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Apple’s new policy is good for you, me, and the web

April 14, 2010 57 comments

I like both Adobe (Lightroom rocks!) and Apple (iPad rocks!), but I’ve been asked over and over again what I think about Apple’s new 3.3.1 policy. You know, the one that basically bans cross-platform development frameworks. And, in particular, basically nails the Flash coffin shut on iPhone/iPod/iPad. So, what do I think?

I love it.

And I’m surprised more developers, end users, business leaders, and general web standards lovers everywhere aren’t posting about how great this is.

It’s good for end users.

The App Store already has a signal-to-noise problem. With hundreds of thousands of apps, finding the good stuff is tough. Bear in mind that every single one of those Apps was built by someone intentionally designing for these devices – and we’ve still got plenty of junk in amongst the gems. Now imagine a bunch of developers just cross-publishing to lots of devices – ignoring all of the strengths of each of those devices. The signal to noise ratio gets worse, fast. Ugh.

It’s good for the web.

For me, this one is the biggie. These devices are a dual-platform: iPhone SDK and HTML. Don’t like the iPhone SDK? Build for HTML. And finally, finally, someone has stepped up and done something about the de-facto Flash monopoly. Flash has helped the web and HTML standards to stagnate. It’s sorta like a drug. It’s whizzy and slick, granted. But it’s a nightmare, too. Flash crashes constantly. Its performance is terrible (when a 1Ghz mobile processor in the iPad plays video more smoothly than Flash on a 16-core Mac Pro with a hefty GPU, that’s a problem). And it smashes through web paradigms left and right. Why? Because there’s no competition.

Look at the browser world, on the other hand. With Microsoft, Mozilla, Google, and Apple duking it out, we’re seeing a breathtaking pace of innovation. Browser stability and performance is improving at an astonishing rate. There’s no reason Flash shouldn’t be super-stable and fast by now – but it isn’t. It’s like the Internet Explorer doldrums all over again – Flash is holding us back, just like IE used to. I’d rather be building for something with a scary fast pace of innovation than something stale.

The iPad is already spurring HTML5 adoption even faster than before. Witness all the video and games sites that are already scrambling to announce and ship their HTML5 interfaces. Bring it on!

I want to build for the web, not for Flash.

It’s good for developers.

And by that, I mean “good developers.”

Good developers are language agnostic. They’ll write in whatever language is worth the effort.

Good developers love great toolsets and great platforms. The iPhone SDK is amazing.

Good developers want their creations to be perfectly tuned to their purpose. The iPhone/iPod/iPad interfaces demand and deserve lots of individual attention, not to be marginalized by some middleware cross-platform publisher.

Good developers want their products found and used. The App Store signal-to-noise issue is a daunting one – more shovelware won’t help.

Good developers want a stable community, with lots of advice, sample code, libraries, etc. A fragmented development landscape prohibits that – a unified one encourages it.

I could go on – you get the point. Best of all? It weeds out poor developers. And if the iPhone SDK and HTML5 aren’t your thing – go build somewhere else. I’m sure there’ll be another computing revolution in a decade or two that you can ignore yet again. :)

(and if you’re a good developer – we’re hiring and we’re having more fun than you can possibly imagine)

It’s good for Apple.

They get better apps. Happier end users. More productive good developers. Fewer bad developers. And, of course, they make more money. They did invent the software, devices, and App Store, afterall. Why should they marginalize themselves out of their own business?

It’s even good for Adobe

Granted, not quite as good for Adobe as having Flash on these devices. :) But lets not forget that Adobe has a stable of great applications, like Illustrator and Photoshop, which aid iPhone development. Their sales will still boom.

Finally, Adobe is incentivized, finally, to actually improve Flash. I’ll bet if Adobe actually made Flash stable, fast, and power efficient, it could get added to the iPhone for use in-browser. It’s not like Apple enjoys seeing half rendered web pages in their browser – they just enjoy customer complaints about crashing and poor performance less. Believe me – I know all about customer complaints due to poor Flash behavior.

But that window of opportunity is closing – the owners of those web pages don’t enjoy their stuff being half-rendered either. They’ll rush to fix that problem – without Flash – if Adobe doesn’t fix it for them.

So there you have it. Thanks, Apple, for doing what’s best for the web, your customers, and developers like me. The future is bright. Long live web standards!

(this post written on an iPad in WordPress’ excellent app)

UPDATE #1:

I understand many disagree, and have their own reasons. Go write for Android, another great platform that’s more open.  Maybe if you do, Android will ‘win’.  I think you’re confusing platform choice and development choice here.  Personally, I’d love to have more platform choice.  Who wouldn’t?  But Apple did invent this thing.  They certainly deserve to make whatever decisions they want about it.  If you’re right, and I’m wrong, those decisions will kill the platform.    I happen to think I’m right, and I happen to think Flash needs to seriously improve – and the Apple’s the only way that’s gonna happen.

