Archives For apple

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A bit late for birthday wishes – but anyway: HAPPY 30th BIRTHDAY MACINTOSH! And it’s the best opportunity for at least the next 10 years to tell the story of how I met the Mac – the biggest technology love of my life.

It’s 1986, I’m nine years old and at my uncle’s home I see a computer for the first time in my life. And not just any computer – it’s a Macintosh 512k, also known as the “Fat Mac” because it had so much memory! I remember how I first had to switch on the electrical transformer and then the Mac, because my uncle had brought the machine back to Switzerland after having spent a year studying at UC Berkeley.

And then the Macintosh woke up, beeped, asked for the startup floppy disk and once found the smiling Macintosh icon appears and the computer started. While reading from the floppy disk, the machine made this weird but still familiar sound between bip bip and krrr krr – watching this video I feel thrown back to that very moment in my childhood.


No idea what I thought when I saw this machine running for the very first time. Above all I was very curious and wanted to try it out. During a short introduction my uncle showed me how to use a mouse – magic: you can lift it and the pointer stays where it is! And then he started SuperPaint and showed me some of its tools: the paint stroke, the pencil, the eraser and the paint bucket. During this intro I also learned my first English word (without knowing it…): “Undo”. A very important command indeed! Especially if you tried to fill an area with the paint bucket tool and the shape was not entirely closed – bam, and the entire drawing canvas would be filled with a brick pattern.

During that weekend at my uncle’s I spent hours and hours drawing lots and lots of stuff: houses, cars, planes, trains. And it’s not so easy, the mouse as a freehand drawing tool produces quite wacky lines and I hadn’t yet discovered the straight line and other tools. But the zoom functionality was great: you could go down to the tiniest details and see individual pixels!

And obviously I wanted to print my works of art and my uncle had just the right tool for that: the Apple ImageWriter dot matrix printer. Maybe the drawings are still somewhere in my parents attic.

Apple ImageWriter

Apple ImageWriter

Needless to say: I was in love with this piece of technology and what I could do with it. I figured the rest of the Mac out by myself by trying, clicking, opening, exploring programs on other floppy disks and later I played simple games like bricks, StuntCopter and some sort of space invaders type of thingy. Oh and another one of my favourites: writing stuff in MacWrite and changing the font to Zapf Dingbats? Amazing!

That same weekend I also met one of my uncle’s neighbours who was a computer scientist, I believe. And there I saw my first non-Mac computer: an IBM PC with a black screen and green blinking signs. I though: what is this? Really, is this a computer, too? No way!

This is a beautiful and powerful statement what Apple is trying to do.

The new unified messaging app by Google: Hangouts (Copyright The Verge)

The new unified messaging app by Google: Hangouts (Copyright The Verge)

The Google I/O keynote has just ended and although the Verge’s verdict is “The moonshots, it seems, will have to wait“, I think they’ve presented some great new and updated products. Even though they left Gmail and Docs out, their product refresh feels pretty much like Apple redoing their entire hardware lineup (which they almost did last autumn):

  • Google Maps gets a major update with a completely new user interface for desktop and mobile apps
  • Google Search can be piloted with your voice in a conversational way and seems to become what Siri should be and it’s “don’t even ask me what you want to know because I already know your question”-sibling Google Now gets more functionality
  • Google+ has been totally redesigned and continues on the route of becoming what Flickr could have been, if Yahoo had done it right: the best social photography network. Now Google+ automatically enhances your photos and choses the best ones based on algorithms that even know regionally specific tastes of what makes a good photo
  • With Google Hangouts they launched a product unifying all their messaging apps into one seemingly very slick package including some very nice looking flat design
  • They’ve go even a Music subscription service up their sleeves that rivals Spotify and the similar service Apple is rumored to work on but seems to have difficulties closing a deal on

Not too bad, I’d say. And it shows one thing: Google is not slowing down with what they know best – building great web services. At the same time they’re flexing their muscles in hardware design and seem to have built a great looking and great feeling machine with the Google Pixel.

