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Justin Williams on iPad and Magazines

Justin Williams of Second Gear fame wrote two interesting posts about the shortcomings of magazines on the iPad. This is an area that has frustrated me to no end. With Apple’s announcement of Newsstand in iOS 5, I grew hopeful that things would change. Sadly, they have not.

Justin’s first post details a few problems with some of his favorite magazines — GQ, Esquire and Sports Illustrated.

I read a lot of magazines. They are great for people with short attention spans like myself, available on a variety of diverse topics and are usually pretty well designed. On paper that is. On the iPad? I wish I never learned to read.

I’m convinced that the people who actually write for magazines, edit them and publish them have never actually tried using their iPad versions for more than a few moments. If they actually did try to use their publication’s app as the actual means to read each issue, things would have to improve. Right? RIGHT?!

Not to complain without offering solutions, he checks off 10 pretty solid ideas on how to fix them. (The last one is to hire someone who knows iOS and understands the culture, and that’s the best idea of them all.)

In his second post, Justin goes into greater detail on how magazine publishers could create a much better experience for their iPad readers. Again, I think his last point — Hire Smart — is the best one.

It’s crazy to think that a small startup like Flipboard, which has far fewer resources than Time Inc, can build a far superior magazine-like experience on the iPad. It’s all about talent.

Software development is relatively easy. Taste and user experience, on the other hand, are hard things to teach. It’s easy to find someone who knows how to launch Xcode and throw together a few views. It’s much harder to find people that know how to do that and give it the pizazz and style that delights users.

Magazine publishers need to realize that publishing for the iPad is not like publishing for print. It’s a completely new medium, and it demands a different experience from a specific set of readers.

We are looking at the future of media consumption. If publishers don’t get it right now, then they will face the same dilemma with the iPad (and other tablets) as they did with the Internet — a business model and experience that never worked outside their print model.

For all the exciting things that are happening in the publishing world — new ways to create and present content, access to new readers through new technology and the ability to create fantastic content and apps for so little financial investment — it’s the publishing industry who so far has largely failed to capitalize on any of these opportunities.

Missing Piece to Email for iOS

Earlier today I linked to a Forkbomber piece comparing the approaches to cloud computing between Apple and Google. In my commentary on the link, I said file sharing was one of two hold-ups I had with leaving Google Apps. The other is this:

The ability to send reply emails from a personalized domain via MobileMe from my iPhone.

This ability was brought to the Web interface of MobileMe in an earlier revision. I can forward my domain email address to my MobileMe address and then send and reply from that domain address via the web interface with no problem. Using only one keyboard shortcut and a simple workaround, the same can be accomplished with Mail.app.

But the iPhone is still problematic. To simply send email from the domain address is no problem. It’s the same as sending from any account. Create a new email, select the account you want to send from, write the email and send.

The problem comes in the ability to reply to a domain email from that same account. On the iPhone, it is impossible to do it automatically like on the web and Mail.app interfaces. The iPhone does not read the address to which the email was sent but instead the account that received it. Therefore, to reply to an email sent to a personalized domain but forwarded to MobileMe, I have to manually select the domain address with every reply. Given the number of emails to which I reply, that’s just not workable.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that this simple change will be made, but I’m not really counting on it. I’ve not seen anyone write about this issue in relation to iOS5, and since I don’t have access to a developer’s account I’ll just have to wait until this fall to see.

Apple’s Twitter Integration vs Camera+

When I watched the video of Tuesday’s WWDC Keynote, I was struck by how similar Apple’s Twitter UI looks like the Twitter UI in Camera+ from Tap Tap Tap.

First up is the Camera+ UI:

Photo

Now, take a look at upcoming UI in iOS 5:

Twitter iOS 5

When listening to the special WWDC edition of The Bro Show Podcast, they mentioned the same thing.

So I decided to go back and check it out. In comparing the two, about the only real similarity is the use of a paperclip to “attach” a photo to the Twitter window. The other elements are all pretty standard:

  • Send/Share button
  • Cancel button
  • Character counter
  • Location button

All things considered, I’m a much bigger fan of Tap Tap Tap’s integration than Apple’s UI choices. (Particularly, I don’t like the rule lines in Apple’s text window.)

Certainly one could make a good case for Apple “being inspired” by the paperclip graphic, but that’s about it. In fact, Apple would have been better served to borrow a bit more of the UI choices — something I usually don’t say about Apple designs.

