By Shadoe Huard

All Together Now, June 10th 2011

   1. John Gruber

   2. Craig Grannell

   3. Horace Dediu

   4. Ethan Kaplan

   5. Marco Arment

   6. Stephen Hackett

All Together Now is a collection of quotes picked from the web this week and curated together into a particular perspective of my own.

Posted at 2:30pm and tagged with: tech, apple, WWDC, music, quotes, readlater, together, iOS,.

Make no little plans. 1 Innovate, borrow, rework, recreate, redesign, until you have something that’s better than you could have imagined. 2 [Allow] consumption to conform more closely to people’s lives. 3 Address a problem they never knew they had. 4 Shit. 5 Excuse me, my iPhone is buzzing. 6

June 9th 2011

The Creation of Joy

Great post by Ethan Kaplan on the struggles and challenges of the music industry. 

If ever Apple published a  “guidelines to success” manual, creating a joyful experience would probably be at the top of the list.  Microsoft and Google could use such a manual.

——-

Article found through MG Siegler

Posted at 1:57am and tagged with: tech, music, apple, joy, fun, success, industry,.

May 17th 2011

The Syncing Music iCloud Cerberus   

Stephen Hackett shared his thoughts on the iTunes music cloud service the other day and I’ve gotta say, his best case scenario sounds pretty awesome:

If Apple called me up, and asked me what I would want out of a cloud music server, these would be the major points:

  • Purchased music automatically being pushed to the cloud and my local library.
  • Let me sync/cache songs from the cloud to my iOS devices on the go. Kill the USB cable, Apple.
  • All music, regardless of origin, can be uploaded.
  • 3G streaming on the go. Pandora, Rdio and others have this working. Hell, it even works via the Dropbox app .

A real pipe dream would be for this cloud service to sync selected media across my Macs, the web and my iOS devices. What a crazy world it would be if I could rip a CD on my iMac, let the sync app do its thing and then download those files on my MacBook Pro or iPad later.

Objectively, I think he is pretty close to a realistic scenario.  I don’t think Apple would let us upload any music from any location to the cloud and then let us download that music onto multiple devices.  Any service Apple launches is bound to be attached to your iTunes account and have some sort of device limit attached to it. Also, as evidenced by the offerings from Amazon and Google, a fully cloud based music library has some serious limitations and useability issues.  Wireless speeds & reliability (both up & down stream) just aren’t there yet for most consumers, no to mention the huge data sucks using such cloud services might be.

I think Apple forsees not only the logistical problems they might face, but also all the issues a user’s might encounter.  Ease of use seems to play an important role in the way Apple designs iOS software.  I think there are too many potential potholes in an entirely cloud based service for Apple to pursue as described by Mr.Hackett.  Again, look at what people are saying about what’s currently on the menu.

If iCloud rumors turn out to be about music, I think an acheivable scenario might be for Apple to introduce a streaming service over both Wi-Fi and 3G. Content you purchase from the iTunes store could be browsed and streamed over your devices, no uploading or downloading required.  iTunes could just browse the index of purchases linked to your account and make them available to you.  I could envision movies and TV shows also being available to stream, albeit only over Wi-Fi.  A service like this would also pave the way for a subscription service, another popular rumor, allowing you access to a certain amount of music at some fixed rate. Subsciption models are definitely gaining traction and Apple is well positioned to make a move in that space.

A scenario like this makes most sense to me for three reasons:

1. It’s the simplest logistical solution, from Apple’s perspective.. 

2. A scenario such as this one is probably easiest to negotiate with the music labels.

3. It’s the easiest solution for the end-user.  Just login with your iTunes account and the music can just appear in your iPod app. No worrying about space on your iPhone, upload times…

