Author Archive | David Worthington

Goodbye Textbooks, Hello iPad

A technology shift is underway. The PC’s promise to transform how learning happens in the classroom is being realized by Apple’s iPad. Students and teachers in grade school through higher education are using the iPad to augment their lessons or to replace textbooks.

The iPad is especially helpful for students with special needs. Its simplified touch interface and accessibility features help these children learn more independently; aftermarket accessories assist in making the iPad more classroom-friendly.

In March, I wrote about how my mother learned how to use her iPad for basic stuff–like checking e-mail and browsing the Web–without ever having used a PC in her life. Students at all grade levels are finding it just as easy to use.

Jennifer Kohn’s third grade class at Millstone Elementary School in Millstone, NJ, mastered the iPad with minimal training. For the most part, the students didn’t need to be taught how to use their apps, Kohn says.

Kohn uses the iPad when it’s meaningful to enrich, extend, or introduce what students are learning in the classroom. Her class has used their iPads to interact with storybooks, brainstorm ideas for creative writing, and to learn mathematics. Math Bingo, an app that teaches kids math through gaming, is one of the top selling iPad apps  for education.

Continue Reading →

No comments

Will Apple’s iCloud Forecast Include the Business Market?

Apple’s iCloud announcements last week were very focused on the consumer electronics industry, but Apple has the opportunity to create an offshoot for business customers.

The iPhone, and more recently the iPad, are becoming standard corporate issue within large companies. iCloud services will need to be adapted to meet rules and regulations that govern data.

Cloud computing is most commonly used to offload back-office applications from IT staff; e-mail and other non-proprietary data is hosted in public clouds such as Amazon Web Services or Windows Azure. In theory, that gives IT staff more time and flexibility to focus on services that make the business more competitive.

Continue Reading →

One comment

My Mom Reviews the iPad, Her First Computer

I’ve often wondered why people who use their PCs for basic stuff–like checking e-mail and browsing the Web — are required to buy hardware that’s far more powerful than what they really require. With that power comes the complexity of operating systems preloaded with applications and utilities that many people will never use, making PCs unapproachable for people who aren’t tech savvy.

That’s all changing–first, with the introduction of netbooks, and now even more so with the iPad. Apple’s tablet brings appliance-like simplicity to light computing needs, and brought my mother, who is in her early 60s and had never used a computer before, onto the Web. I’ve documented her fresh perspective on the iPad in this interview.

–David Worthington

Continue Reading →


A Christmas Without Angry Birds

Demand for smartphone game developer Rovio’s Angry Birds plush toys has been so great that order fulfillment is flying past the holiday season, and customer service is in the pigpen.

Angry Birds has taken smartphone gaming by storm, so much so that it is even drawing comparisons to the venerable Pac-Man franchise. Rovio has been a savvy marketeer of its feathered protagonists with holiday themed editions of the game, and, most recently, plush toys.

Enter Murphy’s Law: Rovio has dramatically underestimated demand. Customers are reporting having paid with the expectation of shipment during the holiday season only to be told that their expectations have flown the coop. Orders will not be fulfilled until January.

Customers that contacted Rovio received this e-mail, “Due to unforeseen demand for Angry Birds plush toys, our logistics and customer service have been overwhelmed and we have not been able to respond promptly to all queries. If you have already contacted us regarding your order, our staff is working on the case to resolve any problems and you will receive a reply at the earliest opportunity.”

Let’s hope that its customers don’t own any human-sized slingshots.


Introspectr Indexes all of your Web Activity

Social networks threw the order of the inbox into disarray. Now, a start-up is seeking to encapsulate every interaction–regardless of where it occurs–into a unified search engine.

A private beta of Introspectr launched last Wednesday following its demo at NYC Tech Meetup that Tuesday night. I was there, and liked what I saw.

Introspectr indexes your Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. It also pulls in content from external URLs such as links embedded in Tweets.

Co-founder Simon Murtha-Smith demonstrated finding a lost apple crisp recipe. The recipe was not named; it was simply referred to as “AC” in a message, followed by a URL. Introspectr still managed to locate the recipe.

The idea is not exactly new, but something like Introspectr could become a necessity for those of us who have an active social life. Gmail solved the e-mail search problem, but e-mail only captures a fragment of today’s conversations.

Google’s Buzz was an attempt to pull social networking into Gmail, but from my perspective it was an oddball addition that didn’t fit. Introspectr is what Google’s inbox should behave like today. It’s simple, and it works.

One comment

What’s Missing From Internet TV: Accidents!

Internet TV is threatening to turn cable TV’s subscription model on its head with on demand programming and rentals, but there is a key component that’s missing: content discovery. There is still no better way to find out what’s on than to flip through channels.

Apple TV, the Boxee Box, Google TV, Hulu, Roku, and a sundry of desktop (and now mobile) applications comprise a compelling alternative to traditional cable TV service. My colleague Harry McCracken has them all pretty well covered.

