On Steve Jobs

Like many others, Steve Jobs inspired me. About a year ago, a colleague of mine and I were in Santa Clara, CA for a developers conference. On the last day, there was a long stretch between the closing keynote and our flight out, and I insisted that we take a short detour on our way to San Jose and see Apple HQ. It was only a quick stop on a nerd pilgrimage, but a small part of me thought that we’d get a look at Jobs.

It didn’t happen, but seeing 1 Infinite Loop was an opportunity to pay homage to man and a company that has inspired me greatly over the last 15 years. From the first time I used a Mac in journalism school to the iPod reinvigorating my love for music to the time spent building an iPad app at work this week, my adult life has been unmistakably marked by Jobs’s vision at Apple.

He was an inspiration and a visionary and will be missed. God rest his soul.

Matt Drance on Google’s patent lamentations

From Apple Outsider:

It is a textbook example of why you don’t open your mouth before you’re ready to talk. This was a chance to set the record straight and turn the tables in this debate, and Google blew it. Most of the mistakes made were simple, avoidable failures of communication.

Like Drance, I agree with Google’s core premise that the patent system seems broken, but they failed to articulate the core issues and came off as whiny losers under the current rules of the game.

Apple Opens App Store to Third-Party Development Tools

Via MacRumors:

Apple today announced that it is making several changes to its App Store developer policies and procedures, with one of the most significant changes being an easing of its earlier move to ban third-party compilers such as Adobe’s Flash-to-iPhone compiler it had built into Flash Professional CS5. Under the new policies, such third-party tools will be permitted as long as the apps generated by them do not download any code.

This is a good move that potentially opens app store development to a much larger community and should help get regulators off of Apple’s back.  I’m excited to see some of the potential tools that could arise, but I am still skeptical as to how Apple will handle this loss in control of the app development process.

Notes

OSU to start up iPad initiative

TUAW is reporting that my alma mater, Oklahoma State University, is starting a pilot program to evaluate how iPads can be used in the educational space. Handing out MacBooks, iPhones, and iPads isn’t a new concept, but this is one of the few instances where the use of the devices is being monitored to evaluate its academic value to the student.

…OSU is really interested in how their students will go about using them. The results should be intriguing, not only for the lucky college kids who get to use iPads all semester but also for Apple and for other schools that are formulating plans over how to share and use technology. It certainly seems like having an iPad at college would be helpful in the traditional ways (you could read textbooks or take notes on it), but it’s cool that OSU is thinking about new ways to use it as well, such as apps for tests or connections across local Wi-Fi for networked learning.

The program will start with a mere 125 students among a 20,000-plus student body. The iPad is thought of by many as a potential game-changer for education. So it will be interesting to see what the OSU experiment finds.

Ballmer rumored to present iPhone dev tools at WWDC [Updated]

Barrons.com is reporting (h/t MacRumors) that Apple have allotted seven minutes of presentation time during Steve Jobs’s upcoming Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) to Microsoft.  According to their sources, Microsoft will talk about native iPhone development using Visual Studio 2010.  This would be shocking enough in and of itself given Apple’s recent headline grabbing stance on controlling native iPhone development and limiting it to their own XCode application and developers suite.  To make it even more shocking is the idea that none other than Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer himself will deliver the presentation.  This could prove to be one of the more interesting twists in the upcoming keynote on June 7.

On a side note, my unconfirmed, completely fictitious sources say that following Microsoft’s time, Adobe will be allotted 30 seconds during which CEO Shantanu Narayen, already fuming from the Microsoft announcement, will receive a swift kick in the crotch by Jobs.

Update:  Microsoft has apparently shot this rumor down via its Twitter feed:

Steve Ballmer not speaking at Apple Dev Conf. Nor appearing on Dancing with the Stars. Nor riding in the Belmont. Just FYI.

Steve Jobs’s Thoughts on Flash

Steve Jobs has published an open letter regarding his thoughts on Flash.  This well-written outline of Apple’s relationship with Adobe lays out why Flash is not on any iPhone OS device.  This sums it up pretty well:

Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.  – Steve Jobs

Daring Fireball’s John Gruber points out how the detail of the letter gives Adobe “little wiggle room” to respond.  Michael Gartenburg (via Daring Fireball) makes the equally good point that Adobe’s only real play here is to respond with a version of Flash that runs favorably in a mobile touch environment.

