It’s being reported that over 600,000 Macs are now infected by the Flashback trojan, a “drive by” piece of Malware that doesn’t need administrator privileges or even a password prompt to successfully latch on.
The PC pundits couldn’t be more excited. Finally, they say, the inevitable has happened and smug Mac users are finding out what it’s like to be a PC user.
"It was only a matter of time."
It’s been quite an ordeal, but a Kindle Fire finally made its way into my hands.
I’ve been playing with it off and on for a couple days, now, and — it’s pretty much everything you’ve read in any of the reviews you’ve read. No more, no less.
Which is to say, a lot of people have already nailed its strengths (relatively few) and weaknesses (many).
The one caveat I’d add is that many of the weaknesses are rooted in software, and that’s the sort of thing that can be fixed, at least.
So, instead of rehashing what’s been said elsewhere, I’m going to touch on something that hasn’t been beaten to death, and that’s the idea of surprise and delight.
The underlying premise of surprise and delight is that you run up against a problem, and as you’re doing what you think should happen, it actually happens, or it happens in a way you didn’t anticipate, and you think to yourself: “Wow, I can’t believe someone thought of that. Genius!”
iOS is filled with surprise and delight moments. Perhaps the best example is the ability to type a period with one continuous motion — without lifting your thumb — even though the period key isn’t on the “home” keyboard screen. Uninterrupted flow. One click where three might otherwise be necessary.
In my experience, Amazon’s devices don’t seem to contain many surprise and delight moments, if they contain any at all.
As has been discussed, there’s no dedicated hardware home button on the Kindle Fire.
Instead, each app has a touch-based home button. That’s fine, and I think it’s something I’ll eventually get used to and it’s something people who haven’t used an iOS device might not even need to get used to.
With that said, the home button is situated in the bottom-left of every app. This is a real problem when you’re holding the device one-handed with your right hand, because it’s nearly impossible to reach the home button while doing so.
There are any number of reasons why your free hand might not be available for button pressing, but the least tawdry (and most important) reason is that some people don’t have left hands.
The obvious solution, then, is to simply put the home button in the bottom-middle of every app. Boring, but perfectly acceptable.
The surprise and delight solution is that the Kindle Fire somehow knows which hand it’s being held by, and accommodates for that preference (or disability) by moving the home button to an accessible corner.
Suddenly, the user thinks: “Holy shit, that’s genius, I can’t believe Amazon thought of that.”
Except, no one thinks that, because Amazon’s Kindle Fire isn’t filled with surprise and delight moments.
That doesn’t mean Amazon won’t sell millions of Kindle Fires.
What it might mean is that people will buy them, but they may not find much of an urge to actually use them, once the novelty wears off. Or, they may not find much reason to ever buy another tablet device from Amazon. Or, maybe no one ever talks about the Kindle Fire in a way that makes other people excited to own one as well.
Surprise and delight is the stuff of fanboy devotion. It’s the foundation of customer loyalty. It’s why Apple can lag way behind Android in units sold but still dominate mobile browsing statistics.
You can hate me for being an iOS fanboy, or call me a shill, but whether you like it or not, Amazon, at least, wants me to be an Amazon fanboy — Bezos wants to command a loyal army of Amazon fanboys — and he’s not going to get that through sheer volume.
"Meh" doesn’t build loyalty, or sell services.
Put another way: Is it a bigger problem that RIM’s App World has only 9,000 apps, or, that the typical quality and polish of their apps is beneath that of the apps in Apple’s App Store? A simple app count is nice and comfortable because it’s not subjective (like my statement in the previous sentence about quality and polish), but it’s potentially misleading.
I’m not sure I fully agree. At this stage, we’re talking about the difference between hundreds of thousands and not even tens of thousands. I think if you’re only looking at Android and the iPhone, Gruber is correct: Numbers aren’t particularly useful, and it becomes important to talk about which developers are making popular and quality apps for which platform.
The general consensus on that front is that the iPhone OS wins out, for now, whether it’s pitted against Android or Blackberry.
