Links referenced in Apple Tablet Chess

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This is the list of links and concepts from my last post some of which are already ready for an Apple Tablet and those concepts which can shift paradigms with more gestures and 3D for the UI and 3D FX within documents too-

3D and Realism

Times RSS Reader
Apple’s GUI Patent of 1995
Magic Cap OS
Headspace Lite
Bee Docs Timeline

VR Shopping and in-app upgrades
iVerse Comics

OpenDoc-like parts/drag-drop tools & services
Circus Ponies Notebook
Speak it

Easy Rich media creation
Magic move in Keynote 09!

Gaming and Entertainment
Dock the tablet into a larger screen- my 2009 wishlist
Wooble iBoobs (not tested, but pinch-shake apps will wobble the adult industry for sure).

As mentioned in the last post Apple used to innovate for survival, today it is in a position to innovate to shake the industry. Whether an Apple tablet shifts paradigm(s) or not, many of the cool apps/ideas on the Mac OS X and iPhone are already begging for a tablet and will change the way we work – in a very big way- by just running/porting them to a tablet.

It is all about is Apple’s Positional karma!
One more day to go!
26 January 2010


Apple ‘Tablet’ Chess

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Apple’s secretive approach is more like poker or bridge, where the others are left guessing. But concepts of chess (where the pieces are visible), can also be applied. We can anticipate natural advances to their core technologies of both the iPhone and the Mac, since a tablet- it better be so on 27th Jan- is in between.

Gradual positonal advances and tactical game changing experiments are imminent! Lets see what kind of chess Apple needs to play…

Apple’s Strategic Anchors- iPhone and Macs
The Mac and the iPhone are well placed as revenue earners and technically solid. 10 years ago Apple innovated to survive. Today it can innovate to unleash something experimental. (Tactics flow from strong positions!). It took many sharp steps for Apple to get here. But now it is time to overhaul some technologies, and shift paradigms…

So lets see which concepts Apple can address, some of which were unfulfilled dreams for Apple and for the industry-

1. Publishing and ebooks
Fluid Positional Play- advance core technologies from what they already are.
This is obviously what everyone is eagerly waiting for. eBooks already look nice- with page flips and annotations on the iPhone. But a tablet will make it look and feel like a book. Apple can, and this is a natural next step. Fluid Positional Play, considering core-quartz FX/transitions already in the OS X.

Scrolling and book dimensions are the major issues when it does not fit the tablet form factor. See Times RSS Reader for a cool newspaper like view for feeds on Mac OS X. But one can expect page tilting (to reduce scrolling) and subtle brightness changes with an accelerometer for enhanced feel.

2. Personalized 3D GUI
Tactical mobility on an open file! The competition is barely just catching up with Expose. 3D is far away.

Remember how an Apple Patent 08/052,865 was supposed to revolutionize a GUI with 3D icons in 1995. Unfulfilled!

Magic Cap tried to simulate a room with real objects (it was brilliant then in 1995), and even today there are 3rd party desktops which swivel and skew to give you a 3D look. But real 3D needs to be touched, not explored with modifier keys.

The road is clear, with multi-touch moving on steroids, and the widgets/icons are begging to be felt! The technical skills of rendering 3D with todays processing power and touch gestures makes this an ‘open file’ with both rooks aligned on it. Apple can then use 3D output in various fields- forcing tactics- to just boost almost all types of display, interaction and report generation.

Fast user switching of Mac OS X accounts already flips desktops as rotating cubes. This could well be the way Spaces works too.

For a feel of navigating space with interactivity try iPhone app Headspace Lite (like Apple’s Hot Sauce Browser in 90s). Or try BeeDocs Timeline (OS X) to get an idea of how a simple timeline can knock you over by 3D skews.

3. Virtual Reality-Shopping
in-app purchases was Apple’s Postional Shot!

Shopping online failed in the 90s because of cumbersome checkout processes and lack of realistic feel of products. The former, has already been solved with an app store and now in-app purchases makes every store or bookshelf- dynamic. iVerse Comics (iPhone app) update a bookshelf by push notifications already.

If the 3D enhancements and touch gestures as indicated earlier, are done, this will pave the way for virtual shopping (what the heck cover flow alone might do it). Again all that is needed is a tablet to deliver goods and content- in a form factor that makes sense. Charging for the delivery is what an in-app purchase is all about. A silent chess shot with definite purpose.

