Recent posts

by Jehuda Saar

CarPlay Diem


Wherever you turn these days people are talking about "the internet of things" and "wearable computing". Typically what people are on about is either Google Glass or the much whispered about but totally unknown entity referred to as the "iWatch". Of course most people are wondering why one would want to bother with another piece of computing equipment, like a smart-watch, that you would have to charge constantly, synchronize and otherwise take care of incessantly, as if our smartphone didn't require enough attention already.

To me some of the answer came a few days ago when Apple introduced CarPlay. The idea behind CarPlay is to provide you an in-car user experience that is consistent with what you have come to expect from your iPhone. But make no mistake: the brains of this system remains your iPhone. CarPlay itself is not an independent computer system in your car. It simply projects iPhone controls onto your car dashboard system. 

And that is how I imagine Apple's next step into wearable computing will be as well. Assuming it is a watch, it could very well be something like this extremely well thought out concept by Mr Gabor Balogh of Budapest, Hungary. All the watch needs to be is a window into some of your iPhone's functionality, and preferably with an elegant interface (as in this concept). 

But somehow I have a feeling that Apple will go much further. As described in this piece in The Economist, the possibilities for true wearable computing are endless, and focusing only on glasses or watches is showing a lack of imagination. 


C-ing Ahead

Two concept videos of next generation iPhones: the iPhone Air and the iPhone 6C. Can't say the 6C concept excites me too much, but I really like the Air-concept. See for yourselves.


App World

Squarespace came out with a line of apps that are just too cool for words. I am testing the Blog app right now while writing these words. The idea is that I should be able to contribute to my site from an iOS device without giving it a second's thought. And you know what ? IT WORKS !!! Amazingly well. I am bound to use this app more often going forward. 

I also recently discovered that anyone can finally have a blog. So far I only ran a simple test and found that web app to be elegant, simple and fascinating all at once. Blogging is definitely alive and well, and digital reading probably only just in its infancy. Exciting times ahead.  



It has been a long time since I posted on this site. The move to Geneva and getting back to corporate life will have that effect. But from a tech perspective the move has also been quite interesting, forcing me to get reacquainted with the "wonderful" life of Wintel, and I will no doubt find fresh material to mine on that front. More to come soon. 



Quite some speculation out there about iOS7. Did Jony Ive have enough time to make dramatic changes to the look of the new operating system ? ​How "Flat" will the new user interface be ? We'll know in a few weeks, no doubt. But for now we can let our imagination wander. Some have gone as far as creating a concept video of what it might look like. Until WWDC, let's dream.


Taking the complexity out of "Search"

Here is another exciting Kickstarter project that is clearly a harbinger of things to come. As you can see in this little video, CamFind's concept is "mobile visual search". Google already introduced this concept with Google Goggles, but the people behind CamFind say their technology is at least 4 times more accurate.

It is however easy to imagine what would happen if you combined this sort of tech with something like Google Glass. In essence the entire process you see here taking place on an iPhone would actually happen right in your field of vision. People around you wouldn't even be aware of the fact that you are busy researching them or checking out how much they paid for their furniture or new outfit. 

Just as exciting as it is creepy, no ?



A little over a week ago Apple came out with a cute little ad for Christmas. A young girl plays "I'll Be Home for Christmas" to her granddad using FaceTime. 

The makers of the app Futulele have seemingly one-upped Apple with their own version of that song. Very cool, especially since you consider that Apple's ad aired on December 22 and that Futulele's version was uploaded on December 23. The kind of quick turnaround video production I like to be involved with myself.


WhatsApp with you ?


Disturbing news: FaceBook might be interested in buying WhatsApp. The question is of course what FB is after. If all they need is the long list of WA users, WA won't be long for this world. If they truly want to continue to provide the WA service, the concern raised at the end of this piece is quite right: how will free and advertising-driven FB deal with the advertising-free and not so free app model that drives WA ? Could make for a messy marriage.


I see the light

While browsing around in one of London's Apple Stores I came across a product I had heard about before but hadn't paid much attention to: Philips' Hue Personal Wireless Lighting. The video you can see here makes the product look cool, even though I am not yet sure how useful such a product is once the novelty wears off.

But it was clear that before long someone was going to tinker with the system and come up with some new uses for it. In this case the honour falls to a young man by the name of Brandon Evans who realised that by using the Siri development plugin combined with the fact that the HUE bulbs are IP-controllable, you can end up walking around your house issuing verbal commands to lights and see things change all around you as if my magic. The shape of things to come.

SiriProxy Hue from Brandon Evans on Vimeo.



Truth in Advertising

When Apple introduced the iPad Mini last month, they of course ran an ad for the new machine. The ad was cute, it was the piano ad shown below.

But you knew more would come soon. And Apple did not disappoint. Two new ads were just issued. I find one of them much better than the other and I won't even force you to guess. I think the ad showing off iPhoto is a lot better than the one with iBooks, but judge for yourselves.


No Speculation Zone...OK I'm lying

​Tomorrow Apple will holding what is expected to be the great iPad (mini) event. Just like with the introduction of the iPhone 5, a lot seems to be known about this new product. Spy photos of pretty much every part of this smaller iPad have been circulating around for weeks now, so not much is left to the imagination. And yet, some crucial things are not known yet:

  • What will be the product's name​ ?
  • What price points will it sell at ?
  • What sort of screen will it have ?
  • Will it have just WiFi or LTE as well ?

