iTunes and iOS6: A Wish List… of Sorts – Part 2

There are changes coming to iOS6, and as a result iTunes, that may or may not make everyone happy. Here’s what I’d like to see

Everyone is talking about iPhone 5 and what it is and isn’t going to look like. While the hardware drives a lot of features, it’s the software that makes the device what it is. The OS, iOS6 and iTunes, are really going to drive what happens to the latest version of the phone that most everyone loves to hate. Here’s what I think (and would like to see) will happen with the latest version of both.

In the first part of this article, I finished up with what Apple was doing with iOS 6. This time, I’m going to opine about what they need to do with iTunes… and its extensive.

iTunes
iTunes does a lot…a LOT, A LOT. It manages music and video, it rips and burns audio CD’s, it’s a podcast catcher, it manages ringtones, it manages applications, and it’s a music, video and application store. Its also a social network allowing users to connect, discuss, rate and review all the content it manages and sells.

It syncs all the content is sells and manages to any and all iDevices you own, so it’s a mobile device manager and sync hub. With it, iTunes allows you to specify what content, and how much of it to sync to your mobile devices.

It’s also a freakin’ mess.

Now, with iOS 6, Apple is going to add additional content to the mix – credit cards, discount cards, coupons, redemption codes, boarding passes, etc. What you’re going to manage it all with on the desktop side is still up in the air. Passbook for iOS doesn’t have a desktop counterpart – yet. However, one thing in my mind is VERY clear – Apple needs to do something with iTunes, quickly, or its going to wind up with a bunch of spaghetti code sooner rather than later.

In short, I think Apple needs to break up its iTunes monopoly into a few different applets. Here are my thoughts.

Content Library Management
iTunes’ roots are in content management, namely music. The app started out as a way for users to rip the CD’s they own and then manage their electronic music collection on their computer. It also synchronized the content you chose to your iPod.

Library Management
Content is no longer limited to just audio. In today’s world, it also includes video – movies as well as TV shows. Currently, iTunes does a decent job of managing the content on your PC, as well as on your iDevice; but it needs to do a better job.

I’ve got HUNDREDS of movies and TV show episodes, most that I’ve purchased through iTunes, representing hundreds of gigabytes of space. Some I’ve ripped from DVD’s that I have legally purchased a license for. Unfortunately, I can’t fit all of this content on my MacBook Pro. It’s just not realistic to think that I’m going to be able to fit my ENTIRE media library on a notebook hard drive; but it is reasonable to assume that I would want to have access to all of it, in different locations, all at once.

I’ve got about 12TB (yes, 12 TERABYTES) of NAS, or network attached storage, on my home network. It’s all hooked together through my Apple Time Capsule. Apple needs to find a way of allowing content stored on a NAS device to be actively loaded into an iTunes Library, without having to load and unload library files. Currently, I either have to create and load a specific library file located on an external drive; or I have to delete unwanted content, reload/copy wanted content from the external drive into an iTunes library over and over.

This requires me to burn internal, home network bandwidth (which isn’t so much of an issue as long as I’m not streaming content internally) and to copy large files on and off my hard drive, which creates data and disk errors requiring me to restart the PC in Recovery Mode and repair the disk.

Break Out Podcasts
Having a built in podcast catcher is great, but may be muddying the water. On the device side, Apple broke podcasts out into its own app. I’m recommending they do the same thing here. In the long run, it’s going to make the management of content a lot easier. It may make you look in more than one place for stuff, but if done right, it should make a lot of sense.

Break Out Mobile Apps
This is a no-brainer. Mobile Apps should be a subset of the Mac App Store. Apple already has a way to manage desktop apps. It would be simplicity to break that out of iTunes and extend it to the App Store. One App Store to rule it all. Period.

Content Store – Extend the App Store
The buying experience needs to come out of iTunes. They have an electronic store on every Mac desktop in the App Store. It would be very easy to take not only mobile apps, which is a logical first step, but music, movies, TV shows, etc., and place the entire buying experience in a single electronic store front.

This is going to accomplish two things: 1) It centralizes all Apple content purchases. Software and multimedia content for your iDevice or your Mac can be found in a single place, and changes to the store or store front can be accomplished without having to tweak the entire iTunes/iTunes Store experience. 2) It unclutters iTunes. iTunes was originally supposed to be a way to organize and sync music. Now it’s a mobile app store, a content store, and a social network and ratings portal as well as a content management tool. It’s gotta be a little ugly in there.

The best thing that can happen to iTunes is that it gets an optimization overhaul. It could be a much better application if it got broken up.

Enhance Sync Services
Apple Sync services sync data in Address Book and iCal to a number of different online services, including iCloud. Sync Services *MAY* manage the sync with your iDevice, but honestly, I’m not entirely certain. However, if it doesn’t, it most definitely should. Getting the sync out of iTunes and bolted onto Apple Sync Services here would be a much better idea. That way, all synchronization is handled by the same component(s) and can be managed at the OS level and not at an app level.