4. OpenDoc, again?
some preparatory moves can be seen… contextual services!

In the 90s when Apple was looking for the next big OS with multi tasking and all that, they worked on OpenDoc- a radical new way to work. There would be no monolithic applications! Just tools which would select themselves, based the ‘part’ you worked in. So every document would be like a layout program with many different parts- images, spreadsheets, text etc. The user could also install tools such as spell checkers from one vendor and say a formatting feature from another… too ambitious for the 90s…

But even though applications will not go away, this was what the internet needed then- as each brilliant programmer and designer could focus on their own niche skills- and the user would stitch the apt tools together. Photoshop plugins are a good example of how every developer does not need to re-invent the core editing program.

But if you see the Mac OS today, you can see widgets/HUDs hovering all over, small drag drop utilities which just do a simple but relevant task well – Collage tools (Posterino), Image sizing (ImageWell). You also have Outliner and Notepad files as a package– which can embed other files of any kind (How about Circus Ponies Notebook on a Tablet?). iWork 09 spreadsheets are already smaller purposeful sections instead of an ugly giant grid.

Most importantly, the services menu is now context sensitive in OS X Snow Leopard. So spell checkers, text expanders and text to speech type services which are universal will perhaps be enhancing the ‘text parts’ in a document, without switching apps. TapIt4Me and Speak it (iPhone apps) are waiting to offer their services to every text snippet – anywhere.

Even if a super-document centric paradigm is not adopted, if each document can host any media/data type and active widgets (web 2.0 style but as local apps), and they can be edited or run in their own ‘part’ – a enhanced document model will be the new big thing.
You will not have to make a presentation- that will be the way you work!

Something tells me that Apple may shock everyone here with a game changing document model… may be not… but for sure hybrid docs which absorb all types of data are a natural progression, sooner or later. (can I please scribble and annotate inside any document?, not just PDFs in Preview or PDFpen).

5. Multimedia for reference/education
forget chess- this just needs a tablet and docking options… (and Hypercard, anyone?)

CD-ROMs were supposed to replace text books? didn’t… they were slow in the 90s, needed a clunky computer to load one. Most importantly, creating a multimedia demo, required fiddl
ing in timelines or lots of programming…

Now with solid state memory and rich media tools, this looks solved. In fact all that is needed is a tablet- the iPhone has some cool AV annotation tools (SonicPics), Diaries/Journals with rich media (Organizer), and with a spotlight like search and tagging mechanism- reference work will be multimedia centric. For a kiosk like presentations- just take a look at how much can be accomplished by just one – magic move in Keynote 09!

6. Network Computing!
Deep positional play- with many silent steps over a few years…

This was yesterday’s promise of Java and Netscape. But it is possible only today with Amazon S3, Dropbox and other clouds, that we can assume to save and open all data from a server. Then any Tablet will be ‘my’ tablet- as the data ain’t in it. But if this will happen, it will happen with small but well planned steps-deep positional play- hosting more apps online, then backing up and synching data online… eventually saving data online.. until we will have an empty tablet- Tabula Rasa! …an iSlate! The Tablet might just silently or incidentally fulfill the network-is-the-computer mantra

7. Gaming and Entertainment
Tactics to get every kid and adult on to the OS X ecology

My awareness about Computer Games is unfortunately not developed beyond chess. I do love sports but am not a Video game buff. But with touch gestures and even basic 3D, there will be scope for a different type of gaming- on the tablet and where the tablet is just an input console for another gaming gadget. (or if we could dock the tablet into a larger screen- see my wishlist).

Also, the entertainment apps invite you to touch, pinch and shake (Wooble iBoobs)…I cannot say how well it works, as I have many other things to buy, but I guess a larger form factor will help… umm this is more about Apple’s chess positions not kamasutra.. though some excel in both (@pogonina, a Chess GM).

8. Augmented Reality (AR)
in another game of chess? with Steve you never can tell though- camera, GPS, action…


So what impact will a successful tablet have, assuming it becomes a must-have gizmo like the iPhone? If Apple does pull of half of what is possible, based on their Positional Advantage, of having a priority on key technologies of modern times – as in the iPhone and OS X – it could get every single tablet buyer to be a Mac user of sorts. Even now, every iPhone user is using a mobile version of OS X, but not really getting any work done- in the desktop sense. So an avid iPhone user is not Mac user, as such.

But the same may not be true for a tablet, which in all likelihood will not just be a content consumption device. If you create or do work on an iSlate – or whatever it is called- you are then close to being a Mac user as well.

In fact, the Mac vs PC wars may be about to end… as the iSlate will convert both of them, gradually… So Apple’s positional path will then be- Mac technologies came to iPhone; both iPhone & Mac+more touch/3D come to an iSlate (now); iSlate technologies back to the Mac (like iPhone touch gestures enhanced Mac trackpads)…

The only major issue, is still about doodling and scribbling, which touch interfaces are weak, since fingertips are not precise and obstruct vision. Either an additional stylus or a virtual one, will surely be needed. Many iPhone apps try to address it in many ways, but Apple needs to nail this.

