On Sep 9th 2009 at 9am PST Apple invited selected journalists to a special event in San Francisco. Apple did not bring up the Rolling Stones with Mick Jagger on stage of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater … but their song “It’s only Rock’n Roll (But I like it)” from 1974 was the intro of the event ;-)
Steve Jobs showed up on stage the first time since his liver transplantation and got a very warm welcome. Great to see, that he is doing better, now. He and Phil Schiller shared a lot of news and innovations:

Video-on-demand Quicktime-Stream of the Apple Special Event September 2009

Here are the facts of the 75min event:

Sales figures:

  • Apple sold 30 million iPhones over the last 2 years
  • In total they sold 220 million iPods since now. 20 million of these are iPod touch and 100 million are iPod Nano devices
  • This means of over 50 million customers have access to the AppStore and can buy apps.
  • 1.8 billion AppStore app-downloads (without updates)
  • iTunes is #1 music retailer in the world
  • iTunes has more than 100 million accounts

iTunes & iPhone OS update:

  • iTunes 9 and iPhone OS update 3.1
  • Genius-recommendations for apps in the AppStore
  • 30.000 ringtones
  • Genius Mixes … automatic mixes of songs in your library
  • Improved synchronization
  • Management of the iPhone / iPod touch apps within iTunes
  • Home Sharing of songs
  • Improved interface and optimized navigation within iTunes
  • iTunes LP for music albums – the interactive replacement for LP-booklets
  • iTunes Extras for Movies – Extras and chapter-selection for movies
  • iTunes wish list

Sneak previews of new games:

  • Ubisoft – Ben Mattens: Assasins Creed II Discovery
  • Tapulous – Bart Decrem: Riddim Ribbon
  • Gameloft – Mark Hickey: Nova
  • EA Electronic Arts – Travis Boatman: Madden NFL 10

Update of the iPod product line:

  • iPod touch – new price tags for iPod touch: $199 8GB – $299 – 32GB – $399 64GB. The two bigger models also have a faster processor and are up to 50% faster and they also support OpenGL ES 2.0 – like the iPhone 3GS.
  • iPod classic – now comes with 160GB at the same price
  • iPod shuffle – new colors and better prices as well as a new polished stainless steel special edition.
  • iPod Nano – comes with a video camera, an fm-radio, audio recording, a pedometer and in many different colors.

iphone3invitation-2

Apple will host an invite-only “iPhone OS 3.0 Software” on Tuesday, March 17. There are a lot of speculations around these days what Apple will present on that day.
Before we go into detail what we might see on Tuesday, let’s talk about some widespread but weird rumors of what iPhone OS 3.0 is all about:

  • Tethering – we all love to have it – but I think we won’t see this in iPhone OS 3.0: Operators most fear this option – and even the “open” T-Mobile G1 does not have that as a standard feature. So this probably will not be one of the groundbreaking new features for Apple to come along with iPhone OS 3.0.
  • Copy-and-Paste – a missing feature from the first day of the iPhone. Apple may include this feature into the iPhone – but this only may be a marginal note within the presentation. BTW Apple solved the “copy and paste” challenge many years ago with the fabulous Message Newton Pad ;-)
  • MMS – maybe Apple finally included MMS into the iPhone. But let’s be honest: MMS was one of the big flops in the mobile industry: Nearly nobody needs them, they are expensive and you often don’t know if the other one can receive them. So, MMS is nothing special and we probably won’t really miss it.

So let’s take a closer look on the invitation itself. What does it show: Blueprints of iPhone OS 3.0 Software. And there is probably only one reason why Apple will share “blueprints” of the upcoming OS to the media: Major changes to the OS and the SDK and this implies mayor changes to the underlying hardware. There will be new hardware this summer as the first 2 year contracts for the iPhone 2G are ending – and those users of the first hour need something new they’ll be thrilled about. But the reason for Apple to talk about an “advanced preview on what we’re building” must be something else: They need all iPhone developers to join forces for the new things to come:

  • Background tasks or push notifications – Apple promised to introduce the Apple Push Notification Service for 3rd parties in June 2008 – so we probably will hear more on push notification or even background processes on the iPhone in general. This also would open up a lot of new possibilities to enrich existing apps and create new app and game concepts from the ground up.
  • Springboard – handling lot’s of applications on the “homescreen” of the iPhone is a mess these days. When the iPhone was launched nobody dreamed of users who want to have hundreds of (paid) apps on their iPhone. But the iPhone is the first mobile platform where users really do download and buy apps like crazy. So Apple might come with an innovation in this field which also opens up some new opportunities for developers – especially if Apple combines it with notification or background features.
  • Video – One mayor step would be the smooth integration of video into the OS and the SDK. Video recording is a convenience on platforms like Symbian, android or even Windows Mobile.
  • Direct camera access for augmented reality apps – If Apple also improves the SDK so applications can access the camera directly, this would also open up the possibilities for absolutely new application and game concepts: augmented reality. There have been a few augmented reality games on the Symbian platform – and they are gorgeous!
  • Gyro compass – as the first android-phone has one – so Apple may integrate this into the iPhone, too. This feature would be very interesting for implementing new ways of interaction – especially for navigation and gaming apps.
  • Shared information between apps – every iPhone app is sandboxed these days. So there is no (legal) way to transfer information from one application to an other besides pictures. This also would be a great opportunity for iPhone developers.
  • Variable screen sizes – introducing different screen sizes into the iPhone OS would make it much more flexible in the direction of rumors like the iPhone tablet with a 10″ display or iPhones with an HD-display. And it would be a lot of work for all developers to polish the app interfaces to look great on different screen sizes. But I’m not sure whether Apple will open the pandora’s box of different screen sizes for the iPhone OS. Maybe they stay with one screen resolution and realize other gadgets like the rumored MacBook touch with the upcoming Mac OS Snow Leopard.

