Technology

Android Apps: From Open Market to Flee Market

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nokia e61i symbian v google nexus android
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Google released their Android app inventor, an intuitive development tool for non developers, that enables anyone to develop and publish an android app.
Open ecosystem followers rejoice!
Well, sorry, but it seems that instead of improving Android’s ecosystem, this latest move will only harm it.
You see, Android is becoming the new Symbian. Too many devices, too many different features in each phone, and not enough standardization. We are back to square one, explaining to our customers which phones are supported by the apps we develop for them.
And now things are going to get worse. Instead of improving user experience and providing better apps, Google are opening their app market to a flood of poorly written, mostly useless and probably badly designed applications.
When deciding between “open” and “just works” I chose the later. Ecosystem should cater consumers with easy to use, high quality, and screened apps.
Google will win the smartphone market. The sheer volume of new android phones will eventually eclipse Apple‘s production power. But at the end of the day, Android Is heading towards lower consumer satisfaction, bigger headache for developers, and a clear decision to chose quantity over quality.

iOS4 – Multitasking done wrong

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After couple of days with iOS4, the new iPhone/iPad operation system, I find myself a bit confused. Yes, it’s that multitasking feature that everyone were waiting for it, if not due to its usefulness, then in order to shut all those Android lovers mouths. But it was implemented wrong. Here’s why:
1. I still don’t get it – which app supports multi-tasking and which just freezes? The main difference is the experience. The ones that don’t really support Multitasking just start again when you chose them from the open apps menu. The experience isn’t consistant, which is pretty annoying.
2. Who the hell decided to use the home button to reach the open apps? Sometimes clicking the home button works as intended, but in some cases I reach the search screen.
3. The apps don’t quit on their own. Now I have gazillion open apps. What am I supposed to do now?

I’d like to have file upload, VoIP calls, and IM sessions open in the background. But who needs this app cacophony?

Tonight, Dr. House Will Redefine Filmmaking, and HDSLR Market

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LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25:  Actor Hugh Laur...
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If I told Dr. Gregory House that his season finale will affect the world of photography and film making, he’d probably answer with some witty-yet-rude comment about my possible film maker wonnabe frustration, and go to annoy Dr. Wilson.
But strangely enough, House MD 6th season finale, aired tonight,  will be one of the most important events in the history of HDSLR filmmaking and affordable filmography as a whole. More to it, the debate that started due to the show’s  Director of Photography  decision will affect not only these markets, but could be also a game changer to the whole filmmaking and TV industry, as well for the innovative camera company RED.
The reason is simple. House MD’s season finale was not shot on film as usual, but on a $2,700 camera from Canon, 5D Mark II. And that’s pretty damn affordable, in comparison to the cost of high end cameras.
This is the story how simple cameras are changing the way stories are being told, how money is lost and gained, and how the filmmaking industry is changing forever.

The Beginning of a Revolution?

As I’ve laid out in a previous post, HDSLR, stills DSLR cameras with video capabilities, are slowly changing the world of video and film making.The ability to use a wide varity of lenses, the high quality image, portability of the cameras, and high quality sensors, sounds like an indy filmmaker dream.
Therefore it is not a huge surprise to see online forums full with enthusiasts, as well as Vimeo groups with stunning videos made on a budget. Vincent Lafouret, LA based filmmaker was one of the first people who advocated these cameras, in the best way possible: creating this stunning video:

Not too long after that Canon introduced its 7D model (which I proudly own), that introduced new key features (such as the most coveted frame rate of 24 frames per second – the same as film), in almost half the price of the 5D Mark II. And then the 550D, half the price of the 7D.

The ability to produce amazing looking videos was quickly advocated by the gear company Zacuto and Philip Bloom, a gifted video maker who contributed a lot to the community through his blog and videos explaining how to best utilize these cameras.
Even my filmmaking hero Robert Rodriguez, was caught using these cameras for some of his productions.

Money To Be Made?
Using an HDSLR camera for video requires more than just a camera. As these cameras are built for stills photography in mind, their ergonomics and features don’t answer some key needs of video makers. And where there is a void in the market, there is money to be made. A new market for support gear and rigs was born, with companies such as Zacuto and RedRock Micro leading the pack. These companies, originating mainly from the film and video industry, price their equipment accordingly. And while cameras cost less and less due to mass production, HDSLR video makers find themselves spending more money on rigs than on their camera. Still, price point of a fully equipped HDSLR camera provides amazing production value for fraction of the price of comparable equipment.

