May 3, 2010

Sony DASH - Personal Internet Device (Wifi/7" Touch Screen) HID-C10When I wrote about the Sony Dash for Engadget, I said that it signaled a more practical approach to delivering new category-shaping products by delivering new functionality for less than $200. Another other difference between Dash and some other recent Sony flops is that it has a clear lineage, serving as a mashup between a connected digital picture frame and an alarm clock, a category where Sony still participates.

One compromise that Sony had to make to reach that magic price point was to make the Dash a corded product. However, it does allow it to be used in two orientations, one being it lying flat on its back. In that instance, the screen orientation flips and the device becomes easier to see from a standing position. Another compromise includes a ascreen that certainly feels like a resistive device. In fact, I’ve found that I most effective way to operate the Dash is by cradling the top with my fingers and pressing buttons with my thumb. Perhaps it should befriend the Weighted Companion Cube.

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April 8, 2010

image If you’re asking whether Apple implemented multitasking in iPhone 4.0 (and you’re not a developer), then you’re asking the wrong question. Multitasking headlined the seven “tentpoles” that made up the major new features of iPhone OS 4.0. Apple is bringing the benefits of multitasking through a clever mix of new system features that extend the benefits of multitasking that Apple pursued with push notifications.

Covering such major bases as background location tracking and extending background music playback from the iPod app to Internet services such as Pandora, there are now very few multitasking needs that won’t be met with Apple’s approach that, according to the company, preserves the keys of security – an approach that Apple maintains will preserve the keys of security, simplicity, performance and battery life.

The task switching in iPhone 4.0 complement other changes that used to require a seemingly endless series of swipes to get at information. These include a unified inbox and folders for grouping apps. (It would be great if the app store let you designate an app upon downloading). indeed, these should even free up more screen real estate for another new feature – custom wallpapers beyond the lock screen.

In the Q&A following the announcement, Apple was asked about widgets, a feature available on the Mac and on Android, but not on the iPhone. Apple seemed open to implementation at some future time, particularly with the iPad and took a step toward more lock screen functionality with music playback controls. All in all, the update should go a long way toward removing many user interface inefficiencies that Apple had begun to attack in the platform, as well as make using the iPhone a smoother and less frustrating experience on a daily basis. But since at least some of these features – especially the headlining multitasking – have been available from major competitors, it begs the question whether iPhone OS 4.0 is enough to beat back not only the imrovements of the core Android operating system, but what others are building on top of it.

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October 2, 2009

imagePioneering gadget site-turned-blog The Gadgeteer reports that — following in the footsteps of such tech products as the TomTom One, the Gateway One, and the Acer Aspire One — Chumby Industries will release the second generation of its hacker toy-turned-widget playback device, the Chumby One. Selling for about $100, the revamped device has a far more modern appearance, albeit one that says more “kitchen” to me than bedroom.” In fact, I had been thinking of duplicating my iPod touch kitchen setup on my nightstand.

It will be interesting to see what changes Chumby makes in the name of role optimization. For example, the protuberance on its right side may be some kind of knob, and perhaps the top can be outfitted with a proper snooze button. As a long-time Chumby user, the main change I’d make is an easier way to manually move among a few multiple widgets (a la Exposé or HTC Sense) versus continuously cycling through hem slide show-style. The quest for a proper MP3 alarm clock may be at its end.

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August 13, 2009

This week’s Switched On column delves into Apple’s strength in desktop widgets and progressively declining widget strength as one looks across its product line to the iPhone and Apple TV. As I mentioned in the column, no company has implemented widgets effectively across the three platforms, and even gadget-happy Microsoft has encountered the same challenges in the living room with Xbox that Apple has with Apple TV despite the former’s much larger installed base. It’s hard to see anyone but Apple and Microsoft owning widgets on the desktop, but Samsung looks uniquely positioned to offer them across cell phones and televisions, where they are a more strategic play anyway.

In the comments, one person suggested that iPhone widgets could be activated by double-press of the Home button, but I would see it as either an extended button press option or a gesture. (If Apple allowed third parties to modify the iPhone system’s behavior, you can bet that someone would have come up with extended gesture options for the iPhone. Apple has barely scratched their surface. Indeed, the Mac trackpad’s gestures are more developed than the iPhone’s.)

Let me call upon my user interface design expertise, which consists of my having sent an idea via AppleLink to Don Norrman about a way that Automator-style macros could be built in the Finder that wasn’t dismissed as completely nonsensical. Another option would be a mashup of the HTC Sense user interface and Microsoft’s Windows 6.5 lock screen. Enable an app to run active as a lock screen. When you turn on the iPhone, instead of just having the one lock screen, you could swipe to multiple screens that would display Sense-style applications without turning on the device.

This would not be as flexible as Dashboard, but would be better than what we have today, fit well with the phone usage model,  and require only minimal, closed Apple-controlled basic multitasking since widgets aren’t much different than Web pages. When you unlock the device, the HTML rendering engine part of mobile Safari quits and you’re presented with the last app you had open or the home screen..

This approach could also maintain Apple’s blurring of apps and widgets, which might be a good distinction to dissolve on the iPhone, at least judging from the confusing way it’s handled in Android’s application market.

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