YouTube Kids Review – and 10 Ways to Improve it

YouTube Kids - main uiWe finally got around to downloading the iPad YouTube Kids app, now that more than half of my children can do things like spell words mostly correctly. And since there’s a bit of a family-wide addiction to Plants vs Zombies (1 and 2), they’ve been watching some gameplay video. Which got me realizing that a 6-year-old should not, at all, accidentally watch most of the results of “zombie” in a YouTube search. Enter YouTube Kids. Here’s the family consensus of the strengths of the app:
  1. YouTube Kids does an excellent job filtering out anything age-inappropriate. In fact I put a dedicated effort trying to “trick” it with any means possible, and I couldn’t find a video that I considered PG-13, scary/gory, adult-themed, etc. Searching for “zombies” pretty much only showed animated results:
    YouTube Kids - zombie

    On a very special Thomas the Train, …

    and a search for “game of thrones” showed mostly music videos, Minecraft interpretations, and other “safe” versions:
    YouTube Kids - game of thrones

    Good thing nobody has any free time to do anything creative anymore…

    Nothing else that I threw at it, from curse words to Skinemax-level “soft” words, came back with results. I even tried using horror movies, explosions, Michael Bay, etc:
    I hear Night of the Living Pharmacist has some pretty creepy moments

    I hear Night of the Living Pharmacist has some pretty creepy moments

    Considering this is probably the single most important role the app has, I’d call it a win if your goal is to let your kids autonomously search for videos about topics that interest them.
  2. It’s exceptionally easy to find copyrighted materials. A search for Shaun the Sheep (family favorite) instantly provided full episodes:
    It's Shaun the Sheep!

    It’s Shaun the Sheep!

    And pretty much any search for “title of movie full movie” presented exactly that (including Frozen, Lion King, He-Man, etc):
    The illegal copy never really bothered me anyway

    The illegal copy never really bothered me anyway

    Interestingly I couldn’t find PG-13 level movies, so Harry Potter was absent, though the Harry Potter Lego Version was all over the place.
  3. Exploring and discovering learning/educational content actually is interesting. There’s tons of solid channels available, from LEGO to National Geographic and more.YouTube Kids - LEGO channel

I’d certainly call this an acceptable experience, but I’m nowhere near calling it Great. Which is disappointing, because I think it could, and should, be great. It unfortunately falls into the category of what we call “babysitter apps” – which are exactly the ones we try to avoid. We just prefer the apps that really engage our children, or that we want to use along with them. And from our perspective it falls short. So here’s how I’d improve the YouTube Kids app:

  1. Actually age-restrict Settings. Here’s what it looks like for “adult mode”:
    That's the same combination for my luggage!

    That’s the same combination for my luggage!

    While my 6yo can’t fully read, he’s got the numbers down already. Which makes the above beyond simple. Either enable a PIN-code, or have a math problem, but it needs to be a bit more serious than this.
  2. Enable simultaneous search and playback. Just like in the main YouTube app, it should be easy to have a video playing while searching for the next one you
    her?
    Continue reading "YouTube Kids Review – and 10 Ways to Improve it"

YouTube Kids Review – and 10 Ways to Improve it

YouTube Kids - main uiWe finally got around to downloading the iPad YouTube Kids app, now that more than half of my children can do things like spell words mostly correctly. And since there’s a bit of a family-wide addiction to Plants vs Zombies (1 and 2), they’ve been watching some gameplay video. Which got me realizing that a 6-year-old should not, at all, accidentally watch most of the results of “zombie” in a YouTube search. Enter YouTube Kids. Here’s the family consensus of the strengths of the app:
  1. YouTube Kids does an excellent job filtering out anything age-inappropriate. In fact I put a dedicated effort trying to “trick” it with any means possible, and I couldn’t find a video that I considered PG-13, scary/gory, adult-themed, etc. Searching for “zombies” pretty much only showed animated results:
    YouTube Kids - zombie

    On a very special Thomas the Train, …

    and a search for “game of thrones” showed mostly music videos, Minecraft interpretations, and other “safe” versions:
    YouTube Kids - game of thrones

    Good thing nobody has any free time to do anything creative anymore…

    Nothing else that I threw at it, from curse words to Skinemax-level “soft” words, came back with results. I even tried using horror movies, explosions, Michael Bay, etc:
    I hear Night of the Living Pharmacist has some pretty creepy moments

    I hear Night of the Living Pharmacist has some pretty creepy moments

    Considering this is probably the single most important role the app has, I’d call it a win if your goal is to let your kids autonomously search for videos about topics that interest them.
  2. It’s exceptionally easy to find copyrighted materials. A search for Shaun the Sheep (family favorite) instantly provided full episodes:
    It's Shaun the Sheep!

    It’s Shaun the Sheep!

    And pretty much any search for “title of movie full movie” presented exactly that (including Frozen, Lion King, He-Man, etc):
    The illegal copy never really bothered me anyway

    The illegal copy never really bothered me anyway

    Interestingly I couldn’t find PG-13 level movies, so Harry Potter was absent, though the Harry Potter Lego Version was all over the place.
  3. Exploring and discovering learning/educational content actually is interesting. There’s tons of solid channels available, from LEGO to National Geographic and more.YouTube Kids - LEGO channel

I’d certainly call this an acceptable experience, but I’m nowhere near calling it Great. Which is disappointing, because I think it could, and should, be great. It unfortunately falls into the category of what we call “babysitter apps” – which are exactly the ones we try to avoid. We just prefer the apps that really engage our children, or that we want to use along with them. And from our perspective it falls short. So here’s how I’d improve the YouTube Kids app:

  1. Actually age-restrict Settings. Here’s what it looks like for “adult mode”:
    That's the same combination for my luggage!

    That’s the same combination for my luggage!

    While my 6yo can’t fully read, he’s got the numbers down already. Which makes the above beyond simple. Either enable a PIN-code, or have a math problem, but it needs to be a bit more serious than this.
  2. Enable simultaneous search and playback. Just like in the main YouTube app, it should be easy to have a video playing while searching for the next one you
    her?
    Continue reading "YouTube Kids Review – and 10 Ways to Improve it"

What a Next-Gen Apple TV Could Bring

While I’m not as bullish as others that the following tweet should be taken as gospel, I’ve been thinking a lot recently on what a new version of an Apple TV product could look like.

So, in no particular order… “why update the Apple TV?”

