Mobile Links for week of November 25-30 2012

Android shopping traffic lags behind iOS, despite the larger number of devices. GigaOm asks why:
Why are Android users less engaged than iOS users?

Nice detailed graphs and links to several good stories on the topic. I do take issue slightly with the idea that “willingness to buy stuff == engagement”; everyone buys devices for different reasons. But if you are writing shopping apps or marketing your business on mobile devices, it’s important to understand the different types of users and the strategies that work best on each platform.

IDC: Developer Disinterest Could Kill RIM & Windows Phone Ya think? Out of all of the companies I’ve interviewed lately, only a couple are planning to put their apps on Windows Phone, and nobody is planning to support BlackBerry.

11 Apple iPads per hour vs. zero Microsoft Surface tablets Schadenfreude aside*, this is a significant indicator about what a misstep it has been for Microsoft to sidestep its OEMs.  They don’t have nearly the distribution network they need to go it alone.   Also, Surface exemplifies how badly MS has misread the tablet trend; it’s not about the hardware, its about reducing the computing experience to something that is quick and pleasurable.  Shoehorning desktop Windows onto a tablet barely capable of running it fails both tests.

*Actually, I’m not enjoying this at all,  I’m a Microsoft shareholder, and my investment has seen no growth, while my Apple stock has gone through the roof.  Steve Ballmer has got to go.

In BII MOBILE INSIGHTS: Mobile Technology May Define The Future Of Healthcare, PriceWaterhouse Coopers presents a video talking about how mobile is influencing healthcare.      The other links/reports on this page are pretty good, too.

WWDC 2012 Sell-Out – sign of platform health, or symptom of bigger issues?

It’s very disappointing that the WWDC announcement occurred the way it did. So far, my developer’s account still hasn’t even received an official announcement from Apple, and being on the West Coast, the conference was sold out before I woke up.

This is more of a problem for Apple than just a few disappointed developers in California, though. Lack of reliable information about iOS slows the adoption of new features, and the biggest value of WWDC is the hands-on labs. While user uptake of 5.0 is very high (over 80% of the install base), developers need time and information to absorb new features. The iOS announcements at WWDC are also largely under NDA, leaving developers no way to share information until the official release.

The model of holding one conference close to Cupertino and driving 1000 engineers to Moscone for a week is not sufficiently scalable for today’s developer demand. In the past, Apple has done some road shows where they send people to major cities to talk up their new technologies, but even that is an unreasonable amount of scarcity. The development forums and Apple’s current paid support structure are very hard to search and navigate, and the forums are very light on things like submission policies, acceptance, etc. The large media company I’m currently working for has dedicated Developer Relations support, and even they have issues getting answers; you can imagine what it’s like for smaller developers who don’t.

I think it’s high time for Apple to build and staff permanent dedicated Developer Relations Centers in key cities. These should be staffed with working software engineers (not just evangelists) who can provide detailed help with tools, libraries, and policies, and escalate tougher problems to Cupertino. These places could also be a great focal point for training classes and other services to developers.

Another way they could mitigate the information gap might be to provide developer services at key Apple Stores, with features like a regular schedule of talks, a showcase of apps developed by local developers, and a Developer’s Genius Bar to help navigate questions about the HIGs, content standards, and other policies. More importantly, it gives Apple a much better way to listen to the community and prioritize new features and policies. This is a very low-cost and low-risk way for Apple to do developer outreach.

Think Alike

Apparently apple has already patented one of the things on my personal wish list for the iPad: a conductive stylus that transmits pressure and or tilt information. This type of a pen would basically turn the iPad into something like a Wacom Cintiq, at a fraction of the cost and with far better portability.

Up to now, drawing on the iPad has basically been fingerpainting, though several of the drawing apps have taken some novel approaches. Sketch Club, for example, can use your drawing velocity to control the line. Though there are styluses which you can use with the iPad now, none can support pressure or tilt sensitivity. Because of the way the iPad handles touch events and gestures, this has to be directly supported in iOS. While many of the drawing programs for the iPad are already pretty good, pressure sensitivity is a must for any serious professional drawing program, especially those that mimic traditional art materials such as charcoal.

This article goes into a lot more detail about their approach. This particular approach requires a special pen with a conductive disk tip that can trigger the touch panel sensors more effectively.

It’s the little things

Attention to detail is very important in the user experience for mobile apps. Here’s an example (courtesy of Daring Fireball) from the iOS email program. It’s a small thing, but these behaviors add up to a very polished whole.

This blog, ‘The Invisible’ is brand new, with just two postings, but is a very promising look into the little details which drive the fit and finish of user interfaces. The first entry, about tab closing in Google Chrome, is also very enlightening.

Mystery “magic trackpad” could signal something big

Apple has gotten a Bluetooth trackpad approved by the FCC. So, what would you possibly do with this? You don’t need it for one of their laptops, they already have a trackpad. Potentially you could use it with an iMac or Mac Pro, but why bother with Bluetooth?

I’m picturing this as a remote for an iOS-based Apple TV, or an HD version of the iPod Touch that has a TV cable. Either combination would let you run iOS apps on a TV and control them from your couch.

All the rumors about a new AppleTV with limited storage based on iOS sound more and more like an iPod Touch with an AppleTV app. It actually makes some sense — you could buy or rent the movies you want, put them on this device, and actually take your movies over to a friend’s house to watch on their TV by plugging in an adapter cable. A 16GB iPod Touch could hold 4 or 5 feature films in about a third the space of a Blu-Ray movie box, and of course the chips are out there for higher capacity. Even better, the WiFi connection could let you serve streamed content as well, like the tons of podcasts and YouTube already available, or cloud-based iTunes video. It’s not a stretch to think of an iPod Touch HD that could play full 1080p over HDMI.

This Apple TV app could just run on an iPod, iPad, or iPhone, too. You just bring the remote and the adapter cable for your friend’s TV, and it’s Movie Night.

Now all Apple needs to do is get content owners to get real about TV and movie pricing on iTunes, and they could have a real business instead of a hobby. The technology for these and even cooler services is not the challenge, it’s getting content owners to agree to reasonable terms for the selling of content that is still often available for free on broadcast TV, or can be rented for $1 from RedBox.

Mobile links for March 11, 2010

On Android, Myspace is the number one social networking app. Seems that the facebook client on Android doesn’t measure up to the slickness of their Blackberry and iPhone versions.

Apparently 80 million Farmville users is not enough.Facebook games head Gareth Davis thinks that the ‘Mario’ of social gaming is still out there waiting to be discovered.

Uh-oh. More App Store approval drama. Really, though, there’s a lot of shovelware on the App Store, and asking developers to at least tryisn’t so heinous. Templated apps aren’t all bad, but if you are going to just hook up some RSS feeds, why not just use Dashcode to make a web app and avoid Apple’s approval process entirely?

The wi-fi only iPad may be a back door to drive sales of MiFi devices at Verizon and Sprint. So far prices aren’t so hot, compared to AT&T’s new no-contract plan; even though the wi-fi iPad is $130 cheaper, these plans more than make up the difference, and all require contracts.

You’re doing it wrong. I can see AT&T hedging their bets by offering an Android phone, but removing Google search and locking the phone down pretty much misses the point, doesn’t it? Even Verizon got this one right by letting their Android phones be.

We know Android is going to be significant, but when? Android’s growth is still building, doubling over the last quarter. Is it inevitable, or will there be a ceiling, as fragmentation and carrier interference (see above) take the luster off of the open-source OS?