Will Operating Systems Ever Truly Be Optimized?

Patron Tony Yoon asked:

Do you think that operating systems will never be truly optimized? As hardware specs increase, so does the demand from the software. It always seems like a balancing act that has no end.

Yes, it’s a balancing act – and that will never end.

Operating systems will always be one release away from success or failure.

And so it goes.

But hardware is born the way it will die. Software is a living creature of sorts (albeit, not a creature that is always soft and furry).

I don’t want to claim that software is more important than hardware, but its role is crucial for the perceived success of any hardware it runs on. One could be the difference between a lackluster experience or a stellar one with the very same device.

If there’s a demand on software, it’s not just to operate in lockstep with the hardware – it’s to provide the best possible experience for the configuration at hand. The more the software can assume about the hardware, the better that overarching experience is likely to be.

A “good” software update can render a poor experience with hardware into a great one.

This is one of the reasons I find that focusing on hardware specs alone tells part of the story. Who among us has ever owned something that (on paper) looked to be amazing, but (in hand) was mind-numbingly frustrating. What happened? Were we suckered in by marketing? Perhaps. Was it more likely that the software wasn’t given a fair amount of attention? I’d wager so.

Newer hardware can afford software more opportunity to unlock different experiences – but if the focus is simply on features, it only underscores a lack of respect for the would-be user.

If (as some might blindly argue) features were the most important part of this puzzle, then both UI and UX would be wholly irrelevant in the marketplace.

That said, every single OS known to the galaxy could always be “better.”

The World’s Worst Tasting Java

Yahoo Tries to Hook Search Users Via Java Updates:

Starting this month, users who install or update Oracle’s Java software will be prompted to make Yahoo their browser’s default search engine and home page.

This is 2015.

I get that Yahoo is trying to lure (read: trick) more unwitting people into using their service, but perhaps instead of piggybacking the installation of a framework that some still find necessary… they should improve their offerings such that people want to use Yahoo instead of curse it for having overtaken their defaults and not remembering how.

I removed my reliance on Java a few years back and haven’t regretted the decision. If I happen to run into a web site that demands it (which has been close to never), I simply find another web site.

There are some who aren’t as lucky – who need this framework on their system for some random need. It’s for them I weep. I’m not calling into question the inherent value, promise, or quality of Java outright – I’m calling into question these smarmy tactics (which are no less smarmy than prompting the user to install the Ask toolbar).

If an installer wants to install something you didn’t ask for (and would probably NEVER want to install independently), stop installing that software. They’ll get the hint. Eventually. Maybe.

Unfortunately, only savvy users will know how to avoid these pitfalls – they’re not the intended target. That’s what companies like Oracle are seemingly counting on: prey. This isn’t a value add – it’s tantamount to junk.

Is there a checkmark to NOT install what wasn’t a part of the user’s plan? Sure, but how many people blindly click through install processes or wonder if by leaving that checkbox unchecked they’ll somehow be getting a lesser experience? “It’s checked by default, so it must be okay.”

No, it’s not okay.

It’s reprehensible.

I’m willing to wager that one of the top searches on Yahoo is “google.”

Such trickery will not solve this “problem.”

Apple Watch Review

As always, my patrons got the inside scoop early (plus other intelligence).

7 Reasons I Like the Apple Watch

  • Elegant design – software & hardware
  • Works well with all my other Apple products
  • I no longer need to inconvenience myself to pull out a phone
  • Battery lasts all day – and then some
  • Appreciate being able to collect data on myself
  • Often catch notifications I otherwise would’ve missed
  • UX is very intuitive, easy to use.

7 Reasons I Don’t Like the Apple Watch

  • Severe lack of usable third-party apps
  • Notifications are often incomplete, pushing you to iPhone
  • Seems to frequently lose my voice messages / replies to others
  • The extreme lack of diversity in Sport bands
  • Quite slow by today’s tech standards
  • Several functions are redundant or gimmicky
  • Pricey for a souped-up fitness tracker

Who is this for?

  • Someone who wears a watch daily
  • Someone who loves tracking data
  • Someone who loves checking their wrist obsessively
  • Someone who has money to burn (read: an early adopter)

Who is this not for?

  • Someone who doesn’t have an iPhone
  • Someone who doesn’t care about fitness
  • Someone who gets wet frequently
  • Someone who is waiting for a perfect product

Old iPhones Die Hard

If Apple makes a substantial amount of revenue from selling new hardware, why support a legacy iPhone 4s with iOS 9? This was a question inspired by last Friday’s AMA thread.

iPhone 4s is a phone that’s four years old, and it’s about to be updated to the latest OS – albeit, with performance-minded restrictions.

Still, for a company to provide OS-level updates to hardware that would have been considered “vintage” last year is more than impressive. That’s rare.

And if you don’t think there are people out there who still use iPhone 4s models… you don’t know my parents. Every year, they tell me that they’re thinking about upgrading to the latest iPhone. They’ve been telling me this for four years and it’s (obviously) yet to happen.

