Foursquare and Swarm

It’s 2014, and the unbundling of mobile apps continues.

“The simple story with Swarm is that this is an app that has just four basic screens in it, and it’s the fastest and easiest way to keep up and meet up with your friends,” Crowley says. The app benefits from technology enhancements that were impossible in the early days of Foursquare, making checking-in a breeze (Swarm “is probably what foursquare would have been if it was invented in 2014 instead of 2009,” Crowley adds), but just as importantly, it removes that mechanic from the main Foursquare app.

via The Guardian

iTunes and streaming

If you’re used to listening to music on Winamp or Foobar2000, iTunes will often feel pretty bloated. It’s great as a music library, but with increased competition from streaming services such as Spotify, Rdio and Pandora, it’ll be interesting to see if iTunes can evolve fast enough to fend off these new challengers.

Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels writes

What was once an MP3 player has grown into a monstrosity. What started life as SoundJam MP can barely recognize itself in the mirror these days. iTunes can rip and burn CDs (that used to be a big deal, kids), be used to purchase music and other media, stream radio, listen to podcasts, watch movies and sync to not only iPods, but iPhones and iPads, too.

iTunes Radio is definitely a response to streaming music, but it has yet to reach many markets where Spotify and other services are already available.

The music wars are heating up again.

Google I/O thinks focus on design will make Android more attractive

Marco Arment comments on Google I/O focussing on design.

A software platform’s UI and design ethos can’t be changed on a whim by conference sessions and a marketing push. It’s deeply ingrained, built over the platform’s entire lifespan, and very slow to change. Android’s best apps usually aren’t as good as iOS’ best apps because people who value and demand the best apps — both customers and developers — overwhelmingly choose iOS.

You can’t just decide overnight that you want to suddenly improve an OS design. It is akin to a photographer deciding to take better photos and suddenly his photos improve. It just doesn’t work that way. You need to work on your own artistic taste and photographic vision. That takes time and looking at thousands of photos. And you need to spend hours shooting to slowly discover your personal style.

The platform sets the standard for the apps. Developers and designers take cues from the platform, striving to fit in even when pushing the limits. iOS’ design is clear, high-quality, strongly opinionated, and consistent. It inherently expects quality. There are tons of shitty apps, too, but developers who care about good design are given a strong foundation to build upon and strong environmental norms for inspiration.

The importance of such a strong foundation is clearly demonstrated in iOS’ shift in design for iOS 7. You just need to look at the way app designs, and in many cases the websites of these apps, changed after iOS 7 was released.

Mobile industry commit to anti-theft kill switch

Ars Technica reports on the mobile industry committing to introduce anti-theft kill switches to their devices.

Remote wipe the authorized user’s data (i.e., erase personal info that is added after purchase such as contacts, photos, emails, etc.) that is on the smartphone in the event it is lost or stolen.

Render the smartphone inoperable to an unauthorized user (e.g., locking the smartphone so it cannot be used without a password or PIN), except in accordance with FCC rules for 911 emergency communications, and if available, emergency numbers programmed by the authorized user (e.g., “phone home”).

Prevent reactivation without authorized user’s permission (including unauthorized factory reset attempts) to the extent technologically feasible (e.g., locking the smartphone as above).

Reverse the inoperability if the smartphone is recovered by the authorized user and restore user data on the smartphone to the extent feasible (e.g., restored from the cloud).

Apple has already introduced Activation Lock in iOS 7. Its commitment to this anti-theft tool will see enhancement to the existing security features on the iOS.

Google makes it clear that it is scanning your email

Business Insider reports on Google’s updating of its privacy policies.

Google scans your email:

Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.

Google can reuse whatever you upload:

When you upload,or otherwise submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

Of course, on the surface, it is just a way for Google to ensure that they have permission to scan your emails for virus and data about you. Data that is used to customise your search results and ads targeting. And to translate your uploads, assuming these are content that can be accessed by people who will need it to be translated in the first place.

It is better to be vague than specific in this case to ensure that it blankets all possible instances where the policy can be effected. However, it is worrying for Google to have a policy that gives it so much leeway in what it can do with user data.

The Nocera confusion

John Gruber writes about the article by New York Times columnist Joe Nocera.

Much like how Kane, in her piece back in February for The New Yorker’s website, tried to have it both ways regarding Scott Forstall — arguing that Apple Maps was “a fiasco” in the very next paragraph after arguing that Tim Cook should not have fired Forstall, the executive who was responsible for Apple Maps in iOS 6 — Nocera here has painted Apple into a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t scenario. He spends most of his column arguing that Apple is screwed because they’re lost without Jobs. But now he’s saying they’re screwed because they’re doing exactly what Jobs expressly told his biographer he wanted to do: fight Android handset makers — and by proxy, Google — tooth and nail in court.

It seems that it doesn’t matter if Nocera contradicts himself, as long as he writes something that sells. Bashing Apple will definitely bring in readership.

The day Microsoft gave up world domination and settled for relevance

Waffle writes about the day Microsoft decided to give up wanting to dominate all platforms.

Ballmer and Gates think losing the platform war, no longer being the largest and the no-one-ever-got-fired-for choice means the end of the Microsoft as we know it, and they may be right. But it’s the also the beginning of the only Microsoft that can stop the bleeding and thrive. The time to make a choice either way is long gone. Now it’s a matter of survival and you can’t yearn yourself to the future.

Took them long enough.

Interestingly, someone else realised this earlier and benefited.

Steve Jobs at MacWorld 1997:

We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose. We have to embrace a notion that for Apple to win, Apple has to do a really good job. And if others are going to help us, that’s great because we need all the help we can get. And if we screw it and we don’t do a good job, it’s not somebody’s else’s fault. It’s our fault.

Microsoft says it will stop inspecting your emails

Microsoft released a statement on the change in their stance towards privacy.

Effective immediately, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property from Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves. Instead, we will refer the matter to law enforcement if further action is required.

Something they should have done from the start.

Three Mozilla board members resign over choice of new CEO

WSJ Digits reports on the resignation of three Mozilla board members over choice of new CEO.

How did the CEO appointment go ahead when three board members, who felt so strongly against it that they are willing to quit over it, and Mozilla employees oppose the decision?

I can’t even begin to imagine how messed up their decision making process is.

Roku CEO: Apple TV is a money-loser

CNET reports on claims by Roku CEO Anthony Wood that Apple TV is a money-loser.

Apple TV is essentially an accessory for the iPad. They lose money, which is unusual for Apple,” he said Thursday, speaking at the Recode conference here. “If you’re losing money, why would you want to sell more.

The CNET reporter failed to notice the flaw in Wood’s assertion. The Apple TV was estimated to cost $64 to build back in 2010. I’m sure costs would have gone down in the past few years. Given that the Apple TV sells at $99, how is that making a loss?

Also, it is an incredible lack of insight to miss the true value of a content providing device. You need to consider profits generated from the content served by the device. Just ask Amazon.

Oh, speaking of Amazon, Roku has bigger problems to deal with than the profits from Apple TV.