  • 4K video
    I wouldn’t bet on this, at all, since there’s virtually no content available today, and probably won’t be much in the next 24-36 months.  If 4K looks promising, they can rev again in the future.  Further, Apple has historically *not* led in this category, and I’d be surprised to see them do it this time.
  • Rich SDK
    Yes, there are plenty of apps available for Apple TV today, but access is limited and granted in an ad-hoc fashion to selected content providers.  Many folks assume one day they’ll open this up to a wider developer network -as in, all developers.  I know very little about the programmability/guts of the Apple TV, but I have to assume the current one simply wasn’t designed to be uber-expandable.  As a sub-point, I *could* see an argument for an extension of iOS here, but I’d hope it’d be a differentiated offering to relate to the different UI mechanisms.
  • HDMI Passthrough
    For the literal heaps of things Google TV has done wrong, HDMI passthrough was smart.  Enabling the Apple TV to sit on Input 1 at all times enables no-input switching for any connected experience.  But even better than that, it’s not a stretch to see a version of AirPlay with a, wait for it, transparent layer.  What does that mean?  Imagine every cool thing about Interactive TV you’ve ever heard or thought of, minus all the lame stuff, now have it actually work, powered by your iPhone/iPad.  Awesome.
  • Gaming
    Many of us already believe the next generation of consoles is doomed, but what if the Apple TV came with an optional joystick and as much gaming horsepower as an iPad or Xbox 360, and stayed at the $99 price point?  It’s the exact opposite strategy Microsoft is taking with their platform (gaming first, everything else second), but since about 1998 that’s pretty much a winning approach.

And that’s it – which is telling in its own way.  There’s no other “basic” TV/streaming need to upgrade the current hardware, and Apple certainly isn’t going to put out a new version without a very specific reason.  Perhaps I’m missing something (comment please!), but I am at a loss to come up with any other drivers for new hardware.   Oh, and yes, I’m ruling out Siri, physical motion gestures, cameras, etc – while any could certainly come at some point, they aren’t going to exist without one of the above as well.

Which leaves me with the following: if you do not think the above reasons are compelling, and you can’t come up with a better one, I think you can pretty much write off a new piece of hardware.  Further, I have strong convictions that the only truly viable option above is adding a Rich SDK/open developers kit, so if we don’t see that next week, I don’t think we see any new device show up either.

Introducing NextGuide

It’s my pleasure to unveil my newest product, NextGuide.  NextGuide is a hyper-personalized TV listings guide designed specifically for the iPad™.  It’s been a six month labor of lots and lots of love, and I’m extremely excited to tell you about it.  In a nutshell?  We went to the drawing board and utterly reinvented the concept of the TV program guide.

If you think about the concept of a “guide” it’s something that’s evolved over 60 years from supporting 3 to 13 to 80 to 500+ channels.  But that’s really all it does, and let’s face it, we no longer live in a 500-channel world.  We live in a 500 channel, plus tens of thousands of hours of streaming content on services like Netflix, huge libraries of video on demand from our cable and satellite companies, as well as iTunes itself.  It’s effectively an infinite content landscape, and having so much content has crippled the formerly easy process of discovering shows to watch.

As an example, in my house at night, we start by browsing our DVR library, don’t see anything we’re in the mood for, then switch over to live TV.  After browsing (painfully) the grid for a while, we give up, turn on the Apple TV, and head to Netflix.  Netflix is great, but I have a tendency to see stuff I already know about – Mad Men, Dexter, Weeds, Breaking Bad, etc – all great shows, but not really anything new that I’m ready to consume.  Part of the problem here is catch-up TV: if I’ve never watched Mad Men before then I’m a good 80+ hours away from catching up to live, and that sounds painful.  Anyhow, after an unsuccessful attempt to find something to stream, I generally end up watching whatever’s on (either Cops, the Shawshank Redemption, or an infomercial), then go to sleep.  Sound familiar at all?

So we invented NextGuide, designed to actually help me discover things I *want* to watch. We do that by tilting the concept of Channels, Times, and Genres on its head a little, and instead focus on Shows, People, and Interests.

Shows – we believe people care more about the show they watch than the channel number or time it airs.  So NextGuide uses beautiful show cover art to make it easy to find things and “escape” the grid view of numbers and times.

People – we believe TV remains a central zeitgeist component to modern society. When was the last time you chatted with any friend about a show you like (or love)?  Probably in the past day or so.  NextGuide makes it ridiculously easy to turn conversations, not to mention Facebook Likes, into easily discoverable shows.

Interests – we believe people care about finding things of interest to them, personally.  We all have interests, from bands to sports, from cities to hobbies, and these interests define so much of our lives. NextGuide connects you to your interests, and finds them all on TV and streaming services, in a seamless, organic way.  Examples of what NextGuide’s found for me over the past few weeks: Bill Murray’s guest appearance on Letterman (seriously, how would I even have known that unless I watch every night??), a live Coldplay concert on Palladium (I didn’t even know the channel was in my lineup), and Bizarre Foods goes to San Francisco (not a show I normally care for, but had to see what Andrew found in my city).

That’s enough writing already, this is one of those apps you just have to experience to get a sense of what we’ve done. It’s a complete paradigm shift for TV viewing, and I’m happy to share it with you.  You can download it from the App Store, or watch our quick intro video below.

Introducing NextGuide from Dijit Media on Vimeo.

I can’t wait for your feedback, thanks so much for trying out the app.  Thanks to Apple for inventing the iPad so we could have such a cool platform to bring something like this to life. Extra special thanks to my family, friends, coworkers and investors who have made the process of inventing something disruptive more fun than I think I really deserve.

We are getting some amazing press so far today, here are some great pieces:

Oh, and here’s the actual announcement on our newly revised site!

Why Apple Will Make a MacBook Touch (eventually)

A few weeks ago someone mocked up a concept MacBook touch, and in a nutshell, they way-y-y-y-y overthought it.  After a week(ish) using my iPad with an external keyboard, I can see how the worlds could and should collide.  And I think it’s exactly what Apple plans to do – one day. The concept is already as much as there in their products anyway: ship Mountain Lion with the ability to “launch” iOS.  That’s it.

In the current OS X, Lion, we already have LaunchPad, a feature clearly designed for a touch-screen interface, mainly because it’s the exact UI for iOS apps.  This would/should be touch-enabled.

Next, OS X already has an App Store, the inventory of which could easily expand to include iOS apps.

The LaunchPad would become the primary “desktop”, and Finder would move to be an app instead of the primary navigation metaphor.

Apps could then be written as OS X, or OS X with touch, or iOS.  Standard OS X apps would function like they do today, expecting a mouse + keyboard interface.  That’s the easy part.

iOS apps would go into full-screen, thought likely not include the ability to rotate – but maybe they wouldn’t have to.  The next-gen MacBooks are already rumored to go retina anyway, which provides enough pixels for a portrait-mode app to run on the screen size of a 13″ laptop.  Granted, a ton of apps would work poorly – things that require lots of motion sensitive or heavy gesture inputs.  But maybe that’s okay.  Maybe this isn’t about a laptop with great Infinity Blade capabilities, it’s a bit more focused on productivity.  More on this in a bit.

OS X with touch apps would be able to support mouse + keyboard + touch interfaces.  This is the tricky part.  There are times when touch works great, other times when the mouse is ideal.  For example, a pull-down menu is going to be too tiny to easily work with a finger, but the mouse is perfect.  Similarly, mouse-overs are useful for many applications, and the pixel-level work in design apps could never be done without a mouse.  But moving files, selecting apps to run, and creating free-form quick designs are all radically better with a touch input.  Gestures are awesome methods of navigating through computing interfaces.  There’s a right balance, and as long as Apple can clearly delineate best practices, I think some great new experiences would emerge.