I’m not pushing them to the latest hardware because they don’t need to be on the latest hardware if they have the latest software. Yes, there’s a lot more a device can do if it has the latest OS (security issues notwithstanding) – and, yes, newer devices would certainly be substantially faster than what they’re currently on.

Or would they?

Yes, by the numbers, newer devices with updated “everything” tend to perform better than older devices. But what if there’s a law of diminishing returns for those who just don’t see the difference – enough to justify the cost of upgrading?

Apple has the same “problem” when it comes to iPad.

But is Apple truly hurting if it maintains customer satisfaction, allows its users to benefit from the latest OS-level advancements, and keeps them purchasing apps and services well within the boundaries of their ecosystem?

While I’ve not yet seen iOS 9 on an iPhone 4s, I’m interested to see how my parents feel about it when the update ultimately ships. Despite any restrictions due to hardware limitations in relation to what the OS can do on modern hardware, I believe they’ll be just as happy with their iPhones as they have been to this point.

Forget the technical clap-trap for a moment.

They’re certainly happy enough not to feel the need to switch to an alternative platform.

Perhaps the cost of having a user switch away from your platform is far greater than the cost of continuing to support an older device (especially if the code will work well enough on it)?

That’s what I’d assume – but I’m not an actuary who works for Apple.

When they’re finally ready to upgrade, will my parents be more inclined to upgrade to something that’s familiar to them (not just in brand, but in general software operation and appearance)? In knowing that my parents freak out when their web browser’s start page changes, the answer is: “beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

Apple only generates revenue if you stay with Apple – so, it’s in their best interest to keep a customer happy even if they don’t happen to upgrade to every new model that’s released. Yes, this is true for every other OEM on the planet – but Apple is an anomaly, given that its entire business model is predicated upon actively developing both hardware and software platforms.

A person is more likely to switch between one Windows OEM and another (or one Android OEM and another) if it’s perceived that the experience will be similar. To have a similar Apple experience, you can only look to Apple.

Why would Apple (or any company) want to willingly abandon customers who are still satisfied with their experience – or, perhaps worse, engender a feeling of abandonment in the user? Since Apple controls the hardware and the software, it’s reasonable to expect that they can (and do) enable certain software features for certain capable models.

In essence, Apple can continue to improve upon a device that’s four years old and improve customer satisfaction in tow. That customer satisfaction will more than likely lead to future hardware purchases (or continued software / in-app purchases).

Where Apple makes its money.

I Stopped Crowdfunding Tech for Obvious Reasons

I’ve been saying it for a while, so it’s good to see someone else with tech chops step forward and say the same thing in 140 characters:

I largely stopped backing tech-related crowdfunding projects not because I think they’re bad ideas, but because I’ve been burned too many times by half-assed implementations.

There are stories from other hardware and software crowdfunding project supporters who would’ve been better off holding onto their pledges, too.

Obviously, I support the idea of crowdfunding content producers, but that’s typically where support begins and ends for me.

Every day (this is not an exaggeration), I am pitched to help spread the word about amazing tech projects currently being crowdfunded.

I usually wait to get excited until I have something ready to try, thank you.

I’d Take a ChromeOS Tablet Over an Android Tablet

I’ve used plenty of Android tablets, and… I’m ready for a full-on, lightweight, super-affordable ChromeOS tablet (not a convertible touchscreen ChromeOS laptop, either).

I believe the product is inevitable – and could very well outsell and outshine the promise of Android tablets. Why?

  1. ChromeOS is already touchscreen-aware and can be further optimized for touchscreens.
  2. ChromeOS is updated regularly by Google themselves and is pushed to ChromeOS devices near-immediately. We all know the story of Android OS fragmentation, Google Play Services abstraction notwithstanding.
  3. Android apps that look optimal on tablet screens are largely MIA. Whatever’s in the Chrome web browser on Android usually looks spectacular, however.
  4. Android apps have already been shown to be able to work on ChromeOS.
  5. Third-party optimizations and modifications have been minimal in the ChromeOS device experiences I’ve had. I’ll always prefer that approach.
  6. Chromebooks are taking off for all the right reasons, but tablets can be readily “converted” into laptop’esque machines with the connection of a Bluetooth keyboard.
  7. Webassembly. Yes, it was just announced – so, yes, it’s a few years off, but… suddenly, my wish doesn’t look to be so outlandish for the average user.

I’m a fan of choice.

7 Ways Periscope Could Be Better

I’ve been live streaming video for a long time (disclosure: I sit on Ustream‘s advisory board).

When Meerkat launched, I was fascinated by the simplicity from start to finish. Piggybacking Twitter was a stroke of genius, if only because Twitter has become the conversation marketplace in recent years – especially for live events.

At its core, Meerkat didn’t do anything new – the app just made it easy to broadcast, easy to participate, and easy to use. There were few (if any) hurdles experienced in the process as a broadcaster or a viewer.

Enter Periscope.

I’d argue that nobody knew about Periscope until Twitter’s acquisition, and now it’s set to become the most important live social video tool in my array of choices – if only because it’s owned by Twitter outright, and that association will go a long way.

I shared my Periscope tips a while back, but what I haven’t shared is my list of features that I believe are missing from Periscope for better community engagement.