In the meantime Apple’s web services haven’t really shined. Some streets and bridges seem to be made of molasses in the Maps app (if they are at the right spot at all), iCloud document syncing is really limited – no sharing across apps, across people and (obviously) beyond the Apple ecosystem – and seems to be buggy and a nightmare to develop for. Siri is still a hit or miss for me and anyway I don’t use it much – although I’m sure it has a lot of potential. Pando Daily commented the Google I/O announcements with “Google is keeping iCloud’s promises”

In John Gruber’s words: “Google is getting better at what Apple does best faster than Apple is getting better at what Google does best.”

Please Apple, can we reverse this trend at WWDC? I want to see some updates to Apple’s web services that knock me out, some real magical and “just works” iCloud syncing (and why not finally buy Dropbox…?) and Siri features that are so bloody useful that I wouldn’t mind any more that I’m chatting with a robot in my phone.

But that’s a tough call: Google has shown today that while they’re getting better at Apple’s design game they’re not slowing down in the web services game. And running faster than the leader after having stumbled a few times is going to be hard for Apple.

Apple I Computer

The more I hear the expression the less appropriate the term “post-PC” seems to me. Post-PC only makes sense in a historical view in which the Personal Computer (PC – and here including Macs) is defined as the computer as we know it: our desktop computer or laptop of choice.

“Personal” in this context mostly only makes sense as the revolutionary step that made computers available to normal people, made them personal. The revolution was to make these machines affordable enough to be bought and usable enough to be understood by a regular person. And obviously both of these aspects have improved tremendously since the first build-it-yourself PC-kits were sold by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

But all of this doesn’t make the PC truly personal. The only actual personal computer you own is your smartphone.

How personal is a traditional PC in the actual sense of the word? How much does a PC belong to you as a person or reflect who you are? The longer you use it, the more of your personal data it stores: your photos, your emails, your thoughts expressed in whatever written word you create and even your DNA through your hair that falls between the cracks into its keyboard. It knows about your contacts and your calendar and about the work you do.

However all of this doesn’t make the PC truly personal. The only actual personal computer you own is your smartphone: it knows where you are, what caught your interest just now when you’re taking a photo, what you’re thinking right know when you send out a spontaneous tweet and even when you take a dump, since many of us (myself included) take it with us to the bathroom. The smartphone again may be replaced by some even more personal computer in the form of a wearable computing devices in the near or not so near future.

We are not moving beyond the Personal Computer as the term post-PC evokes. We are actually evolving towards ever more personal computers until one day they may literally be part of who and what we are.

Mobile phones in an Orange shop

copyright Bloomberg

Everybody knows these mobile phone shops: rows and rows of shiny new gadgets attached to some security device that beeps horribly, if you pull a bit to harshly on the string attached to the phone you want to try out. How on earth have these shops and their terrible user experience changed so little? Some observations about what is wrong with the customer experience. Some time ago I was waiting for my turn at our local Orange shop. As anybody reading this piece probably knows, I’ll most likely be one of the very last people to switch away from my beloved iPhone. But hey, I had a couple of minutes and there was a row of smartphones from all the companies and mobile phone platforms known to man in front of me, why not give them a spin? Does Windows Phone really look and feel that cool? How is it that Samsung seems to produce some worthy competition to the iPhone? Questions that needed to be answered some day!

Have tech retailers really learnt nothing in the twelve years since the first Apple Store?

But, alas, it was not this day or any other day in a regular mobile phone shop for that matter. Why? These things, though very nice feeling phones, were totally useless for checking out some of the most common features:

  • No SIM-Card in the demo-phones
  • No connection to the internet
  • No preconfigured email-address or email inbox
  • No preloaded photos to experience the photo gallery app
  • No interesting apps or games preloaded on the device to explore

How the hell am I supposed to find out if this phone is any good? How shall I experience it’s web browser, email app and great screen if there is no connection to the web, no configured email account and no gorgeous pictures in the photo gallery app? Have tech retailers really learned nothing in the twelve years since the first Apple Store? The only thing that is better than it used to be: you usually won’t find any of those ugly fake phones with a sticker as their screen any more – they’ve learned that. A next post will be about why this might be the case. But until then let’s look at somebody who seems to have nailed it.

It is a false and foolish but widespread misconception that “innovation” goes only in the direction of additional complexity.

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John Gruber, Daring Fireball