Google’s New Chromebook Pixel: Talk About Advantages

There are many advantages for the new Pixel, but here are the obvious…

1. Retina Display
20130221_Chromebook_Pixel_011_610x310
It has a 2560 x 1700 LCD panel, and is likely the most hi-res device around. We are a generation spoiled by all the retina screens(smartphone, tablet, Macbook Pro etc.) around us. We all know that it’s a lot harder to switch back to low-res than the other way around. We just have to have it now.
2. Touch Screen.
touch-screen-tap
Supporting touch definitely is an advantage, though it depends on how well the OS user interface is designed, whether it has been enhanced, optimized or designed from ground up to support touch. From Verge’s review video, I saw he missed twice trying to switch tab on Chrome browser. But hey, you can touch to scroll the webpage now at least.
3. Cloud Storage
google-drive-logo
This lady came with 1 T storage space on Google Drive. Everybody loves more storage space. It’s a high-end ‘netbook’ (there isn’t such a thing until now, yay), so it’s suppose to be always connected (though with LTE version you’ll pay $1450). And having a 1T cloud drive you really don’t have to worry about storage space for a very long time. And we’ve all live in the tyranny of storage shortage for centuries. Live in scary, you will not.
4. Price
pixel pricing
This one seems a long shot, but bear with me. Imagine you have the extra dough to throw at this baby, when next time you walking into a Starbucks with it, everybody will be looking at you thinking: ‘This guy must be so cool that he is spending $1300 just to try new technology.’ It will become a status symbol. Pixel is the new Macbook Air!
Don’t listen to the nay-sayers, they are just jealous!
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Google Glasses UI Evolution : Makes Life Feel Like Playing a Game

Google’s first Project Glasses video stirred a lot of controversies because of its UI design gets in the way of people’s normal life. You really can’t use this gadgets in real life if the user interface is so prominent, in the middle of your view, and pop up all the time, like this:

Project-Glasses-1

It could even be dangerous when driving or biking. Yeah a map is good, but only if I can actually SEE the road!

Project-Glasses-2Today, Google releases another teaser of the highly anticipated gadget, called ‘How it Feels (through Glasses)’. This time, Google’s UI actually get a total re-haul. All the UI are only limited to the top right corner of your view, getting out-of-the-way.

google-glass Also there is a subtle transparency in it, which reminds me of ‘Iron Man’.

ironmanAnd since I play games a lot, I just can’t help but relate this to some of the game’s HUD (Heads-Up-Display) UI:

Starwar UIWatching the video, I totally felt like living other people’s life, first person viewpoint. This could be totally amazing. We already have Twitch.tv where gamers broadcast their gameplay for others to watch. How far are we before we can broadcast our real life using Google Glasses?

Project-Glasses-3

Fujitsu’s Senior Smartphone Debut : A Falling Leaf, A Coming Fall

stylistic_s01_front_frFujitsu recently launched its first Android based smartphone with France Telecom. I know there’s nothing ‘exciting’ to blog about, but there’re some serious implications from it, just like people can tell the fall is coming from the falling of a leaf. 

1. Accessibility to a whole new level.

Every UI/UX designer should take accessibility into consideration these days, but in most cases people do it just to conform to regulation requirements. It has never be in the center of the design stage before. But by choosing to release its first smartphone as a senior oriented phone with unique features and user interface, Fujitsu made a serous commitment to accessibility, from regulation abiding level to business sell point level. There are cold numeric business calculation behind it yes, but it’s still heart warming to see seniors are targeted and well thought out designs are making their use of smartphone much easier. Seniors want a piece in the mobile trend also!

2. Android OEMs start to tap into niche market already

This is something where iOS ecosystem is lagging behind actually. Don’t get me wrong. iPhone is still very popular and I’d even say it’s still main stream and leading the innovation. But on niche markets, they are not making much progress. Reason? Simple. Because Apple is but ONE company and they release but ONE phone per year. This is a pretty hard limitation. Yet for Android, there is always your ambitious ‘new comers’ want to do something different to strike from different angle, thus the senior demographic targeting Fujitsu. If you ask an elderly which phone he will use, a dedicated designed senior phone or iPhone with some accessibility enhancements. I don’t think the answer will be too hard to guess.

