Tag Archives: Apple

Microsoft Skydrive causes friction between Apple and Microsoft

Apple and Microsoft are going head to head over the future of Microsoft Skydrive, according to AllThingsD:

“Sources familiar with ongoing negotiations between Apple and Microsoft tell AllThingsD that the companies are at loggerheads not over the 30 percent commission Apple asks of storage upgrade sales made through SkyDrive, but over applying that same commission to Office 365 subscriptions sold through Microsoft Office for iOS, which is expected to launch sometime next year.”

This makes much more sense than the two companies arguing over the relatively-small Microsoft Skydrive. But what I don’t understand is what Microsoft thinks it’s playing at: there’s simply no way that Apple is going to bend over this.

Still getting it wrong about the iPad

Dick Pountain for PC Pro:

Apple is currently having a rather good war, having ruthlessly preserved a proprietary grip on its own hardware ecosystem, and exploited this to make users pay for apps and content through online stores. Its carpet bombing of Adobe Flash – by excluding it from the iPad – is a tactical victory, damming off one whole stream of free content from the internet.

Because there are no free apps on the App Store, and no way to get content on to the iPad other than to buy it from Apple’s stores. These CDs I’ve bought? No way can I rip them and put them on an iPad. That DVD? No chance of ever getting a digital copy from it on to the iPad.

How did Apple miss the issues with Maps, when developers were reporting them?

Developers: We warned Apple about iOS maps quality | Apple – CNET News:

“‘I posted at least one doomsayer rant after each (developer) beta, and I wasn’t alone,’ a developer with three iOS apps in the App Store told CNET. ‘The mood amongst the developers seemed to be that the maps were so shockingly bad that reporting individual problems was futile. What was needed wasn’t so much an interface for reporting a single point as incorrect, but for selecting an entire region and saying ‘all of this — it’s wrong.””

Maybe Apple thought they were just kidding?

Did Apple and Google really spend more on patents than R&D? Yes – but it’s not all it seems

There’s been a meme doing the rounds based on the New York Times’ story on “the iEconomy” which claims that in 2011, both Google and Apple spent more on patent protection than R&D. This, on the face of it, looks like a savage indictment of the whole parent system – legal nonsense taking priority over real research.

There was something, though, that didn’t quite add up for me. Call it an old journalist’s nose for something fishy, but… it just didn’t smell right.

The paragraph this claim was made in is this:

In the smartphone industry alone, according to a Stanford University analysis, as much as $20 billion was spent on patent litigation and patent purchases in the last two years — an amount equal to eight Mars rover missions. Last year, for the first time, spending by Apple and Google on patent lawsuits and unusually big-dollar patent purchases exceeded spending on research and development of new products, according to public filings.

Aha. There’s the bit which set off my journo-sense.

As that paragraph notes, there were several unusually large patent portfolio deals in 2011. Apple, for example, contributed $2.6 billion towards the purchase of Nortel’s patent portfolio, in a consortium deal which also included Microsoft, RIM, Sony and EMC. That deal – worth a total of $4.5 billion – was a one-off. Portfolios like that rarely come on the market.

Likewise, Google spent $12.5 billion buying Motorola Mobility, a deal which Larry Page described as being about “strengthening Google’s patent portfolio” (Google actually accounted the patents as $5.5 billion of the purchase). Again, that’s a one-off: there aren’t many Motorola’s around and available for purchase. Likewise, the deal which saw Google buy over 1,000 patents from IBM.

So yes, Google and Apple did spend more on patents in 2011 than R&D. But that’s very likely to be a one-off, simply because 2011 was an unusual year which saw several highly-desirable patent portfolios come on the market. What the NYT didn’t say is that Apple also increased its R&D spending in 2011 by 33%, and that Google’s R&D spending continues to trend upwards massively, with the company spending a whopping 12% of all its revenue in R&D last year.

Read the NYT piece, and you would think that the technology market has shifted from being about research and development of new products to being about acquisition of patents. Given that this is based on a single year, when some very big patent portfolios came on the market in one-off deals that aren’t likely to be repeated in the future, that’s a long way from the truth.

Why comfort and familiarity are features

Techpinions – It’s Good to be Back on the iPhone:

Often I heard the battle cry from the Android community complaining that the iPhone 5 was just not innovative enough and lacked many of the cutting edge features common on Android smartphones. Many with that sentiment miss an important perspective, one that I truly didn’t fully grasp before using Android for a length of time. This perspective is that comfort and familiarity are actually features. And I would argue that for many consumers comfort and familiarity are just as valuable as a cutting edge spec is to others.

Newness for newness’ sake isn’t innovative – it’s destructive to value, because it places the user in unfamiliar territory. And when you force users to make a big leap by learning large changes to the user interface in one go, inevitably some of them will look at the new interface you’re trying to adopt and wonder why, if they’re going to have to relearn a load of stuff anyway, they shouldn’t just jump to another platform.

