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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Breakfast with iPad 2

Two weeks ago the iPad 2 came home and I decided to have a breakfast with it. The cutlery has not changed, menu similar to last year, but I am now reading Flipboard instead of Time. Time was a bit symbolic last year with Steve Jobs on the cover. Noe I decided to honour the one app that has captured most timeshare in this classic still life. Maybe this becomes a tradition.

What has happened in the past year. One big change is that I stopped liking papers, their UI is just plainly inferior, noisy, big and not up to date. I find that I buy FT occasionally during week-ends, but I do not read it, just brush through it. It's format is way too big.

I also thought I would read more books on the iPad, I don't I prefer Kindle. I thought I would dwell in
magazines, I don't and now my few copies of Wired are flushed into cyberspace. Do I care enough to get in touch with customer care, probably not, rather keep few extra GBs free. I also miss my Economists. I would love to have an Economist app that allows me to extract articles, by the
Magazine, and get recommendations for articles from friends that they could occasionally gift me or that I could buy. I would over time get very loyal to my Economist library. Happy to
design it for you if you want to do it Economist quality.

The iPad 2 is better in many ways, but it is incremental, what I like most is my beige leather cover that ages and gets patina. It is my first gadget that gets patina and that ladies and gentlemen is huge. Next I want smarter covers, like I explained in my previous post and a proper AirTunes or and AirPhoto.

Breakfast with iPad 2




10:46 PM in Technology | Permalink

Sunday, March 13, 2011

iPad 2 – Approaching creator's perfection point.

The iPad 2 is ordered and on its way. Like many times before with Apple products the second version is a considerable step forward. Its rapid progress must have scared lots of people working on tablet projects around the industry, I am sure many projects got killed. What surprised me most was the massive diet it went on. I did not expect that they would be able to make such a leap. For those of you who read my original post, my main criticism was with the size and weight of the device. Having used the device more or less every day the past year, weight is my primary criticism. I am really looking forward to the lighter version.

 

The iPad 2 sparks very interesting thoughts on the future of tablets. I think never before has a product category matured so fast. The iPad 2 is in two generations a very mature product. Yet as we know things never stay constant in technology. Current products are simply inspiration for future products.

 

There are some obvious improvements; the borders between screen and device needs to shrink, but it would eventually introduce a software challenge how to hold it. The battery life could be extended maybe 30% as there are days where I can empty the battery, most days I cannot. The camera can be improved. These are all incremental and natural and will improve in due course.

 

The iPad has approached a concept I would like to call perfection point. This point is an imaginary point where the innovation focus moves from hygiene to luxury. This is exemplified by the smart cover. The Perfection point is different from Abernathy and Utterbacks point where innovation moves from Product Innovation to Process improvements. The Perfection point is a state many products never achieve, competition is too stiff. I was incredibly intrigued by one section of the keynote, namely that moment where Steve talks about the Rotate Lock vs. Mute key conflict. I found it very interesting that in the original SW it was used for Rotate Lock and in 4.2 the default was mute, making the Rotate Lock approach close to impossible usability by having to double tap the apps key slide all the way left. A completely unusable solution. Now in 4.3 it is a user setting, not a solution by any measure. I find it amazing that even Wall Street Journal is discussing this type of issue. The classic solution is to add a key, which I am sure the people inside of Apple has suggested, but Steve has refused to put more keys, which is exactly the right decision. More keys will turn devices into hedgehogs that no one wants to hold.

 

It is time to create smart keys, keys with more than a binary function. Keys that react to clicks like traditional keys, but also to touch and pressure. This kind of keys are possible to build with our Tech21 Sensor technology. One could easily keep the rotate screen lock as one key and make mute function on the volume keys with a touch swipe smart key. This kind of innovation is for most companies to insignificant, to be a first mover, but once it becomes hygiene everyone wants it. The first mover has to innovate close to the perfection point. Therefore I suspect it is only companies who are operating close to the perfection point that can lead this kind of transformation of how for example keys work. When the others have to grapple with hygiene factors such as battery life and weight, Apple can solve problems, the others have not yet encountered, or if they have, been forced to de-prioritize.

