July 30, 2012
It’s a pundit’s cliché to prognosticate something like “this will be the last generation of game consoles” or “Blu-ray will be the last physical format” (maybe not). If you want to go out quite a bit further into the future, though, you can listen to the likes of OnLive CEO Steve Perlman, who says that, eventually, virtually all computing devices will go away in a world that can take advantage of ultra-high-speed wireless technology like DIDO.
Are these the ramblings of a mad scientist? Not for Perlman’s former employer, Apple, which has traditionally made money from devices supported by software and content. The latter has historically represented relatively little of the company’s revenue when compared to its well-known hardware products.
But that is starting to shift, at least on a relative basis. In a charting of Apple’s YoY third-quarter revenue shares, Stuart Carlson shows the growing influence of the iPhone and iPad over time. But look a bit further down the Y-axis from those ascendant lines and you will see that revenue form the iTunes store, while down on a percentage basis from a few years ago, now accounts for more revenue than desktops and the iPod, two products that are still strongly identified with the company. This has more to do with cannibalization of these products by notebooks and iPhones than a particular surge in digital sales. I wouldn’t expect this revenue stream to overtake iPhones or notebooks any time soon. Still, it demonstrates that Apple is positioning itself for a world in which bit distribution may pick up growing importance versus devices.
Tags: App Store, Apple, atoms versus bits, desktops, DIDO, iMac, iPod, post-hardware, revenue share
June 11, 2012
It may not be the most glamorous activity, but if you’re going to ship at least a tablet with any credibility, it’s helpful to have a suite available to read and preferably edit Word and Excel files. Microsoft has noted that its leading Office suite will be included with Windows RT and presumably the tablets on which it will run. With its market leadership, Apple has had the liberty of charging pretty handsomely for the pieces of its iWork suite, which still attracts more than its share of customers versus iPad alternatives such as Quickoffice and Docs To Go, which was acquired by RIM and is bundled on the Playbook,
At the tenth All Things D conference, Google executives promised that we would see offline Google Drive functionality in a matter of weeks. As an extension of Google Docs, Google Drive presents links to files on the Web, which is only marginally more convenient than going to the Web page to begin with,
On the surface, Quickoffice puts Google into the local productivity suite business, but Quickoffice will likely simply serve as the software that facilitates offline editing of Google Docs. Without Windows and Mac versions, though, Google may be missing out on important offline platforms. it would be nice to see a simple preference to have popular native ffice suites (or OpenOffice) support Google Docs file types. In any case, it seems there’s a way for Google to put what is more or less the existing Quickoffice product to work, which is apparently not the case for Meebo Messenger.
Tags: Android, Excel, Microsoft Google, Office, office suites, OpenOffice, Quickoffice, spreadsheets, Word, word processing
June 27, 2011
Last week’s announcement that Seesmic would not discontinue support for its social network client for BlackBerry demonstrated the challenges that RIM has faced competing for developer attention. With iOS and Android far in the lead, Microsoft pushing hard for Windows Phone, and HP seeking to attract developers to as it evolves the webOS multi-device platform strategy, few developers have the resources to create quality omnipresent work, and something has to give.
The news was not as bleak as it seems on face value, though. First, Seesmic was competing against RIM’s own well-designed (as BlackBerry apps go these days) Twitter client. Second, third-party Twitter clients are in a precarious position on several mobile platforms. Apple, Microsoft and others are integrating Twitter into their mobile operating systems. And Twitter the corporate entity has scooped up TweetDeck, the most prominent competitor to the Seesmic software, following its previous acquisition of Tweetie, now the official Twitter client for Apple devices.
Nevertheless, while RIM has done what it can to smooth the road to the promising Playbook by supporting AIR and Android apps, it’s going to be a harder sell until a native BlackBerry tablet OS SDK is available and – more critically — until it can bring that QNX-based platform to its smartphones.
Tags: applications, apps, Blackberry, developers, QNX, RIM, Seesmic, TweetDeck, Twitter
June 20, 2011
When I wrote reviews for MacWEEK magazine in the mid-‘90s, some of my favorite productivity applications (not apps, thank you) included QuicKeys, Now Up-to-Date, PopupFolder, PopChar, TypeIt4Me, FreeHand, TypeStyler, Typestry, ClarisImpact, ClarisWorks, Stacker, PageMill, SendExpress, SttuffIt (for which I paid the original shareware fee in person), Common Ground, Arrange and a number of utilities from Now Software, AlSoft and Connectix.
But perhaps the one that was my favorite was In Control by Attain. (A competitor, Fair Witness by also-defunct Chena Software, had more features, but for some reason I liked In Control better.) In Control was a multi-columned outliner, kind of a cross between an outliner and a spreadsheet, and I found it an incredibly helpful tool for organizing a wide range of personal and professional projects.