Combining the full power of OS X and iOS brings great power, and accordingly, great… You know.  But in all seriousness, this isn’t meant as a “make a MacBook all fun like the iPad” nor is it “turn the iPad into a productivity center”.  It’s both.  The computing era has evolved to the point where touch is a key part of things.  Further, Apple is uniquely positioned to create a product like this, where the touch features augment the overall platform, as opposed to just being gimmicky.  Lastly, they’ll create yet another leap forward that their competition will have to spend eons catching up to.

ps – for those wondering, I’m using the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard for iPad. I love it.  I started with the Apple Wireless Keyboard (with great sleeve by SF Bags) but ultimately preferred Logitech’s solution.  Amazingly.

9 Shortcuts That Would Improve the iPad (with Keyboard) Experience

At this point, my iPad has effectively replaced my laptop for everything other than photo management and documents.  The former isn’t going to change, but I realized that having a keyboard might notably improve my ability to work on longer docs and emails.  I’m currently trying out the Apple wireless keyboard (with handy protective sleeve from local vendor SFBags) though I’ll also give the new Logitech ultrathin keyboard a try (if/when it ever ships).

In my first day the difference was notable.  I’ve created Evernotes, long emails, and in general found the keyboard goes a long way.  Yay for that. Further, there are some handy keyboard shortcuts that make using it even more pleasant.  But I think this could go a long way from where it is.  Granted, there’s no debate that the overall experience around finger-based controls and gestures absolutely trumps using a keyboard, but that doesn’t mean a few power features couldn’t go a long way.  Here are some hopefully easy-to-implement shortcuts that I think would improve the existing experience:

1. Multi-task app switcher (⌘-tab)
Pushing this combo in OS X results in an application switcher.  You can use your mouse to pick an app, or arrows to navigate between them.  Same functionality could be present in the iPad – and once you are using a keyboard, it’s actually fairly inconvenient to tap on the screen to do this.

2. Menus (⌘-N, ⌘-R, ⌘-D, etc)
In an app-specific sense, enable shortcuts for “menu features.”  For example, in Mail, ⌘-N could start a New Message,  ⌘-R could reply, ⌘-D could delete, etc.  App developers could have certain liberty here (potentially) or there could just be a limited set of commands.  Either would be good for any “text-heavy” app where the keyboard is in use.

3. Home  (⌘-Esc or ⌘-Eject, etc)
Simple one – exit the current app back to the home screen.

4. Navigation (⌘-cursor keys)
Per (1) above, but extend it further: if the user is in the “Springboard” interface (aka the “home screen” where you pick an app), enable me to rapidly scroll through apps (or pages of apps) with the keyboard.

5. Switch windows (tab)
Inside any app (with support), the Tab key should switch between windows/frames/inputs.  This is already present in Mail, but only when composing messages.  Why not elsewhere?

6. App shortcuts (⌘-1, ⌘-2, or F1, F2, etc)
This is definitely a “power user” feature, but let me assign 10 apps I use a lot, and quickly launch them from the keyboard.  Alternately, these could be restricted to the 6 apps in the Dock (at the bottom of the home screen).

7. Search (⌘-space)
Much like other tips above, this is borrowing straight out of OS X.  Especially considering the amount search is intended for active use within iOS.

8. Settings (⌘-,)
On my Mac, pushing ⌘-, shows preferences for that application.  In iOS, there’s a global settings screen (not to mention the plethora of apps that have their own).  This shortcut could launch either.

9. Settings Toggles (⌘-F1, ⌘-F2, etc)
Could be predetermined or user-configurable, but how about direct access to toggling certain settings, such as airplane mode, WiFi on/off, etc.  I’d want a Bluetooth one too, but it’d probably only work in one way…

I know in the grand scheme of things this is a pretty minor issue.  The grand majority of iPad owners aren’t using keyboards, and probably never will.  But if someone had time to program Siri with enough depth to tell Zooey Deschanel that it’s not raining out, I can’t see this being too far out of scope…

Some TV is Created More Equal Than Others

As one could imagine, I end up in a lot of conversations about second screen TV apps, companion apps, social TV, etc.  Virtually every discussion takes some long varied road to get to a point where all involved agree that the only rule in building next generation TV platforms and products is this: not all TV shows are alike, and experiences must be built with this rule in mind.

Let’s start with #SocialTV – broadly defined in current terms as “people tweeting, checking in, and liking TV shows on social media platforms.”  While I’m pretty jaded in my belief that this is resoundingly uninteresting as a topic, it’s important to think of it on a per-genre basis, and in fact, a per show basis.  One could state that “dramas” for example won’t garner much social TV activity – who really cares about checking in to shows like CSI or House?  Then along comes Game of Thrones, rule broken.  Then you could use Game of Thrones data to claim people don’t tweet while watching live TV.  And along comes sports and reality shows.

When it comes to planning and thinking about how users may/will behave regarding social TV and shows, I recommend thinking about it from two perspectives: (1) live interaction and (2) cultural impact.  The personal drivers for a lot of these activities have to do with the social perspective.  People are interested in “connecting” with others, which drives the interactions (tweeting about your team, someone getting voted off the island, etc).  People are also interested in being part of the cultural zeitgeist – Game of Thrones is “in” and “cool” to tweet about, whereas CSI and House are not.

Next up are companion apps – smartphone and/or iPad apps designed for use during a TV show.  As above, the potential value creation here is entirely about the content.  Do users really want to pull out their phones and read trivia while watching an intense or immersive show like Game of Thrones or The Good Wife?  Doubtful.  Am I going to look away from a visually-rich experience such as Planet Earth? Or how about Family Guy, where half the show is visual gags?  Seems unlikely.  But during any reality show, game show, talk show, or sports? I’d guess there’s a huge opportunity here.

Same moral as above, the right companion apps keep the content in mind.  First, we really don’t need (or want) a dedicated companion experience for every single show that airs – it’s just plain unnecessary.  But regardless of that, the experiences should think about the audience and how they want to interact.  Sports is all about real-time and stats.  Cooking shows, on the other hand, don’t need a real-time experience, but yet offering recipes, how-to, pictures, etc that can be bookmarked, archived, and viewed in the future is quite handy.  Complicated plot-driven shows can offer complementary experiences that supply background or other pertinent information to help audiences keep up with whatever’s going on.

Enhanced content offerings - featurettes, behind-the-scenes, and other options that plunge the user in a further immersive landscape blah blah blah. Now, speaking as the guy who watched all 3 Lord of the Rings movies, extended cut, with director’s commentary on, there’s no question a marketplace exists for extra content.  Blooper reels.  Making-of’s.  Interviews with Cast & Crew.  The key focus again is identifying the right content for the right show and deploying it in the right place.

