Thursday, April 19, 2012

Apple, Finger Pointing and the Ghost of Steve Jobs

On the right attention Apple should now give to the emergent stylus pen ecosystem

Some time ago, and not too long ago, the world woke up to the voice of Steve Jobs, announcing the release of this new phone he called the iPhone. It is a sheet of glass with an aluminum backing. The glass has this instant-on video of gorgeous colours and real-life icons. It makes phone calls, surfs the internet and sends messages in a way that other phones could not up till that time. During the demo, Steve even searched the Maps app for "pizza" joints and mock ordered pizza from one of the search results, a real-life pizza joint near him. It was a WOW moment at the time. The cloud roared with a thunderous applause and ever since then, the iPhone marched on to become the most commonly used used smartphone in the world because of WOW features like that, aesthetics, and ease of use and most importantly but most intangible, the design philosophy. I was there listening to the live stream. At this point, I has an HP-made smartphone (which required a stylus pen to work it really well). So, when I heard Steve Jobs say something to the effect that anyone designing one of these devices and makes it require a pointing device other than the finger, then, that device is not designed correctly. And so was born one of iPhone's design philosophies: "Touch is all you should need". I was hoping this would work out as promised. I didn't want to keep buying replacement pointing devices (they were sold in sets of 3 then, as a testimony that you'd probably lose them and often too). I bought my first iPhone (1st gen) before it was officially released for Canada. So I had to get the unlocked AT&T phone from eBay and used it on my Fido service without Fido's approval. And truly, you didn't need a stylus pen for the iPhone. The calls were clear, Internet pages were true browser pages (I don't expect you to remember what mobile device browsers looked like then) and text messaging was really smooth, not to mention the fully integrated iPod music. You only needed your finger to do all those. No stylus, just touch. Steve Jobs was right. Suddenly, it began to look silly for anyone to poke his phone with anything other than the finger.

Pointing and Drawing

A few year later, the iPad was released. Shortly after which a number of graphing apps were released for it. It didn't take long for everyone to see that the finger was too stubby for drawing all the lovely art, including handwriting that these apps required. Then, an ecosystem of stylus pens that could write on the capacitive iPad screen began to emerge. Consequently, it could write on the capacitive iPhone and iPod touch screen but that was more a by-product of those screens also being capacitive rather than a clear use case for these other devices (never mind the extra-long nails and super-cold fingers). My point is that the advent of the iPad made it more and more necessary to draw than it was on the iPhone, making it more and more necessary to have a drawing device for this device. So was born a separation between pointing devices and drawing devices.

Apple Store and the Apple Philosophy

Let me put it as simply as possible: Every Apple product has a philosophy around it which defines the ways in which Apple does NOT want you to use the product. Apple Stores do NOT carry any product that Apple believes to be contrary to that philosophy. Here is a simple example: Apple will not approve an app or a device that plugs into the iPad and use the battery in such a way that you don't get 10 hours of life. Must require no daytime charging is one of the design philosophies for the iPad. Similarly, for all 'iTouch' devices (iPad, iPhone, iPodTouch), the design philosophy is that touch is enough. That is why in spite of all these stylus pens out there, there is none of it in an Apple Store.

What would Steve Do?

Steve had foresight. Apple has foresight. They would be the first to admit, nevertheless, that they can't imagine all the good uses to which their product would be put to and the creativity that their product would unleash. If Steve would think this through, he would realize that a pointing device is not quite the same thing as a drawing device. The iPad stylus pens fill a gap that the finger cannot. Just take a look at some of the great art that is possible using these styluses! The problem is that Steve can't. He is dead. And at Apple I am sure that Steve's ghost is hovering over every one (in their imagination) watching to see who would be the first to reverse those strongly held positions that Steve had. No one wants to be finger-pointed about finger pointing. Steve warned before he died, "I don't want you to run Apple by constantly asking, "What would Steve do?"". He was really a wise man. He knew that situations would arise that would cause him to change his mind on long-held positions. He sure would have once thought that MobileMe was cool. Later he agreed that it sucked! If he dies after saying that it was cool, it would be a shame to hang onto MobileMe just because Steve said it was cool, even though harsh realities indicate a need to rethink. I do believe that Steve would have thought it through. He would rightly have maintained that a pointer stick whose role is just to poke at poorly resolved pixels on the screen diminishes the innovative genius of multi-touch. But Steve would realize that this high-pixel iPad canvas is screaming for a great drawing pen to drain out the creative artistry pulsating in the fingers of the iPad user, desperately beckoning some fine, smoothly gliding, nimble capacitive pen tips to help it flow forth.

What should Apple be doing?

Apple should stop ignoring the stylus pen ecosystem. Apple should support it, help it, shape it and even compete with it. Apple should make a stylus pen out of a transparent thin tip that will totally simulate the real pen and have unbeatable feel and durability. Apple has the muscle to research into that kind of material. In the short run, Apple should open the doors of Apple Stores to let in a few of the highest quality stylus pens. There is no shame in, sometimes, following the market. It is time to follow this one.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Keynote Speech at Edmonton Police ACLC Outreach



THURSDAY, MARCH 15, 2012, 7:00 P.M.