 What really inspired me in the iPad 2 was the smart cover. It provides a wonderful tool for device transformation: ‘Protectivecover’, ‘Writingstand’ and ‘Video stand’. The most important feature is however in my opinion the impact it has on SW. I love the fact it powers on and off, when opened and closed. It would probably not be difficult to make power available to the cover, like the Mag-Safe connector. This sparked an idea, which is the classic problem with these electronic devices providing multiple types of utility. The fact that one needs to show a menu, as the device is used for multiple things. This is not needed in single purpose devices, like a paper notebook, one is instantly in writing mode. This 2 second time saving has not been captured in multi usage gadgets, like computers and tablets. Now one could with some type of technology, sense where the user is touching the cover and fire up a relevant app. There could be three hotzones along the first sector of the smart cover. If user opens up from top, browser is fired up, from middle a notepad and from bottom, a third app. This could be designed to live outside the password wall. So that get access to input, but not reading without entering passwords. This would speed up usage as a data collecting tool enormously. The good news with this idea, is that it could probably be patented.

The efficiency of data input has been a key problem in mobility, now the smart covers bring us few seconds faster, there are few seconds to shave off, and once we have gained them, we probably will see a demise of paper based solutions.

I think these kind of smart hardware with elements of service or software could become a big business in the future, imagine a smart cover that is an app and paid for service. This could be offered by Mount Blanc, but most likely by a start up, the incumbents are typically too conservative. I think the simple idea that HW is the service has so much legs. Let me know if anyone of you readers discovers sensors and other technologies that could trigger this.

 

 

 

 

01:46 PM in Technology | Permalink

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The segmentation of touch

One of the exciting sub-trends going on in mobile handset is the searching of new dominant forms. We have the balanced middle of the road iPhone which has pushed the device width to 61mm. Now SonyEricsson is pushing wider and longer, a move I like. With larger formfactor the functional utility grows. I think it is possible to grow bigger yet, the key is to try to solve good one-hand use. It is and will be fundamental for many mobile task. The SE started to design for left and right handed use, look at the un-lock feature for example. SonyEricsson is also segmenting smaller. This direction is particularely excited as I am not sure that Apple is willing and short term able to split the platform into three segmented sizes. They went for Pad size and this will fragment the platform, they already said that it made sense to re-write the apps for the iPad as they become an order of magnitude better. Same applies to going smaller. The addressable control areas get too small for a 20% reduction, what I think is needed for true segmentation. This is why I think Apple has made their bet, it is the Pad. They will instead segment using features like style, camera, memory and maybe keyboard. This provides enough space to grow market share significantly. Atleast this is what I would do if I would be Steve. 16022010288

11:35 AM in Technology | Permalink

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Linearity – A new media user experience

The Kindle gave me an idea for a new user experience for media. I call it  Linearity. The concept is dead simple: The user experience is rendered into pages and the user only clicks next page. This is just like reading on a Kindle or on a e-book.

I think Linearity  works for all kind of media. Imagine if one has a powerful contextual engine that learns your interests, and assembles optimised media pages that is serves proactively in the background and is ready when user clicks next. If the next page is not interesting one just shakes the device and a new page is rendered. Mood signalling, and monetisation needs to be integrated.

