May 7, 2012
I was excited when Apple announced support for folders in iOS 4. Folders were the solution to the iPhone’s home screen limit and Apple implemented folder creation in a pretty slick way – dragging one app icon atop another, even suggesting a name in the process .But while I appreciate that Apple has tried to simplified the organization system in iOS when compared to the hierarchies in Mac OS and Windows, folders have become more frustrating than helpful to me.
First, the limit on the number of items (which varies depending on whether you are using an iPhone/iPod or iPad, forces arbitrary organization schemes. I’ve found this to be particularly true for games, the abundance of which on iOS has left me scratching my head as to how to group them. Is Traffic Rush a skill game? A strategy game? A driving game? I’ve mostly given up and just created sequentially named Games folders that lead me to forget what is where.
But this creates another problem because you can’t search for folder names. If you’ve forgotten which folder you’ve used for an app, about your only alternative aside from opening every potential folder to spot check is to search for the app every time you want to launch it.
Finally, even after you’ve gone through the painstaking process of creating folders – a task not particularly enhanced by the iTunes desktop interface – restoring your folder organization can be a dicey proposition.
Old Mac hands will remember that the Mac’s first filing system, the Macintosh Filing System (MFS), also had folders that were merely cosmetic and not hierarchical. Apple could better balance the needs of those wanting a more robust organization scheme and novices by creating a one level-deep hierarchy as it sort of has in iPhoto. It would also be great to see Apple create a more powerful desktop tool to organize apps, screens and folders, But I’d happily pass on either of those options if Apple would simply offer the option to keep apps and folders alphabetized as they do on the Mac and as they are in the Windows Phone app list and Android’s stock launcher. This creates a default way to find things as the number of apps grows.
Tags: Apple, flatland, folders, iOS, iTunes, MFS, navigation, personalization, Search
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
February 16, 2011
At PCWorld.com, Brennon Slattery has a good rundown on the terms of Apple’s new in-app subscription service, which seems to invoke the most controversy since Apple’s decision not to allow apps created with tools other than its own, a policy that Apple eventually reversed. The policy seeks to give Apple credit for initiation of subscriptions via its iOS products while allowing subscription providers the flexibility to also bring to the iPhone subscriptions initiated off the device. The tension is around the idea that app developers who offer subscriptions from sources other than the device must also offer them from within the device, and must do so for the same (or lower) price while giving Apple a 30 percent cut of the transaction.
It’s not unreasonable for Apple to want to monetize a transaction for which it has offered exposure (and in doing so, it can create a user experience of not economic equation that is customer-centric.). It is, however, somewhat of a leap to think that just because a consumer activates a subscription on an iOS product that that the iOS product drove that subscription; this ignores much of the promotion that providers of these services do in other media. Providers of subscription products might try to get around the requirement by obscuring the ability to sign up in the app or offering some bonuses for offline activation.
But why encourage these games? Apple could compromise and still save face simply by making in-app subscription activation optional. Then, if the subscription provider feels as though the iOS audience is worth it, they can pay Apple the share. If not, then they risk losing out on that customer until she goes to a Web site, calls a phone number, or engages in some other delay that may risk losing out on the subscription. If Apple holds its ground, we may at best see subscription providers pushing customers to competitive platforms. Making in-app activations optional offers a cost-effective customer acquisition mechanism for companies that aren’t spending a lot on off-device promotion while recognizing the investment of those that do.
During the Adobe CS5 development tool controversy, I argued that Flash developers were more likely to simply abandon iOS than switch, and that would be even more true for subscription service providers that found customer acquisition unprofitable on iOS devices.
This is simply another situation where Apple must decide between iOS devices being a platform versus being a sales channel. By allowing services that compete to an extent with iTunes such as Rhapsody, Slacker, Hulu Plus and even Netflix – the latter of which Apple has embraced on its own closed AppleTV product – it has done much to silence critics that complain about the closed nature of the platform and continue to attract best-in-class and exclusive applications. Apple has historically leaned to the platform end of this debate to the benefit of its customers and its products.
Tags: App Store, Apple, business models, iOS, subscriptions