iPhone Orchestra

It had to happen. Using the iPhone as a musical instrument is not new. A graduate course and orchestra, that’s new.

The University of Michigan’s “iPhone Orchestra” will debut next week, via 9to5Mac (h/t to Gizmodo):

Given that the iPhone offers more processing power than the original iMac, this next story had to happen: December 9 will see a live performance by an orchestra, each and every one of whom will be using an iPhone to make the music happen.

Students at the University of Michigan are learning to design, build and play instruments on their Apple smartphones as part of a course called “Building a Mobile Phone Ensemble”. This course is taught by Georg Essl, a computer scientist and musician who has worked on developing mobile phones and musical instruments.

This class, believed to be the first formal course of its type in the world, merges engineering practices, mobile phone programming, and sound synthesis with new music performance, composition, and interactive media arts.

Students in the class program their iPhones to accept input from the devices’ multitude of input sensors, and to create sound based on that input.

The touch-screen, microphone, GPS, compass, wireless sensor, and accelerometer can all be transformed so that when a performer runs their finger across the display, blows air into the mic, tilts or shakes the phone, for example, different sounds emanate.

Students then compose for these new instruments and ultimately perform their works. Because the course brings together so many aspects of engineering, composition, and performance, the class demands a high degree of both creativity and technological savvy.

Several years ago, Essl and his colleagues were the first known to use the microphone as a wind sensor – a tactic that enables popular iPhone apps such as the Ocarina. Ocarina essentially turns the phone into an ancient type of flute.

“The mobile phone is a very nice platform for exploring new forms of musical performance,” Essl said. “We’re not tethered to the physics of traditional instruments. We can do interesting, weird, unusual things.

“This kind of technology is in its infancy, but it’s a hot and growing area to use iPhones for artistic expression.”

If you can’t make it to the performance, fret not – there’s even a Facebook page for the ensemble if you want to head across to say “hello”.

Ever hear of ZEE in Germany? They may have been first…

iTablet: Saving Newspapers

A couple of weeks ago, the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story on Apple’s upcoming new product, the iTablet:

Apple has sent specifications of the device to Australian media companies in an effort to sound out whether they would be interested in delivering their content to the tablet. None would speak about the device on the record.

But New York Times executive editor Bill Keller seemed to let the cat out of the bag in comments during an off-the-record meeting with New York Times digital staff this month. Footage of his talk has been published online.

The device itself is expected to be another “game changer” for Apple, summed up nicely by John Abell in Wired last week:

The device will have to make readers forget — really forget — the printed page. E-readers, for all that they do, don’t do this yet. There are plenty of them, and plenty more on the way. Much hope is invested in Amazon’s Kindle DX, which hits the market for the holidays. But in the end e-readers are third devices, or at least two-and-a-half (carried sometimes).

Finally — and this is the “my gift to you” part — the unveiling of an Apple Tablet will have to be accompanied by a fundamental policy change. Apple will have to let publishers roll the dice on pricing and cede control of the customer relationship it has jealously guarded. There are precedents which could point to this trajectory; tiered pricing and album-only sales are allowed on iTunes now, and app developers can more or less charge whatever they want.

Having just cancelled my home-delivery subscription to the local daily newspaper, I started thinking what it’s like to rely solely on the online version. My conclusion? I don’t care. All I ever read in that paper was Dilbert. I never liked the way the paper was organized, but I did like flipping through the ads — especially the free-standing inserts. Their Web site is busy, with a dated portal approach. And they don’t have an iPhone app.

The New York Times on the other hand, has an excellent editorial product, with a neat approach in print, an excellent Web site, and I actually enjoy reading it via their free iPhone app. From an advertising perspective, I’ll take the NYT over The Star-Ledger any day. They invested substantial resources in building their own system for targeting ads to segments of their audience, and I hope media planners appreciate it.

Maybe the iTablet will do it for print media after all. Ken Segall saw it perfectly last month:

Just as iPod changed music and iPhone changed communications, iTablet will change the way we consume media. We’ll all say “of course” when we see a simple and elegant way to enjoy newspapers, magazines, books, music, movies and all of the Internet in one painfully cool device. We’ll marvel at the new vision of “the daily paper,” combining print with video and gorgeous graphics that bring stories to life (never mind that it’s all out there on the web already). And we’ll wonder how civilized people could ever have allowed all those trees to be slaughtered, only to be mashed into mega-tons of newsprint that get tossed at the end of the day.

The scope of this revolution requires Apple to recruit partners. Big ones. They’re lining up the major media companies, who will announce new forms of content designed to meet the new iTablet standard, just as they seduced the record companies and movie studios before. Newspapers and magazines, now a dying breed, will re-emerge with new vitality as an integral part of our mobile lives.

It’s not that others couldn’t see this coming. It’s that they didn’t have the will, the ingenuity and the leadership to make it happen. This is a revolution that needed a good hijacking.


