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I just got back from speaking/attending the Norwegian Developers Conference in Oslo, Norway.  It was a great time and a well run conference.  Like many other conferences I found myself looking for two things I wanted on my mobile: the schedule and a map/guide for the city (I’ve never been to Oslo).  You see every time I take a trip, here’s what I do:

  1. Search for an app that contains the schedule (or offline version).  Ideally allows me to build my schedule and gets updates for changes
  2. Find the metro/map/guide for the city because I know I’ll be lost.

Rinse, repeat.  I do this every conference, trip.  And then I end up with a multitude of apps installed that are single purpose throw-away.  Seesmic Desktop platform has spoiled me in thinking of this eutopia of a single-purpose shell which can have pluggable content.  For Seesmic, this is my ‘social media’ shell.  But I want more now.

You see, at MIX10 there was a great mobile app that was created by Chris Hardy.  It was written in MonoTouch, nonetheless!  It pretty much did everything I would want in a conference app.  But after MIX it is kind of dead.  Uninstall. (Yes I know it looks like someone repurposed the app for a REMIX event, but same purpose…delete.).  Same thing after my trip to Berlin last year.  After that trip I didn’t need the metro rail map anymore.  Delete.

But then I head to Norway.  I want the Oslo guide/metro schedule.  I want a conference app.  There is both, but again they are separate apps.  Is my vision that far off?

I have been bugging Chris to modify his app to be more of a shell.  I like everything about the structure and think he should make it a basic “Mobile Conference Guide” app – enabling conference providers to publish a feed of their data and personalization (i.e., for background, icons, etc).  As an end user I would have one app installed.  I could then launch the app and (perhaps) browse a catalog of known events (organizers can publish to a specific feed location) or enter a URL to a conference feed that conforms to the data specification.  I don’t care if that data specification is OData, RSS, whatever – just have the app define a standard.  What conference provider wouldn’t love to just worry about providing data and not worry about providing the app?!  Am I way off here?

Same goes for travel guides (I’m guessing this one is out there and I’m just not finding it).  I have an app called “Metro” that allows me to subscribe to metro/public transportation for various cities in a singular app.  That’s great, but what about city guide information?  Restaurants?  Museums, etc.  I want more.  You know I want the Rick Steves travel app (does it exist and I’m just an idiot) with in-app purchases for more guides for other cities…all offline.

Anyhow, just a rant as I uninstall, yet again, two very useful apps after a trip.  Please bombard Chris with requests :-).


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In a recent Twitter conversation I was having with Peter Laudati, it reminded me of another problem I’ve been having with iTunes and wondering why it isn’t working this way. 

First, here’s my setup (and logic):

    • I have one server (Windows Server 2008) at my house that manages my backup, music, photos, etc. (no it is not a Windows Home Server (yet)).
    • I have a public share there with Everyone read/write priveleges called “music” and it is shared out an accessible.
    • In each client computer I have iTunes installed at, I change the Library location to the mapped drive which is pointing to the share indicated above.
    • All is well.
    • Whenever new music is added in a CLIENT machine, it is added to the server (because the library is pointing there) and added to only that local client’s iTunes library – this is the problem Peter and I were discussing, the fact that iTunes doesn’t “monitor” folders to update it’s Library – you have to help it understand by adding.  Royal suck. (FYI, Windows Media Player has been able to monitor folders for about 9 years now.)

So that’s the setup.  Any activity in iTunes now basically uses this server as the storage…this includes podcast subscriptions.  This is all fine.  Until I want iTunes to actually honor my settings.  Here’s what I’m talking about:

As you can see in this image above, my settings say to keep “all unplayed episodes” but also as you can see, episodes that are played (as indicated by the lack of blue dot) are still there.  I’ve refreshed, I’ve ran the “updated podcast” function on the feed(s), etc.  Nothing…all played episodes are persisted.

So, dear Apple fans/experts/geniuses, why is this?  Is this because my Library is a network share?  Can iTunes not handle the fact that it isn’t stored locally?  I will point out that if I manually delete them via iTunes, it does, in fact, delete – so it isn’t a permission thing.  I’d love to take this to the ‘Genius Bar’ but obviously with a dependency on my network share it won’t be of much help.

If anyone knows the solution to this or the problem with getting iTunes to manually update libraries by monitoring folders, I’m all ears.

Yes, I’m aware that Songbird, and others are out there, but they have yet to appeal to me in their other features.

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Who, didn’t think I’d see “Microsoft Corporation” listed in the Apple AppStore for iPhone this quick. 

Want to view gigapixel images on your iPhone?  The team at Live Labs just announced their approved iPhone App – Seadragon Mobile.

So what is Seadragon?  it was the original Microsoft Research project that many products are now based on.  Most popular probably is the Deep Zoom technology brought first to Silverlight 2.  This is the process of taking gigapixel image and providing a smooth viewing experience viewing that image over even lower bandwidth speeds.  One of the most popular Deep Zoom Silverlight sites is the Hard Rock Memorabilia site which shows over 500 of Hard Rock’s most collectable items, including the original Fender guitar from Clapton that started it all.

Now you can get that same viewing experience on the iPhone.  I installed it real quick and it was pretty impressive (viewed over WiFi connection).  Even though the Photosynth option is there, if you don’t read the fine print you’ll wonder why it keeps saying “Loading…” – it’s because it isn’t activated yet.  My guess is that the team wanted to have that option in there so they wouldn’t have to re-submit the app, but rather just turn on the collections.

