Still on the fence…

Another ::

More :: 

Have to admit – this is a good read ::

Day to day I use an iPad Pro with the apple keyboard. When I was in the market for a new machine about 6 months ago, I figured the best hardware out there was the iPad Pro. I love the battery life, the true tone display and the always on Internet. Notice I picked the best hardware since I feel that is what you buy – the latest hardware. I figured I could get by with iOS for most of my day to day work.

There are times when this is painful. Crappy websites that don’t handle mobile browsers well, some aspects of file management and Google docs. Google docs tends to just suck on iOS apps and I bounce between iOS and the web version from time to time to accomplish certain tasks. 

However I generally like the ease of carrying around something so small that is always connected. I use it for note taking, reading and just getting shit done. It could be better but I get by.

I was assuming that as soon as apple announced their latest macbook that I would grab it. Now I am not so sure, but there in lies the issue. Apple is introducing doubt among their most ardent fans. I am waiting for the real life reviews to come and to go play with one before I decide. I would like to have a machine at work with a monitor and keyboard and the macbook pro will probably be great for that. 

I would have loved for apple to delighted me so much that I was ready to buy the moment I could. That didn’t happen and apple should see this as a canary in the coal mine.

I also may look for a killer chromebook and force myself to try that world as well since I think it is a glimpse into what the future may look like. For sure I won’t entertain anything from Microsoft cause honestly I think windows still sucks. I spent about an hour the other day making a printer work on windows that just magically works on iOS and MacOS. Microsoft is making some killer hardware and they are getting better at their craft but let’s face it, Windows still sucks hard. No thanks.

I think this post captures my feelings pretty well ::

Adding this link for another opinion on the matter ::

From a developer POV

Clearly Ben is on a roll. I don’t agree with all his monologues and tweets but I think this one is pretty good ::

People tend to get too religious about their phones, OS’s and all things associated with them. The fanboy thing starts to take over, Xiaomi as an example, but this stuff boils down to pure business. There are ONLY two mobile ecosystems right now. 2. Apple and Google. The China thing is another topic in that the rules are very different. However Apple seems to be doing better with their model in China than Google is. Enter Xiaomi though to see what can happen when one combines some of the essence of both players to make a go. It’s magic and it is working. However it remains to be seen if this is only going to be big in China. For the record it is only happening in China right now. I think Xiaomi will struggle outside of China.

Let’s talk about the impact more once they make bigger waves outside of China.

Microsoft is trying their hardest. Still doesn’t seem to be working. This still applies ::

So Ben gets to the essence of all of this. Apple had a vision and Google had another. Take away the marketing, the religious arguments, the open versus closed jargon and what you are left with is two very similar platforms:

One way to look at this is that iOS and Android have been converging – they arrived with more or less the same capabilities despite starting from opposite ends. Apple has given up control where Google has taken it. And of course Google has had to add lots to Android just as Apple had to add lots to iOS (and they’ve generally ‘inspired’ each other on the way), and just as Apple has added cloud services Google has redesigned the user interface (twice, so far). 

I am not purporting that the environments are the same or that they arrived at the same point using the same methods. It is just that if one looks closely at the model. Google started open and is starting to lock it down now. Apple started very locked down and is slowly opening. Both stances created some benefits and negatives in the early days and now the resultant evolution has created some benefits and negatives. Google is better at the old fragmentation issues and overall quality has improved. Tool wise I think Apple has a better product for developers though. Apple is making it easier to do some things but their software quality has slipped. That cannot be disputed.

One could also discuss that Apple makes better hardware since they actually sell their own stuff. Google is still not really in the hardware business. However let’s not get into this.

The part I still find that NO ONE writes about is the difference in the view from the folks grinding out apps everyday and shipping them. How do we ship these apps? Via the App Store and the Play Store. This is where the huge differences are but there is also some evolution there. I would safely say, much to my dismay, that Google has evolved way more than Apple. Where Apple has made great strides for opening up iOS, there is literally no progress in the App Store when it comes to search, discovery or the App Store developer view. We still wait too long for app reviews, there are too many reviewer mistakes and too many features are tied to actually releases. We cannot modify pricing without releases or even update things like images or text without releases. So 3 years in with a stable app I still wait like everyone else to change some copy or update an image. Comical.

