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IOS 5, third-party apps and the Cydia market
June 9, 2011 4:28 AM   Subscribe

It used to be called "Sherlocking". British student Greg Hughes' Wi-fi Sync application was rejected by the Apple App Store for security reasons. Undeterred, he sold it on the Cydia store for jailbroken iPhone apps. At WWDC on Monday, IOS 5 was unveiled, with the latest iteration of the iPhone operating system offering Twitter integration, a built-in to do list, an adless longform reader... and Wi-fi sync.

Now, TUAW - the unofficial Apple Weblog, not generally Cupertino's harshest critic - has taken up his case, pointing to similarities in both the name and the icon design - although a cynic might note that both icons simply combine the accepted visual language for "wifi" and "sync", and the name is generic to the point of unavoidability. Going further, it has listed other jailbroken iPhone apps which seem to have inspired improvements in IOS 5. However, it also acknowledges that in many cases these applications themselves supplied functions previously encountered in other mobile OSes.

Elsewhere, Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, one of the third-party apps apparently threatened by IOS 5's built-in functionality, argues that a rising tide lifts everyone, and that users who enjoy Safari Reader will be more likely to want to upgrade to Instapaper than users who have never understood the benefit.

The issue raises questions around to what extent any OS can innovate without treading on the conceptual toes of others - one might point to the sea-change the iPhone itself seemed to spark in smartphone design (YouTube link to MacWorld 2007 keynote). Apple's interest in upgrading its notification system was made clear by the hiring of Rich Dellinger from Palm, and then of Peter Hajas, creator of the MobileNotifier app for jailbroken iPhones. Kyle Adams, UI lead on MobileNotifier, has taken a philosophical approach:
 I’ll admit I was little pissed this afternoon. for a good 5-8 hours. I’ve talked to a number of people about it though, and I think I’m just at the point where I’m more flattered than anything. I should feel amazing that Apple saw what I did and thought ‘this sells, let’s use that’.
posted by running order squabble fest (177 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Maybe it was rejected from the AppStore because they were already planning to put it in the next OS, and I think they always reject stuff that duplicates existing iPhone functionality, right?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:33 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd love to see Apple go down for this...in court. I think my justice just got a boner.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:35 AM on June 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


a cynic might note that both icons simply combine the accepted visual language for "wifi" and "sync", and the name is generic to the point of unavoidability.

That's an understatement. Plus for all we know Hughes' version had, you know, security problems.

PLUS, dude. It's wireless syncing. Does this guy think he came up with that? I bought the original iPhone day one, and I remember thinking "I have to plug this in to sync? That's dumb. I hope they fix that someday, preferably not four damn years from now." Seriously he thinks Apple got the idea from him?

Lord knows Apple has no problem 'adopting' other people's ideas, which is morally gray at best, but this douche deciding that Apple must have "[seen] what I did"? This is like people who think Rowling ripped them off cause in 1983 they had a fourteen page children's book about a kid in wizard school.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:35 AM on June 9, 2011 [27 favorites]


(I misparsed the source of that last quote, but my point totally stands. I mean for christ's sake, it's wireless syncing.)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:37 AM on June 9, 2011


I should feel amazing that Apple saw what I did and thought ‘this sells, let’s use that’.

This is either an expression of evolutionary enlightenment and the end of all intellectual property law or some very strong Kool-Aid.
posted by chavenet at 4:40 AM on June 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


The app was rejected last May. iOS5 was unveiled this week. I don't know that much about Apple SW development but it's not that hard for me to believe that they were already working on this when he submitted his app because I am pretty sure they must have been working on iOS5 for more than a year. And yes, I can believe that wireless syncing could pose some security concerns if it is from a 3rd party and not from the platform.

So yes, believable coincidence for me.

Sherlocking from Urban Outfitters though, that I can fully rage against with the heat of a thousand suns.
posted by like_neon at 4:40 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I remember when ActiveSync used to perform wireless syncs before MS removed that functionality.

(Until it hung and you had to restart your whole damn system to start up ActiveSync again)
posted by davemee at 4:41 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I should feel amazing that Apple saw what I did and thought ‘this sells, let’s use that’.

Or not surprised, considering it was the direction smart phones were going in. Apple just finally got around to it. Be thankful you got a few bucks before Apple added the feature.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:43 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


And that icon?
Look, the guy was making an app for Apple. He did what was reasonable and took the mac sync icon and combined it with the mac wi-fi icon. Not exactly unique creative genius at work there.
posted by like_neon at 4:43 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Davemee: My old Palm TX synced wirelessly, for that matter. Although by Bluetooth rather than Wi-Fi...
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:47 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really can't sympathize with the guy here. Wifi sync? I don't think security is a bogus concern for Apple for something like this. He evidently made money from his app - in a bit of a gray market - so his work was compensated. And if he's claiming Apple stole the idea for wireless sync, that's kind of laughable.
posted by Pants McCracky at 4:52 AM on June 9, 2011


And just to be clear I'm not die hard Apple fan defending them:

"I should feel amazing that Apple saw what I did and thought ‘this sells, let’s use that’. "

It is ridiculous MobileNotifier was ever an app and that they actually had to hire them to do this. As great as the iPhone is, it has/had a ridiculously lame notification system. Android, Windows, Nokia, they've all been handling incoming notifications much better since day 1. But just because the iPhone is now "upgrading" to this capability it's all ZOMG THEYZ SO PERCEPTIVES!!
posted by like_neon at 4:53 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ugh hit post too soon.

No they are not perceptive about "what sells". They realized their notifications suck and decided to just buy a solution off the shelf rather than come up with something themselves.
posted by like_neon at 4:56 AM on June 9, 2011


Perhaps I am missing the point here. But wasn't Microsoft raked over the coals by the U.S. government for including something as basic as a web browser in its operating system? Why isn't Apple coming under similar fire?
posted by jbickers at 4:57 AM on June 9, 2011


But wasn't Microsoft raked over the coals by the U.S. government for including something as basic as a web browser in its operating system?

It was more than that, according to Wikipeida:
The plaintiffs alleged that Microsoft abused monopoly power on Intel-based personal computers in its handling of operating system sales and web browser sales. The issue central to the case was whether Microsoft was allowed to bundle its flagship Internet Explorer (IE) web browser software with its Microsoft Windows operating system. Bundling them together is alleged to have been responsible for Microsoft's victory in the browser wars as every Windows user had a copy of Internet Explorer. It was further alleged that this restricted the market for competing web browsers (such as Netscape Navigator or Opera) that were slow to download over a modem or had to be purchased at a store. Underlying these disputes were questions over whether Microsoft altered or manipulated its application programming interfaces (APIs) to favor Internet Explorer over third party web browsers, Microsoft's conduct in forming restrictive licensing agreements with original equipment manufacturer (OEMs), and Microsoft's intent in its course of conduct.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:01 AM on June 9, 2011


Any thread involving Apple just drudges up the same murk. Pro Apple, Anti-Apple, Banana. Everything on the topic has already been said. I mean it's the same problem in say political threads, but at least they offer some originating variety.
posted by oxford blue at 5:02 AM on June 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Given iSync (part of OSX since 10.4) lets you wirelessly sync with a range of mobile phones, I don't see the big deal.
posted by edd at 5:03 AM on June 9, 2011


"I've called this emergency design team meeting because...well, I don't have to tell you we're in trouble. We've spent three months and countless hours working on an icon for WiFi Sync, and what do we have to show for it? Nothing. Nothing at all. Let's face it, here at Apple, we're just terrible at graphic design. But I think I have an idea: as you know, WiFi Sync is just a Cydia app we're ripping off, because wireless sync is an idea that none of the thousands of world-class engineers here ever considered. Marketing has already thrown in the towel concerning a new name...so I want to suggest we copy the original WiFi Sync icon, too. It'll work! I know it will! If I can fool the world with my fake British accent, by god I can fool them with this!"
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:04 AM on June 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


I found this accusation more believable when it was Delicious Library and iBooks. It does happen at Apple though, and not only with Sherlock.
posted by jaduncan at 5:07 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like plugging my iPhone into my laptop to sync because while it syncs, it also charges my phone. It's great.

I call it 'PowerSync'. I urge you to try 'PowerSyncing'.
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 5:09 AM on June 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ya'll should check out the comments in the first link of this post. Hughe's App is widely panned and people are saying how happy they are that Apple is doing it, so at least the App won't be buggy and lame.

Way to stir up a controversy there TUAW.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:11 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The issue central to the case was whether Microsoft was allowed to bundle its flagship Internet Explorer (IE) web browser software with its Microsoft Windows operating system. Bundling them together is alleged to have been responsible for Microsoft's victory in the browser wars as every Windows user had a copy of Internet Explorer.

So by that same logic, Apple's OS having core functionality of X is an unfair advantage over any app developer whose app does X. Because every Apple user will have a copy of X.
posted by jbickers at 5:12 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a lot of other questions about Wi-fi syncing that concern me more. Like, say, I have 32 gigs of apps and music and movies. Is that syncing over the air? Is that such a good idea? When I do a OS upgrade, is it still going to back everything up for me? Will I get in trouble if the upgrade fails?

Or even with iCloud. Things sound great in theory, but say I take a picture of, oh, I don't know, my junk (not that I would do that, ahem)... does that mean it shows up on my daughter's iPad seconds later? Is that a such a great idea? Or suppose I have 100 gigs of torrented music, are they really going to upgrade that all for me and upload whatever they can't for $24.99? And they got the music biz to go along with that? How?
posted by fungible at 5:14 AM on June 9, 2011


So by that same logic, Apple's OS having core functionality of X is an unfair advantage over any app developer whose app does X. Because every Apple user will have a copy of X.

And were Apple's market share 90%+, the same logic would apply (indeed, with the Microsoft case as a precedent). It's not like what was done to Standard Oil applies to small oil companies either.
posted by jaduncan at 5:15 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Or even with iCloud. Things sound great in theory, but say I take a picture of, oh, I don't know, my junk (not that I would do that, ahem)... does that mean it shows up on my daughter's iPad seconds later?

Representative Wiener? Again?
posted by jaduncan at 5:17 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It used to be called "Sherlocking"

Isn't that where two middle-aged male roommates have sex while injecting cocaine?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:21 AM on June 9, 2011 [15 favorites]


Regardless of whether Apple stole his idea or not, an open source phone community would not have duplicated this work. Either the trunk would have been working on it and he could join in OR his branch would be working on it and they could accept it.

Remind me again how closed capitalism is so efficient again?
posted by DU at 5:21 AM on June 9, 2011


PS: again again again again again
posted by DU at 5:22 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


PLUS, dude. It's wireless syncing. Does this guy think he came up with that? I bought the original iPhone day one, and I remember thinking "I have to plug this in to sync? That's dumb. I hope they fix that someday, preferably not four damn years from now." Seriously he thinks Apple got the idea from him?

