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Meet Cute Retrospectives

I can't quite put my 2014 short film The Meet Cute up online for everyone to see just yet but I have had the chance to talk and write about the project retrospectively. You can listen in to a podcast I recorded with Justin, the lead of the film, over on Jimmerish FM. You can read some of my thoughts about making the film over on Cinema Australia:
What I love about movies is going to the cinema and getting lost in another world for two hours. You just don’t get that with short films. By the time you get settled in, you get smacked in the head by a bunch credits. So how do you make an entertaining short film when you aren’t a huge fan of the format?

Podcasting Basics: Editing the Recording

I made a video about how to do basic edits for podcast recordings with free software for Mac and Windows. I thought I would post it here in case anyone is interested.

We Need Smarter Letter Boxes

Who sells the better product? Publishers or Pirates?

So some people are welcoming plans to crack down on media piracy.  I, on the other hand, am hoping people will crack down on publishers selling shitty products and ripping people off.

Let's look at the Australian film Needle and see who is selling the better version.  The pirates or the publishers?

The Publishers vs The Pirates (Consumer's Preferance In Red)

Source JB Hi-Fi iTunes Pirate Bay
Video Quality 1080p SD 1080p
Audio Quality DTS 5.1 Stereo DTS 5.1
Player Compatibility Blu-Ray Players Only iTunes/iDevices Only Everything
Delivery Tomorrow Now Now
Un-skippable Warnings Yes No No
Cost $24 $25 FREE
Consumer Rating 33% 33% 100%

How is it possible that a "Piracy" site is selling a better quality product than the people who actually have the rights to it?

I'll give you the answer to why the media industries are "losing" money to piracy... BECAUSE THEIR PRODUCTS SUCK.

Great Looking Phone, Terrible Brand

Is this the 800th Lumia phone by Nokia?

Why on Earth is it called the Nokia Lumia 800?

The "Should I Queue Up For An iPhone 4S Sight Unseen?" Guide

Apple recently announced an upgrade to the 14 month old iPhone 4 and added an S to the name "For Speed". It will be available in Australia on October 14th and is available for pre-order direct from Apple at full price now. However most Australians get their iPhones for free on a new carrier contract and at time of press, Australian carriers have yet to announce their plans. So, it's likely you will get the opportunity to line up for the new phone at a store near you... but is an upgraded iPhone 4 worth queuing up for when there are so many other smart phones on the market right now?

The good news for current iPhone users mid-contract is that the two best features of the iPhone 4S will be available for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS for free via a software update from iTunes. Let's have a look:

iCloud is Apple's killer new free service that allows you to set up all the essential features of your iPhone and have all your important data backed up to the cloud without ever plugging it into a computer. All you have to do is enter your iTunes account and password when you set up your phone. What does that mean? It means if you get drunk and lose your iPhone you no longer have to make one of those embarrassing posts on Facebook asking for everyone's phone numbers again. When you get your replacement iPhone, just enter your iTunes account details and all your phone numbers and important App data will be restored as if you had never lost your phone in the first place. iCloud has many other features including backing up your photos by sending them automatically back to your PC and provides you with an @me.com email address which is not only free of charge but ad-free as well.

Also available for free on October 14th for current iPhone 4 and 3GS users is a new version of the built in software called iOS5. There are many new features but some of the more popular ones include a new notification system that can alert you when a new SMS or Facebook message arrives without pausing the video or game you are playing. A history of alerts you may have missed since you last looked at your phone is also available from an Android-like "Notification Centre" accessible by swiping your finger down from the top of the screen. There is also a new background service called "iMessage" that allows you to send Text messages for free to friends and family that also have iOS5 installed on their iPhone / iPod Touch or iPad. If they don't have iOS5, it will just send the message as an SMS. If you want to send free messages to your friends on Android, Nokia or Blackberry though, you will still have to get an app like WhatsApp.

So what is so special about the iPhone 4S that I can't get on my old iPhone?
The iPhone 4S looks identical to the iPhone 4 but on the inside there have been some changes. So what's good, what's so-so and what is bad?

Good: New Chip
The main new feature is the A5 chip, the same processor that powers the iPad 2. The A5 is not only dual-core, making features like the camera snappier, but it is also slightly more battery efficient giving you an extra hour of 3G talk time [Note: Wifi browsing time has supposedly decreased an hour :( ]. Battery life is the iPhone's biggest strength over the Android platform and it just got may be better. Graphics performance is also increased to the point that, in some cases, it surpasses the abilities of most video game consoles, all on a phone screen that is still the envy of the industry.

So-So: New Voice Control Software
The new processor enables Apple to introduce some new beta voice recognition software called Siri, described as a "Personal Assistant". This will be useful for those who want to be able to send SMS and control their iPhone handsfree while in a Bluetooth car mount or with other hands-free kits. For most people though, especially when they aren't driving, the privacy of using the touch interface is a much nicer way to control your iPhone than looking like a weirdo talking at your phone. You can watch Apple's video about Siri over at their website and see if it is for you.

