iChat for iPhone (text and video)!

When Steve Jobs delivers the WWDC keynote on Monday morning, will iPhone have new instant messenger features?

I’d love to see an upgrade to the desktop iChat and add an iPhone version of iChat so that both handle SMS text messages as well as instant messages from AIM, Gtalk, Yahoo!, etc.

I want a record of all IM and text messages, so sync all IM and text messages in iChat like my photos sync with iPhoto. That way I have an archive on my computer. Make them all searchable.

Let me view text messages on my laptop screen if my phone is within Bluetooth range.

Let me video chat from my phone via 3g or WiFi.

UPDATE 9/16/08:
Steve still hasn’t given me any of these features, but last week at CTIA Yahoo! launched OneConnect which does let me see Email, SMS and IM for a given contact in a a unified view, and gives me a socially connected address book. Pretty cool!

Newly launched startup Xumii.com also looks promising as a way to do something similar through the mobile web rather than an iPhone app.

New iPhone Monday: Winning Combination

One of the great things about new product announcements is that we get to play “second guess the Product Manager” on feature lists.

Fortunately, Apple design is typically more concerned with overall user experience than narrow focus on a feature list, but let that not stop us from enjoying our game.

Current set of tradeoffs in the iPhone contributed to its phenomenal success, and any new version should strike a similar balance. Development resources are limited. An extra chip adds to the price and decreases battery life. A software feature adds interface complexity or affects another desirable feature.

So it’s just not an option to make a list of “all the things missing” and add those to the product. Still, it’s nice to have a wishlist, and this is Monday Morning Quarterbacking, afterall. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things I’ve wanted over the last year of using an iPhone. What would you add?

  • cut and paste
  • search (the contents of my iPhone)
  • SMS Forwarding
  • instant messaging
  • 3G
  • GPS
  • MMS
  • video capture
  • stereo Bluetooth
  • bookmark something to browse on my desktop when I next sync (it’s flash or too long or otherwise desirable to have there)
  • allow allocating more memory to store text messages or email
  • make it easier to send things to my desktop via Bluetooth (like a URL or photo)
  • wireless sync’ing

Some I just don’t get. I often want to forward an SMS, and it seems like that would be a fairly trivial feature to add, and something long available on other handsets.

Others, like cut and paste, solve many problems, but certainly present interesting interface challenges. It may have been a reasonable strategy to intentionally introduce the simplest iPhone first and then to introduce new gestures with future releases.

Many of them, while folks say they want them and the geeks clamor for them, I wonder if they’re really worth the costs. GPS, for example.

The location feature using triangulation with cell towers offers something that is good enough for many uses, but without the expense, size and battery issues GPS might add. If I had to choose between 3G support and GPS support, you can guess which one I’d take. Do you need to break out GPS into separate devices and pricepoints targetted to different markets? Or does it need to be available on all devices to grow the market for location-based applications?

Other features, you need one or the other, but can live without both. My biggest problem with no MMS support is when someone sends me a photo from their phone. I get a text message like this, created by AT&T but delivered from the sender:

I sent you a multimedia message. You can view my message w/in the next 7 days via the web at http://www.viewmymessage.com using MSG ID pn0otzx Password jans8move

If I had cut and paste, it wouldn’t be so painful, but as it is now, I have to write down the ID and password before browsing to the link, or try to remember to do it when I next sit down at my computer.

Or, how much do I really need to be able to search the contents of my email if I can only store 200 messages on my phone? Instead, I browse to Gmail online and search there. But I’d love to use the memory on my phone for messages rather than music, and if I could do that, search would become incredibly useful (it’d be nice if it searched my text and IMs as well).

Aside from design and engineering tradeoffs, how do you get the best information about the market in regards to features? How do you find out from users and potential customers about their wishlist items and what mix and what experience are going to sell the most upgrades and new phones?

If you go to existing iPhone users like me, you get a great list of new features that I think might make my life easier. The problem is, I already bought one of these. Are any of those new features ones that would have gotten someone new to buy one? For that matter, how much am I willing to pay to upgrade for my desired features?

After we’ve talked about the features in isolation, you may pick the mixes that you’ll have me try out in mockups and prototypes to get a better sense for how they all work together. Each combination requires so much investment in design work that you can’t try them all.

I’d love to know how Apple has worked over the last year to solve these problems, or even to hear more about the research and design that went into the original release.

I think one of the reasons that so few companies do a good job of designing an overall user experience is that it is so much more difficult than the business task of picking features. Apple keeps showing the business win for going to that extra effort, and I look forward to seeing their latest effort on Monday.

Jobs announces Mac App Store?

At MacWorld in January, Jobs had announced iPhone AppStore, movie rental for iTunes and then the MacBook Air. He went on to explain how the Air didn’t need many ports or a DVD drive because you could do everything over the network, even watching movies.

I felt sure I knew what “and one more thing” would be.

Instead, he ended that keynote without “one more thing.”

Will he announce it in his keynote this time at the Apple WWDC Monday?

The one thing you can’t still do with an Air without a DVD drive somewhere is to install most commercial applications. I need to do that on my Air just like I need to do it on my iPhone.

A perfect “and one more thing” would be to announce that iTunes would support application sales for Mac and Windows.

iTunes struck compromises that revolutionized the business of promoting, distributing and selling music. It wasn’t perfect, but it solved enough of the problems of labels, artists and listeners to build with iPod into a perfect storm. It could do the same for applications.

  • iTunes made it easy to find all the music you want in one place.
  • Made it easy to buy, even at $.99 price point — owning a song is just a click away.
  • With iTunes Digital Rights Management (DRM), you could share, but only so far, and you could authorize and de-authorize computers as needed.

