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Finally – Keynote Remote works with iPad July 4, 2011

Posted by fredillies in Communication, Gadgets n Gizmos, Presentations.
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Nice surprise today. While updating my Keynote app on my iPad, I discovered that Keynote remote now works with the iPad. Finally I can remote advance slides in a Keynote presentation on iPad. It works great over wifi, but not every client office has readily available guest wifi. Apple says you can pair the iPhone & iPad via BT, but I haven’t be able to get it to work yet.

Unfortunately, even when it does work, it means I have to hold my iPhone (which is far bigger that modern presentation remotes) to advance – and I can’t just tap… I need to swipe, which is cumbersome with one hand.

At least this is a step in the right direction… FINALLY!

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An Open Letter to Steve Jobs October 29, 2010

Posted by fredillies in Communication, Design, Gadgets n Gizmos, Presentations.
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Dear Steve,

Glad things are going so well for you and Apple these days. I’ve been a big fan(boy) for many years, and have been an unpaid evangelist for Apple and your wonderful products. I had been waiting for so many years for an Apple sub notebook that I cried tears of joy when you launched the iPad. And yes, I drove from Toronto to Buffalo NY so I could line up and buy one on the first day.

I travel a fair bit for work, and the joy of ONLY carrying this svelte little beauty put me right over the top. For 6 months I’ve travelled light like a Ninja with my iPad… until I had to give a very important presentation recently. But, let me backtrack a minute. I’ve loved Keynote for a long time, and used it excusively over the last 5 years to create presentations. And I’m one of the few people (aside from you and your team at Apple) who really GET why creating a touch-based version of The iWork suite will prove to have been such a significant accomplishment in the software world.

OK, back to my big presentation. Like you, I walk around when I give a presentation, and rely on a small remote control (way smaller than iPhone) to advance my slides. Being untethered is so important to me as a presenter, I carry two remotes and extra batteries just in case… I will never give another presentation without a remote.

While its GREAT to show presentations directly on the iPad for one or two people, and it’s great that you can output directly to a projector, IT MAKES NO SENSE TO ME THAT YOU WOULD CRIPPLE IPAD KEYNOTE PRESENTERS BY NOT SUPPORTING REMOTE SLIDE ADVANCEMENT. You generally show a deep love for your customers and their experience with your products. How is it possible that you missed this important aspect to giving a presentation (even though you acknowledge this need by offering Keynote Remote app)? I can only assume that you did it on purpose.

For a company that says “its better to cannibalize yourself than have the competition do it” you better not have done it to force me to replace my aging MBAir with a shiny new 11″ MBAir (which I did). If you did, shame on you. What i really want is to walk into a presentation, hook up my sleek iPad, and proceed to wow the crowd with both my brilliant presentation and your brilliant technology – WHILE I WALK AROUND THE ROOM.

Please correct this injustice immediately. If you haven’t done so by the time of the next Annual General Meeting I may just show up to ask you in person.

Sincerely,
Fred Illies

Learning from a Master June 12, 2010

Posted by fredillies in Communication, Design, eBusiness, Gadgets n Gizmos, Presentations.
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While you may be tempted to pass over this post because I’m an unabashed fan of Steve Jobs and Apple, doing so would mean that you might miss out on a great learning experience…. from the Zen Master and Black Belt in Kung Fu of Business… Steve Jobs. Invest the time to watch the full Keynote address at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (http://tiny.cc/tfzsj).

You’ll see why Jobs is the master of presentation zen (ie. one of the world’s great communicators). How he lays out his story and articulates the “why they did things this way” and what it will mean for the human beings who will use their products. Notice his grace as a presenter. You can do that too – IF you break your gagillion bullet points down into the essence of what you want to communicate. You see, if you do all THAT work during your preparation and have your message broken down into a few key ideas, you’ll find you are much more relaxed giving your presentation… because then it can be truly conversational.

T4G is a great place to work because we have passionate leadership and a culture of thinking different and doing the right thing. Sound familiar? Watch this video and see if you can list some of the Apple Values. Listen to the way Jobs describes they didn’t include some things in the OS right off the bat (like Copy & Paste or Multi-tasking) because they wanted to wait until they got them to work “just right”. And the way Apple doesn’t just release a feature, but also creates software to make a delightful experiential benefit of that feature for humans (cases in point: iMovie for iPhone & Face Time Video Calling).