3. Flexible UI Themes for iOS to close the gap

Yet hope is not all lost for iOS ecosystem. When Steve Jobs first release the iPhone, one notion he brought up in his keynote about why traditional handset OEMs did wrong is hard keyboard. He claimed that what hardware can do on one thing, software can do equally well on the same thing with one hundreds different ways. And that leads to the rise of mutli-touch technology and touch screen becoming the ‘de facto’ choice for phones just because it’s so flexible.

Along the same line, the user interface potential for iOS to evolve and become more flexible to address more niche markets are huge. For example, by introducing different user interface design tweaks as different ‘themes’, your iPhone can actually look and feel like a senior phone, or enterprise phone, or kid phone. At the center, it’s still iOS, but on the user experience level, it can be optimized for different purposes.  This has been the strength point for Android from the very beginning, ability to tweak the interface, and iOS do need to play catch up.

A good start of this would be introducing ‘Dashboard’ of Mac OS into iOS. Put all the relevant information and widgets on top, so the ‘update hungry’ users can quench their thirsty in one glance. I’ll try to write a separate blog on this in the future. 

All in all, a move to make dedicated device for older guys is always welcomed, and I had a feeling that we’ll see more of these kinds of dedicated devices in the future.

Tesla vs NYT: And the Winner is …

tesla-vs-nyt

Generally I think it’s a good thing that everyone could have their voices. People will listen to both sides of the story and make their own judgement. And usually the more you discuss and dig something, the closer it will be for the public to come to the truth.
I was reading most of the comments on this NYT vs Tesla drama from different websites. Some offer photos, some provide perspectives, I can compare all these and figure out the big picture easier than with only NYT’s article and Tesla’s blog. I felt empowered. That. Is the most important implication to me from this. The public is empowered eventually.

So in the era of media democratization, our readers are the biggest winner.

Android Developer ‘Perk’?

Play-Store

In his blog, Dan said:

Let me make this crystal clear,

every App purchase you make on Google Play gives the developer your name, suburb and email address with no indication that this information is actually being transferred

I can’t say this is totally unexpected. There are so many privacy leaks everywhere. And the only way to not get spammed or exploited is to not give out your email information at all.

However, the impact of this privacy issue could be huge. People could get stalkered for leaving negative rating of an app they don’t like on Google Play, or being the victim of email spam. Developers don’t really need these private information and Google obviously gains nothing from it. I hope Google could show some respect to user’s privacy and stop this ASAP. They don’t want an unnecessary push on the fine ‘Creepy Line‘ they are carefully walking, don’t they?

Microsoft Surface Pro Tablet: What They Got Right on Hardware Design

Surface_Win_8_Pro_128GB_RM1

Microsoft Surface Pro Tablet: What They Got Right on Hardware Design

The gadget repair blog iFixit claimed today that Microsoft’s new tablet Surface Pro is even harder to repair than Apple’s iPad.  I’m not surprised at all. The entire ‘Surface’ tablet initiative is an attempt from the software giant to go vertical, go mobile and go relevant after all. Apple has been practicing the ‘vertical model’ artfully for years, and with great success. Tighter integration between software and hardware offers more streamlined products, which is extremely essential in the mobile era. Microsoft got it right when designing the Surface tablet’s hardware in several fronts:

1. They design the device to be a mobile device, not a portable version of a desktop counterparts. (cough..netbook…cough)

They seems to adopting ‘Mobile First’ motto in hardware design. That’s why they cram every components together tightly to make it as slim as possible. (which they had to, Apple has set the bar so high now with iPad and iPad Mini) This also lead to why it’s so hard to repair, because it’s not designed to be so like desktop/laptop PC did.

2. Go high quality, high-end, instead of cheap

When Microsoft first announced the price for Surface tablet, everyone was hit with surprise. It’s even more expensive than iPad. Crazy? Reality. Because the materials and components they use on the tablet are good quality ones, not cheap plastics. This at least enables them to compete with Apple on hardware, which is a very prevalent strategy adopted by most Android OEMs. Meanwhile, let’s not forget that Windows is not designed to be ‘lean’ and ‘streamlined’, they are designed to be ‘everything for everyone’, thus requires more hardware power to run smoothly, or at least not to sluggish.