From Hobbyists to Mainstream
In the last months two important announcements changed the way HDSLR cameras are perceived:
George Lucas, the visionary filmmaker, announced that he will use 5D Mark II in his next film. We are talking about theatrical release. The real thing. With Lucas. The guy behind Star Wars.
AND Greg Yaitanes, Director of House MD, announced on Twitter that the season finale, airing tonight , was shot entirely on 5D Mark II.
These announcements have a huge impact on the HDSLR market, and filmmaking as a whole. HDSLR cameras are ready for prime time TV and feature films. And they cost a fraction of a professional HD video camera, not to mention film equipment.

Since the birth of YouTube, indy filmmakers and budget productions could easily distribute their content, but couldn’t afford to get the production value of high end films. Now they can do it.

It is all about talent now.

In the next post we’ll cover the reactions and backfire against the HDSLR movement.

iPad Chronicles (2): App Store – Home of Overpriced, Buggy Apps

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iPad blurs the line between traditional devices
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After spending tens of dollars on iPad apps, I can tell you one thing – developers are still in the dark re the UI of this device. However it doesn’t stop them from charging more than $10 for an ever crashing app.
While iWork apps prove to be stable and usable, others are just riding the hype. I couldn’t finish a 2 minutes session of Elements, without a crash. It didn’t stop the developers from charging $14 for it. And yes, I am talking about a periodic table, with fancy pictures. Compare it to an amazingly useful GoodReader, that costs $0.99, and you start to see how misguided the iPad apps pricing is. SocialReader is another great idea done wrong, that cost $1.99.
And while Things is overpriced but useful ($19.99), the guys from Omni Group are asking for $49.99 for OmniGraffle, a diagram application.

I have to admit that some of the best applications are the free ones. NYT is awesome. The same for Bloomberg and BBC. Gaurdian’s Eyewitness app is great too.

Now, I am all for pricing applications based on their value. But many of the apps on my iPad are simply unstable to the point of unusable.

I have a short list of apps that I really like to use. But I will wait until sanity regained in the pricing of iPad apps.

The iPad Chronicles (1): iPad, Crippled Innovation?

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I got my iPad a week ago, and in this series of posts I’ll cover this device from point of views of a power user, publisher, marketer and media consumer.

iPhone was and still is a revolutionary device. it changed the whole concept of mobile interaction, the way we perceive mobility, and our expectations from mobile devices.
But just like any other device it has its flaws. Two of the most important ones are:

1. Lack of mulitasking – the inability to run several applications in parallel was one of the main points against the iPhone by Linux/Android/Symbian lovers around the world.
2. Lack of Adobe Flash support – well, unless you don’t have internet connection you probably know that Jobs hates all thing Flash with passion. iPhone and iPad do not support Flash. At all.

These two points were really not that important on the iPhone. I found that I have no issue what so ever with multitasking. Whenever I need a background app, Push notification gave me all that I needed. The whole “listen to Pandora while browsing” Scenario seemed a bit stupid to me – or at least relevant to less than 10% of my time. Other issues raised by iPhone users seemed esoteric to say the least.
The lack of flash wasn’t a biggie either. The iPhone screen is too small to watch embedded videos, as you need to watch them in full screen anyway. And besides one case, I never watched long format videos in the iPhone – and this one too was from the iTunes store.

But while these issues are minor when talking about the iPhone, iPad is a totally different story.
The iPad is using the same OS as the iPhone, with both limitations. But while I use my iPhone for limited time in each iteration, the iPad is an actual laptop replacement. I am writing this post on the iPad with a bluetooth keyboard – an activity that takes time. Suddenly, not being able to have my IM client running in the background becomes an issue. I am using IM+, that supports push notifications, but it isn’t enough. Luckily this lacking feature will be implemented in the next iPhone OS, that will reach the iPad in the coming Fall.
But lack of Flash support is a different story. And there is no light at the end of the tunnel here. We know that Apple is in a head to head battle against Adobe, and judging from history, it doesn’t seems like Apple is going to back down. Not having Flash on my iPad means that not only I can’t watch video streaming from most sites out there today (including many of the local official TV sites, that stream full episodes for free). It also means that I can’t access Google Analytics, Livestream Statistics and many other websites that I use every day. Cracking open my laptop just to look at stats seems stupid to say the least.

It might be just a matter of time before HTML 5 will gain more ground and additional sites will support it. And I am still very happy with my iPad, and amazing device that is truly a game changer.
But till then, I feel that my iPad is a bit crippled, and a bit less useful.