Oh, and for those of you interested in seeing the future of mobile advertising, check out the incredibly engaging iAd from Nissan. (oh yeah, and the part about how Apple has sold $60 Million worth of iAds to some of the biggest brands … in 8 weeks. That’s 48% of the expected worldwide expenditure for mobile advertising for the second half of 2010… and they still have 6 months to sell more)

Jobs is famous for using the term “remarkable”. IMO that word aptly describes what he has done with Apple – by having an incredibly focused vision (To make insanely great products) and to have had such success in creating an organization that lives by that mantra, delivers on it in spades, and for having truly created what our friends at Harvard call the “Virtuous Cycle”.

iPhone App Creation + Marketing … A Great Learning Experience August 6, 2009

Posted by fredillies in Communication, Design, Gadgets n Gizmos, Life Balance, Simplifying your life.
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I’ve sure learned alot throughout the process of designing and building an iPhone app, and now about marketing it. Thought I would post about what the process has been like so far. Ours is a very simple app, but there are still many steps to go through.

I’ve been envisioning a simple role-based to-do list for the iPhone since the day that William Bakker & I sat in a meeting and followed the real-time blog coverage of Steve Jobs now famous iPhone launch presentation at MacWorld.  I had previously created a desktop version of this kind of tool (called “Overview”) using FileMaker, and was subsequently very disappointed that FileMaker (an Apple company) didn’t create a simple version of their software for the iPhone.

When the iPhone SDK was released, I toyed with the idea of trying to teach myself iPhone programming (the hype around the SDK made it sound easy… and hey, this was Apple after all). I soon realized that the SDK made things easier for people who KNEW C+ Programming!  That definitely counted me out 😉  Eventually Mark Fraser suggested I talk to Andrew Little (one of the programmers from our halifax offices).  I provided Andrew with specifications for the functionality and user experience (including pixel-accurate digital artwork of each screen). Andrew said he was eager to learn iPhone programming, and he said he would have a look at the spec and let me know what kind of effort it would involve.  2 days later he had a working prototype, and from then on we worked back and forth together to perfect the app.  Because we both have day jobs it has taken about 5-6 months to get a finished and fully tested version submitted to the App Store (at the time of this writing we’re awaiting approval from Apple).

MyRoles is another entry into a VERY crowded niche in the iPhone app world.  At last count there were over 50 competing products, most of which essentially do all the same things. (Some more elegantly than others!). So why would we enter such a crowded market?  Well, for starters, our motivation was not financial. For me, it was a chance to bring my task management vision to life in a tool that *I* could use on my iPhone.  In addition, I could learn about all aspects of iPhone development and marketing, which would come in handy when working with our clients on mobile strategy. For Andrew, it was a chance to learn iPhone programming so he could create a new service offering for T4G. If it didn’t really take off maybe Andrew and I could earn enough for a vacation or two.

And how would MyRoles compete in such a crowded market?  Well, we have 3 things going for us: A legitimately unique differentiator (MyRoles lets you easily manage your tasks by the various roles you play in your life); Extremely focused functionality (does ONE thing and does that extremely well); and we have a simple and very intuitive user interface.  (Others claim to be simple to use, but they do so many things that they require a lot of instruction about how you use it.  Many of the competitors have modeled their systems after David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system/methodology. MyRoles takes a different (more zen-like path), by stripping away everything that wasn’t CORE to simply managing tasks by role. We intentionally did not design it for the diehard GTD fans, cause they love to spend time on details and tweaking their systems.  MyRoles was designed for busy people who don’t want to waste time maintaining a complicated system.

So how do we get the word out?  Well, first we built a website that clearly communicates our unique selling proposition (what makes MyRoles different than all competitors) and what’s in it for people who chose to use it (simpler task management and the promise of more balance in their lives). Next we send out an announcement about MyRoles to *everyone* we know, followed by individual personalized emails to the scores of iPhone app review sites around the world.  We created a Facebook page for MyRoles, a Twitter feed you can follow, and I’m writing this blog post to tell our story. All of this to start to build a buzz around the app, so that it gets some momentum… and then we’ll see where it goes.  Oh yeah.. we have a couple of videos in production which we’ll post on our website and YouTube. It’s anyone’s guess how this will do in the AppStore, and if anyone will buy into the idea that “less is more” when it comes to finding a task management system that you can adopt and keep using over the long haul.