Apple’s Soul Redefining Computing

“If the hardware is the brain and the sinew of our products, the software is their soul. This year, we’re here to talk about the soul…”

—Steve Jobs

When I linked to the keynote yesterday, I said this:

Apple has redefined computing with what they announced today.

That may sound like a bit of hyperbole, but I don’t believe it is.

With the release of the iPhone in 2007, Apple disrupted the smartphone market and redefined cell phones by blurring the lines of consumer and enterprise offerings. Just look at the state of Nokia, once a powerhouse of consumer cell phones, their stocks plummeted to an all-time low at the first of this month. They lack direction, vision and innovativeness.

In 2010, Apple ushered in what Jobs calls “the post-PC world” with the release of the iPad. In just a little over a year, the iPad has shattered the expectations of mobile computing. Luxury cars dealers put their user manuals on iPads and give them away with new purchases. Hospitals manage patient files and diagnostic work on them. Musicians compose and mix on them. Children adore iPads for books and games. And people like me use our iPads for any number of tasks — reading, writing, watching movies, social media, calendaring, email, web surfing and even as a personal assistant. My iPad is my Bible, literally.

Consider now the more mainstream apps on these devices.

I’m thinking of apps like Pages, Numbers, Keynote, OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle. These are superb apps that have two things in common:

  1. Their iPad offerings are as good, if not better, on the iOS platform as their Mac offerings are on OSX.
  2. Document management between the iPad, iPhone and Mac sucks.

For me, GoodReader is a God-send. Ditto for Dropbox. And as good as these two apps are at serving up the documents I shuffle between my iPad, iPhone and MacBook, they are still one or two steps away from making the iPad a truly integral part of my workflow.

That could all change this fall when iOS 5 is released and iCloud comes fully online.

As excited as I am about having my music and my photos shared across my Macbook, my iPhone and my wife’s iMac, nothing announced yesterday has me more excited than document sharing.

I’ve little doubt that most serious developers will adopt the iCloud API. It seems a no-brainer for a company like The Omni Group, which I consider the best iPad developer out there. Between iWork and the Omni offerings, I’ll be set.

And if Apple succeeds in making documents omnipresent across all of our devices with no workarounds or patches, then computing will certainly be redefined.

What I Want From WWDC 2011

In less than 24 hours, we’ll know what iCloud is, what Tiger entails and how iOS 5 will change the way we use our iPhones and iPads.

For my money, I’m hoping to hear how Apple has introduced a better file sharing system than what they have in iDisk. I love Dropbox, and it does about 75 percent of what I want. That last 25 percent, however, is killer.

That last 25 percent is seamlessly moving files between my MacBook and my iPad. It’s keeping every machine I have in perfect sync. That’s what I want.

John Gruber at Daring Fireball predicts this in his WWDC 2011 Prelude:

Syncing data between devices tends to work best when there’s a canonical store. I.e. with Dropbox, you might have three, four, five devices syncing data on the same account. The canonical central store, however, is Dropbox’s cloud-based server. With iPhones, iPods, and iPads, the central store for almost all data stored on the devices is iTunes running on your Mac or PC.

With iCloud, that should shift to the cloud. iTunes, the desktop app, currently syncs the following things with iOS devices: audio, movies and TV shows, iBooks e-books, App Store apps, contacts, calendars, bookmarks, notes, and any sort of files shared between iOS apps. All of these things would be better served syncing over-the-air via the so-called cloud.

As it was put to him, “think of iCloud as the new iTunes”. That would be a good start. I’d prefer it be an ingenious combination of iTune and Dropbox. That would be the perfect announcement for me.

Streaming music will be nice, but it’s a far secondary concern for my workflow.

Getting Back to Writing

It’s been a little while since I’ve written here, and even longer since I’ve done so consistently. But I’m hoping to change that.

In the past few weeks, I’ve missed writing. I’ve missed blogging. Particularly I’ve missed writing here, sharing my tech discoveries and what I’m doing with my Mac and what I’m exploring.

That said, I figured now was as good of a time as any to start back. My hope is to post regularly — both links and full-fledged articles. What regularly means I don’t know, but certainly something a few times a week.

I’ve pledged to do this, but the pledge is not to the readers but to myself. This is something I want to do, regardless of who reads it. My hope, though, is that what I write has an impact on others. I hope it starts conversations, informs a few folks on what I’ve learned and gives me the chance to learn from a few folks who share with me.