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Jobs vs. Flash? Ego vs. the Market

Steve Jobs recently penned a missive “explaining” Apple’s reasons for failing to integrate Adobe’s Flash technology (a
standard for games and entertainment online) into its iPhone, iPod and iPad devices.

His argument? Flash “falls short” of what it could be and what is needed on a mobile device.

What would Jobs have said if everyone jumped Apple’s ship when their iPod batteries “fell short” of operating for more than a year? Rather than fix the known problem, they continued to sell iPods with faulty batteries.

They followed the same strategy with faulty power supplies that burned out after a year or two and power cords that ripped and failed. Did Apple quickly fix the problems, apologize for the inconvenience, correct the problem?

Of course not — that’s not Apple’s MO. Customers who stuck it out can buy replace

From a company that engages in that kind of “customer service,” complaints that Flash “falls short” of what it could be ring hypocritical.

Adding to that hypocrisy, Jobs complains that Flash is a “proprietary” and “closed” system. Really, Apple? So you can’t take your own medicine, is that the problem? Apple continues to create a closed, stifling environment for developers and yet criticizes Adobe for the same thing?

While I’m not a fan of Adobe’s encouragement of a probe into Apple’s monopolistic tactics in mobile technology, I am in favor of Apple becoming a team player in the mobile marketplace. Until then, I’m sticking with my open and ever-improving Android phone.

Apple’s Aggressive Patent Stand Inhibits Innovation

We’ve already noted how Apple – once the edgy, cool company for the outsider who was just slightly smarter than the average – is now the industry behemoth with the lion’s share of the market.

But while Apple likes to promote itself as a freedom-loving, innovation above all company, that moniker applies only to the users of its products (and now, it only applies to small pockets of those users).

Apple itself is a company that is closed, exclusive, and protective – all values that don’t blend with the ethos it tries to project, and doesn’t fit well with innovation and development.

Take the recent lawsuit that Apple filed against HTC. They have accused the Taiwanese company of infringing on their patents. They’ve used a careful strategy, filed in two courts, and have addressed tick tack little issues, like sliding a button to unlock a phone.

But what is Apple really after? Well, Apple has found that they like zero competition – it drives profits immensely. So now that the Google Android platform has proven to be a formidable opponent to the iPhone, Apple has decided that instead of fighting the Android on features, price and user interface, they will fight the platform in court.

Rather than going after Google directly, they are starting with the smaller companies that use the Android OS, chipping away at the base. Experts like patent attorneys and intellectual property consultants see Apple filing multiple suits over several years, starting with those that don’t have the money and power to fight back.

Instead of using patents to increase and forward innovation, Apple uses patents as weapons in a war to limit innovation through competition and try to whittle the electronic world down into a one-screen theater, where Apple is all that can play.

Obama and the Internet

Although much of the media attention Barack Obama is receiving now is focused on his governance and Health Care, it’s important for other politicians and businesses alike to keep in mind the paradigm shift of the Obama election.

Obama transformed campaigning and politics through his use of the Internet as a campaign tool.

He did not stop with a simple website, as many candidates have posted in the past, or a simple money raising campaign as Howard Dean and Ron Paul effectively ran.

Obama created a complete internet package for his political campaign that took full advantage of the new medium in ways that had not been fully imagined before.

Remember his videos – which he compared to Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” — on YouTube? Those were viewed millions of times — for a total of 14.5 million hours. How much would Obama have had to pay for 14.5 million hours of television advertising time? According to the New York Times, $47 million.

And with the YouTube videos and internet messages, Obama was able to get his own message out, the way he wanted it told and as long as he wanted it to be. He wasn’t constrained by 30 or 60 second advertising spots, and he wasn’t filtered and quoted by journalists.

His message was framed, produced and presented entirely according to his own standards and what he wanted to accomplish. Best of all in a political campaign, the cost was negligible to reach those hundreds of thousands of potential supporters.

For politicians, this internet opportunity is the merging of all the best possible factors for campaigning: unfiltered messages going directly to supporters, low cost, wide accessibility, and good credibility as a source of information – great messages for individuals and businesses to keep in mind as well.

Coby Smartbook Gives a Glimpse into Portable Future

Coby Electronics probably hasn’t had this much press in the existence of the company. At the CeBIT expo in Germany at the first of March, the value – oriented consumer electronics company picked up its share of the buzz because of a brand new smartbook as reported by Engadget.

The buzz isn’t about great styling, open source systems, or amazing features. It’s about the price. At $85, it’s definitely a “value” based computer with some basic features.

Coby focuses on portability and small LCD televisions at value prices, so moving into the netbook market wasn’t a huge stretch.

The 7″ screen displays a Windows CE operating system, running with a 624 MHz Marvell PXA303 processor.

The memory is strictly flash, and it’s limited — only 2 GB. For those who know the technology, the Wi Fi is 802.11 b/g not 802.11n. Still, the WiFi is built in and ready to go. For internet browsing and other limited applications, it could be useful.