I know many people who have “unplugged” themselves from the shackles of costly year-long contracts. Why pay for channels that you don’t watch? Those people are typically more technically savvy than most of the population. I just recently upgraded my mother’s 1980s big screen TV to an HDTV.

My mother and I find what’s on TV in much the same way: we channel surf or use a “guide.” There are more than a few shows that drew me in by happenstance. AMC’s “Breaking Bad” is my favorite “accident.” Internet TV is surfing with a net, keeping us in the familiar, and not venturing out into the unexplored.

Sure, Internet TV has media guides that showcase featured content, but where does that leave programs that aren’t already in the spotlight? Would Internet TV allow me to stumble onto a “Twilight Zone” rerun at 3 AM? Sometimes randomness is nice – I don’t always like to know exactly what I’m looking for.

Internet TV is better suited for enabling a user to watch what they want when they want. I’m keeping my cable, but will be buying a Boxee Box as an alternative to Time Warner Cable’s on-demand services.


Facebook, Done the Open Source Way

Four New York University students have mobilized to produce a decentralized and open source alternative to Facebook called Diaspora that they say will give users full control over their privacy.

Today, Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) general counsel Karen Sandler told me that Diaspora was inspired by a lecture that Eben Moglen, director-counsel and chairman of the SFLC, gave in February. The organization provides legal services to open-source projects and organizations.

During his talk, Moglen cautioned that cloud computing has moved control over privacy far out of users’ hands, and that privacy laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. “The architecture is begging to be misused,” he said.

Continue Reading →


Why didn't Apple Use Rechargeable Batteries in the First Place?

Kudos to Apple for developing a more energy efficient charger for reusable AA batteries, and introducing it today along with the new Magic Trackpad. I’d glad that the company is advancing its environmental record by making less toxic products, but at the risk of sounding overzealous– it’s about time. Apple’s stylish wireless keyboard and mice are needlessly sending heaps of batteries to the landfill.

I bought my iMac early this year, and felt awful at the idea of having to burn through disposable alkaline batteries. A plurality of fanboy friends told me that my Magic Mouse was “pretty awesome,” but “ate up” its batteries. My solution was to purchase some Sanyo Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries and the accompanying charger.

I’ve gone through at least four charge cycle for my Magic Mouse; the keyboard batteries only had to be recharged once. Had I not taken it upon myself to be more environmentally responsible, they would be at least as many batteries sent to wherever Manhattan’s trash goes. My question is: Why didn’t Apple use rechargeable batteries in the first place?

Most of Apple’s customers wouldn’t have minded paying a few more dollars in their Mac’s sticker price. Apple sold 3.472 million Macs last quarter. Not all of those Macs shipped with wireless peripherals–for one thing, the majority were notebooks, not desktops–but many did. While Apple could have been more forward thinking then, it has the technology now. I’d like to see it begin to bundle greener batteries with its products.


A Windows Phone 7 Tablet? It's Possible–and a Good Idea

There is a lot of speculation about what the agreement announced today between chip designer ARM and Microsoft actually means. Some pundits predict that it is a signal that Microsoft intends to deliver Windows or Windows Phone OS tablet and slate devices, while others foresee an overdue overhaul of the Xbox’s architecture.

I’m keen on the idea of a tablet based upon Windows Phone 7. For too long, Microsoft has relied upon grafting Windows onto smaller form factors: “Oh wow, a stylus.” The success of Apple’s less feature-rich iPad proves that it was the wrong approach. Customers want an operating envrionment that works well for their devices, meaning it should be designed with the device in mind. A tablet-friendly version of Windows Phone 7 would fit the bill.

Microsoft very boldly hit the reset button and abandoned all elements of Windows with the Windows Phone OS’s “Metro” interface. I’ve used it, and like it very much. Metro was compelling enough that I was tempted to see whether I would actually give up my iPhone if I started to a use Windows Phone powered device.

If Microsoft focuses on Windows Embedded Compact instead of Windows Phone, it will be making a big, big mistake. It’s time for a consistent and quality mobile experience from Microsoft. That means apps that work across devices and an interface that works. Windows Phone uses SIlverlight; those apps should work on Windows tablets with little adjustment on the part of developers.

The glaringly obvious problem with that scenario is that I can buy an iPhone today, and Windows Phone 7 is still many months away from production. Let’s hope Microsoft learns from past mistakes,. I just hope it’s not too late .


Apple Leads in Software (In)security

Secunia, a security service provider well known for tracking software defects, has ranked Apple as having the most reported vulnerabilities for its platforms during the first half of 2010. The majority of the flaws reside in OS X applications.

I’m not surprised. As malicious operating systems have become more hardened, exploiting vulnerabilities has required increasingly sophisticated attacks. End users are updating their systems, using antivirus programs–at least Windows users do–and have deployed firewalls. Hackers have to look for holes in applications.

Secunia reports that vulnerabilities were found in Apple applications such as iTunes, QuickTime, and Safari, and in the apps of third parties including Adobe and Oracle. Today, we reported that Safari has a vulnerability that could allow someone to delete your address book.

Continue Reading →