With Google a developer can update copy, bits, images and pricing at any point. Or just ship a new app whenever we want. Granted Google has issues with not policing apps enough or letting any app release (pirate or copy app) but they actually have improved some. I still think both Apple and Google should converge stances. Google needs approvals or review for first apps and Apple needs to let people update apps without approvals.

Where I think the big divide is though is around emerging markets. Apple is somewhat behind in that everything one must do around purchases is tied to Apple payments which need credit cards. I can’t use gift cards for subscriptions since everyone always mentions gift cards. I focus on India a lot and the big reason Apple is not as big as Android is about device cost but more importantly the payment problem. Google implements telco billing or at least does not stop us from putting in our own telco billing. With Apple I am stuck with Apple. This has to change for Apple to succeed. I personally think this is the biggest headwind Apple has in some regions – it just can’t function without a credit card backing. If Apple had some sort of regional telco billing I think the flood gates would open around the iOS ecosystem.

All that being said I think Ben ends on an interesting note that is also where emerging and non-emerging markets differ. Messaging:

But the underlying philosophies remain very different – for Apple the device is smart and the cloud is dumb storage, while for Google the cloud is smart and the device is dumb glass. Those assumptions and trade-offs remain very strongly entrenched.  Meanwhile, the next phases of smartphones (messaging apps as platforms and watches as a dominant interface?) will test all the assumptions again.

Streaming pile of doo

Funny – I just read this ::

Notice that most of the list is not really about making anything better for users.

Back to the post…

As I am in the states I have been messing around with all the streaming services available in the states. Amazon, iTunes, Hulu, Netflix across a variety of devices like TVs, Roku, Apple TV, Sony Blu Ray, Xbox, iPhone, iPad, and who knows what else. Its amazing all the innovation but yet everything is generally a pain in the ass to use and all suffer from edge cases. Nothing is really awesome and nothing works well across all use cases. 

As a precursor to all of this I know the general issue is that the content owners just don’t allow for innovation. It plain and simple how clear that is. So unfortunately I think the whole industry is held back by the owners of the content. This is why piracy is so rampant and in some sense the best user experience because product people can do amazing things with files, networks, and user experiences. Legal services cannot do anything they want and are mostly held back. Such is life. I don’t think this will change anytime soon.

It’s clear to me that even guys like Jason who is building know this which is why they are focusing on user generated content since if they get it right they can do anything they want in reality. Of course there will be markets economics driving some decisions and they have to compete with YouTube while attracting content makers but still the playing field is much less restrictive than real content or shall we say trapped content. I have no idea how vessel will do but I think it will shake the market up some. YouTube is huge but the search experience, the curation and some of the viewing experiences are really broken. They are so big though they don’t care. Vessel has the time, money and experience to make a go of it.

In my own experience of using services while I am in the states I find that the best device to use is still Apple TV but it really could use an update. The remote sucks, the home screen is too cluttered and it needs more apps but the overall experience is better. On a technical note even if I am using Netflix I would rather use it via Apple TV cause it partially deals with one of my Netflix pet peeves which is streaming only and sucks on bad connections. Yes – America is full of shitty connections. However the way the Apple TV works, and it is the only Apple device that does this, the movie is essentially downloading as you watch it which means it does not pixelate or buffer much providing the viewing position is behind the download. If you use the Netflix app, Netflix on the web or Netflix via a smart TV app the streaming only issues will crop up. I need to dig into Roku more but I think it still streams versus downloading. All in all I prefer Apple TV and Netflix.

