In yesterday’s post Will Apple Watch Grow Closer To Us Than Our iPhones, I explored how the Apple Watch may build an even stronger bond with us than our iPhones have today. We shouldn’t be flipping back and forth between our iPhone and watch just to get the benefits of what the Apple Watch has to offer.
What in fact is really true is Apple Watch will make us rely even more on our iPhones. Much of what Apple Watch does can’t happen without the iPhone nearby. But what’s going on behind the scenes?
Apple Watch is really an extended window into functionality provided by iOS apps running on our iPhones, particularly 3rd-party Apple Watch “apps”. Aside from features Apple built into Apple Watch (the most basic of which is telling us the time via various watch faces), what you are seeing on the Apple Watch screen is actually a user interface extension of an app running on your iPhone.
Apple Watch applications are comprised of two components: WatchKit app is the portion installed on the watch containing resources (images and things called storyboards) displayed on Apple Watch, and the WatchKit extension, a component within the iOS app running on your iPhone containing programming logic for managing the watch user interface, responding to user input on Apple Watch, and keeping the content WatchKit app displays up to date.
Does that mean all the “brains” of an Apple Watch app are really happening on the iPhone? Not necessarily. While the iPhone portion (Watchkit extension) is the behind the scenes worker bee gathering up content and interacting with HealthKit and other information sources, Apple Watch is brilliantly smart about how we interact with that information. Here’s what I mean.
Apple Watch knows from your movements when to wake up the display and show you information on Apple Watch, such as your run distance, heart rate, meeting information or the current time. This is something called a glance interface. It also helps us interface with and manage notifications, coming both from Apple Watch itself as well as notices originating on the iPhone (meetings, messages, incoming calls, etc.) Interacting with some of these notices actually launches the 3rd-party Watchkit app or other features built in locally to Apple Watch.
While iOS developers care a lot about how all this works, you as an end user don’t. We go on blissfully using Apple Watch unaware of everything your iPhone is doing in support of Apple Watch. I like to think of it as, your iPhone helps make your Apple Watch cool.
Now does it make sense? Hopefully you can see that what Apple Watch really does is tie us closer to our iPhones, but without picking up or interacting with the iPhone. We interact with our iPhones through Apple Watch.
Monday’s Apple “Spring Forward” announcement was chalked full of new Apple product information about Apple Watch, New MacBook, Apple TV + HBO Now, and Mac line up updates. In addition to a long list of design inspirations and new capabilities, a few other things jumped out for me during the announcements.
The day started with Tim Cook telling us about the 700 million iPhone unit sales and how iPhone has become so much a part of our daily lives. The iPhone (you could say all smartphones) are never farther than arms’ reach. Interesting then later when Apple showed Apple Watch was designed so we don’t have to reach for our iPhone.
Most things Apple Watch does, the biggest exception is loading apps from the App Store, is performed on the Apple Watch. When you use your Apple Watch, you don’t have to flip between your phone and watch devices to access fitness info, answer calls, check the weather or your calendar, see and respond to messages, or get help from Siri. Those things you can do right from the Apple Watch.
The added wi-fi plus bluetooth in Apple Watch means your iPhone can be in another part of the house and you can go right on using your Apple Watch, not tethered via a short Bluetooth leash like other Smartwatches. Similar to iPhone becoming even more important in customers’ lives than the iPod (because it’s built into the iPhone), Apple is attempting to make the bond with Apple Watch even stronger than with our iPhones.
Will Apple succeed? For some of the watch wearing faithful (and those who return to wearing a watch to be able to sport the Apple Watch) that answer could very well be yes. Apple does many things well and is one of the best at creating a tightly integrated user experience for their customers. The less time customers spend jumping back and forth between devices to use capabilities unavailable on their Smartwatches, synchronizing data or adjusting settings to get things working, the less intrusive and the more useful the experience is for Apple Watch customers.
Two things that could stand in Apple Watch’s way. Price and battery life. The $349 entry price is high but seems reasonable for something almost as advanced as our Smartphones, but the price rises quickly as you move up the line of chassis and wristband options. A stainless steel watch chassis and linked band runs $949 to $999 for example. 18 hour battery life means Apple Watch’s short tether is to a charging cable. Apple Watch won’t be of much use unless it is tucked in for a fresh charge every night.
Will Apple Watch move Smartwatches from tech novelties into the mainstream like iPhones and other Smartphones are today? Only time will tell.