So...your argument is that Apple is so dumb that of course they thought of it? What?
posted by DU at 5:23 AM on June 9, 2011


If you want to build a business in the Apple ecosystem, you kind of have to take this risk. It's known that Apple wants to sell the box, they want the out of the box experience to SELL more boxes.

I have a hard time hating a 'better experience' for millions of users at the expense of a few developers. And I'm a developer (not in the Apple world though, I don't look good enough in a too tight t-shirt). If you're building in Apple's playhouse, that means you have to accept that they control the experience. The tradeoffs are worth it for a lot of people.
posted by DigDoug at 5:28 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


(not in the Apple world though, I don't look good enough in a too tight t-shirt)

This is not not a helpful addition to the discourse.
posted by pts at 5:43 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


The open source community would still be jacking off adding new half-broken features only a couple developers use while leaving the core system usable only with three weeks of micromanagement and tweaks available only through sacrificing one's ego on the altar of the guru gatekeepers who may snark on your ass one minute or tell you to RTFM if they haven't had their fucking coffee and the system would still break for no apparent reason although it's possible that after ten or twenty years someone would come along and monetize support and build an apparently streamlined system but by and large it's all still just shellacked papier mache held together with baling wire and gum.

Instead, one just gives a small sack of money to the nice man in the black turtleneck, and I'm good with that.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:44 AM on June 9, 2011 [15 favorites]


Apple needs to think more about its developers.

Developers, developers, developers, developers.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:44 AM on June 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Elsewhere, Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, one of the third-party apps apparently threatened by IOS 5's built-in functionality, argues that a rising tide lifts everyone, and that users who enjoy Safari Reader will be more likely to want to upgrade to Instapaper than users who have never understood the benefit.

That's a really classy thing to say. It makes me proud to use Instapaper, as if I didn't have other reasons to be.
posted by Apropos of Something at 5:45 AM on June 9, 2011 [16 favorites]


Oh hi,

I too agree that this is sort of a rather obvious "Duh" feature that claiming that it's a rip off is a bit of a stretch. Also, usual pro-apple/anti-apple, pro-open source (woah, nice addition to an apple post DU), walled garden yada yada.

Okay now that I said all that, what I'm dying to know is whether the tap tap tap Camera+ guys got ANY grease on their wheels for the volume shutter. Remember..? They added a feature to their camera app to let you use the volume button as a shutter. Apple rejected it, saying it would confuse users, and when they they figured out a workaround to enable the functionality Apple pulled the app outright from the store.

So, yeah, they're a successful publisher, and they've made a lot of bank with Apple's help, but the new IOS 5 Camera is just a little too dang Camera+ for my liking... but whaddoIknow, maybe Apple said hey you can sell your app again but we're going to deprecate you in a year. That's a more interesting story..
posted by cavalier at 5:47 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


If Apple's implementation of wireless sync is as bad as this guy's, I'll write him a check for $1000.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 5:47 AM on June 9, 2011


Welcome to the 1980s platform wars.
posted by aramaic at 5:49 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


It could be argued that the whole idea for "apps" was lifted from the jailbreaking scene. Remember how bad Apple was about this before they opened to developers? "Some people will try to get in. It's our job to keep them out." Not an especially developer-friendly attitude.

Rather than trying to come down on Apple for stealing ideas, we should be more upset at them for keeping this a closed ecosystem. The iPhone could be 1000x more powerful if they just let developers develop freely. One of the restrictions that still irks me is the "no open emulators" line. Why? Do they expect me to find some jailbreaking loophole through a 6502 emulator?
posted by pashdown at 5:56 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The open source community would still be jacking off adding new half-broken features

As opposed to making love to a straw man in public.
posted by yerfatma at 5:56 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Syncing over wireless will be great for some things, but as fungible said upthread, I don't know how awesome it will be to sync more than some not-huge amount of data. I guess I'll find out.
posted by rtha at 5:59 AM on June 9, 2011


So...your argument is that Apple is so dumb that of course they thought of it? What?

I have literally no idea how you could possibly interpret it that way.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:04 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like, say, I have 32 gigs of apps and music and movies. Is that syncing over the air? Is that such a good idea?

It can sync over wireless if you want. As outlined in the press after it was announced, wifi syncing would normally occur at night while the phone is charging. And that 32gb would be synced once, with deltas for additions or deletions.

Anyway, 32gb, even at a slow 54mbps wifi connection, would take about an hour and 20 minutes to sync.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:12 AM on June 9, 2011


I have a lot of other questions about Wi-fi syncing that concern me more. Like, say, I have 32 gigs of apps and music and movies. Is that syncing over the air? Is that such a good idea? When I do a OS upgrade, is it still going to back everything up for me?

The big update would probably best be done using a syncing cable? After that, most people tend not to make huge changes, so on a daily basis a relatively small amount of data needs to be synced. On Android, DoubleTwist Airsync does essentially this for DoubleTwist.

Or suppose I have 100 gigs of torrented music, are they really going to upgrade that all for me and upload whatever they can't for $24.99? And they got the music biz to go along with that? How?

Money, basically. Apple have signed deals with the big publishers. Also, iTunes Match is a way for rights holders to get some sort of royalty for music being played, albeit an infinitesimal one, but it also helps to bring information on illegal downloads back into market research. So, you can find out that lots of people are torrenting particular songs, because they are in their iTunes Match collection disproportionate to actual sales. That's useful for working out what to try to sell. Like Spotify in Europe, the music is already on servers, so it just plays from there.

It's in some ways conceptually like a voluntary "iPod tax" - the idea of adding a fee to all music players on the presupposition that they will be used to play illegal music, and using that to compensate license holders. A startup called Beyond Oblivion is aiming to do something in between these two approaches - you pay a license fee when you buy the player, and the device then uses that license fee to compensate rights holders, so it can play music from legal or less-than-legal sources and in either case pay the rights holder.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:12 AM on June 9, 2011


These are very similar arguments to those applied to MS in its heyday. Disc compression, memory management, zip archive tools, cdrom burning tools were all lively ecosystems in DOS/windows history. While MS did use aggressive and border-line illegal practices to go after their competition, arguably the consent decree delayed integration of features in windowvs later, even things like cd rom tools and many of their security products. Though it would make far more sense for MS to include MSE in the base install of Windows, it's still an optional download you have to install yourself. Apparently this is because of competition concerns.

As for Apple being a minority player, get over it. It is the majority player in the potable media player market, controlling both OS and distribution where this change is directly relevant. They're a big monopoly player in that market and there's as much reason to be concerned about them as there was for MS in the bad old days. I'm sympathetic to Apple's dilemma, but they should still be concerned with monopoly competition rules.
posted by bonehead at 6:14 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Marco Arment has the right of it, at least for him, but that's because Instapaper is a value-add and will continue to be even over Safari Reader. If you make really good software, even in the Mac/iOs market where a lot of stuff comes in the box, people will pay for your app.

I'm more meh on this Twitter integration, mostly because unless Uncle Steve has invested in Twitter with the intention of leaning on them to keep ads to a minimum and handing them some design expertise, he's just tied himself to the guys who thought the dickbar was a good, well-implemented design idea. Integrating with that: not so great.
posted by immlass at 6:14 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


threeway handshake: If Apple's implementation of wireless sync is as bad as this guy's, I'll write him a check for $1000.

Sounds like you have experience of the jailbroken iPhone Wi-fi Sync app. Did you find it unsatisfactory? I've never tried it myself - but it seems like an easy bit of business logic that Apple would want to encourage people not to jailbreak their iPhones with push (systemic hostility to jailbroken iPhones) and pull (giving people what they jailbreak their iPhones to be able to do in IOS).
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:16 AM on June 9, 2011


So when Lodys filed lots of litigation against small developers a couple weeks ago for violating an obvious software patent we were like boo. Now that apple is "stealing" obvious ideas we are like boo. I am not saying that there is no place for complaints about a companies taking ideas from individuals or other firms but I think those complaints ought to be about more than just lifting really basic concepts.
posted by I Foody at 6:18 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


an open source phone community would not have duplicated this work

The open source community is not even remotely immune to duplicating work. In fact, it's one of things it loves to do most. Anybody who wants to start their own project or fork an existing one can, and since almost none of them are commercialized they continue to sputter on indefinitely even in the face of vanishingly low marketshare. There's no effective feedback mechanism for winnowing out low-quality work. Classic examples include text editors, media players, and window managers. This is an empirically-verified problem/feature of open source development.

Anyway, the developers could have patented their work, which would have given them a lot more leverage with Apple. And if they couldn't have patented it (e.g. because they weren't the first to come up with it), then I'm not so sure how big a deal it is that Apple copied them.

Apple has a long history of doing this kind of thing, so as a developer you've got to know that if you come up with a clever way to improve Apple's products, there's a good chance Apple will lift it, quite possibly without compensating you. The developers gambled and some of them lost.
posted by jedicus at 6:20 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I just think it is funny that people upset at something like this are arguing for both Open Source for everything and also software patents.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:24 AM on June 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


Anyone who wants to understand how Apple works in this regard has to read the awesome (if somewhat long) story of Audion, which was the premier MP3 player for the mac before iTunes came along and devoured that market. Seriously, it's well written, insightful and a fun read. If you are a third-party mac developer or you just want some insight into Apple and Jobs, read it:

Jobs wanted to know how big we were, and how long we've been doing this. He wanted to know a few more things that I can't even really remember. I remember he asked, "Do you have any other ideas for apps you want to work on?" I replied, genuinely, "Well, we've got an idea for a digital photo management program..." and he replied with a simple, "Yeah. Don't do that one." Everyone in the room laughed but I had no idea why — remember, my head was still exploding — so Steven Frank had to explain to me that he meant, basically, it was already being made and, of course, it would be called iPhoto. Oh. I get it now.
posted by The Bellman at 6:30 AM on June 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


I have the iOS 5 beta, thanks to a little birdie, and on a whim I went hunting around for the WiFi Sync logo on the phone and on iTunes 10.5. It's nowhere. Wireless syncing is such a basic feature that I can't even find where it asks me if I want it; I suspect it's just turned on and that's the end of the story. Plus, the logo is so sloppily done — look at that harsh gradient! — that I suspect the logo exists for quick promotional purposes to get the idea across and that's it.