So-So: Faster Downloads
This is good but will be carrier dependant so it remains "so-so". The 4S has support for faster downloads using HSPDA technology at up to 14.4Mbps. Using 3G HSPDA instead of 4G for fast downloads also means much better battery performance while a new antenna system may also improve things for other networks.

So-So: No Form Factor Changes
The 4S retains the iPhone 4's design, which although for some has become somewhat "boring", it remains classic and timeless. All that glass also means it looks great in commercials. However, the design isn't all that practical with the sharp metal edges not that nice in hand and the glass being prone to shattering for anyone who does not keep it in a rubber bumper. The glass also helps make the iPhone 4S one of the heaviest smartphones out there. There were rumours that it would be replaced in some part by Carbon Fibre or Liquidmetal but that looks like it will be reserved for the next big revision.

The biggest drawback of the design remains the choice of hardware buttons. The design strangely omits a play/pause button in favour of two volume adjusters. I don't know about you, but all my audio content is available on-demand. Even internet radio on the TuneIn App is buffered so that you can pause at any time. When I am interrupted while listening, I would much rather pause the content to give my full attention rather than lower the volume and miss some content and/or fail to provide my full attention. If I don't have Apple headphones with the built in remote, which is quite often, my current workflow is to pull the headphone jack from its socket to pause the content in a timely manner and give the world my full attention. To restart the content you then have to pull the phone from your pocket, re-plug your headphones, double tap the home button and then tap the play button without accidentally hitting the back or next buttons that are located idiotically close together. This is a terrible user experience.

Someone please tell me why it is more important to have volume buttons in hardware than a play / pause button when you already have a silent switch to quickly kill the ringer?

iOS5 at least adds the ability to take a photo with the volume buttons but not only are they on the wrong side to how people normally take a photo with their phone but + and - buttons on a camera normally indicate the ability to offer zoom control.

Debatable: New Camera
Apple seems to have put in a lot of work trying to improve their camera although some of their changes seem questionable. The iPhone 4 still has one of the best ever cameras found on a phone. For the iPhone 4S, Apple has had added a faster lens that can take photos at an aperture of f2.4. This is great but unfortunately it seems they have added it to compensate for an 8 megapixel sensor that is still the same size as the old sensor, which as good photographers know, means the pixels are too small for a device that size. Apple has acknowledged this problem and has also improved the backside illumination to assist each pixel straining for light to eke out improvements in picture quality. Whether or not this will actually be enough, Apple are still better in this regard than many other manufacturers that try and scam not-so-savvy consumers into thinking the more megapixels the better. Despite that, I don't think that gives Apple an excuse to try and make this move though. Imagine if they had put the same upgraded backside illumination into a naturally more efficient 5 or 6MP sensor with that great new lens? The results could of been amazing.

The proof will be in the detailed hands-on reviews but the slight increase in picture quality may be hard to justify the larger file sizes of the 8MP photos and 1080p video. Fewer photos and videos will be able to be stored on your iPhone and when users fill up their memory, iOS5 purges data cached from iCloud and other sources, hindering performance of your apps. Of course this may be a conscious decision on Apple's part to encourage you to get the new 64gb model. Also important to consider is that since every photo is now being sent to iCloud after it is taken, the larger uploads will likely decrease battery life. This could scare users away from using iCloud which would be a real shame. This is not a deal breaker, it's just disappointing.

Bad: No Obvious Game Changing Feature
I lot of people have felt let down by this release. The fact that they spent four extra months than usual working on what is just an upgrade of their old phone means questions will start to be asked about whether or not Apple is sitting on their laurels. The next big frontier in the smart phone market is likely digital wallets and easier interactions between devices using technologies like NFC. We now know it's likely going to be a year until Apple shows its hand in this area and Google may well be on its way by then.

Of course, there is a real game changing feature that Apple is releasing:  iCloud. Unfortunately, due to its backwards compatibility with older devices and with its seamless integration, like with iMessages, consumers may tend to take it for granted or not even know it is there... unless something goes wrong.

Conclusion: Is it worth upgrading to the iPhone 4S?
If you are out of contract on an iPhone 3G or 3GS and you want a new phone that can run all the cool Apps you have bought on the App Store, the decision is easy. The 4S takes great features from the classic looking iPhone 4 and adds the A5 processor. The new chip is worth it alone, future proofing you so that by the end of your two year contract your phone should still be running the latest apps and games.

If you already have an iPhone 4 you can relax, you still get iCloud and iOS5 for free. This time next year there will likely be a new iPhone with many more temptations.

If you still have a "dumb" phone or you're sick of Android and considering moving to the iPhone, the 4S is not such a bad place to jump in. The simplicity of iCloud keeping your data backed up and the awesome range of high quality mobile apps are worth it alone without even considering the hardware.