Do I really need a dedicated app for my iPad just to get extra content for each show I like?  Do I need to subscribe to something?  I think, fundamentally, content creators and technologists need to really spend time crafting the right offering for each individual show.  For example, having the “webisodes” of The Office available openly via Facebook each week is a great solution to enhance that offering.  But if I needed an Office app, with a new Office username and password, would it be worth the investment beyond the “Like”?  Doubtful.

Overall, the time has come for TV technologists, creators, producers, etc to work together to avoid one-size-fits-all approaches to TV experiences.  Every show, every network, every device, and every platform should be regarded as a unique opportunity to engage an audience and tell a story.  Except, of course, for reality shows about celebutantes, which should just go away. Please folks, just do the right thing here.  We can find a cure, we can make it happen.  We can do it!

Why 2nd Screen Superbowl Ad and Social TV Experiences Suffered

According to Lost Remote, social media was en fuego during the Super Bowl this year.  Bluefin Labs contributed to these stats, and found over 12 million “social media comments” during the game.  Another element Lost Remote tracked were the plurality of Social TV Second Screen Apps in play:

The best second-screen experience: To start things off, we checked into the game on GetGlueMiso,IntoNowShazamConnecTVUmamiFoursquare and Viggle. Ok, that’s overkill, but we wanted to give them a spin on the biggest social TV event of the year. For starters, GetGlue sailed passed its all-time check-in, counting over 100,000 before halftime and 150,000 total for the game, 3X its all-time record (the company doubled its servers for the Super Bowl.) We’re let you know of other second-screen stats when we get them.

Now that doesn’t include the “official” Super Bowl app, NBC Sports, or a few other options.  But overall, I’m see a glass is half empty scenario myself.

The problem was in the experiences.  I tweeted a couple of times during the game, by using the Twitter app, which was native and easy to do.  The thought of launching another app, just to get something that would enable be to tweet never even crossed my mind.  In reality, most of these apps actually got in the way of the experience.  And yes, while there was tons of tweeting and updates occurring, I’d lay down a strong bet most of this was about people posting, not reading what others were posting.

I also found the Super Bowl ads highlighted two major flaws in the ad experience.  Shazam got a lot of pre-game buzz for all their ad partners.  Sounds cool in theory, but the experience is just plain lousy.  First, the commerical starts airing.  Then, at some point in the middle of the ad a little Shazam logo appears somewhere on the screen (I only noticed it a handful of times personally).  At this moment, the viewer must grab their phone, turn it on, unlock it, switch to the Shazam app, and then – and this is important – get everyone in the room to be quiet for 7-10 seconds.  Great in theory, but this is not a good experience for any user.

The second was a QR code which displayed on screen.  This in my eyes was even worse than Shazam, since QR codes require the user to have a QR app, which is just too obtuse for the average viewer.

worst. crossword. ever.

Compare either the Shazam or QR experience to having a simple URL onscreen.  Is it really easier to go through all the hassle and end up on the Honda website, or just tell the user to go to honda.com?  Plus, by obfuscating the simple methods, advertisers lose brand reinforcement AND are busy handing over the experience to a third party.  Similarly, when it comes to social experiences, is it to a consumers’ advantage to launch an app just to get an update into Twitter or Facebook, or to just use the native ones?

These experiences have come a long way, and are offering exciting potential for the future of TV and second screens.  But so far, we’re clearly at the infancy of what the consumer can use to really “enhance” a TV offering.  I hope some or many of these offerings will improve over the years, and really create a better experience, not one that makes us work harder just to watch TV.

It’s got a pen?!

For the 14 people who missed the Super Bowl this year, a “notable” commercial was the debut of the Samsung Galaxy Note, which basically enlisted virtually every trick of the trade.  Hipster rock band? Check. Playful teasing of Apple users? Check. Flashy seeming new gadget? Check. Tablet with a stylus? Check.  Wait a sec, rewind, what is this, 1998?  Or, as I tweeted (and BTW, Twitter – yet another simple feature: enable easy embedding and reblogging of tweets to other platforms, because screenshots? really?):

So my advice this evening is to Samsung and everyone else competing with the iPad – which is actually nobody in reality.  If you want to play this game, you need to stop grasping at straws.  Go build a damn good product and the market will support your endeavors.  I’d heard some interesting buzz about the Note, that it might be the first “other” tablet to give the iPad a real run for its money.  And then? StylusGate.

Now wait, maybe it’s not about consumers.  Maybe it’s enterprise or other specific applications.  I’m sure there’s a decent market in several verticals for a tablet with a stylus (something I blogged about a full year ago now!).  But your marketing wasn’t about some productivity device, it was about consumers.

Does anyone really think any hipster, businessman, student, soccer mom, or any other typical consumer with an iota of self-respect would walk around using a stylus when everyone else doesn’t have to and can accomplish the exact same goals?  That commercial didn’t show a product superior to an iPad.

That’s the key thing here.  The stylus is showing up in an effort to get on par with the iPad’s user experience.

Except it doesn’t.

Not even close.

Did Manufacturers Lose $2 BILLION on Android Tablets Last Quarter?

Strategy Analytics announced today: “Android Captures Record 39 Percent Share of Global Tablet Shipments in Q4 2011″.  Bloggers go nuts with it, headlines such as “Android Grabs 10% Tablet Market Share from Apple in Q4 2011” and “Android tablets gain ground with 10.5 million sales in Q4 2011“.  Here’s a quick fact check: the report was about tablets shipped, not sold.  Sounds like a minor little nit, but it isn’t, and if you’ve never been inside the actual business of hardware before, it’s a fairly common mistake.

Shipping a product implies it’s been manufactured, packaged, and transported into a distribution facility, and in some way allocated by a retailer.  It hasn’t necessarily been purchased by the retailer yet, nor has it been sold to a consumer.  Which means a massive cost was incurred by the manufacturer, with no revenue so far.  Further, even if the retailer has made some form of purchasing agreement/commitment, they typically have many many ways to back out if units aren’t moving.  All, of course, at the expense of the manufacturer.  This is how Logitech lost $100 million on the Revues, as they made a bunch, but couldn’t sell them.  As Seinfeld might’ve put it: “See, you know how to ship the product, you just don’t know how to sell the product and that’s really the most important part of the product, the selling. Anybody can just ship them.”

So let’s go back to that report.  10.5 million Android tablets shipped in Q4.  Not too shabby.  Now Apple did just announce they sold 15.4 million iPads in the same quarter.  So we know we aren’t talking oranges-to-oranges comparisons already.

I’m going to add in a personal observation/anecdote here, take it with a grain of salt.  In the past year, at over 20 conferences, 30 flights, and possibly hundreds of meetings, I’ve seen about 15 android tablets in use “in the wild”.  I’ll go as high as 20.  That’s it.  Not only isn’t it close to 40%, it’s not even close to 1% of the tablets I’ve seen in use, in every major metropolitan area in North America.  But that’s not a fair way to look at it, so I’ll assume I’m off by a few percent, especially including the international market plus the recent hotness of the  Kindle Fire.