And I'll add that it feels really weird the first time your phone, from your pocket, announces that it has updates and reboots and suddenly you have new features that you didn't have before. I freaked out. Between that and the iCloud thing where suddenly all the music I've bought since 2004 is always on hand for me to listen to, I'm feeling real future-vibes.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:33 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've always thought it weird that iOS didn't have OTA sync, coming from a Palm, BB and android world. That's a pretty decent argument for Apple to make in this case, in my view. They're just offering feature parity.
posted by bonehead at 6:39 AM on June 9, 2011


About the Twitter integration, Dan Benjamin has suggested on a recent podcast that that could entail that Apple wants to buy Twitter, or at least it has gotten the right of first refusal. If iCloud works well, there's only one huge weak spot for Apple: social. (Ping FAIL!) A Twitter acquisition (or just a lasting alliance) would solve that.
posted by Baldons at 6:42 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Very nicely put-together post. Just for completeness, the quote from Kyle Adams appears to be from an interview with MobileBeat.
posted by Georgina at 6:50 AM on June 9, 2011


I suspect the Twitter integration is a bit of an "FU" to Facebook, while putting Apple exactly where they like to be in relationships: On the top. They can't do that with Facebook.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:50 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm honestly more surprised that the iPhone didn't already have this. This is a total no-brainer. I can't believe Jobs let the OS go out the door without being able to wirelessly sync everything iRelated, considering just how locked-in the platform is.

Same with the notification "enhancements." My very first Android device had all the notifications stuff "just working" right from the start—including tie-ins for 3rd party apps (Facebook notifications, Twitter, etc.) Once again, total no-brainer and I can't believe Apple users have been so blindly loyal for so long without these stupidly-obvious features.

The real dick move on Apple's part is that they banned the app from the store while it was under development. I mean, if you internal app developers can't meet release dates, don't stop others from making a little coin on the side while they get their shit together. That's just bullshit.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:51 AM on June 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


Any thread involving Apple just drudges up the same murk. Pro Apple, Anti-Apple, Banana. Everything on the topic has already been said. I mean it's the same problem in say political threads, but at least they offer some originating variety.

"Go Banana!"
-Ralph Wiggum
posted by hal_c_on at 6:53 AM on June 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


This reminded me of the release of MS-DOS 6 in 1993 (scroll down for ad). They "integrated" disk compression as well as memory management -- both of which were areas with a couple of competing products that inevitably withered.
posted by cgk at 6:54 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The iPhone could be 1000x more powerful if they just let developers develop freely.

A Kawasaki Ninja is much more powerful than a Honda Rebel. It's also a poorer choice for most motorcycle riders.

I assume that if Apple could make the iPhone 1,000 times more powerful while keeping the reliability and ease of use* that has made it so profitable for them, they would do so. I also assume that if freely-developing developers were capable of producing Apple's level of reliability and ease of use, they would already have done so.

That neither of these has happened suggests to me that letting developers develop freely is not compatible with reliability and ease of use. And while my younger self might have gone for the power or the principle of freedom, I'm now a tired middle aged man who just wants a phone that works.

* If anyone is going to claim that iPhones aren't reliable and easy to use, I can only reply with all due respect that this has not been my personal experience with them.
posted by Trurl at 6:54 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Civil_Disobedient: " I can't believe Apple users have been so blindly loyal for so long without these stupidly-obvious features."

pts: "This is not not a helpful addition to the discourse."
posted by oxford blue at 6:57 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The iPhone could be 1000x more powerful if they just let developers develop freely.

Don't do it dude. Take the lesson from Oppenheimer when afterwards he said "I have become Death, shatterer of worlds!"
posted by hal_c_on at 7:01 AM on June 9, 2011


Eh, I think Marco is screwed and no one is going to buy Instapaper anymore, but whining about it wouldn't help that and he gets to be the bigger man this way.
posted by smackfu at 7:02 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Nerd rage is so cute.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:03 AM on June 9, 2011


I assume that if Apple could make the iPhone 1,000 times more powerful while keeping the reliability and ease of use* that has made it so profitable for them, they would do so. I also assume that if freely-developing developers were capable of producing Apple's level of reliability and ease of use, they would already have done so.

Like the Mac?

posted by pashdown at 7:08 AM on June 9, 2011


I'm not a big fan of Apple but there's not much that they can do to improve iOS that won't step on some 3rd party developer's toes. Most of the newly announced features are pretty obvious upgrades that any number of people could have thought to do.
posted by octothorpe at 7:11 AM on June 9, 2011


Most of the newly announced features are pretty obvious upgrades that any number of people could have thought to do.

I'd even say that it is the revolution of having a phone which is also a third-party programmable device which leads to having the toes stepped on. Before the iPhone and the App Store, people were thinking of improvements they would like to see on their cell phones all the time. But they were powerless to actually create any of them because they didn't work for the company which made the phone.
posted by hippybear at 7:17 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Most of the newly announced features are pretty obvious upgrades that any number of people could have thought to do.

Enhanced notifications: obvious feature / failing in iOS 4.
Doing them the same as a jailbreak app: not so obvious.
posted by smackfu at 7:22 AM on June 9, 2011


Serves Greg Hughes right for developing software. He should have just filed a patent and left the software development to the plebes.
posted by alms at 7:37 AM on June 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


Thanks, georgina! You're absolutely right, that quote comes from an interview with Venturebeat Mobile - I must have forgotten to put the link in. The article is here.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:51 AM on June 9, 2011


These are very similar arguments to those applied to MS in its heyday. Disc compression, memory management, zip archive tools, cdrom burning tools were all lively ecosystems in DOS/windows history.

Exactly.

And if you sold Oracle extensions back in the day it was only a matter of time until they got added to the platform. Or if you developed VMware add-on tools... I used to manage a capacity planning tool and then one day, hey hey, vmware buys a competitor and started giving a capacity planner away for free.

This kind of behaviour sucks sort of, but it's also completely predictable and inevitable. You play on someone else's platform and your product is a time-limited proposition.
posted by GuyZero at 7:51 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, gee this is why IP is important, no? Because relying on the generosity of huge multinationals in paying you for your work is a bad strategy. Hope he patented it!
posted by Ironmouth at 7:54 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


octothorpe: "Most of the newly announced features are pretty obvious upgrades that any number of people could have thought to do."

Yep, this kind of thing's sort of inevitable. Several of the iOS 5 updates to the native Camera app are right from the third-party Camera+ app (option for separate exposure point and focus point, some basic photo editing on the device) was the main thing I noticed.

Tangential to matters filed under K for "kerfuffle, Apple" and past closed threads, Apple reverses course on in-app subscriptions.
posted by Drastic at 7:55 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


jbickers writes "Perhaps I am missing the point here. But wasn't Microsoft raked over the coals by the U.S. government for including something as basic as a web browser in its operating system? Why isn't Apple coming under similar fire?"

Microsoft had a monopoly, Apple doesn't

bonehead writes "These are very similar arguments to those applied to MS in its heyday. Disc compression, memory management, zip archive tools, cdrom burning tools were all lively ecosystems in DOS/windows history. While MS did use aggressive and border-line illegal practices to go after their competition, arguably the consent decree delayed integration of features in windowvs later, even things like cd rom tools and many of their security products. "

There was nothing borderline about MS stealing STAC's disk compression technology.
posted by Mitheral at 7:55 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not shedding a single tear for jailbreak developers.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:01 AM on June 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


Wi-Sync is an obvious need, Apple would always have added it even if the 3rd party app had never existed. There are much better cases of Apple copying stuff. Dashboard vs Konfabulator being a prime case. It's a 3rd party developer's job to stay ahead of the wave and not wipe out.
posted by w0mbat at 8:02 AM on June 9, 2011


To me this demonstrates why software patents are bad. If any of those technologies were patented, no one would be getting them in iOS5.

No patents = more copying = more innovation = better for the consumer.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:06 AM on June 9, 2011


an open source phone community would not have duplicated this work

That... not really anchored in reality. And I'm trying to put it very, very nicely. Open Source projects tend to write new code, but very frequently ape closed source projects, commercial products, and even other open source projects with slightly incompatible licenses. Unless you're suggesting that Apple literally took this guy's source code, jammed it into iOS, and announced it as a new feature. And that's a different kind of accusation entirely.

We had this same conversation when Apple added copy and paste to the OS; a third party app developer had his legs cut out from under him because Apple then added the feature directly. The lesson then is the same as the lesson now: add new kinds of functionality, add the ability for the phone to do new kinds of tasks, etc. But if what you're doing is filling infrastructure gaps in the device's core functionality, gaps that people make fun of Apple for not filling themselves before you even wrote your app, do not expect Apple to politely declare that feature off-limits for its OS engineers.

The Microsoft Internet Explorer issue is an interesting comparison; at the time, Microsoft perceived Netscape as a serious competitor to its domination on the desktop. We know this because they were writing memos and emails and trying to figure out how to stop Netscape. (It's quaint in retrospect, but you know.) Microsoft's response was to pour money into writing a competing product to Netscape's flagship product, and bundle it with the OS. Then, they started baking it deep into the OS so that it was a PITA to use anyone else's browser -- arguing that it was so integral, 'separating' IE from Windows was impossible. The courts disagreed.

It wasn't a case of lots of people being angry because Microsoft didn't make a browser, Microsoft making a browser, and then the courts intervening. It was a case of Microsoft seeing a competitor as a threat, and sucking the air out of their business model by making an entire category of commercial products much more difficult to sell. Windows just released a folder syncing feature for its OS -- one that directly competes with Dropbox, in the same way that iCloud directly competes with Dropbox. No anti-trust suits there, because the context was radically different.

OS companies are definitely in a tricky spot; they take flack if they don't continually iterate and bake in functionality, but they are accused of killing their own ecosystem if they bake in functionality that was implemented by third parties first. There's a wide, fuzzy line between "They stole my idea!" and "I implemented an obvious improvement, and now I'm complaining when they did, too."
posted by verb at 8:06 AM on June 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Microsoft's response was to pour money into writing a competing product to Netscape's flagship product, and bundle it with the OS. Then, they started baking it deep into the OS so that it was a PITA to use anyone else's browser

Also, it's very important to point out that the accusations around Microsoft were inseparable from their monopoly position. The problem wasn't that they made a competing product or even that they set its cost to zero; it's that they used their Windows monopoly to push their new free competing product to everyone's computers, and made it a huge problem to even use other companies' browsers.

Remember that the antitrust suit was what brought us the ability to choose which browser is the default browser in Windows. Without the suit, Firefox and Google Chrome would be impossible to use in the way they are today. On OSX, Apple ships Safari with every Mac but it's just another application, and swapping in the browser of your choice is a preference setting. If the suit hadn't forced Microsoft to take that route, I suspect Apple might have gone down the 'deep integration' route as well, and we might well be suffering through the IE engine as the only choice for HTML rendering on both Windows and the Mac.

Using monopoly powers to crush a business segment is a different ball game than "there is a guy who wrote an app that does this and sells it on Cydia." Apple's done a lot of things to object to, but this is just linkbait and sour grapes.
posted by verb at 8:27 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think this kind of thing is really unavoidable for OS makers, or anyone who makes an extensible infrastructure. Just a few weeks ago, a Google Apps partner I know came out with a beta of a plugin for Google Apps to let you browse your user directory from Android. Not more than a week later, Google came out with its own, for free. Building OS utilities is dancing with elephants - you're going to get stepped on.
posted by me & my monkey at 8:43 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


To me this demonstrates why software patents are bad. If any of those technologies were patented, no one would be getting them in iOS5.

