation on the PC level. Windows had the overwhelmingly large market share so it was hard to see, but anyone with an Apple PC could feel it on a daily basis. But now, not only does this fragmented PC market still exist, but each form factor seems to be getting it’s own operating system as well. PCs, tablets, and smartphones each live in their own world with their own apps. Sure, Android is trying to solve this with “fragments”, but the fact remains that there’s just too much going on for the average consumer to keep up. That’s where Windows 8 comes in. I know – an Android fan excited about Windows 8 tablets? Let me explain. Read more

Apple’s Flawless Design

I’m no design guru, but I know ugly design when I see it. For a company that spends so much money on interface design, you’d think they’d be able to pull off something better than this. Maybe the designer was trying to create a page reminiscent of those lovely Goecities sites from the 90s?

What Google shouldn’t do

It’s time for Google to try something radically different: Close Android. License it—you know, sell it in exchange for money!—to phone makers. [...] The bigger opportunity is for Google to use Motorola to create an iPhone of its own—a phone that everyone wants, that offers premium features at a reasonable price, and that can be sold at a steep profit. [...] In the phone business, the real money is in Apple’s model, in building and selling your own phones. Copy it.

I honestly can’t tell if this was a joke or not. I thought PandoDaily was supposed to have intelligent writers. First off – license Android? Seriously? Does Farhad know open source technology at all? Or is he just like his blogging buddy MG Siegler and is completely clueless about it? And secondly, create their own iPhone? As in a device that Google controls? I wonder if he’s ever heard of the Nexus series.

Android doesn’t need saving. In fact, last I heard it was doing quite fine as an open source operating system; better than iOS, Windows Mobile & Phone, and BBOS. On top of that, while Apple continues to make a closed, tyrannical ecosystem that only allows innovation as long as they accept it, Google is creating software that allows innovation on every single level – hardware, OS, applications, extensions, and so on. Clearly Farhad misses the point and thinks that there’s only one way to do something right, and that’s Apple’s way. Wrong again.

Funny thing is that while Apple may have amazing numbers, they’ve begun a rough track of starting to copy Android, webOS, and Windows Phone. You can watch the last WWDC keynote and the last Google I/O Android keynote and see that one company is still innovating a hell of a lot more than the other. And it’s been said again and again by recognized, unbiased bloggers that the Galaxy Nexus – the Google phone – is better than the iPhone 4S.

Sorry, Farhad, but Google doesn’t need your help to “save” Android. I think they’re doing just fine.

Facebook IPO will be how much?!

Facebook will reportedly be part of one of the biggest Wall Street IPOs in history, as the company is reportedly filing paperwork as early as next Wednesday to go public. Facebook will reportedly be valued somewhere between $75 billion to $100 billion.

No, you didn’t read that wrong.

Google for answers, not links

“we’re trying to move from answers that are link-based to answers that are algorithmically based, where we can actually compute the right answer.”

We’re seeing this more and more on Google. They want to be an answer engine first, search engine second. Searching something like the weather or a math equation gives you the answer straight away so you don’t even need to click on links. In fact, I’ve even noticed that sometimes if I search for a theater, it’ll not only give me the location but also the show times for that day. Really fascinating the direction they’re going with this. Soon, Google’s algorithm won’t need to make you search – it’ll give you the answer. It’ll know when to give you socially curated (Search Plus Your World) answers and when to give you information-based answers. We already have intelligent local-based search; social and resource-based search are right around the corner.

Getting Over Siri

It seems to me that Siri is slowly entering this area of ‘nice to show but not actually useful’. I know a quite few people with an iPhone 4s and I asked around a bit and they all almost regretfully acknowledge that they, in fact, don’t really use it anymore, once you get beyond the newness of it all.

Yeah, most people I’ve asked say the same thing. They basically only use it when someone asks “hey, does that have Siri?” but never otherwise. Why? Well, because to get something right you have to repeat it to Siri 2-3 times. Might as well type it in if it’s going to make you go through all that frustration. But, like I’ve said again and again, it’ll take time and tons of users to improve Siri (hopefully). And I still stand by the fact that Google will probably do a significantly better job of this.