If the contextual engine is influenced by what your friends are reading in real-time, what people locally are reading and what is relevant and interesting for me then it should be ‘Water Cooler moment safe’ meaning that one should be able to participate in conversations taking place where people congragate to chat about what is going on in their worlds.
If the Linearity concept is enhanced with a voice search and command interface it should be able to build even better pages.
The benefits with Linearity is that it is highly scalable for different physical formats, something that will be reality in mobility also going forward.
Lineraity would not replace the browsable web, just complement it. I am convinced that the Web we have now is not good for mobility. It has two problems : Layout, optimised for 13” and above it has structure encouraging hyperlinking and free-form browsing. It has been designed for maximum flexibility and thus by nature it requires involvement, which is cumbersome when being mobile. There are only three ways to mobilize the current Internet: First is to enable the devices to run it, this requires powerful devices, great user interfaces and fast networks. The end result is compromised as long as the PC screen is bigger than the phone screen and I think that is forever as mobile devices needs to be one-hand operated. This method I call keyhole browsing. The other way is transcoding. Here the machine(server) reformats the content for mobility. This generates a significant compromise. The last alternative is optimisation and that is what the Apps in the end are. They are optimised mobile pages.
Linearity is different, though it has similarities to transcoding until material is published for Linearity according to some Linearity conventions. It is a low-involvement user experience from interaction point of view, which thus would work great for mobiles. It does not try to retain the hyperlinking nature of the pages, they are simply stripped into media rather than webpages. The user could pick it up and read, press next page and loads instantly as it has been generated before, compressed on the server and is loaded as needed. It is thus very transient and easy to dive into and out of.
Once we have a system like Linearity in place then magazines can publish to it using some standards of metadata,. Media can be free other can cost.
If anyone writing iPhone apps is reading this, I challenge you to build a little app to test this concept. I am happy to be involved. It would require a server component that would build the pages and track users preferences. This might exist, if it does do tip me and I will check it out.
I think this would be a wonderful way to read on a device like an iPod touch or an iPhone.

01:23 PM in Technology | Permalink

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hurray for Google News Timeline user experience; hurray for Andy Herzfeld

Picture 1 Today Google announces the horisontal timeline for News. Like one could expect it works very well in the browser and is surprisingly fast. I am exceptionally happy to see a renaissance in horisontal timelines, as I have felt awfully lonely for many years not seeing any clones of horisontal timelines, which we developed for Nokia Lifeblog in 2004. The idea of a horisontal timeline seemed obvious once we came up with the idea, perfect as we expected screens on computers to grow from 4:3 to 16:9 and beyond, now a reality. What makes me exceptionally happy and proud is that Google's timeline was done by Andy Hertzfeld. Andy is in my book one of the greatest geniuses in the SW world as he understands all elements of a great user experience, making it work (Utilitias), making it beautiful (venustas) and making is tight (firmitas). Andy for example is said to have hired hired Susan Kare to Apple, who was responsible for the icons of the first Mac a longtime inspiration of mine. Andy did many key components what made computers what they are for example control panels

The timeline is simply one of the best ways to depict large amounts of data, I have more than 30000 of data items in my Lifeblog and it is still my preferred way to watch my own digital history. As Nokia killed Lifeblog last year, my history is fading fast as there are no new compatible handset made. Few days ago I got my N95 8GB back from service, the one Google Lattitude killed, I transferred all my sms back to the phone, 200 transferred eventhough I got a note that 2000 had transferred,what made the transfer amusing is that all landed on 21st of April, I guess it was an active day of texting. What can I say: metadata matters, content is nothing without its metadata.

To celebrate Andy's achivement I will start a club called Timeline fans, you can sign up on this blog and we take it from there. I certainly want to see more timelines otherwise I think we will become masked in bits hidden on disks in the cloud and we might actually never see the sun.

09:14 PM in Technology | Permalink | TrackBack

Monday, April 06, 2009

All you can eat in the digital space - Amazon Prime

Picture 2
I have been an Amazon Prime user for some time now, and it struck me what a magnificent loyalty tool this is. For me there is some weird greed-maximize-my-saving-mechanism kicking off, much like going to one of those asian or italian all you can eat for €9.90 buffet places. Amazon Prime is the same thing in the digital space, except it does not come with tummy ache.

You pay to save on your shipping. I do love the concept, it has for me worked exactly like Amazon inteneded it, to drive loyalty. Amazon Prime drives me back to Amazon, much more than I went there in the past. Much more than any offer for discounts.

It is innovations like this that gradually turns Amazon into the digital global Wallmart. I would be curious to hear how it works for others Prime subscribers, what are your experiences?
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The next step would be to collect it to a mobile app, where one walks around in the physical world "shopmarking" things that one later can shop at Amazon with Prime delivery.

