I’m really not sure how I should be feeling today. I’m sad, of course, as anyone should be where they hear of a life cut too short, when there was still so much left to do. But at the same time, I have to say the sadness is tinged with admiration. The legacy that he has left is one of the most influential on the planet. Even if you don’t own one of the products that made the company that he founded, left and then resurrected, you’re pretty likely to have used devices that he had a major hand in popularising. He didn’t invent the Graphical User Interface, the mouse, or the tablet computer, or the hard drive music player. All he did was make them easier and more intuitive to use. And in doing so, he changed the technological landscape of the late 20th and early 21st century.

His influence is everywhere – in the design, colours and finish of hundreds and thousands of products that he had nothing to do with. In the way we consume music, TV and films. He is the driving force behind one of the most innovative and consistently surprising film studios on the planet. His company could make headlines not just by launching a product, but by allowing rumours of those products to circulate.

I find it impossible to write about him in the past tense, because he’s still around – when I lift the lid of my laptop, when I pick up my phone. He’s part of the technological, social and artistic landscape, and always will be. That’s a legacy that we should all wish for.

The point is, I can write this piece without mentioning his name once, and you all know who I’m talking about.


In The Cloud: iOS And The New Wave Of Mobile Computing

I try to keep the fanboi squeee regarding Apple and their products to a minimum here on X&HT. I use them almost exclusively, but in the past I’ve been … evangelistic about them. To the point of heated argument, which is downright silly. I’d like to think I’ve mellowed over time, and spent a year tinkering with Linux on my netbook. Advisory before I begin, therefore: other computing platforms are available.

Continue reading In The Cloud: iOS And The New Wave Of Mobile Computing

Spend Spend Spend: Early Impressions of the Mac App Store

It’s been just over a week since OS 10.6.6 dropped for desktop and portable Macs, and with my usual early adopter flair, it’s taken me about that to update. So I’ve only just started to play with the big woop of the rollout – the big brother to the App Store, the feature that has turned iOS devices into such customisable, adaptable street computers.

The Mac App Store has a clean, clear interface that’s a lot like the iTunes version, complete with a front page showing the heavy hitters and featured products. Installed apps are clearly marked, which can serve as a handy reminder for what you have cluttering up your hard drive. It’s easy to browse and search, and each app has it’s own page complete with screen shots and customer reviews.

As with iTunes, the App Store hooks seamlessly into your Apple ID account, which turns the purchase of an app into a disturbingly easy one-click process. A flip-and-drop animation puts your shiny new thing straight into the Dock.

Pricing has been a major factor in early news coverage of the Store. Apple have cleverly broken up their iWork and iLife suites so that it’s now possible to just get what you want. I jumped at the chance to upgrade my copy of GarageBand to the latest version for under a tenner. The whole iLife package is normally four times that. Similarly, Aperture, Apple’s pro photography app is now priced at £44.99. That’s quite a drop from last weeks box tag of £170.

Of course, the speed at which the App Store appeared seems to have taken some developers by surprise. Pixelmator, Smith Micro’s brilliant Photoshop-buster, is front and centre on the home page, at a very tempting £17.99. But subscriber mailouts a day or so after the new OS dropped offered it at $29.99 – a couple of quid more expensive. Granted, the mail also makes the point that Pixelmator is cross-platform compatible, but a bit of a heads up about their prominent place on the new outlet couldn’t have hurt.

There are also a lot of big names that don’t have a presence on the store. No Final Cut Pro. No Final Draft, Scrivener, VLC or Toast. But it’s early days yet, and as at least one developer has already stated, the accelerated timeframe of getting the App Store up has meant a lot of product simply wasn’t ready for the launch. I’ll be very interested to see how the product lines grow over time.

For now, though, the App Store looks like a solid and easy way for me to blow money. Apart from GarageBand, I’ve upgraded Xtralean’s lovely little graphics app ImageWell to version 4, and started playing with the free SketchBook Express from Autodesk, which is the best free drawing program I’ve seen in a while.

But no, I’m still not tempted by Angry Birds.

Padded Out

the wonders of nature.jpg
Rampaging elephants couldn't tear me away from this article on how technology is disssociating us from the wonders of nature.

The time has finally arrived. This Friday, the 28th, the iPad will finally be on sale in the UK. I can already, with a sinking heart, report some of the things that will happen on that day.

There will be photos in all the papers of Steve Jobs holding up the iPad in his keynote at the Macworld conference back in January. You will recognise this photo, as it’s the only one the papers have been using to illustrate news about the device since its announcement.

There will be a sad and slightly droopy queue of obsessives outside the Apple Store in Regent Street, who just have to be there to pick up the iPads they preordered, rather then have the devices FedExed to their front door like a normal person.

There will be live-blogging. Dear gods, there will be live-blogging. Each and every one of these will include the phrase “The queue is starting to move. No, wait, false alarm.”

These people will be interviewed by BBC Breakfast. They will look slightly desperate, and a little crazy. They will be condescended at by an over-styled moron who has to get his eight-year-old daughter to sync his iPod. There will be an in-studio interview with an advocate like Rory Cellan-Jones, or Hugo Rifkind of the Times, who will gush like a perfumed faucet about the device. The phrase “game-changing” will be used to excess. This will be followed for balance by a spokesman from Sony, whining that it’s really just a big iPod Touch.

The queuers will be applauded by Apple staff when they finally pick up their iPads. They will feel the urge to hold their newly-purchased devices above their heads as if it’s the World Cup. They will look a little desperate, and slightly crazy.

Any coffee shops with wifi in the immediate area around Regent Street will be absolutely fucking unbearable until about 4PM, when purchasers get bored with the novelty of reading the Times or watching Star Trek on their new toys and go home to irritate their partners instead. There will be much discussion of the on-screen keyboard, and everyone will be insanely jealous of the smug git in the corner with the venti macchiato who splurged on the keyboard dock. He will merrily spend the afternoon whooping it up on Twitter instead of doing any actual writing.

Meanwhile, those of us in the know will be patiently waiting for June the 8th, and the moment at WWDC when Steve Jobs digs in his pocket.