In 2006 I Said This

The bell curve is a graph that shows distribution with a result that looks a lot like — you guessed it — a bell.

I think it was in WW2 when the US government asked for helmets for its new soldiers. A study was done of hat sizes; thousands of heads were measured and the result was the famous bell curve. It showed that the vast majority of Americans had heads of a fairly standard size (the meaty part of a bell in profile), while about five percent (the lip of the rim on the left) had unusually small heads, and about five percent (the lip of the rim on the right) had unusually big heads.

It turns out that this pattern of distribution turns up everywhere — about five percent of movies are remarkably bad and five percent are remarkably good; about five percent of employees are inept and five percent are exceptional…

So, getting back to Apple.

Their hold of the personal computer market world-wide is around five percent, and their pricing, build and packaging are at the high end. If the distribution of the makeup of computer buyers results in a bell curve as well, then Apple probably owns that top five percent.

In other words, they aren’t struggling against Dell and HP — they actually totally dominate their target audience.

Looks like it worked out pretty well for them.

A Good App

A Good App
It needs a good icon
The main functions should be obvious or at least easy to learn once
It needs to look finely crafted
The secondary functions need to be out of the way but easily accessible
There should be minimal nagging
It would ideally work everywhere
It doesn’t hurt if it feels cozy or fun

So I Went a Little Crazy

My iPhone is a 3G running OS 3.1.2 and it’s jail broken and unlocked. Everything was fine and dandy with it, but I kept hearing about the new OS, iOS 4, and and how it included many little tweaks that would improve my overall experience.

I knew that I wouldn’t be getting the multitasking features and a few other things as I have the older not so snappy hardware, but I thought I’d give it a go all the same. I backed up the phone’s data to iTunes and then hacked a copy of 4.0 and installed it and restored the backup. Doing this, and restoring my carrier and a few other tweaks was a long, but relatively straight forward process.

Now I was up to date. There were many little improvements that I noticed, such as universal spell checking, being able to group app icons into groups or folders, and at last — a character count in messaging. All good.

What wasn’t good was the slow down in responsiveness. Half-second delays had turned into one, or even two second delays; and boy, was it noticeable?

I remembered an article written at the time of the Apple Newton. They talked about how studies had shown that any more than a half-second delay before the software responded in some way, and the user rapidly loses interest. How true it turned out to be for me. I decided to trade the new features to get my half second back and I invoked a disaster recovery restore back to my old OS.

It’s not like Apple to put out OS updates that slow you down — usually it’s the other way, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a faster leaner 4.1 sometime soon. Maybe, just maybe, when that happens I’ll wait for the verdict to come in before making the leap again.

The New iPhone

It was the worst kept secret, ever. But still — oh my gosh! What a beautiful thing it is. That’s just my first impression from the (excuse the gaiety) fabulous images on the apple site.

Having said that, though, it has lost that organic purity that made the previous model such a joy to simply hold in the hand. Times change though, and it’s obvious that the new impression they want to convey is that of a solid slab of black glass ringed with steel.

The proof will be in the grasping, of course. Can’t wait.

Things and 2Do

I’ve been using Things, the task manager, from the get-go. First on the Mac and then also on the iPhone. Then, lately I discovered 2Do for the iPhone and I’ve been using that exclusively for a month. At first I was seduced by its fun interface but then after a while I realized that I was in fact getting more done (which is the whole point of these apps after-all), so bye bye Things, hello 2Do.

Not so fast. I’m not going to end this entry without trying to explain why.

Firstly, I was frustrated with the way that in Things I had to burrow down through the interface to get to some tasks, and there wasn’t a quick way to then climb out; with 2Do most tasks are only one level below the tabs.

Secondly, well, Things is boring to look at. There’s nothing actually wrong with the way it looks, but it’s just three shades of gray and the one typeface; with 2Do I can mix it up a little if ever I get bored, which is often.

Lastly, have you seen 2Do’s ultra-funky cassette recorder for making voice notes? That gadget alone is worth the entry price.

So, like the man said, there’s no crime on changing your mind.

Files Updated

The “Files” app for iPhone was recently updated. One of the new features that I really appreciate is a Safari-like built in browser. With it I can visit a site and tap and hold on a downloadable file and download that file to the iPhone.

I do this at the library with its fast and free connection. When I get home I connect to Files with my Mac’s Finder and pull the file across.

Saves hours of the home phone being held up by my slow dialup connection.

The Window to Everything

Glass. Glass. Say it often enough and it starts to sound really strange. If one word could define what differentiates Apple from all other computer and gadget makers at present it would be glass. First the iPhone, then the MacBooks and the displays and the iMac, and now the iPad.

The glass is the real “window” to the software—to the experience. The hardware disappears. The hardware is just there to support the glass. In 1984 the original Mac said that from now on you aren’t confronting a dark display with an impatient flashing cursor; you’re merely looking at a blank page—an empty canvas.

Now, in 2010 you are holding a real window in your hand; a window to everything. Go ahead and touch it. It won’t break.

That’s Thinking Different.

That’s the real difference.