Mar 23

Is this feasible to build? Bonus points if you can figure how to cancel out external music while letting me listen to my own.

You have a UI prototype and a pre-order for at least one at $300- someone please build it.
If nothing more consider doing it as a public service.

Jul 08

Place your bets: has Apple implemented the location-aware feature in iPhone OS 2.0 in such a way that the apps will work on the older iPhones? Perhaps this answer is already available but I just dug around and couldn’t find it. Ideally there’s a concept within the iPhone of location that’s independent of how the location is obtained so that whether your position is determined via GPS or cell tower triangulation, the apps don’t care. Anyone know the answer or care to bet on how this is implemented?

May 06

How did Apple nail so many features of the iPhone and yet get picture messages so horribly wrong?

Right now when you receive a picture message via SMS on the iPhone you get an alert that looks like this:


But since there’s no copy/paste feature, you’re apparently expected to hold the 9 character MessageID and the 8 char password in your head, switch over to safari, go to and type these in the form fields. I guess that’s realistic if you’re this guy but us mere mortals don’t have that kind of mental swap space.

AT&T should just put a link in the SMS to retrieve the picture. It’s no Treo experience like getting the pic immediately but it’s a one-click retrieval step at that point since the iPhone automatically creates links for valid URLs in messages. And this method would be no less secure since they already put these tokens as text in the SMS now.

If getting AT&T’s cooperation to fix this isn’t an option, Apple could still solve it by the having the SMS app recognize and parse the MMS alerts that AT&T issues and create a dynamic local page that posts those variables. Either one of these would make multimedia messages tolerable on the iPhone- it’s basically unusable now. I don’t know how Apple is prioritizing their improvements – I know they probably don’t expose that anywhere but it would be good if they allowed people to vote for fixes. BTW, Matt Assay has a good discussion of other iPhone brokenness. It’s such a beautiful device but has some things that are conspicuously annoying. It’d be great if their calendar worked more like the Treo’s and I still haven’t figured out if/where it syncs data from the notes app to the Mac.

Mar 06

I was featured today in an interview on on the topic of web browsing for mobile phones. We cover questions of how mobile phone browsers will evolve, the relevance of the browser in the purchasing decision for a cell phone, the viability of various business models for mobile browsers and the apps we can expect to see over the next few years. Quick read- check it out.

Feb 20

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a “dude where’s my car?” moment. I chalk it up to a perfect storm of missing neurons – having zero sense of navigation coupled with a general absent mindedness for things my brain considers to be mundane details. Fortunately though technology is improving fast enough to cover for my mental deficiencies.

The latest firmware upgrade to the iPhone brought some neat features, one in particular I’ve found to be extremely valuable: the GPS-like ability to locate your current position on a map via cell tower triangulation. This was the killer app in my opinion for jailbreaking an iPhone before this upgrade to get the old Navizon app. I’m happy that Apple chose to include this feature in the core functionality of the iPhone so now I don’t have to futz with the jailbreaking headaches in order to use it.

The most obvious use of the new cell triangulation feature is to be able to pick a destination and say “get me there from here.” But there’s another less-obvious use case I’ve discovered that when coupled with a technique that my buddy Josh Knowles invented, becomes super useful when you’re on the road.

The problem: when you’re doing back-to-back trips to big cities and driving cookie-cutter yugo rental cars, things start to blur together. In the rush between meetings, the parking garages start to look the same and you forget what your current rental car looks like (let alone where you parked it). *An aside- the psychological explanation for this phenomenon is interference theory which basically says when things are similar enough yet slightly different, it completely confounds your short-term memory.

This very situation happened to me a month ago when I was at MacWorld. I was in SF driving from the hotel pursuing a navigationally-adept MacWorld attendee in my crappy rental car trying to keep up and entirely oblivious to where we were going. I ended up parking in a garage somewhere near the Moscone Center on an unknown floor and following this guy to the show. I never mentally snapshotted where I had parked though and all I remembered about the car I was driving was that it was blue and cramped with manual windows and a cheesy stereo.

The outcome of this frenzied cannonball run to MacWorld was that after the event I realized I was 3 blks away in some direction from a non-descript parking garage that had about 6-7 floors and a tiny blue car parked somewhere inside abutting one of the pylons. I was able to track down the right garage and the right floor and ultimately the car but not after first going through that desperation “crap i’ve lost my wallet” period and being thoroughly frustrated hunting for 45min.