Coolest iPhone App

Here’s a great app from DishPointer, released in August:

Very surreal, this is the next generation satellite finder: Point your iPhone anywhere towards the sky and see all the satellites lined up, on the live video screen! At a glance, you’ll see where the satellite is and whether any trees or buildings are blocking the line of sight. Think of multi-lnb dishes and now you know where to place your dish best. Doing a site survey and setting up a dish is going to be a piece of cake with this app. This is a truly useful augmented reality app for the professional and diy enthusiast alike.

The app uses the gps, accelerometer, and the compass of the new iPhone 3GS. Just move the phone up and down and left and right and the satellite arc will follow the live video on the display. The compass has a bit of a lag though, so when doing quick sideways movements the satellite arc is trying to catch up but then settles to the correct position.

If you’re in the satellite business, you know how valuable this can be. Available now — a steal at $20.


Interesting. CNET is reporting people will never buy computers without keyboards (iPhone, XBox, PS3, Kindle). And Silicon Alley Insider is judging the Crunchpad will fail:

The device has no local storage, and does not appear to have a slot for add-on storage like a SD card. That means you must have Internet access to do anything with it. That’s impractical in places like New York, where people spend a lot of time underground; on a plane; overseas; etc. An Apple tablet (or even a Kindle) has some functionality when it’s not connected to the Internet. The CrunchPad seems it will have none.

The device has no local apps, and only runs Web sites and Web apps. This, again, tethers you to an Internet connection for even the simplest function, like skimming an old email, reading an e-book, or looking at a to-do list. This also means that app performance will also depend on your Internet speed. While similarly priced netbooks are selling like hotcakes, they also include local storage and support for Windows apps, and we think netbook owners also spend at least some time using non-Web apps.

Apple’s marketing machine is stronger than CrunchPad’s. Most normal people are only going to buy one touchscreen tablet in the next year or two — if any. We assume Apple will find a way to make its offering seem sexier to a mass audience. For instance, syncing with iTunes so you have movies you can watch on a plane. Or reading an e-book in the subway. Plus, Apple will spend millions on its ad campaign. CrunchPad probably won’t have that option.

To be sure, there are definitely some cases where the CrunchPad would be adequate, such as goofing off on the Web from your living room couch, living on a wi-fi-blanketed college campus, etc. And if it’s really priced at $400, it’ll probably sell a bunch of units to curious Silicon Valley-types, coders and hackers, rich people, the geeks who also bought the XO educational laptop, etc.

An Apple “iPad” would be cool. With the iPhone, the concept of a touch keyboard has proven to be acceptable by many, and, I would argue, even sucked people in by its simplicity.

A Million iPhones

Apple said they sold over a million over the weekend:

Apple® today announced that it has sold over one million iPhone™ 3GS models through Sunday, June 21, the third day after its launch. In addition, six million customers have downloaded the new iPhone 3.0 software in the first five days since its release.

“Customers are voting and the iPhone is winning,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “With over 50,000 applications available from Apple’s revolutionary App Store, iPhone momentum is stronger than ever.”

Good for them. I got one, too — and I love it. Had a BlackBerry for years and the browsers are simply not comparable, and the apps, well, I’m just getting started. According to Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster, 12% of those who bought the new iPhone 3GS were switching from BlackBerry, and 28% were switching carriers.

I’d have to agree with Steve Wildstrom, the iPhone is unstoppable:

Competitors have at least as much to fear from the new software, which is free for the original iPhone and iPhone 3G and a $10 upgrade for the iPod Touch (a Wi-Fi equipped iPod you can think of as a phoneless iPhone). Apple moved to match and, in many cases, leapfrog the competition.

Now, I’m not surprised. After using it for a couple of days, I know first-hand what a superior product it really is.

$2.99 Minimum for BlackBerry Apps

Research in Motion is not about to give up its hold on the corporate market. Charge them for apps — no freebies for you corporate types.  Released just in time for the CTIA Wireless show. The scoop, via Crackberry:

It seems RIM has decided the minimum price for paid apps will be $2.99. Potentially good news for developers, but bad news for the BlackBerry owners out there thinking that RIM’s application storefront would usher in 99 cent BlackBerry app pricing a la the iPhone App Store. Of course, free apps are still welcome, but as previously blogged the way their developer agreement is currently structured it’ll cost money to submit free apps to the store. Most people are willing to pay $3 (or more) for an app if it’s a good app. Where the 99 cent and $1.99 tiers fit well are for the not good but fun apps (fart apps, beer apps, etc.) which by the looks of this RIM would rather not see hit their app store.

Let’s face it, the iPhone is still years ahead of the others. No touch-screen handheld comes close to matching its utility, and Apple’s App Store is revolutionizing how people love their iPhone. Look, I’ve had a BlackBerry since 2003, and they’ve improved remarkably since. Use it every waking moment of my day.