  1. A way to see who sends you the most hearts both during and after a broadcast. This could be solved with re-ranking participants by order of engagement after the broadcast, as well as placing a number next to their avatar while they’re interacting in live chat.
  2. A proactive ban-word list. And, as much as I don’t want to see certain things in a live feed as a broadcaster (and I do frequently record our live session for our daily vlog), the commenter should not know if their comment had been banned or they’ll figure out a way around the filter instead of the satisfaction of posting anything deemed ban-worthy.
  3. A way to scroll through chat. What was the question? Who asked it? Too frequently, valuable interaction points are lost because Periscope lacks the ability to scroll up.
  4. A way to reward top participators. Why not show badge next to people who have experienced X+ broadcasts? Why not show a badge next to someone who has given you X+ hearts? Let’s see some rewards for the people who help make broadcasting fun.
  5. A way to know those who have opted to share the link to the broadcast on social (currently, that share does not include the broadcaster’s Twitter handle, so tracking is not feasible.
  6. A way to save / export the video with live comments (not those with ban words) included.
  7. A way for viewers to more easily follow the broadcaster on Twitter (or other social channels, though I’m not sure Twitter would like that idea).

Could these features come in future releases? Sure, but I don’t know if Periscope really understands what they have here from a community standpoint.

I hope for other aspects of the tool to be enhanced over time, but I’ve given up on hoping that horizontal broadcasts will ever be a possibility (at least, when broadcasting and keeping chat a part of the experience).

Facing the Apple Music

Indie Label Beggars Group Expresses Apple Music Concerns:

Beggars Group, like many of the unsigned independent labels, are especially apprehensive about Apple Music’s three-month free preview offer to users, a period in which artists will not be compensated for what is streamed on the service.

That’s incredibly reasonable.

As far as music is concerned, I’m just a listener (and general supporter of artists who have talents that appeal to my ear).

If this accusation is true, it seems to me that there’d be one quick fix that should make everybody happy (Apple Music users included): let labels or artists opt out of being included in the three month trial of Apple Music, but toggle their inclusion once a listener begins to pay for the Apple Music service.

The artists can still be a part of the greater (full, non-trial) Apple Music service, Apple can let the labels control the level of inclusion, and listeners still have a chance to try the Apple Music service and hear their favorite artists when they start to pay for it.

If a listener is upset that they can’t hear their favorite artists under a free trial, I’d question just how much of a “favorite” an artist truly is to the listener. The listener doesn’t need to hear their favorite music again to claim the music as a favorite.

There’s even more reason for a user to pay for a full Apple Music service if certain labels (and artists) are held back during the trial. There’d be more incentive to pay, which I can’t imagine would disappoint anybody apart from people looking for a free ride.

Obviously, this indie label isn’t concerned about discoverability. I’d imagine they’d be happy to be a part of the full Apple Music experience, but not if that means that the artists won’t be compensated fairly (whatever “fairly” is).

But, as I said, I’m just a listener.

And I’m a listener who has supported his favorite artists over the years.

Which Tech Player is Playing Catchup?

Tony Yoon, from last week’s AMA thread:

Have you noticed that a lot of the stuff they talked about at WWDC was eerily similar to what Google announced at I/O – and that multi-functioning iPads are what the Microsoft Surface has been doing? Is Apple playing catch up?

This is how I see the question:

Have you noticed that [Company X] is now doing a lot of what [Company Y] is doing? And now they’re copying what [Company Z] has.

There is no winner in a race that never ends.

Is it “bad” to copy an excellent feature to potentially make another consumer-oriented experience better? Is the feature implemented in a similar, viable fashion – or is the feature implemented better than the original? Does competition increase or decrease? Who loses in these scenarios?

I can tell you who absolutely wins: consumers.

Even if your platform(s) of choice are the ones that are seemingly getting copied from, give the industry another year or two and you’ll find that your platform(s) of choice will likely modify themselves to be more competitive by taking what’s perceived as a value from an alliterative platform.

And, again, all consumers win.

Your product gets better – either directly or indirectly – because of competition. And, as much as religious zealots dislike the notion of rooting for the “enemy,” without a viable alternative, innovation will stall.

So, who is playing catch up in tech?

Everybody. All the time.

And you need it to be that way.

Xbox Backward Compatibility

One of the biggest announcements to come from Microsoft out of E3 2015 is backward compatibility for Xbox 360 games on Xbox One.

So, why wasn’t this feature baked into the first iteration of Xbox One? Despite it being a value to the player, I can think of three solid reasons off the top of my head:

  • Xbox One was originally positioned as a next-gen home entertainment (not necessarily gaming) device.
  • Xbox 360 game support would likely have attenuated interest in upgrading to a newer system.
  • It wasn’t considered a must-have feature to ship until Sony’s PS4 was beginning to dominate mindshare.

Well, no matter the reason, players appear to be quite happy – except for those who sold off most (if not all) of their Xbox 360 games. Me? Well, I currently have no horse in this race since I’m more of a casual (read: mobile) and retro game player.

Chris Pirillo's Tech Industry Intelligence, Insight, & Ideas in Relation to Consumer Brands