1. On this week’s Critically Speaking podcast: When does marketing become sheer deception? It’s one thing to manipulate the audience in benign ways, getting them excited for a product that the creators are equally or more so excited about. It’s entirely something else when he marketing dictates what will be included in a game or when a game must be shown in order to generate revenue.

    Check it out on ShoutEngine or subscribe in iTunes.

     


  2. The Wrist

    After listening to a recent episode of The Talk Show in which John Gruber and Dave Wiskus discussed the potential future for an iWatch, I started wondering what has pushed the general consensus this far to begin with. We know from sources that Apple has been working with wearable devices and that one of the natural places to start is the wrist. But that’s more or less all we know.

    Then, shortly after Gruber and Wiskus, Casey Liss posted some thoughts addressing an angle similar to my line of thinking. Apple’s products, especially in new markets, tend to bring the baseline features that the audience expects, designed in particular Apple style, with something extra added that very few people anticipate. The iPhone is the mother of all examples for this strategy (see The Prompt’s excellent dissection of the original keynote for more details than most could ever want). There were so many features that completely surprised huge segments of the audience. Things like accelerometer rotation, proximity detection, Mac OS X, that scrolling, and on and on.

    The iPad had many of the same features as the iPhone, which was the expected part of the announcement. The surprise? The price, for one. But it wasn’t only that. The presenters spent a large portion of the keynote demonstrating how this little slate of aluminum and glass could accomplish productivity tasks in an intuitive way (though they dropped the ball on text-selection and document management). Very few Apple watchers foresaw a (truly) ten-hour tablet that not only ran iOS but did so with an eye on instigating the post-PC movement and did that starting at $500.

    I could continue with examples from across the Apple history board (iPod, iTunes, TiBook, iMac, OS X, Cylindrical Mac Pro), but the two iOS devices give us enough to understand the picture as it stands today for wearables, and the seemingly inevitable iWatch. Apple’s greatest hits do something surprising, and their primary use cases tend to be different from the expected. The iPhone is for most people clearly not a phone but a tiny computer with a calls feature. The iPad is a great media device with the potential to replace the primary computer of those who don’t require advanced features (I personally have several friends and family members who only use iPads while their PC’s gather dust) all at the price of a Windows laptop. So how does a wearable fit this picture?

    To come to any reasonable conclusion, we have to ask what this device will be for? It’s unlikely to replace the smartphone. UI and current interaction technology preclude this. Our fingers are too big, voice is too inaccurate and distracting to others, and a physical control (think modern day click-wheel) would seem dated regardless of functionality. However, if it doesn’t replace the smartphone, what does it do? The Android solution is that these things are little notification buzzers that dangle from your arm, making glances at incoming information quicker and easier.

    This could be the center of a good product if the notifications carried more weight than those on current smartphones. Imagine a screen (LCD or a more static technology) that only showed the most important of your notifications. Our phones have dozens (sometimes hundreds) of notifications that build up over the course of the day. Do we need to look at all of them? No. Do we tend to look at all of them? No. In that case, it stands to reason that surfacing important notifications on a wearable would make sense (think missing a flight, an important meeting, or an insulin shot rather than something like your most recent @ reply on Twitter). Unfortunately, the software and human reality of choosing what is important is an incredibly difficult problem to solve. Unless this is Apple’s surprise, it seems that technology precludes wearables as critical notifications devices.

    One of my examples—and with HealthKit, the example that’s on many minds these days—concerns monitoring health, fitness, and medical information. Sensors to do such monitoring are either too invasive or too sensitive to be reliable all day on a wrist device. It isn’t out of the question (in fact, I would be surprised if Apple released a wearable that didn’t address health in some way) but true medical monitoring is better left to the pros, at least as the tech stands today.

