Friday 27 August 2010

The next iPod Nano?

Apple surprised people a few years back when they suddenly killed off the most successful iPod model at the time, the iPod Mini and replaced it with the iPod Nano. Now several years later, with its now traditional September music product launch event approaching, the Cupertino company is likely to have been once again thinking how to revamp its iPod line-up while continuing to differentiate the iPod Touch, Nano and Shuffle models.

In recent times, the Nano has preserved its form factor and simply gained new features such as video recording. This time, I am suggesting there may be a more substantial change. The way to make the Nano even smaller is to remove the click-wheel. However the user still needs a way to control the device. So why not make the current square'ish screen touch sensitive, and when the user needs to change something, superimpose a click-wheel (or tap-wheel) on the screen temporarily on the screen to effect the command. This substitution of the physical interface with a virtual graphical equivalent would mirror what they have already done with the telephone keypad and qwerty keyboard on the iPhone.

The next question is whether the iPod Classic will survive. I guess it depends how many of this last breed of hard disk based music players they are selling compared to the other models. The iPod Touch is already available with 64GB flash memory; doubling that to 128GB would get the song capacity close to the Classic model. The new Touch model is going to have a front facing camera to facilitate FaceTime video calls to iPhone 4's and it's clear that Apple will want to get as many FaceTime compatible devices out into the market as possible. Taking away the Classic option, and leaving the Touch as the highest capacity iPod for those that need it, would assist in this FaceTime strategy.

FInally there is the question of what materials the new iPod line-up will be made from. Apple has recently bought the exclusive rights to the use of a company called Liquid Metal in the consumer electronics space. It's not clear whether sufficient time has elapsed for this to be exploited this time around but it could just be another way that iPods continue to differentiate themselves from other devices.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Email security lagging behind

With as much as 80% spam and junk email being conveyed over the net, it surprises me that more hasn't been offered to consumers by way of email security by the major email providers. Making it simple and free (or almost free, bundled benefit etc) to create verified digital certificates so that people can at least sign their emails properly would be a differentiator and a step in the right direction. The standard internet email protocols have had this facility embedded for ages, but it is really only security experts, some specific organisations, and hobbyist users that have implemented it. Apple already issues certificates for securing their mobileMe members' iChat video calls, but have not yet made it trivially easy to use with their mail client.

In the future, people will look back and wonder why the world didn't embrace helpful technology earlier.

[sorry to regular readers for the lack of articles recently .. summer months mean breaks!]

Tuesday 3 August 2010

The Google/Android slayer?

It wasn't so long ago that the hype in the smartphone market was on Google, its Android mobile operating system, and a range of Google phone handsets. Well it seems like the latter was a relative flash in the pan. It seems from this article as if Google has sold its last smartphone in its homeland USA, and that the remainder will be carrier-branded phones in some other countries of the world. This seems to be a step backwards for the search giant, a sign which its rival in that space Apple will have noticed. The latter's iPhone 4 is still selling like hot cakes as fast as they can be manufactured in an increasing number of geographies, despite some froth and bubble in the media about antennas.

So for Google, if it's not phone hardware that they are going to take over the world with, what of the Android weaponry? Well, there is another problem showing in the numbers associated with app development on the platform. Android will only be successful if there are quality apps available that rival competitors systems such as iOS. Unfortunately, what the numbers show is that the unprotected, insecure, laissez-faire approach of Android is actually putting off developers from writing new apps, since they can increasingly be pirated and any royalty or developer fee cancelled out. This is particularly a problem since Android specifically appeals to the hobbiest, experimenter, techy-minded market of users, who are more likely to try out hacks than pro or non-tech savvy consumers who just want quality apps that just work. There have also been stories recently of Android apps accessing and passing on user data to third parties. However since the Android app store is relatively unregulated, no-one is going to do anything to protect users against this type of hidden privacy violation. And for the same reason, there is still the possibility that a rather nasty virus or similarly infected app could appear in the Android marketplace and have a devastating effect for Android users. Google may be exiting the hardware market but its name is still very much associated with the system on an increasing number of carriers' handsets, with all the responsibility that goes with that.