A terrible thought for all those retailers putting their products on display, but some clever retailer would quickly evolve into some kind of museum type retail experiences where people just browse and "shopmark" and then have the shippers compete for the business. Retail people would argue, people like getting things right away, but with Amazon Prime someone carries it home the next day, pretty darn nice for alot of stuff. I have not seen this kind of 'physical shopping catalogue' anywhere, it could be pretty darn space efficient way to do retailing.

12:10 PM in Technology | Permalink

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Death of Deadline driven mobile development

I recently realised a fundamental subtle change that the iPhone has caused. It has literally killed deadline driven product creation. A classic way to develop products is to launch them early, the moment they somehow work and then promise a shipping date in the future. It can also be done privately in deals. This tactic by management to leverage public promises to get the engineers to work harder is used world-wide in product development. The problem is that it does not work anymore when Apple started to making phones. This insight and thoughts emerged from two widely expected terminals, which both are disappointments among early adopters. The Google G1 phone and the Blackberry Storm both started shipping for the Christmas market. The Google G1 phone was not announced when the Android platform was announced, but it was announced that products would ship in October, a promise that was kept, but was shipped was not mature enough. The G1 is ready by classic mobile quality standard, but not by the new standards set by Apple. The experience is simply not polished enough. Let me use three examples to illustrate this point:
1.    When one opens the device and starts typing the device performs a search in the phonebook, there is no opportunity to extend it seamlessly into the Internet. Such a simple idea, and one I certainly would have insisted on leveraging a search brand as basis.
2.    When the user is in the idle experience and presses the Menu key it highlights an add function on the left. The thumb is naturally leaning on the black pearl and the most ergonomic action would be to scroll to the left, but this little menu does not loop. I would certainly have demanded that the design made such that the highlight is on the right most item, it would be add and one could then easily scroll left and provide looping of the menu. This however breaks some interaction design rules, but it would be elegantly simple, the type of design we aspire to do at Fjord,
3.    When one opens the market place app and put down the finger to scroll the among the apps, an irritating flicker occurs, when the OS thinks the finger wants to select an item, rather than scroll. These kind of issues take time to polish, but they are crucial in the new mobile world. Thinking that users will not notice is naive, as some users will notice and as their benchmark is iPhone they expect nothing less from premium suppliers like Google.
The G1 one phone is designed by geeks for geeks or like my friend who worked on lots on Microsoft mobile stuff  “This is what Microsoft would have done” The good news is that now there is an Android phone out and next year several more, of which one will be a stellar success. Google seems to have some kind of Japanese genes with Kaizen style continuous improvement. I sure that Android will be successful, but it will take longer than people think, and in the meantime Apple will make a lot of money.
The other example is the Blackberry Storm, the first touch screen solution from RIM. I think this was rushed to market. I think they promised Vodafone, that they would be ready for the Christmas market and now lots of somewhat negative press is emerging, which certainly will tarnish their reputation, which has been built on excellence. I actually think this device will hurt the self-esteem of some RIM product makers, the qwerty fanatics. I am sure that there was a giant debate about killing the qwerty for a touch screen, I do not think that the Blackberry users will dare to buy another touch Blackberry in the near future after being burned by the Storm. Storm is an appropriate name for what I think is happening inside of RIM. Keys are good! Don’t let Steve Jobs fool you. Focus on making the world’s thinnest slider and you have best of both worlds.

09:06 PM in Technology | Permalink

Sunday, November 09, 2008

My new iPod Touch going Rogue?

Ipod_touch The strangest thing happened yesterday. I was demoing the new generation of iPod Touch to my friends and for some amazing reason most of the apps did not work, they simply do not start. This got me thinking. I have not registered this iPod. The reason was I was thinking to give it to a friend, but in the end he was getting a new one so I will keep this one, I sold my first gen one.

I restored an older copy of my iPod Touch onto the new touch from my MacBook Air, which itself is a gigant MacTouch, so not my content mothership, which is at home in London, since travelling I have not had a chance to sync it to that. It has been more than 10 days since I set it up. I wonder if the iPod Touch goes rougue if one does not register it to the iTunes?

UPDATE: Thanks for the tip of downloading another app, it did not do the trick ;-( What did the trick was registering, so seems that Apple really want you to register the device. I don't mind.