Russell Holly on Google’s “One Product” Goal

Amazing overview and analysis on Google’s new direction. Russell really nails it.

Windows 8 will not have wallpapers

users will not be able to use their own images as the background of the Start Screen. The reason? It might not lead to a high-quality experience. Instead, users will be allowed to pick from packaged options.

Wow. Don’t know how much I like that. I dislike the fact that companies are taking this restrictive route nowadays. Give the user a choice, leave them some warnings, and let them decide what’s best. A little notification that let’s them know that adding their own wallpaper will ruin their experience is all that’s necessary – why get rid of the feature completely?

Goodbye Menu Button

Just the Android team reminding us devs that the menu button will no longer exist in Android 3.x+ devices. I haven’t given my opinions on it, but it seems like a good time to talk about it.

Do I like it? I don’t know – I’m kind of split. I can understand that that too many people were missing out on important options in their apps, but it just seems a bit too inconsistent now. My particular problem with it only exists on phones. See, in tablets the action bar holds all of the buttons deemed “most important” by the developer along the action bar; if there’s anything else, there’s an overflow menu for the user on the top right. Simple, straightforward, and consistent. But this consistency kind of falls apart on phones.

On phones, the action bar can end up in one of two places. If there’s only one or two buttons then it’ll just sit on the top. However, if there’s too many options, the action bar continues along the bottom of the screen and the overflow menu will exist at the bottom right. Here’s the problem – if the developer decides that he/she wants only one “important” button and the rest in an overflow menu, then it sits on  the top right. That’s right – there’s two different places to look for options. I won’t bother talking about deprecated apps in which the menu sits with the onscreen main buttons because those will eventually fade out. My problem is that in every app I have to literally look for the menu rather than having a static button that I know the location of.

This inconsistency frustrated me when I used iOS as well; the settings were all over the place and unfortunately this mess has reached Android as well. I guess I’ll just have to get used to it.

The One Product Goal

Google just updated their privacy policy to create one single document for all of their products. This is a big step towards their goal to create a single product with multiple tools. But as integration continues, I’m interested to see what new sub-products come out of it. Either way, Google, as a single product, is getting better for the user day by day.

Ubuntu to remove menus for the HUD

It’s a way for you to express your intent and have the application respond appropriately. We think of it as “beyond interface”, it’s the “intenterface”.  This concept of “intent-driven interface” has been a primary theme of our work in the Unity shell, with dash search as a first class experience pioneered in Unity. Now we are bringing the same vision to the application, in a way which is completely compatible with existing applications and menus.

Interesting. I’ve never been too excited about Unity, but this could be something really good. I’m interested in trying out this new paradigm; it’ll definitely get rid of the multiple layers of complexity menus add. I wonder, however, how this plays into their tablet, phone, and TV strategy considering you want to avoid typing as much as possible on these devices. Maybe this is their step towards voice-enabled actions? Only time will tell, I guess. Demo video in the link too, so definitely check it out.

Apple’s Amazing Q1

I’m sure you’ve seen it everywhere, but…wow. I may rip on them very often but Apple has undeniably taken the world by storm. They were once the “other” company and have now grown into “the” company. I truly do hope that they continue with this success under the leadership of Tim Cook.

RIM’s Co-CEOs Step Down

I don’t have many comments, but this is definitely a historical moment in the tech industry. The company that, more or less, created the smartphone is now taking a detour with brand new leadership. Now the question is – will this detour end in a fork, merge, or an exit? Only time will tell.

Summify Acquired by Twitter

So what does it mean? It could mean that Twitter is set to release a Twitter news aggregation service where you get all the news shared by your followers in an easy-to-read list. Then again, they might take the Tweetdeck route again and not really do anything. I just find it kind of weird that they’re acquiring some of the best third-parties or re-creating third-party services in-house when when it’s those third-parties that are pushing the ecosystem.