This sounds like what I need with my software applications. A way to get them all from one place, instantly, easy to buy at any pricepoint, and no hassles figuring out what computers I’m allowed to use them on.

Likewise, publishers of smaller applications have difficulties marketing and collecting relatively small payments. Larger applications will have problems distributing their wares if Air starts a trend to more diskless machines. Both have issues of wanting to protect their software against unauthorized copying, and the kind of universal system and compromises in iTunes could work with software.

Can I rent software like I can rent a movie? It may not make sense when a single publisher tries to do it, but if it were supported universally from one interface, perhaps there are applications that I only need for a week at a time.

What about software in the cloud? Many web apps can only monitize themselves through ad-supported models. What if I could pay $.99 and up (one time or monthly) for Software as a Service? I’d use iTunes to find and rate apps, the iTunes payment system to start an account, and to manage my subscriptions.

Would you like to buy and sell software over the air? Would iTunes/App Store make a good model?

UPDATE 12-Jun-08: Apps are the New Singles: Betting on AppStore Revenue.

Thunder vs. iPhone: Experience not Features

The Wall Street Journal Reports that RIM is launching a new touch-screen BlackBerry, Thunder, in the third quarter, to be sold exclusively by Verizon, “answering the challenge posed by the popularity of Apple Inc.’s iPhone.”

They go on to say, “The iPhone’s sophisticated touch-screen was one feature that made Apple’s device a big hit.”

There is no list of features that made the iPhone a big hit.

The experience of buying, activating, and using iPhone made it a hit.

How easy it was to show the experience of using it made it a big hit.

Isn’t that the same thing that has already made the BlackBerry a hit in its target market? Show a roadwarrior in need of a workhorse how you scroll through emails with the thumbwheel, then do the same to select and dial a contact from the phonebook. Enter a quick email from the keyboard. You’ve just made a sale.

BlackBerry has less penetration to other markets not only because the features they use are different (in fact, many are the same), but the whole context is different. Who they are, what they use it for, when and where they use it. I haven’t seen the Thunder, but hopefully for RIM they’ll develop the kind of understanding and insight they brought to the roadwarrior, creating experiences for a new market, not just adding features for it.

Interviewed when the iPhone came out, I told Reuters that it wasn’t about the features. In fact, I was surprised in the first few hours with several “missing” features I might have expected, but these surprises didn’t meaningfully diminish my experience. They’d carefully selected features to leave out (or leave for later) as much as features to leave in.

[UPDATE 6/18: Wired ran a great article about Japanese market handsets competing on feature lists: “The manufacturers, who realize the absurdity of piling on features that don’t work well…. The average person only uses 5 to 10 percent of the functions available on their handsets. “]

Before iPhone, you had to do things the phone company’s way and the device’s way. It was all about learning how to deal calls to their support, calls to select plans, learning how to navigate the maze of device features. Even to me it seemed like a constant chore of dealing in arcane lore, and I like tech stuff.

The iPhone “felt like a living sculpture in my hands” because the whole experience was about the system fitting me instead of me finding a way to work with the system. The pieces fit together in a seamless whole. Every part was beautiful, from the box it came in to the physical device to the icons on the screen. My actions and the flowing animation and movement on screen at every step blended together as one and looked pretty.

I said elsewhere, “The iPhone really points out how unpleasant other interfaces are, how ugly and unwieldy. The iPhone responds immediately with rich and beautiful feedback to everything you ask it to do, making it beautiful to look at and a beautiful experience to use it….. When other companies are forced to bring as much attention to design to their devices, and pulling together as many features seamlessly, hopefully the bar will keep being raised for all.”

I didn’t have to struggle with the phone company or the device. For once, I could smile most every time I reached in my pocket.

iPhone

Dale Larson talks on his cellular telephone while waiting in line before the initial sale of the Apple iPhone in San Francisco, California June 29, 2007. More than 100 people were lined up on Friday outside the Apple store hours before the iPhone, a combination widescreen iPod, cellphone and pocket Internet device, went on sale at Apple’s 164 stores and nearly 1,800 AT&T stores. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES)

I enjoyed spending a day in line to get my iPhone. I was there to see the hype, to investigate the ways this changes everything about mobile going forward, and to see how others are thinking and talking about it. Apparently, some of the press found my image (above is one of many) and views interesting, publishing them in newspapers and websites on every continent (and some radio and TV, too). A few examples below:

Larson looked like he stepped out of one of the office towers nearby, sporting a perfectly creased gray pinstripe suit and working diligently on his Apple laptop. And, perhaps most importantly, Larson said Apple had allowed him to recharge his MacBook Pro three times…

Dale Larson, consultor de negocios de Móviles fue un poco más allá, según publicó Reuters: “Es como una escultura viviente en mis manos”.

OF ALL THE PRAISES heaped on the iPhone last week, one of the most striking came from Dale Larson, a mobile consultant from San Francisco.

In a Reuters article, Larson described it as transcendent and “a living sculpture.” That’s a strange comment, considering it’s just a tool — albeit one with more bells and whistles than the space shuttle.

But in another sense, he’s right. The iPhone is a masterpiece, and Steve Jobs and his team at Apple are artists. As expected, it created tremendous anticipation among the tech elite. But considering who was in the line Friday — a group that included not just Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, but teachers and teens — it also appeals to the masses.

周六下午三點左右,美國舊金山苹果專賣店擠滿了iPhone購買者。短短時間內,該店就賣光了售價599美元的iPhone手機,櫃臺上只留下10部售價499美元的款式。其中一位購買用戶Dale Larson說,『iPhone既不像電腦,也不像移動電話,它就像一個我手中活生生的雕刻品。』