Dumping Flash Pays Off In Extended User Engagement

In early May, Scribd announced its plans to ditch Adobe’s Flash and began the arduous process of converting every document (of its “tens of millions”) to native, HTML5 pages…

That gamble has paid off handsomely for Scribd. Although the number of unique visitors still stands at roughly 50 million per month, those users are spending significantly more time perusing documents and sharing with friends.That growth in user engagement has rapidly accelerated in the past month. On May 25, at TechCrunch Disrupt, Friedman said user engagement had doubled— implying strong acceleration in the last three weeks.

A richer user experience that simultaneously doesn’t slow the system/browser down is used by people more? A lot more? Yes. Duh.

To those companies thinking a switch from Flash gains them nothing because the content is already viewable: Think again.

Palm: “Hey! We’re still here! Look at us!” (*waving arms*)

Starting June 18th and ending on July 9th, the promotion will slash the price on every paid app in the App Catalog by 50%.

Palm is subsidizing the promotion, making up the difference so developers still get full price.

It’s a fine idea, but with major developers like Adobe currently (and predictably) telling Palm to get lost, surely others will follow. This is just a stop-gap measure similar to the bargain-basement prices on the Palm handsets themselves. At best, it provides temporary relief and a press release, but it’s no fix. The patient is still bleeding. If Palm (i.e., webOS) is to survive, HP must come out with a competitive device to show its worth.

Apple’s Philosophy Summed Up By Steve Jobs Quote From the D8 Conference

We have at least the courage of our convictions to say we don’t think this is part of what makes a great product, we’re gonna leave it out. Some people are gonna not like that, they’re gonna call us names, it’s not gonna be in certain companies’ vested interests that we do that but we’re gonna take the heat because we want to make the best product in the world for customers. And we’re gonna instead focus our energy on these technologies which we think are in their ascendancy and we think they’re gonna be the right technologies for customers and—you know what?—they’re paying us to make those choices. That’s what a lot of customers pay us to do, is to try to make the best products we can. And if we succeed, they’ll buy ’em, and if we don’t, they won’t. And it’ll all work itself out.

Lots of good observations from Jobs’ D8 interview, but the above might say the most.

It’s Adobe Flash he’s talking about leaving out, but the gist of the quote has little to do with Adobe or Flash. It’s about Apple’s philosophy of trying to build the best product and then letting the end user decide. Not some IT group. Not some research or analytics firm. Not some tech pundits. Not some advertising company. Not some record label or movie studio. The end user.

You’ve got Microsoft trying to please the enterprise, Google trying to please Madison Avenue, NBC, ABC and CBS trying to please cable operators, etc. In each case the consumer is dealt with using rules and practices designed primarily to keep the pleased entity happy, not the end user. The end user comes second. By contrast, Apple takes their products to the consumer, trying to please the individuals that vote by paying with their own money.

Google to Android Hardware Manufacturers: Be Generic

While it’s doubtful Google would outright restrict custom interfaces, the move could potentially solve much of the OS fragmentation issue that plagues Android today. Proprietary interface layers have been the primary cause of OS upgrade delays as phone makers have gone several months before updating the OS or even skipped upgrades entirely because of the extra testing and compatibility problems found in Google’s own updates. Despite Android 2.2 being available for the Nexus One a month ago, for example, no other Android phone currently uses it.

If Google puts the kibosh on custom UIs, hardware makers will have little with which to differentiate their devices. Google couldn’t care less, but the hardware makers do.

It’s a return to Dell and HP spitting out no-name clones running the same software and racing to the bottom on price. This invariably leads to razor-thin margins, cheap products and low quality as they must squeeze every penny they can. When your hardware “partners” aren’t happy it can’t be good for the platform.

Could they differentiate on hardware? Not really. Not if there’s no custom software to support it. This is where Apple gets it, and kicks ass. Add a front-facing camera, and include FaceTime for video calling. Add HD video recording, and offer simple clip editing/sharing, with more advanced iMovie editing for just five bucks.

It’s the integration of hardware and software, not one or the other, that makes a device. If the article is true, Android took yet another step to becoming the next Windows Mobile (you know, the mobile OS that ran on tens of millions of devices and nobody knew it, or cared?), not the next iOS.