Note that I don’t have an opinion on things like MonoTouch, which I know nothing about.  It could very well be that Apple painted with too wide of a brush here and excluded some things that should really be included.  I just don’t know.  I do know, though, that history has shown that cross-platform languages and frameworks have an abysmal success rate.  The last thing we need is watered down apps built for the lowest common denominator.

Finally, yes, SmugMug uses Flash.  I’m sure we’ll continue to use it.  Like I said, it’s slick and whizzy and like a drug.  We used it because it was the only tool for the job.  Adobe did a great thing with their h.264 support, and we love our Flash apps – when they work.  But it’s been awfully frustrating to watch Flash continue to crash and perform poorly for our customers, especially because Adobe doesn’t seem to care.  They certainly don’t respond to us when we ask for help, and they certainly haven’t fixed their issues with multiple releases.  I’m hopeful that this sudden pressure and increased competition will cause them to bring Flash up to the level of their other superb products like Lightroom.  If not, you’ll certainly see us move away from Flash as HTML5 support and performance continues to improve, just like everyone else on the web.  We can play Quake II in HTML5, for heaven’s sake!

UPDATE #2:

Steve Jobs on Adobe.  Amen, brother.

Categories: apple, iphone Tags: , , , , , ,

SmugShot for iPhone – Shoot, geotag, and upload.

July 10, 2008 24 comments
SmugVault

Man, to say I’m excited about this would be a major understatement. We’re huge Apple fanboys over here, so when we got accepted to the first wave of SDK developers at Apple, we were stoked. Shizam went to town almost immediately and after a few months of hard work, SmugShot was born. (And as I’m writing this, we’re #1 in “What’s Hot” on both iTunes and the iPhone interface!)

So what is it? Well, we knew early on we wanted something very simple and elegant that did only one thing – but did it extremely well. We didn’t want a kitchen-sink photo-sharing / -browsing / -taking application. We already have a fantastic iPhone application on Safari, so the obvious thing to tackle first was actually taking the photos on your iPhone and getting them up to SmugMug.

SmugVault

SmugShot makes it incredibly simple to simply whip your phone out at a moment’s notice and take as many snapshots as you’d like. The photos will be automagically geotagged with your location, should you wish it, and you can quickly and easily enter a caption and some keywords – or not. Your call. We’ll queue them up and send them along to the SmugMug gallery of your choice – over EDGE, WiFi, or 3G.

And that’s basically it. Simple, elegant, clean – just the way we like it. If you’re new to SmugMug, you can create a free trial account right from SmugShot. You can set up a default Caption and some default Keywords to make entering them a breeze. And you can even upload photos that are already in your Photo Library, rather than from your camera (and you iPod Touch users can do this, too). One big Apple bug with that, though – the SDK only give us access to 640×480 versions of photos in your Library. I’m hoping they’ll fix that soon.

SmugVault

The really wild thing is how much I actually use the app. I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to things like cameras and lenses, and lets face it – the iPhone’s lens can’t compare to some fabulous Canon glass. But as the app has spread throughout the office, everyone’s learned the same lesson I have: There’s an awful lot of value in convenience.

SmugShot is so shockingly convenient and easy to use, it trumps the limited image quality for almost all of my normal everyday shots.

So go grab it from iTunes, read more about it, or even get some answers. Definitely let us know if you like it and what we can improve on – we already have our own list but would love to hear yours!

Available on the iPhone App Store

iPhone SDK, NDA, and SmugMug

June 9, 2008 8 comments
SmugMug on iPhone

Getting lots of requests about an iPhone app for SmugMug. As you no-doubt know, we’re enormous Apple fans over here, and iPhone fans in particular. Most of the company camped out in line at the Palo Alto store (see stories here and here), we were the first photo sharing app with an iPhone optimized interface (and one of the first web apps anywhere), and we designed our awesome new video sharing service with iPhone in mind. So I think it’s no secret that we’d love to have rich, intuitive native iPhone applications for ourselves and our customers.

However, the iPhone SDK NDA is still in effect, so I can neither confirm nor deny that we have an iPhone app in the works, or even whether we’ve been accepted into the iPhone SDK program. I have no idea why so many companies have chosen to break the NDA and talk about their apps today, but that’s just not the way we roll around here – we like to maintain a great relationship with any partner companies, and Apple is a company we’re especially fond of. (Ok, ok, so I’m a fanboy :) )

If / when we get to build an iPhone app or two, we’ll do our absolute best to make sure they’re intuitive to use and takes advantage of all the power the iPhone provides. As you can imagine, we’re especially excited about iPhone 3G. :)

(Thank goodness Michael Arrington stole the wrong iPhone from me this morning. Whew! :) )

I demand video to be awesome.