Create Digital Wallet Applet to support Passbook
With the introduction of Passbook, and the rumored NFC functionality in iPhone 5, we’re going to need an Apple developed app to handle the management of this information. I know that I’m going to be able to enter the info on my device, but having a password protected desktop app that allows me to better see and handle this kind of information is much preferred to doing this totally on the iDevice side. The data, of course would be encrypted and synchronized to the iDevice via the new, revised Sync Services, as noted above.

There’s a lot that needs to happen here. iTunes isn’t a total train wreck, but it’s definitely a mess. I would really like to see a bit more than a bit of work done on this ecosystem level app with the introduction of iPhone 5. If it can’t be released in conjunction with iPhone 5, then it should happen as soon after as possible. I know this would require a huge update not only it iTunes, but to OS X as well, as some of my recommendations would require enhancements at the OS level (the App Store and Sync Services)

On the Windows side, things get a bit trickier, as system services would likely have to be created from scratch. The App Store would obviously NOT handle PC apps, but could and should handle mobile apps, as well as multimedia content. Both would be new to the Windows world.

What exactly will happen with iTunes is just as much speculation as what will happen on 12-Sep-12…IF that IS in fact, iPhone 5 Day. We’ll have to wait and see, as with every “box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get…”

Read Part 1 Of This Article

 

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iPad 3 Rumors & Thoughts – Part 2: iOS 6

With Steve Jobs gone and his legacy not completely publically known or understood, the iPad 3 is almost a complete unknown as well. Let’s take a look at some of the rumors and see what’s what.

I’ve been reading the authorized Steve Jobs biography, and quite honestly, I’ve been learning a great deal. Apple very much *IS* Steve Jobs, and vice-versa. It’s been an interesting read. Much of the design and thoughts for the iPad itself came before the iPhone. It was put on hold to address and release the need for the iPhone. However, the magic that is the iPhone will forever be beholden to the iPad. This was probably one of the most interesting revelations I’ve encountered in the book so far. But the iPad… that was Steve’s baby. He really wanted to do a tablet to counter the netbook surge and push, which is pretty much OVER at this point.

Apple has the tablet market pretty much sewn up. At this point, Android can try all it wants, but without the walled garden that Apple has cultivated and nurtured, it’s going to be hard for Google, any of their hardware partners, or ANYONE really, to catch up to them any time soon.

So, with all that, let’s take a quick gander at what is likely to come to iPad and iPhone fans alike with the next major release of iOS.

Siri Matures
I’ve been using my iPhone 4S for a couple of months, and I really like Siri; though at times, I think she thinks I have a speech impediment. I keep on asking her, “what’s my day like;” and she keeps telling me that she doesn’t understand, “what’s my daylight.” Awesome. Love that. I’ve also noticed that Siri on EDGE isn’t as accurate as Siri on 3G/4G (HSPA+); but that’s another matter entirely.

With the next MAJOR release of iOS, meaning iOS 6, we’re going to see a major bump in Siri’s maturity level. You’re going to be able to ask her to do a lot more and she’s going to be more integrated in how the device works. While she won’t be a complete consumer AI, she’s going to be the closest thing that John Q. Public will likely see for a while

Siri’s biggest problem, however, is not what she can’t do, or even that she may not listen very well. It’s that people don’t really know all of what she can and cannot do. My biggest problem with Siri is that I really don’t know what she’s capable of; and depending on what kind of cellular coverage you may have, if your inside or outside the Wi-Fi zone or perhaps having a bad hair day, Siri’s success in understanding what you want/need/mean when you speak may vary.

Apple needs to improve her listening skills and needs to insure that the local device does as much of the heavy lifting as it can. Voice recognition shouldn’t depend on your network connection speed. For example, when I ask Siri to call so and so, Siri seems to do a lot of thinking on my end. I know I have 1600+ contacts, but the response back from her should be almost instantaneous if I have so and so in my Contact List.

Support for Siri over LTE is also pretty much a no-brainer, given the inclusion of the mobile technology at a hardware level.

Improved Google Maps and Navigation Integration
There are two issues here – an improved Google Maps (just called Maps in iOS, but it’s the same thing) and integration with a navigation app. Its separate for a couple of reasons.

  • Google Maps for iOS is a mapping only app. There have been improvements made to Maps over the past few full revisions of iOS, but it’s not done anything more than provide map information and directions from A to B since its introduction.
  • Google has kept turn-by-turn navigation in Google Maps for its own Android OS.