    If it isn’t notifications and it isn’t health, then what is it that this new device will do or allow us to do that isn’t blatantly obvious? Payments could certainly be easier on a device that is already out and accessible. Though few of us need to shave a couple seconds off a notification check, many have felt the pressure of fiddling with our phones in line at a coffee shop. It’s a bit like being the guy who pays cash in those credit card commercials. And though one usually has to reach into a pocket for a credit card, there’s no unlocking, fingerprinting, app finding, navigating, and so on with a card. Between some of Apple’s new proximity features and a wearable, the payment process could be smoothed considerably.

    Or, perhaps the device is passive, hanging there from your wrist “listening” for a number of factors that could aid your smartphone or tablet or Mac to show useful data later. If so, it stands to reason that price would again (as with the iPad) need to be a major factor. For a passive device with no outward dazzle to be successful, customers would need to impulse buy it in addition to their new phones, tablets, etc.

    In any case, the Android version of a smartwatch looks less and less like something Apple would bring to market. Even so, there’s a lot of noise around Apple and wearables in general, this post included. For those who like to speculate, and there are a great many of us, the most interesting question is not what Apple’s wearable will do but what Apple’s wearable will do that we don’t expect?

     


  3. Great piece from Jared Sinclair on the state of electronic health care records and its relation to Apple’s WWDC HealthKit announcements. From the article:

    The reality of EHR usage is that – even as late as 2009 – fifty percent of US hospitals were only only halfway electronic. Most just converted the easy stuff to electronic records, like lab results. Less than one percent (!) of them had completely moved beyond paper records. Many still had no electronic records at all.

    Yet another rrason the spotlight of the public eye should be cast upon healthcare. How can we expect to have a high-quality modern healthcare system when the industry itself seems so resistant to something as seemingly simple (from the outside) as keeping records in digital form where other hospitals and physicians can see and update them quickly and easily. Isn’t this just the sort of serious, world-changing problem that technology is supposed to solve?

     


  4. That’s right. Critically Speaking, my podcast with Scott Boren is not dead. Though Do You Have a Mountain Bike? is closing its doors, all subscribers should soon be redirected to our new feed over at ShoutEngine. Scott and I are excited to continue in much the same way as we have been for nearly a year. Apologies for the lapse in time as we arranged our affairs with the new hosting solution. Hopefully, we won’t miss a beat from here on out.

    On Episode 38:

    What qualifies someone who is passionate about a topic? Be it art, film, or gaming, there is a tendency to designate between those who feel strongly about a medium—and demonstrate those feelings by spending vast amounts of time on it—and those who simply care enough to spend what little time they have being involved. With games, this designation usually produces negativity. Is there a way to be both passionate and spend less time than others or even your past self?

    Check it out at ShoutEngine or subscribe in iTunes.

     


  5. Ben Thompson:

    Imagine a new TV product, with two models:

    • $99 with a full set of entertainment options, but no gaming
    • $179 with a full set of entertainment options, plus gaming

    This TV product would be on an annual release cycle; average consumers would only upgrade every few years (the core OS and most games would support 3 generations), while more serious gamers would upgrade every year providing a nice bit of recurring revenue (this would be much more feasible today, as developers have long since developed the expertise to make games available across multiple architectures).

    If Apple were to follow this strategy, and the hints are present in iOS 8 and the videos from WWDC to suggest they might, it would likely be enough to keep me—a lifelong gamer with a gaming podcast, a self-built gaming PC, and a list of past console purchases—from ever buying an Xbox One or PS4. All it would take is the right buy-in from third-party developers, and I’d be sold. In fact, I can’t think of many adult gamers who would continue with the old ways if this were a viable option.

    The first version would be underpowered in comparison to a PS4; that’s certain. But if users were able to afford an upgrade every year—or every two years—the consoles simply wouldn’t be able to keep up after only a handful of cycles. Meanwhile, the majority of consumer dollars could go to the games themselves (and the obligatory percentage to the App Store). It’s a future that I hope comes to pass, as I already like the Apple TV and want nothing more than to see it become the hub around which all of my large-screen entertainment centers. If I can add gaming to that list, all the better.

    Also, read Thompson’s whole article. This is a guy who gets the industry in a way that many writers seem to not even recognize, let alone have the capability to articulate.