Interconnectivity: A Problem for Apple or a Developing Market?

There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of articles predicting the downfall of Apple Form the launch of the Android to the closed-nature of the app store. Nevertheless, it’s worth pondering how the future of tech might affect the giant, especially given it’s recent successes and ability to set trends in consumer technology.

Apple has excelled at determining the direction taken by consumer products. Jonathan Ive’s simple designs have been continuously aped, while the moment the iPhone was released other manufacturers began to wonder about how handheld touch screens might do without the ubiquitous stylus. It hasn’t all gone Apple’s way though – the app store was introduced in response to a general outcry at Steve Job’s suggestion that HTML5 and Javascript would be a sufficient replacement for native apps.

So I’m curious as to how Apple might handle the increasing prevalence of interconnected technology. They’ve handled multiple platforms relatively well so far, enabling printer sharing and wireless speakers by releasing their own formats. Yet there are a large number of small devices which now connect to wireless networks, computers and platforms.

Apple have already supported a few of these – the Nike+ sensor springs to mind, along with the US store listing for the Nest thermostat.

Nevertheless, there are many small projects either already launched or launching soon which intend to somehow connect with existing technology. The Arduino has become a staple of tech hobbyists, and projects such as Ninja blocks may well have a similar effect. I look forward to seeing what people can do with this sort of technology, especially given Apple’s own work on Siri, but I wonder whether compatibility will ever be an issue. Could I talk to my phone and tell it to warm-up the house as I’ll be home ten minutes early? Could I ask it whether I forgot to turn off the kitchen lights, and then have it turn them off for me?

There’s some great tech being worked on, but I can’t help but wonder whether the closed nature of Apple’s services can cope with it. Even if it can’t, things should get quite interesting, and I suspect they will adjust in time.

For Sale: Bank branch, worn condition, one mostly careful owner

This morning, the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls suggested that high street banks should be forced to sell off branches. The intention is that these could be sold to “challenger” banks, which would create more competition.

This isn’t a proposal you’d ever see from the Conservatives – it involves forcing a private institution to sell something it owns, and in many (if not most) cases, has built itself through being successful. Interestingly, the list of banks Mr Balls mentions includes HSBC, which sought no financial assistance from the government as a result of the economic crisis*. This makes the issue one of principle for all parties, and raises two broad questions:

  1. Should a private company ever be forced to sell something it owns?
  2. If we accept there are circumstances where they should be forced to sell, should they still be forced to do so if it is the industry that is at fault and not the company itself?

I’d be interested to know people’s thoughts (and arguments) on this. I suspect we might hear technical and practical arguments over the next few days, but I can’t help but wonder about the principles behind it, and whether this is now widely regarded as proportionate and appropriate course of action. I suspect the LIBOR scandal will change people’s views and make the public more sympathetic to forced sales involving banks, but it will be worth watching how those views change as the investigation goes on.

 

*As far as I’m aware. Happy to be corrected on this point if I’m wrong though.

366 Day Photo Project: A Retrospective in Pictures

Just over a year ago, a friend suggested she wanted a project, and so decided to embark on a 365 day photo project: a plan to take at least one photo every day. I agreed to join her, and then added an extra. I would post each photo on a Tumblr account, the premise being that this would make me accountable and therefore force me to finish the project. On Tuesday, I took the final photo.

The project started well enough, and even had moments of what might be regarded as “actual photography”. By far the best days were the ones where I dusted-off the slightly neglected Nikon and went out on a mission to get some photos.

But processing photos in Aperture on a daily basis isn’t something I had planned for. Fortunately, another Apple product came to the rescue in the form of my phone and the accompanying Tumblr app. This, I had reasoned, would make life much easier – a few taps and my daily masterpiece (or whichever term you prefer for “Another Photo of a Lamp”) would be done and online. A daily reminder, set for the sensible time of 7pm, would mean no excuses.

As ever, this didn’t quite work out. Reminders are easy to forget, and even easier to ignore. Many photos were taken at 11pm, hence the surfeit of lamp, table and “texture” photos with suspicious time stamps.

Amongst the strange pictures of random objects scattered around my room, are there shots I am happy with? Yes. Almost exclusively these were taken with my actual camera rather than my phone, and a few of them even made it onto my Flickr account.

But was it worth it, and would I recommend it? Hard to say. I’m pleased I got to day 366 (an extra day due to the leap year). Despite this, I’m very glad the project is over. The main lesson was that photography takes time, and can’t be done in the same way you might happen to do the washing up on a daily basis. It needs precision, practice and patience. An 11pm dash every night for a year will never make you a better photographer, just as running to catch the bus everyday probably won’t mean you can compete in a marathon.

If you decide to do the project, don’t resort to your phone, and make sure you have the time. You don’t have to post the results to the Internet, so save the time for taking the photo itself. I honestly believe a photo a week (or even a photo a month) would be more satisfying. The project adds “another thing to do”, and it can feel like a chore getting in the way of long term side projects. It can be great fun if you spend time on it, but as always in life, it shouldn’t be rushed for the sake of it. I won’t be doing the project again – at least not in a hurry. But I took away many lessons, and the odd photo. So that’s certainly something to be happy with.

NB: For some reason day 366 was posted on July 3rd 2012, but day 1 was July 1st 2011. I’m not quite sure what happened here, but suspect I accidentally counted a few days twice when uploading to Tumblr.