Palm Pre: From the ashes comes their saviour? June 8, 2009

Posted by fredillies in Gadgets n Gizmos.
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palm-pre-1Amid the buzz of the launch of the Palm Pre and Apple’s WWDC this week, I’m reminded of Steve Jobs’ historic introduction of the iPhone back in 2007.  Jobs took centre stage with that breakthrough device, and set the bar so high that it would be difficult for anyone to even get close for a long while. Shortly thereafter, in what is surely one the biggest let-downs in the history of product announcements, Palm’s Jeff Hawkins announced the FOLEO which he had hyped an exciting new product category.  That announcement was followed by a loud thud (market and industry reaction).  A few months later Palm CEO Ed Colligan cancelled the Foleo project before it was even released.  (Would they have even sold a single one??)  When the Foleo was announced, I figured that was the death knell for Palm…. which had experienced a long slide from innovator to dinosaur.

Fast forward to today.  Palm’s Pre is an elegant device with an all-new OS, with a UI, software and industrial design that is Apple-class.  So how did Palm get from the depths to the point where they could release this kind of contender? Well, for starters they hired Jon Rubenstein, former Apple executive (the PodFather”).  The rest of the story involved THROWING OUT the Palm product roadmap and starting from scratch.  Check out the second video on Walt Mossberg’s recent post about the Pre.  Not too many CEOs would be willing to go to those lengths… do you know any?  (that said, when you’re already on the skids you need to do something dramatic 😉

It’ll be interesting to see if Apple can steal back any of the buzz at WWDC or with a suspected Jobs appearance later this month….

Seismic Shifts in the Computer Industry February 16, 2009

Posted by fredillies in Gadgets n Gizmos.
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picture-11Great article on Apple Insider about the impact that Netbooks are having, and will continue to have on Microsoft’s business… and how Apple’s strategy of “iPhone vs. Netbook” to provide value in the ultra-portable computing space is paying off in profits and market share.

Netbooks killing off sickly Windows PC sales

Granted, the article was published on an Apple news blog, so I’m sure Microsoft fans will have lots of different opinions about what’s happening.  That said, to me it still feels like this is part of a seismic shift in the industry.

Google Mobile App Voice Search November 19, 2008

Posted by fredillies in eBusiness, Gadgets n Gizmos, Society & Culture.
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googleIt seems like not a week goes by without a new iPhone app being released that fits my definition of MAGIC.  There’s the app that listens to any song on the radio and tells you the name of song, artist and shows you the album art (Shazam). There’s Ocarina (Smule) that turns the iPhone into a wind instrument and shows the coolest location-based animation of the music floating up from planet earth while it’s playing the music that other people played on their iPhone.  And now…..drum roll please….  The Google iPhone App updated to include VOICE search!  Magic indeed.  I read somewhere that Google said it’s not that they have better algorithms than they used to… they just have so much more data to go against.  Just wait till Google starts selling this technology to online retailers!

Getting Mobile Right – Guiding Principles November 6, 2008

Posted by fredillies in eBusiness, Gadgets n Gizmos, Uncategorized.
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nytI’ve been thinking a lot about mobile apps lately. As many of you know I’m a huge fan of the iPhone… and from the day the iPhone SDK (software developers kit) and App Store were launched, I’ve been convinced that most people had no IDEA how much this was going to change the game in the mobile arena.  I sat through a session on Mobile Commerce at the Internet Retailer conference in Chicago this past summer, and the pundits from the research companies put up countless boring slides about what % of the mobile market Nokia had, and the infinitesimal % of online sales that were coming from mobile.

When it came time for audience questions, by FAR the majority of them were retailers (large & small) wanting to know about what impact they expected from the iPhone now that native apps were possible.  The “experts” on stage looked like  deer in the headlights… mumbling about “it’s still too early to tell”.  The thing was, all there presentations were about what happened in the past… not what was going to happen in the future as a result of the METEORIC adoption of this powerful and elegant device (and IMHO the first usable mobile interface).

Fast forward to today.  The number of iPhone apps is growing fast (and we can’t even SEE the real numbers because corporate apps for small numbers of users don’t need to be distributed through the App Store).  We do know that as of this summer, 35% of Fortune 500 companies are developing internal apps for iPhone (and that % has surely grown since then).  The opportunities are enormous. Which leads me the point of this post: what makes a great mobile app? What guiding principles can you follow that will guide you as you dip your toe in this raging river? (BTW, iPhone is not the only platform that will drive the growth of great mobile apps… Android promises to grow the pie even more)

1.  Its all about UTILITY.  I’m on the go, and I want specific information quickly. Although the iPhone offers the best mobile browsing experience, having your customers visit your regular website from a mobile device is not what gives utility to mobile users… that will just frustrate them.  What you need to do is think about what types of information would be most useful to your customers/consumers while they are mobile and build what amounts to small “Applets” that deliver a very small feature set very well and very quickly.

