How Apps Are Ruining the World

Tesla: Master of Lightning. That would look cool on a business card.

Between our iPad, iPhone, and three iPod Touches, my family has over 100 installed apps. Amazing utilities, clever social apps, and plain old silly stuff.

I love my apps, but they are ruining the world. Sad, really.

Here’s the thing. Programming something for iOS isn’t exactly easy. There are some tools that cut your time, but if you want to maximize your app, you’ll have to put in the time or pay someone to do it. Someone smart and patient.

I’m all for creative entrepreneurs generating a profit from their hard work. I’ve certainly done it myself, so I wouldn’t begrudge someone else the opportunity to earn money. Unfortunately….

Unfortunately, some of the smartest people in the room aren’t solving problems anymore. They’re not figuring out the kinds of things that need figuring. They’re not inventing or improving inventions. They’re not even experimenting.

Nope, they’re coding apps that they’ll sell for 99 cents. And if they’re lucky (because luck is part of success), they’ll make some money. If not, they’ll just make another app. That’s where the gold seems to be. Continue reading

11 Things Worth Paying for Online

Here’s something awesome…the Internet is still (mostly) free. Despite the sometimes mammoth costs of launching and maintaining a website, social media campaign, or interactive tool, the cost has remained about the same. In same cases, it’s actually become less expensive.

As the end user, just about everything is free, even though we know darn well that it’s not free to create. There are technical people, writers, designers, marketers, and everyone else…all working together to create stuff online. Some of it is supported by advertising and some of it is paid for by the target user.

So why would you pay for anything online? Well, I guess there are just some things worth paying for. Here are 11 things I’m willing to pay for (and maybe already do) on the web.

It’s worth noting that almost all of these are freemium services. That basically means that you get the core service for free. If you really like it, you can pay for an upgrade. Freemium is the ultimate in “try before you buy” solutions for brands to market themselves and their services.

Top 11 Things I’m Willing to Pay for Online Continue reading

Nook Upgraded & the 5 P’s of Marketing

Nook Color ereader

Nook Color ebook ereader now supports Android Apps

And just like that, the Nook matters again. Yes, in the war to win the hearts and eyeballs of readers continues to rage on, and Barnes & Nobles has just proved that it’s not out of the fight.

In 30 seconds or less, the Nook was upgraded from being a humble ebook reader with an attractive color screen, a market where Amazon dominates. A software patch pushed the Nook into the crowded space of tablets, where Apple dominates.

Soon the Nook will have full access to the Android Marketplace, which includes the kinds of games and apps that makes the iPad so popular.

Here are five reasons why this matters to you as it relates to the Five P’s of Marketing (loosely interpreted, of course):

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place (distribution)
  • Promotion
  • People

1.PRICE: Nook competes on price and features. Everyone from the media to the average buyer is enamored with tablets. The venerable iPad 2 is one of the most coveted gadgets on the marketplace, but with prices starting at $499, it’s not exactly within reach of all buyers. For a while, the Amazon Kindle was the device to beat, but it’s still a black and white technology in a color world. At $250, the Nook offers a sharp, full color display. It may not be as full featured or sensitive as the iPad, but it suddenly feels light years ahead of the Kindle, but with a very attractive price point. Continue reading

iPad 2 Video Mirroring to Televisions

iPad 2 with Mirroring

Apple just announced the iPad 2, which is another insanely great device. Powerful, sexy, and affordable. (Just like me.)

One of the best features has to be the Video Mirroring capability. In my line of work, we use iPads for demonstration purposes. That’s all well and good for intimate conversations, but only so many people can huddle around an iPad. Not anymore.

This Video Mirroring allows you to plug your iPad directly into the television and display the entire iPad on screen. And some initial reports suggest that this will be backwards compatible to original iPads and then others contradict that. We’ll know in the next few days. I’m sure.

Imagine how powerful Video Mirroring on iPads will be in the hands of a trained speaker in a business presentation. This is the kind of flexibility we dream about in client pitches and presentations. You want hardware that has a wow factor.

