Apple Home Page Search

Apple Home Page Search

This morning I went to the Apple home page to find one of their commercials. I went to search and noticed that the behavior mimicked Apple’s own operating system and the “suggest” features available in browser search boxes. What I liked is that it not only offered suggested terms but displayed media previews along with the term. I realize this isn’t especially groundbreaking, given the amount of AJAX development in recent years. However, it reminded me that as Peter Morville analyzes search patterns, another to add to the list is the behavior of providing suggestions before a user has even executed a search. This might remedy the need to distinguish between a basic and advanced search, or the need to revise a search after seeing results. Notice the screen capture image (click image to see original) where I entered “ads” as my search term.

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Edward Tufte iPhone Critique

Edward Tufte offers a critique of the iPhone’s interface design (includes video).

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Apple Ad Blurs Old and New Media

An inspiring ad in today’s New York Times.

Click play and see how the lines between old media (NYTimes ‘paper’ style view of front page) and new mix together beautifully.

In case the ad moves, I tried to do a screen capture of it, but the voice is lost. Just focus on the ad and the paper’s headline.

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iTunes is the Trojan Horse

I am a Mac addict. There, I admit it. I’m also a technology nut. I love gadgets – anything with bells and whistles. I’m also interested in anything that can potentially enable me to be more productive and organized. The recent announcement of the iPhone brought out the same reaction I always have when Apple introduces something: “Wow, that is so cool! I have to have it!” Then I excitedly tell my wife how I need to have this new gadget, but she quickly brings me down to earth with statements like, “So, do you want your children to have the luxury of wearing diapers?” or “Have you considered how expensive college will be for our children when they can attend?” So, she brings me down to earth, rightfully so. However, that does not stop me from working hard to state my case. I’ve been resourceful in the past, but sometimes it’s hard when I have a wife who prefers Windows pcs over Macs, Pepsi over Coke. But I digress.

The Genius of iTunes


iTunes Trojan Horse

So, why is iTunes a Trojan Horse? I do not mean that Apple has any malicious intent to use iTunes to harm our devices or the digital information we own. Rather, I believe iTunes is Apple’s most powerful weapon for selling more products, for expanding existing markets and for reaching new markets. How? Let’s look at a brief history of iTunes (see more here):

  1. January 09, 2001 – iTunes was originally released for managing music on an owner’s computer
  2. October 03, 2001 – iTunes integrates with the first iPod
  3. April 28, 2003 – iTunes Music Store support
  4. October 16, 2003 – iTunes for Windows
  5. October 27, 2004 – Supports photo sycing
  6. May 09, 2005 – Supports video syncing; supports calendar and contact syncing (Mac only)
  7. September 07, 2005 – iTunes can sync calendars and contacts with Microsoft Outlook

The “video” capabilities have grown to include both television, movies, and other types of video. So, with each new version of iTunes, Apple extends its reach to manage new types of content, and it also makes this available for Mac and Windows users alike.

The Sync is the Kitchen Sink

Sync IconSure, the iTunes Store is important, because Apple wants you to purchase content from them. However, the sync ability is the most important feature of iTunes. Of course the end game for Apple is to entice people to buy their hardware and to purchase content from their store. But to truly entice users to spend money on either hardware or content, they have to have sync done right. How might this be done?

Well, for one, sync needs to go two ways. Previously, sync meant updating your iPod with content from your desktop or laptop computer. Calendar and contact information was handled on the desktop or laptop, and then this content was updated on the iPod. With the introduction of the iPhone, however, we’re now talking about the ability to update content on either the device or the desktop/laptop, and have it update both ways. I applaud Apple for pursuing specific standards, particularly the CalDAV standard. For Apple to be successful, they will need to continue such efforts to pursue standards for two-way (or more) syncing all kinds of content.

Recommendations

I would recommend the following to happen for Apple to be successful:

  1. Change the “iTunes” name to something more encompassing to reflect the purpose of the application. Perhaps “iHub” or something that shows how many types of content can be held and synced using this application.
  2. Two-way content editing means that with the iPhone, I should be able to CRUD calendar or contact items on my phone, and then sync back to my desktop/laptop and vice versa.
  3. Web Syncing does not mean forcing people (including non Mac owners) to use the .Mac service. It means working with partners Google and Yahoo to come up with APIs or other webDAV solutions so content can be synced with external web applications. If Apple can handle two-way syncing with external web PDA-like solutions, then it will have won the game.

Conclusion

There is so much content the mobile user wants at their fingertips – music, video, calendar, contacts, etc. Apple’s iTunes application is rapidly becoming the hub that syncs and manages many types of content. For Apple to be even more successful, iTunes must be renamed and it must handle two-way (or more) syncing between device(s), web application(s) and/or desktop/laptop application(s).

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XP on a Mac

Joy of Tech - XP on a Mac

Well, it looks like there’s a relatively stable way to get Microsoft and Apple to play together on a Mac. Have you been successful?

