Being an Apple Developer These Days Must be Hard

I know lots of people were bent out of shape when Steve Jobs told the crowd at WWDC that they can develop for the iPhone as long as it is in the browser. The whole idea of providing access to build applications for a platform is typically at the heart of that platform’s success … when I think about Apple’s business models (or product segments) for a second I see things in an interesting way. Apple seems to have a few core areas of focus these days in the hardware space — the Mac, the iPod, the Apple TV, and the iPhone. Each one does some amazing things — and to tell you the truth it occurs to me that only the iPod isn’t running OSX … they’ll fix that. This is from a company who “ignited the personal computing revolution …” Things are shifting.

The Mac has always been a platform where developers have been invited to play. You want to make some software for it? Go ahead … Apple even has a whole developer relations group and associated services. WWDC is a developer’s conference — a developer’s conference for the Mac. With that in mind I can see why the masses were irritated when Jobs told them to build web apps to support the phone. These are real developers who write real code. Not that web apps aren’t real apps, but I think we all get the notion. I am quite honestly excited by the web apps I am seeing being revised to work really well on the iPhone. The Ta-Da List port is one that makes a whole lot of sense in the browser — I am now testing it with my administrative assistant as an ad-hoc calendar tool.

The iPod is a closed platform from what I can tell. There isn’t an open SDK for the iPod that I know of. I could be wrong about this one, but I don’t know of one — at least on the software side. I tell a story about a time I visited Apple right after the iPod was released … I actually told an product manager that if they really wanted to make this product successful they’d release an SDK and let computer science departments use it as a platform. I guess my brilliant idea wasn’t needed. Sure, Nike and a few other select feew companies have been able to release software that extends the functionality of the iPod, but for the most part it is a closed party. The Apple TV is being hacked all the time, but again, from what I can tell it is a closed platform. Yes, the Apple TV runs some sort of OSX, but it isn’t a true Mac.

The iPhone is in the same boat … it runs OSX, but it isn’t a Mac. Apple has created a website that gives us the info we need to create the right kinds of web apps, but that is as far as they’ll go with it. The funny thing is that the fact this thing has a browser opens up nearly unlimited possibilities — at least from my perspective. It has to be hard for real developers though.

The whole paradigm shift happening at Apple is interesting to watch — a computer company that is no longer just a computer company. How will this change developer relations? How will WWDC need to change to integrate the other three product lines? I have no idea, but I doubt Steve and Co. are done in the space that isn’t occupied by the Mac. Imagine being a developer and being tempted by these other products … just dreaming about what could be done. It must be so hard to step outside the Apple developer mindset.

More Apple TV Thoughts

I am now a full on Apple TV user … I know that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those of you who know me as an Apple FanBoy. What has surprised me is how the device has really changed the way I use my iPod. For the last 4 years or so I have taken my iPod to work with me everyday and instantly dropped it in the cradle upon returning home so it could drive music throughout our house. I killed the CD collection years ago and have been living in a digital music ecosystem since my iPods’ storage capacities started to match my old analog collection. The routine still includes me taking my iPod to work everyday, but I now walk in to music already playing throughout the house via the Apple TV … it is easy to use and everyone seems to like it.

I do have an issue though … my iPod is 80 GB and it stores all my stuff — Music, TV Shows, Movies, Podcasts, and Pictures without issue. Last night I was syncing the Apple TV after purchasing some new content from Apple and noticed things getting a little tight.


As new podcasts, movies and shows that I buy come in daily the thing is syncing a lot in the background getting filled to the brim with content.


The thing that has me very frustrated isn’t so much the ridiculously small 40 GB drive (which I am now considering upgrading via this kit) it is the poorly designed syncing limitations. I know simplicity is the goal, but what if I want all the episodes of the Office, but only the last 5 of another show? With the built in tools I don’t get the kind of granular control that I need to make the most of the 40 GB drive. There’s stuff I watch over and over — like episodes of the Office — and there is stuff I only want to watch once. One of the things my daughter loves is having all her Disney Channel shows at her fingertips … but if I set it for all episodes just for that reason, I put my hard drive in a serious crunch time situation.


How about giving me the ability set a different sync schedule for each show? That way, the little lady can have all the episodes of Kim Possible ready to rock and roll, while I don’t need to have every episode of Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia (great show BTW) taking up HD space? All I want is a little more control … I shouldn’t have to feel like I need to hack my device or void the warranty to use it the way I need to.

Apple TV Thoughts: The Wireless Content System

I’ve been using my Apple TV for close to two weeks now and I am really enjoying it. After some initial setup issues (with my old receiver, not the Apple TV) I have had nothing but good things to say about it. It has worked perfectly with my iMac in the other room — wirelessly grabbing content any time something new flows in. All I have to say is that it just works. Not a surprise, but for a new space for Apple, this thing works like a second or third generation product.

