Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Apple Stifling Innovation

I previously wrote some initial and additional thoughts on Google Latitude highlighting some of the pitfalls of it being browser based.  There have been others that have written but this one points out that the story of not confusing the user with the Maps app has a bunch of holes in it.  In the end, this stifles innovation.

Then I come across a story on Apple blocking Google Voice from the App Store that reinforces the notion that they are stifling innovation.  Now, in this case it is likely due in part to pressure from AT&T, but there are official Google Voice apps for other mobile devices so it is still Apple that is caving in this case.  And if true that Phil Schiller had personally approved it and had to call to apologize, it is more embarrassing but also probably proof that it came from AT&T or (gasp) Steve.

I can understand, but don't agree with, why Apple would restrict apps may adversely affect battery life or confuse the average user, but outright not allowing interesting and creative apps that are ground breaking and available on other mobile devices is just wrong.  I love my iPhone and am happy I made the purchase as Android wasn't mature enough yet and I can jailbreak to get around some of Apple's restrictions, but I'm growing increasingly open to my next phone being something else as the other platforms mature and don't impose the restrictions Apple does.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Additional Thoughts on Google Latitude for iPhone and Apple vs Google, Apple vs Palm?

I wrote up some initial thoughts on Google Latitude for the iPhone a few days ago and this morning I come across this ZDNet blog entry on the struggle between Apple and Google on native vs browser based apps.  While a part of me admires Apple for going to extreme lengths to ensure their devices have a good user experience, in this case their desire to control the device is, IMHO, not providing the best experience.  As noted in my blog there are a few quirks and serious limitations that I think wouldn't be there if it was a native app or otherwise restricted by Apple's review process.

That said, Apple does control the device and Latitude not being available for the iPhone was a glaring gap so Google no doubt had to accept the limitations.  And clearly Apple is being successful with the iPhone, but at what point will Apple have to relinquish some control or risk losing market share to other devices running Android?  The iPhone has a head start but you can be sure that Android will improve and the openness of the platform will be an advantage that will benefit it.

And related, but in the Apple vs Palm front, as you are probably aware, one of the Palm Pre's touted features was being able to sync with iTunes.  Apple used their control of the platform to break that sync'ing with an iTunes update, but Palm has countered with an OS update that makes the sync'ing work again.  When will this cycle end?  Probably not any time soon.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Initial thoughts on Google Latitude for iPhone

I had heard about Google Latitude awhile back and wanted to try it out, but alas it didn't support the iPhone.  That is until today!  The Google Mobile Blog today announced support for the iPhone so of course I had to try it out.

As they highlight in the blog, this is not an app but rather a web-app you access in Safari.  Apparently Apple didn't want to confuse users with a new Google Maps type of app when there is already the native Maps app.  Since keeps things simple, but the downside is it apparently only can update your location when you are actually running Safari on the google.com/latitude site as it can't run in the background.  That is awfully limiting and I'd think its fatal flaw, but we'll see.

When I first pointed Safari at the app, it came up with a login form to log in to my Google account and, whoa, what just happened?  Suddenly Safari disappears and I'm back at the iPhone home screen.  This is the first outright crash of Safari on the iPhone I recall.

So, I try it again and this time there is no crash and I'm able to login.  Along the way though I'm asked to allow using my location no fewer than three times which seems a little much.  Oddly, getting all the way out of Safari, and running it again it only asked me once.

In any case, it tells me I have a friend request (I'd gotten that far when I tried to look at it awhile back) so I accept it and then go to try to add more friends myself.  It lets me scroll through my address book, but oddly the app has a floating menu bar at the bottom that it has to try to reposition while scrolling and the scrolling is much jumpier and frankly annoying than the scrolling in any other app I've seen on the iPhone.

Another first, and potential flaw, is that while I am inside and thus GPS assist isn't working, the location it has for me using its triangulation method isn't accurate, and in fact my actual location is about 400 meters outside the displayed accuracy circle.  I'm sure it probably has something to do with my specific location and isn't a widespread problem, but I swear before the OS 3.0 upgrade in the same situation Maps was more accurate.  And Maps is consistent so it isn't unique to Latitude.

In summary, great idea, but a few rough edges, particularly having to have Safari on the app in the foreground for it to work, probably make it more toy than genuinely useful app.  Have you tried it?  What do you think?  Your comments are welcome.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mid-July Track Update, Paris Golden League, Heusden, and more

It's been several weeks since I wrote about track and field, and with this weekends action in Europe, things are heating up with some good competition, outstanding times by some stars, and standard chasing by some Americans.