No patents = more copying = more innovation = better for the consumer.


More copying = more developers losing money on things they came up with = no credit (monetary or otherwise) for their efforts = developers being unable to continue justifying development = serious problem for consumers.

Claiming ownership of workable concepts isn't inherently bad.
posted by grubi at 8:47 AM on June 9, 2011


Sherlocking from Urban Outfitters though, that I can fully rage against with the heat of a thousand suns.

And sometimes it turns out that those independent artists are just ripping each other off.
posted by robtoo at 8:52 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's already years ago that someone developed a podcast-management app for the iPhone, submitted it to the App Store, and had it rejected. It wasn't duplicating existing functionality, and not doing anything that violated Apple's guidelines. But Apple was integrating podcasts into the iPod app, so it was "duplicating forthcoming functionality." Similar story with wireless sync. It's been clear for a while that as long as Apple is the gatekeeper, developers face a big risk in sinking development effort into a product that Apple might reject for exactly this reason. There's no "pre-clearance" mechanism with the App Store (and what a moral hazard that would be).

I'm glad that Peter Hajas is getting to continue his jailbreak work at Apple. Between that and Apple ganking the volume-snap feature that Camera+ implemented surreptitiously (which was really great), what's most interesting to me is seeing a sort of symbiotic relationship emerge between Apple and the jailbreak community. I don't know if this means that Apple will be less aggressive about locking down the platform in the future (probably not), but it's clear that they do benefit by treating rule-breakers as a renegade R&D operation.
posted by adamrice at 8:56 AM on June 9, 2011


This is how innovation works. I'm not saying this as a fan of apple, but as an observer.

You see it most often in the car industry, if you follow that very much at all. There is a history of over 60 years of people innovating with cars, customizing them in certain ways, and Detroit following up with later models that incorporate many of the changes made by customizers. I still see it happening today, where one model of car or truck will frequently get one sort of custom treatment and a later production model seems pre-done from the factory in the same way customizers had been tweaking it.

There's a story of a $300 espresso machine that many people that read Make magazine have come to love and how a day of tweaking at $10 of electronics can yield a much more controlled brew. They published plans for how to tweak yours and the company eventually listened and are incorporating the features into their future versions.

If you own a company making products and you see people hacking away at your thing to make it better or more personal, it's just good business to watch those hackers and when they stumble upon a truly better idea than yours, incorporate it. If you want to be nice, hire the hackers to help you with it.
posted by mathowie at 9:01 AM on June 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


adamrice/mathowie: Absolutely - the Cydia-as-skunkworks idea is really interesting, and it's nice to see that selling apps through Cydia isn't a death sentence for one's chances of working at Apple. I'm reminded somewhat of Adam Foster, who used his Half-Life 2 mods as a critique of Valve's level design, and ended up getting hired by them.

Entropicamericana: Not shedding a single tear for jailbreak developers.

Not questioning your right to your emotions, but could you unpack that for me? Do you feel that jailbreaking has an ethical element, or is it just the violation of the EULA?

On a tangent, is anyone else thinking that Tweetdeck pretty much got bought at the perfect time, since IOS 5 will if not kill the market for third-party Twitter apps certainly dent the heck out of it?
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:05 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


The iOS5 Twitter "client" is one way. You still need a Twitter client to see people replying to you, messaging you or mentioning you. The official Twitter client gets installed by default if you choose to but you can still download a third party app if you want.
posted by Talez at 9:08 AM on June 9, 2011


Sure - and Tweetdeck's functionality will presumably be folded into the official Twitter client. I just don't see a huge number of people looking past IOS 5 integrated posting and official Twitter client viewing.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:22 AM on June 9, 2011


re: MS/Netscape antitrust concerns -

What gets lost over time is that Microsoft's biggest fear was rich-content web browsers and Java replacing the Windows API as the software development platform of choice, since people would no longer be locked into Windows for the applications they needed. Therefore they developed a version of Java that was incompatible with the actual Java standard, pushed the incompatible features hard to developers without fully disclosing that they wouldn't work on any other platforms, and bundling the incompatible runtime with every copy of Windows. The goal was to take what would be an OS-agnostic application platform and break it so that programs wouldn't work on every OS anymore, and they succeeded.

You can see this same strategy mirrored in what they did with Internet Explorer - develop a version that kiiiiinda conforms to the standard, but not really, and add some new incompatible features and hype them up for developers. Then give away the client for free, and bundle it with Windows. In fact, in developing Windows 98, they found ways to integrate IE so fundamentally into various portions of the OS (desktop, Windows Explorer, help system) that IE software would still be rendering HTML even if Navigator was your default browser.

Anyway, what matters in this type of antitrust law is market definition - you can't use your monopoly power to wrongfully close out competition IN YOUR MARKET, which is why these concerns don't apply to Apple vs. add-on developers. They aren't in the same market. By breaking Java and driving Netscape out of business, Microsoft was foreclosing a possible competitor in the application development platform market, not just adding a feature that competed with some other feature. Mobile OS add-on apps and the overall OS itself are likely too different to really be considered in the same market; no consumer would enter a store and say "now what do I want today, Greg Hughes's Wi-Fi Sync or Apple's iOS 5?" Minor feature add-ons like this don't threaten the dominance of Apple's software platform market the same way that the promise of an OS-agnostic application platform threatened Microsoft back then.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 10:09 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Once again, total no-brainer and I can't believe Apple users have been so blindly loyal for so long without these stupidly-obvious features.

I just want to say it's entirely possible to feel that a product is a best-in-class overall and particularly best-for-YOU and how you work, while still thinking it has areas that badly need improvement. That's not blind loyalty, that's how the world works.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:15 AM on June 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


Heh - Year of the Copycats.
posted by Artw at 10:17 AM on June 9, 2011


I also assume that if freely-developing developers were capable of producing Apple's level of reliability and ease of use, they would already have done so.

This resonates with me. I support open source development as a general, "sharing ideas leads to new innovation and that benefits everyone," philosophy.

But personally, I really prefer Apple's closed system and their suite of offerings to the days when I had to search around to find software to do what I wanted. And then, once I did, worrying about how adding that software to my existing setup was going to screw it up.

When we had a PC running Windows as our primary home computer and I had a Windows laptop, I was forever installing drivers and patches from all over the place just to get all my stuff to play together nicely. Added on top of that was all the time I spent on security: keeping a watchful eye on software downloads and updates, making sure my anti-virus programs were up-to-date, lecturing my kids about trusting third-party stuff, finding yet another warning about a new worm or trojan going around Outlook, etc.

I feel much less stressed these days with our Apple-based home network. Things just run the way they should, and generally when I decide there's something new I want to do and start wondering how I'm going to do that, Apple's already got it covered for me. I can just rely on their OS updates to keep things running smoothly, and download Apps to do what I want. Everything just works together, seamlessly.

I still think security is important, of course, but as we aren't jail-broken, the network is password-protected and Time Capsule is backing everything up automatically, I don't have to spend so much of my time worrying about it. It frees time up for me to be more productive.

Or, you know, play Angry Birds. Whatever.

I used to make fun of people, back in the day, who had AOL, and how they didn't really know how to do anything because AOL did it for them. They didn't know what a browser even was or how to get their mail to work for them with a customized email client. They just did what AOL let them due by default, and never wondered about what else they could, or if there was a better way.

Well, I went through my period of fiercely Doing It All Myself to show that I could, and it was good for me to figure out the setup I wanted.

But these days, I'm finding I like not having to work at it.
posted by misha at 10:18 AM on June 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Incidentally, the real loser in the twitter integration is sites like twitpic or yfrog, since it only supports Twitter's new "official" pic hosting.

(Personally, I think Apple is going exactly the wrong way in incorporating Twitter into the OS rather than providing APIs for anyone to integrate. It's like they forgot what an OS was supposed to be.)
posted by smackfu at 11:09 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, the real loser in the twitter integration is sites like twitpic or yfrog, since it only supports Twitter's new "official" pic hosting.

That's what the Twitter ecosystem has been looking like for a while, now. In May they essentially told third-party app developers to go die in a fire. URL shorteners and tweet image hosting services' days have all been numbered for a while.
posted by verb at 11:13 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't make lemonade! GET MAD! Make life take the lemons back!

Yeah, take the lemons!
posted by Slackermagee at 11:18 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


1. Apple leaves out, or even explicitly prevents, some function that most say should have been in the OS from the start.

2. Someone else provides it. Apple rejects it.

3. They provide it anyone in a jailbreak App Store.

4. Apple finally realizes their error (possibly because of the rise of Android tablets forcing clue acceptance) and includes the feature themselves.

Summary: This is Apple trying to make up for a lack in their OS. The author shouldn't assume a proprietary niche from the lack of a feature in iOS -- after all, it's not like this is the only such phantom feature. There are dozens. (Some others: requirement to sync through iTunes, software installation using store model, using the obnoxious "sync" paradigm, said "sync" paradigm making using iOS with more than one host computer infuriating at best, App Store's adherence to ancient shareware-style Free/Pro model abandoned by rest of computing world, annoying text autocorrect, choosing to hide the damn filesystem from users, forcing applications to keep separate document stores thus sometimes meaning users have to keep multiple copies of files on a limited memory system so different apps can use them, bizarre App Store restrictions, complete and willful lack of any scripting or on device scripting or development facility....)
posted by JHarris at 11:37 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


THE NERVE OF APPLE WAITING TO DO SOMETHING UNTIL THEY CAN DO IT RIGHT!

I missed the part where Apple forced these people who wanted a function that wasn't ready yet to buy an iOS device. Was that 1(a)?
posted by entropicamericana at 11:48 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


the rise of Android tablets

Oh nevermind, you're just a troll. (Missed that gem on my first time around.)
posted by entropicamericana at 11:49 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


All caps, saying "no one is forced to buy Apple", and linking to daringfireball. That's a trifecta.
posted by smackfu at 11:50 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Small type (and a numbered list!), saying "a deliberate omission is a fundamentally flawed OS," and saying Android tablets are on a rise. That's a trifecta! (Look, I can do this too!)
posted by entropicamericana at 11:57 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh nevermind, you're just a troll.

mote beam etc etc
posted by me & my monkey at 12:00 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


[This post was deleted for the following reason: Apple rules! Apple sucks!]
posted by maxwelton at 12:49 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Looks like they're squeezing a little less tight on the subscription rules.
posted by Artw at 1:19 PM on June 9, 2011


Ah, I see Drastic already covered that.
posted by Artw at 1:29 PM on June 9, 2011


Android had this since day one.
posted by delmoi at 1:41 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


pts: "This is not not a helpful addition to the discourse."

