Friday, April 1, 2011

What is Google to do?

John Gruber is truly at his Apple-fanboy, Google hating best today.    Comments like:

"Andy Rubin, Vic Gundotra, Eric Schmidt: shameless, lying hypocrites, all of them."  

He pulls out many quotes from the above people about Android being Open, and is now pointing and laughing like an immature little schoolboy.  One can almost hear him yelling "neener neener neener".  It must be nice to have a blog where you get PAID to act utterly childish.  

My problem with Gruber's crowing is not so much over the accuracy of what he says.  Certainly Google is having to pull back because of the consequences of just letting Android become the wild west of phone operating systems.  No, my problem is with the vitriol, hate, and assumption of nefarious motives that is becoming all too popular today.  The same Gruber who not long ago dived into the political pool to decry violent and hateful rhetoric now employs a strategy which could be called, oh, I don't know, hateful rhetoric?

And he certainly has no particular insight into the motives of the people he rails at in his posts.  But once you've decided someone is an enemy, I suppose you are free to attribute nothing but the most base of motives.

For what it's worth, I believe that Google is suffering the consequences of giving Carriers too much power over Android.  I think they made the mistake of believing that whatever Android looked like and acted like would be good enough, that carriers would just drop it into their phones, and everyone would be happy.  Unfortunately, the vanilla Google interface often fails to wow the way, say, an iPhone interface does.  It's supremely functional, arguably more so than it's Apple competition, but it's not always polished.  So, HTC, Motorola and Samsung happily made their own variants of Android, largely by burying in a customer user interface that cannot be removed without rooting the phone and flashing a custom ROM.  Then, they try to prevent users from doing THAT by locking the phones, encrypting the bootloaders, etc.  Samsung then embarrassed Google by putting out a tablet based upon Android 2.2, an OS that was clearly not a good fit for tablets.  So, what was Google to do?

Unfortunately, they are realizing that 100% pure openness has it's price, and we Google Android fans have paid it in fragmentation, slow upgrades, carriers that want to wrest control of Android from Google, etc.  Of course, now that they have realized they need to take a little more ownership of the Google Android experience and have pulled back a bit from the big openness strategy, they are being called every name in the book, often by people like John Gruber, who has spent the last couple of years telling everyone how awful fully open Android was, and how Apple's tightly controlled approach is superior.  In short, he needs to have it both ways.  So he does.  No matter what Google does at this point, Gruber will point and jeer and laugh and mock and carry on.

I enjoy reading his blog, because really, it's an interesting psychological analysis of a fanboy who is utterly blind to the deficiencies of his own beloved iOS devices, while somehow spotting and harping on about every deficiency in those of Android.

So, John...wax on buddy.  I am amused by your posts.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

SPB Shell 3D - Cha Ching?

Really, $14.95 for a home screen replacement?  And thanks to Android Market, you get all of 15 minutes to figure out if you're going to want to keep it...

I'm going to go with ... NO.

C'mon, SPB, you can easily double or triple your sales at a $5-$10 pricepoint.  $14.95 is a non-starter.

I'll wait.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Can Apple really get away with this?

Apple is now doing their best imitation of Microsoft.  Let's look at what they are doing:

  1. Charging 30% for all in-app subscriptions
  2. Ordering app makers to remove links to their sites where they could subscribe outside of the app store
  3. Ordering app makers to charge the same or better amount in the app store as they do in their own site.
I think they can get away with item 1 and maybe even 2, but 3?  Remember when Microsoft used to charge OEMs like Dell and Gateway Windows licenses per CPU sold, regardless of whether the customer chose Windows?  I see this as similarly pernicious.  The FTC stepped in and looked at antitrust implications and basically told Microsoft that you can't charge Windows licenses for computers where Windows is not installed.  Microsoft had to back down on these Draconian licensing schemes, because they were killing competition in the Operating System market.  The OEMs could simply not afford to be paying the "Microsoft Tax" or encourage the development and sales of alternate operating systems.

Now Apple is doing something which, although technically different, amounts to the same thing.  They are holding the App Store approval hostage for iOS devices.  They are in effect saying, "If you want to sell your stuff in the app store, we get some say over what you charge OUTSIDE of the app store."  This is a bridge too far, and given Apple's dominant position with tablets with the iPad, should draw close antitrust scrutiny.  Apple should have no right to tell any business how to conduct its affairs or price its products outside of the App Store.  Apple's argument is, of course, that the user who subscribes outside the app store would then be able to download the company's app, and access their subscription, without Apple getting anything more than the possible price of the app itself. 

