Oct 112012

Mike Elgan predicts in his recent Cult of Mac article that the iPad Mini (non-existing but presumably soon to be announced) “will dominate holiday sales, take over the education market and destroy three current products on the market“.

He believes that Apple will spend significant effort “to convince school boards, school districts, teachers and textbook publishers to embrace the iPad Mini“.

Ala – he leaves out the little details how Apple will be successful with this effort. Not only in U.S. but also in other major markets.

Essentially it will require an ecosystem with compelling benefits to all involved parties – pupils, parents, teachers, school boards and education departments. Obviously a platform (iOS) and a “store front” (iTunes U) are essential, but it requires more.

Interactive learning apps

The content is key to convince students. They must embrace it, love it, enjoy it. How? Encouraging a Learning by Doing modality. Becoming as close to real world as possible. Creating an environment to foster a Maker subculture on tablets. Introducing game elements (gamification) into the learning experience.

Once parents are forced to impose time restrictions for their children using the learning apps the mission is accomplished.

Authoring tool

To convince textbook publishers requires powerful authoring tools  to create such interactive learning apps with significantly reduced costs and skills. I reckon that tools such as iBooks Author are too limited to create this kind of content without additional programming. And conventional programmatic approach is too costly to create inexpensive material for a whole curriculum.

More importantly it allows to build an ecosystem where teachers, students, anybody provide these interactive learning apps as well as make these apps more like composable modules (or episodes).

Classroom Management System

To convince teachers you need to show them that this shift will not make them unemployed but rather allow them to shift their focus on facilitating the students. Becoming coaches, facilitators, mentors, advisors. Even better if you would give them concise information on the progress, strength and challenges of each student. A service infrastructure that collects the data from all apps can provide this information.

App Suites

Finally to convince the school boards and education departments I imagine two things are required. Firstly an organisation of “apps” into a suite that students can work with progressively to cover a selected subset of a potentially multi-year curriculum. This allows the school management to translate a curriculum for a specific subject into such a suite.

Big Data Analysis and Dashboards

Secondly the aggregation, analysis and visualization of the collected data will help school boards as well as education departments to gain insight and gradually improve the educational system itself.

This is certainly a tall task with lots of risks. Will Apple pursue this endeavor by themselves or rather line up with other partners?

Introduce Slate Science

One candidate could be Slate Science, an education startup with a vision encompassing all of these components. Their entry at AngelList has the tagline “K-12 education powered by touch”.

Their Web site is fairly secretive and indicates that they will launch their K12 Math apps soon. It seems to be first available only on iPad with Android and potentially other platforms followed later. As background they use a domain specific language (Episode description language) and generate the platform specific apps.

This brings one big question to my mind:

Will they be part of Apple’s iPad Mini announcement?

There are continuous rumors about an Apple event in October to announce the iPad Mini. This would be a perfect fit.

For more background you find their Infomercial together with a good summary of their vision on Youtube. I love one catch phrase:

What I hear I forget.
What I see I remember.
What I DO I understand.

Shimon Schocken, co-founder of Slate Science gave an interview to Robert Scoble. It is worth the 25 minutes to watch. He provided interesting background about their intentions and a compelling live demo of their interactive apps. He has also done a great TED Talk called The self-organizing computer course.

Based on that I consider this a startup worth to watch in the education sector.

P.S. Business Process Management Systems

After writing up about all the components I notice a striking analogy to Business Process Management Systems. Except that BPMN is a domain specific language for business processes and not interactive learning apps. 😉

Aug 072012

I am surprised how little rumours are about the iPod Nano while all is about iPhone 5 and iPad Mini.

iPhone 5
Wider screen, smaller dock connector, smaller SIM card, high-speed LTE. Nothing revolutionary, right?

iPad Mini
Oh yes, it is a smaller version of the iPad. Probably with the iPad 2 screen resolution and a more appealing price tag. Nice but not exciting.

iPod Touch
Better speed, larger screen. good, but .. well.

So what about the iPod Nano?

I reckon that Apple will announce a “revolutionary”“magic”“beautiful” new iPod Nano in September. I have no insider knowledge whatsoever. This is just me reflecting on what I consider another lucrative market ready to harvest. Here is my reasoning

  • Design: Watch
    The form factor of the iPod Nano makes it a very lucrative wearable device – like a watch (wristband) or brooch (clip). The success ofTikTok and Lunatik wristbands, the Pebble watch and the I’m Watch gadget is enough proof.
    “Apple is fixing the Pebble watch’s biggest flaw?” How generous! Apple is rather providing this capability for their own watch!
  • Technology: Bluetooth 4.0
    The lower power consumption of Bluetooth 4.0 leads to new wearable gadgets collecting personal data and transmitting it to a hub device without much recharging.
    The scenarios and sensors already exist: heart rate, pulse, blood flow, temperature, sleep patterns, steps, scales ..
    It will be interesting to see which display technology Apple will pick. E-Ink? Pixel Qi?
  • Strategy: Platform
    A personal hub that collects and displays data from the various sensors in a secure, ‘standardized’ way provides a perfect platform strategy. This nicely complements the larger iTunes and App Store platform on the lower end.In June Apple announced partnership with major automobile companies for the “Siri-enabled Eyes Free” car integration. I expect another partnership announcement around the iPod Nano and sensors. My candidates: Polar, Nike, some players in the health sector and some innovative companies such as Withings.
  • Money: New market, high profit margin
    I expect they can drop the base price for the iPod Nano below $100 (even $80?) including clip and still make significant profit. They can earn more money with a smart wristband copying the approach of the iPad Smart Cover.

