Jun 262014
 

I realize this post is coming the day after Google’s 2014 I/O keynote, but I just woke up from it. I give Apple a little bit of shit for the way they trot out 26 3rd party developers during their keynotes, but Jesus Christ if Google did not just bore the shit out of people.

So what did they announce? I think the most successful part of the presentation was what they didn’t announce, namely a Google-branded instant paperweight à la the Nexus Q or the Nexus 7. Then again, they did talk a lot about their current crop of shartwatches, but at least there’s a bit of distance between the Google brand and abysmal failure.

Speaking of not talking a lot about something, can we get a shout-out for Google Glass?

/crickets

I guess we can’t. The darling of concept videos about the future of IRL tech interaction and the one-time twinkle in Sergey’s and Larry’s eyes was only mentioned once in passing. To be fair, it may not be the case that Google is trying to distance itself from what every reasonable person on the planet is panning as a dorkified privacy bomb; it’s entirely possible that someone dangled something shiny in front of the presentation team and they collectively forgot it existed. It’s not like they didn’t have the time to plug it.

Come to think of it, Google seems to be forgetting stuff it’s done at previous I/Os, then repeating it at the next one:

  • 2011’s Android Update Alliance, a really, really, really nice way of asking OEMs to abide by Google’s UI guidelines, is now the Android Silver Initiative, which from what I understand added another “really” to the request.
  • Google spoke at length about Google Health. Wait – that got killed during one of Google’s “You Get What You Pay for” beta purges 2 years ago. Now it’s Google Fit, not to be confused with Apple’s Health and HealthKit (you can be sure that developers and service providers won’t).
  • The Open Automotive Alliance, which was basically a sign-in sheet of everyone making cars and everyone in technology not named Apple now has a name (and not much else): Android Auto. It – surprise! – will be phone based, primarily use voice as the input and will have its own APK. No release date for anything because those aren’t required when you’re trying to freeze the development partners of a competitor. The assumption that any self-respecting manufacturer would give a shit about what Google’s doing in a car when they could partner with Apple is still pretty damn funny.
  • And this year’s Rasputin Award goes to Android TV, which is Google’s fourth attempt to break into the living room. I can’t imagine OEMs are too excited about the prospect of getting kicked squarely in the balls five times in a row, but I might’ve learned after the second or third time, so what do I know?

Maybe Google could retain the services of a consultant to help keep their initiatives to 1 or 2 iterations. I happen to know a guy.

memento

But back to somewhat new stuff, chief among the announcements was the new version of Android dubbed L-Word. There was speculation that the candy-based theme that had come to define major Android releases was dead, but I guess they just haven’t signed the licensing agreement with the L-sweet’s manufacturer like they did when Kit Kat whored for Google the last time around. I, of course, have some suggestions for 5.0:

  • Laffy Taffy: A whimsical take that echoes Android’s approach to device compatibility. “Your phone’s only 6 months old and isn’t getting the most recent version of Android? That’s hilarious!”
  • Lemonhead: A double entendre that describes a defective product and the facial expression made by someone biting into the candy, which is similar to that of a person who first discovers the amount of crapware installed on her new Android phone.
  • Life Saver: Because calling Android a platform secure from malware is as accurate as calling a piece of candy shaped like a life ring thrown to you when drowning a life-saving device.

One thing that is new is the Android Runtime, or ART, the virtual machine that replaces the Dalvik runtime Google…errr…”borrowed” from Oracle. I suppose this will limit the scope of the lawsuit Oracle is ultimately going to win against Google to devices running versions of Android from just the first half of the alphabet.

There was also an overarching theme of “one experience for all devices” which may or may not be a Microsoft slogan. Let’s see how quickly Google recoils once it gets a taste of Redmond’s stunning level of failure in trying to achieve that pipe dream.

 Posted by at 4:27 pm
Jun 252014
 

The closest analogy I can come up with to describe the Amazon Fire Phone presentation is that it was like watching someone stroke a guitar that’s perfectly tuned on half its strings. There was the inclusion of the genuinely-useful Mayday feature into the phone – and then there was the bizarre backstory behind the 4 camera head-tracking feature – complete with a video appearance by a creepy mannequin head. There was Firefly, which made 100 million objects identifiable by the phone – and then there was the $300 starting price. I was alternating between nodding for 10 minutes and shaking my head for the next 10.

