Re: TheDigitalLifestyle.tv: Why buy .Mac these days?

TheDigitalLifestyle.tv: Why buy .Mac these days?: "Sync & Backup: These two features almost don’t deserve any attention. Backup has been replaced by Time Machine or just an external HD. Sync is not worth any part of the $99 price tag and thus deserves none of our attention or yours."

(Via TheDigitalLifestyle.tv.)

That's funny. I find the sync features the most compelling reason to purchase the .mac service. I agree that most of the other basic services of .mac can be easily replicated with free offers from various suppliers. But I disagree vehemently that the sync proposition has no value. As mentioned, I think that it has little value for those who currently only own one mac, but if you have multiple machines or use multiple user accounts, it's irreplaceable.

If my suspicions are correct, then the .mac service will soon have even more value for those people with a Mac and an iPhone, offering over the wire syncing and cutting iTunes out of the loop (except for music and video I would guess). 


iPhone localization and the missing keyboard

I'm following the discussion around the upcoming 2.0 release of the iPhone, combined with the anticipated hardware refresh that will undoubtedly bring 3G to the plate and have noticed that the missing keyboard meme has come back around. I think that (as usual) Gruber covers the major points nicely, but there are a couple of additional things I'd like to address.

The first one has to do with localization. I live in France and communicate in both English and French on a regular basis with my iPhone. I used to have a Blackberry and liked the well integrated email and calendar support although very efficient for email, the calendar left some room for improvement. My major beef is that when you sell an item with a hardware keyboard into a localized market you make a pile of assumptions. Most notably that the user will only ever need to write in the local language. I realize that I'm a bit of a niche market, but I suspect that the higher up the chain you live in Europe the higher the likelihood that you converse in multiple languages and the higher the likelihood that you use a smartphone.

I found the Blackberry keyboard to be pretty nice, although I was coming off a Treo 650 keyboard so the subtle differences kept tripping me up for the first couple of weeks. My major issue was the moment that I needed to start writing in English. The Blackberry would helpfully try to correct my text as if I was writing in French. This brought about much use of colorful language (often not found in the Blackberry dictionary either). I lost count of how many messages I sent with the word "thé"* in place of "the".

On the iPhone you can make multiple keyboards available under Settings > General > International > Keyboards. If you have selected multiple keyboards, an additional key that looks like a globe will appear to the left of the spacebar and tapping it toggles between selected keyboards. With the toggle also comes a change of dictionary for the auto-correction features. For some reason that I don't yet understand, I find that switching between soft keyboard layouts relatively easy whereas switching physical keyboards induces a lot of errors while going through the adjustment/training period. I currently switch multiple times/day between the different layouts depending on the context and have discovered that the one finger tap approach can adjust on the fly once you've mastered the basic technique.

The biggest hurdle of a Treo or Blackberry user has in mastering the iPhone is that you don't keep your fingers in constant contact with the keyboard and use a slide-pressure-slide-pressure technique to typing. You have to get your finger into and out of the detection field. This is where I see Blackberry habitués getting frustrated.

The second point has to do with haptic feedback. I think that there is some really interesting work being done in this space that will change the feeling of using a virtual keyboard. Interestingly, when you google "haptic feedback keyboard" almost all of the links come back with stuff regarding iPhone prototypes (plus a couple for Nokia). Personally, I think that Apple is pursuing this kind of thing more for the gaming applications than for additional ammo to sway current Blackberry users, but hey "two birds, one stone" never hurt.

* French for tea.


Why Dell will not bounce back

Why Dell will not bounce back: "Bottom line is this: the only innovations worth making are the ones involving product ideas and product design. I mean, Duh. Right? It's pretty obvious. What's amazing to me is how few companies actually seem to realize it. To sustain an edge in any market you must make better products than your competitors, consistently, over and over and over again. Just making the same products as everyone else but taking a little friction out of the system can give you an advantage, but only a temporary one."

(Via The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.)

Bingo. And combined with the current move to virtualisation, I think that all the major PC and Server builders out there are in for a very rough ride in the next 5-10 years. As others have mentioned, the current commodity PC is a race to the bottom, but nobody's mentioned what happens when you hit the bottom.

The other missing piece of this equation is loyalty. If price is the only major differentiator, then there's no reason for me to be a repeat customer. If you offer me something that nobody else is able to offer, then I have a reason to become a repeat customer.


Why Apple's iPhone is like a 1981 IBM PC - page 2 - at ZDNet.co.uk

Why Apple's iPhone is like a 1981 IBM PC - page 2 - at ZDNet.co.uk: "Perhaps the best arguments against Apple allowing background tasks are that they take up too much airtime, draining the battery, and that there's no way for them to communicate to the user when they need attention. If either of these two things were a given for background tasks, then Apple would have a point. But they're not, and it doesn't."

(Via ZDNet.)

Not a bad article, regarding Apple's decision to limit access to iPhone developers to userland applications without background tasking. I agree that at the OS layer there's not really any terribly good reason not to allow it as the kernel of OS X is more than up to the task.

However, but I don't think he's really invested a lot of time looking at the impact that radio communications have on battery life in a pocket-sized device.

The article mentions the battery only once in passing. First off, anything you're likely to do in the background would be looking up information somewhere over the network. For the moment I can't think of any background tasks that are limited to local data that have much value. If there's a need to alert the user, you can always interact with calendar and use its resources for meeting alerts etc. So by default you're going to be using the radio (bluetooth, wifi or Edge or eventually 3G) a lot.

If you think that doesn't have an impact on battery life, take an iPhone and set the Mail application to Auto check every 15 minutes. For fun, turn off Wifi and use the cell network exclusively. Then set it to Manual and see how much time you get out of your battery. I notice that on days where I have very heavy usage of Edge, I can sometimes drain the battery before getting back home at the end of the day. Constant network activity would practically guarantee that I wouldn't make it through the day.

Apple's doing two things here - first off, it's minimizing the risk. Not to the platform as a technical issue, but to its reputation. If people start installing apps left and right and then discover that their iPhone can't get through the day there will be a serious negative reaction.

Secondly, Apple's approach to new markets is to deliver what it promises, but still leaving some room to expand in order to keep up the buzz. We complained for a year that there were no 3rd party apps and it kept everyone talking about the iPhone. Now we'll be getting applications to play with and talk about and complain about the lack of background processing.

It's all about managing expectations, and we have very different expectations from a portable computer and something that looks like a phone. Imagine that your phone only got 3 hours of use out of a charge. We expect this from a computer, but I expect that, at worst, I should be able to go the entire day with an iPhone without worrying about running out of battery. While the iPhone is technically a computer in terms of it's OS architecture, it's a very special purpose computer with a very specific usage pattern and form factor that has to be respected.

I fully expect that Apple will release a background task API specific to the iPhone sometime in the next 18 months that will abstract much of the management of these activities and will be able to regroup queued demands from multiple applications in order to send them together rather than as a constant flow. Until battery technology gets a lot better this is always going to be an issue.


iPhone chat to use Jabber?

Found in multiple articles

Well duh.

If you look at the specs for OS X Server and your current iChat client, you’ll discover that Jabber is built-into both and when you use OS X Server to manage your accounts you get a secure end-to-end enterprise chat solution. See iChat Server at Apple.

For more details on how to extend your iChat Server out to external services such as Google Talk, see the OS X Server Wiki.