Again, all of this is pure speculation. It just seems very compelling to me.

So what do you think?

[Originally posted on Google+]

Jul 212012

Reflecting on the Why the mini-tablet is the children’s toy of the year post from Mike Elgan.

We consciously limit the use of gadgets while our daughter is around. Nevertheless there are exceptions: browse photos, watch Peppa Pig when on vacation or when she is sick, and skype Grandma.

Today she asked to have her own iPhone?! What does she need it for? Quote: “Skype Grandma.”

The intuitive touch interface and engaging apps attract the child in us – and, of course, in our kids. And I agree with +Mike Elgan  that form factor and price of 7″ mini-tablets are good fit for children’s toy of the year.

Though did you know there is already a (very) mini-iPad available? It is called iPod Touch. So if mini-tablets really dominate holiday gift sales, Apple should be able to leverage a fair share for an adjacent cheaper iPod Touch.

Oh, and my current iPod Touch 4G will become my daughter’s first ‘iPhone’. Yes, it does skype!

Originally posted on Google+.

Jul 052012

+Jeff Jarvis proposes to call this thing “handy”.

As +Volker Weber puts it in his post: “Been there, done that, Germany.”
“Please switch your handys off” – I once used this pseudo-anglicism as a conference speaker in U.S. only to get a completely puzzled audience. 😉

Nevertheless I rather propose to name it:
“A personal assistant or personal aide (PA)”

This “thing” is named by the job it fulfills. Drop the digital as it takes over from the human representatives.

History repeats: Human Computer

You find other suggestions as comments to Jeff’s original post:

[Originally posted on Google+]

Jun 202012

Some excellent posts on Google+ from +Eli Fennell and +Christian Schlobach are very insightful and in itself a nice showcase of a “Long conversation” on Google+. Even including the different approaches of referencing and sharing!

Funny enough, this conversation immediately reminded me of Sherry Turkle. I read her books “The Second Self” (1984) and “Life on the Screen” (1995) when they got published decades ago.

Just discovered her newest book “Alone Together” (2011) which is about … social networks.

I do not see her on Google+ – yet?! I would much more like to circle her than+George Takei 😉

[Originally posted on Google+]

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Oct 022011

Why Tuesday’s Apple Event is One of the Most Important Ever from Mike Elgan is another excellent analysis worth to contemplate about:

“Social Tablet era”
“People are designed to socialize with other humans, and also to explore the world with touch.”
Great one! Touch-based tablets – especially the iPad – plays to our deep hard-wired desire to touch things and – well – play with them. Hmm, is tactile experience the most ’emotional’?

So the symbiosis of tablet and social networks will revolutionize our social experience as built-in cameras in mobile phones did.

“Artificial Experience Phone Era”
Hmm, clumsy name. IBM is ‘commercializing’ AI on the high-end leveraging the visibility of Watson winning Jeopardy!.http://www.ibm.com/ibm100/us/en/icons/watson/
However, bringing first class “computer assistant” experience to the consumer market shifts everybody’s experience. Voice recognition and control were around for many years – Dragon and ViaVoice are most notable contenders.

Well, PDAs were around for nearly 20 years as well but the breakthrough came when combined with multi-touch in iPhone and iPad.

I am still munching about these assessments. Definitely there is something in them. May be I am enchanted by Tuesday’s event.

Maybe companies will soon need a BYOCA to work policy: Bring your own computer assistant.

[Originally posted on Google+]

Sep 292011

This little article should make you thinking a bit about privacy data. And some more food for thought:

– Europeans have rights about their privacy data that U.S. does not give their citizens.
– Privacy data hosted in the U.S. is not safe.
– Even privacy data hosted in Europe by an U.S. company may not be safe – due to U.S. Patriot Act
– U.S. companies may soon get excluded from bids in Europe
– European companies promote safe clouds – shielding from U.S. Patriot Act
– XING, as LinkedIn competitor, is based in Germany and clearly advertises this advantage: “XING protects your privacy.”

So next time, you want to share private data with others, choose your social network wisely. You find my XING profile listed together with Twitter and LinkedIn on my Google+ profile. (I am not affiliated in any way with XING.)

Happy Networking!

[Originally posted on Google+]

Aug 052011

Unlearning is hard. I noticed it myself when I upgraded (clean install, ahem) to Lion over the last weekend. I used the whole weekend my Mac Mini with Lion and no other computer. It took these 2-3 days to get used to the “natural” scrolling in Lion.