What Size Should I Get?
Normally I suggest getting the model with the smallest amount of space since those who usually fill it up are the ones who know how to use iTunes Home Sharing and apps like Air Video etc to stream their content to your iOS device. iCloud should also allow us to store more stuff in the cloud and less on our phone. Unfortunately due to the decision to use 8MP photos and 1080p video and the strange mix of wireless syncing solutions in iOS5, if you like taking lots of videos and photos on your phone but too lazy to micromanage the storage, you're probably going to be looking at needing at least 32gb, perhaps even 64gb. So, consider how you use your phone first.

Expectations of the Next-Gen iPhone

So, there is probably going to be at least one new iPhone announced this week.  What it's going to be called doesn't really matter that much but what it will change does.  If I had a dollar for every person who has asked me what will be "new" about the next iPhone I would be much better off than I am.  The important thing about these questions has been the tone.  My impression of the general public is they're sceptical about what the next iPhone could possibly add to make it worth upgrading from their current phone or delaying their purchase of the iPhone 4.

So what should we expect from a new iPhone?  We don't need more megapixels in the camera and it could be debated as to why a phone with limited multitasking functionality actually requires a dual-core processor.

What will Apple be attempting to do with the next version of the iPhone? Will they go for a big swing in an attempt to innovate and change the way we use technology again? Or, knowing that the iPhone 4 is currently selling better than ever, will they release a very conservative update that sits on the laurels of the current iPhone?

Although they are still on his product road-map, right now, after the transition of Steve Jobs from CEO to chairman and the success of the iPhone 4, It's harder to tell than ever.

So What Do I Expect From A New iPhone?
Well, if for some strange reason I was at Apple and tasked with deciding on features for a possibly conservative (hardware wise) update of the phone, what would I try and do?

I'd try and look at some of the things we commonly attempt to do on a "smart" phone but fail to do so due to over-complication.  I would also look at the way we are using mobile technology today and how it's affecting our life.

Yagan Kiely recently wrote a good piece titled Internet Vs Life.  He looks at a number of articles that discuss the way technology affects our social interactions.

It’s not as if people want to avoid interacting with people so they can use their phone, it’s that people want to avoid interacting with people, so they use their phone.

He argues that technology helps us be anti-social when we want to be anti-social and I agree but feel technology still needs to avoid getting in the way of itself when we use it to aid our meatspace social lives.

As with everyone else, I am well aware of these changes. While working at a restaurant for two years as a waiter I saw a steady increase of phones moving from the pocket or the handbag to sitting on the table.  This also coincided with the rise of services like Twitter and Foursquare.  These are just two services on our phones where we share what we are doing right now.  The success of these services of course lead to the rise of Facebook tagging and many other clones as well but.... who are we sharing this interaction with? Certainly not the friends who are actually attending the event with us.  They have to log into their own social service on their own phone to participate in the content you are generating.  If you're both looking at your own phones to share "content" that you are supposedly generating together, there is a disconnect between both you, your friend and the event you are attending.  These "social" services are a window into the wider world that we are busy staring into instead of the person in front of us.  They de-value the time you give the friend/s you are actually in the presence of by putting everyone else in the world on equal footing.

Technology is not just the cause of this problem, it should be the solution.

Let's say you're on holiday and you're visiting a Zoo with your new friend Amy who you just met on the tour.  You take a funny picture of yourself and Amy standing in front of a Lion with your iPhone.  If you want to share that photo with your friends Fred and Jill who are 3000km away, you post it to your social service.  Now, how do you share that photo with your friend Jill who is standing right next to you?  Well, currently, this is what Apple suggests:

In reality, the interaction would probably go something like this.

Amy:  Can I get a copy of those photos?
You:  Sure, what's your email address?
Amy:  Ok it's a-m-y-underscore-i....
You: Wait just opening my contacts to add you...
Amy: Ok...
You:  You know what would be easier, there is this cool app called Bump where you can swap contacts and photos and Facebook friend requests just by bumping your phones together.  It's really cool.  Do you have it?
Amy:  No.
You:  Oh well, it's on the app store.  You should get it.  It's free.
Amy:  Ok... so, I just search for "Bump"
You:  Yeah?  It should come up.
Amy:  Ugghhh, stupid autocorrect.... Ok... It's Searching
You: Ok.
Amy: Aahh, It's still searching.   3G sucks out here
You:  No worries.
Amy:  Ok, I think I got it.  Now, what's my password...  They just made me change it so I had to include capital letters and numbers now....  aahh stupid touch keyboard.
You: No worries.
Amy:  Uggghhh, It's not downloading... stupid Telco.  Hey, have you added me on Facebook yet?  Why don't you just put them on there and tag me.
You:  Ok.... did Bump download?
Amy:  No, I canceled it, I'll get it later when I'm on Wifi.  We have to see the seals before closing time.
You:  *Awkard sorry-for-trying-to-get-something-awesome-to-work look*

Life tends to take the path of least resistance and Amy ends up getting the same crappy low res versions of the photos as every other one of your 400 Facebook friends or Twitter followers.  You should never ever ever have to use a touch keyboard to send a photo, video, share a favourite app, song, or even send a follow, friend, game-request or for that matter, initiate any technology interaction with a fellow "smart" phone user when they are right next to you.

