Pure West for iPhone and iPod touch on the iTunes App Store

My first iOS app is live on the app store. It is an iPhone compatible schedule for Pure Yoga West, one of the top yoga centers in NYC in the upper west side. The app is free for download from the AppStore.

This project started off when I joined Pure West as a member. Yoga became a big part of my life as I practice on daily basis. Since Pure West offers around 27 different kinds of yoga between 5 studios, starting as early as 6am – you can imagine the teachers they have as staff and the frequency they update the schedule.

Something was broken. The paper schedule provided at the front desk was out of date as soon as it was printed. Could be a minor change to a single class, to time of full moon where ashtanga is not practices (which can not be reflected in a single week sheet), to the twice a month led practice of mysore.

Pure uses spa-booker as their service provider, doing all the heavy lifting with proprietary database system and interfaces to both manage the content and display it to the public. it gets more complicated than that as some classes are special and specific where members (or non members) need to pay and more.

Since spa-booker is working on their own version for the mobile devices, and I knew I am in need of a solution for myself that can probably serve others – I jumped on the challenge to create something.

Working closely with two friends, Tomer and Claudio, together we build this app that does the following well:

– single click to get class schedule and class info
– fast loading of the data
– layout that matches the small iphone screen

Essentially we build a system that scrapes the HTML of the entire week. Then we parse the content diligently and store it in our XML proprietary format. The interface picks up the XML whenever someone launches the application and displays it on screen accordingly.

For performance reasons we are re-visiting Pure’s website every two hours to see what had changed, parse the content and re-write the XML. On the client side only one day is loaded from the server. When a user changes a day, we go back to the XML and look for the content of that day exclusively.

The app is a UIWebView essentially, as the app is developed as a web application. The release to the AppStore will help the discovery, but also for us to learn the process and time line for doing so, as we plan to move forward with other developments of our ideas and our client’s.

The beauty of iOS apps is that they strive to keep things simple. When you launch the application, it is really hard to judge how much work was put into it, and how much lifting is done in the background. Things just work as they should, both in layout, style and user experience, including performance specifically.

One of the advantages of designing this app abstractly, is that now we can custom create it for any spa-booker customer within the day.

We are in touch with Spa Booker who are supporting our efforts. Future plans may include using their API’s to book classes directly from the phone, add more specific information to classes, like which element of zenyasa is being practices today, and provide a delta of changes since a user last visited the schedule.

The Pure East application (the 2nd location for Pure on the upper east side) is pending approval by Apple. Based on the approval of Pure West, it is a matter of days before that one will be approved as well.

Google music – with hopes for innovation

Google’s new advent move into the world of streaming music is exciting. Well, not quite yet… but the idea of some innovation around music delivery (and maybe discovery) can POTENTIALLY be exciting.

What are we looking at here? As most things go – we are looking at Apple delivering over 1M songs per day (do the math) directly into iPod/iPhone etc. Apple also just relieves Ping, their brand new, let’s live inside iTunes social networks that spirals around music (great niche if you ask me).

What can google do that’s creative, innovative and will convince people to use their service and BUY music (at some form) from them? First, is a platform that is built for android based phones where you can interact with your media (discover, stream, share and sync). Second is pricing. Beating Apple’s pricing is tricky and I am not convinced it will be done – there is a better battle ground on platforms. over 200K android based phones are being activated every single day – more than enough for Google to capture a nice market share. Couple this with the advent of Google TV where you will be able to stream your music from droid to the TV, snyc em all over the net, and you have a really tight, head-to-head competition between Google and Apple that will benefit us all.

How can Google make this service better? One answer lies across the pond where a company named Spotify is making big moves and capturing the imagination and pockets of the audience. Spotify is a brilliant combination between iTunes and Pandora. With Spotify you can the choose any song you want to play and it will stream right to the Spotify player. Pretty neat right? With Pandora you can create a playlist based on a song, which will, eventually, be played down the play list. Spotify is instant gratification without the need to pay.

It is says that Spotify has been trying to make a move into the US, but had hit some walls, and/or is working diligently to negotiate the terms and fees and bla bla… long-short, no iphone based spotify nor desktop in the US as of yet.

I hope to hear great news from Goolge in regards to this up and coming service. One way to make it kick ass is add a new layer of interactivity. Think of what MTV did back in the 80s when they added the video to the music. Companies like Lucid Technologies, with their product KOI are doing the same thing, allowing musicians to interact with the songs as musicians and not only listeners.