On the other hand, if someone is reading Walt Mossberg because they’re making a platform decision, and they see that Blackberry is limited to 9,000 apps when the next closest competitor is climbing quickly at around 80,000 apps and the top competitor is fast approaching 250,000 apps—there’s not much more you need to know, is there?
I would note that when discussing apps, you’re really talking about average consumers and the lifestyle crowd: Those who will use their smartphone for a little bit of everything. I’m not arguing enterprise, here.
I think any thoughtful person would conclude that developers are going to focus on platforms and app markets with strong and fast growth potential.
With that said, the one thing I would add to a discussion of numbers is growth over time: It’s embarrassing enough that RIM is so ridiculously far behind, it’s far worse when both Apple and Google started from behind. Given RIM’s superstar status, this is akin to Usain Bolt losing the 200 m after being allowed a generous head start. Any way you slice it, the iPhone app store is approaching 250,000 apps after only a couple years and RIM had many more than that to eke out 9000. How can that be anything but horrible news for RIM?
Ultimately, I don’t think this is much like the Windows/Mac OS fight, another easy fallback for a lot of people: The mobile app arena involves three strong competitors, with a fourth (Windows Phone 7) waiting to jump out of the gate. (Not to mention Palm. Heheh.) I don’t think RIM has the luxury that Apple had when it was the only real contender to Windows. (Not to mention Linux. Heheh.)
The mobile market, to me, is far more exciting than the Windows vs. Mac OS debate, because there’s far more viable competition, and the battle is far from decided in any one company’s favor. We may never see a clear victor.
With that said, I doubt Blackberry will ever compete on apps
and the raw numbers are enough to come to that conclusion. What do I care if RIM has 9000 high quality apps if they’re never going to have many more than that? Mobile’s moving too fast to hitch a ride on a company that is spinning its wheels.
Google I/O 2010 is winding down and if there’s anyone out there who is still upset or confused as to why Apple is dedicating virtually every aspect of its upcoming World Wide Developers Conference to the iPhone OS, the announcements of the past few days should shed a lot of light on the subject: Google is ready to fight, bare knuckle style.
In summing up the situation, former Android engineer Cédric Beust has this to say:
I think Apple got arrogant just a tad too early. They were doing great, selling iPhones by the millions despite AT&T and they decided that they had already won, so they could become complacent. They kicked out Adobe, started locking down their product even more strongly than before, stopped innovating on the music front (where is http://itunes.com? Why do I still need an ugly client for the slightest synchronization task?), fell behind both in hardware and software, and Android eagerly filled the void.
While I think it’s completely valid to point a wagging finger at Apple and throw out the word arrogant, I also think it’s a bit rich to say (with a straight face) that Apple—which has undeniably been living the high life for a couple years now—got arrogant “a tad too early” given the smug emanating from this week’s Google I/O, supported only by a single month’s worth of sales data and an unreleased software update.
Beust concludes that Apple must now fight tooth and nail to remain in “third or maybe even fourth” place as a smart phone developer. Leaving aside the question of who Beust would place in second or maybe even third place if Apple isn’t occupying that slot…well, no…who is it that’s in second or third place, Cédric?
Further, when’s the last time a major corporation dedicated so much time and effort to downplaying (and gleefully ridiculing) the number three or number four player in a crowded market? Could this chuckling and back-patting be nervous bravado? Indeed, could it be a tad…too early?
Time will tell.
At any rate, evangelism of this sort coming from a former team player isn’t all that surprising: Everyone talks a big game about the home team. What is a bit surprising is that he’s basing the self-congratulatory tone of his post on a piece by Dan Lyons, aka “The Increasingly Bitter and Unfunny Fake Steve Jobs” who is—gasp!—switching to Android.
I’m not sure what the turning point was, but at some point, Fake Steve Jobs ceased to be a funny parody of Steve Jobs—at once deeply critical and reverential, always on the mark—only to become about Dan Lyons’s deep hatred for everything Apple and Steve Jobs. (Not to mention his bizarre and seemingly one-sided feud with John Gruber which is just…creepy.)
