05 June 2009

Touch Notes II

More iPhone/Touch paradigmata:

Touch screen + accelerometer: That large, hi-res screen is beautiful and functional, but Apple's brilliant implementation of the touch interface is a paradigm maker. Pinch zoom, two-finger rotation, etc., are becoming new standards for device interaction. Combined with an accelerometer, you have a whole new device interface. This is as revolutionary as Apple's introduction of the mouse. Touch screens, accelerometers and mice were of course not invented by Apple. Apple just made them really work. Huzzah!

I am most impressed by a few programs that make this new interface foundational, doing things that just cannot be done on a PC. I'll profile two in a near-future post. And Apple's success here is breeding imitators, like the slew of new touch screen netbooks forthcoming and Microsoft's aggressive support for touch interfaces in Windows 7 (see here). Touch screens are (finally!) about to arrive en masse.

apps, Apps, APPS!: Powerful CPU and graphics, big screen, revolutionary interface, ease of use and low cost for apps are driving incredible software sales through the App Store. More than 1 billion apps already sold (April 23, 2009), and the App Store has been open less than a year (from July 10, 2008). As ever more devices are sold, prices are dropping, quality rising, and sales are still accelerating. And this is all just getting started.

Simply put, Apple has created a new computing platform.

iPhone/Touch developers are still mostly independents, many just porting apps they had already published for PCs or other mobile devices. And they've made a lot of money, to everyone's surprise. Like, $10,000 a day. This platform is an independent developer's dream, since there is (as of yet) no publishing or marketing cost required to sell their software, beyond a $99 yearly registration fee to Apple.

Now the majors are getting into it with big, original titles. They have to. The iPhone/Touch is the hottest and most crowded platform in the software universe. And with 1000 new APIs being introduced with OS 3.0, we're just seeing the beginning of what developers can do.

I am close to taking the plunge and buying my first "premium" ($10 and up) Touch app . A game, of course, probably Need for Speed. I've played NFS for years on the PC and the new Touch version is getting rave reviews. It is among the first big productions from a major publisher, and much more is in the pipeline.

The low price, staggering quantity, innovation and rising quality of Touch games is pushing it into competition with dedicated handheld game consoles. Many Touch games currently are of the casual variety, for which there is a huge market, but console-quality titles like NFS are arriving.

Many believe the Touch has already started crowding the consoles' market space (see here, here and here). It may even challenge the success of the upcoming Sony PSP Go, even if more by making new gamers than stealing old ones, as the Wii did with the PS3. But I guarantee both Sony and Nintendo are wringing their hands. They rely on developers and developers go where the money is. Which is at Apple.

With so much innovative software available for a buck or two, or free, the App Store has me hooked like crack. Look out for a bunch of mini software reviews forthcoming.

But I end with a word of warning. If you start down the iPhone/Touch road, start saving for upgrades now. Not only will OS 3.0 cost Touch owners $10, software performance will always be hardware dependent and developers develop for the latest platform. The next Touch will be, yes, that much better than the current G2. It will be a must-own. Start saving today.

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