Problem is though Netflix is pretty shitty content wise. Sure you get the big Netflix hits and a few others but almost all new TV shows are not on it and the movie selection is dim. Which means that as the family gathers around the TV and we want to watch something new – we have being using the Apple TV to purchase movies on iTunes. The selection really is the best for movies and TV shows. Yes it costs money but if 15 of us are sitting in the room and we want to watch a new release, paying 4-10 bucks is still cheaper than going to the movies. So it is actually an affordable deal. Not everything is yet released on it but there is way more new content on iTunes than anywhere else. With Netflix I have to know what I want to watch cause there is no awesome way to sort movies by rating or by other characteristics, it is mostly just genres and then lists in the order that Netflix wants you to see it. I also find that I either want to use the Netflix app on iTunes or I connect my phone to the TV to use the iOS app. The Samsung Netflix apps are shit, the Roku one is okay and the Sony BluRay one is okay. None are amazing. In summation Netflix is the best for streaming, subscription and amount of content all wrapped up into one.

Just a quick side note – Sony makes the worst software ever. No wonder they lose money and are easily hacked.

The big issue I have is Netflix is streaming only. Which sucks if you are on a bad connection, are mobile or want to prep stuff for your kids. There is no way to download anything or cache anything so once you hit the road Netflix is useless. For this I turn to either YouTube or iTunes. YouTube cause I can stream easily on mobile and find lots of kids stuff but of course this is using mobile data. I can’t offline or download YouTube yet. For iTunes I can buy and download stuff and keep it on my device. This is awesome for road trips. It sucks that Apple does this but they can’t seem to figure out streaming. Again this is where any one service cant fit all models well. Netlfix won’t download and iTunes won’t stream. This stuff is not rocket science and it sucks they both can’t figure out how to combine these functions but my guess is that the content guys are part of the problem. I know from my own experience with Spuul that content people can dictate tech or product features. Sad but true.

All this means that there is no perfect service or device – well apart from just pirating whatever you want to watch. I like the Apple ecosystem more than others but it is also ripe for disruption if Apple does not ship a new Apple TV and figure out the cloud. Netflix is obviously the big service for streaming but the inability to control bandwidth, download and sort is such a big miss for me. It will be interesting to see how Netflix conquers new markets with these limitations. Google is in the mix but I honestly don’t use it apart from YouTube – Chromecast is cool and all but Apple TV works better for me. Mostly cause I am into iOS. 

I am sure there a better solutions ahead but the content guys hold the keys I think. So the product guys can innovate all they want but the end result is content is king. The content guys are in the tech dark ages. This is why I am convinced that Vessel is focusing on user generated content first – this way the product can shine.

Merry streaming!


Microsoft is only missing the apps…

Excellent read here by Aulia ::

Bummer it’s on medium…

As I read the article I nod my head and concur that it sounds like a great phone and the camera is amazing. My wife has asked about these phones before cause she wants the best camera but I always warn her that in the end she will hate the phone. Yes HATE it. Why?

That’s very simple. The apps suck.

The Lumia 930 a great mobile device that’s let down by the lack of third party app support in terms of quality if not selection but the popular apps are there and functional and the lack of polish doesn’t seriously affect their usage (except maybe for Path and Flickr, which at this point are just ridiculously bad).

Microsoft will never be able to crank out enough of their own apps to fix this issue. They also seem to be unable to properly prime the pump.

What you see then is a bunch of 3rd rate apps with some of them even being from first rate companies who have been convinced by someone in marketing to build the app (they were promised promotional love by Microsoft). The app is built, probably outsourced, and it works but it doesn’t compare to the same app on iOS or Android. Those apps were written by the core team cause they know that they have to excel – it is where all the competition and customers are.

For this issue we only have Microsoft to blame. They tried to incentivize a lot of devs but they did it the wrong way – they created an open door policy around getting apps built. This didn’t work well cause it was just devs chasing easy money.

What they should have done and still refuse to do is help folks with category leading apps on either iOS or Android to build something for Microsoft.

Let me highlight my own experience with Spuul. Microsoft was willing to help pay for a Spuul windows app but we told them over and over we see no reason to have one – our website works just fine on IE. This flummoxed then because they were focused on pushing windows – we all know now that didn’t go so well.

