Apple v. Justice Department

The Department of Justice is suing Apple on charges of ‘collusion’, to do with ebook publishing deals before the iPad launch in 2010.

The Verge reports:

Turvey, Google’s director of strategic partnerships, was in federal court in Manhattan as a government witness. […]

Turvey told the court that in early 2010, representatives of the five accused publishers, all of which have settled with the government, told him directly that they were switching to the agency model because contracts they entered into with Apple required it. […]

By the end of the interview Turvey had gone from saying the publishers had told him directly, to saying they had merely told people on his team, to finally saying the publishers had "likely" told someone on his team.

Sounds pretty bad, right? But:

Much of what they [DOJ] were trying to prove with Turvey’s testimony, they had already established with Apple’s own emails, testimony from the likes of Penguin Books CEO David Shanks, and three separate Amazon executives.

If they already have testimony, why do they feel the need to field someone like this? What does Google have anything to do with it, except being a business rival to the defendants?

This case is completely weird, and continues to be so.

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What Apple is working on

This is perfect, from the always excellent Dr. Drang.

What Apple is working on:

How do I know all this? Well, as someone who bought his first Mac in 1985, I’m “a source familiar with Apple.” But what’s more important: wouldn’t they be stupid not to be working on all of these?

Seriously, all the Mac rumour sites out there–Why is it always news that Apple is working on something? When something more concrete–read actually on the road to being shipped–comes about, and evidence for such a thing has unearthed, then perhaps its news, no?

Steve Jobs is dead.

Steve Jobs passed away today.

I’ve only seen him as a public figure, of course, but I was, and will remain, a fan. I’ve admired him greatly, not just for the company he built, but for how he conducted his business—well, for the things he said and did publicly, at any rate.

A straightforward, honest man who played extremely hard when running his company, but who made sure he did the right thing all the same.

For an inkling to his way of thinking, see his Stanford commencement speech, and the interview he gave at the D8 conference.

Rest in Peace, Sir. Your legacy will live on, and will hopefully inspire the next generation of visionaries.

Cross-posted at arnabocean

Of iOS5 updates, and Apple’s new built-in apps.

Apple has recently announced the next versions of their mobile and desktop OS’s, and are understandably talking points in tech circles.

What I’m baffled by, is some of the reaction to these announcements, especially with regard to iOS, the mobile OS used in iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

Sample this:

The App Store is mostly filled with Reminder apps and those developers are really pissed off since yesterday’s keynote. Apple has put up their own reminders app in the latest version of iOS. This means, all those reminder apps you find on the AppStore at dead, or may be at least, very low sales. Apple has also included location based reminders that reminds you when you cross a “geo-barrier”. There were apps for this purposes, we reviewed Place Clock a while ago which was supposed to give you alarms when you reach a specific geo location. Apple borrowed features from all these apps out there and combined it into a single app.

Secondly, its a hit to Camera app devs. Many developers including taptaptap, makers of Camera+, one of the best camera apps out there. Apple has added a feature to iOS 5 which lets you quickly open the camera from the lock screen even if the phone is locked. This means, less frequent use of third-party apps.

What exactly is the idea here? That Apple should not expand built-in functionality in the OS, simply because they haven’t done so in the past, and developers have sought to fill the gaps? Is that even a meaningful thought-process?

Secondly, does the presence of built-in apps automatically dissuade the use of third party apps? Apple has a built-in calendar app. Does this mean there are no other calendar apps in the market? How about weather? Stocks? Notes?

Why is the present situation about the new Reminder app any different then?

P.S.: The link I pointed to above also has a pretty extensive list of actual updates in iOS5. Worth checking out.

Why Apple users are ‘Apple fanboys’

A bit of background, for the uninitiated:

In recent times, Apple has introduced in-App subscription capabilities to its iOS software platform.This means that iPhone users can now subscribe to news (and other) publications directly from their iPhones.

The catch? Apple would not, by default, allow publishers to access users’ personal data. This was something that publishers usually take for granted, and apparently, they also usually sell this information to advertising agencies to make money on the side. Apple demanded that users must choose to opt-in to data sharing, rather than have the option on by default.

This was cause for concern for publishing companies, who feared that given a choice, users would not share their personal information. (That right there says something about their sense of ethics, no?) Apple also came under fire for this decision [1,2].

How did Apple respond? In typical Apple fashion: they stuck to their guns.

Now the latest development in this saga:

As things stand, if you buy a subscription to The New Yorker or Popular Science in the iTunes store, you will get a little dialogue box asking if it’s all right if Apple shares some of your personal information with the publisher. Initially, publishers were worried, reasonably enough, that users would overwhelmingly say no. But they don’t. In fact, about 50 percent opt in.

The article goes on to add:

To me, this makes a real statement about how much trust Apple customers place in the company’s ability to create user experiences that are safe and enjoyable. Can you imagine 50 percent of people opting in to anything out there on the open Web? No chance.