The big meet of the weekend was the Paris Golden League event Friday night.  The highlight of the night was Usain Bolt running 9.79 in the 100m for a meet record, made all the more impressive by the conditions he had to run it in (cooling and heavy rain).  It's unfortunate that Bolt and Gay (world leading 9.77 this year) won't meet before the World Championships in Berlin.  The mens 3000m also had an outstanding showing by Bekele running 7:28.64 by taking it out strong behind the pacemaker and slowly building a gap over Lagat.  Lagat still finished well in a PB of 7:33.15 for second and Chris Solinsky ran a solid 7:37.72 for fourth.

In the 400m, Jeremy Wariner won the mens in an ok 45.28 due in part to the wind and rain, but Sanya Richards threw down an impressive 49.34 so the weather cannot have been that bad.  In other women's action standard chasing Maggie Vessey was a DNS in the 800m (tightness in leg during warmup or something, perhaps another shot Tuesday in Gent) but Anna Willard made the USA proud winning and setting a PB in 1:58.80 and this isn't even her event for Berlin!  And in the women's 100m Kerron Stewart continued her impressive year winning handily in 10.99.

The standard chasing continued he Heusden in Belgium on Saturday with a number of good showings.  These were headlined by Matt Tegenkamp running 13:07.97 to get second in the 5000m to meet the A standard making it so his teammate Evan Jager can make the team (has the B standard) joining their other teammate Chris Solinsky and defending champ Bernard Lagat in Berlin.  Jager, dropping down for a little speedwork also set a PB in the 1500 B heat in 3:38.33 so he is running well.  Nate Brannen won the 1500 A heat in 3:36.53 which did not quite meet the A standard.

Heusden was also the site of Pamela Jelimo trying to come back to form after a couple very disappointing times well over 2 minutes, and succeeded winning in 1:59.59.  Leonel Manzano also dropped down in distance to run the 800m and did so successfully finishing in 1:46.20 which I believe is a PB.

Today in Rethymyno Greece there was some good sprint action including LoLo Jones running a world leading 12.47 100m hurdles and Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie running a 22.32 world leader.

This weekend's big meet is the London Super GP where Bolt and Powell will run the 100m, Gay the 200m, and a host of others in other events at the 2 day event, but during this week Gent on Tuesday should see a number of Americans looking to run fast times including Maggie Vessey trying to get sub-2:00 in the 800m.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Browser Market Share; Who is Really #1?

It has been a long held belief, and data has supported it, that Internet Explorer, due in large part to its ties to the dominant desktop operating system, has been the most used browser out there.  Now, the data has shown that things are narrowing which begs the question, what browser is really #1?

Why do I ask this question?  I've been a long time user of StatCounter.com on my blog to track some statistics and focused primarily on page views, but I recently also set up Google Analytics to see what data it provides.  In light of the recent announcement about Chrome OS, I was also curious how the Chrome Browser was being adopted.

In browsing through what it has to offer I came across its browser report where not only was IE not #1, it wasn't even #2 with Safari beating it out.  I also found it interesting that Chrome is at nearly 4%.

But clearly, a handful of hits on my blog is likely not representative of the broader market.  Additionally, I likely have a significant audience from Sun which may help skew the results towards Firefox and Safari.  And the general audience that reads my blog is probably more technical and likely to be using alternative browsers.  So what else can we look at?

The May report from Market Share By Net Applications shows what one might expect with IE at 65.5% followed by Firefox at 22.5%, Safari at 8.4%, and Chrome at only 1.8%.

For another perspective, w3schools.com lists their stats and for the month of June, Firefox is at 47.3%, the sum for IE 40.7%, and Chrome beating out Safari 6.0% to 3.1%.  Again, a more technical audience leads to greater use of Firefox and Chrome.

Last, going back to where I started with my stat gathering, StatCounter.com has global stats for the past year and while the data shows similar results to Market Share above, approximately 60% IE, 30% Firefox, and everything else in the weeds, since it looks at the past year you can see a trend of IE losing about 10% points.

Will this gradual decline continue?  It's hard to say, but I can say that competition and choice is good and in the end the consumer wins.

It is also very interesting to see the platforms StatCounter.com reports.  This shows that 95+% of their traffic is coming from Windows meaning that even where the provided default is IE, approximately a third of those folks make the choice and effort to switch.