April 25, 2008 66 comments

 

Sam “Shizam” Nichols, creator of the video player, donning his SmugMug Hero persona. See it in HD.

The state of video codecs online has been a mess and there’s been no clear choice, making it very difficult to do awesome video sharing. Luckily, all of that changed when Adobe finally added H.264 support to Flash.

Thanks to Adobe, we finally have a video codec that we can get behind and that’ll be great for our customers. And so back in December, we released a major new update to our video offering that’s 100% based on H.264. And it supports resolutions all the way up to 1280x720p. That’s right – SmugMug has truly awesome hi-def video sharing.

Today, I’m thrilled to announce that our Flash player is out (we used QuickTime for a few months while we polished up our player), so it’s easier than ever to embed on your blogs and share with your friends:

Here’s all the gory details:

  • Upload almost any video format you like. We’ll do our best to convert to H.264 in an extremely high quality way. (Thanks EC2!)
  • We’ll generate multiple sizes for you, so you’ll have a version that’s perfect for sharing on the web (YouTube size), perfect for using on your iPod/iPhone (DVD size), and even your Hi-Def TV in your living room.
  • We’ll automagically display just the right sized video for whichever browser and monitor you happen to be using. Ditto for your friends. Example from my friends in Dallas hard at work on Duke Nukem.
  • You can embed the videos in your blog, website, or wherever else you like online. And you can do so at DVD quality resolution – 640×480 – more than 4X the pixels and quality of YouTube.
  • You (and your friends and family, if you let them) can easily download all the different sized versions of your videos so you can do whatever else you’d like with them, like add them to YouTube or burn to a DVD.
  • H.264 means it’ll play on a huge, wide variety of computers and devices, not just SmugMug. iPods, AppleTV, Playstation 3, and the list goes on…
  • Speaking of Apple devices, we provide a complete podcast RSS feed for your account that you and your friends can subscribe to with a single click in iTunes. All your iPods, iPhones, and AppleTVs will then magically stay up-to-date. All your online videos in your pocket, and your living room, all the time. Neat, eh?
  • I’m thrilled we’re making good use of the OpenShareIcon project, too. Rather than use some trademark-encumbered, company-owned, non-open ShareIcon, we’ve chosen to use the real deal. Viva open web standards!
  • One gotcha: Flash takes 200% more CPU to play video on the Mac than QuickTime does, so in-gallery, Mac users will still see QuickTime. We can’t wait until that’s not true – but that’s up to Adobe, not us. :(

So there you have it. I’ll probably post again soon with lots more detail about how great the integration is with Apple devices: iPod, iPhone, iTunes, and AppleTV. We love us some Apple over here at SmugMug. :)

Oh, and you can count on our video player to continue to rapidly evolve. This is definitely just a 1.0 product – it may have some warts and it’ll get even better over time.

So go wild – share your crystal clear video with the world!

Oh, and demand your video to be awesome (sorry about the quality – that’s the best I could find from Verizon. SmugMug *did not* make it all blocky and ugly):

iPhone, SDK, SmugMug

April 2, 2008 19 comments
SmugMug on iPhone

Been getting lots of questions about the iPhone SDK in general, and a SmugMug app in specific. Unfortunately, I think we’re covered by all kinds of NDAs so I can’t say much, but here are some of my thoughts:

  • The iPhone SDK is a monster, huge, awesome thing. It once again leapfrogs Apple’s phone way way ahead of all of the competition. Just watch – the scope and breadth of the apps that’ll be available is going to take your breath away. And they can’t run anywhere else, because all the other phone companies have been ignoring us developers for years. They’re all scrambling around, now, though.
  • The iPhone Apps Store is a bigger deal even than the SDK. Yes, you heard me right. Currently all the buzz is coming from developers, but since I wear both developer and CEO hats, I can tell you the deployment and business side is at least as critical. Being able to easily and rapidly get software and updates to your customers is a nasty problem, and the fact that Apple’s solved it for all of us is a huge, huge win.
  • The combination of the two is where the real magic happens, obviously. I can’t imagine anyone else doing something quite as integrated anytime soon.
  • We are building a SmugMug app. It’s already in the works. Of course, it’ll be free. And of course, it’ll be awesome. I don’t think we can say anything else, though.
  • No, this doesn’t mean the end of our iPhone interface for on-phone Safari web browsing. We’ll keep developing it, and we’ll keep integrating your feature suggestions.