My2cents for tomorrow ;-)

The iPhone is on the market for more than one and a half years – and there is still no Flash support. Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen gave some interesting insights within the Bloomberg interview at Davos – in short: “It’s a hard technical challenge”.
What is happening here? Why is it so hard for Adobe and Apple to include Flash into the iPhone and iPod touch? Is this only a technical challenge?

There are a lot of reasons why migrating Flash to the iPhone is not a walk in the park:

Challenge: Complete migration and optimization
Adobe is quite clever in marketing, when they say “over 800 million Flash enabled devices shipped” … because this does not mean that those 800 million “Flash enabled” cellphones can view websites with embedded Flash content. Those 800 million devices have a tiny version of a special mobile Flash player installed, which only can play special generated Flash Light apps. So, Adobe’s Flash Light is not a web browser plugin as we know it from the Mac or PC world – it is a mobile application environment, only. Apple probably is not interested to much in bringing Flash Light to the iPhone. Apple is indeed interested in offering complete Flash support for Safari on the iPhone. But this would result in a complete migration of the OS X Flash player to the iPhone OS and a hell of optimization: Flash on OS X (and on Windows also) is very resource consuming – and this is the last thing you want to experience on the iPhone: slow, battery consuming surfing on Flash enabled websites. The Adobe Flash Light team spent years on optimizing Flash Light to the specific mobile phone platforms – it will be even more work to finish the complete migration to the iPhone.

Challenge: Smooth integration of Flash content into the iPhone OS environment
Right now there is a clear difference between web and video content: If you embed a Quicktime video into a website the iPhone user can see a video play button on the website; if the user clicks on the video play button the video is played in a separate movie player view. How should a Flash container – displaying a video – react? What is the best user experience? Will it be possible to integrate Flash views within native iPhone apps? Plenty of questions … and plenty of work on the usability and user experience side.

Challenge: Competing application environments of Flash Light and the native iPhone OS SDK
There is a clear and straight business case for Adobe with their Flash Light product: Handset manufacturers or operators have to pay for every single installation on a handset. They pay Adobe to get access to a creative developer community of Flash (Light) developers with interesting and good looking apps for their mobile phones. Will Apple pay Adobe for getting Flash on the iPhone? I personally don’t think so! Apple does not have any problem to attract creative developers to their native iPhone OS SDK. Flash Light apps don’t make the iPhone more attractive – maybe it’s even the opposite. On the Flash side, Apple managed it to convince companies like Google / Youtube to encode their videos especially for mobile phones without the need of Flash. Apple just created this extremely successful native application ecosystem – with a strong and creative developer community on the one hand and a well suited storefront with the iTunes iPhone AppStore on the other hand.

This all makes clear, what Shantanu Narayen pointed out at the interview: “(…) the ball right now is in our court (…)”: Adobe has to do the job – it’s essential for their business to be present on the iPhone – and Apple will profit from well integrated Flash in the iPhone … but Apple won’t loose anything if there wouldn’t be any Flash support at all in the future.

The last days really have been thrilling: The first reviews of our shopping app CompareMe for the iPhone and iPod touch came out. The first two reviews on the US AppStore – really exciting, because when somebody is interested to buy the app – this is where he or she is always looking at before pressing the buy button. Unfortunately, there still is no demo feature at the AppStore ;-)
But also at several app-review-sites, like AppCraver.com, TouchMyApps.com and also at iPhoneAppPodcast.com checked out CompareMe … and I think we can really be comfortable with. The best price gadget catches on – or in other words:

Let me take this opportunity to thank all reviewers for guiding users to useful apps they need. And a special thank to all reviewers who took the time to review CompareMe ;-) I also want to thank the growing number of CompareMe users – have fun shopping with it. And if you feel like sharing that you use it with others by pressing “I use this” at iphone.iusethis.com.

Apple just published a maintenance release of the iPhone OS 2.2.1 for the iPhone, iPhone 3G and the iPod touch. It’s pretty heavy with more than 240 MB and brings some bug-fixes and improvements:

  • Safari: stability improvements – feels snappier now
  • Native Mail app: Fixed issue where some images saved from Mail do not display correctly in the Camera Roll – no fuzzy jpegs anymore ;-)
  • iPod: Fixed issue that caused some Apple Lossless (ALAC) audio files to skip during playback

As the Safari WebViews are used in many apps to display information this upgrade brings more stability to the whole platform.

How to update to 2.2.1: Ensure you have a good internet-connection and some time. Plug in your iPhone to your Mac (or PC) – within iTunes you’ll get a dialog box. Click update … and be patient ;-)

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