What I find interesting, too, is that its the same people who are currently slamming Microsoft for abandoning (effectively) the Windows 7 interface with Metro who are also slamming Apple for not abandoning the familiar, well-worn app launcher interface on iOS.

iOS 6 Maps is a mess

In common with everyone else, I spent Wednesday night attempting to DDoS Apple’s servers by hammering them with update requests for all my iOS devices, plus all the applications, plus the odd Mac system update too. iOS 6 is, by and large, brilliant. I love shared Photo Streams. iMessage finally works how I expected it would. Panoramas are great.

But there’s one little problem: Maps. In short, it’s the most half-cooked piece of software that Apple has released in my memory, which goes back far longer than I’d care to admit. Worse than Ping? I think so: Ping was, after all, easy to ignore. Maps, on the other hand, is one of the core features of any mobile phone, and Apple has completely fluffed it.

Putting it bluntly, the maps on iOS are now so second rate that they’re a key advantage for Android, and one that I would expect Google to exploit as ruthlessly as possible. If you live in a major US city, I’m sure Apple’s maps are OK. You now get turn-by-turn navigation, which is great, and while Flyover looks like a novelty at first, it’s actually a pretty smart way of orienting yourself.

Outside the US, though, things are a little different. In London, the satellite images are decent enough, but weirdly the names of places are often slightly archaic. Step outside the M25, and the satellite images become blurry, pixellated, useless nonsense. The place names get worse (calling Daventry “Leamington” won’t win many friends in the Midlands). Businesses placed on the map seem to have been drawn from out of date data, in some cases fifteen years out of date.

Weirdly, it even incorporates trap streets that Google got rid of years ago. Search for Woodland Way in Canterbury. See Newark Street at the end? Doesn’t exist. If the satellite images were any good, you could see it going through two houses.

iOS Maps looks like what it is: something cobbled together fast from multiple sources of variable quality. And the problem is that for a core part of a mobile operating system, that’s nowhere near good enough.

Apple’s move into maps may not be plain sailing

MG Siegler on Google’s Maps announcement and Apple’s forthcoming map tech:

I say that with the biggest caveat possible: again, no one knows much about the Apple maps product yet — it could very well suck. Mapping is not easy. And Google has been at it for years. Pulling off a product that can reliably replace Google Maps seems almost impossible — it’s that good — and maybe it will prove to be.

This is one of the things that worries me about Apple creating its own mapping technology, rather than using Google Maps. Maps are core to Google’s business, because location data is incredibly value for increasing the relevance of ads, and without ever-increasing relevance, the click-through rates on ads will go consistently down.

On the other hand, maps are not core to Apple’s business. Having a good map experience on mobile is, of course, but that’s something that doesn’t require owning the technology – it requires dealing with Google. And “dealing with Google” is the bit that Apple is obviously having problems with.

Owning technology is great for Apple if it makes the user experience better. If it doesn’t, it’s just ownership-for-ownership’s-sake, or ownership to make Apple’s bottom line better. Neither of those are bad reasons, but it’s worth bearing in mind if it proves that Apple’s maps experience gets worse, not better.

And, as MG points out, mapping is something that Google has huge experience in, and pours vast resources into. Is Apple going to be sending people up mountains with backpacks to get visual data? I doubt it.

The other thing that bothers me is that this is yet another thing to consider if you’re creating a cross-platform service, rather than a one-platform app. Suppose you have a web service which also has an iOS app, both of which incorporate mapping. Is Apple’s map service going to allow access to it from web apps, or just iOS (and presumably OS X)? It not, you now have to incorporate support for two different mapping APIs, and – more importantly – spend time and resources understanding how everything’s supposed to work.

Of course, Apple could ace it, and clearly they’ve been buying high-quality mapping talent for a very long time. We’ll see next week.

No, iOS is not a prison

I shouldn’t have found Gruber’s comment to be such a revelation. Last year, I wrote about Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond’s comments upon the death of Steve Jobs; both of these leading lights of open-source software compared Apple customers to jailbirds. I figured out then that they have a problem with technology users whose priorities are different than theirs. And really, since the prison metaphor is so manifestly silly, what the people who make it are doing is objecting to the choice that Apple’s customers make. The idea that other people take pleasure in something they dislike upsets them.Here’s the sad part: Lee and Eckersley make some really good points. I too wish that Apple would introduce an optional ability to install unapproved apps. Although, when you think about it, jailbreaking provides that ability right now, which means that the world isn’t all that far from Lee and Eckersley’s desired state.I also share the authors’ alarm over Microsoft’s decision to allow the distribution of Windows 8 Metro apps only through its own Windows Store. Microsoft would never, ever have made that move without the App Store’s example, so sure, let’s go ahead and blame Apple for it.But by bringing up the prison thing, the EFF’s authors aren’t making their case more compelling. Instead, they’ve giving readers a convenient opportunity to roll their eyes and reject their argument. Especially readers who happily use Apple devices, and who bristle at people suggesting that they’re patsies for doing so.

via iOS: Can We Declare a Moratorium On the Prison Metaphors, Please? | Techland | TIME.com.