I won't speculate on much of the above. ​Others are much better equipped to do so. I will make one prediction though. No it won't be about the price. If Apple wanted to deal a death-blow to the rest of the industry, it would price the entry level model at $199. Even the Kindle Fire wouldn't survive that. But, hey, this is Apple we're talking about. Could they sell it at such a price and still make money ? I believe they could. Chances are the display will be non-retina. Apple have achieved economies of scale with the iPhone 3GS and the iPad2 that would enable them to go really low on this one. But they won't. We've heard rumors of prices hovering between $249 and $329. I have no doubt that even at those higher prices Apple will break sales records with these machines, but it won't be as "market-dominating" as pricing at below $200. 

No, my prediction is about something else entirely. Last January Apple took pains to unveil their iBooks strategy, and specifically the iBooks Author program that enables mere mortals to easily create beautiful textbooks for school and college going students. ​The main bottleneck for the success of that program was the price of the vehicle it required. Very few school districts could afford to buy large quantities of iPads for their students. So the tools were there, but the vehicle went missing. Until tomorrow. I believe that Apple will tout this new iPad category as the ideal school and college companion. I have a feeling much of tomorrow's presentation will focus on that particular function for this new device. Chances are they will introduce a new version of iBooks Author, and maybe even a new version of iBooks itself. 

Of course there will be other highlights: maybe a new retina 13 inch MacBook Pro, possibly a revamped Mac Mini, but in my opinion we should be paying attention to the iBooks move. Many people have had the vision of "a computer for every child"​ for years now, but this new iPad, whatever its name, could well bring this vision that much closer to reality.



Synergy Squared

I will be the first to admit: I am a sucker for fancy notebooks and beautiful pens. A few years ago this led me to discover Moleskine notebooks. As much as I enjoy using computers and other digital gear to get things done, ​I would always come back to manual note-taking for telephone conversations and certain face to face meetings. 

On the other hand you all know me as a sucker for tech and getting things done digitally whenever possible. ​A few years back this has led me to discover Evernote and I have never looked back since. With Evernote nothing ever gets lost, ideas get recorded and saved to the cloud instantaneously, and you achieve "total recall".  

Now imagine these two concepts somehow meeting: the Moleskine notebook and the Evernote online service. Sounds crazy, right ? Not really: the two companies got together and came up with "The Evernote Smart Notebook designed by Moleskine".​ I can finally indulge those two seemingly opposing urges of saving things both in the analog as well as the digital space. It seems there are other geeks like me out there. I am not alone anymore, maybe I never was.


What are they actually guilty of then ?


The Map App debacle reminds me of Antennagate: the last time everyone went crazy saying Apple had so dramatically screwed up, the game was over. A lot of noise for absolutely nothing. Then it was Consumer Report making a mountain out of a molehill: if you held your iPhone 4 just so (and you really had to make an effort to hold it THAT way), you could loose your connection. This time again it is mostly pundits and so called "experts" making a lot of noise for not much.​

Why do I say that ? Very simply: Apple HAD to release Maps, in its current form, and better now than later, or too late. ​And, yes, I agree, there are some problems with the new iOS 5 Maps App. That much is undeniable. But there are still problems with Siri as well, and what both these products have in common is the fact that they can ONLY be made better by getting millions of people to use them every day. So Apple HAD to come out with a product that wasn't all there yet, because what is happening right now is part of the process of making that product better. 

Let's be honest. Personally I have never used the old Maps app on the iPhone. I have been a dedicated Waze users for years now. ​So this change really doesn't affect me immediately in any way. I don't know why anyone would in fact have used the pre-iOS 6 Maps app at all, it didn't have turn-by-turn directions. But I do fault Apple for one thing. There is one aspect of this that they handled badly. At the introduction of iOS 6 they touted the new Maps app as the greatest thing since sliced bread. That is the one thing they should have better prepared for. They oversold that product. A little more humility would have gone a long way towards managing expectations. I'm not saying the "cognoscenti" wouldn't have raised their voices in horror, but maybe the story would have made a little bit less noise. As is, Tim Cook's apology went a long way towards calming things down. Before long this story too will be forgotten, or at least it will fade in memory. The naysayers will have to come up with some new wrongdoing by Apple, but the iPhone 5 will continue to sell like hotcakes, and the public will continue to vote with their wallets.


He says it much better than I ever will

​In one of his classic pieces for Cult Of Mac entitled "Why the iPhone 5 is Too Radical" Mike Elgan explains brilliantly what "the Apple Way" is exactly:

Apple is the ultimate “Why?” company. Every new feature faces a harsh spotlight of inquiry. Why is now the right time to launch an NFC-based digital wallet? (It’s not the right time.) Why is now the right time to add a fingerprint reader. (It’s not.) Why add a hologram?

He contrasts it nicely with other companies, like Google, who are the ultimate "Why not?" companies. They'll stick anything under the sun to a new device just cause they can. He also explains clearly that the "pundits" are out of touch with the common users and to what extent the gap between those who write about technology and those who actually use it on a day to day basis is widening every day. ​

That being said: I still don't own an iPhone 5, I haven't even held one in my hands yet. I best refrain from "reviewing" it until such time as I have some real-world experience with it.​


Good Silly Stuff

​You have to admire the creativity of the people involved with these two spoof videos about the iPhone 5. The point is that the "real" Apple video introducing the iPhone 5 actually felt like a spoof in and of itself. See for yourself. Watch the two funny ones and compare it to the "serious" one. If you have been watching these 'intro" video every time Apple comes out with a new product, you know it is impossible to take them seriously anymore. I love the company, but time to "innovate" on the intro-video front.

And finally the "real" one.