2. Once you’ve got #1 right, the next thing its about is having the DEPTH AND RELEVANCE OF DATA. This is what is useful to the mobile consumer. Being able to tap into useful data (from your systems and other public data) and create a “mash-up” is how you can really differentiate.  The ability to integrate all this on the back end is critical of course.

3. Finally, it’s about THE USER EXPERIENCE. It’s about having a simple interface (the more it can look like the elegant Apple iPhone apps the better… because the UI seems transparent to the user).  #1 above is about figuring out what small window into your massive data that you’ll expose for optimal utility. It’s the user experience that will determine what that window looks like and how easy it is for your mobile consumer to interact with all that useful data.  If you get this one wrong…. you’ll lose because you could have well-defined and focused functionality, but if it’s cumbersome for the user, they’ll move on to a competitor as fast as you can say “delete”.

Good luck with your mobile apps!

Where’s FileMaker? September 4, 2008

Posted by fredillies in eBusiness, Gadgets n Gizmos, Simplifying your life.
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As a long-time fan of both FileMaker & Apple, I’m amazed at the absence of some form of FileMaker for the iPhone.  Some time ago FM discontinued their lame FM Mobile product, but have yet to come out with a replacement.  Considering the relationship with Apple and FileMaker, I would have thought it would be a natural fit…. an elegant database “of the people” on the ultimate “smartphone of the people”. But no such luck.  I’d love to hear from anyone in the know of FileMaker’s plans in this area (maybe a super-secret project underway)?

For years I’ve created my own database solutions to make my work or life easier, and now that I have an iPhone I really want to create a version of my solutions that would work on iPhone.  Tough luck for me.  There is some good news… I’ve been folowing the development of an iPhone application called FMTouch.  It lets you sync your FM DB onto the iPhone and interact with records.  Although this is being rapidly developed with superb support from the developer, it’s still a really early stage product, and (for me anyway) has some deal-breaker limitations.

I’m not a cocoa or Objective C developer, so no matter how user-friendly the iPhone SDK may be (read “developer-friendly”) it’s not for the average (or even advanced) FM developer or hobbyist.  So the choices I’m left with are make due with an FMTouch solution, or enlist the help of an iPhone developer. Stay tuned.

iHappy August 1, 2008

Posted by fredillies in Gadgets n Gizmos.
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Ali & I just bought a Dyson vacuum cleaner.  There is a little book that comes with it called “Our Story”. Here’s the first paragraph:

James Dyson

You know the feeling when an everyday product lets you down? “I could have designed this better myself”, you think.  But how many of us do something about it?  James Dyson does. He’s a man who likes to make things that work better.

In this regard I consider Dyson to be like Steve Jobs (and his design chief Jonathan Ive). Jobs is my hero for creating not just elegant products, but joyful user experiences.  “User Experience” is a very overused term these days, and some only pay lip service to the concept.  “You know the feeling when an everyday product delights you?”  That’s the magic that Steve Jobs performs.  I just got my first iPhone this week after a very long wait (I live in Canada and it was just released here this month).  After 3 days with it I can say that I’ve experienced delight, joy and gratitude… no matter what task I’m attempting.  The stunning graphical UI could best be described as luscious. I’ve suffered with a Windows Mobile phone for the past 2 years, and at least 5 times a day I wanted to throw it off a building or drive over it with a steamroller.

I’m constantly hearing from all kinds of pundits that Apple is just a small fractional player compared to Nokia and RIM and Microsoft, and that these guys are going to strike back with their own “iPhone killer” (a new one seems to be announced every week).  I may not be an expert in the mobile telco space, but I’m a human being who loves using products that work and exceed my expectations… AND I can recognize a Tsunami when I see one.  Nobody is going to catch Apple.  They tried and failed to combat the iPod, and I believe the same thing will happen here.  You want to know why?  Lots of reasons: the App Store… The SDK… and the fact that the iPhone platform ecosystem is a closed loop. But the fundamental reason is that Steve Jobs understands people better than any of his competitors.