This is just one example of many where the potential of smartphones fail to materialise in reality because of the obstruction of extremely simple tasks by over-complicated workflows.

Apple became successful by solving these kinds of barriers to technology.  From getting on the internet in less than five minutes with the original iMac to burning home movies with iDVD.  Why did they try and solve those problems? It wasn't like Microsoft was trying to solve them, the world was quite happy buying copies of Windows 95 like hotcakes.  Apple made those products because that's what made them special, it's what differentiated them and ultimately lead to their current success.  Now that the iPhone 4 is selling like hotcakes, why should Apple continue to smooth the barrier between life and technology?

So if they are going to add a new hardware component, like they added the gyroscope and LED last year, what should they add?  There are so many cool technologies out there dying to be implemented in a way that people actually use them.  NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, QR Codes not to mention what Bump can already do for those that have it installed.  What is Apple going to do with all this tech to make it ubiquitous and useable?  Sure the Siri personal assistant technology sounds interesting but unless you're driving, voice control is almost definitely an even worse way to control a device than a touch keyboard.  Besides, if you take public transport you won't be seen dead talking at your phone.  Even if you have a car, we probably won't be driving them for much longer.

Apple have so much power in their hands right now.  Millions of people are going to buy the iPhone 5, one simple new feature could again totally change the way millions of people use technology every day. They could also just put in a faster chip, add some megapixels and/or a new colour.  Why do more?  The iPhone 4 is their best selling device ever.

The problem is, that's what I would expect from Microsoft. Not Apple.

I don't want to talk to my phone, I just want to talk and share to the friends on the other end and most importantly the friends sitting with me.

The Next Steve Jobs Isn't Working At Apple

I've been trying to think about what a young, perhaps 20 year old or so Steve Jobs would be doing now if he was wandering the Earth today. Would he be at Apple?  Perhaps as a Vice-President or lower, working under the shadow of older Steve Jobs and his groomed-to-continue-his-legacy successor Tim Cook? Trying to climb his way to the top?

I don't see it happening.

He would be out there somewhere else, working on his own start up, trying to find a way to make a new technology tangible to the masses. Perhaps that start-up would be like NeXt and he would be aspiring to be acquired by a company like Apple to take his new ideas to the world.

I'm looking around at some other visionary people out there, perhaps someone like Mike Matas. He left Apple, to form his own company, to create a new story, his own, and possibly to exit the shadow of Jobs. Matas certainly doesn't stride the stage like a savvy businessman of Jobs's ilk but he's always using technology in creative ways to make products that people not only enjoy, but love. He may not be the best example but I'm sure the next Steve Jobs is working on something similar, trying to build his own team of creative people.

Who acquired Mike Matas's post-Apple start-up?  Facebook.

I don't know when or where, if ever, there will be another Steve Jobs, but he's certainly not working at Apple.

Can This Apple Be Cooked? - Bye Steve, You'll Be Missed

So Steve Jobs has resigned from Apple, It's sad news to wake up to as he is undoubtably a hero of mine.  

It's not a surprise at all given his recent efforts to cement his legacy.  The NY Cube he paid for is being dismantled, development of Next Infinite Loop (the new Apple Campus) is suddenly in progress again after languishing in his priorities in recent years, an internal Apple University has been established at the company and his official biography's release has been pushed forward, no doubt in anticipation of this announcement.  What is really sad is the thought that given how passionate Steve is about having control of Apple, it's likely that he would have to be seriously ill to make this decision.  I fear that he may not live out the year.  I do truly hope that he gets to spend Christmas with his family but let's not dwell on his personal misfortunes which really isn't any of our business. Let's look at the future of Apple, his great passion.

So Tim Cook is replacing Steve as CEO...

The only thing shocking about this is how many people seem to be fine with it. I expected more discussion.  If you read the press, it seems that everything will be "Steady as she goes" at Apple.  Sure, the company can do "just fine" running on fumes for the next 10 years with the amount of cash Apple has on hand but while Microsoft seems to be taking this strategy, that's not what got Apple that cash pile in the first place.

Tim Cook is reportedly a genius behind the scenes and a significant portion of that cash is due to his impressive ability to create profit margins on Apple's devices that are the envy of the industry...  but the millions of people out there buying millions of Apple devices don't give a stuff about Apple's profit margins.  If Tim Cook is really such a brilliant COO, shouldn't he be remaining as COO and concentrating on what he is great at?  Although he has supposedly been at the helm while Jobs has been on sick leave, let's make no mistake, if Jobs wasn't in complete control while home sick in bed, we would have had this announcement either a lot earlier or we would have had it delayed well after the iPhone 5 announcement.