Why Apple TV and Ping will fail

Major snore from Apple in my opinion. I think that the event itself, and the fact it was streamed to Mac machines and Safari browsers only is THE reason why Apple had failed and will continue to fail (in my eyes) with the latest announcements. I am talking about a close eco system and spoon fed experience.

Apple failed with the TV expenditure. Steve did not show us numbers, but clearly it was a failure. The big changes were sizing, pricing of shows and streaming, as opposed to storing. Is that what the users really want? To a certain degree, yes. Users do not want to worry about storage, they want to pay less for a device and for content. Apple did deliver on this, but it will not be enough, I believe, to be a killer device like the iPhone, and take over the living room with a storm. WHY? Because of the closed eco system and spoon fed experience.

Apple did a great job in educating the users and providing a great user experience across the board. I argue that user experience is what Apple is really selling and why people are using it. Coupled with the motivation to challenge and innovate, and you have a winning strategy.

This does not and will not work for the TV because only Apple fanboys will forget everything they know, and start a fresh with Apple TV, and forget all they know and do with their many years of habit. The TV is one area where users do not want to get the Apple filter applied to. Users don’t mind it with their iPod shuffle. They don’t mind it with their Mac OSX based machines, and to a certain degree they agree to it with their iPhone (mainly because Android did not step up it’s UX game to be considered a worthy competitor. yet).

Apple will gain a small market share and will have to come up with something much better than that to capture the imagination of the bigger market. I believe that can be done by turning the Apple TV into a real entertainment center to compete head to head with the Sony PlayStation and the Nintendo Wii as a console, introducing the iOS appStore for the TV. That can be killer. But even that is not enough. An Apple TV can only be better than, let’s say, a Mac Mini hooked up to a TV, if it is open. By open I mean I can do whatever I want to do, as opposed to whatever Jobs wants me to do (buy his content that he chose for me).

Examples for this behavior are ample and sad. Apple removed Camera+ from the AppStore recently because TapX3 released a hack which allows you to fire up the camera from the volume button. Apple initially declined the feature, claiming it will confuse people. So Apple is stepping up to the plate as our parents (more like a big brother), deciding what is confusing for us. Clearly, releasing the shutter speed in an ergonomic way may confuse us. I feel over estimated, and I do not think it is for Apple to decide for me what’s confusing and what’s not.

Apple’s attempt at social media is probably the most interesting news to date from that event. A social network around music, which is mutually exclusive from Facebook. Did I snore yet again? While I do believe this is a GREAT idea and a fantastic opportunity for Apple to increase sales on iTunes – the segregation is peculiar. Even worse – who wants to live inside iTunes? Though revolutionary, iTunes is hate by many. Looks and feels old and clunky. Navigating through your music sucks and discovery with genius is, well, boring…

Apple’s notion that people will have iTunes open to see what their friends are listening to is optimistic at best. Not web based, not facebook integration. Only one hope – it integrates with iTunes on your mobile device. I cannot imagine myself opening up iTunes when I want to listen to some music, and getting up to speed with what’s going on with my music buddies.

Apple can definitely relax a little. Let go of the grip and think of a more open way to provide users what they do best. Or not. My personal opinion is that they will not do that, and continue to thrive with a small market share that pays hefty sums to be a part of the cult.

apple’s tow stepping should make you happy

man what a couple of weeks we had in the tech world… since the day the ipad was launched, up until the unveiling of the iphone OS 4G, through the new and impressive CS5 by adobe, the plethora of slate devices about hit the market at low prices, with windows 7 going mobile and android making it to tv sets… man.. what a couple of weeks we had in the tech world. not to mention barcelona’s victory over arsenal with 4 goals by messi… 🙂

did i forget something? let me think for a second… anything else ground breaking that is worth talking (besides the 100 pages one car write about all listed above?)…. mmmm…. ah yes!! iAd. the new ad delivery service by apple.

seems like apple is right there at vertical integration, from processor to content – full control with an iron fist.

apple was able to piss off way to many people and companies in the last couple of weeks. here is a quick list in case you had missed it:

– iphone OS 4G will not allow cross-compiling apps. this is a big middle finger to both adobe and microsoft and a huge disappointment for their massive developer community. every developer and their sister were dreaming of loading up their flash app in cs5, clicking a few buttons and submitting their app to the appStore. apple says no-no-no.

i can’t really blame apple here.. honestly… flash is as closed a system as the iphone. adobe control and monetize that market for years. now that apple is turning a cold shoulder adobe is pissed? flash can kill the appStore, with infinite amount of games and utilities. the number of developers for flash is significantly larger than cocoa touch…

so what should adobe do? simple. push flash on other platform like windows7 and android. maybe think about developing their own device (i am not sure it is a good idea). everyone wants to take a piece of the pie when it comes to the emerging market of app stores. heck, that market is projected to grow exponentially the next 5 years and top 20 billion downloads in 2012.. who does not want a slice of the pie?

apple is being apple. closed system, total control – an iron fist. today i’ve learned apple is using undocumented web app tools in the ipad user guides (http://www.tuaw.com/2010/04/09/adlib-apples-secret-web-app-weapon/). maybe we will hear about those libraries soon. maybe we won’t. apple is definitely holding all the cards.

BTW, apple’s supposed response to the anti-cross-compiling issue is multi taksing (http://www.tuaw.com/2010/04/09/apple-blocking-flash-built-apps-because-of-multitasking/). essentially apple may argue that wrapping non native code will prohibit multi tasking and the like on the 4G version of the OS…

in my mind this is the time for android to shine. google – get your act together and hire some UX experts. the nexus one feels like a geeky toy next to the iphone. did you not learn that the user experience is KEY? seriously… how do u enter a market with a smart phone that does pretty much all the iphone does, at the same price point with an inferior interface? adoption of the device will take longer than expected. change the UI, make it attractive – and u will win in the long run.

the good news is that apple will not take over the world. this is not microsoft nor google. they are here to take a little slice of heaven – an expensive piece of real estate. in the long run HTML5 will win and the web will triumph and bla bla bla…

a good move by apple is iAd. google is reporting a 30% growth in mobile search. no doubt the market is booming and more people have smart phones than laptops. the desktop is seriously sick and will die soon. why does google continue to push text ads in mobile devices? who is interested in contextual ads when reading a feed? no one! with 90 something percent of revenues streams from ads, google had no other choice but to go head to head with apple. those who control the medium – control the market. it is the device you use to access the internet that matters. the screen size, the operating system, the API’s and abilities to uniquely add advertisement.

google is in a tight spot, just like adobe, only google has much more to loose. i mentioned in a previous post that google should manufacture their own hardware – which they are doing now. but the only difference is the price point is the same. what is your competitive edge? only time will tell.

with apple pissing off everyone, we – the consumers, can relax and be happy. this competition will drive prices down, introduce new and exciting applications and innovation, will allow the eco system to grow globally, investors will start taking more risks, and the supply for smart phones and slates will rise while prices drop. a sure winner if you ask me.

as the google moto goes, and now it may be a good time to apply to to apple: apple – don’t be evil!

iphone killer…qu’est-ce que c’est…

since jobs introduced the iphone the world has gone crazy, hasn’t it?

"iphone killer"

people are now connected to the cloud 24/7, with push access to their emails, calendar, sharing locations with the GPS data, streaming music and videos, playing fantastic games where ever they are, and overall living a better world, while having a copy of their digital life and a serious access point to the world in their pocket.

what can i say?

for the 6 years i have been in the US, i used the same shitty phone i got as a part of the deal from t-mobile when joined. it never really made sense to switch because nothing made sense to me. i remember playing with a palm pilot back in the day. my college roommate showed it off, pulling the stylus out, managing his calendar and notes. i thought it was boring. what a clunky big device that i need to carry on top of my desktop (did not have a laptop back then, they were too expensive) and cell phone… i need to sync my note with that cradle thing only when connected, and the worst of it all, i had to pull out that silly stylus and practice the letters which corresponded to the alphabet.

yes, hard to believe, a hard core techie such as my self, using an old nokia for so many years… i did not jump on the blackberry wagon when it came out. did not understand why i needed to pay so much and use such a huge device. i was waiting patiantly until a device came along that could do more, that would make sense, that will be existent in the cloud as possible and will be a true companion.

the iphone did and still does all of that for me. and then some.