But let’s pretend they somehow sell-through 5% of the total tablet market, as defined by iPad sales.  That’s 750,000 units sold.  Maybe a little low, but as I scan the numbers from a bunch of different reports, doesn’t seem too far off the mark (NPD reported a grand total of 1.2 million non-Apple tablets sold between Jan-Oct last year).  Let’s bump it to a cool million, just to seem “fair”.  That leaves manufacturers with 9 million unsold tablets.

According to a variety of reports (best from iSuppli), tablets cost manufacturers between $200-$300 to manufacture, on average.  So again, averaging it all out (which isn’t exactly right, but that’s kind of the theme of my blog anyway, right?) at $250 times 9 million units equals holy crap.

$2,250,000,000

Oh, and this doesn’t include marketing, packaging, shipping, warehousing, taxes, and all the other costs involved.  Please, somebody, show me how I’m wrong!  No, seriously, I don’t actually want to be right here!

My Top 8 iPad Apps of 2011

On Friday I listed my top iPhone apps that I’m using frequently.  Here’s the list of what I love on my iPad:

Evernote is one of my few mobile/iPad/Web/OS X utilities – I use it everywhere.  I have notes, future blog post ideas, libraries (I have virtually every quality “Future of TV” article written archives in a Evernote folder), lists, etc.  I keep copies of everything in my wallet, just in case.  I have an archive of every serial number of all white good appliances in my house (for when I call for service – especially the often-needed repairs – I’m looking at you, Miele and Whirlpool).  Everybody should use Evernote, all the time, for all purposes.  It might just save the world. Free (with paid upgrades for heavy users).

Note: saving the world not guaranteed by myself nor the makers of Evernote.

This “interactive storybook” has kept my 4 year old entranced for months.  It’s a simple retelling of the classic story, with some fun humor, and lots and lots of interactive elements.  There’s a little “golden egg” hidden somewhere on every page, plus tons of other clever little items.  One of my top 2 kids apps.  Paid app.

This is a great sketching tool, useful for me and fun for my kids as well – a very rare combination.  The app has simple tools for drawing and doodling, can import your photos for fun, and has a great “stamp” tool.  Only downside is each new build seems to add some new popup that wants me to pay for something – which I “get” as it’s free, but I’d happily pay them something to get rid of the popups forever.

This is the best Tower Defense game I’ve seen on the iPad (and I’ve tried most of them so far).  Easy levels are fun, hard levels are challenging, and the “madness” levels are so tough that beating them feels like a real accomplishment.  And unfortunately, I’m not Ender, so killing all these aliens is squarely a waste of time (except that I think everyone should play more video games.  possibly the real way to save the world, since I was definitely wrong about it being Evernote).  Awesome game, and one that the developers continue to improve, which is a major plus for me – one of the few games I’ve played on the iPad that keeps getting enhanced!  Paid app.

I do a lot of wireframing work, most of which I do using Balsamiq, one of the few desktop apps I’ve purchased in the past few years (worth every penny).  iMockups is not quite as polished a tool, but gives me the ability to do the same via the iPad.  It could use a few enhancements (search!), and isn’t the most beautiful app I’ve seen, but it’s a solid performer.  Paid.

I’m rarely a big “immersive experience and storyline” gamer – I tend to care about the gameplay, balance, and flow more than anything else.  But World of Goo is the only game I play where I make sure the sound is on and I can get into it for a while.  The game itself is a fun puzzler, it’s perfectly suited for touch, and the storytelling and ambiance is perfect.  I’m hoping for a sequel, but in the mean time keep coming back to finish the OCD levels (don’t call it that!).  Paid.

Parents: go download Toontastic now.  No, seriously, get it.  It’s an animated storybook creator, and the user experience is so great my 4 year old can fully make the animations himself.  And that includes the narration, background effects, character and scene selection, and every other perfectly customizable detail.  It’s really great, and even has tons of online sharing features for those into that kind of stuff (I’m not, but I know everyone else is).  Oh, and not only is it that great, it’s free. Wowza.

Zite is the only app to make both my iPhone and iPad lists.  It’s my ultimate source of “being informed” on topics I care about.  Yes Flipboard is more popular, and Editions is beautiful (and built by friends of mine but I had already gotten so deep into using Zite that I just couldn’t switch – sorry guys), but Zite just does it for me (and personalized flow of info is a big deal when it comes to news reader type of apps, so I understand why people get so loyal to the ones they start with).  When Zite got acquired by CNN I was pretty happy for the guys behind it, and now, months later, I’m still happy that it hasn’t become the “CNN” of news reading apps.  Love. Free.

And, just like in iPhone, here are the runners up:

  • AppShopper – keep track of when the paid apps I’m interested in go on sale
  • #sworcery - it’s beautiful, I just don’t find myself with the time to play as much as I want
  • NHL Gamecenter – on the plus side, I can watch the Habs play, either in real-time or catch-up.  on the unbelievably pathetic down side, I can rarely watch catch-up without seeing the score in advance, because apparently the NHL doesn’t seem to care about those of us who cannot watch live hockey at 4pm multiple days per week.
  • Sundry Notes - this is an amazing note-taking / scrapbooking style tool.  super powerful, probably awesome for college students.
  • Tilt to Live HD – fun quick action game
  • iSpadez – great spades game, with live multiplayer!
  • Ticket to Ride – perfect adaptation of board game, just wish they’d let me speed up all the animations.
  • Majesty – another fun non-RTS RTS game
  • Dropbox – yup, it’s Dropbox – on the iPad. moving on.
  • Kayak – taking the depth of booking travel and making it work on an iPad is a challenge, and the Kayak app hits it out of the park
  • Waze – great on the iPhone, even greater on the iPad – free turn-by-turn nav!
  • Catan HD – would make my main list, but the app is just too unstable.
  • ColoramaMask – another fun drawing app for kids
  • Fingerzilla – crush, stomp, tap, destroy!!!
  • Pat The Bunny – good kids interactive experience
  • Talking Tom – silly fun
  • IMDB – if you are a movie nerd like me, you probably don’t need to be told about the app…

The most interesting revelation I had whilst writing these two lists is the breakdown of paid vs free apps.  On my iPhone only 2/10 “top” apps were ones I shelled out invisible coins for.  Whereas on the iPad, 5 out of 8 were paid (though if memory serves at least one was a free weekend download, but I could be wrong).  If I was a real reporter I’d go through my transactions to figure out how much money I’ve spent on each platform.  But I’m not, so instead, thus endeth the blog post.