For those exclusively on Apple platforms, OmniOutliner is the heir apparent to In Control and has taken the concept to the next level while preserving the elegance of that classic Mac program. Unfortunately for those who use multiple platforms,, the software – like other Omni Group products – is staying on Apple platforms. Developer Ken Case cites his devotion to producing the best software possible as a justification for not moving onto other platforms, and yet the company has had great success with its iPad app, selling 100,000 copies in the first three weeks (which is particularly impressive given its $20 price tag, about the same as, for example, Pages and Numbers combined).
I find it hard to believe that Omni Group couldn’t scale up to produce high-quality software on multiple platforms. Apple, for example, has cited the excellent, cross-platform Evernote (not a bad modern-day substitute for Arrange) as an example of a product that has had great success in its Mac App Store. Also, if Omni Group’s idea is to service Apple users, it should keep in mind that, increasingly, more of them – particularly iPad owners – are living in a cross-platform world. But it is certainly the company’s prerogative to stay on the Apple platform, which has rewarded it greatly for its support since the days it was one of a handful of NeXT developers.
So, my search continues for a cross-platform, cloud-synced alternative to OmniOutliner. It is the One Mac App I would most like to see on Android and particularly on Windows although I realize I probably won’t find anything as elegant or capable. (The One Windows App I would most like to see on the Mac is Live Writer.) I would certainly be elated to see multi-columned outlines supported as an Evernote note type. Until then, suggestions via comments or Twitter are of course welcome.
Tags: attain, fair witness, in control, multi-columned outline, omni group, omnioutliner, pims, porting
June 9, 2011
One sign that an ecosystem has momentum is when products from separate companies serendipitously complement each other. Such has been the case for the iPad this month. Today, on Les Paul’s birthday, Avid announced Scorch, a companion product to its Sibelius suite of music notation products for the PC. Scorch can perform such handy tasks as transposing or editing music or showing the fingering of a section on a piano keyboard.
Since the app reads and edits Sibelius files, full resolution is preserved regardless of the resolution, and Avid claims that zooming in and out is as smooth as jazz. The app also includes a sheet music store with hundreds of thousands of downloadable scores, many of them free. A few features I’d like to see would include conversion of PDFs into editable scores, and being able to simplify scores for leaning songs. (The app can already adjust tempos as a learning aid.)
The app is debuting at $4.99, but will eventually go up to $7.99. It also has a Music Stand mode that presents sheet music with minimal distractions for performances. Now, if only there were an easy way for performers with something a bit more portable than a piano to take the iPad on stage with you.
Well, what do you know? There is! Earlier this month, IK Multimedia started shipping the iKlip, which allows you to attach your iPad or iPad 2 to a microphone stand, where it can be a complement to the company’s iRig microphone. iKlip is $39.99 direct and can work with an iPad or iPad 2, although some adapters are required for the latter and could cost extra depending on when you bought it..
What I really like about both these products is that they really show off the advantages of the iPad form factor. The iPad’s sleek profile makes it almost perfect for use on a piano, for example (although a larger screen would be helpful for scores).
Tags: composers, engrabers, engraving, iKlip, iPad, musicians, notation, performaing, sheet music, Sibelius
May 19, 2011
Like many, including Bill Gates, I think Microsoft’s purchase of Skype will be a boon for the company’s presence in the wireless and home video chat space. But, of course, the company isn’t exactly a newcomer in the instant messaging and video chat space. It was early to market with NetMeeting, and for the past few years has been pushing forward on Windows Live – nee MSN — Messenger, now part of Windows Live Essentials, which Microsoft positioned as the rapidly evolving part of Windows before Microsoft it mandated that Windows itself needed to evolve much more rapidly. (I suppose Windows Live Essentials will now be the part of Windows that most now evolve at ludicrous speed.)
Windows Live Messenger has attracted a large audience itself. On the software’s tenth anniversary in 2009, Microsoft shared that Windows Live Messenger it had 330 million active users per month.. We haven’t, however, seen a lot of detail on what will happen to Windows Live Messenger after the Skype acquisition. Steve Ballmer didn’t mention the offering once during the press conference although it did appear on a slide. There was also a reference to providing Skype additional talent resources. Clearly the Live Messenger team would be prime for picking there.
The Windows Live Messenger installed base may add significantly to Skype’s already massive installed user footprint. Ultimately, however, and putting aside infrastructure, Skype’s superior cross-platform progress is critical for any cross-platform chat and collaboration platform. Microsoft’s MacBU had created a wisely renamed version of Messenger for the Mac, but now Microsoft will be able to tap into a wider array of handsets and put more pressure on Apple to bring FaceTime outside of Apple’s own devices.