This is not not a helpful addition to the discourse.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:07 PM on June 9, 2011


Android had this since day one.

Shit, really? How? I've been manually copying music over my USB cable for like 16 months now.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 2:19 PM on June 9, 2011


Regardless of whether Apple stole his idea or not, an open source phone community would not have duplicated this work

No, it doesn't logically follow from Apple only adding cloud synchronization now, that open source is necessarily more efficient or successful at providing quality software. There's not really any connection to make here.

For example, GNOME and KDE are almost nothing like each other, except that they both strive to provide clumsy GUIs that take most of their feature enhancement cues from Windows Explorer and OS X Finder.

The examples of widely successful open source software projects are very few and far between (while notable, Apache httpd and Firefox are not exemplary of the bunch, and the market share of Linux is less than iPad usage).

Most open source is, in fact, not very successful, in comparison with closed, commercial development, and the anarchic nature of open source development invariably leads to some projects that functionally overlap with each other, which open source proponents take sides and push for political and not functional reasons.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:31 PM on June 9, 2011


“Feeling flattered today. Lots of great WP ideas headed to iOS. (Camera button/above lock, auto-upoad [sic] of pics, better notifications … ) … wi-fi sync, built-in twitter, background downlad service, short-messaging chats (though we do Facebook!)” Joe Belfiore

Maybe Microsoft should deliver products to market, before taking credit for features they haven't shipped and won't ship for another year or two.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:34 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not to interupt the latest Sharks vs. Jets dance-off, but this strikes me a really classy take on the situation:

"What it comes down to is this: I need Apple to advance themselves, or else they won't stay competitive in their own market. I am somewhat dependent upon their success," Arment said. "If they step on me a little in the process, that's the risk I took by developing for the platform. They're giving me new APIs to make my own product better, so it works out for me."
posted by bonehead at 2:43 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Arment has a really interesting take on his role within the apple ecosystem. He understands the risk to individuals, but believes more in the organism as a whole than protecting his individual part in it through IP or patents.

Then again he does deliver a fucking awesome product.
posted by stratastar at 2:54 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Most open source is, in fact, not very successful, in comparison with closed, commercial development...

That's like saying that most twelve-year-olds aren't very successful in comparison with twenty year olds. Older, established open source projects are generally quite successful. Younger open source projects are often skunk-works itch-scratching efforts, rather than mature offerings. That doesn't mean that open source is "less successful," just that you see it before it succeeds. In Open Source, "failure" still results in working software that someone can use if it suits their needs.

I'm no zealot, but there's a real danger in comparing open source and closed source development models and suggesting that success can even be measured on the same scale. If you're talking specifically about UX work, then, yeah, there's a lot of writing about the flaws in collaborative, consensus-based design for UX.
posted by verb at 2:55 PM on June 9, 2011


Features make their way into competitors' products all the time. For example, the Android interface started out with a standard feature-phone interface, but quickly became mostly derivative of the touch interface in iOS, not long after the release of the first generation iPhone. If that's acceptable, it seems ironic to complain about Apple adding features to their platform that are useful on other platforms.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:07 PM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, that was in the links in the FP. It's useful data to know how much people read, though.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:36 PM on June 9, 2011


Honestly the whole volume button furfurah is beyond stupid.

Apple decides what the buttons do. Don't like that? Don't buy it. Try not to convince yourself that your OS choice makes you a genius. It's entirely possible to think that an OS with heavy management of conventions and behavior is superior. I installed linux off of floppies back in the day, am I the only one who ended up at this late point without some worshipful attitude towards the UI innovations of the ISV?

You know what would be cool? If there was a third party app store for android that stocked and promoted only apps that shared common behavior and UI conventions, that used the same single widgets, that used the same shortcuts and conventions.

Let's talk about choice after that happens. Because until then I remain unconvinced that the freedom to choose requires me to choose something I don't want.

So now the button can take pictures and if they open that up to third parties then all third parties will do it the same way. I like that, but that's presumably because I'm an idiot who only buys what's cool and that the hipsters at the cafe buy.
posted by Wood at 3:37 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Didn't know what it was called before, but Apple has been "Sherlocking" applications for a loooooooong time.

It's good to know that, in a few years, when I finally buy a (used) iPhone for oh $50-100 and instantly jailbreak it JUST to run cool apps*, there'll be plenty of them out there.

(* with the exception of mesh networking, when available.)
posted by Twang at 4:17 PM on June 9, 2011


Didn't know what it was called before, but Apple has been "Sherlocking" applications for a loooooooong time.

Back in the day, we called it Claris.
posted by verb at 4:35 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apple users have been so blindly loyal for so long without these stupidly-obvious features.

It is both self-centered and insulting to assert that everyone who has considered the many pros and cons of two platforms and come to the opposite conclusion as yourself is "blind" to the cons of their chosen platform.
posted by flaterik at 4:49 PM on June 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


There are actually a few more than two platforms, flaterik. But, specifically, on wireless sync, I'd imagine that one of the key issues was consistency of experience. In 2007, I'm not sure there was enough penetration of domestic broadband or high-speed wireless in the core market to make wireless sync an experience of sufficiently consistent quality to make it a desirable feature at launch. By 2010, that landscape had changed considerably.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:57 PM on June 9, 2011


" Once again, total no-brainer and I can't believe Apple users have been so blindly loyal for so long without these stupidly-obvious features."

Is perhaps the most inflammatory comment in this thread. In the words of the poster, its a real dick move. I tried to be civil, albeit in hindsight with a somewhat passive-aggressive response, about it. But enough is enough.

Why? Because as flaterik says, it is incredibly insulating to dismiss the millions of people with iPhones as merely being robots, slavishly buying whatever doo-dad Apple releases.

It reflects an incredibly unsophisticated view of the forces that drive companies—with naturally finite resources and a well stated philosophy of preferring to do a limited number of features right, rather than a broad number of features poorly—and consumers—with a similarly finite set of resources and widely divergent needs and wants.

I could sit down at any device and come up with missing "stupidly-obvious" features. Does that invalidate the use of the device, or serve as grounds for attacking users of that product? Of course it doesn't. It's juvenile to make that claim.

It is also incredibly self serving because I assume you are an android holder, although my point stands regardless. That comment seems to suggest you are the only one who makes conscious decisions, whereas everyone else is too busy blindly throwing money away.

It is also out of touch with reality. In terms of empirical experience, the Apple users you dismiss you completely are probably the one's who are most able to render informed critique of the product they use. If they choose that the flaws of Apple products are to them acceptable, then they will continue to buy. If not, there is nothing stopping them from buying something else. Despite the assertion in the comment, there is no perfect device. People make a decision and go on with life.

This thread, despite my lament, was actually going pretty well. Some discussions on innovation vs adoption, on the morality of commercial decisions. But then you come along and flop out that turgid and jealous statement and when called out on it resist the temptation to go quietly into the night.
posted by oxford blue at 5:32 PM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


>the rise of Android tablets
Oh nevermind, you're just a troll. (Missed that gem on my first time around.)


No, I rather think I'm not. *bristles*

For THE GAME, I got the cheapest iPad I could find to start researching development prospects, and while it's definitely cool in some ways, in others it's like Apple has gone out of their way to find way to make the device toy-like, something unsuited for real work. I'm subtly horrified this has become so popular.
posted by JHarris at 5:37 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


For THE GAME, I got the cheapest iPad I could find to start researching development prospects, and while it's definitely cool in some ways, in others it's like Apple has gone out of their way to find way to make the device toy-like, something unsuited for real work. I'm subtly horrified this has become so popular.

I don't know, honestly. It's unsuited for certain kinds of work, that's for sure. Development of software, keyboardless writing and editing of long-form novels, and so on. It's worth remembering that "Totally unsuited for the kind of work I do" is different than "A toy."
posted by verb at 5:42 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is perhaps the most inflammatory comment in this thread.

I'd put it roughly third, after I'd love to see Apple go down for this...in court. I think my justice just got a boner and Oh nevermind, you're just a troll - the first of which is oddly disproportionate, the second just profoundly not cool.

However, the discussion was largely healing around these occasional outbursts until about half past two MetaFilter time today, which is interesting.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:42 PM on June 9, 2011


It is both self-centered and insulting to assert that everyone who has considered the many pros and cons of two platforms and come to the opposite conclusion as yourself is "blind" to the cons of their chosen platform.

It was self-centered and insulting of Apple to restrict obvious features in order to charge people for them later. The "cons" of iOS are largely a matter of strategy for Apple, not inability. Many use iOS despite these limitations, not because of them. (Cons like inability to interface with bluetooth data storage, lack of USB access to filesystem through computer, supporting bookmark import from Internet Explorer and Safari but not Firefox, Chrome or Opera, the continued corporate indifference towards letting users change their own damn battery, complete lack of Flash, lack of user manual without installing iBooks....)
posted by JHarris at 5:48 PM on June 9, 2011


I don't know, honestly. It's unsuited for certain kinds of work, that's for sure. Development of software, keyboardless writing and editing of long-form novels, and so on. It's worth remembering that "Totally unsuited for the kind of work I do" is different than "A toy."

Hmm... point conceded. It is different for me to think of the kind of work it's good for, but thinking about it a bit, it can be useful for some kinds of work, they're just work that hasn't been important to me at this point.

If only Apple didn't themselves discriminate between which kinds of work are suitable, because there really does seem to be some slick hardware here. As it is, I'm itching to jailbreak this thing.
posted by JHarris at 5:52 PM on June 9, 2011


JHarris you're in left field. How many 10 inch android tablets let you change the battery?

Also, do you make anything? I have hard time believe that someone who wrote software for sale at least could really spout that old saw about how they intentionally didn't add a feature just to charge for it later (it's so easy to write the code in my head...)

Nothing gets done without work.
posted by Wood at 5:53 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


/sets up mobile MRI machine.

Oh, never mind me.
posted by Artw at 5:54 PM on June 9, 2011


Like, for example, a plug-in system for your browser. That clearly writes itself.
posted by Wood at 5:54 PM on June 9, 2011


If only Apple didn't themselves discriminate between which kinds of work are suitable,

Wow, so every other tablet maker out there lets you do anything on it? Create anything? Run anything? Transmit anything in any way you want? They have no hardware or software restrictions?
posted by rtha at 6:05 PM on June 9, 2011


Wow, so every other tablet maker out there lets you do anything on it? Create anything? Run anything? Transmit anything in any way you want? They have no hardware or software restrictions?

Well, that's the crux of Josh Gruber's criticisms of Windows 8. It's an attempt to adapt a full desktop OS for tablet use, allowing you to run Excel or Word or any other piece of desktop software on your tablet. USB ports, Bluetooth, whatever. Apple has absolutely restricted what its iDevices do, and whether you think that's a craven ploy to dupe the gullible or a carefully considered design choice is largely a matter of personal preference.