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Best Buy Offering Windows OS on Apple Powerbooks

Apple Windows

It looks as though Best Buy is offering Apple Powerbooks with what looks like the Windows 98 OS! This post may get a lot of traffic, so let me stop the speculation now by saying that Best Buy is NOT offering Powerbooks with Windows. BB simply needs to work on their Photoshopping skills.

Product here and expanded image here.
Hat Tip to Durden2.0.

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More Mac Incompatibility with Grants.gov

Back in April I discussed how the federal government is discriminating against Macintosh users with regard to e-gov business transactions with the grantee community. I still cannot believe that OMB chose a solution that disregards a significant segment of its community. Furthermore, I find it hard to trust a vender who cannot implement a quick solution to cross-platform compatibility issues, particularly now that we live in an era that relies less on any given computing platform in favor of open-standards web services. Anyway, here is the latest word on Mac compatibility with Grants.gov:

I have heard that Grants.gov is not Macintosh compatible. What do I do if I use only a Macintosh?
Grants.gov is aware of the issues facing Macintosh users who apply for Federal grants electronically. Grants.gov has provided the following response regarding this issue on the FAQ page of their website:

“Grants.gov has been working with PureEdge [since acquired by IBM and renamed IBM® Workplace Forms™] to offer a viewer that is compatible with as many operating systems as possible. Once a MAC compatible viewer has been developed information will be posted on our website. Our goal is to ensure the widest possible acceptance of Grants.gov and not exclude anyone from the electronic grants submission process.”

Pure Edge anticipates having a platform independent solution available by November 2006. Until then, PC emulation software for the Mac will allow Macintosh users to prepare and submit their applications to Grants.gov. Grants.gov has provided information [PDF] on using the PureEdge viewer with a Mac.

Grants.gov and NIH are partnering to provide free access to Citrix servers for Macintosh Users who are looking for an alternative to using PC emulation software with the PureEdge™ forms. This service will be available for use at the end of December 2005.

A Citrix server connection allows Macintosh users to remotely launch a Windows session on their own machines by using the free Citrix client application. While connected to the server, Mac users can develop their grant application using PureEdge™ forms. Applicants will need to download and install the free Citrix client application in order to work on the SF424 (R&R) application package with the specific grant for which they are applying.

While connected to the Citrix server, the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR)/Signing Official (SO) can submit the application to NIH via Grants.gov.

Applicants can also use service providers (see Service Providers) for a platform independent solution.

Applicants having trouble submitting their application electronically to Grants.gov should contact Grant.gov customer support for assistance.

Statement from OER Deputy Director regarding Macintosh compatibility:

“We truly regret the inconvenience that Grants.gov’s lack of platform independence is causing Macintosh users. As stated in the FAQ’s posted on this website, the Office of Management and Budget, part of the Executive Office of the President, has chosen Grants.gov as the single portal for all submissions of federal grant applications, and NIH’s parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), as Grants.gov’s implementer. As the federal government’s largest research granting agency, NIH is expected to be a key player in the DHHS implementation of Grants.gov. We and others have made Grants.gov aware of the difficulties that Macintosh users are experiencing and are working with Grants.gov staff to implement a temporary solution (Citrix). We recognize that this solution is not ideal but ask for your patience and forbearance as we work toward the very complex task of electronic submission of all NIH applications by May 2007. Grants.gov is working with PureEdge toward a platform independent solution by November of 2006. For additional information about Grants.gov please visit their website at www.grants.gov.”

- Norka Ruiz Bravo, NIH Deputy Director of Extramural Research

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The World Just Got Smaller…

Chatting with my father-in-law

My father-in-law and I recently purchased a small video camera (iSight) that can be mounted onto the top of our Apple computers. The purpose of the camera is so that we can both see and hear each other remotely using a combination of the camera and “instant messenger” chatting software that most of us have already used. We had a great time – both video and audio were really good – not choppy like I anticipated it might be. The video was a little fuzzy, but only when I had it fill the entire screen. Nonetheless, it was amazing! I felt like we were sitting across the table from each other. In fact, during another “chat” I put the camera on my laptop, and leveraging the wireless connection in my home, I was able to take my laptop around the house so my father-in-law could see home improvements, etc. from his home hundreds of miles away. Amazing!

Chatting with my father-in-law

Anyway, I was hoping to lure friends and family into getting one of these. There are a few hurdles – you need a high speed internet connection (no dialup) and your computer must be relatively new (you do not have to have an Apple Macintosh). Think of all the long distance costs you will save because chatting this way is free – only the cost of the high speed internet service (and the camera)!

This has been done in the business community for a while now for holding remote conference calls. For instance, CNN recently decided to use Apple’s technology to aid them in their efforts for real time remote reporting.