I’ve heard it articulated by many pundits that – for high-end product categories like the iPhone and iPad – it would take an absolute home run to compete. Attacking the low end is a strategy, but any Android OEM not named Samsung will tell you it’s not a very profitable one. The Fire Phone cuts an impressive swath of air but ultimately corkscrews itself into the ground.

“But,” I hear people protest “Amazon isn’t competing with Apple; it’s offering a way to more efficiently pipeline its wares to consumers!”

Is it giving the Fire Phone away?

Then no, it’s not.

For the Fire Phone to be an effective way for people to spend more on Amazon’s services require either 1. A phone significantly cheaper than the iPhone or 2. A phone so feature-compelling as to justify an iPhone-like price. The Fire Phone has some intriguing features, but blooping singles isn’t going to win Amazon any share against a company that clears the fences every year. People aren’t going to be mainlining Prime if they don’t buy the phone.

You could see this same type of not-compelling-enough competitor to an Apple product 3 months ago when Amazon presented the Fire TV. A snazzy voice command feature and some slick device specs were soiled by a UI that heavily favored Amazon’s own content at the expense of all content available. There’s already a device serving content from a siloed ecosystem – it’s called the AppleTV, jackasses. Fire TV’s search was a feature perfectly poised to attack a shortcoming of Apple’s product. Instead? A swing and a miss. And then there’s the creepiness factor.

What was the point of the 4 cameras on the face of the phone again? To track your head in space even if one or two of the camera was obstructed? Why the hell do you need to track someone’s head to do something that can be accomplished by tilting the phone? Was Bezos asleep during the whole “this is how the NSA surreptitiously takes control of your smartphone” thing when he dreamt up a phone with 4 front-facing cameras that leer at you constantly? By watching him gleefully go on about discerning people heads from inanimate ones, you’d never know it. People don’t want to socialize with people who have cameras strapped to their faces and people don’t want a smartphone that is constantly scanning their visage and recording their voice just so they can buy cheap Lightning cables more efficiently.

So the Fire Phone, much like the Fire TV, is a bizarre conflagration of features that delight, then puzzle, then creep you the fuck out. I’m starting to think of Amazon as Google with higher-end kit and faster delivery.

 Posted by at 5:04 pm
Jun 032014
 

Did you see the WWDC keynote yesterday? Such a disappointment. No new hardware – Apple’s presentation even had a guy onstage coding. The market took notice too, shaving a total of $7 off the share price by the time the yawning stopped.

Above is the impression you’d get about the presentation from much of the mainstream tech press. Those people are idiots. Yesterday’s announcements, in my opinion, mark the most important in WWDC’s history. I’d further argue that this keynote was one of the most important Apple has ever put out. My reasons, in order of increasing importance:

1. Apple totally rewrote their development language.  Objective-C, the language that launched millions of apps in iOS, has been replaced. Apple took the bedrock of its mobile device success and detonated it, replacing it with the faster, simplified Swift. That this announcement is the lowest rung on this list should tell you how paradigm-shifting the sum of them are.

2. Apple announced updates to the Mac OS and iOS that answer the question of how the Mac OS would become iOS: it won’t. Continuity shows us that the experience of each OS, while individually different, will be seamless when used together. Start an email on your iPhone, finish it on your Mac. Answer a call on your iPhone from your iPad. Steve Jobs’s “car” was never intended to replace the “truck” in one step. Yesterday Apple announced how it would transition from the desktop environment to the mobile environment.

3. Apple just took all the significant chains restricting mobile app interplay and broke them – all of them. Third party developers will now have access to iCloud, Notification Center, Documents, Custom Actions, Touch ID, Sharing Options – even the iOS keyboard can be opted-out. Apps will still have the security of their original sandboxed environment, unlike some mobile OS’s.

Screeny Shot Jun 3, 2014, 10.49.37 AM

In the same vein, Apple also announced the ability to consolidate health metrics through HealthKit and the Health app and partnerships to control home automation devices through HomeKit. These 2 footnotes constituted entire presentations for Samsung (multiple times) and Google at I/O in 2011.

With its keynote, Apple extinguished all the reasons neckbeards use to praise Android and laid groundwork for the transition from OS X to iOS – basically the next decade of computing.

That’s nothing short of incredible.

 Posted by at 10:58 am
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