I want to present from an iPad running Keynote, rather than a Windows PC running PowerPoint. It has nothing to do with quality of presentation and everything to do with the coolness factor. iPads are cool.
Continue reading

Apple TV vs Roku – UX + UI For Senior Citizens

Apple TV streaming device.

I have a Roku and I love it. But for my father, the only web-enabled device he needed was the the Apple TV.

Here’s why.

Several years ago, my dad (a senior citizen) wanted a computer. I knew I should get him a Mac, but he became convinced that he needed a PC. A trusted family member  (an IT professional) stressed that a Windows PC was the best option. Plus, it was cheaper than the iMac I was hawking. So we bought an IBM-brand PC (before it became Lenovo), loaded it with RAM, and connected him to the Internet.

For about a year, it was a great little machine. And then it started being a PC. It got fussy and occasionally crashed. It would do odd, PC-type things. I’d come over every couple of weeks to fix it up with new patches, defrag, and perform other minor maintenance. It was a lousy user experience (UX) and user interface (UI).

After a few years of frustrations, my dad broke down and bought a new computer. This time, a shiny new iMac. Two years later, I’ve only had to go to his house to download a few patches and install some games. That’s it. No crashing, no quirky personality traits. Just a computer that he uses to connect to the Internet and play his games. Nice UX and UI.

Apple TV vs. Roku
Flash forward to now. I’ve had my Roku for a month or more. My father is impressed and wants one. I show him how easy it is to use. He nods and says, “I heard that Apple makes one.”

I tell him that in my online research, Roku is getting better reviews. It is more flexible and open and may eventually be one of the online leaders.

And although the Roku has a USB port for pictures and videos, he wants something easier. The Apple TV does something that the others currently do not, which is connect with his iMac.

Yes there’s WiFi and of course he can use NetFlix on both of them, but my father wanted something much more utilitarian. He wants to show photos from his iMac on his television. He wants it to be easy and instant. No USB keys, no file transfers, and no wires. And if you’re already a Mac user, you want Apple’s ease-of-use. It’s all about UX.

Roku views pictures, but only if you tap into streaming Facebook. That Roku Facebook channel is fine for the pictures that you’ve uploaded, but we have too many family photos to upload for that to be practical.

Tapping directly into iPhoto is something that only Apple TV can do right out of the box. There’s no need to run cables or copy files to a USB. Apple’s closed ecosystem makes a lot of sense, particularly when the user is a senior citizen who just wants to use his stuff. Apple’s walled-garden approach offers a level of comfort, consistency, and compatibility that you cannot always achieve buying components.

For me, the flexibility and scalability of the Roku is perfect. It’s exactly what I need, since my primary interest is NetFlix and web-video streaming. I am a digital power user who blogs, tweets, uses TV apps, and reads ebooks.

For my father, the Apple TV is ideal because it becomes part of a series of networked devices that work well for people who want it to work with the minimum of technical experience.

If you’re in the market, I hope this little story-based scenario was helpful to you. Good luck and drop me a line if you have any specific questions about what you should buy.

Aperture from App Store

It's easy to download full applications like Aperture from the Apple App Store.

This weekend, I broke down and bought a copy of Apple’s Aperture software. As a Mac user, I am typically very happy with the core software that comes with iLife, but I just needed something more powerful. And the Apple App Store has been daring me to purchase something from it.

As a published photographer with three photography books in Amazon and Barnes & Nobles, I figured that I needed something slightly more versatile for organizing images. iPhoto is okay, but it’s just not up for the task of organizing a huge library of pictures.

I’d dabbled with Adobe Bridge, which is part of the Adobe Creative Suite, but found it to be a bit slow and clunky. I’ve also tried out the Extensis Portfolio package, which was really quite good for $199. It allowed a lot of flexibility in storage and organizing. But as I moved from my old Mac G5 to my new iMac, I wanted something that would be a little more universal. That is, I’d never met another person who used Extensis Portfolio and I was concerned that, if I had a problem, I would have limited support options.

If I get a new computer, I don’t want to do what I am doing now, which is trying to upgrade multiple files and software packages.

Apple's App Store sells Mac software

Anyway, after doing entirely too much research, I downloaded Apple’s Aperture. In the stores, it costs $199. In the Apple App Store, it’s only $80. That’s the full version, not the upgrade.