Saturday was the 25th anniversary of Apple’s HyperCard, a visual stack and card-metaphor database and application tool for the Mac. HyperCard introduced many Mac users to some basic object oriented programming concepts, though HyperCard’s HyperTalk scripting language was somewhere between a quasi object oriented scripting tool and a Visual Basic-like language.
While working at EDS, we used HyperCard on a number of projects; creating a personal information manager app called Executive Desktop, and using HyperCard as an interface to back end systems and dial up stock quote services. Creating stacks (apps) in HyperCard is how I wound up with my top-notch Advanced Technology Projects team in a meeting with Bill Atkinson, HyperCard’s creator, showing him our apps and asking questions about future HyperCard capabilities, and later demoing our apps to Apple CEO, John Sculley, not long after Steve Jobs unceremonious departure from Apple.
HyperCard proved to be much more than just a card and stack-based database and scripting tool. It was also a fast, lightweight prototyping tool. But HyperCard was so versatile it suffered from somewhat of an identity crisis; was it an interactive encyclopedia, digital instruction manual, contact list, database or programming tool? It was all those things but to fully understand HyperCard, you had to use it. HyperCard’s versatility may have been what led to its eventual downfall, after being shuffled off to Apple’s Claris software division.
Looking today at HyperCard’s early implementation of the hypertext concept, you can see it could have become something of an early web browser. I remember reading somewhere Bill Atkinson saying if HyperCard had been created in a network-centric company like Sun, it would have been a web browser. Even so, HyperCard was both innovative and a very fun environment for work, experiment and play.
Thank you Bill Atkinson and HyperCard.
Steve Jobs has been a part of my career in computer and networking since it began in the 1980’s. My first computer and business were based on the Apple II Plus, creating medical office software and consulting to the State of Nebraska Education Department while attending college at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (then Kearney State). I also worked in the college computer department supporting other students in our computer lab using Apple II’s and our timesharing mainframe computers. As a computer science student, I practically lived on my Apple II, writing software, playing games and experimenting with everything I could do with my Apple II. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were two of my first heros in the computer industry.
My Apple II followed me to my first post-college job building banking software. While others thought I was crazy, I brought my Apple II into work to write software requirements and designs while others turned in handwritten pages for the word processing pool to type up. While living in NY, I saw the introduction of the Macinotsh and the Lisa, neither of which I could afford at the time. My first Macintosh was actually purchased by my employer EDS, and a few months later I was able to buy my own Macintosh.
During that time I was working on a lot of projects using Apple technology and working on EDS’s Apple account in Cupertino. For a while I even toyed with the idea of moving to Silicon Valley and signing on to work at Apple. I was able to attend a couple of Apple events, MacWorld conferences and a TED conference where I saw Jobs in his element, pitching Apple and its products. I also had the privilege of presenting a Mac-based product I was a part of creating to then Apple CEO, John Sculley. Those projects also gave me a chance to meet Apple Fellow, Alan Kay, and Hypercard creator Bill Atkinson.
Macs were my primary computers at work and home until the mid-90’s, when I made the switch to Windows. The Mac operating system had become too unstable, slow, and lacked the software options available on Windows. Windows was catching up and the Mac no longer held the advantages over Microsoft it once had. Jobs was no longer at Apple and Apple as a company was a mess. I felt Apple had let me down on so many fronts and it was time to move on.
It wasn’t until Jobs returned to Apple and made the decision to abandon the proprietary Mac operating system and Motorola processor dependency by switching to the
Linux Unix-based Mach OS kernel that I felt there was hope for Apple. I wasn’t enamored by the iMac, the cube Mac or other plexiglass generations of Macs, but today Macs are provided as an end user computing option where I work right along with Windows. Despite my dire (and insanely stupid) predictions the iPhone would succomb to other smartphone devices, it was developing software for the iPhone that brought Apple products back into my professional and personal world. For me, the iPhone and iPad were the revolutionary equivalent to the Apple II and Mac products of their day.
Apple’s launching of the personal computer (Apple II), their approach to ease of use and user interface design, the 1987 “Knowledge Navigator” concept video (link) and the ground breaking iPhone and iPad products have all had profound impacts on me. All of these innovations helped shape my own deeply held beliefs about designing for the user experience, creating usable software, innovation and customer service. And Jobs was at the heart of these and so many other innovations.
The loss of Steve Jobs on Oct 5, 2011, didn’t come as a surprise. When Jobs announced he was stepping down as Apple CEO, I knew the end was near. For Jobs to step down, I sadly knew he had to be living out his last weeks or maybe even days.