The surprisingly high level of ignorance shown about Steve Jobs's importance to Apple by so many people is probably the number one reason why many of Apple's competitors consistently fail to replicate their success.  Even John Gruber, a notable Jobs fan, has oddly contradicted himself within the space of a week about the influence a CEO has over his/her company.  When discussing the demise of the HP Touchpad last week, he had this to say about HP's CEO Léo Apotheker.

 You don’t bring in an enterprise consulting guy to turn around a PC and device maker. You bring in an enterprise consulting guy to turn a PC and device maker into an enterprise consulting company.

Then just today he said this:
The thing to keep in mind is this: Apple tomorrow, a week from now, and next month is the exact same Apple from yesterday, a week ago, and last month. Tim Cook wasn’t named “CEO” until today, but he’s been the chief executive at the company since Jobs started this — his third — medical leave back in January
According to Gruber, HP changed it's business model because they hired a CEO with a history in business services. What will Apple become under Tim Cook? A man who is all about dollars, cents and component costs.

Steve Jobs's final work as CEO is likely set in stone for the rest of this year and I guess, if we do see changes to Apple's philosophies, we may not see them till at least next year.  Jobs has built an impressive team of Vice-Presidents like Jonathon Ive and Bob Mansfield who are full of talent, but let's not diminish the importance of leadership, not by a team, but one man with a singular vision and focus.

Ask yourself, how long would Jonathan Ive have lasted at another company like Dell or HP trying to convince their CEO to carve a laptop out of a single slab of aluminium?  Sure, Cook might be able to see the cost advantages of doing so, but would he want the product made out of aluminium in the first place?  I'm sure the margins on the products would be improved if Apple just used plastic to make their Macbook Pros.

Let's face reality, Steve Jobs is a visionary and has no peer in the Tech industry.  To find one, you have to look elsewhere. I feel a director of a film is perhaps a better comparison.  Great films are made by great teams, but those great teams are always lead by a director who has a singular vision.  Having too many cooks in the kitchen, as you all should know, is never a good idea.

I'll just give one director as an example but you could find many others.

Paul Thomas Anderson
Visionary writer / director of four of the most visually stunning and critically acclaimed contemporary films of the past 20 years.

What else do all these films have in common?  They were all shot by cinematographer Robert Elswit, a magician with light.  PT Anderson's right hand man.

But let's see four of Robert Elswit's other films when he wasn't collaborating with PT Anderson:

It's quite possible that the latter four films made more money than the former but nobody will remember them in the years to come.  Apple doesn't have millions of fans because they make so much money, Apple is celebrated by the greater population because they make great products.  Can Tim Cook go from being a manufacturing guy to being a product guy?

Sure, Jonny Ive and Tim Cook and the rest of the senior vice-presidents are an amazing team but it took the singular vision and focus of one man to hire them, promote them, guide them and put them on the right track.  Apple's success came because it was run more like a film production, with many immensely creative people working behind the scenes.  The key to all the great films (ignoring the freaks that are the Coen Brothers) is that they are all helmed by one person who knew when to say yes, when to say no and do so with taste.

Does Tim Cook have that vision? I know I'm sounding negative, he could turn out to be amazing, I should perhaps be giving him more of a chance.  I just can't help but think that Apple succeeded because they had the product guy up top and they had the money guy backing him up, just as Pixar succeeded with John Lasseter at the top with Steve Jobs backing him. Who is going to replace Cook as COO if he's as brilliant as everyone says he is?  I wish him my best luck but if I was an investor in Apple stock, I would seriously look into this transition and consider that Apple might have peaked.

More than anything, I wish Steve the best of luck, it's sad to hear that some people still downplay the value you brought to the company you founded.  Perhaps they will in years to come, until then, I'm sure all true Apple fans are hoping that Jobs's final legacy is his greatest achievement of all.

iTunes Replay Is Already Here...

...and from my understanding it's been here for a while. I'm just testing with the pilot of Glee (which was free) and I'm re-downloading it and watching it in HD before it's finished downloading (on my Macbook Air, not my Apple TV 2). Just look in the "purchased" section in iTunes and you can see your TV Shows that you have purchased as well as your Music/iBooks/Apps (Still no movies) etc.

So, if this new "Replay" feature that the tech pundits are beating up (yet many seem to have failed to mention this current feature) is really something that will be "Launched" it's going to be something pretty different to what we have now.

The Major Oversight of Google Plus's Circles

In the few hours between the announcement of Google Plus and finding my place in the field test, I was super excited by most of the features, especially Circles. It captured my attention in the tour by saying "sharing the right stuff with the right people shouldn’t be a hassle."

Facebook's combination of Friend Lists and custom privacy settings offers a very powerful way to isolate exactly who you want to share certain content with (Screenshot Below). The problem is that so few people know how to utilise it. The Friend List option has all but been hidden away and I doubt that the common user even realises what the padlock on the Sharing field even does.

The Facebook privacy settings allow you to make a piece of content visible to select number of people as well as entire lists of people. It becomes even more powerful because it gives you the option to exclude specific people or specific lists of people who may already be included by default in the originally delegated selection of people and lists. Super powerful feature but by the time you have got to this point you have probably lost 95% of your users.