Amazing, isn’t it? Guess why Apple’s customers would do that, against every grain of logic of experienced ad-professionals. Listen to this clip, from June 2010. This is Steve Jobs, talking about privacy:

Transcript of the most important bit (even though you really should watch the whole clip, and if possible the whole interview):

Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for. In plain English, and repeatedly. That’s what it means. I’m an optimist – I believe people are smart, and some people wanna share more data than other people do. Ask’em. Ask’em every time; make them tell you to stop asking them, if they get tired of your asking them. Let them know precisely what you’re gonna do with their data.

Would you trust this company more with privacy, or, say, Facebook [1,2], or Google [1,2]? Amazing, what a little bit of honesty, transparency and responsibility towards theirs users can achieve.

It’s called Trust.

Link via Daring Fireball.

Amazon’s iPad competitor?

Marco Arment has an interesting piece about Amazon’s plans for the future, and whether it includes an iPad competitor. Go read!

I’ve been reading a few posts on this idea, and it makes sense: Amazon is the only company other than Apple with requisite technologies already set up: They have a large online store, they’re already capable of handing millions of users and their data, and now they’re venturing into the App Store side of things as well.

All they need now is an actual tablet, to complete the picture.

Why NOT the iPad

I spent the last post on why the iPad makes sense, and why it might come in handy. This post is about why I would NOT buy one.

1. I don’t have enough spare cash to have a laptop, an iPod Touch, AND an iPad. If I had to choose between the iPod Touch and the iPad, I’d choose the former, simply because it ticks a lot of the same boxes, along with an additional one – it fits in my pocket. The boxes that the iPod doesn’t tick, I can live with, especially since it leaves my pocket considerably heavier.

2. One reason I might have been interested in a tablet computer would be hand written note taking, but the iPad doesn’t have the capability. One whole dimension of why electronic devices are useful is that you can carry around the same amount of information, without adding volume or weight.

As the iPad ushers in a new generation of tablet computers, I would have liked for it to be writing capable. I should be able to carry it to my graduate courses, and research meetings, and seminars, and anywhere else I would usually carry a notebook, and scribble down notes right on the tablet!

3. I’d wait for the internet industry to sort out the Flash / HTML 5.0 war. Apple does not support Flash, calling it buggy; the rest of the internet has simply not yet graduated to HTML 5.0. As it stands, a significant chunk of my online experience is cut short if I use the iPad. Not done.

4. This new generation of tablet computers is probably a year or two from really maturing – just such as the iPod is now mature and supports diverse applications and addresses various needs, that no one knew existed when it first came out.

Also, Apple being Apple, I have a feeling the iPad 2.0 will be far richer in its feature sets and capabilities than its present avatar – again, just like the iPod Touch 2nd generation, as compared to its 1st generation.

Bottom line: The iPad might be an interesting device, but as of now, I’m giving it a miss.

The iPad

When you do work-things, you use your laptop. When you travel, you carry your laptop with you –  either because you carry work with you, or you use the laptop as a data-vault, transferring data from external sources onto your hard drive.

Well, when you do non-work things, what do you use? Your laptop. And why is that? Is it really that you even now need the humongous computing power that MATLAB also needs? Or the keyboard? Or the very large screen?

What you DO need, is:

1. a device that you can use comfortably – lazing on the sofa, lying on your bed.

2. a device that has the bookmarks that you saved, either on that very same device, or on your work machine.

3. a sturdy internet connection.

4. a device that you can use for reading – blogs and online newspapers on the one hand, ebooks on the other.

If you’ve ever used an iPod Touch (as I have started to, recently), you have perhaps realized that the ideal device for the above, non-work things that you do, is not necessarily your laptop. Yes, the laptop is more powerful and gives you a more generic (as opposed to specific) experience, but it’s not as convenient as the iPod Touch for doing some leisurely things.

Also, if you’ve used the iPod Touch, you’ve perhaps realized that there are indeed limitations to the things that you do on it – you wish the blogs and the ebook pages were larger; that you didn’t have to scroll horizontally as much as you end up doing; that you had a larger virtual keyboard for instant messaging conversations.

And that is exactly where the iPad will come in.

The general idea about the iPad seems to be that it does nothing that either the iPod Touch or the laptop computer does not do. Well, neither of those situations is what the iPad is designed for!

When you’re done with work, you want to simply turn that computer off – you’ve seen enough of that keyboard for the day. And yet, you do need to be on the internet for other things. The iPod Touch addresses a lot of those needs, but it has an inevitable constraint – it needs to fit in your pocket. And that has built-in limitations that you cannot avoid.

The iPad seeks to be the device that you use when you’re not working, but not the device that you carry around in your pocket when you go to the grocery store.

I was skeptical, like everyone else, when the iPad was first introduced, but now that I’m using the iPod Touch, I can perhaps better acknowledge the role that the iPad might play. And to those that say the iPad is “just” a larger iPod Touch – well, sometimes, that’s exactly – and all – that you need.