Let’s see- 27th Jan ain’t far away… 2010 may not just be 2010!

Time to catch up some sleep.

Mumbai, India
24 Jan 2010

Ebooks vs Printed Books (or no reading at all?)

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5 points that ebook gadgets will need to address to be viable alternatives to print.

A blog debate at nytimes about whether our brains like ebooks, has some excellent views across the history of reading, and if humans were meant to read at all.

For instance, Plato disliked reading because it was apparently a ‘new’ distractive medium. Incidentally, I just bought an audiobook of Plato’s Republic (itunes for $1.99). This is great, as the masterpiece is anyway in a dialogue form.

In ancient India, oral traditions of knowledge were the key (partially because there was no printing technology few thousand years ago, but it was about listening more than writing or reading). Sound permeates the space around and mantras had chandas (a meter of specific syllables per quarter-verse) for rhythmic renditions. In fact, letters and words represent the sound they make. So reading is about speaking sentences to yourself.

However, no one can dispute the value of a printed page, which offers parallel pieces of information. Can be distracting or can be useful as a whole, if it is a chart or a graph.

Ok, the debate is, if electronic publishing such as ebooks (with or without audio visual additions) will be viable alternatives to printed books.

Firstly, there is no reason to believe that print will be totally obsolete- just as drawing and painting are still valid art forms even after photography and film have been around for over 150 years. Now it is digital photography… So a book like a drawing- requires ‘no processing’ or rendering on a device. It just ‘works’ when you flip pages.

Now looking at it from the view of ebooks. Based on current options the readers are not quite there. Most gadgets-kindle or whatever-fall flat. The iPhone versions are crisp, but way to small to be meaningful alternatives to print.

So what enhancements are needed for ebooks to be seen as viable alternatives to print?

1. It should feel like a real book!
Yes, we need at least a tablet of 5×7 inches. Then you need a curvy-curly feel with the look of pages/binding etc. If Apple makes a tablet, they will have focused half their efforts on just this aspect. So comparing a yet-to-be-disclosed tablet vs printed books are not meaningful, because half an Apple can overhaul the current state of (pathetic) ebook renderings. … the test for this will be if a book is open on a tablet and lying on a sofa or desk, would you mistake it for a printed book?

2. Free of Distractions.
Since your book and content are electronic, you have an option to keep looking for different options because of widgets, notifications, and just our ever inquisitive behaviour of looking for updates or doing a cover flow of your virtual library.

But just as they overcame distractions in Plato’s time, they can eventually in this era. The device has to impose a stricter locking metaphor. For instance, many writing tools- such as WriteRoom on the Macs black out the screen- windows and icons- so that you can do nothing else but write. If it is a ebook gadget, such an impostion for reading will be needed. Can be done.

Such distractions are valid, for instance, on the iPod as well. Since you can access all your song albums you might tend to not listen to anything specific properly. But nobody can dispute the fact that an ipod is a viable alternative to CDs or tapes. (Of course the main difference between ipod and ebook analogy is that the way we listen to music- the speakers or earphones have remained the same, so an iPod was instantly accepted as a new technology. This is a matter of point 1, above).

3. Fixing/Flexing Book Sizes?
I can tell you that arriving at the right size for a book is one heck of a major time consuming headache (having printed photographic travel guides, in postcard size and mini-coffee table format). When you print, the sheet sizes of a press have to be fully utilized in order to save costs. This is not much of issue for novels, but for photographic books, you want a large size for impact and for convenience you need a small one (especially in travel).

So the ebook will solve this problem? Not sure!
Scalabilty of content has progressed (for sure) since two decades of desktop publishing. PDF and Postscript were invented exactly for this- to scale shapes and fonts- and to render on screen and print in a consistent manner. Safari on the iPhone displays web content brilliantly with pinch-zoom…. but wait.. is not our point 1 about a feel of the book? If you pinch-zoom-scroll then it is not like a real book!

However, this does not mean that when content does not fit in a tablet or display, you undermine the medium just because of scrolling or zooming.

But this issue of size, is where utmost caution will be needed by designers of ebook gadgets-

a) those books which can fit the display, they need to make sure the zoom options are kept off the interface and users are forced to dig in if they need to zoom, (only it they must). Perhaps revert to normal page size when powered on/off/or launched. When all is exact, let it look real!

b) When the content does not fit display, use an overall containing frame as ‘virtual’ magazine or newspaper. The internal areas can then follow conventional zoom, scroll mouseover etc.

