Posts Tagged ‘appstore’

Austin ridesharing reminds me of Chinese protectionism

Its no secret that a lot of the Internet economy in China is fuelled by protectionism. A reddit user managed to post some service equivalents.

In May 2016, I landed in Austin to see that there were no more pickups in Austin. I took exactly two cabs during my stay (to/from the airport), and walked everywhere I needed to go. It wasn’t a great experience as the weather was pretty bad as well, and Paul Graham also chimed in. Apparently there are hacks to get around to using Uber in Austin, but I’ve never bothered to use them (that article also talks about the requirements beyond just background checks BTW).

People get creative naturally – they started a Facebook group, so much so the police have started to crackdown.

But I’m starting to see all these other services crop up that presumably abide by whatever Austin asks for:

  • at the airport, ads at the baggage carousel for FARE (some news about their launch)
  • at the hotel I saw a brochure for Wingz which promises pre-booking, flat rates, surge-free and around town you pay a minimum of $20, and to get to/from the airport its a $25 minimum.
  • at the hotel again, I saw a brochure for Fasten with a $20 off my first ride promo code as well (their font initially made me look for “faston” instead of “fasten”).
  • Get me via an email from the hotel informing me that I wouldn’t be able to use Uber/Lyft in Austin.
  • zTrip was also in said similar email as above.

So its not that Austin doesn’t like ridesharing. And with time, presumably enough people will complain so we will see Lyft and Uber make their way back. This week I’m walking around Austin as well (its 38C, but thats better than rain I guess). But it sure feels very protectionist.

Apps are the new channels

<tl;dr>Video is going to be big. Apps that have video in them are going to be awesome. Multimedia on your iPad/tablet device is where it’s at for learning. Read on for 3 trends that I’ve noticed.</tl;dr>

John Gruber today said on the Bloomberg TV+ for the iPad:

This is the future of TV. The full Bloomberg news channel, free of charge, on your iPad. Apps are the new channels.

I remembered reading a couple of days back, Mark Suster talking about how he invested in TreeHouse (formerly known as Think Vitamin). Think Vitamin gives you high quality video training to keep you on the cutting edge of web development. It is a curated Udemy. They both have their space – I’d like to see it like TV programming versus YouTube programming.

Some takeaway from Mark Suster’s post: American’s watch 5.3 hours of television per day! Americans read less than an hour a day!!!

Learning by video is useful. Smarter universities are opensourcing their classes — not only the slides and notes, but they’re also putting audio & video online too. Some more progressive ones are even allowing you to take part in the class via an online enrollment, completely free (see Stanford’s Introduction to Databases).

It seems that Jason Calacanis has pivoted Mahalo yet again. After some layoffs, the company is pivoting from videos to apps. The blame seems to lie on Google’s Panda updates in where highly optimized SEO sites get hit. YouTube’s affiliate fees are probably not paying the bills.

So the pivot is to make instructional apps for the iPad that not only incorporate video, but some text of the techniques behind it. See apps like Learn Guitar, Learn Pilates, How to Draw!, and Walkthrough for Angry Birds. All the apps cost USD$9.99 with the exception of the Angry Birds walkthrough.

Why will this pivot work? Because instead of the web browser and search being the medium, you’re letting the App Store be the search engine. The web browser is now the app. The videos are already made, existing in Mahalo’s bank. You can download the videos if need be (I bet they are huge). And you’re bound to find it more useful to consume on your iPad rather than on your computer screen or TV.

There are many how-to books like The Complete Idiots Guide, et al. They sell for about USD$20-30 a pop. Why not get access to videos? Read text. Learn by doing with multimedia. This was the promise of Microsoft Encarta for example.

Instructional videos are very popular. I know friends in their 20s learning how to cook or even apply make-up techniques via YouTube videos. I also know people realizing that the iPad is very handy to be reading/watching videos while on the lounge, lying in bed, etc. Its also a lot easier to prop an iPad up to learn how to play the guitar than it is to bring your laptop there. Touch will allow easier pausing/skipping/etc. compared to a remote control.

The trend seems to be that of videos. We learn by seeing.

I was in Berlin recently, and visited the Topography of Terror. I read about this and the events that are explained there for O Level History. I felt connected by seeing pictures, reading additional texts, and more. Imagine the future of education: I deep-dive into a subject like this, and I can skim things a lot easier with multimedia available to me. I’ll understand a lot better & quicker than just reading pages and pages of fairly boring text.

So, are apps the new channels? I think Gruber is on to something. As are Suster and Calacanis.

