With the launch of Apple's iPad tablet and iBooks eBook purchasing and reading software, Apple has significantly rounded-out their device and content offerings, but TiPb can't help but think a few iApp holes remain, namely iChat, iMags, iNews, iFeeds, and iBlog.
Some of these will likely resonate immediately, others we might need to explain our thinking, but either way what Apple gave us last week and the hype and hyperbole, expectations and exasperations, hopes and howls that proceeded and followed it shows just how much we all think and feel about the iPhone OS platform.
First things first. None of these ideas are new or novel. In fact, most of them have been mentioned from early on and mentioned a lot. We're just looking at where the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad are today, and listing -- or re-listing -- some of the remaining, wickedly obvious, gaps in their apps.
Second things second. As much fun as we think an iPad version of Mac OS X's Photo Booth would be, we're not going to include anything that would require additional hardware like an iSight webcam. We want it, believe us we do, but we're going to stick with what Steve Jobs showed us on stage last week... for now.
Seriously, where the [redacted] is Mobile iChat? While Mac OS X power-users might gravitate to third party solutions like Adium, Apple makes sure every one of their computers ships with iChat, and for mainstream Mac users, that's still the go-to app. That it's on every one of Apple's computers, along with Mail and Safari, shows just how core IM (instant messages) are to the internet experience. Yet three generations heading towards four, and we've seen no sign of it for the iPhone -- and now the iPad -- other than the always plentiful Apple patent filings.
There are great 3rd party IM clients for the iPhone in the App Store, no doubt about it. Maybe if there was a Mobile iChat that wouldn't be the case. There are no other email clients or browsers in the App Store by way of worst case scenarios (just embeddable mail and webviews). There are other camera apps and photo viewers, however, weather and stock apps, contact managers and voice recorders, so there's a best case as well.
Apple already has the built-in Messages (formerly SMS) app on the iPhone. Maybe carriers weren't originally keen on the idea of 1st-party threats to their utterly plush text message business but that ship has sailed. Build out or build upon Messages and give us iChat. Give mainstream users base instant message functionality out of the box, with typical Apple simplicity and elegance, and of course the background multitasking that would come with such status. Power users who want more, and are willing to switch to push-notifications, could find other options in the App Store.
And yeah, we're not bringing up iChat Video because we promised not to mention hardware, but you know that they know they we know we'll bring it up again at some point...
At the iPad announcement we got iBooks, Apple's answer to eBook buying and reading, but what about iMags for magazines? As much as we love our eBooks, we like the idea of getting our weekly or monthly magazines delivered with just as much iTunes automagical goodness.
Going one strep further, how about an iTunes LP/Extra style format then that would allow easy and consistent eMagazines to be produced, seamlessly blending text, video, even music into something readers would be willing to pay for so that publishers can afford to create it. (And you bet we think an iLife '10 with iDVD turned into a super-slick iTunes TuneKit development tool would be a great idea no matter which road Apple chooses to take). Just like indie music, it would let independent writers/publishers get into the game. iZine, if that doesn't make you shudder.
Okay, maybe iTunes isn't set up to handle subscriptions yet and that's the current show-stopper. Apple never pulled that trigger for music and is apparently having trouble getting the TV industry to let them pull it for video. Even season passes for TV series aren't really up to the level of a real subscription service yet.
But Amazon's Kindle is already handling magazines and newspapers (which we'll get to next), and as much as iBooks is an ePub answer to the Kindle Book Store, Apple and the iPad need an answer for eMagazines.
While iMags covers weeklies and monthlies, the dailies need a solution just as badly. iNews, or eNewspapers, or whatever is the appropriate term for digital content that "just works" its way onto your iPad at 3am every day -- again just like the Kindle is already doing -- is the other missing piece of the iBooks puzzle.
Sure, Apple has the no less than the New York Times up on stage showing off their prototype iPad app during the introduction, but hundreds of independent apps clogging up our devices -- and the App Store -- is a very un-Apple-like solution. While it would no doubt lead to tons of creativity and variety, Apple prides itself on simplicity and UI consistency. (Otherwise why not just sell the OS and let OEMs and do-it-yourselfers build their own Macs, right?)
Maybe Apple is just taking its time, starting off with books the way they started off with music in iTunes, and they're already intending to add magazines and newspapers the way iTunes has added movies and TV shows. Sure, no matter how big they are, Apple is still only one company and they have to choose how to spend their finite engineering resources. Hopefully they'll choose to spend some on those subscription services, because we can't help but think they'd be killer, especially for periodicals.
Say what you want about desktop Safari RSS, but at least desktop Safari has native RSS. Mobile Safari pushes RSS out to a webapp so abandoned it still uses .mac in its URL (which Apple changed to MobileMe back in summer of 2008 with the launch of the iPhone 3G/iPhone 2.0). Just like with IM, there are a lot of great RSS clients in the App Store, and they do something Apple would likely not choose to do -- sync with the 900lbs gorilla that is Google Reader. So, we hope they don't go anywhere. But for casual news reading, a built-in Apple client, even a native extension to Mobile Safari would be nifty, if only and again for background multitasking.
See, on desktop Safari our RSS just updates in the background and new articles are brought down and ready and waiting for us to peruse immediately and at our leisure. App Store apps launch, contact Google Reader, check status, start to sync or populate a list view from web data, and then and only then can we start reading. (Or they just function as a skin for a WebApp and then we can just as easily add Google Reader proper to our Home Screen).
This one is a tougher sell, no doubt about it. Mainstream users don't use RSS and a certain segment of geeks is moving from RSS to social networks like Twitter and Facebook to crowd-source and crowd-sort their news. The former is something Apple just doing it could fix, especially with a few pre-populated, and popular, feeds ready to go. The latter still strikes us as far too subject to happenstance (if you stop following for a couple hours to nap or watch a movie, a story that matters to you could be plowed away by several newer ones that matter more to others).
And we can already hear you complaining this one is thinner than an iPod touch, but again bear with us. As much as the iPad, and to the same extent the iPhone, is focused more on consumption of content than creation, but as the iPad iWork apps themselves show, we're going to need some creation, including for web-based services.
If iDVD is going to be reborn as an easy iTunes LP/iTunes Extras development tool, why can't iWeb be reborn to better handle modern web 2.0 content creation? Rather than static pages, blogs and micro-blogs are the web site creation mediums of today. There are dedicated apps for several of the more popular blogging platforms already on the iPhone App Store, but they're dedicated apps and the web is more distributed than ever.
Microsoft makes Windows Live Writer and on Mac OS X there are a couple great applications that let you write for many of the most popular blogging platforms. Apple's been accused of not "getting" social media for a long time but it's getting to the point where it just has to be gotten.
iLife '09 for Mac contained iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, iWeb, and (hidden away) iDVD. We've already seen iWork's Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for iPad. We've seen Photos for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPhone. I'm sure many would like a multitouch GarageBand and iMovie (expanded from the iPhone's trimming) as well as am iWeb 2.0 or iBlog that allowed for simple blog and micro-blog text, photos, and movie posting.
So that's TiPb's top five iApps we'd still like to see added to the iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone. Agree, disagree, or have alternatives or additions all your own? It's still 2 months to the iPad's debut at the end of March, and 6 month until we likely get the final release of iPhone 4.0, so let us -- and Apple -- know what you think!
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