In the next major version of iOS, Apple needs to give you support for the following use case:

  • 1. User – Siri, where’s the nearest ?
  • 2. Siri – I have found the following near your location.
  • 3. Siri – Would you like to navigate/go to any of them.
  • 4. User – Yes
  • 5. Siri – Which ?
  • 6. User –
  • 7. Siri – Would you like to walk or drive there from your current location? (if walking is a reasonable option)
  • 8. User –
  • 9. Siri – Which navigation application would you like to use? You have the following navigation applications installed.

or,

  • You don’t have any navigation applications installed. Would you like to search for and purchase one from the App Store?

or,

  • You don’t have any navigation applications installed. Would you like to me to generate directions with Maps?
  • 10. User – Makes appropriate choice
  • 11. Siri – Provides directions or launches purchased navigation app, passing the appropriate origin and destination variables to the app.

This will require modification on the part of the navigation app so it can accept these variables from Siri, but that should be doable, especially if Apple provides the appropriate API’s. Apple also needs to grow Siri so that she can control hardware iPhone components (volume, screen brightness, Bluetooth radio (Siri, turn on Bluetooth and pair/connect with/to.)

At the end of the day, though, you can see that Apple needs to do something with the current version of Maps, because it’s just not cutting it. Maps is nice, but giving me directions and not turn by turn navigation is not what users want. Apple doesn’t control the version of Maps in iOS, and while they can augment it some with Siri, and perhaps provide an API so other navigation apps can fit in, there are rumors that a recent acquisition may be a more likely result than an API for other navigation apps or than expecting Google to bring its Navigation to the party.

Come back next time, and I’ll dive into when and how the iPad 3 will be released.

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Last week’s highlights #5

We left a busy week behind us with lots of good articles and reviews. Let’s take a look:

Traktor Pro 2 – the maximum freedom in DJing

If you spin tracks for a living or on the side, then you need to listen up. I’ve looked at some mixing software over the past few months, but none have really “sent” me. Traktor however, is a completely different story. It’s a DJ-ing and track mixing application and its available for both Windows and Mac, and quite frankly, it floored me.

If ain’t dirty, don’t clean it

Amid all the Holiday Hullaballoo, malware attacks can be nasty. However, beware where the warnings are coming from. You must have a malware scanner on your computer – Mac, Windows or Linux – don’t compute without one. Period. You also need to heed the warning dialogs they display. If you’ve got a bug, or if it catches one before it infects you, do what it tells you in order to get rid of it. However, do yourself a favor, mind where the dialog boxes are coming from.

Make use of a synchro calendar with GoCal

In case the default calendar app for iOS isn’t enough for you and you want something more advanced and with some additional synchronization features, GoCal can be the solution to your needs. At its core, GoCal is nothing else but a calendar client that can integrate the default iOS calendar, and the Google Calendar. Actually the Google Calendar integration is the main reason you should try this software out.

2011 Gift Guide Part 2 – Suggested Gifts

Following the 2011 Gift Guide Part1 – Ok, Great! Now what should I buy? article here are my recommendations for just about every budget level, given our recent thorough discussion about Mobile Device Ecosystems. It’s true.  The hottest ticket items this 2011 Holiday Season are all mobile – tablets, smartphones, music players, ultra-portable notebooks (the netbook is dead) – and the like will undoubtedly find their way to a gift box near you. Ecosystem aside, there are some really cool gadgets out there right now, and figuring out which basket to put all your eggs in can be confusing.

Pho.to Lab lets you create fun photo montages on your iPhone & Android

Android has some great picture and image editing apps to adjust and enhance your photos, such as Photoshop Mobile and PicSay. But what if you just want to add some cool photo frames and effects to your pictures? We all love having fun, right? Then you definitely have to try Pho.to Lab. This simple app is a winner for two reasons: first, it is very easy to use and second, it has more than 450 awesome effects for your photos!

Zemana AntiMalware

You’ll hear me say it over and over again – you simply can’t run a computer now-a-days without some kind of antivirus or security software running in the background.  You’re just asking for problems if you think you don’t need one…and if you get a virus, bug or worm, THEN what do you do??  This is why I’m thankful for applications like Zemana Anti-Malware. It’s a specialized malware scanner for Windows and it’s the kind that most people need.

NoteLege – your iPad note-taking app that takes the hassle out of organizing your notes and thoughts

We’re in the information age now. Everything gets around faster and the number of sources and amount of information we need to remember can get overwhelming. Now, for those who own an iPad, let me suggest you a great note-taking application that combines handwriting, typing, audio and video recording. The application is called NoteLedge and it’s developed by Kdan Mobile.

iOS 6 Wish List

iOS5 is out and available to all supported iOS devices. With the iPhone 5 and iPad 3 rumored to be coming in 2012, let’s take a quick moment to speak to a couple desired features. The release of the iPhone 4S also gave us iOS5. Battery life issues and improvements not-withstanding, any additional additions or life altering improvements will need to wait until iOS 6 is released. In light of that, I’d like to speak to a quick wish list for iOS6. The list is below, in no particular order.

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