Well, kind of. Parallels 6 has been released, and along with it, Parallels Mobile. Parallels Mobile allows you use an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad to remotely access a virtual session running in Parallels on a Mac. An active Parallels account and a registered virtual machine are required. Also, requires 3G or WiFi. This is essentially a remote desktop connection to a running virtual machine on the Mac and I’m not sure how useful it is, but watching Windows 7 using gestures on an iPad makes the video below very enjoyable on many levels.
Apple has announced a sudden reversal in its development conditions for its mobile devices today. Back in April, Apple announced that the only development platform that could be used to create apps for its mobile devices was the Apple SDK (software development kit), which only runs on a Mac. Fortunately, Cupertino has had a change of heart. It is now just fine to develop apps with other development platforms, provided the apps don’t download any code. Time will tell how badly the ‘no download’ condition will hamstring developers, but this is a move in the right direction.
Apple says that it has “listened to our developers”. I’m not quite sure who they were listening to back in April when they pulled the plug on third-party development platforms. Perhaps what they heard as they listened this time was the footsteps of developers heading to less restrictive platforms such as Android? Regardless, it’s a win for pretty much everyone. Adobe wasted no time in responding with glee because developers can now develop for iOS with Flash Professional CS5. Note, that doesn’t mean that Flash will work in your web browser on your iOS devices now, it just means more sales for Adobe’s development platform. Ultimately, it’s a win for users. More developers will be able to develop for iOS devices now, and that means more apps for users of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
In addition, Apple has announced they are publishing guidelines for how the app store review process works. This is designed to give developers a better idea of how the review process works and presumably a better shot at getting their apps approved.
NFC World is reporting that Apple has picked up NFC (Near Field Communication) expert Benjamin Vigier as their new mobile commerce product manager.
What’s that all about?
Near Field Communication is close range wireless technology that allows two devices to transfer data at close range (about 10cm), which basically means you tap them together to move information. Apple’s hiring of Vigier along with a fistful of NFC patent applications would indicate that Apple is looking to add this technology to a future iPhone, perhaps even the next iPhone. TechCrunch is reporting that Apple is already testing hardware from NFC hardware leader NXP.
What does that mean to me?
Short term, it should mean that you’ll be able to pay by tap and go with your phone at Apple partners through your iTunes account. Of course, we’d imagine that the Apple Store would be first in line. Go in, grab your new MacBook Pro, fire up the checkout application on your phone, tap your phone on a pad at the sales counter, and walk away. The technology could be used anywhere from coffee shops and newspaper stands to big box retail to about anything you can buy with a credit card. People could exchange business cards with a simple phone tap.
Longer term, imagine smart shopping carts that cross items off your list as you put them in the cart. How about avoiding the lines and tapping your cart to checkout? I would imagine it will take some convincing to get retailers to start ripping out their checkout counters, but that’s the kind of stuff that is possible with NFC.
Apple won’t be the first to bring NFC to a mobile phone. There are already a handful of phones that are equipped with the technology. But, Apple will bring a ease of use to the equation and some big backing. With 150 million iTunes accounts, the momentum should be there to get retailers on board. Of course, you can expect Android and the rest of the phone world to step it up as well.
Personally, I’m not excited about paying by phone. I don’t find paying by credit/debit card or cash to be an excruciating process. NFC should be faster, but by how much? If I have to pull up the app on my old 3G, it could actually be slower. However, this is the future and I do see some other interesting uses for the technology. If you embrace it, be sure to check out my post, Personal Insecurity and lock down your phone.
We spend a lot of time talking about avoiding viruses, phishing scams, and laptop security. These things are all very important. But, if you own a smartphone, chances are, you’ve got a much bigger security risk in your hands. Consider how easy it is to lose your phone or have it stolen. It’s compact and fits neatly into the palm of your hand, or a bad guy’s hand. It’s easily set down and easily walked away from. It’s easy to pull from a pocket or purse. It’s easy to have knocked off of your belt in a crowded area. In short, it’s easy to be separated from your mobile phone.
