Shame and anticompetitive hijinks

24 05 2012

This week, Apple pulled one of Rogue Amoeba’s iOS apps, from the App Store. Reportedly, little explanation was given. I think I might know what’s going on here.

Apple has a history of taking ideas from existing iOS apps, building them into newer versions of iOS, and then making the app essentially useless. It is kind of a dick move when you think about it for half a second. I know people like to associate that “good artists copy, great artists steal,” phrase with Steve Jobs in particular and Apple in general. Unfortunately, when hardworking independent developers get screwed over, everyone loses, even Apple.

Of course, the developer is going to take the brunt of the blow in the form of lost sales. Users who are not aware of the app from whence some iOS feature came will not know that there may be some better alternative, still on the App Store. This might keep the user experience from being as good as it might. In the end, Apple is hurting itself a little by potentially alienating developers. I know, personally, that if I worked my ass off on an app that I was proud of and Apple came along and ripped me off, I would reconsider developing for Apple’s platforms in the future.

Maybe I am completely wrong about all of this and I am just overreacting. I really hope I am. Hopefully, Rogue Amoeba’s app goes back up on the store and they go back to making money from it. Thanks for indulging this rant.


Snow Leopard will be needed to move to Lion

27 06 2011

Apple is preparing to launch the newest version of Mac OS X, Lion, sometime next month. According to an email exchange with Steve Jobs earlier this month, it will not be possible to simply install Lion on a blank drive.

In the use case scenario that I have in mind, my hard drive in my MacBook has died, so I have to swap it out for a new one. If I do not have a cloned backup of my original hard drive, but something like a Time Machine backup, then I would have to reinstall the operating system, starting with Snow Leopard, then upgrade to Lion before I could get all of my data, files, and media back on my computer.

If I did have a cloned backup, I suppose it would be possible to do a bit-for-bit restore of the orginal hard drive to the new one. Nevertheless, Apple is taking away a popular hard drive recovery option.

I does not have to be a hard drive failure. It could just as easily be a hard drive upgrade. Even so, the issues are the same. Apple makes it impossible for a user to restore their system without a lot of hassle. I have a problem with this.

Apple has always made system restoration so easy in Mac OS X. They may be taking the Mac App Store thing a bit too far by insisting that people upgrade there and there only and making it the only way to restore your system after a new, blank hard drive is put in. Hopefully, Apple will change its mind and allow for users to create their own boot disks, whether on USB flash drive or DVD.

Apple’s AirPlay UX for the iPhone needs some work

28 12 2010

Apple pushed out iOS 4.2 with 4.2.1 on November 22. With it came AirPlay, a service that allows users to stream audio, video, and photo content from their iOS-powered devices to a television, stereo, or some other device. The AirPlay UI works by allowing the user to tap a control in the iPod app, next to the “Forward/Next” button to bring up a list of available AirPlay devices on the local network. If there are no available TVs or stereos, the AirPlay button does not appear. This is when a really annoying issue pops up.

AirPlay screenshot This AirPlay UI works well on the iPad. On the iPhone, it could do with some tweaking. In my opinion, Apple is trying to cram too much into the lower portion of its iPod app interface. When there are AirPlay devices available to an iPhone or iPod touch, you have Back, Play/Pause, Forward, and AirPlay put right against each other, leaving little room for error when pressing one of these buttons, the Play/Pause button in particular.

One of my coworkers has AirPlay enabled on his computer at work. Thus, it shows up on my iPhone. On several occasions, I have accidentally hit the Forward button instead of Play/Pause. This is a minor annoyance when I am listening to a 3-minute song. However, this becomes more of an issue when I am halfway through a 90-minute podcast. There is no way to recover from this user error except to manually scrub the track and try to find where you left off.

I have no data on how many iPhone/iPod touch users actually take advantage of AirPlay. It does not seem like a killer app. Apple could probably move the AirPlay control to a place on the UI that is a little more obscure. They could move it to the iPod prefpane, above the track list, or below the track timeline.

Again, this not a fatal flaw, but it is annoying. It feels like a marketing call than a design decision. There are a few alternatives to what they did with this, but this is really not working.