It was self-centered and insulting of Apple to restrict obvious features in order to charge people for them later.

Er. If we're still talking about iOS issues, they actually prevented someone from charging for a feature, and then rolled it into a free OS update that all users will be able to install and enjoy. That's... kind of the opposite of what you're saying. Did I misunderstand?
posted by verb at 6:14 PM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon writes "Most open source is, in fact, not very successful, in comparison with closed, commercial development,"

That's probably not as unbalanced as it would seem at first glance and actually a win for open source. Closed source products that are marginal or fail aren't exposed to the world for review. They stay in Joe Developer's desk drawer of backups. Open source products are exposed to review usually fairly early in the process. IE: there is lots and lots of shitty, unsuccessful, closed source development. But because it is kept behind closed doors you aren't aware of it.
posted by Mitheral at 7:28 PM on June 9, 2011


"JHarris you're in left field."

No he's not. Why, just this afternoon I looked out the window of the bus at a bunch of people waiting for the light, and all 20 of them are staring at their iPhones. They should sell them at Toys "R" Us - why do they need Apple Stores?

Half the people on the bus have them as well. What are they doing? They're playing Angry Bejewels or something that is patently NOT WORK.
posted by sneebler at 9:11 PM on June 9, 2011


For example, GNOME and KDE are almost nothing like each other, except that they both strive to provide clumsy GUIs that take most of their feature enhancement cues from Windows Explorer and OS X Finder.

The examples of widely successful open source software projects are very few and far between (while notable, Apache httpd and Firefox are not exemplary of the bunch, and the market share of Linux is less than iPad usage).


Darwin. Python. gcc. Webkit arose from KHTML. Those are just some of the ones Apple make heavy use of. I mean come on, what world are you living in?

There are hundreds of successful open source products. Some fill niches you don't care about, some have a more successful commercial competitor but that doesn't mean the program itself isn't nice. And GNOME is actually quite nice now, and I prefer it to OS/X. (Agree completely about KDE though.)

Also, the market share of Linux is huge -- you're not counting the many embedded uses. The world is much bigger than the desktop now.
posted by JHarris at 10:08 PM on June 9, 2011


JHarris you're in left field. How many 10 inch android tablets let you change the battery?

That is irrelevant to my point there -- that many users would love to be able to change the battery on their iThing, and Apple had steadfastly forbidden them from doing this. If Android tablets also prevent this then you can put me down on the RARR lists for those things.
posted by JHarris at 10:11 PM on June 9, 2011


errata: Saying Apple makes "heavy use" of Python is probably overstating things a bit, but it is included with OS/X so they must see something in it. Provided that the computer it's on isn't portable, that is. </axegrind>
posted by JHarris at 10:13 PM on June 9, 2011


That is irrelevant to my point there -- that many users would love to be able to change the battery on their iThing, and Apple had steadfastly forbidden them from doing this.

You do realize there IS a technical tradeoff to be had, and it's not just to piss you off?
posted by flaterik at 12:07 AM on June 10, 2011


Namely, bigger batteries with different shapes and increased toughness, not to talk about aesthetics.
posted by Baldons at 12:15 AM on June 10, 2011


You do realize there IS a technical tradeoff to be had, and it's not just to piss you off?

No, I don't realize that. What is the tradeoff?
posted by JHarris at 12:48 AM on June 10, 2011


Ah. Well the iPad has a glass surface and a metal back. If that's not durable then hell. When someone brings up "aesthetics" as the reason they won't let me replace a part of something they've sold me, I am very liable to tell them they're speaking nonsense. Then, when what screwheads can be found turn out to be Torx, I know they are.

A few visible screwheads, what is wrong with that? They're made of shiny metal after all! I have an old PowerPC Mac Mini, and am currently borrowing a slightly-newer Intel version of the thing, and both of them require using a putty knife to add RAM. It seems this is actually the supported procedure for adding RAM. Once you wedge the thing in, pry it apart and have a look inside, it turns out the thing is held together using a good number of quite elegant plastic clips.

Think of that! They'd rather use some funky clips to keep their box together than give us visible screwheads! Interestingly enough while the box is sealed those clips are completely invisible, so aesthetics can play no role in that component.

Okay... I actually am sorry for being sarcastic here (well not that sorry as it's a lot of fun to write like that), but I am suffering from a good amount of Apple chafe right now, and hearing someone pooh-pooh what feel to me to be very legitimate complaints that I've ranted about time and again drives me up a wall.

This is the same company that, in the 80s, sold big cases you could open up with visible board slots in which you could add your own peripherals, PC-style. I remember looking at that with a bit of envy. Wow, it looked so technical and complicated! Of course it was nothing of the sort -- I just had a Commodore 64, which didn't get any real expansions like memory cards until late in its life. Who would have thought that Jobs was looking with envy at my little beige loaf and thinking now that there is the way to do it.
posted by JHarris at 1:08 AM on June 10, 2011


They're made of shiny metal after all! I have an old PowerPC Mac Mini, and am currently borrowing a slightly-newer Intel version of the thing, and both of them require using a putty knife to add RAM.

We are wandering a very long way offtopic at this point - or at least we are wandering back onto the eternal topic of why one might llke/dislike Apple - but I wouldn't take the Mac Mini as representative. It's specifically designed to be a limited-application closed system. Upgrading the RAM and hard drive on the latest unibody laptops is actually easier than it was on my old Intel Core 2 Duo MBP, where hard drive replacement did involve (torx) screwdriving, and taking the back off.

The battery thing really only applies to phones and laptops, and there are arguments on both sides. Non-removable batteries can fill the space otherwise taken up by mounting mechanisms with more battery material, for longer life. Removable batteries can be replaced on the fly. It's really a matter of personal taste.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:18 AM on June 10, 2011


errata: Saying Apple makes "heavy use" of Python is probably overstating things a bit, but it is included with OS/X so they must see something in it. Provided that the computer it's on isn't portable, that is.

Interesting. It's on my Macbook, a portable computer made by Apple, which, like the iPad, I happily use when it is the best device for what I am trying to accomplish at that time.

I am suffering from a good amount of Apple chafe right now, and hearing someone pooh-pooh what feel to me to be very legitimate complaints that I've ranted about time and again drives me up a wall.

That's fair. But you have to understand that we all know no device is perfect, and everything has tradeoffs. I find the iPad so incredibly wonderful for what I want from it* that the fact that it also has a number of things that I dislike is insanely outweighed. Your balance is clearly different. Not wrong, just different. If an Android tablet fits with your needs better, then buy it. Not me, we all hated the Xooms that Verizon lent us at work and raced to give them back, but if you disagreed, you wouldn't be pooh-poohing my legitimate complaints.

You'd be disagreeing.



* for the record, easily fix someone's problems through logmein without lugging the aforementioned macbook, rdp or 2x into terminal server to essentially run any app on it, catch up on my mail and my appointments and meetings with solid exchange integration, read comic books in a way I like better than paper, stream audio and video from my home PC whenever I get bored, and yes, fire up X-Plane or geodefense.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:30 AM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Most open source is, in fact, not very successful

Most commercial software is also, in fact, not very successful.

OSX and iOS both heavily depend on open source software. If you strip out the open source stuff, you don't even have an OS.
posted by empath at 4:51 AM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


OSX: What happens when you give up on Copeland and go OSS.
posted by jaduncan at 6:32 AM on June 10, 2011


Why, just this afternoon I looked out the window of the bus at a bunch of people waiting for the light, and all 20 of them are staring at their iPhones. They should sell them at Toys "R" Us - why do they need Apple Stores?

Half the people on the bus have them as well. What are they doing? They're playing Angry Bejewels or something that is patently NOT WORK.


Just last night I spend many, many painful hours on a plane; takeoff was delayed by nearly four hours because our pilot was sick, they had to fly in a new one, then thunderstorms rolled in and backed up traffic all up and down the Eastern seaboard. I spent a lot of time strolling up and down the aisles. Well, shuffling, since a lot of other people were also in the aisles.

I saw many devices - all kinds of tablets, a bunch of different laptops and netbooks, and many mobile phones. I estimate that more than 90% of the people using them were not using them to work. They were watching movies and playing games.
posted by rtha at 7:33 AM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I suppose it's also possible that the people doing not-work on their iphones when they're on the bus are doing not-work because they're not at work.
posted by rtha at 10:21 AM on June 10, 2011


We are wandering a very long way offtopic at this point - or at least we are wandering back onto the eternal topic of why one might llke/dislike Apple - but I wouldn't take the Mac Mini as representative. It's specifically designed to be a limited-application closed system.

And yet, as general-purpose computing machines, the Mac Mini is a lot more versatile than the iPad. Not to mention there IS an Apple-supported means to change the memory in it, and while one has it open one could also change the hard drive or mod the computer another way. One can't change the hardware in an iPad at all.

And I'd bet that there is mounting and such for the battery inside an iPad as well. It is intended to be serviceable, just by Apple techs, who have the magic instructions and special screwdrivers. Like the iPod and other devices in the line are. It is possible for a user to change the battery in some iPods, Apple would just prefer you don't. I assume the iPad is the same way. It is an assumption, but it seems a valid one to make.

That's fair. But you have to understand that we all know no device is perfect, and everything has tradeoffs.

But some devices are objectively better than others, and some could be better if not prevented from being so. Saying nothing is perfect isn't helpful really; it's just a homily that implies things are as good as they can be, and we all know Dr. Pangloss used a Newton.

But yes, we have wandered off the subject a bit. Hmm.
posted by JHarris at 10:43 AM on June 10, 2011


But some devices are objectively better than others, and some could be better if not prevented from being so.

Having more features does not make them objectively better.
posted by empath at 10:45 AM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Having more features does not make them objectively better.

No, but being better does. Being able the change the battery, whether you call it a feature or not, as something Apple could do that would make the device better without real tradeoff, is such a thing. And there ARE lots of things that could be better about the iPad that wouldn't wreck the experience; the thread is actually about one of them.
posted by JHarris at 10:51 AM on June 10, 2011


Loathe as I am to be an Apple apologist, a removable battery actually has trade-offs in terms of device size and battery capacity. For the ipad you'd be removing 75% of the device with a removable battery and that would be pretty awkward.
posted by GuyZero at 10:58 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is still going on? All right, whatever, here goes:

JHarris, you said earlier that you feel the iPad is "something unsuited for real work," as opposed to Android tablets. What kind of work can you do on Android tablets that you couldn't do on an iPad?

I'm asking seriously, not argumentatively. I neither have nor want an iPad, but seriously, I can't see how it's any worse for doing any kind of work an Android tablet, unless your work involves visiting Flash-based websites or making your own ringtones. In fact, there's a considerably greater selection of Real Software that people could use for their actual work (office productivity suites, video and photo editing, music tracking and synthesis, etc.) available for iOS than for Android.

