Particle Debris (wk. ending 11/3) It’s All About Astonishment

| Particle Debris

Author note: I’d like to take a second to remind some of my fabulous readers about how I approach Particle Debris. My goal is to curate — to find things of deeper value that you perhaps missed this week. Or maybe it’s just very interesting, something that will provide food for thought. I don’t always pick articles that support my own particular viewpoint, although I’m happy when they do. But the larger goal is to point you to things, hopefully, that will stretch you a little. I may even totally disagree with the author, but if she or he is smart and literate and makes a good case, it’s in.

And, as you also know, I may point to software, tips, or videos that are just too cool, but didn’t make the TMO news. So that’s why I collect them for the end of the week, and sometimes I add a bit of analysis, yea or nay. That’s fun too. Now, back to business.

Taj Mahal. Source: Wikimedia Commons

How do you make Siri more discreet? The volume control on the iPhone 4S only applies to non-Siri stuff like music and telephony. But when you’re in Siri mode, the volume controls take on a life their own. At that point, they do control Siri. My good friend Erica Sadun explains.

There’s been a lot of talk about Apple getting into the TV business lately. Some are pollyanna-ish bordering on naive, and some are more sober, like my own essay on Thursday. Given that, it can’t have escaped notice by Apple executives that Sony, an icon in the TV business, announced its fourth consecutive annual loss. No doubt, some of that was caused by the earthquake and tsunami, but some of it also driven by the cut-throat TV business and the U.S. economy. That’s driving prices way down. For example, I just received a marketing e-mail touting:

55” Philips LCD 1080p 120Hz HDTV: $998

I’m betting this LCD HDTV is LED side lit and not LED matrix lit. Even so, prices are amazing today. I paid well over US$2,000 for my 50-inch 1080p Plasma in 2007, and that was with an media industry discount.

Here’s the interesting part. Sony feels that its brand is so completely tied to TVs that it may go down fighting because of that emotional and business attachment. Could we ever imagine Apple doing that?

Apple HDTV

In fact, this sounds exactly ripe for a typical Apple take-over. While the rest of the TV industry, like the PC industry, gets caught in a price war, driving to the bottom, and losing the premium status of high definition, Apple could come along and actually make money with its unique value added UI. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Apple, after obliterating the Sony Walkman also obliterated the Sony TV? As I said, food for thought.

The lesson from Sony is learning how to change your company. What if an exec at Apple had tried to kill the iPad because it might cannibalize the Mac? We can’t even conceive of Steve Jobs letting that happen. Microsoft, on the other hand, won’t be learning that lesson anytime soon. Microsoft could have had a major chunk of the 2nd generation tablet market with Courier and just plain blew it. Along those lines, here’s another chart that shows how AOL failed to adapt to the post dial-up market. With caveats, Dan Frommer explains.

I love to collect data and draw conclusions. Horace Dediu does it well, and so does Dan Frommer. Here’s a great look, with charts, showing “A closer look at Apple’s Mac business.” With the previous discussion about cannibalization in mind, I want to draw your attention to the chart on the third row named: “Apple’s iPad revenue has now been bigger than the Mac for 6 months.” Holy crap. As Steve Jobs said, “Compete with yourself or someone else will.”

Want some technical depth on the implications of Apple’s move to require Mac apps from the Mac App Store to be sandboxed in 2012? Here’s a great article that lays it all out.

There are people who believe that the Amazon Kindle Fire could be the first tablet that provides really serious competition to the iPad. I am one of those. But, as in physics, when you discover a beautiful, unexpected idea, and there’s astonishment, Apple’s view on these things can also be astonishing — and educational. Here’s how Apple view the Kindle Fire: “APPLE: The Kindle Fire Is Good For Us Because It’s More Android Fragmentation.” Here’s the key idea: Amazon may believe that its limited scenario Kindle Fire (learn, buy, read) will catch fire because of the price. Apple, on the other hand, believes that the price of the iPad will come down while still maintaining the product quality and experience. So, for example, what happens to the Kindle Fire when Apple’s making all kinds of money on a $349 iPad and Amazon is losing money hand over fist on a $199 Kindle Fire. Something’s gotta give.

Kindle Fire

Kindle Fire: Source: Amazon

And don’t forget Barnes & Noble. Computerworld thinks B&N won’t go down without a fight, forcing Amazon to lose even more money. ZDNet sees it differently. They think the Kindle Fire is Barnes and Noble’s Nookapalypse. Either way, Apple wins.

I’ve saved the best for last.

These days, we modern techies are fairly smug about our ability to learn new technologies and understand the intricacies of smartphone features and security. That’s personal learning, but Michael Schrage claims that that’s yesterday’s paradigm. The new paradigm is the ability to teach your tools how to serve you. One example is Siri. The next generation of technology is all about teaching our tools, not merely learning our tools. And when you think about personal robots on the horizon, it all makes perfect sense.

Speaking of Siri, two of my Colorado colleagues, Steve Sande and Erica Sadun have put together a cool new book on Siri: “Talking to Siri.” It’s your entry point to full exploitation. This train, folks, is leaving the station. Be on it.



While sand-boxing might be good if you’re on a corporate system, It sounds terrible otherwise.

Yes, I want to be safe, and assured that the app I just downloaded isn’t a Trojan, but I can’t imagine losing all the features that Apps can provide just because Apple has lost the plot, and gone overboard on Security.

Apple could just reassert the feature from 10.6 and earlier that requires an Administrator’s password to install OS and App updates from Software Update.


I read Particle Debris every week.  Even when I don’t know what half the stuff means, but I follow the links, and read it all, hoping to get smarter by osmosis.  By Wednesday every week, I’m asking myself, “is it Friday, yet?” 

I still don’t know what sand-boxing is.  As my ole friend Eeyore would say, “oh well, never mind.”



Appreciated the reminder about the rationale of ‘Debris’. I always find something I missed and was glad to have caught it here.

That said, I whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment about the new paradigm of teaching tools to how to work with, and serve, us and not the other way around. I argued, in a post on your site months ago, that I no longer have time to ‘learn’ how to use an app with a non-industry standard interface or portal of entry. I simply will not use it (I can think of at least three I bought for professional use that I will not be upgrading).

App makers can do two things to make apps more useful - and more likely to be renewed - to busy professionals:

1) Use standard interfaces for getting started. Understand the target audience (market) and make sure that the bread and butter features for that market require zero learning to be accessed and used. If I know anything about comparable software, I should be able to run with this app immediately upon download.

2) Make the app responsive and adaptable to user behaviour. It should track how the user works, what tasks the user is attempting, and offer - non intrusively - to assist with additional in-app features. By non-intrusively I mean that it should allow the user to decline the assistance and keep working with no further interruption. If the user accepts, the feature should simply roll into play. The app can keep score of use patterns, and, utilising a Notification Centre-like interface, offer tutorials on user-related tasks. This way, the user learns as they go.

While I am not a programmer, I should think this feature not hard to implement.

So the ‘Talking to Siri’ book is available as a Kindle download. Delightful irony.

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