Whether or not the Coby smartbook works for you, (there are some mixed reviews on the quality of Coby’s “value” products) it can be seen as a preview into the future of mobile computing.

Prices will continue to go down as technology improves, and that means more people in the market.

Parents may spring for the under-$100 netbook for younger and younger children, opening the mobile kids game market even wider. People who won’t spring for the $300 or $400 smartphone will perhaps go in the $85 for a simple smartbook.

Bottom line — more people with access to your website more often. Make your site appealing, and make it work on mobile platforms.

We’d suggest testing out your site with a mobile device and see how your different page elements load, and make any adjustments that you need. Ask us for some help arranging your web page for the burgeoning mobile market.

Open Symbian

The Symbian operating system, used largely on Nokia smart phones, has now joined the Open Source operating systems. With Symbian joining Android in the Free and Open Source (FOSS) world for mobile computing, it could be signaling a trend that will push even habitually and systemically closed systems like the Apple’s into becoming open source . . . .if every competitor goes there, it could happen.

Although Google and Apple get most of the buzz these days, Symbian is attempting to redirect attention their way. Will it work? Perhaps they’ll get a ripple. Among those who watch technology the closest, the outlook isn’t positive. The platform hasn’t exactly taken off with developers – for example, the Symbian platform has only 10 percent as many games as the Blackberry – not exactly known as a hotbed for gaming.

And the Symbian move is not innovative – other platforms have already gone open source – so some see the move as being a “catch up” decision. However, it does open up an opportunity for small companies or developers with big ideas to get noticed fast – it’s easy to be a big fish in a pond of only 254 apps., as opposed to trying to stand out among the thousands in the Apple App store.

Right now, Symbian is Windows exclusive, but that could change quickly. An open source Symbian provides new competition to GNU/Linux, and may foster some innovations and expanding product lines – including new tablet computers.

If you’ve got a great app idea, then Symbian may be the place to try a new development.

Overall, the exciting thing about yet another FOSS operating system is the fact that it’s becoming a “routine” event rather than an example of a unique and unusual MO.  When a major operating system goes open source and the development community collectively says, “Yeah, well, that’s how things are done these days,” it’s a major step forward.

Tablet Computing

Since the release of the Apple iPad, there’s been renewed attention focused on the tablet computer format – a format that has been around for some time, despite Apple’s attempts to make it seem like an Apple innovation.

What Apple has introduced are some new ways to think about the tablet computer. There have been plenty of responses to the iPad discussing all the failings of the product, and that discussion is, in itself, a benefit to the format.

Pointing out the iPad failings (no Flash compatibility, necessity of a monthly fee for 3G network and on go the complaints) pushing the envelope in the area will make tablet computers increase functionality and features.

Decreasing the weight of tablets, increasing their battery capacities, and increasing speed will give tablets many possible uses. They are currently being used, in fact, for plenty of business functions, not just as readers for the average consumer.

Doctors see entering chart information on tablets as being a viable alternative to the large, rolling kiosks containing a desktop computer that are used in many medical offices.

Many mobile employees can benefit from the small size and simple functionality of the tablet.

However, there will need to be considerable increases in durability, expansion ports, and connectivity to make them a routine addition to many offices and briefcases.

The other benefit of iPad’s entry into the tablet/eReader market

Have You Got the Touch?

Touch technology is the wave of the future of computing, and not just in handheld computing.

The introduction of HP and other Microsoft based tablets at the CES this month, along with the rumors of the new Apple tablet set to debut later in January represent only the latest in the touch world innovations.

HP has a whole line of touch computers, including a line of sleek desktops, as does Gateway. Printers are adding web access with touch technology, and allowing printing directly from the web.

Additionally, you’re looking at faster cell phones with bigger screens, the netbooks, and the tablet PCs.

What does that mean for the web developer and the web commerce company?

More people will have quicker and more portable access to your websites. They’ll have the opportunity to interact with them in quicker, easier, more intuitive ways, if you’re ready to provide that capability.

For the web business concerned with ecommerce, think instant gratification for your touch customers. Is your ecommerce interface smooth and seamless? Will you be able to capture the customer’s purchase easily?

When developing for touch screens, remember that the input is very similar to mouse clicks, with only a few differences. However, you’ll want to make sure you allow for those differences.

For example, design your onscreen buttons slightly larger than you would for mouse clicks to accommodate fingers. You may also need to think about providing your own status feedback (loading, etc.) since the touch screens don’t provide that information.

While it’s useful to keep in mind that previous versions of the “slate” or “tablet” computer has not taken off with consumers, there’s no doubt that innovation in the mobile computing area is the current game.

With the indisputable success of the iPhone and iPod touch, technology companies seem to have the attitude that bigger will be better when it comes to portable touch screens. There’s no doubt that bigger will be better for many kinds of websites, especially those that are graphically and textually heavy like print news websites. Magazines and newspapers could benefit from larger tablet computers, as could many other sites.

Regardless of whether or not the tablet/slate computers take off, the touch technology is here to stay, and will only become more popular. Adjust and plan so that your website has a seamless ride into the touch era of computing.