Quite possibly the coolest iPad app I’ve used so far, mainly because it hints at the future of publishing more than any other app or device has. I was never blown away by the Kindle or iPad as eReaders per se, but when you see an interactive magazine personalized to your interests take shape, it just kind of boggles the mind.
Looks like Google is jumping hard into the gaming fray, and they apparently covertly invested $100+ million in Zynga, a social gaming company:
The investment was made by Google itself, not Google Ventures, say our sources, and it’s a highly strategic deal. Zynga will be the cornerstone of a new Google Games to launch later this year, say multiple sources. Not only will Zynga’s games give Google Games a solid base of social games to build on, but it will also give Google the beginning of a true social graph as users log into Google to play the games. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see PayPal being replaced with Google Checkout as the primary payment option. Zynga is supposedly PayPal’s biggest single customer, and Google is always looking for ways to make Google Checkout relevant.
The Google move into gaming shouldn’t really surprise anyone, especially since Apple has already entrenched itself as a key player, but I’m not sure how many tech strategists understand why gaming is so huge.
Jesse Schell’s presentation is a good start in understanding the role gaming is now playing within social networks.
Look for gaming to become even more ubiquitous than it already is today, with a growing divide between casual gamers (the great majority) playing games like Farmville and Mafia Wars and “serious” gamers (the committed minority) willing to invest hundreds of hours on an online role playing game like World of Warcraft.
Update: Speak of the devil, looks like there is a must-have iPhone app coming out that will help turn your life into a game — Epic Win. So, there we have it, what was once your mundane and tedious To-Do List now becomes your opportunity for adventure and treasure.
For folks designing on mobile devices, Kottke links to Google’s mobile user experience strategy. The way Google categorizes users is interesting:
More interesting, even, is the observation that there is no standardized way to develop for mobile devices.
Rechis said, bluntly, that the mobile Web is balkanized, “The Pangaea of the Web is gone.” And don’t expect this to change anytime soon, either. Thanks to carrier portals and off portal applications, there is no one mobile standard to develop for.
In the mobile world developers have to be prepared to optimize for different devices, browsers, languages, carriers, countries and cultures.
Most software companies seem to understand that mobile computing is the future, but how many have a sound strategy for dealing with its fragmentation? Gone are the days when we could simply design interfaces for a few resolutions on a couple of different browsers, and now we have to think about entirely different applications used in many different devices and contexts. Daunting, but plenty of good work to be had for designers and engineers.
I get as bored with mindless tech punditry revolving around Apple as much as the next person (I read John Gruber because he routinely has novel insights), but I am still a sucker for a well-written piece that speculates on drastic paradigm shifts lying just ahead. Adam Lisagor’s piece on Apple TV and the iPad possibly coalescing into some coups de grace of television as we know it sparked my imagination.
The idea here is that Apple TV, heretofore Apple’s “hobby”, has really just been waiting for its shining moment — its feasible distribution channel — to unleash itself on the unsuspecting masses.
But would Steve keep a hobby around for so long without any real plans for it? I haven’t asked him, but someone else did a couple of days ago at D8, and he said that the only barrier was a go-to-market strategy. People get their cable boxes, for the most part, for free or heavily subsidized by their regional content providers. So it is the toughest sell imaginable to offer a value proposition that would warrant spending additional cash just to get the same stuff in a different way. Now I’m not one to get all drooley over rumors (yes I am) but when Engadget broke news last week about the next version of the Apple TV box being 1) cheap ($99), 2) run on iPhone OS and 3) streaming-only, without internal storage, I got excited. There are pieces of this hobby that are starting to fit together, and once they do, the hobby will have matured into something important.
Does the release of the iPad represent that shining moment? I have no idea, but jolly, synapse-stimulating stuff nonetheless. I’ve always loved the idea of the Apple TV — beautiful interface, a way to easily navigate movies and TV shows in a more personalized manner, etc — but it never made sense because of how clunky it has been in the past to move media to it. With the streaming and iPhone OS angle, it would suddenly make a lot more sense, particularly when you imagine the iPad housing similar capabilities. The Apple TV, then, becomes software you play on whatever desired hardware (iPhone, iPad, or HD TV) you have on hand. The apple tv (now lowercase) hardware is just a way to pipe the software into your TV, similar to the Netflix streaming disks for the Wii or PS3.
Oh, and I’m still waiting for Apple’s purchase of Lala to bear fruit. I’m sure that ties into the discussion somehow, but I’m not sure how.
Nice video juxtaposition of recent Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer interviews at D8.
Also, David H, of 37signals fame, argues that Ballmer is not as worthy of an adversary to Jobs as Gates would have been. Normally I’d argue that the stagnant Microsoft stock price after 2000 has more to do with the dot com bubble busting and subsequent recessions than it does the man at the helm, but hard to argue that point when you look at Apple’s trajectory over the past 10 years. A tale of two Steves?