Come to ThinkNext2010 (with Promo Codes)

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Image representing Craig Mundie as depicted in...
Image via CrunchBase

Yes, I know, I am an Apple fan promoting a Microsoft‘s event, but this one is different…
Last year, Think Next was an awesome event – covering innovation, startups and keynote from thought leaders. This year the Microsoft guys are planning an even more exciting event, with Craig Mundie as a keynote speaker (Chief strategy and research officer of Microsoft), Moshe Lichtman (President of Microsoft’s Israel R&D Center and a great speaker), a DemoFest AND – Yes, Natal.
So here is the thing – it is a closed event but a little bird gave me several invite codes. Each code could provide 10 invitations.
After 20 RTs of this post – I will publish a code on this blog.
In the weeks leading to the event I will publish additional codes on my Twitter and Facebook profile.
ThinkNext will take place in Tel Aviv Port, Hanger 11, on April 14th.

The Future Of Publishing (2): One iPad to rule them all?

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Apple_iPad_keynote
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As magazine publishers are looking for ways to survive the digital revolution, there is one knight in shining armor – the iPad. At VDZ’s Digital innovator summit, the “magical” device was mentioned every second panel. Booths at the exhibition area showed protoypes of iPad applications, and CMS vendors stated that they are planning iPad support sooner then later.

However, amazingly enough, most of the people I’ve talked with never saw the iPad or held it in their own hands. Most of their knowledge about the device derived from Apple’s announcement and blogs – not first hand impression.

Though seems strange at first, that a whole industry would be betting its future on a device that almost no one  used or seen, when looking t the deatails, the iPad is a publisher’s wet dream:

1.  A sexy device

2. That provide a rich media experience, way better than the black and white Kindle

3. With embedded DRM, billing, and distribution mechanism

Based on iPhone and iPod success, iPad has the potential to become the magazine industry’s savior. However, magazines could not rely on single device or concept to be the answer of  all their woes.

Want to know what P&G told publishers about their future? check out this post.

It Isn't The Features Stupid!

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Google Nexus One vs Apple iPhone

Image by Yang and Yun's Album via Flickr

Last night I had a wonderful dinner with good friends. Between the wine and the steaks, we started talking about technology and gadgets. One of my friends was boasting about how his Nexus One is awesome, and I have to admit that I admired this slick phone. But I was puzzled with his comparison to the iPhone. He was talking about pixels, resolution, camera capabilites and so on and so forth.

And I ask you – who cares?

Call me strange but I don’t buy a bunch of features. I don’t buy screen resultion. I don’t buy camera’s pixel number.

I am one fo those strange guys who buys A PRODUCT.

You know, the whole thing. The packaged synergy between different technical abilities that create a user experience, coupled with UI and brand. I buy the ability to be a part of an ecosystem that makes my life easier, more productive, and more fun. I couldn’t care less about the technical details.

GPS is useless without maps application or location based applications. Camera is just a hole in the back of my device without a good picture gallery and the ability to easily share these pictures with my friends and family.

Or maybe I’m missing something here….

What's HD-DSLR and Why Does It Matter

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Canon EOS 7D with EF 28mm f/2.

Image via Wikipedia

Canon EOS  7D, Canon 5D Mark II, Nikon D90 – if these models sound like a foreign language it means you weren’t paying attention. These are models of hybrid video and DSLR cameras called HD-DSLR. And they are changing the industry as we know it. Canon 5D Mark II, full frame high end Canon DSLR Camera, had one small feature, that looked like an after thought – the ability to shoot full HD videos. Like many other ground breaking products, this feature was severly crippled. In the first version of these cameras, the video mode was fully automated – which means that the photographer couldn’t control ISO and frame rate among other paramters – making it very limited for serious video shooters. But Canon released a new firmware with the ability to fully control all video parameters besides frame rate. And this is nothing less then revolutionary.

Why? More

*SSP – Pravda Media Delivers iPhone App for Israel's Biggest News Company

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SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 28:  A man holds...
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I am very excited today. Channel 2 News, Israel’s biggest news company, just launched its iPhone application, developed by Pravda Media.
The application allows viewers to watch videos, text news items, and weather reports. It also allows users to send images directly to Channel 2 News Desk, and report scoops and exclusive images.
We’ve been working with Channel 2 News company, especially with Liran Dan, head of interactive, and Tom Sharon, iPhone project manager,  on various digital projects, among them the integration of Twitter with TV shows and in their general workflow.
We believe that media companies, as well as marketers, should reach their customers on every platform, network, mean and channel. We help our customers to achieve this goal with building the needed tools, strategies, and technologies.
It was extremely exciting to work on this application. And it is only the first version. We are planning to release exciting new features soon.
(*SSP – shameless self promotion)