Tags: collaboration, FaceTime, Live Messener, Microsoft, Skype, video chat, videoconferencing
April 17, 2011
I’ve liked the direction of the Pogoplug hardware and Dropbox service for some time, so I was curious what would happen when the former got into the turf of the latter in the converging fields of personal clouds. That’s what happened with Pogolug 3.0, which enables you to turn a PC into the equivalent of a Pogoplug for free. A few years ago, a startup called Avvenu did something quite similar. It was scooped up by Nokia, renamed Ovi Files, and ultimately discontinued. Pogoplug competitor TonidoPlug has offered a software implementation for some time. And then there’s Weezo, which looks pretty impressive, but I’ve had issues with it traversing certain firewalls. And there are lots of other approaches out there as well.
So I will be using the Pogoplug 3.0 software for a number of things, including using certain PCs as ad hoc servers for when I quickly need to share a file. But at least until Cloud Engines implements true true two-way sync – the magic behind the Dropbox and Evernote clients – I’ll be sticking to Dropbox’s 2 GB limit for a number of sharing tasks. Pogoplug may have a harder time implementing sync because it potentially has to do multipoint sync across multiple servers and perhaps move massive amounts of data around (like SugarSync), but it clearly has to be on the roadmap for the company.
Tags: Box.net, Cloud Engines, Dropbox, Gogobeans, NAS, personal clouds, PogoPlug, SugarSync
March 27, 2011
As longtime readers know, one of my longtime areas of interest are proximity-based sharing, a topic I most recently discussed in the context of AirDrop.. At CTIA, though, I got a chance to meet with Gogobeans, which is combining the notion of a Dropbox-like locker for personal content with Bump-like (or perhaps Color-like) – cloud-based detection of proximity. In Gogobeans’ case, rather than bumping together handsets, they are simply shaken at the same time. One advantage to this is that it facilitates one-to-many transactions; a speaker could share a presentation with an audience. Like Dropbox, Pogoplug, and others, Gogobeans also allows you to share based on e-mail addresses even if the recipient does not yet have the app, and then files shared show up in their locker once their account is claimed.
Gogobeans seems like a smart mashup of two kinds of services that are gaining popularity right now, but the personal cloud space is starting to get a bit crowded and the client-interaction space is a race for viral distribution. In terms of potential competition from either side, I’d see Dropbox introducing proximity-based sharing as an extension of its service more naturally than Bump introducing cloud-based storage.
Tags: Bump Technologies, Color, CTIA, Gogobeans, locker services, personal clouds, proximity
March 19, 2011
My Switched On column discussing the potential benefits of Microsoft using Windows for tablets garnered over a whopping 1.100 comments. many of which were positive. As I noted in the column, though, Microsoft still has a lot to prove in basing its tablet strategy on Windows as opposed to the currently more touch-friendly if feature-strapped Windows Phone OS.
Following a tweet in which I groused about the still unsatisfying state of driver update management on Windows, that challenge became a topic of conversation on Twitter a few days ago when the question was posed as to whether Microsoft needed to have an app store – like Apple, Google, or itself on Windows Phone – in order to compete in the tablet market. If so, the app store would presumably also be available to the next version of Windows. This leads to a number of hypotheticals. Would Microsoft include an app store in desktop Windows even if it were using Windows Phone for tablets? And is an app store even necessarily for tablets?
My answer to the latter is that it is, at least to be competitive with Apple and Google, and it’s a good idea regardless. for desktop Windows, which is under seige not be any particular operating system (OS/2, Linux) as in the past, but the idea of OS insignificance, a battle that Apple is also trying to fight via its app stores both on the Mac and iOS.
Tags: iOS, Microsoft, tablets, Window sPhone
Kudos, Microsoft, on Internet Explorer, going from the laggard of the browser wars to being neck-and-neck with Chrome (which I switched to form Firefox only a few months ago as a default browser) in everyday usage. I actually do have a few sites I rely on that require IE, so IE9 has won me back. Privacy advocates have hailed the Do not track option, and I also have already pinned a few sites to the taskbar. In fact, I thought iIE9 might become my only browser, but that didn’t last long since IE9 didn’t work with a date selector on Rail Europe’s Web site.
IE9 still has a few annoyances and a few areas where I just prefer Chrome’s approach. While I the new less modal notifications at the bottom are an improvement, I’m somewhat dismayed to see that it still prompts by default to display fully the many pages that mix secure and unsecure content, so that required a trip to the still-overwhelming Internet Options dialog. Why not just have an option to not warn about this again?
While I’m not a huge fan of Chrome’s tabs-on-top, I’m still not sold on having tabs on the same line as the address bar and don’t see a way to put them on separate lines. I also prefer how Chrome shows downloads at the bottom of the window. with a visible link to download history. And, of course, Chrome’s networked bookmarks work across platforms where IE doesn’t play at all. Finally, I’d also like to see other browsers take on Safari’s ability to collect tabs on many windows onto one, but a least IE shows all open tabs in Aero Peek regardless of their window, the way it should be..
Tags: browser wars, Google Chrome, IE9, Internet Explorer, Safari, speed