Posts tagged “apple”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Lost Garden: Ribbon Hero turns learning Office into a game – If an activity can be learned; If the player’s performance can be measured; If the player can be rewarded or punished in a timely fashion, then any activity that meets these criteria can be turned into a game. Not only can you make a game out of the activity, but you can turn tasks traditionally seen as a rote or frustrating into compelling experiences that users find delightful.
  • With Rival E-Book Readers, It’s Amazon vs. Apple – [NYTimes.com] – Ian Freed, vice president for the Kindle at Amazon, said he expected developers would devise a wide range of programs, including utilities like calculators, stock tickers and casual video games. He also predicts publishers will begin selling a new breed of e-books, like searchable travel books and restaurant guides that can be tailored to the Kindle owner’s location; textbooks with interactive quizzes; and novels that combine text and audio. “We knew from the earliest days of the Kindle that invention was not all going to take place within the walls of Amazon,” Mr. Freed said. “We wanted to open this up to a wide range of creative people, from developers to publishers to authors, to build whatever they like.”
  • Pushing Military Styles to a New Level of Ferocity [NYTimes.com] – A stepped-up demand for vests, blazers and hoodies tough enough to deflect a .22-caliber blast but sleek enough for a night of clubbing suggests that body armor is not just for the security-conscious. Fake or real, it exerts a pull on those inclined to flaunt it as a flinty fashion statement. “The trend to protective gear is pretty strong right now,” said Richard Geist, the founder of Uncle Sam’s Army Navy Outfitters in downtown Manhattan. “It’s big with rappers, alternative types and even some women.” Uncle Sam’s sells protective gear to the military. But most of its clients are civilians who snap up authentic bulletproof vests for as much as $1,000 or trade down to look-alike versions stripped of their armored lining ($24).
  • ComScore Calls Shenanigans on Gartner’s 99.4% App Store Figure [Maximum PC] – Gartner says 99.4% of app sales in 2009 were from Apple. ComScore disputes the figures but Gartner stands by its determination.
  • Amazon launching Kindle Development Kit so third parties can develop apps – Active content will be available to customers in the Kindle Store later this year. Remember that unlike smart phones, the Kindle user does not pay a monthly wireless fee or enter into an annual wireless contract. Kindle active content must be priced to cover the costs of downloads and on-going usage. Voice over IP functionality, advertising, offensive materials, collection of customer information without express customer knowledge and consent, or usage of the Amazon or Kindle brand in any way are not allowed. In addition, active content must meet all Amazon technical requirements, not be a generic reader, and not contain malicious code.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Jobs on the Kindle, January 2008 – Today he had a wide range of observations on the industry, including the Amazon Kindle book reader, which he said would go nowhere largely because Americans have stopped reading.

    “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

  • Roger Ebert’s Books Do Furnish A Life (plus a ton of amazing comments) – I cannot throw out these books. Some are protected because I have personally turned all their pages and read every word; they're like little shrines to my past hours. Perhaps half were new when they came to my life, but most are used, and I remember where I found every one. The set of Kipling at the Book Nook on Green Street in Champaign. The scandalous The English Governess in a shady book store on the Left Bank in 1965. The Shaw plays from Cranford's on Long Street in Cape Town, where Irving Freeman claimed he had a million books; it may not have been a figure of speech. Like an alcoholic trying to walk past a bar, you should see me trying to walk past a used book store.

    Other books I can't throw away because–well, they're books, and you can't throw away a book, can you? The very sight of Quick and Easy Chinese Cooking by Kenneth H. C. Lo quickens my pulse. Its pages are stained by broth, sherry, soy sauce and chicken fat.

  • Seats Of Gold – A writer's experience in the newly-redefined "luxury" seats at the new Yankee Stadium. Fascinating as Wall Street hyper-greed spills into other industries and illustrates how to kill loyalty dead. Hard to summarize this piece, but it's a great case study and a well-written piece as the author documents their own experience supplemented with a lot of background interviews.

Features vs. Innovation

Although the principal conceit of Apple’s latest Mac vs. PC ad is, as always, “PCs suck,” the ad does a nice job pointing to the difference between innovative thinking and the mere creation of features.

cup-holder-suit

While the cupholder suit that appears at the ad’s end is presented as a joke, many companies do have an unfortunate habit of burdening their products with clunky, grafted-on features as they try to push their ideas into new territory.

Compare the cupholder suit to Apple’s breakaway MagSafe cord, which the ad references. While there’s some debate over how well the Magsafe cord actually does what it’s supposed to, it at least intends to address a real issue that computer manufacturers had previously ignored (people’s cords get tripped on, yanked out).

Discovering that aspect of the user experience – however Apple may have done this – and recognizing it as one worthy of design intervention is the real innovation here.