So, what’s so bad? I call my carrier and they lock the phone right? Well, kind of. Part of that depends on how quickly you can get to your carrier and just because they can clamp down on somebody sending calls out, can they stop them from using WiFi? Let’s say you give a thief just one hour. What can they do? Well, if you store your username and password in your web browser or apps and you haven’t locked your phone, they can do plenty. People are doing real work on their mobile devices these days. As an example, let’s suppose that I stored my credentials in all of my apps, then left my phone on the table at a restaurant. I know, shame on me for even having it out at a place of dining! What could you do with my phone? Well, depending on the apps I have installed, you could take all of your friends to the movies on me, drop in on my brokerage account, drain my checking account and saving account, wreak havoc on all of my social networks, take over my satellite receiver, make changes to my mobile phone account, and worst of all you could run amok on this blog! That’s some serious damage pretty fast! All of those are just examples. Depending on what apps you are running, the damage to you could be much worse. We haven’t even talked about storing your username and password to your most frequented websites or that all of your contact’s information such as work and mobile numbers has just been given up!
So, what to do? Well, first, take an inventory. What apps have you installed? What websites are in your history and your list of favorites? What is your risk if your phone is lost or stolen? If you are uncomfortable in the least at that thought, you have a couple of options. First option is just to not save credentials. Don’t allow any of your apps or the websites you visit to remember your login information. That won’t make your friends any happier when some creep is calling them on their mobile phone because they got it from your phone, but that’s your call. If you absolutely must store information, you’ll need to set a password for unlocking your phone. This is going to be less convenient than not storing your credentials because you will have to enter that code to use your phone for anything, including simply making a phone call (who does that?). There are multiple levels here. Some phones will only let you enter a four digit numeric pin. Better than nothing, but for the more paranoid (used in a good way here) some phones allow you to use numbers and letters. Using a combination of numbers, uppercase letters, and lowercase letters makes the password harder to crack. In addition, some phones allow you to hard lock the phone after a certain number of failed login attempts, which means the phone will no longer accept a password attempt and is therefore useless. The iPhone has a setting that will erase the phone after 10 failed password attempts. Both of these options mean you will want to backup your phone to your computer very regularly. If your phone is locked or erased, chances are it’s going to end up in a dumpster somewhere and not back in your hands. If you want full on paranoia, opt for a solid password using a combination of numbers and letters, lock down or erase after a number of failed attempts, and don’t store your credentials in apps or the web browser. That is certainly not going to be the most convenient phone to use, but if you do lose it, you’ll be able to breath a little easier. You will have to find the level of balance that is most comfortable for you. Just don’t make it easy for the bad people. You could just drop the data plan altogether and not worry about it, but that would be just icky! And of course getting a smartphone without a data plan is becoming increasingly difficult.
Thinking about entering the iPhone market or upgrading from an early version? Here is an interesting side by side by side by side comparo of the iPhone 2G, 3G, 3GS, and 4. While very unscientific, you can get the point pretty easily. There is no indication as to what version of the os each phone is running, but if you were considering spending the cash for the 4 or saving a few dollars (or avoiding that whole antenna thing) by getting the 3GS, this video will give you a decent real time comparison of the speed you’ll be giving up by saving the cash. You’ll need to decide which you want to give up, speed or cash.
There is no question. Steve Jobs is a master of his craft. There is also no question that Apple makes some very fine products. That’s what makes iPhone 4 antenna issue so intriguing. There is no doubt that when you consistently release products that are perceived as high quality, expectations go up. I’m not sure just how big this ‘problem’ is. According to Apple’s own data, it’s very small. However, we can’t verify that information, and protected statistics are easily “massaged” to present a desired outcome. Given that Consumer Reports can’t recommend the iPhone4 without a case, I’ve got to think it’s something more than what Apple or AT&T are willing to admit. Whether the problem is truth or hype, there is a perceived problem, and that certainly will cause problems for Apple. The amount of publicity really gave Jobs no choice but to publicly address the issue. As we did with the earlier post on the Gulf spill we will take some lessons from this crazy drama.