I have no idea what this recently concluded TV show (Lost), this classic video game series (Metroid), and that bizarre 80s TV show (Twin Peaks) have in common except that they’re a) mind-bending, b) unique, and c) have at least strong traces of sci-fi elements. I don’t even typically like sci-fi stuff, but that genre’s influence arguably makes the aforementioned shows/games. Oh, the other thing they have in common is that they all conspire to separate me from my monthly fun money allowance.
In the 90s I paid nearly $100 for the VHS box set of Twin Peaks, only to spend more than that for the DVDs in the 2000s. The first season was released as a Special Edition with lots of extras, but I passed on it because there was no second season to go with it. It eventually went out of print and the price SOARED. I think I paid over $100 for a version still in the plastic wrap at that point, not realizing that I was a victim of what may have been an artificially contrived cult media hype bubble. The second and final season (really the meat of the series) was eventually released on DVD with no extras, but I leaped on it because it was relatively inexpensive. So, doing the math, I probably spent close to $150 for the first season and second season DVDs, and I STILL did not have the original pilot of the series. Without the pilot, the series is almost missing its original context. However, there is now a definitive Gold Box Edition that includes everything…all the episodes, including the pilot, and tons of extras. And I don’t own it but have considered buying it just to feel whole and pure.
And I’ve spent well over $150 for all the Lost DVDs, and now I’m combing Amazon.com for Metroid Trilogy on the Wii. That particular game trilogy was $50 new just last year, now it costs more than that USED! What happened? Apparently the Collector’s Edition of Metroid Trilogy is just that — a Collector’s Edition. Because now you have to be a collector to own it.
I am not the kind of person who watches much TV or plays many video games, but I am a connoisseur of premium entertainment experiences. I will fork over my hard-earned money, time, and attention for the best of the best experiences, even if what constitutes “best” is generated by some weird, proprietary taste algorithm contained only in my particular brain. I wonder how much of this is that I really am a connoisseur of premium media and how much is that I’m just a sucker for marketing.
I guess we’ll see when the Collector’s Edition of Lost gets released and I end up buying every season again.
The Onion nails another one.
"Although it recently hit the million-user mark, Foursquare has yet to approach the vast subscriber base of Facebook and Twitter. But that all could change as people become increasingly reliant on the…okay, here, here, let me sum up this whole “news” story for you: Aging, scared newspapermen throw themselves at the latest mobile technology trend in a humiliatingly futile attempt to remain relevant.”
Christopher Nolan refuses to make bad films, and somehow they improve even as they get larger in scope and gain widespread appeal.
"We get to make a movie that’s expansive, I suppose you’d say, in four dimensions. … We’re trying to tell a story on a massive scale, a true blockbuster scale — the biggest I’ve ever been involved with. We tried to make a very large-scale film with The Dark Knight and with this one we wanted to push that even further.”
Can’t wait for this film. It looks like a cross between The Matrix, Vanilla Sky, and Shutter Island, which will either mean it’s awesome or mind destroying.
This month, The National released a new album. 2010 has been a pretty dry year for music so far. MGMT’s recent release disappointed me. But this — this High Violet album — could be something special. I’ve listened to the first two songs on the soon-to-be-defunct Lala music service (thanks, Apple!) and I’m finding it hard to move on to the next tracks.
I haven’t figured out what makes this band so magical. They have a folksy, melodic, and catchy sound, to be sure, with rich layers of instrumentation and plenty of mood to spare. But there’s something else to them. All I can call it is soul.
Update: I’m now four songs in and the bliss remains high. This may be my new favorite band.
Update Two: I’m six songs in and these people are inspired. You can listen to two of their recent tracks along with some older ones at their Myspace page. There are plenty of other ways to hear their music as well, but at least those are ones they’ve selected for your aural pleasure.
Update Three: I completely missed the fact that they’ll be performing live on YouTube tonight at 8 PM. Too cool.
iPad UIs suffer under a triple threat that causes significant user confusion:
- Low discoverability: The UI is mostly hidden within the etched-glass aesthetic without perceived affordances.
- Low memorability: Gestures are inherently ephemeral and difficult to learn when they’re not employed consistently across apps; wider reliance on generic commands would help.
- Accidental activation: This occurs when users touch things by mistake or make a gesture that unexpectedly initiates a feature.
Highlights on iPad app usability. Jacob Nielson is incredibly fun to bash as a usability puritan who stifles innovation, but if you can separate the cream from the crud, there’s plenty of insight to be had from his work and report.
My experiences with the iPad have mirrored much of what he mentions here. We’ll tolerate poor usability on the device because it’s very new and fun, but there’s no reason it has to be that bad. Good software companies will figure that out fast, I think.