The strange thing happened on Monday: When I scrolled on my work computer (with Windows using scroll wheel), I really felt that the text moved in the ‘wrong’ direction – unnaturally.

Browse through Apple discussion fora and you will see people complaining that “Scroll goes the wrong way in Lion” and how to ‘fix’ it.

Why does Apple consider it ‘natural’, when it is the opposite of how it is done in all graphical user interfaces so far – including Mac OS X? They must be wrong, right?

First of all, plenty user interfaces nowadays provide scrolling exactly this way. You do it all the time when you use an iPod, iPhone, iPad, Android and – I guess – other smart phones. And that felt naturally, right? And you did not get confused with what you do on your phone and on your computer, because it was a different context.

These touch interfaces have been leveraged to make more ‘natural user interfaces‘ – as some boldly call it. Some might claim the breakthrough started with the multi-touch interface a guy in black shirt and jeans presented on-stage in 2006.

But why do GUIs use the other direction in the first place? Well, originally you did not move the content itself up, but you moved the ‘bar’ (or thumb) in the scrollbar down. Originally, graphical user interfaces were limited to what you can do with point, click and drag using a traditional computer mouse. Particular GUI objects, such as scrollbars, are used to allow specific user actions.

However, the scrollbar has been no longer essential to provide the user action since the introduction of the scroll wheel. Apple has continued this by making multi-touch devices ubiquitous with their computers with Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad.in addition to the multi-touch pad in their MacBook notebooks.

Apple’s “Back to the Mac” push with Lion evolves the OS X user interface away from a traditional GUI. The switch of the scroll direction makes it consistent with iOS, more intuitive for complete novices and permits to completely remove the scrollbar as an actionable object.

So don’t simply fix the ‘wrong’ scroll direction in Lion. Rather unlearn an outdated concept and I am sure you will find the new way completely intuitive after a few days. Enjoy!

Jul 162011

As you start playing with Google+ and Circles, here are a few guidelines for different tastes.

If you want to understand Circles and some of the not so obvious implications, these are good reads:

Jul 152011

The most profound concept in Google+ is Circles. And it is probably the most discussed one right now.

  • “But there’s one towering, brilliant difference: Circles”, New York Times
  • “Forget being friended on Facebook or followed on Twitter. What you really want now is to be Circled—or so Google hopes.”, Wall Street Journal
  • “Die Circle-Funktion ist nicht originell – aber ungeheuer praktisch und einfach zu benutzen” Spiegel Online
  • and even on e-cards.

To understand this it is best to step back and look how people use the existing social networks.

For example, I actively use TwitterXINGLinkedIn and Facebook. I use them for different purposes and therefore connect with different people.

  • XING – “The Professional Business Network with More Than 10 Million Members Worldwide”
    I use XING as professional network and to stay in contact. I connect with people from business, school and university and a few family members. I share my contact details and professional profile. I also like the capabilities around groups and event.
    XING is strong in (Continental) Europe and in my opinion it is biggest asset is their focus on security.
  • LinkedIn – “Over 100 million professionals use LinkedIn to exchange information, ideas and opportunities”
    I use LinkedIn similar to XING as a professional network and to stay in contact. I connect with business people (primarily colleagues) and a few family members and friends. I share my professional profile. That’s it. I have not yet found groups very appealing.
    LinkedIn is strong in North America and United Kingdom.
  • Twitter – “Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest information about what you find interesting”
    I use Twitter to quickly read and share interesting information, primarily business focused. As such I consider it like a news channel, so all sharing is public. I follow colleagues and people who share useful information. I do not use more sophisticated tools like lists.
    Twitter is estimated to have “around 200 million users“.
  • Facebook – “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.”
    I use Facebook to connect with family and close friends. I primarily read and comment. I share about my interests and little about my private life. I am wary about how Facebook as well as the plethora of apps handle privacy. I block shares from particular apps, cautious about spam bombs (“I can see who stalked me on Facebook with this app …”). I dislike any kind of chain letters (“If you do not share this with everybody, the world will come to an end …”).
    “More than 750 million active users” are on Facebook according to their statistics.

It is not just that I have different interest groups. It is different things to share, different ways to share and different relevance of other resources (contacts, events, music) to access and share. Then I might like to share somethings with multiple groups. Or with those following me as well as with a few selected friends. Then public sharing has different mechanics, it is about following and not friending.

In addition sharing must include those who are not part of the social network. You can directly share to e-mails. By the way, a “Google+ Invite” is just that. You can even put e-mails into Google+ circles!

Google+ circles makes it possible to map the concept of interest groups. It is based on asymmetric “following” and supports public and “limited” sharing. It has the foundation to address all scenarios public, business, personal, private – at least over time.

Multiple social networks take significant effort to manage accounts, setups, contacts and fiddle with tools (desktop, phone, tablet) and their pitfalls.

That is what makes a single, comprehensive social network for all scenarios so compelling. That is the potential of Google+.

Obviously this puts a lot of power into the “holder” of the circles. We will see how Google will play this.

“One to rule them all, One to find them, One to bring them all and in the network bind them”