Goodbye, Bing Maps

Looks like the Microsoft-Nokia (or Microkia as some like to call it) relationship just took the next step. Soon, any service using Bing Maps will bear the Nokia name; that includes any Windows Phone – Nokia or not. This will definitely push Nokia further into the North American market they’ve wanted back for so long. Well played, Mr. Elop. Well played, indeed.

Questioning the Apple Education Program

Harry McCracken of Technologizer had a few concerning questions about Apple’s education announcement today. I had these same questions and more. One in particular question that stands out is this one:

Is it an issue that these textbooks are iPad-only?

Of course it is. Books should be as fluid as the internet. Locking education into an ecosystem is wrong in every sense. Funny how Apple talks about supporting open technologies and makes broken promises about making open standards and still continues to create closed technologies. Especially ones that have the future of education in mind. In particular, books concerning education should be available on any and every platform of choice, whether it’s iOS, Windows, Android, or the wide-open internet. I shouldn’t have to force myself to use a certain kind of device for school. That’s not revolutionary; that’s sneaky.

I think I prefer Amazon’s HTML5 standard much more than this.

“All-Day” Battries

Phil Nickinson of Android Central:

Packingham said “When you wake up to when you go to bed, we don’t want you feeling anxiety about your battery life.” The transition to the quote says Samsung’s goal for smartphones coming out this year is all-day use under average to moderately heavy use. [...] Samsung’s working on better battery life in 2012. So is Motorola. So is HTC. So is LG. So is Lenovo. So is ASUS. So is Toshiba. So is NVIDIA. So is Qualcomm. So is Intel. Everybody is working on better battery life, every day of the week. Right [now] we just have to be content with baby steps.

Nails it. Couldn’t have said it better myself. If this wasn’t their goal up till now, that’s a serious problem.

Amazon is about to announce a Google Site Search competitor?

Wow, now this is news. Apparently Amazon’s ready to compete in another market, and that’s site search. With Microsoft is aiming at Google with Bing web search and Amazon targeting Google’s site search product, it looks like Google has very little room to breathe. Although this is great for users, it puts Google in a position where they have be really careful about their next move, something they’ve never had to worry about with search.

The Woz on Siri

 “I have a lower success rate with Siri than I do with the voice built into the Android, and that bothers me,” Woz says. “I’ll be saying, over and over again in my car, ‘Call the Lark Creek Steak House,’ and I can’t get it done. Then I pick up my Android, say the same thing, and it’s done. Plus I get navigation. Android is way ahead on that.”

Exactly. I’ve tried Siri a few times and was left seriously underwhelmed. With all the hype it’s gotten, it’s really, really disappointing. That being said, NLP is something that needs time and massive amounts of different user interaction to perfect; in other words – the more people that use Siri, the better Siri gets. I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is marketing that it works perfectly. And I still stand by my opinion that Google is going to do this significantly better in the near future.

I’d like to end with another quote from Mr. Wozniak:

“I love the beauty of [the iPhone]. But I wish it did all the things my Android does, I really do.”

So what’ll be? Pretty or powerful? I think I’ll stick with the latter; after all, it’s power that gets the work done.

“Managing” vs “Using”

Interesting review of the Samsung Galaxy S2 by Charlie Kindel of Microsoft. I like reading opinions from people who understand another operating system really well because it makes you think about what can be improved in the OS you know and love. After reading the review there’s is one part I want to discuss:

People who enjoy “managing” their phone might enjoy “managing” their Android smartphone. Those folks will probably forget how much fun “managing” a smartphone was after they’ve used Windows Phone for a while. Instead they’ll see how much fun it is to “use” a smartphone.

“Managing” my phone, you say? On the contrary, I “use” my phone plenty, but the reason I can’t switch out of Android isn’t because I enjoy “managing” my phone. There’s a big mistake he’s making here. He’s assuming that I, as an Android user, “manage” my phone simply because I enjoy messing around with it. Now although there might be truth with the fact that I enjoy it, there’s actually a much bigger reason: productivity.