I don’t really believe Microsoft want to move into hardware and compete head-on with their loyal OEM partners. I think what they really trying to do is like Google making Nexus: Set the yardstick and standard, so OEMs can follow. And showcase what the ‘best practice’ can do. OEMs not moving as fast as Microsoft has expected is another reason too.

3. Make it harder to repair instead of easier. 

The normal life span of a desktop/laptop PC is around 2 to 4 years. For mobile device, the number is much smaller. We’re talking about 9-18 months. Mobile device is designed to be disposable in the first place. This is actually a positive drive on the sales for mobile device since people will upgrade their device every year or so, buying new models. Making the device less ‘repairable’ will in effect encourage people to replace it with newer model instead of repairing it. (And R&R is a cost on Microsoft side too, which isn’t what the company used to handle as a software company)

Now it seems the hardware is pretty competitive already. The Windows 8 OS, on the other hand, seems to still has a long way to go on user interface and user experience. Early reports of Surface Pro sold out in Microsoft Stores and Best Buy could be an encouraging sign, but no one can say for sure before the actual sales number released.

What do you think of Surface Pro’s design? Will it gain any traction on the market? Leave a comment and let me know!

 

 

Mailbox App’s Reservation System UI: Progress Indicator At Its Best

As a fan of GTD(Getting Things Done), a sufferer of email-overload and a User Interface enthusiast, when my friend Drew Wilken informed me of this new ’email killer app’, I dropped everything on my hands and hit the ‘App Store’ icon on my iPhone5, and downloaded the highly hyped app. I gotta have it! One minute and 37 seconds later, I hit a cold hard wall looks like this:

mailbox waiting step 1

Am I furious about this, you ask? For a second, yes, but when I look closer, my feeling toward the app quietly changed. Let me tell you what happened.

  • Two sides of the same coin

When I first launched the app, I was greeted with a big welcome screen tell me I can’t use the app just yet. I need to wait in line for the system to gradually rollout. And my position is displayed on screen with huge blue numbers: ‘757,962’. What? There are  hundreds thousands of people before me? What a disappointment! Wait a second, what’s the smaller gray text beneath? ‘8268 behind me? Hmm… That feels better…’

mailbox app startup step 2

I believe a lot of people share the similar feelings when getting in line for Mailbox’s developer Orchestra to slowly roll out the app. To ease the pain of waiting, the progress indicator in the waiting screen is carefully and cleverly designed. By showing both the people ahead of you and the people behind you, the design gives you a feel of where you are, but also a feel of how much you have progressed (though the smaller gray ‘People behind you’ number). Pain is more bearable when you know you’re not the only one that’s suffering.

  • Joy of the flipping numbers

Another intriguing detail is when you leave the app for a while and come back, the two numbers will get updated accordingly, with a cool animation of flipping numbers you’ll usually see in a count-down clock. It really creates a feeling of ‘boost on progress’, which is kinda addicting. I found myself come back and check the app every 30 minutes or so just to see the numbers flipping. (‘I ascend!’) After the initial update, the number will still flip when it gets a new update, but much slower, leave people in the real waiting.

  • Designed outlets for impatience 

People get bored quickly when staring at slow turning numbers. Soon they want to do something to change the situation, or check something for distraction. This is where the well designed three ‘impatience outlets’ come into play. Beneath the numbers, three icons are displayed:

mailbox waiting step 3

‘About’ will tell you what the app is about, why you need to wait.

‘Status’ links to an article on developer’s blog explaining in more details how the rollout is handled and how long should user expect to wait.

If you’re still unsatisfied, there’s the third icon ‘Discuss’ which will lead you to the Mailbox app’s Twitter accounts. You can vent or check other people’s vent (or success cheer). Spread the word while add to the hype. (Maybe this is why the app is so hyped)

  • Yes. I dare to hope.

Now you see why I’m not furious at all. Actually I had more hope and confidence in the new app. If the designers in Orchestra would put so much thoughts into a simple waiting page to smooth out the launching process, it shouldn’t be hard to imagine the standard they’ll hold for the actual app. Now I’m really intrigued to see the app’s user experience. I’ll write another blog when my waiting is over. Stay tuned.