To this I say: so be it.  Apple has no business trying to collect subscription fees for in-app purchases, in my opinion.  The app store exists as a store for (bear with me now) APPS.  Now, I recognize that this doesn't stop Pandora from making a free app and charging subscribers outside the App, and Apple gets nothing.  I get it.  So, if you're Apple, and you want your cut so bad, you simply make a rule that says that a content producer providing an App in the App Store must charge the user enough for the app so that Apple 30% gets the cost of a single subscription.  What this does is pass on to the consumer the Apple tax...but it limits that cost to the APPLE CONSUMER, not all consumers.  Because make no mistake, if a company has to charge the same amount for both in app and out of app subscriptions, they will simply raise the price of ALL subscriptions, meaning that an Android customer is effectively subsidizing the Apple tax.  Think about that.  You own an android device and you now are paying a 30% higher price for your Android subscription to cover the expenses of that company having to give Apple a 30% cut in the App Store.  That's ABSURD.  

Of course, Apple won't bend on this matter, because Apple is power and money hungry.  They are obsessed with profit and will get it regardless of who they tick off (at least until someone stands up to them or pushes them into being a niche provider again).  Apple wants to pretend that this is customer friendly, because of the convenience to the customer of an in-app purchase, but the reality is Apple wants to make the rules for the entire content distribution market.  Apple is betting that the content publishers are just going to bend over and take it.  That's why we need competitive devices and OS's.  Android is already there as a phone.  Now the Android tablets need to take root.  Once content providers see enough money in the alternate landscape, there will be competition, and once Apple users finally say "Enough" and start bailing, Apple will be brought to heel.  But as long as the sheep-like Apple fans continue to just drink the kool-aid and take this nonsense, they will end up paying the Apple Tax, because the content providers will just pass it on to you.

The ball is in your court, Apple customers.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Blogging from my Nexus One

Google finally released a blogging app for my phone.  Life is about to get more interesting in this space. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Quick Update on SwiftKey vs. Swype

Still waffling between SwiftKey and Swype.  Use one for a week, use the other for a week...

Still no winner.

Swype drives me nuts with constantly thinking that "to" should be "too" and "want" should be "wasn't".  I wish I could change it's 'preferred' word in these cases.

Swiftkey is still driving my nuts with it's hit 'n miss prediction engine and annoying habit of 100% changing a correctly typed word into one it likes better.  I could disable all that, but then it would slow me down, which sort of defeats the purpose.  And the amount of backspacing and deleting doubled words that Swiftkey spits out is still driving me crazy.

So far I still find that I'm more accurate and faster with Swype than Swiftkey, but mainly due to the fact that I am still playing 'the game' with SwiftKey.  (Press a letter, did you guess it yet?, press another letter...did you guess it yet?  It just slows things down...the fluid motion of Swype still works better with words of any length, while SwiftKey often wins on those short words where it can often correctly predict it.)

If I had to guess, I'd say SwiftKey will appeal mainly to people with limited vocabularies who jot out simple text messages and emails using short little words and frequently used phrases.  People with richer vocabularies are going to be slowed down by SwiftKey.

I think SwiftKey could do some things to address this, but I haven't seen any evidence that they have anything in the works to do it.  I could tell them how, of course, but I doubt they'd listen to lil' ole me :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

SwiftKey Update

It's been awhile since I posted my length comparison of Swype and SwiftKey.  SwiftKey has updated its application and added a speech to text button.  Thank you, SwiftKey!  This was one very important thing that you fixed.  However, after spending another couple of weeks making myself use only SwiftKey, I'm reluctantly switching back to Skype.

The fact is, I want to use SwiftKey.  It just still seems to do too many things that make no sense.  Today's example, I enter this in an email message:

"I was taken aback"

Swiftkey allowed me to type in the entire word, but apparently, it likes "snacks" better than "aback", so it put "snacks" as the center, and default, choice, in the middle button.  This is what will be put in the text of the message if I just press the space bar.  On either side of "snacks" was a button for "aback".  Now here's the thing.  I typed "aback".  I did NOT type "snacks".  (I would also reckon that in the English language "taken aback" appears far more often than "taken snacks").  So, even though I KNOW I typed the word correctly, it IS a word, and I am finished with it, I press space, and "snacks" is entered into my sentence.  Basically SwiftKey is putting itself in a position where I am forced to correct IT, even though I entered my word correctly.