Most anecdotes I have heard suggest that many people just delete someone when they are worried about them seeing a certain piece of content. This envitably creates an awkward moment whenever you have to share something with that person in the future or *shock horror* bump into them in the real world.

Google Circles on the other hand suggested that it had solved this problem, offering a GUI metaphor to make the ability to isolate content to a specific set of people super easy. The concept was circles and the logo suggested that the GUI implementation would be Venn Diagrams. A visual way of representing isolation of groups that almost every person is familiar with from some of the earliest levels of education.

It would be a GUI that allowed you to merge a number of your Circles and select the exact sectors you would like to share content with. This sounded great. I became even more confident when I heard that Andy Hertzfeld had worked extensively on the GUI for the Circles interface. This would have been groundbreaking, like Jonathon Ive often says, it is so simple it just makes sense.

Alas, unless I am missing something, this is not the case. Not in the beta at least. You can share to one circle or a number of circles but you can do no mixing or matching and ultimately, although it is easier to create a Circle than a Facebook Friend List, the interface for sharing content is fairly similar to Facebook except not as powerful. An opportunity missed.

So, just in case any Google Plus engineers are reading and they need the concept I'm talking about explained to them, I've made up some scrappy diagrams to help give you the gist. They are not intended to be the GUI, just an example of what the GUI would effectively be doing in the background for the user.

So, say you want to share information about a Star Trek convention that is happening in your city, who would you want to share that information with? Well, you'd want to share it with your fellow Star Trek loving fans who ALSO live in your city. You may also want to avoid sharing this information with a girl you are wooing who you feel may not be quite ready to learn this side of your personality just yet. We can use your Star Trek Fans circle and your circle of people you know who live in your city. See below:

So, simply by using a GUI to merge your two circles you can select the merged sector as the specific set of people you would like to share that piece of information with. The GUI could also populate each sector of the diagram with the icons of your friends so that the user gets a clear visualisation of the people they are including or excluding from this information.

That's not all you can do. A user could also use subtraction (without knowing they are doing mathematics) and select one of the un-merged sectors of the diagram to to make sure that content that is not appropriate for certain people but who may be in more than one circle are still excluded from the content. Example Below:

Wouldn't it be great if you could share those hilarious drunken photos with your friends but exclude your friends that may also be your co-workers / bosses / family / crushes etc?

What's more, wouldn't it be a whole lot easier to do this if they used a simple GUI based on the Circles they already allow you to create? Sure, this might have taken me a long time to explain, but once you have set this up and presented it to the user, the simple visualisation of how to control what content they sharing and to who will take them forward from there.

Currently it seems to be russian roulette as to who I am sharing with now, I can't always remember who is in each circle. Are some people I want to include being excluded? Are some people I don't want to include being included? The current Google Circles interface doesn't help you find this out any easier than Facebook and its the Facebook users Google has to convince to switch.

What We Did And Didn't Get From iOS5 / iCloud

So before the start of WWDC 2011 I wrote up a post listing some of my expectations for iOS5 and iCloud. So... How did I go? How did WE go?

Features We Did Get:
  1. Single-Sign-On Auto-Configuration: When setting up an iOS5 device for the first time you will be asked to log into your Apple ID or create one. The first step towards iPhone / iPad and iPod Touch going truly Post-PC. Once your Apple ID is ready to go, iOS will guide you through setting up its special internet services like iCloud, Find My iPhone, Game Center etc. All these settings look like they will be backed up to iCloud as well, so next time you just have to enter your Apple ID and all your apps and settings will be downloaded in the place and state you left them on your last device.
  2. Cloud-Synced Data: Text Messages and your Camera Roll will be backed up to your 5GB iCloud account once a day which is great because this was one of the most pressing missing features. There are also many other things that iCloud will back up. My only concern is it may only back-up over Wi-Fi. This is fine for Images/Video etc but you would think Texts could easily be backed-up over 3G for those who don't have a home connection. It also provides the option to sync with your computer's iTunes over Wi-Fi as well when your phone is charging which is cool.
  3. Better Notifications: Notifications are much better displayed on the lock screen and you can access a history of your Notifications in a drawer swiped down from the top of your screen in a style popularised by Android. You can also configure your LED flash to blink when you get a new notification as well as set custom tones for certain apps like Mail. Unfortunately you can't seem to dismiss individual notifications, there is only a per-app "clear all" feature as far as I can tell.
  4. Better iDisk Support or iCloud Replacement: Well it seems that iDisk and its hosted websites and shareable galleries have been canned and all of MobileMe's loyal suffering customers have been screwed over but we did get a solution from iCloud to back up our documents from iOS devices to the cloud. No word though on how Mac OS X accesses these files, which is a concern.
  5. OTA Patches: Done and done. Just as I suspected after seeing my Apple TV get a OTA delta update.

