I Like The Apps, But Not The Design

A new version of the iPad is coming. The latest ‘craze’ around this version is whether or not it will come with a home button. To date, there’s been one particularly strong ‘In Defence of the Home Button’ post by Dave Caolo, which is effectively a listing of all the functions that Apple has tied to the singular button at the bottom of each iDevice.

This button isn’t going anywhere. And that’s really unfortunate, because better – or at least equivalent – options are out there.

The PlayBook is seriously lacking on apps. SERIOUSLY LACKING. But the hardware design of the device is stunning. I don’t need to pay attention to what is up, down, left, or right because of how RIM has integrated the bezel functionality. For a quick overview of the bezel options, check out the video below:

This isn’t to say that the Playbook is a winner hands down. Apple’s home button is linked to variety of accessibility options which are lacking on the Playbook. Also, Apple has a series of gestures that enable similar features as the Playbook, though I’m far less impressed at how they’re integrated. Because of how awkward these gestures tend to be, I tend to just use the home button, which can be incredibly inconvenient depending on the iPad’s orientation at the time.

My dream would be Apple getting creative and bringing the hardware design leadership of the Playbook to the app-rich iDevice environment. I’m not holding my breath through.

Video

This is an interesting proof of concept being demoed by RIM. It’s certainly not practical at the moment – requiring an overhead camera means it only really works in mobile/fixed testbeds – but it is cool. The next step, beyond building buzz of course, is to figure out how to make this kind of technology useful to the consumer. Still, it’s good to see RIM demoing the ‘cool stuff’ they’ve been privately researching. Hopefully we see more of these kinds of demos in the future to build a rebuild the beleaguered company’s public image.

I get that indexing encrypted backups is a royal pain in the ass, and that doing this well is challenging to boot. That said: the notion RIM would provide discrete, encrypted, backups of the PlayBook rather than solving the problem of indexed backups is absolutely absurd.

Even in an era of 500GB+ hard drives, ‘paying’ 13GB+ for each backup is ridiculous; this kind of storage cost simply doesn’t lead to a sustainable long-term backup schema (especially when you head north to 55GB+ backups). Most users, in response, will dial back to non-encrypted backups and thus reduce the security profile of what is meant to be a secure device. This is incredibly bad form for RIM, made worse by the company’s (often contrasting) focuses on (a) consumer markets; (b) professional – and thereby more security-conscious – markets.

Apple had the same problem with storing encrypted disk profiles in the previous iteration of their operating system – OS X Snow Leopard – though this was resolved in Lion. While the lessons learned by Apple likely are not perfectly equatable to RIM’s own situation, RIM needs to move the ball ahead if they are to simultaneously deliver to their dual markets. At this point they cannot afford to satisfy only one market or the other and hope to remain competitive.

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parislemon: What If… (Office For iPad Edition)

parislemon:

Watching the back-and-forth yesterday about the whole Microsoft Office for iPad thing was nothing if not amusing. The basic rundown:

It’s coming, here it is.” “That’s not it.” “Yes it is.” “No it’s not, but we didn’t say it’s not coming.” “A Microsoft employee showed it to us.” “No…

MG has an interesting analysis on what Office for iPad might mean. I have to admit, if MS partners with Apple to bring real office software to the iPad then another sword will be levied at Google’s throat. I still – as a professional writer – despise using Google Docs for anything but the most minimal tasks: it just doesn’t meet my requirements for ‘real’ word processing.

The takeaway? Office would add to the ‘professional’ status of the iPad without taking away from the iPad’s ‘consumer friendly’ branding. This would further exacerbate the issues that Google’s tablets face while simultaneously challenging RIM’s own advertising that the PlayBook is ‘the’ tablet for professionals. It would definitely be a coup for both companies against their competitors, and so well worth watching for.

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Useful Warnings

circa476: Poor Apple….

THIS is the kind of actionable, helpful, warning information that should be presented to end-users. It gives them the relevant information they need to choose ‘Cancel’ or ‘Add Anyway’ without scaring them one way or the other. If the jailbreak community can do this, then why the hell can’t the big players like Apple, RIM, Google, Microsoft and the rest?