Expectations for Tim Cook’s Oct 4th Event

The rumor mill has it that Oct 4th is the next big Apple event, in which we can expect to see Tim Cook kick off his term as CEO.  Here are some of my thoughts on what we can expect , in no particular order (note that I’m skipping all the pre-announced stuff, like iOS 5, etc):

No Steve Jobs
A variety of folks are speculating on whether or not Jobs will make an appearance.  I’d say absolutely not, other than possibly in the audience.  Jobs walking on stage would undermine Tim’s role as CEO and send a weak message to the media.  It’s time for Cook to run the show, and Wall Street in particular will be paying close attention to his every move (yet another example of how Wall Street’s mere presence harms us, but I’ll save that snarky feeling for another time. too late).  Granted I think we’d all love to see Jobs make an appearance, but unless they can figure out a way to do so without sending a lack of confidence message, I’d assume he stays on the sidelines.  This, by the way, will lead to rampant speculation about his health, again (under the veiled theme of “its news!” – tip: it isn’t, let the man be.).

Major Refreshes to Most Products
With one exception (below), I believe almost every product the company makes will get a refresh, either major or minor.  We already know about iPhone 5 and iOS 5, but rumors across everything else have showed up as well.  Per the above, it’s time for Cook to show his quality, and I think they’ll opt for over-delivering.

No iPad Updates
It’s just too soon.  Apple would frustrate their existing (huge) iPad base, and steal from whatever they’ll be doing in 2012.  Also, a complete dearth of competition in the space enables them to take their time and raise the bar next Spring.

New Presentation Style
Whomever created the “Steve Jobs Presentation” obviously deserves some kind of award.  But what made his style so special is how well it was tuned for Jobs.  I believe they’ll re-create the concept for Tim to enable him to deliver his own personal touch.  I don’t think it’ll be a massive departure, but I do expect some change.

Major iPod Changes
I wouldn’t be surprised if, starting next month, the iPod product line is reduced to the Touch and Nano (with WiFi), and everything else is gone.  That really is the purpose behind iCloud, and just like the company is killing off physical drives, it seems like the traditional iPod isn’t part of the new vision of the Apple digital lifestyle.  I’d like to see some minor “apps” for the Nano personally, but that might be a stretch.

One More Thing - iTelevision?
If they even continue with the “One More Thing” it could be the actual launch of the fabled Apple Television Set.  Or it could happen in 2013.  Or never…

Tune back on Oct 5th to review how I got 5/6 of these things wrong. :)

No, Microsoft, this will not do. Not at all.

Microsoft introduced Windows 8 for developers today, with a specific focus on their take on the tablet.  Now some are fawning over this, but they clearly don’t recall a summer day in 2005 when Microsoft showed off Vista for the first time.  I was there. It was, in a word awesome. The early demos of Vista blew us all away, it was as if we were at the Windows 95 launch all over again.  Then Windows Vista came out, it was *nothing* like the demos, the train blew through the station, and the company’s been in a bit of a quagmire ever since, losing market share as well as credibility and prestige in virtually every category (other than Xbox).

roughly as on target as Vista was...

So today, when they show us a decently cool looking version of a tablet that isn’t going to ship for another year, after series of missteps, I’m sorry if I don’t really get particularly excited.  Particularly when I see it’s got a fan inside.  This entire move, yet again, makes me wonder: who on Earth are they building this for? What is the real market opportunity here?  Even if the Windows 8 tablet *is* as good as the current generation iPad 2, that’s chasing a product that’s already 6 months old, and will be 18 months old by the time they are in the market.  Didn’t these guys watch the movie called “HP and the Wacky Adventures of the TouchPad”?  We’ve seen how it ends!

works like nothing... else...

There really is a great market for non-iPad tablet devices, there are a few in fact.  And Microsoft is perfectly poised to build a really great tablet.  But I don’t think that perfect Microsoft tablet is about consumers, nor is it about Windows.  These markets are, at present and for the foreseeable future, mostly closed to Microsoft, and they’ll have little luck there.  So empty your heads, don’t think of anything – they’ve only got one shot at this. Microsoft needs to focus on the other key product they have, the one software package Apple can’t really touch, the one where they make a boatload of cash.  Yup, it’s Office.

yes, that WAS a Ghostbusters quote, well played!

I can write another 1000 or words on the topic, but I’m going to keep this one short and sweet.  There is unquestionably a great business opportunity in a tablet device with a great Office productivity software suite.  If the iPad is a consumption/entertainment device, then for jebus’ sake, Microsoft, learn how to cross-program, and offer a completely different thing.  And do it really well, with no big committees, and nobody who’s worked for the company for more than say 4 years.  And then go let Dell build it.  Oh, and don’t standardize (read: compromise) – make one product that works one way, no drivers, fragmentation, or anything else.

ah, that's how they get so much done!

And please, don’t tell me about it until it’s ready to ship.

Thanks, Steve!

Apple is one of those companies that tends to polarize people. Some hate them for “closed” systems.  Others love them for beautiful products.  Some call them evil and bullying.  Others say they open markets.  I’m not one to debate, so I’ll just cut to the chase by saying Apple, in the past decade, has contributed more to consumer technology than most other companies combined.  And it’s fairly hard to argue that the Apple of today is entirely the company Steve built.

Steve Jobs’ resignation hits hard, but the only thing that comes as a surprise is the seeming suddenness of it (Yeah, but I mean the very end, when he actually resigned. That was extremely sudden).  Here’s a list of some of the things, love em or hate em, that we should all be thankful of Jobs/Apple for (and yes, I’m sure some dude in some lab somewhere invented all these things about 300 years ago, but if it weren’t for Apple, we all wouldn’t know about them):

  • Internet-based music distribution: from iTunes to Pandora to Spotify to Turntable, had it not been for Apple creating the iPod+iTunes ecosystem, it’s unlikely the music industry would’ve had sufficient motivation to enable “digital” as fast as they did.  The MP3 market would’ve grown much slower, resulting in less buy-in from the industry, resulting in a lack of streaming and on-demand services.  Would we have something like it today?  Probably.  Would it all be priced the way it is today?  Doubtful.  It took the muscle of the iPod’s dominance to enable Apple to negotiate the entire music industry into the $0.99 pricing schema we have today.  It’s likely that companies such as Amazon and Sony would’ve ended up much strong in this space, but we’d probably be paying more for the same content, and I’d wager services like Pandora would never have gotten off the ground.
  • “Real” smartphones: Unquestionably smartphones predate the iPhone.  Blackberries had some “smartness” and earlier generation Windows Mobile devices actually provided quite a bit of functionality, not to mention the granddaddy of them all, the Palm/Treo lines.  But let’s face it, the iPhone really changed everything.  Capacitive touchscreens (remember the stylus? nope, me neither), app stores (more on that to come), and more, all thanks to the iPhone’s success.  I think Nokia and RIM would still be considered the leaders in the mobile space if Apple had never shipped an iPhone, and team Android should be exceptionally grateful for its existence.
  • Gestures: Pinch + Zoom? Swipe? Multi-finger scroll?  One could argue this is just a subset of the smartphone, but it’s not, as gesture support has improved the computing experience overall.  Prior to the “two finger scroll” feature on MacBooks, the only thing even close was the variety of PC manufacturers who enabled the right-side scroll region on their inputs.  Once again, an area where numerous companies could’ve beaten Apple to the punch, but simply didn’t.
  • The Internet: Just kidding.
  • That's a Vaio?