So plug away!  Use Deep Zoom composer to create your collections with Deep Zoom Composer and view them in various ways now, including mobile.

The technology allows for you to look at an image like below and zoom in to see that the image is actually made up of cola cans ordered in a mosaic format:

 

Of course this is just a fun example, but there are others and with the Photosynth integration, it would be quite cool.  Check it out!

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Ok, this is getting ridiculous.  First the removal of the ‘I Am Rich’ application (which whatever your thoughts on the app itself, it didn’t violate any rules, just that the powers that be at Apple didn’t like the pricing scheme), and now others are being prevented from joining the AppStore.  Here’s the latest two I’m aware of:

Podcaster

Podcaster is a native iPhone app developed by someone in the Apple developer program and not using anything that isn’t permitted in the terms and conditions of the SDK.  It provides the ability to search/add/download podcasts from your iPhone without having to have any software on a desktop sync for updated downloads.  The developer, Alex Sokirynsky, has let the world know of the reason his app was rejected by the AppStore:

“Since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes.”

Actually it provides more functionality, Apple…is that your problem with it?  That users are able to add new podcast subscriptions from their iPhone and not wait to get to their iTunes sync machine because you don’t allow guest syncing from iTunes?  And so what if it duplicates the podcast section of iTunes?  This is an iPhone app, not an iTunes extension.

MailWrangler

The latest to get hit is MailWrangler, a native iPhone app that enables access to GMail accounts.  The developer submitted the app on July 17th and received a reply more than 30 days later indicating:

“…Your application duplicates the functionality of the built-in iPhone application Mail without providing sufficient differentiation or added functionality, which will lead to user confusion…”

There was also other feedback given to the developer, Angelo DiNardi, that seemed appropriate (no way of editing the account) to which he agrees and seems like open to fixing.

So the problem seems to be duplicity of features according to these two rejections.  Really?!  So all those calculator applications (currently over 30 doing a search on ‘calculator’) don’t duplicate the built-in calculator functionality?  What about the 10+ weather applications that seemingly provide the same features as the built-in Weather application?  What about the StockWatch app ($2.99) that provides what looks like identical functionality of the built-in Stocks application?

      

C’mon Apple, this is getting ridiculous.  Your are letting the likes of “DaysTo Christmas” in the AppStore ($0.99 by the way in case you can’t look at a calendar), but not allowing me to choose if I want to use a different mail app or download podcasts wirelessly?  This is getting absurd.

Are they violating the terms?  I don’t think so.  A look at the iPhone SDK Terms shows no restrictions on the types of applications that can be built (except for real-time route guidance/automation) only noting that applications “…may only use Published APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any unpublished or Private APIs.”  Neither of these applications do that!  It seems there is a conflict in the SDK Terms and the AppStore Terms…which I haven’t seen – anyone have a link to AppStore-specific terms that might indicate that no duplicate functionality can exist?  I’m guessing it isn’t there.

Apple – either enable alternate distribution channels for iPhone applications, or stop rejecting my choice as a consumer because it might be better functionality than you are providing.  Guess what, that’s what developers do – find ways to increase the value of the platform.  You shouldn’t have a developer program if you think people aren’t going to find ways to implement new functionality that may compete?  What gives Apple?  Why are you deciding what I can/can’t install when all other things being equal (i.e., not violating any terms of any SDK))?!  I can’t believe there is no developer outrage beyond these two developers. 

Apple is increasingly falling out of favor with the hi-tech crowds by doing things like this without explanation.  I only see this increasing.  Someone in Steve Jobs’ organization needs to get a wake-up call and start making some changes.  I think the easiest change for the AppStore would be to enable other distribution channels (and not just the beta-tester channel they finally opened up for app developers) so that anyone who has a native app built with the SDK can provide me, the user, the choice to decide what may “lead to user confusion” or what might be better functionality!

Wake up Apple…seriously.

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Earlier this year I wrote my thoughts on the current mobile scene and what troubles certain players more than others.  I made the assertion that Android will face the same troubles that Windows Mobile is challenged with.  That being that Google/Android are providing a platform and not a physical device.  I think it would be hard to argue that owning the complete platform and hardware is not a good idea.  Apple’s complete control of every aspect of the channel provides them with the ability to deliver in a somewhat more reliable fashion (except for the fact that Contacts suck and their implementation of ‘enterprise’ features is questionable).

So why another post on the failure of Android?  Take a look:


(source: CrunchGear)

What you can’t really see in the photograph is the proposed angle of the button controls (they angle upward in other design drawings/renderings), making it look like a more old-school handset more than a revolutionary device.

And therein lies the struggle for Android: they aren’t making the device.  I’ve seen the demos of Android and have already said they are impressive.  The fact that all of that is made available via open source is great and exciting.  But for consumers, useless unless some great packaging comes with it.  Remember the old adage of lipstick on a pig?  When I look at the above T-Mobile picture device running Android, that’s what I think about.  There isn’t anything innovative in the design and regardless of innovation it doesn’t even match some of the sleekness of current designs.  In the consumer market, design matters over features. 

I will say that the “HTC Dream” has other shots/drawings around that look a lot different than the above picture, so I could be eating my words.  But right now it looks like a Nintendo Wii accessory.  And in some angles it looks like an iPod sized thing with an FM transmitter adapter on the bottom…just not polished.

I foresee a bunch of Silicon Valley types walking around with this device, but my wife won’t be carrying it because it looks too Star Trek-ish.

Better view of the weird angle bottom in this video ("is that Android in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"):