iOS Maps Reconsidered
May 6th, 2013 by ravi

iOS Maps Reconsidered

Scott Forstall had to go. It was owed to Apple users who had to suffer the onslaught of skeumorphism brought on by Forstall, that turned the OS X UI into a riot of over-the-top textures and tortured selection of fonts and colours. But when Forstall refused to sign on to the apology for Apple Maps (in iOS 6) he had a small point.

And that point was that for the majority use cases the new application did a pretty decent job. Stories of stranded motorists in the Australian outback, while true and horrifying, were misrepresented as the general case, to unfavourably compare the new iOS Maps to the latest Google Maps, the latter a product that has undergone years of updates and corrections — many of those corrections coming from users like me.

When Google released their own maps app for iOS, Apple, having shed Forstall from its ranks and bent over backwards in apology, went so far as to recommend it as an alternative to their own product. Media pundits giggled in delight at the opportunity to speculate wildly on the effect of the release of the Google Maps app on the adoption rate of iOS6, before reversing themselves once the data came in.

Today, Apple released a list of the 25 all-time highest downloaded apps, and right at the bottom, at #25 sits Google Maps, many slots below Facebook Messenger and the app that got in first among 500 peers and thus managed to claim the name Flashlight. Google Maps is relatively new, even in comparison to Facebook Messenger, and it is possible that the relationship of download count to a human being or device may be many to one (a device passes hands and someone reinstalls an app but using a different and new Apple ID), which would inflate the download counts of older apps in contrast to new ones. But one thing this does say, in my opinion, is that download counts for free apps do not tell us anything concrete beyond the fact that people like free stuff especially if it might be useful. You might disagree… perhaps you know a user or two that actually uses Facebook Messenger on their iPhone?

iPad Creationism
June 26th, 2012 by ravi

Every now and then someone makes a claim that the iPad is great and all but really not intended for “creation”. Within the hour a host of Apple aficionados respond with incredulity, pointing to various acts of creativity achieved on the iPad. Here is an example from John Gruber in response to Nick Bilton of the New York Times (edited for relevance):

Nick Bilton:

The iPad, for all its glory, suffers from one very distinct flaw: It’s very difficult to use for creation. The keyboard on the screen, although pretty to look at, is abysmal for typing anything over 140 characters. There isn’t a built-in pen for note-taking, either. Of course all of this is intentional by Apple. Although there are hundreds of third party products available, Apple doesn’t seem to want the iPad to be a creator, but more of a consumer.

Bilton is smarter than this. I really thought we’d retired the whole “iPad is only for consumption” thing.

The idea that a dedicated hardware keyboard or a stylus is necessary for creation is ludicrous. […] I’ve seen people who type faster on an iPad than I type on a hardware keyboard. Watch a teenager type on an iPad.

Arguing that the iPad is only for consumption today is like arguing that the Macintosh was a toy back in the ’80s.

In the above, Gruber links to a post by Dan Frommer titled “10 Ways People Are Using The iPad to Create Content, Not Just Consume it”. He then follows up with a post pointing to Patrick Rhone who has written an “entire draft manuscript” of a book using software on the iPad.

So, who is right?

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Open vs Free, the Android vs iPhone edition
April 2nd, 2012 by ravi

Over on GigaOm, Tom Krazit spins an old argument as a new one by characterising as silly the many recent blog posts on how little money Google makes on Android, in fact much lesser than what it makes on iOS (I have made such posts myself). Look beyond the dollars, he says, as if that’s a fresh and non-obvious point:

Not all investments are made with the expectation that a big payoff is around the corner. Google’s decision to bankroll the development of Android was just such an investment, which makes the past week’s back and forth over just how much money Google has garnered from that investment quite silly.

[...]

The mistake is assuming that Google views this as a big problem, as if Android has been a waste of money because Google makes more money from its competitor. Would Google like to make more revenue from Android? Sure. Money is nice. But Android was a defensive move on Google’s part, and one that wasn’t primarily motivated by desire for revenue or profit.

The mistake in Krazit’s own thesis is that he sees discussion of Google’s revenue as an independent and sole criticism of what Google is doing with Android. That is not the case. The fact that Google does not derive profit from Android but gives it away for free to handset makers and telcos (not users, less than 2% of whom can upgrade to the latest version of Android released many months ago) is part of a larger argument or analysis of the nature of Android vs iOS. Since Krazit wants to rehash these points as if new, I will repeat my criticism which is a bit different from that of famous iOS defenders like John Gruber.
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Google and Apple
March 29th, 2012 by ravi

There was a time when Google and Apple were sitting on the forbidden tree… or something like that. Google CEO Eric Schmidt appeared on stage at Apple events and sat behind the scene on Apple’s board. Together they drove Microsoft out of our lives. Then Google decided to enter the mobile OS market out of fear of losing access to mobile phone users. And what better way to challenge Apple’s iPhone and its alliance with AT&T than to offer up the Google mobile OS Android for free to Verizon (and other telcos including AT&T)? This Google defined as “open”. Predictably Android provoked the ire of Steve Jobs who took to the company town hall to decry the terrible evil that had been done. The relationship turned sour and today the two giants are slinging lawyers at each other through intermediaries and proxies (heck, Google went out and bought an entire company, Motorola — a small step for Google but a giant leap for the science of lawyering up — while Apple coupled up with friends like Microsoft to buy patents from the defunct Nortel and others).

Building the Google-telco-user relationship around the free Android OS has led to a high level of fragmentation, lack of access to new features/updates for users (less than 2% of Android devices run the latest version of Android) and strangest of all: Microsoft makes more money than Google on Android (thanks to patents) and Google makes more money on iOS than it does on Android (thanks to Apple’s use of Google services).

There was another way this could have played out. As John Gruber writes today, “Google made a mistake by deciding to oppose rather than ally with Apple on mobile”. This is all the more the case given their complementary strengths and weaknesses. Google’s good at big data and infrastructure and poor at user experience. Apple’s infrastructure capabilities are only now being tested (iCloud) but they continue to write the book on user experience. Google it appears is unwilling to yield the user to others, lest it be cut out of the loop at a later date. It is not an illegitimate concern from a business perspective. From a user perspective, however, the rivalry is a net loss. Oh well.

The bizarre world of Android
December 12th, 2011 by ravi

We already knew that Microsoft makes more from Android than it does from Windows Phone 7:

Microsoft gets $5 for every HTC phone running Android, according to Citi analyst Walter Pritchard, who released a big report on Microsoft this morning.

It also turns out that Google makes more off iOS than it does on Android:

As part of the Senate Judiciary hearings today, former FTC official (and new Google employee) Susan Creighton, testified under oath today that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! all bid to become the default search engine on iOS’s Mobile Safari Web Browser. [...]

[A]s part of the testimony, Creighton said briefly (before she was cut off) that 2/3rds of mobile search comes from Apple iOS devices.

Such is the bizarro world of product development funded by legacy monopoly money (Windows) and advertising (Google).

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