Then they offered to help coach us with design and said there were even some design resources we could use to outsource the work to but we told them we have our own designer. They seem to think if they help with design that all the apps will look cool but they don’t realize that design is only half of it – you still need to build a great app.

We asked if we could take the design money and use it to outsource the code since we don’t have the expertise on the Microsoft stack. Nope – the money was only available for design.

So we did nothing.

Months later we finally got a phone out of them so we could test our designs some and model app behaviors. Getting this phone was like getting a tooth pulled – it’s funny to me that Microsoft thinks all of us have their phones. They sure seem to hand them out like candy to bloggers. Newsflash – bloggers don’t make apps Microsoft – you need apps more than you need bloggers writing about cool phones that are missing cool apps.

Microsoft is a big company – they could fix this problem. Hand out phones. Design kits and IDE kits. Give every real startup or company with a good app some cash to outsource development to – a starter package of sorts. Offer every certified app a discount on App Store transaction fees and give each app a week of promotion.

Prime the pump in a methodical way.

Otherwise be prepared to keep reading blogs about cool phones that don’t have any cool apps.

Your move Microsoft.

Ps. I will add that even when I approach Microsoft to concur that I will build a Spuul app they still will not put in writing they will promote it. So they offer zero incentives to take a risk. Yes – spending a startups resources to build for Windows Phone is a risk.

AWS does need to get a mobile story together

I am a big fan of AWS but I will call a spade a spade – their mobile services suck but really they just don’t have any.

Good article on the current situation is here ::

We love AWS at Spuul and wouldn’t be here without it. Yes – you can find cheaper services to run virtual machines on – we know that but when it comes to running a global service with servers we can spin up around the globe – I still think AWS has no equals. None.

However doing some simple things on AWS for mobile is well – not simple. We tried to build our push messaging stack around it and we hit too many walls and had our messages capped per day. AWS had no concept of our user base and the ability for us to buy messages in volume. We went to PushWoosh cause it was simple and cheap. Everything else we do we hand roll behind an API that we run on AWS using AWS services. We always try to use a service versus install code on a server so we have less things to support and update. This keeps our admin headcount low. I won’t tell you how low but let’s say it can’t go any lower.

MSFT is doing a good job with mobile services but I have no first hand experience with it but I know they make some things dead simple – like push messaging, among others. AWS is never really dead simple but it works and you know what you are dealing with.

Mobile is the thing and my guess even the next thing is all about – mobile.

AWS needs to up their mobile game.

I am watching.

Any yes – Brazil really did get spanked.

The 3rd one

It’s more a question than a statement. All one has to do is watch WWDC and Google I/O to see that Apple and Google are in a league of their own.

I keep thinking that Windows Phone is the one holding on to 3rd place but it seems like they are barely holding on according to this – Meaning they are only going to get 3rd place cause no one else is doing better than MSFT. Kind of a sad state.

I still think a healthy ecosystem in mobile phones would be the best thing for all of us product folks but of course I say that knowing the truth of the paradox – I am rooting for a 3rd place but I am not using anything or building anything for the runner up. There in lies the issue – if no one builds for #3 then there won’t be a #3. We want there to be one but we are not really supporting anyone right now apart from the two lead dogs.

This is kind of scary.

I played around with Firefox OS some and well – it’s interesting but has a long ways to go before I would use it or build on it.

We can see BlackBerry is still trying,, but seriously would you buy one of these phones? I wouldn’t. Someone might but I think BB will be a niche hardware maker with an OS not many developers are going to build for. I guess they may eventually make a great takeover target for some Chinese handset maker wanting to hedge their android bets.

So where does that leave the playing field?

Apple and Google getting it all or will MSFT do something cool – other than add folders?

Another tech article written without the tech…

I always find that when someone makes some sort of sweeping statement they should at least be able to support their statement with enough technical reasons to make a convincing argument. Usually TNW gets it right but on this one the writer failed pretty miserably.