After watching the press conference, I came away impressed with how Jobs is able to downplay the problem and turn his product’s ‘issue’ into an industry wide issue at the same time. This was something that was quickly countered by some of Apple’s competitors. Here is what we see in the handling of this issue from the launch of the phone to the 7/16/2010 press conference:
Let’s start with the good:
Admitting you aren’t perfect. Getting companies (or people for that matter) to admit to anything not seen in a positive light is really tough these days. Apple coming out saying they aren’t perfect is a great move.
Reacting quickly. Apple could have sat on this, denied it, or tried hard to bury it. They didn’t. They took it on and addressed it quickly. Bravo!
Verbalizing your commitment to customer satisfaction. People need to hear this once and a while, but if they don’t see it lived out it can be thrown below in the fluff pile.
Offering a solution to the problem that reaches beyond the minimum, regardless of whether or not it is a problem of perception or reality. Without this, number 3 above is useless. I think this really does a lot to diffuse the negative image ‘antennagate’ has given them. Giving away a case with each phone, refunding the purchase price of the bumper cases already purchased, and offering to purchase certain third party cases for customers because they can’t make enough of their own cases is the probably best thing they could do. Wiping restocking fees for unsatisfied customers was bonus. It’s really, really nice to see a company not stopping at the minimum to make their customers happy. This puts some teeth into saying they want all of their users happy. At the end of the day, it’s a very classy move.
Now, the bad:
Mocking the problem / taking it lightly. Soon after the story broke about the iPhone 4 reception issues, Apple seemed very dismissive of the whole thing. It recommended holding the phone differently or buying one of their cases. Really? I don’t buy for a second that Jobs would accept that kind of response from a company that sold him a home theater system. How do you feel if you purchase a product that does not live up to requirements, and when you complain about it, you are told to purchase something additional to make it right? That’s insane! They didn’t let up either. The first thing we see in the press conference video is a music video blaming the problem on the media and generally making light of the issues. Is that really the juvenile image you want to start with?
Coming off as arrogant when addressing the problem. As far as the recommendation to hold the phone differently, it really smacked of arrogance and provided ample fodder for Apple’s competitors. Nokia for one wasted no time jumping on the opportunity. Suppose I bought a car that sometimes wouldn’t turn left. Would Steve Jobs tell me to stop taking left turns? This is ridiculous.
Trying to make your problem look acceptable by pointing to holes in your customer’s products. This isn’t about their phones. It’s about your phones. What are you doing about fixing your phones? Let the competition fall to the wolves on their own. Note: This includes fixing the algorithm to calculate the number of bars. My favorite line from the press conference is this “…some of these other phones might be being a little bit too liberal on their algorithms too.” How it sounds to me – “It’s OK that we lie, everyone else is doing it too.”
Not admitting your product has a problem. Jobs admits that all phones have problems. That’s not the same thing, that’s dodging the bullet.
Finally, the fluff:
They are working their butts off. Gee. That’s great. You are in a highly competitive market and you are working hard. If you ever read this Mr. Jobs, here’s a tip for you; “Your competitors are working their butts off too. Get used to it.” These days, working hard is expected. It doesn’t matter how good you are or how hard you are working. People don’t care. Right or wrong, the market rewards results. That’s the bottom line.
You’ve got really expensive facilities and really smart people. If you are this good and your phone has a problem, that can make you look worse than you would if you had never brought it up in the first place.
The iPhone4 antenna issue will be a story for years to come. With a truly unique marketing machine and a history of delivering quality products, even the smallest issue will be magnified. When people love your products, they expect perfection. Apple seems to be a victim of it’s it’s own hype in this case. However, if handled properly, this problem for Apple could turn out to be a positive for them. We know that well handled customer problems actually increase the customer retention rate. Time will tell whether Jobs and his crew have handled this well enough.