Next sentence:

"I just have to be prepared to be flexible and bend to his will"

All went swimmingly until I hit "bend".  Same problem.  I type "bend", and SwiftKey puts "benefits" as the default choice.  "bend" is on the left, and NOT the default.  Bend is a valid word, it is correctly typed, and is complete.  But pressing space will nonetheless introduce an error.  Because I was working quickly, and I knew I'd typed what I wanted, SwiftKey basically INTRODUCED errors into my text, and I had to send two more emails afterwards saying "snacks should be aback" and "benefits" should be "bend".

Of course, I could turn off the option that makes 'space' select the middle option, but that means advancing a word means always choosing the correct word from a 3-button choice, even though I've typed it in and just want to move to the next sentence.  No one would disagree it's faster to always hit one button instead of being required to pick from three choices, particularly if you've already typed the complete word correctly!

Is SwiftKey Helping or hurting me here?

The other problem, which is hard to produce, but occurs frequently, is when you somehow get into a state where SwiftKey shows a word, but it's wrong, and you need to fix it, and it starts doubling.  This is the hardest thing to explain, but imagine seeing "Glass" in an editor window.  You meant to type "Glasses".  You back up, and because you backed up, it shows the word "glass" again, and then when you try to do anything, you somehow get "glassglass".  It's like SwiftKey doesn't realize that you are DONE entering the first word, and by trying in many different ways to move on with your life, it still thinks there's something to be inserted, and keeps doing so.  I want to scream STOP IT!!! at my text editor window.

So I've said before, and I'll say again, when SwiftKey guesses's awesome, but when it begins to arrogantly decide for you that you mean A when you typed B, even though B was spelled correctly and you want to move on with your life, well, that's when I have to switch back to a keyboard that doesn't think it's so smart.

SwiftKey has SOOO much potential, but they've got to address this nuisance.

And that's today's SwiftKey rant...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nexus One

Just a quick note.  People have asked me how I feel about the Nexus One being discontinued (at least from Google directly).

First, I'm unhappy about it, mainly because I like the idea of a 'developer phone' that doesn't come with all the lockdown behavior from carriers.  HTC has been awesome.  They've swapped defective phones for me in spite of the fact that as a developer I've unlocked the bootloader.  They were under no legal requirement to honor a warranty that I had technically voided.  But first, they did not make it a hack or a 'jailbreak' to root their phone, and second, they have honored the warranty when they saw the problem was a hardware issue.  HTC has been a model of how a company should handle these things.  I will continue to be a loyal HTC customer for that.

As to Eric Schmidt's contention that the Nexus One was a success, I think that's corporate spin.  Google had two stated goals for the Nexus One:  to break the carrier lock on selling phones with long contracts, and to provide a great example of what an Android phone could be.

In the first case, they failed spectacularly.  The carriers stuck to their guns, and as a result, we did not see Verizon or Sprint Nexus Ones, and confusion was created with T-Mobile about who exactly one should call when problems are experienced with the phone.  In short, Google fought the carriers and the carriers won.  Noble attempt, but fail.

In the second case, they succeeded spectacularly.  The Nexus One blew away the Motorola Droid in performance and features.  It is still a fantastic looking phone and in spite of a few small issues, runs great.  I have no desire right now to get a new phone, either a Samsung Galaxy S, a Droid X, or one of the new HTC's, all running Android, because the Nexus One is still so great for me.  It runs the very latest Google Android OS 2.2 ahead of everyone else, I can develop on it, root it, and whatever, with no problems from carriers.  But it also set the bar for everyone else to match and beat.  So now we have a raft of very, very powerful and slick Android phones.  Remember that before the Nexus, we had the G1, the MyTouch, the Cliq and the Droid.  That's it.  Now I have lost count of the number of Android phones out there, and the floodgates really opened at the beginning of this year when Google showed the Nexus One.  So, if it primed the pump for all these other great phones to be made and sold through the traditional model, then mission accomplished.

So, Nexus One was a success and a failure at the same time.  It's still also a fantastic phone, and I am sorry it's going away.