Chrome Web Store – AppStore for Web?

Google recently launched a Chrome Web Store. The web browser has always had an “appstore” model, considering you could have extensions and plugins. Firefox popularised this.

What the Firefox add-on‘s appstore does not have yet, is paid apps. You can donate to applications, but you can’t buy applications. The Chrome Web Store allows purchasing applications, as evidenced by their top paid apps page. We’re generally already used to buying desktop apps (I write this using MarsEdit which I purchased, and on my toolbar I can already see OmniOutliner and TextMate). If the future is living in your web browser, you will end up buying apps within your web browser. Google is pushing this lifestyle with their ChromeOS Cr-48 notebook.

You get everything you need for the Chrome browser in the web store. Apps (extension of web pages), Extensions (your add-ons), Themes and they also have curated collections (holidays, students, et al).

In other news, go download WOT. You don’t even have to restart Chrome to have it working. This is a bonus over installing stuff on Firefox (though I hear, Firefox 4 will allow you to install extensions without restarting the browser too). I also installed Chrome for a Cause during the one week where the more tabs you opened up, the more you could donate for a cause.

Do you have a favourite Chrome extension/app? Anything I must try?

Apple opens up Podcasts, iTunes U in Malaysia

I just noticed this: Apple now not only sells you apps in the AppStore in Malaysia, but you can also download podcasts and iTunes U content, using your Malaysian iTunes Store account. This is a big change, considering the directory was not available, this time last year. I believe this change is mostly international, across all iTunes stores.

Incidentally, you can now also buy iPad apps in the AppStore (yet, you cannot get an iPad from Apple or any of their authorised resellers; people are generally price gouging you now with their parallel imports). So what do you get in the Malaysian AppStore today?

  1. Apps: iPhone, iPad
  2. Podcasts
  3. iTunes U podcasts

So what’s missing? Music, Movies, TV Shows, and Audiobooks. I guess that’s stuff we should look forward to, in the future.

This could be big for podcasters in Malaysia/Singapore. Audio, video content can go into the directories. We’re getting faster Internet. And there are a lot of iOS-devices out there, which now may have yet another reason to use iTunes (and maybe purchase apps at the same time). Kudos Apple, we’ve waited long enough.

The iPad: Early-experience notes

I was initially unsure if I would like to buy an iPad when asked many a time, and my usual response was “let’s see it first”. Then I saw it. It didn’t take a couple of minutes of playing with it, and looking at it, that I decided that I must get it. A week later, the Apple Store still gets queues in the morning (when I went there was no queue – a pre-requisite for me even entering the store), and they’re all out of 16GB models. In fact, the 32GB models are hard to come by. So I got a 64GB model – oops! Here are my early-experience notes:

  1. I like the form factor. Its a bit heavy (try holding it on left hand, typing with right hand for long periods of time). Brushed aluminium on the back, and it seems like my MacBook Pro – I doubt its going to get scratched easily. The screen is like an iPhone/iPod Touch’s, and it smudges similarly – not too badly. I doubt its going to scratch easily, which is probably why Apple can’t be bothered with screen protectors.
  2. Speed. The A4 processor is totally amazing! Scrolling is easy, changing from an app to another is snappy, I’m totally amazed.
  3. The battery life is totally amazing. A4 processors in an iPhone in the future might help. But I also think there’s a huge battery here. One thing to remember – there’s a special 10W USB Power Adapter to charge the iPad. So even when you grab the Apple World Travel Kit, you don’t get a compatible adapter. The standard iPod/iPhone one only outputs 0.15A of power, while the iPad one gives it 0.45A. They may even be the same size, but they’re not the same. In fact, when you pick up 3rd party power adapters that have USB chargers… you’ll find its not rated high enough for the iPad.
  4. Activation process is interesting. The device will not work until you connect it to your computer. It has to be running iTunes 9.1 (so I had to reboot my laptop to get this going). It was simple. Of course I have a Malaysian iTunes account, and for this to work, I needed a US iTunes account. No iPad Apps unless you have a US account. No credit card that has a US-based start, so I can’t buy apps yet. I consider this to be a major fail and think Apple should stop limiting folk to regions – its retarded. I’ll have to go buy lots of gift cards soon…
  5. Typing on the touch screen is surprisingly easy. Portrait mode – check. Landscape mode – check.
  6. I don’t know what the WiFi troubles are all about (just yet). I am currently travelling and using an Airport Express. I hope when I get back home, it “just works” with my current access points.
  7. iBook only gets installed the first time you connect to the AppStore. Winnie the Pooh is the story of choice – why? The interface reminds me very much of Delicious Library. The management of this is via iTunes.
  8. Standard iPhone apps work. They don’t necessarily look pretty – sitting in the middle and all that. People are going to want to get their apps working on this platform, fast.
  9. It has a pretty good speaker. It comes with no headphones, so if you don’t want to be annoying, spend USD$29 and get yourself a pair from Apple.
  10. The screen has an interesting wallpaper. It looks like the iPad had been scratched. Tsk tsk.
  11. I bought a dock. The keyboard dock isn’t available for sale yet. But it can already work with a Bluetooth keyboard. I’m excited to try this working, so I can type fast on my iPad.
  12. The guy at the Apple Store told me he returned his Apple-made iPad case. To make matters worse, the store was out of stock. So I bought an Incase one. With a zip (the other one had a retarded design). I have no complaints here.
  13. Watching YouTube videos are nice. I highly recommend giving it a try. In fact, watching videos are quite pleasant on this large screen. Its about the size you get in an airplane…
  14. The accelerometer is very active. There exists a screen rotation lock – totally useful when you’re lying in bed and reading.
  15. I tried out the Maps application. Interesting. There should be a digital compass. No assisted-GPS or using the nearest cell to find you, but I tried to find my location and it was pretty accurate just based on what must have been the IP address. I’m not complaining. Maps would be good for this kind of device, and my model does not have an A-GPS, but I don’t really think I’ll be needing it.
  16. This is not a netbook replacement. You just can’t access your media that easily. In fact, iTunes is such a horrendous way to manage all this. I’d have preferred if I could drag & drop things onto my iPad. Not all media will get on your iPad easily, quite naturally. Mac users are probably used to Perian, but such an application does not exist for the iPhone/iPad. I presume converting lots of media to a format that is capable for the iPad/iPhone.


  1. I’ve had an iPod Touch for years (I bought the first generation when it was announced, from the same Apple Store in San Francisco that I got this iPad years ago). I’ve never downloaded this many apps, or felt like paying for stuff, until owning the iPad. Colour me impressed.
  2. iPad apps cost a lot of money. NetNewsWire which might be free on the Mac desktop, come free on the iPhone, unless you get the Premium edition for $4.99, costs a mere $9.99 on the iPad! Instapaper has a free version for the iPhone, a Pro version for $4.99, and on the iPad it costs the same. Time charges you for every issue you buy – why? I’d rather read the dead tree edition at airports.
  3. The Bloomberg application (which I use on Symbian S60, BlackBerry, iPod Touch, and now iPad) is truly a thing of beauty. If you’re a finance geek, love the stock markets, and spend some time on it, you’ll want an iPad just for it. Charts, etc. are totally amazing at that size. And the touch interface is totally rocking.
  4. I am a bit disappointed that the Remote iPhone app from Apple to control Keynote does not work as an iPad native app. I would love to use my iPad as a clicker, compared to my iPod touch. Why? I can see my speaker notes, etc. on a larger screen. It becomes totally useful. Remember, I don’t want to give a presentation on my iPad – I still want to use my laptop; I just want to be able to walk around and use the iPad as a large clicker and see things on my screen. I have yet to purchase Pages or Keynote yet, I wonder if I’ll ever purchase Numbers? All $9.99 a pop.
  5. I played around with Adobe Ideas. Nice.
  6. Evernote is a must have application. It “just works”. I think its much better than the Notes application that Apple bundles.
  7. Don’t bother buying an iPad without an iTunes account. You’ll want to be buying apps to make it useful/interesting.
  8. Its funny they did not embed a PDF reader. You have to download (mostly buy) one.
  9. Having two copies of apps is stupid. For example, I have Wikipanion for iPad and Wikipanion for iPhone/iPod Touch. One is the regular, nice size, and one is about half the size (aka iPhone size).

Games? I’m the last to judge. I don’t play games. ‘Nuff said.

Developers? Go get your app in there during the land rush grab. I wonder if these premium prices on apps will last, or if its just a fad. Are people willing to spend a lot more on apps here? The iPhone AppStore is basically killed by $0.99-1.99 apps. Its hard to break out of those price points unless you’re uniquely providing value. On the iPad? For the near future, you can do whatever it is you want, and people are bound to play with it as the initial hype is there. Once it becomes more commonplace, I expect apps to get cheaper, and more free apps to become more high quality.