The psychotherapy profession should really start embracing the use of this technology in order to provide alternative services. For instance, what if a psychotherapist needs to see a family, yet one of the parents happens to be away for business during a planned session. Typically, the appointment would either be cancelled or it might be missing an important viewpoint if the psychotherapist decided to see the reminder of the family anyway. A certain number of counselors already do therapy by telephone or by email, but I think there are 2 limitations with these laternatives. First, doing email “therapy” tends to lend itself more to helping one individual, not many at once. Second, it is common knowledge that a majority of communication occurs nonverbally, so much is lost using the mediums I mentioned. However, using relatively inexpensive webcam technology could be something the profession needs to consider. The major concerns would involve the legal (insurance), confidentiality, security, and archiving issues, but I think these could be reasonably resolved.

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Mighty Mouse

Apple finally updates its one button mouse

Apple's New Mouse

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No Scam Here – I Got the iBook!

Apple iBook

The Hook

I was incredibly skeptical, but now I’m a believer! For months I’ve wanted to get a laptop. Sure, it was not needed for work, but I thought it would be beneficial for a variety of reasons. First, I am a technophile, but I felt I could really use the laptop for grad school and I argued that I could spend more time with my wife (instead of being locked away in the home office, I could still do computer work in the convenience of the family room while my wife watched television). Unfortunately, my wife was not too keen on us spending >$1000 for my dream of having an Apple Computer laptop. She insisted that we could just get an inexpensive pc laptop like a Dell. Noooooo!

Then I stumbled across an “internet marketing” promotion. You may be familiar with them – “get a free iPod by getting 6 of your friends to sign up and register for X.” This promotion, offered by the Internet Opinion Group, used a different business model that I agreed with. Instead of bugging friends and family to complete stupid tasks like signing up for a credit card, I took sole responsibility for being the sucker. Depending on the value of the desired gift, registrants are required to participate in purchasing up to 6 products and/or services in order to complete the business transaction. Think of it as an alternate method for consumer advertising.

I was skeptical about whether or not the iBook would be new or used, but they promoted a 14″ iBook (or similar product) with the following specifications: iBook G4, 1 GHz processor, 256 MB RAM, OSX. I started my adventure by signing up on March 6, 2005.

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Another Apple Rumor

Intel

More Than Just the Chips?

I thought I’d jump into the never-ending Apple rumor fray. BetaNews reports on July 6, 2005 that:

“Intel announced that it is investing in a company called ClickStar with the intent to create a distribution system for films over the Internet before they are released to home video.”

Is it just a coincidence that Intel and Apple are partnering to produce chips for upcoming Apple computers in 2006? Seems interesting to me that Apple already has a great vehicle for distributing content, which could easily include movies.

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Search, Folders, and the Need For Automated “Smart” Tagging

The End of Folders? Nope.

I recently read related posts on Dan Brown’s Green Onions and Brad Hill’s Unofficial Google Weblog regarding the buzz about the supposed demise of “folders” on personal computers. Dan discusses this buzz – that people may be moving away from classifying electronic information based on a hierarchical “folder” framework, instead complementing this habit by applying the concept of attributing “labels” (often more than one) to this information. Dan appears not to buy into this theory, instead arguing that the the concept of folders (or a hierarchical structure of organization on personal computers) may not become obsolete because the “human mind loves part-whole organization.” I agree.

I cannot imagine a world without folders. Folders make my world a bit smaller and more manageable – a starting point, if you will. If I had to rely solely on a search mechanism I might very well be in trouble because sometimes I just cannot think of the correct meta-information to locate what I’m looking for. Since I am a visual person, I often need a visual cue to get me started on my quest. I can often define my specific search strategy only after I have seen the top one of two tiers of folders on my computer’s file system. Unfortunately, while search tools are doing a better job locating information based on meta-information, there is still a gap. Let me explain…

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The Sky is Falling, the Sky is Falling!

It must be the end of the world as we know it:

IntelIt’s official: Apple shifting to Intel chips

“Macintosh computers using Intel Corp. chips will be on the market by this time next year, with all Apple Macs moved over to Intel chips by the end of 2007, Apple Computer Inc. CEO Steve Jobs announced today at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco.”

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Fair Access, Security, and Innovation

I came across a blog posting today with the title, “Federal Government Discriminates against Mac Users.” The author, a federally funded research professor, was finding difficulty applying for federal funding because he had to use the PureEdge Viewer to submit his application for grant funding to the Grants.gov site. His problem is that he is a Mac user and Macs are only supported if you don’t mind using a pc simulation program such as Virtual PC. I’ve used VPC, but IMHO it has not proven to be a viable solution for Mac users, particularly for something as important as conducting business with the federal government. Some Mac users have previously voiced their concerns at places such as the Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP).

So, the question is, why does this federal site, which has the authority for consolidating the business of grant funding among a majority of federal agencies, have the authority to mandate a technology that can only be used by users of one operating system? There are federal mandates such as Section 508 that provide for equal access to web applications for handicapped individuals. Shouldn’t there be an equal access technology policy too?
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