Features We May Have / Sort Of Got:
  1. Access My iTunes Purchased Content Anywhere: It seems that iTunes in the Cloud is not supporting access to our Movie / TV Show /Music Video purchases from iTunes. Music is all we seem to have so far.
  2. Cloud-Synced App Save States: iCloud claims it will back-up "Device-Settings" and "App Data". Developers are also being given some API access to iCloud, primarily for documents but hopefully it will also allow apps to maintain there status between all your iOS devices.
  3. Display More Information on my Wallpaper: Notifications will be displayed on the lock screen and the Weather and Stocks apps are visible as widgets in the notification draw. No sign yet of the ability of To-Do apps being able to display their lists on your wallpaper directly yet.
  4. Location Aware Behaviours: No profiles but there has been some location aware functionality built in. The iPhone will backup its essential data to iCloud when you are on Wi-Fi once a day and it will perform a Wi-Fi sync with iTunes on your computer whenever it is charging and can detect your iTunes on your Wi-Fi network. The new Reminders app also allows you to set alarms based on your location. This could be cool but may also suck your battery dry.

    Features We May NOT Have Got:
    1. GameCenter APIs For the Web: This may have been added but since I don't have a dev account I can't look into it.
    2. Grandfathered iDisk support: I didn't expect to lose my iDisk. Boo.
    3. Better Google Sync support: Using the default gMail setup on iOS5 it still doesn't seem to auto-configure Google Sync. Boo. iCloud may automatically backup your contacts and calendars regardless of your email account but how can you get that information back to Google if you use Google's web apps?
    4. Better Understanding Of iOS File Management: I realise that iOS tries to keep the file system invisible but I still have three really important questions about how its going to work. A) If I delete an app, do I delete all the documents it created / stored as well? B) How do I manage a file that is being worked on by two apps or the same app on two devices like a Mac and an iPad for example? With Dropbox that is easy but how does that work with iCloud? C) Is AirDrop not going to support iOS devices?

    Features We Didn't Get:
    1. Spotlight APIs for 3rd Party Developers: This is a really disappointing missing feature. They added a news stand folder for your magazines but no sign of search for In-App-Purchase content.
    2. A Web-Based iTunes Store: Nope. The iBookstore has come to iTunes though.
    3. GameCenter and Ping Merged: No, although Game Centre does seem have some Genius recommendations for games and there is deeper support for finding other Game Centre friends. Despite deeper Twitter support in iOS5, there is no sign you can find more Game Centre friends by searching your Twitter followers like you can with Ping. Crazy!
    4. Ping support for Apps / Movies / Books / Games: No love for Ping, maybe its being killed off. I realise not many people use it but I'd still like to see what movies my friends are renting and apps they are buying and liking etc. More Ping and Game Center updates may come with the next iPod Touch I suppose.
    5. In-App Purchases Hosted By Apple: No word of this, Apple really needs to add this to justify their 30% cut of the take.

    Features I Forgot To Ask For:
    These are features that I have noted were missing before but did not place on my checklist.
    1. System level QR Code Integration: This has been added to Windows Phone 7 and I really wish iOS would have it as well. It's a great way for people to share and promote links and apps in the App Store whether it be from business cards, to posters, to ads in old media publications. There are good free apps available to do this but without it built in, it will only remain in the realm of the geeks.
    2. A5 Specific Features. No specific mention of optimisations or benefits of the dual core A5 chip like Side-by-Side apps.
    3. iPad Alarm Clock. No Sign of it.
    4. Easier Bluetooth Toggle: At the very least put this toggle below wifi on the very first Settings page. Even better would be a widget in the app switcher or Notifications draw.
    5. You still can't select text within a Text message bubble. Pathetic.
    6. Open FaceTime: Silence.
    I'll add obvious answers to this list as I use the beta more. Extra features like NFC support and more may also be announced along with the iPhone 5 so it may be a while before we get the complete picture. What features are still missing for you?

    Free Idea: "The" Alternative Mac App Store

    This is hardly an original idea but I’m surprised it isn’t discussed more often. When the Mac App Sore was released by Apple, there seemed to be a few complaints about the restrictions required to be in the store. These restrictions would prevent a number of apps from taking part (Any app that requires root permission I think? Amongst others.). People started to worry that those apps would be lost in the spotlight. There is also the possibility that once consumers get a taste of the experience from buying from an app store and became reliant on it, Apple may decide to lock down the hatches even further. Like iOS, apps for Mac OS X that are not obtained from the App Store may be locked out entirely one day.

    Thankfully though, Mac OS X is still currently running free and you can still install any app you like outside Apple's new walled garden and it doesn’t have to be a Web App. What I hope is that one day, the very first app you install outside of the Mac App Store world will be an “Alternative” Mac App Store.

    The Background
    This is not such a crazy idea, there is already more than one major online Apple software store… and I’m not talking about Amazon’s barely discoverable effort. I'm not even talking about iOS's Cydia either. There is in fact one MAJOR modern alternative App Store already available and already selling apps for the Mac:


    Steam, in case for some strange reason you don’t know, is a cross-platform, digital distribution and digital rights management system for video games and its available for the Mac. It is essentially an App Store.

