Monday, May 31, 2010

2,000,000 iPads and Counting

On May 31, Apple announced that it has sold 2,000,000 iPads since the launch on April 3. Sales in the first group of international countries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK) began on May 28; nine more follow in July and more by the end of the year.
The latest version of the iPhone OS (iPhone OS 4) which runs iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad will ship this summer -- first for iPhone and iPod touch, and, in the fall for iPad.
Starting on June 7, Apple's annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) takes up the tools and features of Apple's hardware and software. If you look at the schedule, you'll see exactly what Apple has done: the core and foundation functionality of Mac OS X (they are actually called Core and Foundation) are the basis for the Mac, iPhone, iPod, iPod touch, and iPad. There's been very little if any retrofitting or fiddling -- this design has remained intact since the mid 1990s.
While telephony in the form of faxing was part of the Mac OS X predecessors (Nextstep and Openstep), it would be a stretch to say that it was all done to culminate in iPhone. My guess is it was done to be able to take advantage of any new features that came along. Some features are added and some are removed, but the architecture has been proved. As a case in point, faxing (in the form of NSPrintFaxJob, a destination for a print job) has existed for years (it's on page 416 of my book, Rhapsody Developer's Guide, published in 1997). It was only deprecated in Mac OS X v 10.5 (the current version is 10.6). The ability to generate PDF files from documents and then to email them provides the functionality of faxing without the fuss, and we've got PDF generation in iPhone OS and Mac OS X (in Quartz).
The possibilities of iPad have barely been explored. It's a great device for reading and consuming media; it's also a phenomenal tool for exploring data (and Apple has given us the tools with Core Data and the various Interface Builder tools to manage lists and other data structures). Most of this has been there for years -- many years in most cases.
Now it's time for developers, end-users, designers, and artists to put all those existing software pieces together into new structures.
And there are plenty of us who have our sleeves rolled up. But there's room for many more.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Civic Apps Contests

An article from Government Technology about civic apps contests with links to the Portland contest and those in NYC and DC. It seems to me this is a great idea particularly for small cities. (Part of my ongoing theme that proportionately these new technologies provide a bigger payback for small organizations than for large ones.)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

App Store Refuses Defamatory Political App

The Apple's App Store has refused an app that it deems defamatory (a violation of the rules). It's a political app that attacks an opponent in a Congressional race in California according to CNet news.
The first question that springs to mind is that is this a very clever way to gain much more publicity than the app itself would generate? (Remember all those commercials that air once -- once! -- on a cable station in Washington DC for the purpose of reaching one or more reporters who then report on them and start a nice wave of publicity all for the cost of a single ad.)
Next comes the question of whether or not the App Store should be open to everyone. It's not a publicly licensed broadcast medium, so it seems not. And in view of the fact that anyone can create an iPhone Web app using Dashcode and deploy it without the App Store, this seems to reinforce the notion that it's a PR stunt. (Note that the candidate involved is identified in the CNet article linked here, but we're not getting on the PR bandwagon.)
This is one of the reasons why iPhone Web applications built with Dashcode are such an important part of the app environment. (Shameless plug: See Chapter 2 of Get Rich with Apps! for details on the technology. It's not a backdoor trick; it's promoted, documented, and supported by Apple.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

How Apps and Texting Can Improve Your Health

Here's an article from CNN about health uses of apps and texting. It includes a link to the Mobile Health 2010 conference (as well as one to out the article I wrote for them on mobile giving).
The drumbeat continues: apps can be inexpensive to develoop in terms of both cost and time, but they focus so intently on one thing that their bang for the buck can be great. And there's a wide range of areas where these focused apps can make a difference (for more on how this can happen, see the book).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

CivicApps for Greater Portland

Their slogan says it all: Making public data easy to find and easy to use.
The first annual CivicApps Challenge is now open! This unique innovation event recognizes and rewards the best ideas and apps from the community. Join this growing community of innovative thinkers! Help us identify and recognize the best ideas and apps in the region. Share your own ideas. Submit an app to make life easier for everyone. So get your thinking caps on, share your ideas, and show us what you've got.
Visit them at

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Evernote Hits all the App Bases

Evernote is a great app and a great example of the evolution of apps. Check out their time log here. It started back in 2006, and, in 2008 became a web service (remember web services?). Then in 2008, a little blip appeared on the horizon: iPhone. Today, Evernote runs as always in The Cloud as well as on other devices, with total and immediate synchronization.
What I find particularly compelling about Evernote (other than the fact that it became essential to me in about half a day) is that it is so small. One of the things I talk about in Get Rich with Apps! is the fact that apps live in a rich environment that provides great functionality so that the app needs to do only what it uniquely can provide. And that's what Evernote does so well.
In the past, we had these monstrous accumulations of features in our applications. Today, most of those features (security via SSL in the pro edition, for example, as well as databases, standard user interfaces) are just part of the environment in which an app lives.
Evernote really has only three concepts:
  1. You can create notes (text, video, or image). If you need to type something in, standard editing tools are right there along with cut-and-paste.
  2. Notes can go into folders. It took me a little fiddling to get a structure I was comfortable with. I use To Do, Done, and Personal which seems to cover most things in my life.
  3. Tags identify notes so that, for example, my To Do notes are tagged with projects.
That's all Evernote implements on its own. The synchronization works behind the scenes with standards, and the export is XML. It's a simple app that fits into the modern infrastructure.
And it's free. There's a pro edition for $5/month or $45 a year that drops the small ad in the lower left of the window and allows SSL transfers as well as higher cloud storage limits.
And, as I point out in the book, using all of these common interfaces, standards, and functionalities lets the app focus on what it does. There are some usability tips, but no manual. There's no need for one.