Seeing that I am not into the hacks that so many people seem to be psyched about, I would like to share a thought about the Apple TV … I think it could be a killer school-based content platform. What strikes me is how easily it all works — plug it in and let it grab content wirelessly from anywhere. Imagine a school with one in every classroom all connected to not only a central iTunes library, but to any other iTunes enabled machine in the vicinity. Schools could subscribe to any of the thousands of available audio or video podcasts and be constantly playing fantastic educational content in their classrooms.

If you used it in combination with a school-based iTunes U implementation, individual teachers could easily subscribe and share their own content as well as student work. What an affordable way to create a high end “streaming” solution. I don’t know yet if there is a limit to the number of Apple TV systems you can setup and connect to one machine (I know there are limitations in the other direction), but it all seems like an outstanding option for moving audio and video around in an educational context.

Here at PSU, our public broadcasting network is establishing a nice presence in the Penn State on iTunes U space we’ve been creating. Imagine schools simply connecting to that and the other Universities’ spaces to grab resources that are now easily and affordably moved around a building. I think it makes the case for Apple to include an educational discount for this device. Talk about a new age wireless cart for content distribution! Am I missing something or is this a great way to leverage the emerging public iTunes U spaces as well as the podcast directory and the Apple TV?


With the Apple TV it seems like you could (un)wire access really well.

Apple TV First Impressions

This could possibly be the longest I’ve let a new piece of Apple hardware sit around in a box. It showed up on Thursday and sat as I tried to figure out how I was going to integrate it into my home setup — My existing receiver has only two component video inputs and it doesn’t do HDMI, so figuring that out was a mess. My TV is on the wall a good 12 feet away from where the equipment sits. All my cables run out through the wall into the garage and back in behind the TV. It all looks very clean, but running a 16′ HDMI cable (at $200.00) wasn’t part of the equation. Long story short, I am setup now after a couple of hours of planning this morning. If the TV was right next to the Apple TV box this would have all been avoided.

That aside, I have to say that the experience of turning it on for the first time exceeded my expectations. I should have taken some pictures, but my wife already thinks I am too into this tuff (here are some pictures of setup from TUAW).It has the standard Apple feel to it … plug it in, flip on the TV, and the glowing Apple logo greets you on screen. The only real setting out of the box are selecting a screen resolution and wireless network. The Apple TV actually saw about a half dozen wireless networks that my laptop doesn’t see. I selected mine and it instantly worked. It gave me a little pass code to pair it with my iMac in the office and that was it. The Apple TV showed up under the heading “devices” on the iMac’s iTunes much like it was an iPod. From there I was able to syncing options for TV Shows, Movies, Music, Photos, and Podcasts. Either all or selected playlists/albums can get synced. No need for me to tell you how it manages all that as Apple does a good job at their website.

What I will tell you about is how fast it all is — very. I instantly filled up about half of the hard drive on the Apple TV with my selections … honestly it was very fast moving items to the Apple TV itself. No problems and I have not purchased the new Airport. No need. As you can imagine the menus are very slick and seem well polished — as a matter of fact the interface is better than FrontRow as far as I am concerned. One thing that is interesting is that one of the menu selections is “sources.” Going in there lets you switch between the items living on the hard drive of the Apple TV or switch to other machines. Selecting the iMac sees the Apple TV connect to it very quickly and make all the media on it instantly available. Unlike the problems I’ve had streaming music from laptop to laptop I haven’t seen any issues pulling the music and video from the air.

This morning we watched a bunch of movie trailers, listened to music (the screen saver is very cool), and watched slideshows backed by our own soundtrack. Everything worked perfectly. I’m not too keen on having yet another little Apple Remote, but it does let you pair it so it doesn’t mess with my iPod sitting next to it. I’ll post more, but I have to say the quality is great, music sounds great over the digital out and video quality of things purchased recently via iTunes Store look good. I was even able to watch movies I had originally prepared to watch on my iPod and they look solid as well. I’m not done putting it through the paces, but it does what Apple claims and does it all with the typical elegance we’ve come to expect from Apple. Good purchase and I have a feeling as I get more used to the way it all works I’ll be taking advantage of it quite a bit.

My Apple TV Shipped

Just a note to say my Apple TV shipped this morning … Apple pushed it back a few times, but they kept their word on the “Ships by March 20, 2007” email I got a couple of weeks ago. I should have it by the end of the week. I intend to do a full review this weekend and will post my thoughts then. I am actually excited to see how well this thing plays in my home entertainment network … I didn’t buy the new Airport Extreme and am hopeful speeds will be good enough to make this thing work as advertised. We shall see … stay tuned.