If you have any suggestions as to what you’d like to see in a SmugMug native iPhone app, here’s your chance. Leave me a comment. :)

Categories: iphone, smugmug Tags: , , , ,

iPhone predicting stock performance

January 3, 2008 4 comments

My iPhone Stocks application now shows me data through February 2008. I’ll bet yours does too – open your Stocks app, pick your favorite, and then select “3m” or longer.

Wonder if Apple has a patent on future prediction? :)

Categories: iphone

October SmugMug API Contest – Win an iPhone!

October 4, 2007 1 comment

I’m happy to announce a few API-related things:

  • v1.2.0 is now marked as stable. Everyone should be safe to use this.
  • v1.2.1 is now the new beta release and introduces lots of new stuff. The docs aren’t fully updated yet, but you can read about the new methods and variables on this dgrin thread.
  • A SmugMug API contest! Win an iPhone (or something of equivalent value if you’re not in an iPhone territory or just don’t want one)

I’m hoping we can make contests like these a regular occurrence, but we’ll see how this one goes first. :)

You can find all the details over on this dgrin thread announcing the contest.

Oh, and don’t forget that SmugMug API developers get lifetime free Pro accounts. So there’s no cost to enter and play.

Good luck!

Categories: iphone, smugmug

Apple does the right thing – but no SDK? :(

September 6, 2007 10 comments

Apple made a brilliant move today that’ll earn them lots of happy customers as well as lots of free press coverage. Everyone wins.

However, I’m with Scoble: Take my $1400 credit back, Apple, and instead release an SDK. SmugMug’s iPhone interface is totally awesome – about as good as it can possibly get in-browser. With an SDK, though, I promise – we’ll make the best mobile photo sharing app the world has ever seen. And guess what? It’ll help you sell even more phones.

So how about it?

Free idea for anyone who’s got a little time on their hands: Set up a site where those of us with rebates can “pledge” our $100 credits towards an SDK instead. Who knows? Maybe something will come of it with enough pledges.

Categories: iphone, smugmug

More SmugMug on iPhone

July 27, 2007 Comments off

SmugMug on iPhone

When I’m not busy screaming at my iPhone because it’s hard to sync with my LOST episodes, I’m busy rolling out new SmugMug features specifically for iPhone with the help of GreenJimmy and BigWebGuy. Here ya go:

  • Global SmugMug interface now. You can search & browse through the entire SmugMug site using iPhone, not just individual homepages.
  • Added search to both the global and user interfaces.
  • Added Friends & Family links so you can easily browse through your social network and that of your friends and their friends and….
  • Added a Keywords browsing interface. I’m not really happy with it, so I think we’ll keep playing, but traditional keyword clouds don’t work well with finger tips on this small of a screen, so we’ll have to get creative. Ideas in the comments, please?
  • Spiffy UI improvements to make things look nicer and feel faster.
  • Fixed a rotation bug where the images wouldn’t properly re-render.

Enjoy. I know I am. :)

Stupid iPhone!@#$

July 27, 2007 7 comments

Ok, love my iPhone, but that just means that when it lets me down, I’m even more upset. Passion’s funny that way. Here we go:

  1. Bought a season pass to LOST on iTunes Music Store so I can catch up.
  2. Loving watching it on my AppleTV in my home theater.
  3. Want to sync episodes to my iPhone to watch on-the-go. I’ve watched up to episode 16.
  4. Selected “All unwatched” and hit Sync.
  5. “Not enough space” error. Fair enough, it’s only 8GB.
  6. Selected “3 most recent unwatched” and hit Sync.
  7. Ended up with Episodes 24, 23, and 22!
  8. Realized “Most recent” is useless because what you really want is “Next in line by episode #”
  9. Realized that there’s absolutely no way to get episodes 16, 17, and 18 onto my iPhone short of manually editing playlists, which gets really tedious.
  10. Blogged about it, because it’s the only way I can vent.

Basically, you can’t watch TV on the thing. Because you can’t drag shows to it (like you can with an iPod), you can’t sync them (because it sync’s them in wrong order), and it doesn’t have enough storage to “Sync All”. Even Smart Playlists don’t work, because you can’t have a formula that orders by episode #.

Isn’t this stuff supposed to *slurping noise* Just Work?

Has anyone smarter than I thought of a solution? Please share!

UPDATE: The magic Smart Playlist recipe to make this behave, thanks to reader Nick T, is as follows:

  • Show is ‘LOST’
  • Play Count is ’0′
  • Limit to 3 items selected by album

Still not great, but much improved. Thanks Nick!

Categories: iphone
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