I heard of Jobs death while driving on my way to meet my wife for dinner and a movie. I told Jodi I was surprised how strongly his passing struck and saddened me. And then I realized that Jobs has been with me since the time in college when I discovered computers and creating software were my passion, hobby and vocation. Steve, his philosophies about products and customers, and many of the products he helped create have been a part of my journey, and while I’ve had my serious disagreements with and disappointments in Apple and Jobs, there are so many more things I love, appreciate and admire about them both.
Three of the things I appreciate most about Steve Jobs were his infectious passion, his visionary product innovation and his fundamental belief in the customer experience.
Thank you for everything, Steve.
Thou shalt only use Internet Explorer. Gone are the days of the “one official browser” corporate IT standard. At least that’s the principle I operate under. I’ve vowed not to purchase or select a product, application or SaaS service that restricts itself to Internet Explorer, or any other single web browser.
The world of web browsers is just simply too diverse for most organizations to truly operate under a one web browser only policy, which has traditionally been Internet Explorer in most IT shops.
Users demand choice. Users have very strong preferences. Whether it’s Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, Internet Explorer or whatever… many (most?) end users want to use the web browser of their choosing, not the browser dictated by the company or by IT.
Web access from multiple devices. If I’m on my phone, my laptop, my computer, it doesn’t matter – I want to get to all applications, sites, etc. from whatever device is in use when the need occurs.That means it could be an iPad or iPhone one moment, a Windows 7 device another, or a MacBook at another time.
More and more users aren’t running Windows (or don’t want to.) What about Linux or Mac users? Why should they have to use a remote desktop, run a virtual Windows machine locally, or use or borrow another Windows computer to access an application or site that only supports IE?
Why don’t all vendors products support the most commonly used web browsers?
Supporting multiple browsers means adding code specific to browsers, supporting multiple versions of each browser, dealing with the myriad of browser idiosyncrasies, exponential testing variations, and ultimately added cost to create and support products. Having designed and built commercial web based software products, I know it’s hard and complex. While I sympathize with vendors, users don’t. If they prefer to use Chrome, Safari or Firefox, well… they expect your site, application or service to support their browser of choice.
It used to be acceptable for a product to start out only supporting a single browser, most often IE, and then add support for additional browsers further down the product roadmap. Not any more. Users expect products to at least support IE, Firefox and Safari, on Windows (IE), Mac and Linux platforms with product version 1.0. Chrome also has a loyal following.
My recommendation is bite the bullet and design for multi-browser support right up front. It’s much easier to do as you incrementally add features, versus retrofitting an entire product 2, 3 or more years down the road. And you won’t be facing the negative cost-benefit dilemma of retrofitting multi-browser support vs. adding features needed to make sales or customers happy. By the time you get to that point, you’ll be so proficient at cross-browser support, you’ll be rockin-and-rollin at creating new features that also work across browsers.
Speculation around the MacBook Air refresh is at a fevered pitch. It seems the speculation around every move by Apple has become a constant. I’m waiting on the expected MacBook Airs as part of a company computer refresh.
I’m guessing the specs around the new MacBook Air will receive a respectable bump up with the move to Intel’s new Sandy Bridge CPU. Performance improvements are anticipated to be up to a 17% gain over Nehalem generation CPUs and embedded Intel graphic performance is said to double. Thunderbolt high speed I/O support is assumed but it’s rumored the Airs won’t ship until they can include the Mac OS X Lion release.
What I find most interesting is speculation by Chris Whitmore (via an AppleInsider article) that MacBook Airs could be as much as 50% of Apple’s laptop sales at 1.5 million MacBook Airs sold per quarter. I actually think this might not be that far off of a prediction. Here’s why.
In helping users determine what Mac would best suit their work, a surprising number lean towards a MacBook Air (especially the anticipated new models.) Not just travel-heavy users, but even the more technical population. I also hear some users choose the MacBook Air instead of an iPad, given the 11″ Air is fairly close in size and weight — why not opt for a full computer and keyboard for the modest size and weight increase.
Coming Tomorrow, January 1 – Make VoIP calls on the iPod Touch.
Three French developers have created a hack for the Apple iPod Touch thatwill allow it to be used as a VoIP phone. I have to assume they’ve added the SIPstack to the Touch and are using the WiFi connection on the iPod Touch to makeVoIP calls.
Will Apple squash this French iPod VoIP Revolution and make bricksout of iPod Touch devices? Possible but since there’s not a required ATT serviceagreement for the Touch like the iPhone there’s not the same networkrestrictions.
Interesting idea, I can see the tagline now. Let your Apple iPod Touch reach out and touch someone! Ha, those craaaazy frenshhh peep-pulz!