Will the iPad 3 use LTE?

Almost everyone seems to believe that the next iPad, rumoured to be being launched in early March, will have 4G connectivity, in the shape of LTE. When the Wall Street Journal is reporting it, that usually means it’s pretty likely.

However, I actually have my doubts. To my mind, there’s more than a few reasons why Apple is unlikely to make the leap to LTE for this iPad, and will hold off until the next one. I have no inside info, and don’t normally make predictions, but something about this rumour doesn’t quite make sense given the way that Apple tends to work.

In favour of LTE

Of course, LTE offers significantly higher speeds than 3G. But the big drawback is battery life: almost everyone who has an LTE phone ends up charging it multiple times a day.

However, the iPad is not a phone. Not only does it have a bigger battery, but its use of data over mobile networks is different. Most iPads spend much of their time tethered to WiFi networks, rather than being used when out and about on mobile. With smart software, you could probably build an LTE-equipped tablet of iPad size without getting hit hard on battery life.

Against LTE

Implementing LTE now would, though, would be something of a departure for Apple, for several reasons. First is that LTE chipsets remain expensive compared to those for 3G. Although Apple doesn’t scrimp on the quality of its components, they don’t waste money. Given that its price points tend to be fixed, it builds to a strict budget which forces designers and engineers to balance technology with cost.

Second, though, is the spread of LTE. At present, there are 31 countries with LTE deployed. In many of these countries, that deployment is either experimental or extremely limited, which means it’s only available in large, major cities.

Compare that with GSM. Apple currently ships the GSM iPhone in more than 70 countries, with more in the pipeline.

Of course, Apple could simply ship an LTE iPad which then stepped down to 3G when LTE wasn’t available. And, if LTE were widespread in the largest markets, Apple might do that.

But it’s not. Even within the US, LTE coverage is patchy – something that you’d probably not get if you only read journalists based in the Bay Area. Some major markets, such as the UK and France (combined population: 127 million affluent consumers) have no LTE available at all. And remember that 62% of Apple’s sales are “international” (ie not in the US) now, and the company clearly aims to grow that percentage over time. China, the biggest potential market for iPads of the lot, has no LTE.

Apple doesn’t do promises. Shipping an LTE iPad to consumers who can’t make use of that feature, on the promise that when (if) their local phone company turns on LTE they’ll get super-fast speed doesn’t sound like an Apple-ish thing to do.

The only way I’d see that happening would be if they knew that LTE was a handful of months away from widespread adoption, and that’s not happening. Otherwise, you’re giving the majority of your customers a feature that they can’t use yet, but which will magically turn on for them down the line. And when that feature does turn on, in six months or two years, it’ll be like they’ve got an upgraded iPad – something that’s bound to be a disincentive to them actually buying a new, upgraded iPad.

Of course, come 2013, when LTE is likely to be more widely available in the US and be in place across phone networks worldwide, an LTE iPad makes complete sense. And I have little doubt that the iPad 4, which will probably hit the market in the first half of next year, will have LTE: the timing will just be right.

But until then, I’d bet against LTE. While other companies would certainly rush an LTE tablet to market (and have), based on its history it’s just not the kind of move that Apple would make.

Three things Google needs to do to kickstart Android tablets

I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 for a while, in addition to the iPad 2 that I regularly use. It’s a nice little piece of hardware – lighter than the iPad (as you’d expect from the smaller size), and with enough battery life and power to do plenty of stuff.

In common with almost all Android tablets, it runs Honeycomb rather than the latest Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) version of Android. And, although Samsung have stated that it will be getting an update, it’s likely to be later rather than sooner – perhaps a few months. Of course, Android being Android, a bunch of hackers have already started on an “unofficial” port, and the beta of that has been enough to persuade me that ICS, while still behind iOS 5 in many ways, is a big step forward.

But the fact remains that Android tablets remain a long way behind the iPad in many other ways. There’s a lack of “showcase” applications, for one thing: the likes of GarageBand, which can sell an iPad in five minutes, simply don’t exist for Android. Then there’s the failure of tablet vendors to actually use ICS – amazingly, there are tablets which are still shipping using Android 2.3, which is as absurd an idea as Apple shipping a tablet with iOS 3.0.

So what should Google do? I have three suggestions.

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