I think RIM missed it here. There are 25,000 apps for the iPhone so far, so competitors have to go something truly exceptional to get people’s attention. If Apple ever does a deal with Verizon, the party’s over.

But since I left SES Americom, my employer of ten years, I’ve asked myself why I need my Curve when I can do so much more done with an iPhone? Enough said: I’ll get one next week; can’t hold out much longer.

Betty Crocker App

You can be the wonderful woman who dreams up the nicest new treats! Use our good cake mixes, so the routine work’s all done. You add the special touches that matter.

You don’t see good ad copy like that often. Does this mean she’s gone? Where’s your Better Crocker now?

On your iPhone.

Say you’re travelling and you get the urge to bake a bundt cake — an Almond Pound Cake with Cherry-Berry Sauce.  No Internet connection at grandma’s house? No problem: get the iPhone and click on your new app: the Better Crocker Mobile Cookbook. It’s cool and it’s free, according to Mobile Marketer:

The iPhone application is a mobile version of the Betty Crocker Cookbook. It is free and includes 4,000 tried-and-true recipes.

“General Mills’ strategy is to make our content available in places and devices where our consumers can benefit from the information,” said Mike Bettison, Web site manager at General Mills, Minneapolis, MN. “The strategy with the iPhone application is a great example.

“We’re watching smart phone adoption with interest and the Betty Crocker Mobile Cookbook, which offers about 4,000 recipes from BettyCrocker.com, is a good opportunity to expand our reach,” he said.

Every business should be thinking of ways to get their products/services on the iPhone via a custom app. That’s just smart marketing. From the people who came up with Box Tops for Education, would you expect anything less?

Bundt cake? You know where I was going with that. One of my favorite movie scenes, from My Big Fat Greek Wedding

iPhone on Verizon

Open up the floodgates: Apple is working on a deal with Verizon Wireless:

  1. Apple has been scouting out EVDO and CDMA Engineers for months in their online iPhone job postings (here, here, here and here).  Yes, some of these skills overlap with UTMS and CDMA can also refer to the broad swath of 3G Technologies…but come on…don’t put “EVDO” on the job description if it ain’t true.. (BTW, WiMax is also littered throughout Apple’s Job postings…interesting/digress)
  2. No matter how big AT&T is and how much range they cover, leaving out Verizon and to a lesser extent Sprint, will be eliminating a broad swath of the US wireless market.  If Apple is serious about competing with Blackberry, Symbian and Android, they will have to broaden their carrier footprint.  One carrier does not a platform make.  Apple will need a way to grow its market after AT&T is saturated.
  3. LTE technology won’t be mature until well into 2010.  Apple can’t afford to wait that long to broaden its carrier footprint
  4. Who is happy with Rogers in Canada (*crickets*)?  EVDO opens up to new carriers there as well.
  5. Verizon wireless is a partnership between Verizon communications and Vodafone.  Vodafone, you’ll recall, has contracts with Apple for iPhones in around 15 markets around the world.  Apple has a working relationship with Vodafone (and Tmobile obviously).
  6. Apple has just started going “Open” in a few markets, including Hong Kong. This will likely increase the number of unlocked 3G iPhones on the world market (South Africa is also open).  While this won’t benefit Verizon directly, it certainly shows that Apple is considering being more “carrier agnostic.”
  7. Tim Cook, famously said that Apple wasn’t married to the one carrier/country model.  As Apple expands, it is going more and more open.
  8. Verizon’s iPhone Cheat sheet was weak and their arguments about Stevo getting old were silly.  They’d rather play ball with Apple than try to defend itself against it.
  9. Apple originally wanted to go with Verizon for the iPhone.  Some of the original disagreements included “not carrying the iPhone at Best Buy and hardware reliability” – see quote below.  AT&T was a second choice.  When Verizon balked, Apple went to AT&T…Think Verizon is happy about that decision (no) or willing to reconsider Apple’s overtures (yes)?

The word from my Verizon Wireless operations engineer is “it ain’t gonna happen” and that the AT&T deal is on for another four years. At least that’s what he’s been told.

Amazing Kids

Kids today are amazing — our parents probably said the same about us, back in the day.

So I read about this 9-year-old whose iPhone app was downloaded 4,000 times since it went up on 1 February 2009:

Like his father, Lim Ding Wen enjoys writing iPhone apps in his spare time. His application, called Doodle Kids, is a drawing application for children that he wrote for his two younger sisters, who enjoy drawing, and it’s already been downloaded over 4,000 times (we just checked in the App Store and it does indeed appear to be quite popular) since its release on February 1st. Wen, who is fluent in six programming languages and enjoys reading books about — you guessed it — computer programming, is already hard at work on his next app, a game called “Invader Wars.”

Just another iPhone App Store success story.