The Times Reader (RSS) by Dustin Macdonald on Mac OS X – does a brilliant job off fitting dynamic content within a look of a newspaper, with headlines and articles flowing into allocated columns. The overall newspaper look is of fixed size, but content flows in, and then details can be viewed (as in RSS summary and full page etc).

I would also love to see what I have mentioned in a earlier blog- to dock an ipod touch into many CPU-less tablets of various sizes

4. Annotation and scribbling as if it is paper.
A lot of avid readers love books because of the ability to mark, highlight and scribble notes on the pages. The digital medium should do this better than print (Preview, the default Mac viewer already does a basic job), and if openURL is adopted then referencing other books in a collection will just take research and referencing to new levels.

Also, for touch based devices the disadvantage of accurate scribbling an annotation has to be addressed! see tweet

5. Text to speech cannot be ignored.
Audio books by real people narrating a story is great. But Text to speech (TTS) has made huge strides. Alex the new voice introduced in Mac OS X Leopard was is an indication of how natural it can be. So listening to text rendered by a computer should not be underestimated. My first podcast on a famous cricket match after Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 was using TTS.

We may be in for an era of listening and r
eading to go hand in hand. Both are after all sequenced forms of communication. I do it all the time, rather than print. Relaxing my eyes and saving trees as well!

16 Oct 2009

Scalable iTablets!

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We can have tablets from 5×7 inches (personal) to 2 feet (tables at work/library/copy center) if required. Scalable iTablets! They only have logic for touch and display and if feasible networking.

iPodTouch 64Gb has more speed and space than Mac minis and iBooks just few years back… It is slimmer than iPhones, so if docked into tablets, overall thickness will be acceptable.

To begin with Apple will (if) roll out tablets which are monolithic… but it will be really disappointing if we cannot have touch/display devices for various purposes but which use the CPU/Data consistently from one source- your iPod….

Mumbai India
Retweet this

@saumilzx #ideas #wishlist 091006.1

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In 1999 my iMac was 233Mhz, had 128Mb RAM and 12Gb space.I also had a Powerbook Duo laptop in the early ’90s, with a dock (monitor, keyboard, mouse no CPU). The laptop was grayscale, but when docked, it became a desktop Mac with thousands of colors.. when done, eject laptop like a floppy… and go.

2009: iTablet or iMac or whatever, can perhaps be sold in different form factors, at low cost- just as screen with a docking slot… hmm…iPodTouch is already 64Gb, 500Mhz+… please!!!

Mumbai, India
8 Oct 2009

Retweet launches automated podcast of blogs

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Hi friends,

I will be provided automated audio productions of my blogs and views as podcast XMLs.

My first podcast is the version of my recent blog about the Chennai Test and Tendulkar’s performance.
For the podcast URL:
Bookmark Cricket Podcast

Since this is based on text to speech technology, you might often get inflection issues and varying pronunciation of proper nouns. Yet, I believe the audio is very legible and hope you can enjoy it. I will also try to get my voice in often, but this automation is smooth for most needs.

Good luck

iPhone 3G delivers the Original Internet Promise?

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I have always maintained that the commercial fallout of the internet and B2C in the 90s was not due to ‘revenue model’ issues. It was the interface, stupid! And the interface is not just a point and click thing- it about the way you interact with the machine to accomplish tasks- or rather avoiding those cumbersome things that you should not be doing, which undermine the very ‘reach-out’ advantage of the net.

What was, or rather is needed for B2C to succeed is tracking user identity and therby enabling smooth payment processing, and an assurance to the user that he will be able to get what he paid for. Also assurance is needed that the user will not misuse what he pays for, by eSharing it. Then one could pay 10 cents for a cybercard, without filling up forms and learning various shopping cart interfaces- not to mention the dozens of passwords to be managed. If you like something, and I am willing to pay the price, it should be done, without any further interaction. Also, the buyer must not be able copy-paste and misuse content.

The promise of simplicity of buying and paying for something is perhaps here at last. The user now just has to decide what he wants and whether the price is right or not- rather than wait for Javascript to tell you that your zip code is incorrect! The iPhone/iTunes System is perhaps delivering the original promise of the internet, today, which could have been done years ago by prepaid internet cards to track users and products and pay as you go- but without getting into mechanics of forms and e-commerce nonsense.

Go Apple, go! They better not mess up in India! Every rural and small town in Asia needs the iPhone/iTunes app & content distribution- not just to buy stuff but to be able to publish their little dreams and earn just enough to live on and dream another day…

15 July 2008

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