    Nice Macbook, er, Vaio.

    Bringing Sexy Back: From the moment Steve rejoined Apple through to today, the company’s products have set the standard for technology aesthetics.  Whether it’s the sleek industrial design, the minimalistic approach, the amazing attention to detail, or the use of aluminium, it’s as if Apple showed up in a Porsche while everyone around them were driving Volvos (boxy, but good).  As a result, there’s been an almost frenetic rush to make distinctive, beautiful technology.  And some of it’s even been pretty good!

  • Changing Retail: When Apple first announced they’d open their own retail stores, they were literally laughed at. There’s now over 300 of them, and they are unbelievably successful.  They are considered the best retail customer experience overall. They are wildly profitable.  Consumers enjoy going there even when they don’t buy things.  In fact, my only surprise here is the lack of copycats – nobody’s even close to creating a similar experience at such a grand level.  Well, maybe in China
  • The App Economy: Yes, my PalmPilot had installable apps, and so did my Windows Mobile phone.  But it took Apple to create a nearly $4-BILLION app economy and marketplace.  My hunch here is without Apple revolutionizing the concept (by, again, creating a full end-to-end experience regarding discovery, installation, and most importantly, payment, for apps), we’d have nothing even as advanced as the Android market is today, which I still consider to be floundering in the dust relatively (simple tip to radically improve said experience: sort all apps AND reviews by device – will fix 80% of fragmentation problems in one fell swoop).
  • The iPad: Remember when tablets really sucked?  Guess what, they still do.  But what doesn’t suck is the iPad.  Other than speculation and conjecture, the reality check is the only successful “tablet-like product” on the market is the iPad, all others pale in comparison.  I could write a dozen or so blog posts on what everybody else is doing wrong, but the thing that matters here is all the things Apple did right.  They made something that perfectly fits into a few dozen million peoples’ lives.  Flash? Nobody cares.  USB?  Nobody cares.  ”Closed system”?  Nobody cares.  The iPad, as if by magic, navigated through the waters of touch-input devices to create the admittedly-not-perfect product, but so far beyond “good enough” that it’s changed computing as we know it.

I’m sure I’m missing a bunch of things that the company did that I can’t even recall at this moment, but these were the ones that hit me as most important.  How did they do it?  The comfort in saying “no, we can’t ship that yet, it’s just not ready.”  The comfort in saying “it’s okay if we aren’t providing every feature known to man, just so long as our features are great.”  The comfort in saying “we don’t have to be perfectly compatible with all other technologies that have come before us, if we make a strong ecosystem ourselves.”  The comfort in saying “we believe this is what people really want, and we’re going to give it to them.”

These are statements that no other technology manufacturer or provider make, so far as I’ve seen in my career (with brief exceptions, such as Sling, Flip, and a handful of others).

When Steve Jobs rejoined Apple in the late 90s, it’s well known that he rapidly ripped apart products, cut staff, and trimmed down the entire operation to get radically focused.  Since then, beyond all the technology and products, what Steve’s done the most is built the very DNA of the Apple that we know today.  The real contribution Steve made, in my opinion, was creating a culture of building to perfection, and understanding what that means as a core essence.

As I commented on TechCrunch, “Much like when a pitcher walks from the mound, the entire tech industry should stand and give a round of applause for one who has contributed so much.”

Time to call it a day

When a pitcher takes that walk, sometimes it’s because they’re pulled.  But every now and then, that pitcher gave his all, kicked some amazing ass, and it’s just time for him to take a rest.  But along the way he carried or maybe even made the game.  And his spirit carries the team even further.  And for those of us watching on the sidelines, we rise with applause, out of thanks and respect.

You rocked our world!

And then the game carries on.

Does anyone *really* use Android tablets?

My friend Harry has done some deep sleuthing (read: he Googled it) and it’s seeming that two of the “user testimonials” in Samsungs latest ads are in fact made by actors:

I did notice, however, that freelance travel writer Joan Hess bears a striking resemblance to New York actress Joan Hess:

And that real estate CEO Joseph Kolinski could be New York actor Joseph Kolinksi‘s twin brother:

Filmmaker Karl Shefelman, on the other hand, looks a lot like…filmmaker Karl Shefelman. Who works for a New York production company. One that’s done work for Samsung.

Don’t fret too much folks, they aren’t the only ones to have faked some reviews.

Now I know I’m a long-time non-fan of Android, and my experience with the Xoom is only exacerbating those feelings, but really, what is going on here?  I wrote a post back in the day explaining why I felt the tablet market was generally doomed, but the iPad proved me wrong.  Or did it?  Is the reality that only Apple can ship a “tablet-like product” successfully?

I think the answer might be something like “for the overwhelming majority of regular people, absolutely yes.”

As far as I can tell, the best use of any Android tablet presently on the market is to develop apps for Android tablets.  Yes, I’m dead serious with that comment.  Laptop mag just did a head-to-head comparison with the Xoom and iPad 2, and somehow actually managed to make it a “close call” – but then again, the guy writing it somehow managed to find the Android interface “better” than the iPads.  If you are technically proficient, interested in widgets, and like coding, I could see that perspective.   If you aren’t, it’s flat out wrong.  But I digress (like usual).

So I come back to the key question here: who is using these things, and to what end?  I’ve *never* seen one in the wild, and I live in the utter mecca of techieness (heck I even see Nooks on the bus to work).  Further, I’ve yet to meet a single person outside of the tech echochamber who is even really aware of these devices, let along truly in the market for one.  Go to the retail stores and try to get demos – there’s typically at most a single person in a store who even knows how to demo them (and yes, I do go to stores and do ask these kinds of questions – and anyone who claims to understand regular consumers and how they use technology should do at least the same)!

I’m working on another post (coming soon) on where I feel there is a market opportunity for HP and the like to bring tablets to market successfully, but if there’s one aspect I’m utterly convinced of – there is virtually no consumer market for non-iPad tablets. And by “virtually none” I’ll go with “about a million in North America, maybe two tops.”

Microsoft To Launch Tablet at CES: Again

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then Microsoft needs a straitjacket.

How many times has Microsoft tried a tablet? At least four, over the past eleven years. How many times have they failed? Four. Today the New York Times is reporting that Microsoft is taking aim at the iPad and will introduce several tablet PCs at CES next month.

People familiar with this device said it will run the Windows 7 operating system when in landscape mode, but will also have a layered interface that will appear when the keyboard is hidden and the device is held in a portrait mode.

[SNIP]

The applications will not be sold in an app store, as with the Apple iTunes model, but Microsoft will encourage software partners to host the applications on their own Web sites, which will then be highlighted in a search interface on the slate computers. It is unclear if these applications will be ready for C.E.S. as most are still in production.