first, i read 90% of all my feeds through the iphone, it is quick and efficient. i sync my calendar over the air (over 11 different ones) which i share with people all over the world, i do voice recording, follow my stock portfolio, weather, get instant directions based on my location, find the magnetic north, measure short distances with a sonar, measure BPM, play strategy games, stream my personalized radio stations from pandora, tether my data plan, study musical chords, connect with the vark community, listen to police radio, follow global financial trends, retouch my images, shop and eat healthy and “locavorilly”, tune my guitar, search for metals, play the ocarina, wire money, search for flights, tweet, skype, tether my nikon DSLR, learn about the universe, search for sexual offenders, post to my blog and more.

yes, there are over 100K apps in the app store, and a big challenge is interfacing the good ones. Lots of people got rich, lots of people are about to get rich, and us, the consumers are the biggest winners here.

the iphone did what no other phone could (yet many had tried, and still trying), revolutionize the way we interact with technology on daily basis. finally, we found ourselves connected to each other 24/7, and all is within a couple of finger swipes away. thank you apple.

many companies have been looking at apple take the lead. many had seen apple’s stock more than double itself. when jobs previewed the iphone i bought apple stock for the first time. they were less than $80 back then. easy bet wasn’t it?

the question that troubles CEOs around the world is, what is next? what can match up the success of the iphone?

at the moment there is only one answer i can think of: android.

i am a linux user and fan from the slackware days. you know, those days when installing linux meant using 7 floppy discs to boot the kernel. the days when u were able to install linux u were a guru.

android is one of the best thing, in my eyes, that could happen to this industry and google’s support in created an affordable device is spot on: give us something affordable that works. well, android does more than just that, and google’s tailored in services make it a great operating system. the real questions is: can the hardware manufacturers step up to the plate and provide quality phones?

in a recent post i had discussed google’s need to produce hardware lest it ends up where microsoft is: lagging behind, too big a ship to turn and respond (that article is here). there is something to be said about software licensing as opposed to full vertical integration (in the case of apple some horizontal as well). i said much in that article so give it a read if you find that topic interesting.

sooooooooo…. what is an iphone killer… is the droid an iphone killer?

sadly no in my eyes. sadly, because i am a firm believer in competition and capitalism. the free market creates such competition that we, the buyers, benefit from the most. but no, the droid is not an iphone killer because the hardware just doesn’t just cut it. first (and the debate can actually stop there), the battery cover keeps falling off. that my friends can be so annoying that the droid may find itself smashed on a wall.

but let’s ask this question from a different angle. what is missing on the iphone?

good questions, u answer… what is missing in the iphone indeed?
well, one thing is affordable (i.e. free) turn by turn voice commanded navigation system.

droid has that, and google made a bald move there, which came highly appreciated by consumers. clearly an app that is worth getting the phone for.

well… yes and no.

yes, it is a great app and i would love to have it available on my iphone, and certainly it is worth considering.. but no, because the iphone does so much more, and so elegantly, with gesture man, with multi touch gestures..

okay.. back to the last question: what does the iphone DOESN’T have?

it doesn’t have flash. yeah man. it doesn’t have flash…

WHY?

so many posts out there try to understand what is going on.. seems that adobe got pissed lately with apple and produced this message just to let us know that apple is holding all the cards…

in this post i am not going to dive into the details of how good the iphone processor is and what are the demands from flash are etc. what i do want to discuss (after quite an intro) is adobe flash 10.1 and air v2 that were released november 11th.

an iphone killer will have flash available to it, that can scale down to the needs of the phone, and will allow diligent development of creative apps, and especially especially games. think about it. the core developers for flash is much much bigger than the core developers for the iphone. while more developers out there are taking the cocoa framework challenge, there is still many of them out there who did wonders with the iphone. a quick mention would be “N the way of the ninja“, one of my old time favorite games build with action scripts.

now that air supports multi touch i can vision a rapid development of apps for an enabled phone. check out this video right here.

there are actually a ton of features that you can look into right here.

the iphone will have decent competition when a serious hardware will be developed AND an already available development platform is used (i.e. webOS or FLASH). i for one would love to see some serious competition for the iphone, and i hope the google phone will deliver it, so we can start enjoying better and smarter phones, and hopefully a much much reduced rate for our plans (white space unlimited data plan anyone?).

heck, maybe we WILL have an xPhone one of these days: check it out.