Like 50% of everything else you've said in the thread is bickering about a removable battery, and you also mentioned Flash, syncing, filesystem layout, bookmark importing, and the App Store model, but I can't see how any of those would really be determinative in making the thing unsuited for real work, unless "real work" is defined in some arbitrarily narrow way.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 11:42 AM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


JHarris, you said earlier that you feel the iPad is "something unsuited for real work," as opposed to Android tablets. What kind of work can you do on Android tablets that you couldn't do on an iPad?

I don't know! I was never defending Android tablets! I don't know where that impression came about. Wait, I mentioned them once, I suggested that the new features in iOS 5 might have come about through some forced clue acquisition due to the "rise of" Android tablets. That's from competition, not because I was claiming that Android is objectively better. I don't even own an Android tablet, and have only used one in a store display.

You present my comments as if they are part of a concerted argument against Apple. They are not. I am giving voice to my frustrations from personal experience with an iPad. There are more I haven't even mentioned yet, but I'm leaving it at that. I'm just replying to what people here have said. Trying to present my objections honestly and forthrightly. I'm not trying to troll, but I guess I could understand how they could be taken that way.

a removable battery actually has trade-offs in terms of device size and battery capacity. For the ipad you'd be removing 75% of the device with a removable battery and that would be pretty awkward

I'd put up with a lot of awkward to avoid having to completely replace the thing, or pay a huge Apple service charge, once its batteries go dark. I am not looking forward to that day.

Like 50% of everything else you've said in the thread is bickering about a removable battery, and you also mentioned Flash, syncing, filesystem layout, bookmark importing, and the App Store model, but I can't see how any of those would really be determinative in making the thing unsuited for real work, unless "real work" is defined in some arbitrarily narrow way.

The term "Real work" is obviously arbitrary. I already apologized for that above. However:
- Flash would allow a wider array of web applications to run
- Non-iTunes syncing would make it much easier to get documents onto and off of the device.
- Filesystem access is dog-standard on just about every other computing device and having it restricted from you is a terrible barrier to many people's workflows
- Bookmark importing makes it a lot easier to get the websites you use everyday onto the machine, just like importing contacts or appointments does
- The App Store model -- I've already been bitten once by this, buying an app that pointed to a renamed, improved version of itself that cost more money. (Checkbook > iReconcile)

The examples you mentioned doesn't make the iPad unsuited for work, but they make it less suited. Everyone has a line beyond which the iPad ceases to look viable as a work machine. I guess what I'm saying is, I don't think in the thing's design Apple has drawn the line closely enough to the side of real-world use cases.

As for the "bickering" I'm doing... I mean sheesh, I wouldn't keep commenting here if people didn't keep arguing with me and making me feel like I needed to address them. I'm not trying to "attack" Apple, about which I feel about as neutral as one could feel about a gigantic impersonal corporation, but I am having to continually clarify and defend my statements. I presented them and that would ordinarily be that, my voice heard in the land and all take it or leave it, except people seem like they feel compelled to defend Apple for some reason.

I feel like I'm talking about Dungeons & Dragons for some reason.
posted by JHarris at 12:14 PM on June 10, 2011


Having played with a tablet now and taken it into a few work situations, I'd say that it's great as a reference device, but lousy as a note-taking, annotation or entry device. As a window into a library, it's fantastic. You get a page, about the size of a hardback single page, or approximately the same as an open paperback book. This is fabulous for documents. It replaces a huge amount of carry weight. With automatic sync (google docs, dropbox etc...) you don't even have to do something special to access your files, they're just with you, always. That's a good ten pounds out of my shoulder bag.

For text entry, even document annotation, they suck pretty hard. It's really hard to position a cursor in a text paragraph that's about 10-point with a fingertip. There's no cursor keys on the keyboard, so your fat fingers are the only option. Selecting text or editing text is a pretty miserable expereince.

Entering text is not great or horrible. A 10' tablet is big enough to have a quite decent on-screen keyboard.

The tablet won't replace my laptop as a work tool for business trips. It won't replace my paper notepad for taking notes in meetings (at least not in its current incarnation). It will replace the reams of books and papers I do need to carry though, and for me, that's totally worth it.
posted by bonehead at 12:17 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


While this may be purely anecdotal, while using a Xoom for a week or so at work I was amazed at how slow and sluggish it was. Not just the web, but everywhere. Every app.

And as soon as Flash was disabled, amazing difference, and it was instantly reproducible on every other Xoom as well. You mentioned Flash up above as somehow desirable. Flash is NOT a feature, it's a HUGE bug and the web on every device will be infinitely better when it finally dies.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 12:29 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


- Filesystem access is dog-standard on just about every other computing device and having it restricted from you is a terrible barrier to many people's workflows

Apple are doing everything in their power to make the filesystem irrelevant. Why would they go backwards?
posted by Talez at 12:39 PM on June 10, 2011


And as soon as Flash was disabled, amazing difference, and it was instantly reproducible on every other Xoom as well. You mentioned Flash up above as somehow desirable. Flash is NOT a feature, it's a HUGE bug and the web on every device will be infinitely better when it finally dies.

Dammit I'm trying to stop commenting here honestly....

I am wondering how that could be? Flash is just a browser plug-in. If you're not using a website that using Flash, why is it even running? I don't dispute that Flash sucks (it's made of Adobe), but I have to wonder how the conversation came to be about how bad it is.
posted by JHarris at 12:48 PM on June 10, 2011


JHarris: forgive me for reading a comparison with Android tablets into your work-suitedness comment - I saw the two items in that brief post and drew a relationship that obviously wasn't there, and I apologize. I didn't mean to misrepresent what you were saying.

And the word "bickering" wasn't nice either. I was just taken aback by how many comments there have been about the battery.

For the record, I have an Android phone and love it - I could have upgraded to an iPhone, but I switched carriers instead, and I haven't been disappointed. I've enjoyed reading about the new tablet-oriented additions Google's been making to the OS, and if someday I buy a tablet, I'd probably prefer one running Android for the greater ease of geek projects, customization, etc. I was just surprised by what I thought you were saying, and was hoping to hear more substantive (e.g., not-battery-related) information about where you were coming from. I'm sorry if it came off as an attack.

And as soon as Flash was disabled, amazing difference

This is fucking true on my phone, too. Goddammit, I'm sick of loading an article on Salon in a tab, switching to another one, and watching as the entire system bogs down and becomes unresponsive because there's some pop-up flash ad for the Economist loading on top of the Salon article. I desperately hammer the menu button so I can try to switch tabs and close the ad, but there's no response, not even the haptic feedback. Seconds later, the OS asks me if I want to force close the browser app. No, I wait, so that I can try to close that one tab and salvage all my other open tabs (since the Android browser doesn't restore open tabs on restart), but inevitably the browser just fucking crashes anyway.

I never had an application crash on my phone before I installed the Flash plugin, and now the browser goes down regularly, always on pages with Flash. It's deplorable
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 12:55 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


- Non-iTunes syncing would make it much easier to get documents onto and off of the device.

I traveled with my boss this week to our office in DC. He's got a work laptop (running Windows) and a work blackberry, and he uses them both a lot. He also has an iPad (his own personal one), and he did a lot of work on that, too. I don't know whether he uses dropbox or googledocs or what exactly, but I never saw him have any trouble getting access to documents that he needed access to. You can uses syncing services like dropbox, you can email things to yourself, etc., all without syncing the thing to iTunes. I have some ridiculous number of documents on my iphone, for instance, and virtually none of them got there by syncing with itunes. The phone is small enough that it's not like I'm ever going to make substantial changes to any doc while I'm looking at it on my phone, but that's not a weakness specific to iPhones; it applies to all devices of that size.
posted by rtha at 12:57 PM on June 10, 2011


I should feel amazing that Apple saw what I did and thought ‘this sells, let’s use that’.

This is either an expression of evolutionary enlightenment and the end of all intellectual property law or some very strong Kool-Aid.


Isn't "Read Later" just a gussied-up bookmark manager? If I have a bookmark folder named "Read Later" and add things to it by clicking "Add Bookmark" ... isn't that similar to "Read Later"?

Or how is it any different from a set of Delicious bookmarks tagged "readlater"?

It's good to know that, in a few years, when I finally buy a (used) iPhone for oh $50-100 and instantly jailbreak it JUST to run cool apps*

Aren't first-generation iPhones $50 new now?

And sometimes it turns out that those independent artists are just ripping each other off.

That was excellent. Urban Outfitters may be run by conservative schmoes, but they are not idiots.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:20 PM on June 10, 2011


There's no cursor keys on the keyboard, so your fat fingers are the only option.

Pretty much the #1 reason why I got an Android phone instead of an iPhone - slide-out keyboard. I can't imagine writing 200 words, let alone thousands, on a touchscreen keyboard. (It's hard enough on the slide-out keyboard.)

I never had an application crash on my phone before I installed the Flash plugin, and now the browser goes down regularly, always on pages with Flash. It's deplorable

I'm kinda glad I cheaped out and got a free phone with an ARM6 processor, so I can't run Flash even if I wanted to...
posted by mrgrimm at 1:26 PM on June 10, 2011


I am wondering how that could be? Flash is just a browser plug-in. If you're not using a website that using Flash, why is it even running?

No argument here. That's why I wanted to make a point of saying it was instantly reproducible on multiple devices - cause it really doesn't make sense that it affects the whole device that way. Not sure if this makes that Google's fault or Adobe's.

(Even if that part of it is a weird bug that gets fixed though, it's still terrible on the web. Adobe can't go out of business soon enough, and if the iOS refusal to use flash makes it happen just one day sooner, it's all worth it.)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 1:39 PM on June 10, 2011


And as soon as Flash was disabled, amazing difference

This may be a Xoom only thing. I barely notice a difference with the ASUS TF101. Flash on makes some webpages a bit jerky (but still very usable). Flash off is silky smooth. A nice compromise is to have flash "on demand", which is much like running flashblock on Firefox or Chrome: a flash box appears with a place-holder image in it. If you want flash, you click on it and the app runs. Stuff like youtube and some other sites, it justs requests HTML5 content from and the issue never arises. It's very slick. I don't notice any particular heating or battery draw with flash on either.

I think the Xoom was just rushed to market too early. ASUS took the time to get it right. The Transformer is a very nice experience. It's nice that it's just a bit more than half the price of the Xoom too.

I can't imagine writing 200 words, let alone thousands, on a touchscreen keyboard. (It's hard enough on the slide-out keyboard.)

Arrrr. That's why I got this dock to go with the tablet (and what gives it the name Transformer). Very, very slick, and almost doubels the battery life. The issues he talks about in the review have been addressed by the 3.1 update. A net book with a 15+hour battery life? Yes please!
posted by bonehead at 1:51 PM on June 10, 2011


No argument here either. I came to hate Adobe for huge software prices and the festering pile that is Adobe Reader.