What will I use it for? So far, I’m browsing lots of stuff in Safari. I’m writing notes in Evernote. I’m checking out a lot of apps (Marvel is neat, some news apps, Twitter apps, etc.). The Bloomberg application just rocks. I’ve not seen much of this “just work” with the cloud – I can imagine Apple is working on this. Maybe I’ll finally purchase a .Mac account. Copy/Paste isn’t as seamless, in my opinion. Multitasking would make it a whole lot more useful – but then again, me switching apps at the moment is almost instantaneous, so it already feels like I’m multitasking.

Will I get the 3G version? Nope. First off, this whole micro-SIM will be a big issue for me (no provider in Malaysia supports it). Next, where do I use this – probably mostly at home, in a hotel room, or on a plane. What about a cafe? Well, I’ll carry around my portable 3G WiFi device and all will be well. What if you’re on a train/bus? The 3G connection will probably be unreliable as the cells switch, I would get pretty annoyed with connection drops. Besides, I don’t use data when roaming, so another minus for the 3G edition.

What’s missing? I’d like to grab the Camera Connector. Maybe someone will make a 3rd party GPS. Could be useful for mapping nuts, especially since it won’t be an A-GPS. I’m still contemplating spending USD$29 on the dock connector to VGA adapter. I don’t know if I’ll ever do a presentation using my iPad. I’d much rather use the Keynote Remote… if they make an iPad version.

Is this replacing my Sony Reader PRS-505? I’m not sure. One’s e-ink. One isn’t. I haven’t read on the iPad long enough to know if its going to annoy me or not (in iBooks, that is). Reading in Safari is very comfortable.

On why the iPhone isn’t ready for the Malaysian market

I have lamented before, that Apple should sell the device, in more markets, especially here in Malaysia. I experimented with grabbing one here, and it turned out to be a pleasant experience. I can only sing praises for iWorld’s customer service, and quick delivery, and more.

But I think I’ve come to a realisation as to why the iPhone 3G is not ready for the Malaysian market yet, despite it being a groundbreaking device. So assuming you’re pining for one, you might want to think again, and settle for what is available in the market currently.

  1. The camera is nothing to shout about – who cares for a 2MP camera, with no flash, no video recording by default. The quality is passable, but no different from my old Nokia E61i. I’d have expected a lot more from Apple, clearly.
  2. No Multimedia Messaging (MMS) – don’t you think this is short-sighted? You’ve snapped a nice photo, and now you want to share it, and your only method to do it, is via email? Especially when the cost of MMS is a lot less than the cost of sending one email – unless you have an unlimited data plan, and that comes at around RM99/month via Maxis.
  3. No video calling – the whole idea of a 3G network, is that you have a lot more bandwidth to use, and you would make video calls. In fact, Maxis doesn’t charge you any more to make a video call, than they charge you to make a voice call. Is this forward thinking? I believe so. But with the iPhone 3G, you cannot make a video call, which seems kind of daft. Its useful, when you’re out shopping, or just wanting to see what the other person looks like…

So, unless you’ve got an unlimited data plan (they don’t come cheaply), you’ll find the iPhone 3G lacking. In fact, even with an unlimited data plan, its kind of lacking, in comparison to what you can get from Nokia and other providers. Apparently, not only I think the iPhone 3G is semi-daft – APC magazine came out with ten reasons too (though to be fair, cut&paste works now, I believe).

And until the iTunes Music Store becomes available, I don’t see it being too useful. In fact, I see a lot of iPhone’s being used these days, but I can assure you the use of the AppStore is limited – so, even if I were planning to develop applications for the local market, I would think again.

On local developers
I would however like to highlight that there are local iPhone/iPod Touch application developers. Take a look a ApptivityLab with their mistletoe application, as well as the wabbit studio’s shizi app, that is a Chinese & Hong Kong units translator.

I always remember writing units translators when I first learn a new language. Its one of those exercises that you do, similar to Hello World.

At some stage, it would be great if there were local applications, that provided more integration with the A-GPS, and more. I have plenty of ideas, but its a chicken and egg situation – I’ll have to wait for Apple to bring the device here. But Apple won’t – because the device is lacking. So maybe, we’ll see something new at WWDC 2009? I doubt it, but I have hope. Why? Because Apple designs for the American market largely, and the American cell networks, are just not nearly as advanced as those, outside America.

As an aside… I’m surprised it was ready for the Singaporean market. I’d have assumed that MMS, a phone that records video, video calls, and more, would be required.