Silly Apple Criticism 2: Apple Has iAds, So Safari’s Reader Function is Hypocritical Ad Blocking

Critique: It’s hypocrtical of Apple to introduce their own ads while putting an ad blocker in Safari 5.

Safari Reader is not an ad blocker. To call it that is to misunderstand “reader” formatters, or ad blockers, or both.

An ad blocker blocks ads. Not trying to be facetious, but that’s what it does. It blocks ads. They’re blocked. You go to a web page, and you do not see ads. Ads are prevented (you might say, “blocked”) from displaying. When you browse with an ad blocker, you go from page to page sans ads. Are we clear?

A reader formatter doesn’t do that. You don’t browse with these. When you go to a page you see the same ads as everyone else. The ad impression is counted (for the content provider) and you’re free to click on any ad to view at will.

What a reader does do is determine if there’s an article on the page, and give you the option to display it more cleanly for easier reading. Yes, the ads (along with other formatiing) do not appear in the reading pane, but they’re still in the background with the rest of the web page, and when you exit the reader in any way—which you have to do to get anywhere else—they’re displayed again.

That’s a big difference. In fact, a reader cannot block ads; the page must load before it can even be invoked in the first place. No one accuses Readability, for example, of being an ad blocker. In fact, someone looking for an ad blocker would be extremely disappointed in the results if they tried to use one of these readers for that purpose.

Silly Apple Criticism 1: iPhone 4’s FaceTime is Like Video Chat, Only More Restrictive

The Critique: You need iPhone 4 and WiFi. Ha! I just can just whip out my phone and video chat with anyone right now.

Really? Like everyone has a smartphone with a front-facing camera and chat software with a registered account they happen to be logged into. Oh, and a buddy list you’re on (well, assuming you both use a compatible chat protocol).

Point is, the number of “ready” devices for video chat/call is very small. For iPhone 4, it’ll be 0 on Day 1, but not on Day 90. After the first quarter of availability there will likely be more iPhone 4 devices ready for FaceTime than there are other devices ready for video chat.

And I don’t mean theoretically ready, I mean ready. The beauty of FaceTime is that there’s no setup. All you need is the phone. You don’t have to get chat software, install, sign up, add buddies, etc., and then make sure the other person has done the same. As usual, Apple made it “just work”.

Further, the need for WiFi is not so restrictive when you consider you’re not (I hope!) video calling from, say, a car. You’re likely in a stationary location (home, hotel, office, etc.) where WiFi is frequently available. And WiFi is only a temporary (for 2010) restriction anyway.

Finally, Apple made FaceTime an open standard, so if Android phone manufacturers have any brains they’ll fight to be first to market with it on their new devices. Once that happens, I’m sure many of the people complaining now will suddenly see what a smart and practical implementation FaceTime really is.

Nokia: Connecting People, Disconnecting Brains

The unscrupulous quotation has been met with astonishment at Nokia.

The statement by Scott Forestall that has so enraged Nokia? “Because it is amazingly engaging, personal, it’s all about connecting people”. Hmm, yes, unscrupulous.

Nokia is nuts.

Anyone who doesn’t think is a perfect example of Apple so much as budging a toenail and then having it examined six different ways by companies or pundits who can’t be bothered to write about their products or tech is living in total denial.

Developer Opportunity: It takes more than iOS 4 to multitask on an iPhone

When we spoke to a number of developers, that aren’t keen to be named in this article for fear of backlash from Apple, they all confirmed to Pocket-lint that, for any app to take advantage of the new multitasking features, it will have to be updated. Furthermore, many of those we spoke to felt that many apps simply won’t be.

Aside from requiring iPhone 4 or a 3GS, you also need apps that have been modified to multitask. I suspect quite a few won’t, and no one will care or even notice.

I also expect a bonanza of opportunity for some types of apps to be the first to support it. For example, as much as I use Twitter I’ll be keenly interested in a client that multitasks. Would I try a different Twitter client for this feature? Absolutely. Same is true of RSS/news readers, and chat clients, and notes apps, and others.

So, while I understand this is work for developers, it’s also a chance to get their app back in front of people who had previously chosen a competitor. It’s not often developers are handed such a key and much-anticipated differentiator to add to their apps. Multitasking will be hot; smart developers will grab the opportunity quickly.