On Dropbox, that IS an option, I've noticed most of these readers support Dropbox and other services, sometimes even straight FTP.

And I will say this much at least positive about the iPad: with a keyboard dock it suddenly becomes a lot more useful for general use, and the battery life is amazing.
posted by JHarris at 1:55 PM on June 10, 2011


I don't know whether he uses dropbox or googledocs or what exactly, but I never saw him have any trouble getting access to documents that he needed access to.

If iCloud works as well as the hype (fourth time the charm here?), it will solve this problem for Apple. The real question in my mind is what they are going to allow for document organization. It certainly not going to be a naked view into the filesystem. Are they going to use tagging? A "playlist" ("Projects") metaphor? A search tool like spotlight? They have a lot of potentially interesting options to rework client document storage and organization.
posted by bonehead at 2:08 PM on June 10, 2011


Tagging would be so awesome. It would be awesome right now, on my various portable and nonportable devices. I have a sneaking suspicion there's some way to do this already (say, for all the pdfs and word docs I have on my laptop), but I don't know what it is, or if it requires a 3rd-party app of some kind, or what.
posted by rtha at 2:18 PM on June 10, 2011


Gmail/Google docs does tagging for mail which satisfies the people who want "folders" (directories). the even allows "subfolders" now., essentially a sub-tag that is only valid if an item has the parent tag.

But yes, it is exactly as awsome as you think. I so wish Windows worked this way.
posted by bonehead at 2:27 PM on June 10, 2011


Yeah, I've started doing tagging stuff in gmail (I don't use googledocs. yet. I imagine it's just a matter of time), but having that ability for docs that reside on my hard drive would make my life so much easier.
posted by rtha at 2:30 PM on June 10, 2011


My hope is that in a few years, the differences between local and on-line storage will be moot and we'll just have to worry about how long ago we synched our device/computer. Imagine if your whole hardrive was a dropbox. Storage rates are still a too high and networks a too slow yet, but in a few years?
posted by bonehead at 2:38 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


The real question in my mind is what they are going to allow for document organization. It certainly not going to be a naked view into the filesystem.

The weird thing is, it seems like iCloud may offer developers a way to sneak a regular filesystem onto a non-jailbroken iPhone. I don't know the details since I didn't attend WWDC and only read the engadget liveblog of the keynote, but I'm pretty sure that whoever was describing iCloud said that the APIs would give developers the ability to store arbitrary key/value pairs in iCloud storage. If this is the case, you could setup super basic a virtual cloud filesystem as follows (and this is probably super naive and wrong (IANAfilesystem developer), but just as a proof of concept anyway):

- write a new subclass of NSObject that represents a file system object - file, folder, or symlink. Have it store a hash value.
- conceptualize a folder stored on the cloud as an NSArray of file system objects
- for each file you want to upload, generate a hash based on that file's path in the physical file system, then store it to the cloud with that hash as the key and that file's contents as the value, and add a file system object containing that hash to the NSArray representing that file's parent folder
- keep track of one key, mountPoint or something, that stores the hash of the file system object representing the cloud file system's root folder

That way, when you wanted to display a file system, look up the hash of mountPoint, retrieve the value at that key (which should be a file system object wrapping an NSArray of other file system objects representing the root folder's contents), and voila! You have a list of its contents and hashes that you can use to look them up in the cloud.

Of course, since I didn't attend any of the developer sessions, I probably missed some important info on hard limits to how much data Apple will let you push to their cloud storage, or terms of service that forbid setting up a virtual cloud file system, or whatever. And I've never developed for iOS so I don't know if there's any way to pass a particular file to another app and say "open this" the way you can on a Real Computer, but I figure they most have some way of handling MIME types that you click on links to in Safari, right?
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 3:18 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never developed for iOS so I don't know if there's any way to pass a particular file to another app and say "open this" the way you can on a Real Computer, but I figure they most have some way of handling MIME types that you click on links to in Safari, right?

I'm not sure about the details, but this is already in place. I believe apps can announce that they can handle certain kinds of files, and when you open one (in an app like Safari or Mail) it can route it appropriately. That's actually how I manage my ebooks; screw itunes, I just have a 'books' directory in Dropbox. I pop open the DropBox app on my iPad wherever I am, tap on the most recently added books, and they open in iBooks. Works for keynote presentations, spreadsheets, etc.

The real irony, to me at least, is that this thread started with people saying Apple was bad because they incorporated third-party solutions into the OS. Now, at the end of the thread, people are pooh-poohing Apple for taking so long to incorporate third party solutions into the OS.
posted by verb at 3:34 PM on June 10, 2011


I'm not sure about the details, but this is already in place. I believe apps can announce that they can handle certain kinds of files, and when you open one (in an app like Safari or Mail) it can route it appropriately.

This seems to work because the file is routed at the point where it enters the iPad's memory. If you save it from that memory image, it becomes an object that "belongs" to the program that saved it.

I guess it doesn't matter that much if you have constant net access, such as available from, say, a 3G device (and don't often retrieve large files that could push you outside your data plan), but mine only has Wi-Fi.
posted by JHarris at 5:47 PM on June 10, 2011


verb, it's not irony. The tension comes from that fact that those are two different bunches of people.

Some think the OS developers should be free to improve their devices to replace third-party crapware that often relies on undocumented features and causes instability.

Others think that third-party, often single programmer, developers shouldn't have their ideas stolen by some of the biggest companies in the world with little regard to intellectual property concerns.

Neither side is entirely wrong.
posted by bonehead at 7:40 PM on June 10, 2011


I suspect Apple may have just done Microsoft the biggest favour it is possible to give them.
posted by Artw at 8:18 PM on June 10, 2011


I'm pretty sure that whoever was describing iCloud said that the APIs would give developers the ability to store arbitrary key/value pairs in iCloud storage. If this is the case, you could setup super basic a virtual cloud filesystem

This is what several file sharing services and clients do with Amazon S3, which is a web service that uses key-value pairs to store filenames (keys) and file data (values). A common delimiter defines folder hierarchy, and a hash (etag) is associated with each key's value, which allows the client to determine whether to pull an updated copy from the cloud.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:43 AM on June 11, 2011


The real irony, to me at least, is that this thread started with people saying Apple was bad because they incorporated third-party solutions into the OS. Now, at the end of the thread, people are pooh-poohing Apple for taking so long to incorporate third party solutions into the OS.

It's pretty funny to watch. The march of progress continues, regardless.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:59 AM on June 11, 2011


Its interesting that the introduction of the iPhone only a few years ago has brought us to this point, where the iOS security model forced developers to connect their apps to remote file services (usually web-based, e.g. WebDAV or S3) in order to exchange data.

Locking down apps and forcing "garden-walled" access to data is going to push the wider adoption of cloud data models on all mobile platforms, not just iOS but Android and some of the Chinese clone platforms that are on the upswing. The services won't just be email and calendering, which have already been done, but all manner of data that gets pushed to devices running an ever widening base of focused apps on iPhones and iPads. It's basically leading to a new kind of global, if granular filesystem.

In five-ten years, desktops could easily be a specialized niche, and the idea of having a local file system for much more than caching or sneakernetting may seem quaint.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:14 AM on June 11, 2011


Closed source products that are marginal or fail aren't exposed to the world for review

And isn't that a good thing? With open source, the code might be available but so badly written that it is as unworkable to patch and use as the closed stuff, if you're an outfit that can't afford the developer and testing time to fix. The marketplace that closed source works in helps push better-made stuff to wider distribution faster and cheaper, which motivates "copying" and other improvements to open and closed software alike, even if the source isn't available. A good example is how design aspects of the tablet-sized interface for the closed iOS worked their way into Android 3.0, which benefits open source proponents going forward.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:27 AM on June 11, 2011


"Closed source products that are marginal or fail aren't exposed to the world for review."

And isn't that a good thing?


No, it's not a good thing. When closed source products fail, the work that went into them is lost. Among other things, Open Source allows developers to freely scavenge from the "failed" projects, picking out the bits and pieces that are useful even if the aggregate didn't find a solid market. Projects that languish can be resurrected by anyone with the time or interest; that's how WordPress happened, for example.


With open source, the code might be available but so badly written that it is as unworkable to patch and use as the closed stuff, if you're an outfit that can't afford the developer and testing time to fix.

I'm not sure what you're getting at. Having worked on large closed and open source projects, I don't think there is much that can be assumed about the quality of a product from its license. Given two equally bad tools -- one open source and the other closed source -- both are still bad tools. The Open Source one at least has the potential for improvement.

Really, I'm not quite sure how we got onto this side issue. Someone said that 'Open Source would never have made this mistake,' and I disagreed. Then you said there weren't many successful open source projects, which is just flat-out ignorance or misrepresentation. Now we seem (?) to be discussing whether open source is good or not.

Apple, at least in my mind, has been very discerning in its use of open source: it eagerly adopts infrastructure tools, APIs, and low level operating system components and libraries that have been built and refined by OSS developers. It then builds very opinionated, very focused, very user-centric products on top of them. That second part is what Open Source communities are generally terrible at, but refining the hell out of shared libraries and tools that lots of developers use? That's where the system shines.
posted by verb at 9:18 AM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Locking down apps and forcing "garden-walled" access to data is going to push the wider adoption of cloud data models on all mobile platforms, not just iOS but Android and some of the Chinese clone platforms that are on the upswing. The services won't just be email and calendering, which have already been done, but all manner of data that gets pushed to devices running an ever widening base of focused apps on iPhones and iPads. It's basically leading to a new kind of global, if granular filesystem.

In five-ten years, desktops could easily be a specialized niche, and the idea of having a local file system for much more than caching or sneakernetting may seem quaint.


I think not in five years, although maybe in more than that. Then again, maybe something else will come along before then.

Part of the hesitancy in complete adoption I'm foretelling is from the very thing you're talking about: having to use a workaround internet transfer step just to open a file in a different program makes these devices, iOS and Android both, more annoying to use. And think, if the cloud server adhered to this frankly silly model, even that workaround wouldn't be of use. I'm wondering when the drive for between-app "security" became seen as a virtue. I mean Apple already exercises strict editorial control over the contents of its App Store; couldn't they just evict programs that interfered with the workings of other software on the device?

I've started looking into iOS development and there are ways for applications to communicate with each other, but I've just begun so I don't know if there are any filesystem objects that allow this. I suspect not, or more apps would use them. Maybe in iOS 5.
posted by JHarris at 12:17 PM on June 11, 2011


In five-ten years, desktops could easily be a specialized niche, and the idea of having a local file system for much more than caching or sneakernetting may seem quaint.

That'll be great until you hit your monthly bandwidth cap...
posted by the_artificer at 2:51 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


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