The solution: When you park your P.O.S. car, you can hit the “current location” button on your iPhone and then the “more options” button to drop a pin to mark your position. Depending on how dense the cell coverage is, the location feature is very accurate (within 100 feet). Next snap a photo with the iPhone’s camera so you have a mug shot of your vehicle with some landmark or unique feature in the background. You now have all the key info necessary to find your car without using any of your short-term memory.

Now I realize this will seem like major nerd overkill to the ordinary person – and I don’t disagree. But for those of us who are missing those key neurons that enable navigation and remembering a series of similar-but-different details, this is a quick lifehack that can save some frustration.

But more importantly, I see this as part of that “mind like water” goal of freeing up mental RAM from storing trivial details and offloading them into trusted repositories so we’re able to do our thing and not sweat the small stuff.

Jan 18

Having just returned from Macworld late last night, here are a few thoughts/observations:


A massive ecosystem

It’s striking to see how many companies have sprung up around Apple products. Nothing like cramming all these people into the same spot to make you realize how many there are. They filled two ginormous exhibit halls at the Moscone center in SF. It was sensory overload walking the floor and the energy level was almost uncomfortably high to the point where you had conference fatigue after a day.


Masters of buzz

They certainly have demonstrated they know how generate buzz. Aside from having a stellar UI in their products they had amazing visual presence at the show. With these cinematic and creative displays you have everyone with a camera posing for pics with Apple logos in the background and then talking about how incredible the setup was (me case in point right now). As far as product launches, nobody needs the new Mac Air but the way they present it sure makes you want one.

What got the crowds

By far the most interesting thing for me was to see which booths drew the crowds. Every now and then you’d come across a booth that looked no different from any other and yet there would be 100 people packed around it watching a demo while the others were desolate. These ideas aren’t rocket science but the popular ones consistently had either:

  • a charismatic speaker
  • a product that visually demo’d well
  • a hot brazillian model handing out free stuff
  • an interactive experience.
  • This last one was the real eye-opener: whether it’s a game of chance that involved competing for prizes or some type of interactive demo where the passers by were projected on the video screen and then the demo somehow incorporated them- it’s clear that people like watching other people, not products. If your product can be presented in such a way to incorporate the people there in the demo itself, it’s guaranteed to attract viewers.


    Interesting products

    The two products that interested me most (aside from the new EVDO card from Verizon which I bought on site) were completely unrelated to Apple.


    The company SmartBoard had some impressive options for making a digital whiteboard. Their most inexpenisve setup allows you to utilize your existing projector to project against one of their pneumatic screens. Using your finger or one of their soft pens, you draw on the screen and it senses the position, sends that data to the app and draws ink as if you were writing on a whiteboard. Because it’s essentially just a touchscreen for a projector though, you can do anything you can with a mouse (ie. surf web pages on a whiteboard, mark them up, capture the digital ink to a pdf and share). It had some pretty fantastic OCR features too that would transcribe a whiteboard full of notes into text. They had other more expensive options that either incorporated one of their plasma TV’s or allowed you to use an overlay on an existing television screen. This seemed like a killer feature for teams that do a lot of brainstorming and it has a solid “wow” factor for anyone who relies on making a stellar first impression when collaborating with a client on a whiteboard.

    The other one that really grabbed me was Sawgrass. They provide an alternate method to creating t-shrits that involves dye sublimation printing with heat transfer vs. the typical silk screening process. It’s not a revolutionary technology but what’s impressive is the vibrance of the colors, how it doesn’t alter the feel of the shirt and the affordability of the system. It seems like it could enable a creative t-shirt company to bootstrap its way into a real business without much up front cost.

    Parallels took best in show for the 2nd year in a row. We’re happy for those guys. As their largest virtual appliance vendor currently, we love to see Parallels being received well. Their new Parallels server product looks slick and has all kinds of neat features that should make it very appealing for anyone who is heavily invested in OS X. That beta just started accepting signups and you can apply here.

    Lastly, Zimbra is looking really solid. We’ve had numerous requests for a Zimbra JumpBox and we hope to eventually deliver one as it’s something we want to start using ourselves. I was impressed with how responsive Zimbra was running in Safari 3. It’s almost indistinguishable from a desktop app and I’m assuming the offline access is even snappier. They’ve also bundled in a chat server (jabber?) to the latest version so you can have a central, searchable place for IM transcripts to accumulate for your company which is very cool.


    If you’re into Mac products this is an impressive, high-energy experience I would recommend attending. The Mac market may still be a fraction of the PC market but the passion and vocal nature of its constituents means it moves twice as fast. The companies that ignore the Mac market citing present figures are going to kick themselves when its size rivals the PC market because by then they will have missed the boat.

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