Lyons makes (amongst others) the following justification for his switch:
Froyo also will let you buy songs over the air and download them directly to your phone. It will also stream songs from your music library to your phone. I don’t really use my phone as a music player that much, but still, it’s impressive that Google has this feature and Apple still doesn’t.
What’s “impressive” is the fact that Dan Lyons is paid (what I assume to be) a really good salary to pump out tech content for a major news outlet, and that he (anonymously) built up a reputation for his ability to eerily and accurately channel Steve Jobs when it came to satirizing Apple’s product strategies, but that he doesn’t know enough about the currently shipping iPhone OS to accurately describe its feature-set.
I’m shocked that he typed out the first sentence regarding “over the air” purchases. He may as well have mentioned Apple’s historic distaste for the multi-button mouse, because I can’t fathom how even the most passive fan of technology would get that basic fact wrong this far into the game. I can barely remember a time when it wasn’t possible to purchase content over-the-air on an iPhone. (Pre-3G, perhaps?)
The follow-up claim regarding over-the-air streaming is even more interesting:
Lyons claims that Froyo (an as-of-yet-unreleased update of the Andriod OS) will ship with a feature that simply isn’t supported at all on the currently shipping iPhone OS.
True, in a way, but there’s quite a bit more to that story:
Simplify Media had been offering a 3rd-party solution to iPhone and iPod touch users which handily facilitated over-the-air streaming of audio content from an iTunes library—so long as the songs weren’t encumbered by Apple’s Fairplay DRM—to any iDevice. You could even share your library with a friend. The Simplify app was approved by Apple’s notoriously picky approval goons, and even survived the process through several updates. (The latest version in my app library is 1.2.8.)
Had been, because as of a few months ago, Google bought Simplify Media, and the app has since been removed from the iTunes App store, with nary more than a (then unexplained) blog post announcing that the company would be moving in a new direction: “We will be announcing future plans at a later date, but we will continue to operate the service for at least the next 3 months.” (Translation: Existing iPhone customers are SOL in 3 months.)
So, it’s either ignorance or disingenuousness that leads Lyons to claim that Google is first to market with a feature that they literally bought away from the competition.
Don’t be evil, indeed.
(There’s no reason to believe that another 3rd party can’t step up to the plate, that Apple would prevent them from doing so if and when it happens, or that Apple won’t simply integrate streaming functionality into the iPhone OS. Things would get really interesting if Apple were to purchase a streaming music service of their own? Oh, wait.)
Lyons is also concerned about Apple’s draconian stance on pornography.
In short: It’s true, Apple is pretty overtly against allowing even the softest-core content through its app store approval process, and has even retroactively removed—censored, if that’s the word you want to hear—certain content in order to live up to that standard.
On the other hand, Apple is doing absolutely nothing to prevent the inevitable, which is the spread of websites which are bending over backward to support the iPad (along with the iPhone/iPod Touch) in an effort to peddle hardcore pornography to anyone who wants to view it. The following screenshot was taken while a video was playing, viewed on an iPad, from YouPorn.com:
So, the internet, which is beyond Apple’s control, is unregulated, just as it is on any other device. The app store, which is under Apple’s control, is held to a certain standard. An imperfectly administered standard, admittedly, but there you have it:
Anyone with an interest in pornography (I had to view that video, in the interest of quality journalism) will have no trouble finding just about anything they want, using an iPad. Have at it, Dan Lyons.
But that’s not all! According to Lyons, “…yes, while Apple might one day match what Google just introduced the point is this: Apple now is chasing Google.”
Hasn’t that allegedly been “the point” ever since the first iPod was introduced? Hasn’t Apple, according to pundits just like Lyons, and competitors just like Google, been chasing “some feature” or another, all the while selling a ridiculous amount of hardware and raking in a ridiculous amount of money?
If the joke is on Apple, this better be one hell of a punchline. Some of us are getting sick of waiting.