So what does all this data show us?  Clearly, IE is still #1 amongst the general population.  But technical audiences, those that both have the knowledge to make a choice and the aptitude and interest to execute on that and install something other than the default, are seemingly beginning to abandon IE in favor of the competition.

I'll continue to look at this in the future and report back!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thoughts on Google Chrome OS - Not a Microsoft Killer ... Yet

Google dropped two bombs yesterday.  The first, that the beta tag was being removed from Google Apps was interesting but a non-event to me in many ways as everyone has been ignoring the beta tag for a long time anyway, but perhaps some enterprises were scared off by it so maybe this is news for them.  But regardless of what tag is applied, today's user is going to be more affected by the functionality, usability, and quality of the offering than if it has a beta tag on it or not.

But the more interesting and groundbreaking news was the announcement of the forthcoming Chrome OS.  There are some that see this as an all out assault on Microsoft.  When you combine their Google Apps with the Chrome Browser and now Chrome OS, you have a full stack for the end user.  But given that in their announcement they are clearly focused on the netbook market, I would stop well short of calling this an all out assault.  That's not to say that this isn't just the next logical step in a strategy that started with mobile and embedded devices with Android, moves to netbooks with Chrome OS, and someday could target the broader desktop and ultimately enterprise market with another offering.

There are also those that take a more pessimistic view of this complete stack and chances that it will be successful, both because the netbook market isn't that large and enterprises are not going to embrace it any time soon.  All valid points, but one doesn't go from having no OS to competing with everything Microsoft has in the OS arena overnight.  There are also other flaws in Dennis' pessimistic view.  He seems to think that because Google will open-source what they are doing they are washing their hands of maintaining it.  He clearly doesn't understand open-source as code being open-source certainly doesn't stop a vendor from providing full support to customers or OEMs and I'm sure Google would love to generate revenue from doing so.

So is just another variant of Linux on the desktop and should Google should have just joined or put their weight behind an existing Linux distro or just brought their version of Linux used in their infrastructure to the consumer?  The latter is just silly as the Linux they use in their data centers is clearly tuned and equipped for high performance search and serving up web applications, not a consumer's desktop or netbook form factors.  The former is a valid point as there are distros like gOS that have integrated Google gadgets and Google Apps into the desktop and users experience or Damn Small Linux that would serve as a good starting point for Google, but if Google is serious about this they aren't going to take a join an existing small community approach but need to own it and drive the direction themselves.

If one reads between the lines though, I think it is clear that this isn't going to just be another Linux distro and will be much more, and perhaps that systematic next step in the all out assault on Microsoft.  The key quote to me is:

"Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running
Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of

If this were to be just Google's variant of a Linux distro running on netbooks, they should be able to do that in a few months.  If we aren't going to see netbooks until the second half of 2010 (a full year-plus!), Google has designs on doing much more with the OS to make it truly focused on an easier to use, web-oriented, and faster experience to differentiate it from other Linux distros, Windows XP/Vista/7, and Mac OS X.  This is apparent in another quote (emphasis mine):

"The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel."

Clearly Google does not see Gnome or KDE as options (bloated) or other lighter weight alternatives like XFCE as sufficient so will be creating their own windowing system.  Look for this, and trimming the OS to just what is needed and perhaps some innovation around quicker startup, to be where the investment is made.

In the end, competition and choice is good.  I'll certainly be interested to see what Google does with Chrome OS and and how the competition reacts.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Update: Benchmarking the iPhone, and lots of other devices

I had several comments and requests stemming from my original blog on benchmarking so what better way to respond to them than another entry.  I also have an update from starting to create a full fledged app rather than the console one I wrote about earlier.

First, thanks for the comments and keep them coming.  I had one comment that the Java ME version didn't work on Sony K850i.  I created a new version created with the latest NetBeans 6.7 for the latest CLDC/MIDP versions but it too didn't work simply saying "Invalid application".  I know it worked on several BlackBerry's and a Motorola L6 so suggestions are welcome.

Another comment provided some numbers for an IBM T43 which I've added to the spreadsheet.

As promised, I started fiddling with creating a proper iPhone app using Xcode and have gotten an ugly but functional version of the app working and initial indications are that it scores better than the one compiled with gcc on the iPhone.  Where the gcc version had a score of 27.9 the Xcode version scores double that at 65.7.  This is running on the same phone/hardware so the difference has to be the compiler and Xcode must generate a lot better code.  I'm still researching to see what I can find out.

Last, as promised, I've made some source code available.  Take a look at the C version and I'll work on getting the others up as soon as I know they are stable.

I welcome more feedback and results from running the benchmark.