While I’d be happy with the scenario I’m describing, I’m starting to have doubts music is what Apple has in mind with iCloud. 1  What I’m begining to think iCloud will actually be is a develloper API, as proposed by John Gruber on episode 41 of The Talk Show. Gruber thinks this API wouldl allow developpers to build small data syncing into their apps so a user could have access to the same data over multiple devices.  An obvious application would be to allow games like Plants & Animals to sync user progress over to someone who has purchased the game on multiple iPhones or iPads. There’s also a whole slew of apps that use Dropbox kung-fu for syncing that could benefit from such an API. Gruber uses iBook as an example in his article on the subject:

iBooks does this. If you pause while reading a book on your iPad, then resume reading on your iPhone, it picks up on the same page in the book. Kindle and a bunch of other e-reading services do this too. The point isn’t that iBooks is unique or ahead of the curve in this regard. It’s that you don’t need MobileMe for iBooks. It’s all handled by the iTunes Store itself. You buy books on your device, you read them on your device, and your history, bookmarks and other metadata all get synced to your iTunes account in the cloud. And it works great. But a lot more apps should work like this. Should wireless Safari bookmark syncing cost $99 a year? Shouldn’t it be easy for iOS game developers to sync progress for the same game across multiple devices using the same iTunes account? App Store developers shouldn’t have to rely on another third party — Dropbox — for this sort of functionality.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense that this is what Apple has in store for us with iCloud. One way or another, WWDC is hopefully going to have some exciting surprises for us.

1. I’m sure we’ll see some cloud based iTunes solution too, I just don’t think it will happen first.

Posted at 2:09pm and tagged with: music, iTunes, iCloud, sync, iPhone, iPad, Gruber, one column,.

May 16th 2011

iTunes Redux: Tabs & Queue   

Let’s be clear, this isn’t going to be a pedantic exercise on how Apple should redesign iTunes.  I’m severely lacking the credentials to do such things.  Instead, you should consider this as my simple vision of changes I’d like to see made to iTunes, if only because as a software I use daily, I think they would be neat and perhaps even useful. Broad strokes changes, not pointillist ones.

My approach in this exercise is to find ways to refine the UI to make iTunes simpler, more contextual and task specific.  I want to optimize my iTunes experience.

Let’s get on with it.

Tabs

One of my biggest peeves with iTunes is that the interface isn’t really suited to one specific task. Throughout it’s many iterations, it has just kept adding functionality/buttons and new sidebars as it would begin to support new types of media and social features.  The interface has remained relatively the same since version 1.0.   One advantage of the current design is it’s versatility; it works just as well for music as it does for movies or the iTunes store.  The tradeoff is that it isn’t context specific:  Every media type is treated the same way, without any real consideration to how users might use them differently.  Another downside to the current interface is that at any given time a lot of UI space is wasted with things you don’t use or don’t really need to see.  If I’m browsing TV shows for example, the left hand sidebar still lists all my music playlists. They could be hidden. Likewise, there isn’t much of a point to the books and apps lists in the sidebar as they are, even when your iOS device is plugged in.  It seems like unnecessary clutter. My solution for this would be to introduce tabbed media navigation. Each media type, even the iTunes store, would have it’s own tab, rather than presented as a list in the sidebar. The user could open and close tabs as he or she sees fit, just like on a modern browser.

Here’s how I imagine it. When you open iTunes, it defaults to a user-defined tab, be it music, movies or TV shows. If, after listening to a few songs, you want to watch a movie, you could simply open up the movies tab though a keyboard shortcut or UI button.  If you don’t think you’re going to listen to music anymore, you could close that tab.

Tabs would have their own media specific library files.  Currently, all your media is stored in one library file which iTunes uses to load and organize your media.  Theories claim that part of the reason iTunes sometimes gets bogged down is because of having to load this library file, which can get quite large. Splitting up the library file into smaller ones could alleviate this issue and help optimize iTunes’ performance. 1

The biggest upsides I see to using tabs is that it removes the need for the sidebar.  This cleans up the interface immensely and allows more space to be alloted to the various list views of your media.  Items generally found in the sidebar like playlists could be replaced by buttons on a navigation bar at the top of the screen, similar to the one the Grid View uses to list items by artists, genre and albums. Modal pop-overs, similar to iOS on iPad, could be used, for example, to give you a drop down list of your various playlists. I feel such changes would fall nicely in line with the direction OS X Lion is going.

iOS devices and iPods would receive their own tabs that appear when plugged in. Apps and Books, removed from the sidebar, would instead appear in your iPhone/iPad tab, again perhaps as some sort of modal button in the UI view.  Tabs does present a challenge to users who manually manage their media. It would be rather tedious to drag and drop music between tabs, not to mention confusing.  One solution might be to include a button that reveals a browser view of your media.  Another solution is something I’ve dubbed the Queue tab.