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An Open Letter to Thorsten Heins

I’ll let Mr. Vida explain, in his own words, why you should go and read his open letter:

Why listen to yet another open letter?

I helped build PlayBook. My team designed the PlayBook OS. We spent the better part of a year sequestered in secrecy working on what we believe to be a tablet OS experience at least as good as an iPad and, in many ways, better. We are immensely proud of our work there. We view the PlayBook OS as our baby. We want to see it succeed. We know the potential it has.

Seriously: go read the letter. It’s more personal, and richer in experience, than any of the analyst accounts of Heins, RIM, or the PlayBook. It’s also short, succinct, and well written. Read it.

More Playbook UI Fail

This is (another) security freak-out from the PlayBook. Is it really the case that Quantcast isn’t properly registering their certificates? What does it mean for the end-user to deny verifying the certificate?

The information contained in this screenshot lacks actual actionable information for most end-users, and they’re instead given a choice between X and Y without having any clear understanding of what either X (Decline) or Y (Accept) entrails.

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iOS and Android OS Fragmentation

Jon Evans, over at TechCrunch:

More than two-thirds of iOS users had upgraded to iOS 5 a mere three months after its release. Anyone out there think that Ice Cream Sandwich will crack the 20% mark on Google’s platform pie chart by March? How about 10%? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

OS fragmentation is the single greatest problem Android faces, and it’s only going to get worse. Android’s massive success over the last year mean that there are now tens if not hundreds of millions of users whose handset manufacturers and carriers may or may not allow them to upgrade their OS someday; and the larger that number grows, the more loath app developers will become to turn their back on them. That unwillingness to use new features means Android apps will fall further and further behind their iOS equivalents, unless Google manages – via carrot stick, or both – to coerce Android carriers and manufacturers to prioritize OS upgrades.

Android fragmentation is a pain for developers and, perhaps even more worryingly, a danger for users who may not receive timely security updates. To be sure, Apple rules-the-roost when it comes to having better updated device, insofar as users tend to get their updates when they become available. Whether those updates contain needed security upgrades is another matter, of course, but Apple at least has the opportunity to improve security across their ecosystem.

Unfortunately, where Apple sees their customers as the people using the devices, Google (and RIM) both have mixed understandings of who are their customers. Google is trapped between handset manufacturers and carriers whereas RIM is largely paired with the carriers alone. Neither of these companies has a timely, direct, relationship with their end-users (save for RIM and their PlayBook, which has routine updates that bypass their mobile devices’ carrier-restrictions) and this ultimately ends up hurting those who own either companies’ mobile devices.

PlayBook Browser UI Blunders

On the whole, I really like my PlayBook. That said, there are certain UI decisions that make absolutely no sense and are in desperate need of being cleaned up. One example: the URL bar in the default browser.

Landscape Mode

The UI makes loads of sense here. No major issues, though the decision to have the history icon (counter-clockwise circle) dead beside the refresh icon (at the end of the URL bar) is a boneheaded given the imprecision of the touch interface.

Portrait Mode

Note that to get the full browser options in the second portrait screenshot, you need to slide your finger along the favourite icon to reveal the other options. This is not an intuitive decision. Note that, with the poor precision of the touch controls, having the history button beside the refresh button is an even worse decision in portrait mode than when in landscape.

Truly WTF Decision

Note that in all the above screenshots there is a medal-like icon to the left of the URL. Tapping it brings up the below screen.
99.99999% of the world will have no clue what this means. For those of us that do it’s confusing: I’ve had the browser tell me on multiple occasions that the certificate is invalid when I know that not to be the case. I get that certificate awareness is a security plus but it’s done so poorly here that it’s (at best) effectively meaningless.
Now, are these huge issues? No, of course not. Are they signs of an unpolished OS release? Most definitely. Hopefully they’ll be improved upon in the 2.0 release of the PlayBook OS.