I can organize my device with widgets, icons, folders, extensions, plugins and all to make my life simpler. Like I said in this Google+ post, widgets make my morning update a 5-swipe incident. Within these 5 swipes, I get a gist of what the rest of my morning is going to look like. And how did I “manage” to do that? I got a few apps, stuck widgets in places that I felt made my life easier, and got on with it. I also have a few extensions that make my life easier, but I don’t want to get too deep into this. I just want to say this - ”managing” my phone doesn’t mean I don’t “use” it. It means I use it to my liking. And my liking isn’t a sea of icons or a list of tiles. It’s seeing my calendar, email inboxes, and news at a glance straight out of unlock.

He made quite a few other points that I disagree with, but honestly – most of it is just opinion. This particular shot at the user base was all I really felt like pointing out. I think it’s more about getting very used to a particular OS and seeing something drastically different in nature.

P.S. Does the Galaxy S2 seriously ship with a task manager? Sorry, but that’s so Eclair.

Samsung’s Smart Window

Samsung’s Smart Window is obviously one of the best things we were introduced to during CES 2012, but this could be the start of a lot of other cool projects. The fact that it also uses solar power is mind-blowing. If this pulls off to be a consumer-friendly price, we could soon have things like mirrors with interactive displays. And considering you can’t see anything that’s happening on the alternate side, two-sided touch screen boards? Or how about stores use these as windows for promotions without using any paper? So much potential in this.

And all Gruber could comment on was a “similar” widget. Really? Always complaining that Samsung doesn’t innovate, and when they come up with an innovative idea, knock them on one, tiny part of it that apparently looks like Apple design. Sheesh.

Bada & Tizen, sitting in a (source) tree?

Now here’s an interesting turn of events. Samsung plans on merging their low-end Bada operating system with Tizen, the OS project rooted from Samsung Linux Platform and the dead MeeGo project (which was rooted from the dead Moblin & Maemo projects). Yeah, Tizen definitely has a long-winded (failing) history to it. According to the article:

 it appears the open source OS will figure in the lower portion of the company’s portfolio. The true high end will remain dedicated to Android and Windows Phone for the foreseeable future.

Wait. That doesn’t make much sense. Yes, Bada was originally an OS created by Samsung for their low-end smartphones, while they used Android and Windows Phone as their high-end operating sytems. That all falls in line with that statement. However, Tizen is not meant to be a low-end platform; Tizen, and it’s predecessor Meego, was always meant to compete with Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

Is Samsung starting to place bets on any high-end OS they can? Although Google and Motorola promise a “no hands-on” acquisition, Samsung must still be nervous about it, regardless of what you and I think ,and what Google means to do with the hardware company. And with Microsoft playing closely with Nokia, clearly Samsung knows it’s second fiddle, at least at the moment. Maybe Samsung just wants to be a sure power-player in one OS in case things begin to fall through and they need a plan B…or C in this case.

Design for Android on Android

It’s about three years late, but Google has finally released design guidelines for Android. This particular page on “Pure Android” that was pointed out to me by my Plus-buddy, David Shellabarger, discusses the differences between Android, iOS, and Windows Phone design. This is the line that made me want to share this:

As you build your app for Android, don’t carry over themed UI elements from other platforms and don’t mimic their specific behaviors.

There are way too many developers that don’t follow this rule. Design for Android on Android, for iOS on iOS, and so on and so forth. Emulation only brings bad UX for your application. Imagine if a software designer decided it would be a good idea to put their window controls on the left for a Windows application. Not fun, right? Exactly.

Carriers & Stock Android

“Verizon and AT&T don’t want seven stock ICS devices on their shelves,”

Yeah, yeah differentiation and whatnot. I get it, and that’s fine. But how about giving us a choice to turn off your “differentiation” so if we want stock Android, we actually have a choice? Kind of like what Asus is doing with the PadFone[YT]; it would be nice to see something like that on all “differentiated” Android devices.

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by anuj ahooja

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