    Created by Valve, it has remained strongly independent and successful despite direct competition from the creator of the largest platform that Steam sells content for. Steam has been so successful that Microsoft had to dramatically change its "Games On Demand" strategy.

    Log in with your Steam account from any computer which has the Steam software installed and you can purchase new games, re-download your previous purchases and in many cases, pick up where you left off in a game on a different computer (Windows or Mac).

    So… what about it?

    The Idea
    Well, what I am pitching (for free) to some savvy company out there (perhaps Amazon or MacHeist?) is for someone to create “THE” Alternative Mac App Store.

    Obviously, this app store won’t be installed by default on all Macs, so it will lack the advantage of the exposure this provide’s Apple’s offering. However, It’s the kind of apps that are not currently allowed to join the official Apple party, and the users who seek these kinds of apps out, that will drive business to this store initially. For example, one of my favourite “little” apps that is unlikely to be found in the App Store is Super Duper. The need to purchase this app alone would get me, or most savvy Mac users like me, to install the Alternative Mac App Store.

    Eventually, over time, and once the platform demonstrates that it is stable, the store could attract much bigger software companies like Adobe, Microsoft and Autodesk. These software makers have licensing terms and paid-upgrade requirements that Apple would not allow in its store.

    So Why Do These Apps Need Their Own Store?
    There are many benefits that digital distribution stores like Steam and the Mac App Store provide such as:

    1. Single-Sign-On Digital Rights Management.
    2. Re-downloading of previous purchases.
    3. Central App Update Management
    4. Reviews / Recommendations (Engine Generated or Social)
    5. Sales Charts
    6. Seat Management (How many devices are authorised to use that software)
    7. Promo Codes for PR / Press

    However, it's not just the more diverse range of available apps that will attract users and developers to support the Alternative App Store. It is the extra features it can support that are currently lacking in the Mac App Store (and some that may never arrive) that can give it the edge. Including:

    1. Free trials
    2. Sort by “Best Reviewed Apps"
    3. "System Utilities" and Plug-Ins available for purchase.
    4. App gifting (Missing from the Mac App Store)
    5. Wish-lists (Missing from the Mac App Store)
    6. Retrospective integration (Already purchased an app outside the store? Enter your old serial code and have that app added to your purchased list with all the central DRM benefits)
    7. Pack sales (Like MacHeist)
    8. Family packs / Business group purchases for bulk “seats”.
    9. Paid upgrades
    10. Automatic background updates for apps (Like Google Chrome)
    11. Support for GPL based software.
    12. Tip-jar support for freeware / open source software.
    13. Retrospective tips for apps you have already downloaded.

    With independence from Apple, the possibilities don’t end there!

    Solutions That Already Exist
    As far as I can tell, the closest thing the Mac platform currently has is Bodega. Bodega allows you to search for, get reviews on and then purchase apps. It stores all your registration numbers from the Apps you purchase as well. This isn't the Steam-like cloud based solution we are looking for but until then check it out.

    The Cydia Mac App store was meant to be "just a few weeks" away six months ago. It's absence is partly what has driven me to write this article. Even then, I'm not so sure the Cydia brand would attract major Mac developers.

    So what do you think?
    What other features should an Alternative Mac App Store have? What companies do you think are planning something like this or should be planning something like this?

    Let's start asking for it.

    Questions Arising Immediately after WWDC 2011 Keynote

    While you are catching up on what was introduced on the iOS front, please consider my questions...
    • What is happening to my 20gb iDisk? :(
    • What is happening to all the other MobileMe services that weren't mentioned in the iCloud announcement like preference sync between Macs etc?
    • My MobileMe email account is already 4gb in size. No problem with iDisk's 20gb, but with iCloud's 5gb? Hmm....
    • No word of voice recognition or anything to do with the tech they got from Siri. (Perhaps that's a good thing after seeing Microsoft's E3 keynote).
    • Is iMessage a separate app from the Message app? This could be confusing...
    • If you have uploaded all your music with iTunes Match in your first year, can you cancel your service and not lose anything as long as you buy all your new music from iTunes in the future?
    • So will movies you purchase from iTunes not be able to be streamed to your iOS devices and not be backed up from iCloud? Sounds like a mess.
    • I thought Apple would beat Microsft to side by side apps on tablets but maybe not.
    • I haven't seen the official video of the keynote yet but Steve Jobs looked a little rough on the edges with the way he spoke.

    Regarding Lion...
    • So... to install Lion if you are currently running Leopard.... You have to buy a copy of Snow Leopard, install, then update until you have access to the Mac App store, then buy a copy of Lion and THEN finally install it.... Ok Then...?

    I'll update this with further thoughts tomorrow.

    On a positive note, a lot of the things I outlined below have been checked off. I dare say that I got more correct than almost any other Tech Pundit. Also Lion for $30 for 5 devices! Bargain!