The App Store was a pretty smooth and intuitive process. It just billed the purchase to my iTunes account and installed the Aperture application on my computer. I have no idea what will happen if I get a new computer, but for now, I feel pretty good about downloading software and not getting discs and a serial number.

Installing and using Aperture is a standard Apple experience. Everything works, and you feel good about your purchase. No wonder iPhones and iPads are flying off the shelves. People like a good user experience and simplicity goes a long way. Usability is important for end users, even power users and professionals.

Now comes the task of organizing and tagging 70,000 photos.

Additional links:

Dear Apple, Market to Me

Apple iPad

Apple iPad

It sort of defies logic. Consumer buying, that is. There’s a logic, and then there’s consumer buying logic.

Take Apple, for example. Steve Jobs wanted to make “insanely great” products. It became a battle cry for the whole company, and as consumers, we bought it. They made the iPod and iMac, and we bought them. These were insanely great products that we had to have. Soon there will be an assault of iPad competitors that make similar touch-screen tablets. And yet, people will still buy the Apple iPad for some logical…and many illogical reasons.

Before Apple released these products, there were other computer devices that did similar things for less money. After Apple released these products, there were even more choices for even less money. And yet we keep buying the Apple brand.

Why is that? Well, we’ve been marketed to…and we like it. Apple somehow takes buyer’s remorse and turns it into buyer evangelism. People who buy Apple get excited with their purchase and tell their family and friends. It is classic viral marketing. It’s better than viral marketing, it’s passion marketing. Social marketing and passion marketing.

It’s the kind of marketing that makes us buy expensive cars with bigger engines than we can possibly use. The amount of horsepower that you can purchase far exceeds you ability to use it on any regular basis. But we don’t mind. Driving can be about getting from point A to point B. Or it can be about passion, excitement, and sex appeal. It becomes a gap between what you need and what you want.

Want and need are two different things. I need a new computer for my home-based work. Could I get an inexpensive machine that does the basics? Of course. But instead, I will go beyond basic need and deep into the want territory.

I’m buying a new Mac. I like how it works. I get great service from Macs, so I am willing to pay the extra few bucks to have the Mac experience. I’m sure the PC would run similar software, allowing me to get my job done. But I like the Mac.

Logic gives way to passion, and I am voluntarily buying a product that may be slightly better in performance, but much better in consumer experience.

Is the Mac insanely great? You bet. But so are other competitive products that cost less. For $200-$500 less, I can get a similarly equipped PC. Am I actually paying for a better product or a better marketing experience? Let me help you decide….

My new Mac arrives next week.

Links:

iPad – Week 1

Apple iPad

Apple iPad

It’s been a week, and I do believe I am in love. Well, at least serious infatuation.

One week with the Apple iPad, and I’m wondering two things:

  1. How did I live without the iPad before this?
  2. Why is free WiFi still so hard to find?

Here’s what I love about the new iPad:

What I don’t love:

  • Screen that seems to pick up a little too many fingerprints
  • Shiny display that is difficult to read outside on a nice day
  • Bit too heavy and wide
  • Apps that still haven’t been reprogrammed from the iPhone to the iPad

The Amazon Kindle still holds a place in my backpack, just based on super-light portability. But the iPad sure does offer a lot more function and fun.

And this is just the first week. Not bad, Apple. Very impressed.

For Sale: Print

Marvel Comics on iPad

I have seen the future…and I am selling all of my books.

Okay, not all of them, but an awful lot of them. Books, comic books, magazines, and just about everything print. Y’see, I’ve had an Amazon Kindle 2 for over a year now. And don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing little machine.

But then I saw the iPad, and it changed the way I thought about books, particularly comic books.

Tablets have been around for quite a while. In fact, at work, we run tablet PCs with Microsoft Windows. It’s a nice technology, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t lend itself to reading full novels. Even comics were a little awkward, since you had to use a little stylus to turn the pages of a digital comic.

