Posts Tagged ‘apple’

Voice and Integrated Computing: What Now?

Monday, October 24th, 2011

A few months ago, I was at the Engadget Show listening to Steve Wozniak answer a question about where he thought computing was headed. His answer? Voice. At the time, I was sitting there thinking to myself “Nah, no way.”

Wow, was I wrong.

Photo: Pleated Jeans

Fast-forward to late last week. I had a fascinating conversation with Georgia Tech’s Keith McGreggor about what Siri is beginning to do to the way we interact with devices. My initial thoughts were (and to a small degree still are) that it’s unnatural to talk to a phone for the purpose of voice commands. Granted, the same thing is essentially happening when you’re talking on the phone or on Skype, but in that case, you know that an actual person is on the other end.

But in the case of Siri, is there a person on the other end? We’re starting to see the personification of computing; you’re not talking to the “Voice Activated Command Module”, you’re talking to Siri. When the release first came out, I was a little confused as to why Apple didn’t rebrand Siri to something more Apple-esque, like “Assistant” or “Navigator”. But then I thought about the personal touch that “Siri” gives. There’s even a few people named Siri. It’s human, it’s natural, and it works.

To take it a step further, it’s really mind-blowing to think about what happens if (but more likely when) this voice interaction becomes not only natural and comfortable, but integrated with everything we do. Keith mentioned the idea of building Siri into Apple TV and being able to walk into the living room, sit down, and say “Let’s watch some football.” (I wouldn’t say that myself, but you get the point).

Even cooler would be to see this tie into an Internet of Things – walk into your kitchen, say “Huh, I’m feeling like some toast”, and have two slices of bread drop from the celling into a just-activated toaster. Slight joke, but the idea stands. When Siri opens up and becomes a platform, a medium for other devices, that’s where it gets big.

And we’re only at the beginning of the beginning.

Microsoft: What’s in Store?

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

I stopped into the brand-new Microsoft Store in Atlanta on opening day last Friday. On the whole, it’s something that needs to be done for the sake of unifying hardware with Windows, but I wasn’t totally sold on the execution.

What could have been better

Remind you of anything?

Boy, were they trying hard. Even down to individual elements, design inspiration from Apple was very obvious. Pricetags next to each machine looked very similar to the inclined plane-esque placards that used to grace the Apple Store (before the iPads), and the screens wrapping around the wall were probably the exact same dimensions as their upstairs counterpart. I could go on about the similarities – everywhere you look, the physical design screams Cupertino.

The music inside was also a little too loud; I couldn’t hear much outside of the blasting of Ke$ha. Hopefully that was just a little first-day overzealousness, but that extended past the decor. The employees were really aggressive in approaching people; walking in felt like being in a gauntlet of being asked how I’m doing, if I needed any help, or if I knew that “this computer is touchscreen!”. At the Apple Store, the employees are bombarded by the customers, but at the Microsoft Store, the customers are bombarded by the employees.

What they got right

Even if the idea was far from original, there’s an interesting twist on the wraparound wall displays: they’re actual screens, not just sheets advertising products. Information about different products is rotating marquee-style, and even cooler, Xboxes are connected in certain areas and can be played on the screens.

Two Microsoft Surfaces were also sitting out - if nothing else, this is the one element that makes the store unique. Most of the people that’ll come in from foot traffic will likely have never seen a Surface before, so at least for a while, it’ll be a good way to generate buzz.

Big picture

Over time, the idea of the store will come to settle with people, and if you’re genuinely looking to buy a PC, it’s one of the better environments for buying a PC that I’ve seen. I doubt it’ll convert many Mac users, but it’s a great option for the existing base of Windows fans who are itching to buy a new machine.

Tech Trends: Week of 4/18/2011

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Admittedly, this post should probably be titled “Apple Trends” – the past week’s been pretty saturated with fruit. So be it.

iPhone location tracking

In a blowup that we’ve all heard about, iOS 4′s been discovered to store a file, consolidated.db, that contains latitude and longitude coordinates of its location history.  The issue’s hit the mainstream news, and a good amount of people are now freaking out that “Apple knows where I am”. It’s important to understand that the file is stored locally, not on Apple’s servers. Maybe I’ve been conditioned by the use of Foursquare and the like, but I don’t see a huge cause for concern. The lack of user consent is a little disconcerting, but as long as users act with responsibility in the security of their device, there shouldn’t be an opportunity for anyone to snatch the file. That means don’t jailbreak, install OpenSSH, and leave the default password.

iPhone 5 (4S) buzz building

It’s been pretty well-circulated that the iPhone 5 won’t be coming until after June, and if Reuters is anywhere near the mark, it looks like September is the magic month. The next-generation phone’s also being rumored to sport an A5 processor; BGR somehow picked up a T-Mobile test device which backs up the theory. Deetz on the naming scheme weren’t given, but I’d hope Apple continues with “iPhone 5″ for the sake of consistency, although my bets are on the rumored “iPhone 4S” based on the history of “3G” and “3GS”. Both are consistent in their own right, though, depending if you compare it to numerical progressions or past devices.

Apple sues Samsung…and vice versa

Apple’s suing Samsung based on allegations that TouchWiz has too many user interface similarities to iOS.  I’ve never used a Samsung device full-time, but I’m not sold on the similarities between the two platforms, especially when a lawsuit’s in play. The whole idea of skinning Android has never been something I’m fond of, but Apple’s taking the wrong approach in granularly comparing color schemes and icons. An OS shouldn’t be defined by textbook UI elements, but by the overall feeling that washes over the user when using the device. In that respect, TouchWiz can’t *touch* iOS; unfortunately, that “overall feeling” is extremely difficult to quantify. So let’s just sue each other.

Phat beats in the cloud

Reuters is at it yet again, claiming that Apple’s positioned to beat Google to market in rolling out a cloud music storage platform. Regardless of internal progress, I doubt Apple will announce anything too soon, even at WWDC. The scenario that makes the most sense to me would be an expansion of their typical September music event to include the unveiling of the iPhone 5/4S in conjunction with the music service. The race to 1.0 probably won’t be as huge of a deal as it’s being made out to be, though – both Apple and Google have a solid base of users, and each platform’s users will end up using the respective service independent of the other.

Thoughts? Nervously looking around and taking a hammer to your iPhone? Supporting Apple or Samsung in the series of lawsuits? Comment away!