ChittahChattah Quickies

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The Nike Experiment: How the Shoe Giant Unleashed the Power of Personal Metrics – Using a flood of new tools and technologies, each of us now has the ability to collect granular information about our lives—what we eat, how much we sleep, when our mood changes.
    Not only can we collect that data, we can analyze it, looking for patterns, information that might help us change both the quality and the length of our lives. We can live longer and better by applying, on a personal scale, the same quantitative mindset that powers Google and medical research. Call it Living by Numbers—the ability to gather and analyze data about yourself, setting up a feedback loop that we can use to upgrade our lives, from better health to better habits to better performance.
    Nike has discovered that there's a magic number for a Nike+ user: 5. If someone uploads only a couple of runs to the site, they might just be trying it out. But once they hit 5 runs, they're massively more likely to keep running and uploading data. At 5 runs, they've gotten hooked on what their data tells them.
  • To Sleep, Perchance to Analyze Data: David Pogue on the Zeo sleep monitoring system – Just watching the Zeo track your sleep cycles doesn’t do anything to help you sleep better. Plotting your statistics on the Web doesn’t help, either.

    But the funny thing is, you do wind up getting better sleep — because of what I call the Personal Trainer Phenomenon. People who hire a personal trainer at the gym wind up attending more workouts than people who are just members. Why? Because after spending that much money and effort, you take the whole thing much more seriously.

    In the same way, the Zeo winds up focusing you so much on sleep that you wind up making some of the lifestyle changes that you could have made on your own, but didn’t. (“Otherwise,” a little voice in your head keeps arguing, “you’ve thrown away $400.”)

    That’s the punch line: that in the end, the Zeo does make you a better sleeper. Not through sleep science — but through psychology.

  • Baechtold's Best photo series – While they are framed as travel guides, they are really more visual anthropology. A range of topics and places captured and presented in a compelling and simple fashion, illustrating similarities and differences between people, artifacts, and the like.
  • It's girls-only at Fresno State engineering camp – This is the first year for the girls-only engineering camp. Its goal is to increase the number of female engineering majors at Fresno State, which lags behind the national average in graduating female engineers. Nationwide, about 20% of engineering graduates are women. 20 years ago the national average was 25%. At Fresno State, only 13% of engineering graduates are women.

    Jenkins said he hopes the camp will convince girls "who might not have thought about it" that engineering is fun, and entice them to major in engineering.
    (via @KathySierra)

  • Selling Tampax With Male Menstruation – This campaign, by Tampax, is in the form of a story featuring blog entries and short videos. The story is about a 16-year-old boy named Zack who suddenly wakes up with “girl parts.” He goes on to narrate what it’s like including, of course, his experience of menstruation and what a big help Tampax tampons were.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Griffin designers explain their product development process – An idea that passes the initial "sniff test" gets assigned to a Category Manager, who shepherds it through a more formal proof-of-concept process. They discuss it with industrial designers, engineers, user researchers, the sales team, even packaging. The goal is to thoroughly vet the product to make sure that it's a good fit with our customers, our capabilities, our strategic priorities, our distribution channels and our financial requirements, before it gets the green light for resources to be allocated.
    (via Core77)

Object Love, Object Lust, and Indifference

z-at-sunset

I took my last ride in my 1977 Datsun 280Z today. I’ve sold the car, and the new owner is picking it up tonight.

On this last drive, I patted the dashboard and said something like, “Sorry I have to sell you.” Which made me think about how some objects in my life are things I have relationships with, and some are just things.

I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have to give up a pet, or a baby, when I feel sad about just seeing my car go.

I really don’t want to own it anymore-it just doesn’t serve my daily needs-but on a deeper, emotional level, I have a warm feeling towards it, and something significant is going on around giving it up.

This feeling about my Z is totally different from the way I felt when I got an iPhone, which was nonetheless strong as well. I woke up early the morning the contract with my old provider expired and drove right to the Apple store. This was like a consumer electronics booty call. Object lust.

But now my phone is just a thing I use. I feel more emotion about my Swiss Army knife.

And I never felt a thing for my computer, even though I probably spend more time with it than anything–inanimate or animate–in my life.

What’s up with that?

Actually, I’ve got some pretty good ideas about why all of this is the way it is, but I’d rather hear your comments about things you

  • love
  • lust after
  • hate
  • feel indifferent about

Get our latest article, Ships in the Night (Part I): Design Without Research?

harley-ceo
Harley-Davidson President and CEO Jim Ziemer, Harley-Davidson Annual Report, 2007

My latest interactions column, Ships in the Night (Part I): Design Without Research? has just been published.

While user-research-eschewing Apple is everyone’s poster child for “design for yourself,” I find Harley-Davidson to be a more compelling example (although I may be comparing Apple(s) and oranges). At Harley, Willie G. Davidson is the grandson of the original Davidson. Senior vice president and chief styling officer, he is known as Willie G. And he looks exactly like a guy who rides a Harley: big, bearded, and leather-clad. If we judge a bike by its fairing, the designer is the customer. That’s part of the Harley brand: In a recent Harley-Davidson annual report, executives appear next to their bikes, and we know that they all ride. A crucial part of Willie G.’s role is to preserve the legacy of the brand; the company communicates that it is (and always has been) part of the culture for which it’s designing. People at Harley, we believe, use the products and live the lifestyle. But underneath it all is a sense that Harley-Davidson, through its history, has created the brand (i.e., the products and their meaning) in partnership with its customers. For all the tribal connectedness Apple has facilitated, the company itself is not a participant. It is a benefactor.