What’s your experience with the waiting or the app itself? Leave a comment and let me know!

Edit: It seems good design tends to go viral. Hot calendar app Tempo also assume the similar reservation system and even UI after an initial crush by demand. Here:

Photo Feb 19, 3 34 02 PM

My Creepy Experience with GMail

My Creepy Experience with GMail

My piece of experience with Gmail that I hope someone could decipher for me:

In Gmail, I was forwarding an email to a friend talking about an attachment I sent him before. Hit ‘Send’ button. A notification dialog pup up:

‘We noticed that you mentioned to send an attachment, but this email doesn’t have an attachment. Did you forget to attach the file?’

Seriously? Reading my email to sell ads is bad enough but I can still stand it somehow. Reading my content and try to make sense of it, and make suggestions (even in the name of helping me the user) is very very CREEPY to me. I felt like you’re writing a private letter to your lovers at home, then someone pop out of nowhere telling you: ‘oh you really shouldn’t add that last line. She wouldn’t like suggestive language.’

Does anyone know what’s going on with this Gmail behavior?

Microsoft: Will It Survive the Next 5 Years?

steve-ballmerImage: via www.businessinsider.com

The newly released Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface RT has stirred up some discussions lately. A lot of reviews came out. This is suppose to be a big move on mobile for Microsoft, but the battlefield is already very crowded. So can Microsoft survive the bumpy road ahead?

It depends on the definition of survival. If survive means as a company Microsoft will still exist, then yes, it will survive the next 5 years. If the definition , being a bit more broader, is Microsoft keeping their current momentum and stay relevant in the technology industry, then it’s somewhat questionable. Three reasons I can see:

1. PC industry is withering
This can be seen from the ever shrinking PC manufacturers quarterly numbers. Desktop PCs had their days. But today, more and more people use their mobile device to consumer content, getting information, keep connected with friends. Serious content creating and enterprise will still use desktop PC, but the mass market has already shifted to mobile.

2. Microsoft is late to the ‘Mobile’ party
Every company NEED to has a mobile strategy and execute it swiftly. Some successful companies like Google even has the motto of ‘Mobile First’. Unfortunately, Microsoft is lagging behind on this front. The Windows Phone has yet to catch up to Android and iOS in shipments and ecosystem strength. (Number of apps in app store, developer support, etc.) In the ‘mobile’ game, first mover has huge advantage, and Microsoft has already been late to the party.

3. Organizational management challenges dragging their feet. 
People with some insights on how Microsoft runs will know that departments in charge of Windows and Office have huge power. A lot of the executives are from those departments. And all these departments don’t really talk to each other much. (as can be seen from their recent product strategy) Microsoft’s past success on these two products makes it harder to apply changes needed to future success. This is also part of why things are moving so slow in Redmond.

It’s actually not about survival, it’s about relevance. If Microsoft survives but lose all its relevance and influence in tech industry, will we still care about them?

‘House of Cards’ : Refreshing Viewing Experience

HOC quote

So since everyone is talking about ‘House of Cards‘, I decided to throw in my 2 cents. As always, I’ll try to focus on the experience part. I promise, this one blog will be concise.

  • Being able to watching the entire season is REALLY REALLY GREAT! No waiting needed whatsoever.
  • Having known that, I found myself not wanting to see it all in one weekend. Kinda like little kids save their Halloween candy and not wanting to eat them all too quickly. It’s a secret pleasure.
  • Flexible when viewing is great. I start viewing in my media room with HD projectors, then go downstairs to my iMac, then end up in bed with my iPad. It’s true to all Netflix content though.
  • The show is amazing. Legit characters, great plot, Kevin’s ‘directly speaking to you’ monologues, very well written copy. The quality level is on par if not better than other hit HBO shows.
  • Modern day references you can relate to make it feel real. Kevin’s playing XBOX games, Zoe’s blogging practice get mocked by her journalist colleagues, iPhone text messaging back and forth displayed on-screen as an overlay, Twitter references (‘In today’s life, when you’re talking to one guy, you’re talking to thousands’ – Zoe), and don’t even mention all the ‘blatant’ Apple devices in every scene. (Can’t say whether it’s products placement though since Apple never do placement)
  • To be continued.