The Queue

The best way to describe the Queue tab is as a super playlist, where any type of media can be added or removed.  A button on each tab would allow you to automatically add selected media to your Queue.  You could also set preferences for your Queue to automatically fill itself, similar to using smart playlists. Users could load up the Queue tab by default when they launch iTunes, which would show them a custom playlist of various files they want to see at any particular point in time, such as recently added items.

Now, when you plug in your iPhone, you would have the option to automatically sync your Queue to iTunes, rather than simply resorting to the awful auto sync currently available.

The idea of the Queue is to remove the need to create a whole bunch of playlists while introducing casual users to the versatilities of smart playlists, which I suspect most ignore even exist.  Even if it is just a glorified playlist, it’s one that can be more seamlessly and elegantly intergrated into iTunes.  This is especially true when using iPods, iPhones or iPads.  It is more useful than auto-syncing and less complicated for the casual user than managing their media themselves.

Another way the Queue is different from a playlist is that it would have it’s own library file.  Playlists currently just reference files in your iTunes library, which it still has to load in it’s entirety.  Not so with the Queue. People using their Queues exclusively would undoubtably benefit performance wise.

Redux

Let’s recap:

Tabbed navigation of your media & new super playlist named Queue.  Nothing earthshattering but changes I nonetheless feel go a long way towards de-cluttering iTunes and allowing better use of the interface, which in turn would help make the iTunes experience more enjoyable.  You may or may not agree with the changes I propose but like I stated above, this is about creating a version of iTunes I’d love to use.

Part of the fun in an exercise like this is discovering exactly how I use iTunes.  In the process of doing research on the subject, I found lots of neat things I never knew you could do with iTunes, some of which I originally wanted to propose as my own ideas.

Why not try doing the same with software you use frequently?

Next time on iTunes Redux:  Other Miscellaneous UI changes.

iTunes Redux is a series dedicated to changes I’d like to see be made to iTunes.  I’m in no way a software designer or engineer, so consider it for what it is: A fun “what if” excercise.

Previous episodes:

Part 1

1. You might make the argument that having multiple tabs open would slow iTunes down even more than having just one large file to load.   I’d argue that most people don’t actively spend time switching back and forth between media types, reducing the chance you’d have several tabs open at once.  And, like on browsers, crashes or freezes could be isolated to tabs they occur in.

Posted at 2:59pm and tagged with: iTunes, mac, movies, music, tabs, one column,.

May 10th 2011

Number Crunching Google Music Beta

I did some math* concerning the Google Music Beta that was announced today at Google I/O.

Let’s make the assumption that the average size of a song is about 5MB.  It’s about 6-8MB per song for my iTunes library but I’ll gander that most people still listen to poorly encoded music. Let’s also assume that Google isn’t using any fancy compression when uploading or downloading music to/from their service. Lastly, I’ve calculated the average length of a song on my iTunes library: 3.7 Minutes. So I’ll make the final assumption that people can probably listen to about 16 songs an hour.

Therefore:

1. Approx Time to upload 5000 songs(approx. 25GB) to Google Music Beta = Approx. 29 Hours**

2. Steaming, or downloading (“Pin”) an hour’s worth of songs to your Android device =  80MB (16 x 5)

3. Amount of data used if you listen to 1 hour of music a day for a month on Google Music Beta using your Android device = 2.4GB (30 x 80)

Here’s to hoping there’s Wi-Fi wherever Android users are commuting.

*Feel free to correct me.

**Based on an average, consistent upload speed of 2.048 Mbps ( Net Index claims a 2.71Mbps average in the U.S.)

Posted at 2:51pm and tagged with: Google, Music, Beta, Dataplan, wi-fi,.

This particular strategy is working wonders lately.

Via All Things D

Posted at 10:39pm and tagged with: google, music, cloud, i/o,.

…Google has apparently decided that it would rather launch a reduced version of a music service than none at all.

May 9th 2011

"Let us count the ways"

Interesting that alot of these “problems with iTunes ” articles are either about minutiae or from Windows users.

via @danfrakes

Posted at 1:23pm and tagged with: apple, windows, iTunes, music,.