03:12 AM in Technology | Permalink

Monday, November 03, 2008

Marek Pawlowski writes up his very negative G1 Experience - well worth a read.

Marek Pawlowski got a Google phone from T-Mobile, it was not a pretty experience. I hope this was a one off mishap. Looking forward to geting one.

"It took 18 hours and 4 phone calls to technical support for me to activate my G1 in the UK. However, once the device was finally working, I needed just a few minutes to conclude Google and T-Mobile have missed a huge opportunity to demonstrate a genuine commitment to improving the mobile user experience."

Read his full story here. Considering that he was on BBC talking about the Google phone, I found it utterly amazing that T-Mobile had not seeded him with a phone to avoid this exposure. As I know Marek, he is not out to haunt anyone, or generally negative, making this so much more serious.

I recently did a two minute touch the Google phone and it seemed promising, so looking forward getting one.

08:46 PM in Technology | Permalink

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Good People make good products, great people make great products

E71_11 One of the things that I have been interested in most of my life is design, but I have always taken a different interest than the traditional design interest of talking about design as a beautiful or well designed chairs  or glasses, products of an individual. My interest was initially in Industrial Design, but it seemed a bit narrow, so I moved my interest into Design Management. I read all the books on the topic in the early 90’s and met the community and I was left a bit empty. I finally wrote my thesis on the economics of design, of which at the time there was hardly nothing written. This gradually led me to product development, I had a wonderful Japanese Professor, Kiyonori Sakakibara, at London Business School, where I did some research on dominant design, Utterback and Abernathy based. He shaped my life in a fundamental way by kindly encouraging me out of academia and into product development.  My professor was of the opinion I made too bold assumptions for a young academic, I guess I was too impatient. I applied for a job at Nokia as a product manager for user interfaces. This started a long learning journey. I was very fortunate to work alongside product managers and later as more senior to program managers. Program managers are the CEO’s of the activity that makes a product, they are, I guess, much like the Directors  and Producers of a movie fused into one person. Steve Jobs has been heralded as the world’s best product maker,  he tops my list. I have been fortunate to worked with several extraordinary product makers at Nokia and Yahoo. Product makers are in my opinion the renaissance men of modern times, particularly if the product is a sophisticated one, like a mobile phone. The knowledge these people sit on is incredible.

This post is really a tribute to the headline and to all the anonymous product makers. In most cases you shape the world, but never get the glory, the best might not need the glory, the creation is all the satisfaction they need.

This post was triggered by one product, the Nokia E71. Being outside of Nokia, I see them in a different light and I gotten a bit worried that they stopped caring about their products, getting sloppy. When I first saw the E71, I said, that looks dammned good, when I touched it, I said this looks & feels great. It will be one of the biggest sellers in the Nokia range coming 12M.

Now to the headline, great people make great products. It was completely clear that this product was done by one of the great product makers in Nokia. I had to find out who. Now I know.  If you would have put me on the spot and forced a guess out of me, I might have arrived both at the R&D center and the person, at least I would like to think I would have been able to do it. This person masters, SW, HW, Operating systems and User Experience and most importantly the skill to get the people to do the extra mm, cm, meter and mile when it counts. The perverted thing is if you remove him and drop the person at a different company, there is absolutely no guarantee that anything would come out. This is what makes product making so darn fascinating. The E71 is the effort of several hundred people working probably more than 12-16M and thousands of people contributing to it. But in the end it really comes down to one person or a very small team.

Now if you are an analyst bumping into this story, I would think hard what judgements you make of RIM, as the E71 is real threat to them. What is my substantiation? It is my global focus group of two: one my product manager friends and colleague saying, after having used the iPhone for a while and getting the E71, "I had forgotten how good a phone the E71 is" and an old friend, female, caressing it and saying how much "she loves this device". That is all the market research I need to make my blink judgement: E71 will be a device shaping the mobile business in coming 12M.

To the guys who made it, thank you and keep on doing what you do, the world will be just a bit better if we get more beautiful products like the E71.

10:19 AM in Technology | Permalink