SiliconFilter

Apple's Mac App Store: First Impressions

/

Earlier this morning – and somewhat earlier than expected – Apple launched its App Store for the Mac. After using it for a while now, it’s clear that this will be a major shift in how Mac users buy and upgrade their apps. There are, however, also some issues with this new app-buying paradigm for the desktop that Apple still needs to solve. Most importantly, developers can’t offer trials for paid apps, a problem that is highlighted by the absence of a return policy.

The store currently features just over 1,000 apps, organized in the usual categories like Education, Games, Graphics & Design, Lifestyle, Productivity and Utilities. Apple also used this opportunity to release unbundled versions of its iLife ’11 and iWork ’09 apps.

[list type=”blue”]

  • Apple needs to rip the iPhone and iPad app store out of iTunes as well. The new app store feels fast and lightweight, something that really can’t be said about iTunes anymore at this point.
  • Installing apps is as easy as in the mobile app store. Click buy and the icon appears in your dock with the same progress bar underneath we’ve become accustomed to on iOS.
  • Don’t expect iPhone-like pricing in the Mac App Store. Developers will surely experiment with their pricing schemes, but some apps (like TiltShift for an “introductory price” of $25 and Bejeweled 3 for $20) are clearly overpriced right now. Of course, it remains to be seen what Mac owners are willing to pay for their apps, too. Apple’s own Aperture is currenly the 9th most popular paid app at a price of almost $80, though Angry Birds ($5) and Chopper 2 ($1) are leading the pack of paid apps.
  • iWork is featured prominently in the store (in unbundled form). Sadly, this is still the ’09 version.
  • No trials and no refunds? Given the price of many of these apps, that could become an issue for developers. Most offer trial versions of their apps on their own websites, but what happens if the App Store becomes the de facto method of finding apps for most users?
  • Overall, Apple does a nice job at recognizing the apps you have already installed on your machine. Some, it didn’t recognize on my computer (TextWrangler, OmniFocus, for example), but most showed up as “installed” in the App Store.
  • [/list]



    10:44 am


    One Week With the Google ChromeOS Notebook: An Experiment in Total Cloud Computing

    /

    cr_48_notebook_small.jpg

    It’s been just about a week since Google’s Cr-48 prototype ChromeOS netbook appeared on my doorstep. Since then, I’ve been putting it through its paces, including during a short trip to a press event in Detroit, and it’s turned out to be a surprisingly useful machine.

    A Few Words About the Hardware

    I’ve read quite a bit about people’s problems with the current hardware, especially the trackpad. I don’t know if I just got lucky, but besides the widely chronicled issues with slow video playback (which I tend to attribute to Flash more than to the hardware itself), the trackpad and everything else on the Cr-48 worked as expected. Indeed, while the 3.8 pound Atom-powered netbook is clearly no a speed demon, it’s perfectly adequate for browsing the Web and the speed feels similar to the browsing experience on the iPad.

    cr48 packaging

    Q: Is Living in the Cloud Really an Option Yet? A: Kinda

    At the end of the day, the Cr-48 is really a radical experiment on Google’s part that tries to answer whether it’s really possible to live in the cloud without wired Internet access and native apps outside of the browser. After all, ChromeOS gives you nothing but a browser and access to WiFi and Verizon’s 3G network (with a meager 100mb of free data transfer on Verizon’s network). You don’t get any native apps and with the exception of a few early ChromeOS apps like the NYTimes app, most of the current apps don’t offer an offline mode yet. For the most part, you don’t even get access to the notebook’s local storage (a fast 16GB SSD drive).

    What was interesting to me, was that the Cr-48 made me realize how much of my current computing needs can be satisfied by ChromeOS. I already read all my email through various Google and Google Apps accounts, for example, and Google Docs is perfectly adequate for taking notes during a meeting.

    At the same time, though, Google Docs is still not able to handle complex documents. For those, I prefer Microsoft’s Office Web apps, but those apps are – of course – not as tightly integrated with Gmail as Google’s own productivity apps.