First off let’s admit that flash is doing its job with video pretty well which is why it hasn’t died on the desktop as quick as everyone claimed it would. For reliable, secure and performant desktop streaming video – flash is still alive and well and won’t die in 2014. It will die only when there is a satisfactory replacement for it. At the moment there is not.

With OSMF framework players and all the plugin work going on – flash is still powering most of the world’s steaming video and is doing a fine job of it. Flash is not perfect and many would love to replace it, including me, but there is not a suitable production replacement at this time.

Is 2014 the year for flash to die. Not likely.

All this aside it usually helps to understand the tech more and to correctly understand what is keeping flash from dying and what might take its place? Also it is important not to lump mobile and desktop into the same bucket and pretend it’s all the same thing – cause it is not.

For starters mobile was never going to use flash but at the same time mobile is not using HTML 5 as a replacement for it either. Most premium mobile video apps are using native code and players – not HTML 5 anyway. I still feel native offers the better user experience and better streaming but people can always argue otherwise.

However lets cut to the chase as to why desktop is still dominated by flash and why mobile is dominated by native video players – it’s for one simple reason and one the author of the article didn’t even talk about which is security. I will delve into this further but for the moment I will use the term security versus DRM cause in my opinion they are not the same thing. Currently HTML 5 has no cross browser standard for implementing secure streams so that whatever is streamed is not easily stolen. Until this is fixed flash won’t die and native code will trump HTML 5.

I think the most promising work is around MPEG-DASH + CENC common encryption scheme. Dash is a new way of doing streaming media – kind of a better form of apple’s HLS and the CENC work is to come up with a cross browser of way of encrypting it. If you talk to folks in the biz – this and the new h265 stuff are getting the most attention but none of them would promise you a 2014 delivery date. Given that, it is ludicrous to purport that flash will die in 2014 since the replacement for it is not ready.

Now that we have covered that flash is not dead yet it is worth spending some time on the whole DRM debate cause I think it is misunderstood at times. DRM to me is usually associated with the notion of buying some content like a cd or a DVD and being prevented by tech from copying it or watching it wherever you want. I think if you have bought something you should be able to copy or watch where you want but you shouldn’t be able to sell it again, stream it for profit or make copies for others who might sell it. So in my opinion if you buy it and you want to put it online for others to pirate it then it is wrong and if tech can help prevent that it should. Problem is that same tech can sometimes prevent the person who bought it from using it the way they want. That is the bad part about DRM but that aside this is different from security.

Security in my opinion is the tech to prevent someone from stealing it who didn’t pay for it. It’s that simple. Meaning if you pay for a streaming service then you should be able to watch it on all the devices that service offers cause you paid to do so. However let’s say you want to make a copy of the movie to store it for later or to give to a friend. If the service does not offer that then in my mind the user doesn’t get that but if the service never purported to offer it then the user has to live with those parameters. Some would say the user should be able to then take the movie to do with it how they please but to me that is the stealing part. Streaming services are not selling movies but selling the ability to watch where the service is offered. Normally this is why subscription services are cheaper per month than buying movies.

Others would argue that anything on a screen can be stolen so why bother trying to protect it but that is an easy one to answer. If you are an independent film maker and you debut something on a streaming service you are hoping that, although it is never 100 percent, that the service is not an easy source for people to steal the content. Otherwise the movie is better off in the theaters versus streaming. Any company who is in the business of streaming doesn’t want to lose this relationship with the content owners so they try to ensure they can offer a safe platform that does not contribute to the overall piracy problem.

So companies in the business of streaming have to take security seriously and in most cases security is not the same as DRM because the goal is to not make it hard on people who pay but to prevent those who don’t want to pay from petty theft. I personally think stealing streams is theft and is no different from stealing a book or a meal. Taking something you don’t want to pay for doesn’t look any different to me for a physical item or a digital item. It’s theft. Pay for it. If you don’t want to pay for it then you can’t have it.

So for the moment flash offers streaming companies a safer place to stream movies than HTML 5 does. Yes it will change but not this year.