Apple’s iPad interface is amazing. It’s intuitive, pleasant, and fades quickly into the background. Admittedly, it’s not quite as good as the Kindle when it comes to reading plain text books. But it’s terrific for reading comics. And if they get that screen just a tiny bit larger on the next version — without increasing the total size of the device — it’ll be about a darn near perfect comic book reading experience.

Lots of comic book friends think this is just crazy, but I happen to think that it’s the way I’ll be consuming comics in the future. Sure, part of the comic book hobby is bagging, boarding, and saving your comics. But if you think about it, that’s just a tradition rooted in print and distribution.

Back in the early days, comic books were distributed on the news stand. If you wanted comics when you were a kid, you went to the nearest news stand, pharmacy, or convenience store and got your issues. The problem was that there were very few comic book stores, so it was difficult, and often very expensive, to find back issues of comic books. Scarcity increases price, so that’s the short version of why some old comics are expensive. More people want them than there are comics to buy, and suddenly, people are paying a million dollars for a single issue of Superman.

Because of this relative scarcity of back issues — and the fact that some comic book stories are one long serialized saga — people learned to buy and collect comics. A supporting industry sprung up that supplies bags, boards, boxes, and just about ever variation in between. Multiply that by a few decades of my personal collecting fervor, and I have a room that’s seemingly overrun with white boxes.

As I stare at the iPad, I wonder how many comics will fit on this device? Better yet, how many will fit on my Mac, which I can transfer over to an iPad or whatever device? How many boxes can I possibly clear out of my collection, and how much of my man cave will I be able to reclaim?

One by one, I have been getting rid of my regular books. I’ve donated them to book sales, shared them with friends, and have basically just purged many of my bookshelves. There are still keepers, but the vast majority have found a second life somewhere else.

High quality digital content is easier than ever to find. You can even do it legally through Amazon and Apple, which means that you’re not stealing from the pockets of your favorite writers or artists. The only thing that is changing is the distribution channel, and bookstores, comic stores, and newsstands are scrambling to adapt to this new profit model. Some will survive, but many will not.

In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out what to do with my comic book collection. It’ll be a few years before everything in my current collection is ready in the digital format. It’ll start with the mainstream publishers like Marvel and DC Comics, but it will move quickly to independent publishers. I’m a traditionalist, so if publishers offer comics on DVDs with large runs of back issues, I’ll be buying those disks. They are so compact that it’s easy enough to store huge collections.

The way content — including ebooks — is popping into the Apple iTunes store, I think the future is happening sooner rather than later. And that’s just fine by me.

In the meantime, does anyone want to buy some classic comics? Cheap.

Another eReader Convert

Another day, another ereader convert.

Yup, another co-worker came to the office today to show off his Kindle. He admitted that my relentless raving for the Kindle pushed him over the edge. That, and he ran the numbers, and realized that he’s actually going to spend less on his reading materials. He’s a heavy reader of new non-fiction books, so the cost of shipping alone from Amazon and BN.com was apparently adding up.

He loves the Kindle and was showing it around the room. His favorite feature? His back no longer aches from lugging around books. Nice.

The falling cost of ebook readers is increasing the amount of content that you can get electronically. The improved capabilities coming from the Nook, Kindle, and the Apple iPad are inspiring content creators and even marketers to look at new ways to distribute content electronically. It’s a beautiful circle of ever-increasing growth for electronic publishing. It’s a lot like the early incarnations of websites in the 1990s, except on an accelerated timeline.

Like the early Internet — heck, like anything early in the development stage — the ebook and ereader market is going to experience explosive growth in many different directions. Some of them will be logical, especially in hindsight. Some directions will be surprising, and perhaps even illogical. Other directions will fizzle and be left to Net history and Wikipedia entries.

People jump on new technology like it’s supposed to be fully de-bugged and realized in the first or even second release. It’s never been that way. Consider the first cars or telephones or televisions or even the first computers. These devices evolved naturally, as engineers and users determined was features were valuable and which were unnecessary. It’ll be the same way with ereaders and ebooks. You can wait it out or you can jump in and be part of the virtual team that de-bugs and priortizes our future technology.

Today, one of my co-workers joined the revolution. One day, we’ll laugh about how primitive the Kindle is compared to our more advanced devices.