    Thanks to Seesmic and the new online version of TweetDeck, the Cr-48 satisfies all my Twitter needs, and as a long-time MOG subscriber, all my music needs are fulfilled as well. For blog posts, I can just write in the WordPress and MovableType online editors. And for the most part, that’s all I do with my laptop today anyway, so the Cr-48 turned out to be all I needed during my last business trip earlier this week (thanks, fittingly, to Delta’s Google-sponsored free in-flight wireless, too).

    But Would I Use it as My Only Laptop? Probably Not Yet

    That said, though, would I use the Cr-48 and/or ChromeOS as my one and only notebook anytime soon? Probably not – while it fulfills a good chunk of my day-to-day computing needs, there are those four or five apps I need (like Skitch for screenshots and Skype for VoIP calls) that just don’t run on ChromeOS today. A full switch to Google’s new operating system really isn’t an option yet – though with time, as more ChromeOS apps become available – this could change.

    For now, ChromeOS is an interesting experiment and I fully expect to continue using the Cr-48 as a secondary notebook when I head out to the local coffee shop.



    12:26 pm


    Hands On With the New NYTimes iPad App

    /

    Until today, the New York TimesEditors’ Choice iPad app only offered access to a limited number of articles. Now, however, a full-blown NYTimes app has replaced this limited app. The new app offers access to all of the paper’s articles, including the weekend magazine and some of the NYTimes’ blogs.

    To get full access to the content, users do need an NYTimes.com account, however. Unregistered users will only be able to see a limited selection of articles , including the top news stories, most emailed stories, business news and a small selection of videos.

    Overall, the new app resembles the old Editors’ Choice app, but instead of the menu bar with icons for the limited selection of available sections at the bottom of the screen, the new app now features a button that opens up a menu with a list of all the 25 available sections. As the app now also makes far more articles available, the designers added a new scroll bar at the bottom of the articles that allows you to easily switch between stories and go back to the main section (this scroll bar only appears when you tap on the text).

    nytimes_ipad_section

    Besides these minor changes, the app will feel very familiar to anybody who ever used the old app. The only other major addition are push notifications for breaking news alerts and a dedicated photos section that looks similar to Boston.com’s Big Picture and the Guardian’s Eyewitness photo app.

    While it doesn’t offer a dedicated offline mode, the app will cache articles for offline browsing. As far as we can see, this offline mode won’t display any images, however, unless you already browsed through the section while you were still online.

    Overall, all of this additional content comes with a small performance penalty, as the app doesn’t feel quite as snappy as the original one. This is a small price to pay, however. For now, the app will remain free, but the NYTimes plans to charge monthly and/or annual subscriptions in the long run.

    One could argue that the new app doesn’t do anything wildly new and isn’t highly innovative. Personally, I am perfectly happy to just have easy access to all of the NYTimes on my iPad. The content really speaks for itself and doesn’t need bells and whistles to stand out from the competition.

    nytimes_ipad_article



    9:58 pm


    TweetDeck Goes Real Time – And It’s a Whole New Way of Using Twitter

    /

    Yesterday, TweetDeck’s Richard Barley announced a new beta version of the popular Twitter (and Buzz, LinkedIn and Facebook) client. In this new version, TweetDeck uses Twitter’s new streaming API to display tweets in real time. Until now, clients had to poll Twitter’s servers at regular intervals to update your searches and lists. Now, Twitter just pushes every single new post directly to your desktop. While this seems like a minor change (after all, it’s just a faster way to deliver tweets), it actually changes the way you look at Twitter as a communications medium.

    Twitter in Real Time – It’s Different Here

    Thanks to this, you can now respond to incoming messages in real time, which makes Twitter feel more like an instant messaging service than SMS. If you are a business, for example, you can immediately respond to a tweet about your product, increasing the chance that the person who wrote it is actually still online. here is also something about just seeing this constant stream of information scrolling down your screen that feels a little bit like you are connected to the Matrix. Overall, though, it’s this new immediacy that changes how using Twitter feels, even though it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for this.

    Limitations

    For the time being, the real-time stream in TweetDeck only works for your core columns (all friends, mentions, direct messages), old TweetDeck groups and searches. Sadly, it doesn’t work for Twitter lists yet, which is quite a shame, given that there is so much value in these lists.

    Get the Beta

    If you would like to apply for TweetDeck’s closed beta, click here.



    2:44 pm