His Worship, Mayor Stephen Mandel,

Chief of Police, Rod Kneckt,

Ag. Deputy Chief and ACLC Co-Chair, Brad Ward,

Esteemed Leaders of the African Community,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Good evening.

It is a rare privilege and honor for me to welcome you to this maiden African Community Outreach Meeting of the Edmonton Police Service, hosted by ACLC (African Community Liaison Committee).

The ACLC is a committee of representatives from both African and EPS communities. Our mandate on the committee is to work together with one another and with The Chief and EPS to improve mutual understand, co-operation and synergistic relationships. To most intents and purposes, ACLC seeks to form a bridge through which you, as a member of the African community, can more easily access the EPS as a government service to you; and you as a member of the EPS community, ACLC should bring you better access to the unique values, skill set, experience and expertise that members of the African community bring to the Edmonton multicultural table; for among other things, better community policing.

With me on this noble ideal is a handful of hard-working men and women drawn from various sub-regions of the African continent and from the EPs.

[raise an ovation for ACLC members]

Ladies & Gentlemen,

We called you out tonight to:

create a platform for you to network with one another;

tell you what we are about and ask your advice as to how to work with and for you;

work with us to help us fine-tune our strategies.

To the African Community leaders here present, I say: This is a historic moment. It is a solemn responsibility to contribute to a discourse that can usher in an Edmonton of tomorrow where your children and grand-children will look back at this moment and remember that it all began here. And that you, granddad/grandma, that you were here. And that you were one of those that made a difference; that helped to start a conversation that ushered in a better, safer Edmonton for everyone.They will be proud. Make them proud today.

To the EPS Community, I say: These African community leaders are here today because we told them that this is different. They know enough of some of those programs that governments implement simply because it looks good on paper without commensurate commitment to drive out abiding results [present company excluded]. We told them and they believed. These African community leaders are here because they believe. They believed us. They believe you. They believe that you are here to seriously learn something, to seriously share something and to seriously do something about what you learn today. Please, prove worthy of that faith.

And to both African and EPS communities, I say: Your time is precious.For you to invest it to be here, this must mean something to you. One approach that will bring us the greatest win is the attitude that we are not here to demand a perfect system; we are not here to sell or defend a perfect system; We are together in this. We are here for one another. This is our city. We are here to find the best way to achieve the same ideals.

And I believe that together, in an environment of mutual respect and empathy, we can either find the way or pave one.

Thank you and have a great deliberation.

iPad Review: after 48 hours

This review follows and compliments my first impressions which was published in the first hour of the new iPad's arrival.

The difference in screen resolution is stunning. A way to explain why some revivers on the Net do not see it so much is: if they upgraded from iPad 2 and hence are still using low resolution backgrounds; if they are viewing apps that are not yet upgraded to Retina, if they need glasses (not meant as a joke). It actually makes text so sharp and crispier to read, albeit thinner.

I did not notice performance changes to native apps and am not expecting any, since the iPad 2 was zippy enough for my needs. I, however, notice faster page loads with browsers on wifi.

Surely, my fingers could feel the bulk and weight differences. Some people are better at tactile discrimination than others, so others may have different experiences.

I'm a bit disappointed with the 1080p video output. It looks just like my iPad 2 used to for good HD 720p video. I haven't tested Bluetooth on a Bluetooth 4-compliant accessory nor 4G cellular data but I expect the later to come through as advertised.

Video and photo certainly look great. Not as good looking as iPhone 4S but way better than iPad 2. It may not be my choice camera but it's nice to know that the photo will be nice enough if and when it's taken with the iPad.

Overall, this is still a fantastic upgrade even from iPad 2.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My iPad 3 Predication

The iPad is an amazing device and is making waves all over the world. Regardless though, anyone who has tried to use it to do real work, I mean real productive work, would much the sooner begin to notice a limitation.

The limitation

The iPad's biggest short-coming (compared to the fully-fledged counterparts), the thing that hold it behind, the bridge it needs to cross to join the PC club is ... lack of a real tactile keyboard, something that you can actually rest your fingers on and type. This is the reason why many most people unfairly call the iPad a media consuming device (as against media producing devices).

The Non-solutions

Much as you can tote along a bluetooth keyboard or get some of the bluetooth solutions like the Kensington's where a keyboard is part of the iPad cover system, the iPad philosophy forbids either of those solutions because of the addition to bulk and compromise on mobility. Meaning: Apple would never adopt those as a solution to that problem.

The Solution

So, here's how I believe Apple is solving that problem, and they are solving it in the next release: Apple will transform the SmartCover into a tactile device. There, simple and short! The iPad will come with some thin, light detachable device that will, in addition to serving as a cover and stand, will have tactile key functionality.

The Future

In the future, beyond the next release, Apple will get rid of the cover keyboard and do a software solution such that your fingers can rest on the touch screen and not register a type until you negotiate a tap-lift, all managed in software.

How do I know, you ask? Let's just say ... I have a gift.