Making hardware is not that hard. Almost anyone can build a tablet computer these days. Making a great tablet is very hard. I’d even wager that the team behind the iPad looks at their product and all they can see is future improvements. That said, it is clearly the best tablet we’ve got so far. It is hard to replicate the iPad’s usability. It is hard to capture intuitive and repeatable gestures. It is hard to capture Apple’s mindshare and market position.

It seems these days that Microsoft is reacting instead of leading. Their fundamental approach is “iPad is not that good and doesn’t meet the needs of business professionals.” And that plan just isn’t working out for them.

What happened to the Microsoft that invented Windows? Remember Start Me Up? What happened to the company that built Office and the Xbox? I want to root for Windows and Microsoft. I want Microsoft to deliver simple, beautiful technologies to people.

And just like I have for the past few years, I’ll be skipping Ballmer’s CES demo. Not that I don’t want to be there. It is that I feel like I have been there before. I will hope for something amazing. I would love to discover that I missed the best keynote ever. But instead, if it even mentions Microsoft one note, someone should have a straitjacket on hand just in case.

New TEDTalks iPad app is good – here’s how to make it great

I was thrilled to discover the new TEDTalks app for my iPad this morning, and quickly installed and liked much of the experience.  There they are, over 700 amazing Talks to listen to.  This is particularly sweet for me as I watch a TEDTalk on my iPad virtually every morning whilst on the bus to the office, currently obtained through the suboptimal process of subscribing to the podcast in iTunes, and syncing to the iPad.  And if I may slide for a moment here, I can’t believe in 2010 there’s still anything that has to “sync” via a wire.  But I digress, back to TED.

In just a few minutes of use I quickly realized the app was content-rich, but not feature-rich.  While the “Inspire Me” feature is extremely well done (it’s all about length of video – this is a key realization most entertainment/content people need to clue in on), I felt it was otherwise a little flat. In fact, it’s not going to be very useful for my personal needs, and I’m concerned that’ll be true for others as well.  So in my support of TED, and by the way – I genuinely believe that if all people watched TED Talks the world would actually be a better place – I thought I’d quickly jot out the notes to make it better for users such as myself.

  1. Add search
    The browse works great, but there’s no search.  So when I see a tweet from a friend about a given TED Talk, I can’t find it without browsing for it.  And, to boot, I need to know the category/tag that applies to the talk to find it.  While we’re at it, make search by keyword and author too.
  2. Add alphabetical browsing
    Per above, at present you need to know how the Talk is categorized to find it.  Personally, I’d like to find something just by browsing a list of titles.
  3. Add sharing features
    At the end of virtually every TEDTalk, I want to share it with someone, whether a peer, my team, a friend or family member, or the entire world on Twitter.  Add simple “tweet this” and “like this” and “email a link to this” TEDTalk to every clip.  Also, the link should probably share the YouTube or TED.com version of the clip.
  4. Add a history/watched list
    Once I’ve watched a few dozen videos, I find it hard to remember if I’ve seen one, or hard to remember the exact title of one if I want to reshare it.  A simple history feature is essential.  And in the would-be-nice category?  Show me “You Watched this on MMDDYY” on the video preview page if I come back to it.  Also, add a “mark viewed” feature along the way, in case I’ve watched the Talk on another platform.
  5. Incorporate social features
    Since everyone’s busy “liking” everything else via Facebook these days, would be great to see in a video profile page that friends of mine have liked something.
  6. Add download controls
    Once I begin a download, there appears no way to delete the download, queue for later, or otherwise manage whats going on.
  7. Add more “cool views”
    Timelines. Maps. Duration.  etc.
  8. Integrate with other platforms
    There’s the TED site, YouTube, the iPad app, a forthcoming iPhone app, a Boxee app, the iTunes podcast, and I’m sure more to come.  Assume I am using more than one method to consume the content, then allow me to integrate from one to the other.  In other words, let me favorite something on your site, then see that on my iPad app.

I think the “1.0″ version of the app is probably pretty decent for most people.  If you have even a few free minutes and an Internet connection and want to get inspired, this app will certainly do the trick.  Hopefully these ideas can help inspire team TED to take it just a bit further!

The difference between Fragmentation and Disparate Products, a counterpoint

My friend Louis Gray wrote a piece tonight mostly about the new Apple TV, but focusing on how he believes Apple is introducing fragmentation into their ecosystem.  Go ahead, give it a read.

I was writing the following as a long comment, and just as I was wrapping up I thought it would serve better as a blog post.  Please consider it a counter-point, and you should definitely read Louis’ arguments first.  Go ahead, click there, then read all the way through the comments until you get to…

“I’ve yet to see anybody dispute the facts about each device running a different flavor of the OS, which is the crux of the issue.”

The reason nobody’s disputing it is because it’s not actually an issue.  Apple does not, for the most part, have fragmentation in their platforms (other than tiny exceptions, which I’m sure someone will point out snarkily in the comments).  This is about disparate products, not a fragmented operating system implementation (though I do completely agree that the iTunes experience is woefully out of date within the overall product line Apple sells).

First, all the comparisons about what does/doesn’t play on Apple TV on day 1 of shipping are irrelevant – the wide swath of Americans who will buy the device will pick it up later this year (you know, November-ish), by which time the content library will be different.

Second, it’s not as if there’s any cross-product features, other than the few apps which happen to run both on an iPad and on an iPhone/Touch.   When we talk about Android fragmentation it’s because all the products are being labeled as having a common platform, yet there is MASSIVE discrepancy between user interface, app compatibility, features, etc.

Third, Apple isn’t out there marketing “iOS 4 devices” other than when it needs to in re updating iPads/iPhones.  And even then, it’s highly product-specific.  Android, on the other hand, *is* a promise/value expectation (and I’ll avoid commenting on the quality at this point).  When Google touts new Android features and someone with a Droid Eris (my former, sad sad sad phone) hears about them, they have *NO WAY* of knowing they will never ever get them.

Fourth, and last, is about the developers.  Ultimately fragmentation is most keenly an issue to them (even more than consumers), as it impacts their livelihood.  So if you are developing for Android, yet your app won’t run on the mega-phone Evo, and runs poorly on a Droid X, but is nice on the HTC Incredible (my current, much better, but still lacking phone), how are you supposed to communicate that to consumers, who will inevitably write poor reviews, not trust your brand, and ultimately not spend money with you.

That’s the problem with fragmentation.  Now let’s look at developers for iOS – they know exactly (1) how big their market potential is, (2) where the money is flowing, (3) how to build apps within the ecosystem, and (4) with 100% certainty, which devices their apps will run on.  A bad user experience is utterly the developers’ faults, not due to some random hardware maker poorly implementing an OS.  And if/when Apple TV gets iOS 4 (my prediction is it doesn’t happen until the next version of the device, but I’m getting a lot of these wrong these days, so who knows???), developers will have a clear path to build whatever apps they can, knowing exactly how they will perform.