A lot of talk from the blogs is about how this hinders developer’s choice when developing for the iPhone OS.  This type of commentary drives me crazy.  Developers can choose whether or not to developer for a given platform.  If they don’t like the ground-rules, they can go play somewhere else.  Logic dictates that if Apple drives away developers, fewer apps will be published, which makes the platform less attractive for consumers.  The power of choice is still there.

The “problem” for developers is that the iPhone OS and it’s associated devices are the most sexy from a consumer perspective.  So as a developer, here is your choice:  do you stand on your principles (or lack of ability to evolve as a developer) and miss the market, or do you challenge yourself to learn something new?  In the end, if lack of Flash is why you choose not to create an iPhone OS app or iPhone/iPod/iPad optimized experience in the browser, you probably weren’t committed enough the platform to make a great app in the first place.

Music publishers want more of your money

Imagine that: Someone in the record industry wants more money.  Shocking, I know.  According to cnet news, music publishers are the latest victims of the digital age.  Apparently, they make pennies on the dollar for tracks sold on iTunes and in other digital music stores.

To be fair, I don’t know the complete business model for digital music well enough to say whether music publishers are or are not getting screwed.  I do know if these folks are going to get paid more, it’s coming out of our pockets, and as the article points out, the outcry is just now starting to settle from Apple’s move a few months ago to implement the first iTunes Music Store price increase.

The kicker to me is that they want to come after other music “sources” in iTunes as well.  These include music in movies and TV shows, streaming radio, and even the 30-second previews for songs in the the store.  This just seems a bit greedy to me.

“In the U.S. while we do get paid a mechanical (licensing fee) from ITunes [sic], we are not getting any performance income from Apple yet,” David Renzer, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group, said in interview late last month with entertainment-industry publication, Encore. “(On iTunes) you can stream radio, and you can preview (tracks), things that we should be getting paid performance income for.

“Also, if you download a film or TV show,” Renzer continued, “there’s no performance (payment) and typically there’s no mechanical (payment) either.”  (from cnet)

It might be true that they don’t get paid for these things, but I really don’t think they should come digging around the digital consumer for money.  Talk to the studios about the movie and TV show issue.  Talk to the radio stations about streaming radio.  As for the 30-second previews, just give it up.  We are already paying up to $1.29 per track.  Keep pushing this agenda and a lot of people will fall back on much cheaper ways to acquire music, TV shows, and movies, which result in zero royalties.

Oh, and they are so upset that they are going to ask congress to intercede.  Good thing congress doesn’t have anything on its plate right now.

The Google Voice iPhone app saga goes to the FCC [Updated]

USA Today is reporting (via MacRumors) that comments are being filed with the FCC regarding Apple’s rejection of the Google Voice app in the iPhone App Store.  Apparently, Apple is not the only company facing questions.  Google may have some questions to answer on the related subject of the crippled version of Skype on their Android operating system.

Why: Consumers who use Android, the Google-developed operating system for wireless devices, can’t use Skype, a leading Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service. A pioneer in free Internet calling, Skype allows you to talk as long as you want without draining cellphone minutes.

Android users get Skype Lite, a watered-down version of the original that routes calls over traditional phone networks — not the Internet. As a result, long-distance calls are still cheap or free, but cellphone minutes are gobbled up every time a Skype Lite call is made…

…Google’s explanation would seem to suggest that T-Mobile requested the block on Skype, but the carrier says that’s not the case. “T-Mobile has not asked Google to block that service,” says spokesman Joe Farren, referring to original Skype [sic]. — USA Today

In both of these cases, it is clear that neither the carriers nor OS providers want to take the blame.  Maybe the FCC can break this problem open and make progress, but as stated before, “consider me skeptical.”

UPDATE: Apple says it acted alone in rejecting the app.  Something still smells fishy here, but if this is the case, bad Apple!