Get a PDF of the article here. To receive a copy of the article, send an email to steve AT portigal DOT com and (if you haven’t given us this info before) tell us your name, organization, and title. We’ll send you a PDF.

Related: Steve Portigal speaks at User Research Friday – Design and Research, Ships in the Night?

Update: Ships in the Night (Part II): Research Without Design? is now available

Other articles

iTunes helps me help myself

I had to email iTunes the other day about an issue with my account. I composed and sent my message using their web-based contact system, and a little message box popped up.

apple-not-spam-c.jpg
The message said that since there was a chance iTunes’ response to my inquiry might end up in my Spam box, a test message would be sent within 15 minutes. If I didn’t get the test message, I was given several steps to take, including adding the iTunes email address to my contacts so that the real message would get through.

I’ve never had a site pre-troubleshoot like this for me, and I thought it was a really elegant and collaborative way of making sure I got the communication I was asking for. Nice job on this one, Apple.

It’s interesting to see workaround strategies like this evolving when things like spam filters–conceived as solutions–become problems.

Every trend has a counter-trend

In The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less and The Substance of Style we learn about the dramatic increase in choice for so many products and services, why that is, and what it means to our experience with those products and services.

But let’s not forget that things go other way as well. Like the banana convergence I blogged about before, apples are a paradox of limited choice.

The United States was once home to more than 10,000 named apple varieties, but nowadays it’s hard to find more than a handful, even at farmers’ markets.

Although theories like those authors put forward (and I’ll throw in the Long Tail too) are useful lenses to help make sense of out what we see there often completely opposite gravities occurring simultaneously. But hey, culture is a complex beast, isn’t it? Because both of the contradictory trends are indeed true.

Dan writes: Mini-Us

Monday night at the Computer History Museum, Robert Brunner, Jerry Manock and Bill Moggridge held a chat about Apple‘s design history. When¬†asked about the future of design, Jerry talked about reaching the limits of miniaturization. He held up his hands, spread his fingers, and pointed out that we¬†are already technologically able¬†to produce devices that are so small as to surpass¬†our physical ability to use them.

That comment¬†caused me to drift¬†off into a¬†little fantasy in which I imagined people being genetically engineered to be smaller and smaller, in order to be able to continue using increasingly miniaturized devices.¬†Luckily, I was able to¬†reality-check myself with an emergency dosage of¬†late 1970’s design.

Atari Game Console, 1979

Atari Game Console, 1979

iPhone – More than Talk!

p1000302.JPG

Cisco and Apple were in a dispute over the ownership of the iPhone name. There was news that a deal fell through right around the time of the announcement. One might assume this is Cisco raising the stakes a bit, trying to push Apple to make it all go away. Because this is certainly confusing the issue.

Quoted in today’s Boston Globe

I’m quoted in today’s Boston Globe

NEW YORK – To those who dwell in the design universe, Apple Computer has accomplished the near-impossible: making nerdy computing products seem hip and friendly.Sleek, ergonomic, and accessible, first their computers and now their iPods have gained raves and a cult following, and they have brought terms like ‘nano’ out of geekdom and into everyday use. ‘I think every designer in the world has been in a meeting where someone announces that their printer, toaster, telephone, breakfast cereal should become the iPod of its category,’ says Steve Portigal of Portigal Consulting, a California firm specializing in design and business strategy.

Now, with the opening of an architecturally audacious retail store in Manhattan, Apple has crossed another design threshold. The Apple Store Fifth Avenue a mammoth underground docking station for Macs, iPods, and accessories has made the ultimate statement of design and product packaging by morphing the design of Apple products with the design of the building that houses them.

‘It’s difficult to think of other companies that have such design coherence,’ says Paul Thompson, director of New York’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. ‘Everything comes together under one design vision. Anyway you cut the apple, design is driving it.’

Article also quoted here.

Fruit Changes

Two interesting stories about fruit!

Popular Science offers an interesting history of the banana. Although we think of banana as an atomic concept (i.e., we don’t think of varieties as we do with tomatoes or apples), the banana that consumers eat – the Cavendish – is the only banana there is. But in fact, there are many varieties, most not viable for growing/shipping/storing/eating. Way back when, the Big Mike was the banana available in grocery stores, but was effectively wiped out by fungus. It tasted different.

That alone is a bit mind-blowing for me – if I summon up the banana flavor in my brain, it feels like a universal constant. But 40 years ago, that constant was different! Wild. I’d love to taste one.

The story relates the efforts to prevent a similar fate befalling the Cavendish, and focuses more on challenges in the development of the Cavendish’s successor.

The Washington Post relates how growers of Red Delicious apples have selected for other attributes (hardiness and color) more than taste, and have turned one of the most popular apples into an also-ran. Some intersting insights into the production and distribution methods. Growing up, I certainly remember that most fruits had a season and you couldn’t get some things at different points in the year. The implication here is that consumers have a more consistent supply of produce, but that methods for storage preservation (i.e., Red Delicious apples can sit for months after harvest, in order to create a supply for after the season ends) may also lead to a decline in quality.

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