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September 1st, 2012

Apple v. Samsung: The True Story

Apple v. Samsung. Everyone who thinks Samsung got shafted and/or that the decision was wrong should read this excellent article. It's not an opinion piece, by the way: It's full of actual facts about various patent cases and about the Samsung decisionmaking that the jury was presented with. Clearly, Samsung made a conscious choice to copy the iPhone, and they succeeded. Wildly. Apple was right to take them to court to protect their intellectual property rights, and the jury was right to decide in their favor. If you're on the fence about the decision, this one will definitely tip you over to Apple's side.
    
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November 14th, 2008

iPhone Races Past Blackberry to No. 2 in SmartPhones

Apple edges out RIM to take No. 2 spot in smart phones Well, this must be a surprise to even the most ardent believes in Apple's new computing platform. Now, if you count folks like me, who use the iPod Touch, the OS X mobile operating system probably beats out Nokia's #1 slot. The fact that it has already surpassed Windows Mobile is also astonishing. Of course, Steve Ballmer says this is a temporary setback... one that will disappear by next year. As I recall, he said the same thing about the iPod a few years back, as well as iTunes, as well as ... anything Apple produces that competes with MS. Does that guy really believe his own FUD?
    
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November 7th, 2008

A Treasure Trove of iPhone eReader Software Part II:
13 Apps for Managing Documents

iPhone Readers illustration. Based on a photo courtesy of the U.S. National Science Foundation.

This second part of my report on the iPhone application marketplace covers the class of software that, while still falling squarely in the overall eReader category, is designed primarily for storing and managing documents. The primary distinctions between this class and the one covered in Part 1 are that the eReader apps discussed here:

  1. Handle a wide variety of common file formats found in the workplace, rather than just text and proprietary eBook formats,
  2. Don't include controls for customizing fonts,
  3. Don't let users do full-text search on documents,
  4. Have good embedded browsers and follow web links,
  5. More easily let users move files to and from their iPhones, and
  6. Typically let users organize and rename files and folders within their interface.

It still surprises me how rapidly this market is evolving, and that evolution makes keeping tabs on the capabilities of each application--and even on the entire set of applications--quite challenging. As I was finalizing this report, a new application in this class came to market that,

Once again, another new iPhone app was released just as I was preparing to publish this report, which would make the 14th eReader in this category. It's too bad, because Discover is one of the best document-manager apps available. Best of all, it's free! I plan to add it to this review when time permits.
it turns out, I've found to have among the very best features of any that came before. I have no doubt that many of the applications reviewed here will continue to be refined, rendering this snapshot fairly obsolete fairly quickly. But the observations here accurately reflect the current state of iPhone eReaders. (As mentioned in Part 1, all of these applications work equally well on both the iPhone and iPod Touch. For simplicity and brevity, therefore, I'll use "iPhone" to refer to both devices.)

This second installment covers 13 applications:

  1. Air Sharing
  2. A.I. Disk
  3. Annotater
  4. Briefcase
  5. Caravan
  6. DataCase
  7. File Magnet
  8. Files
  9. Folders
  10. iStorage
  11. Mobile Studio
  12. TextGuru
  13. TouchFS

As was the case for the applications primarily for reading text, none of the eReaders designed primarily for managing documents fully satisfies all of the requirements I've specified for them. Nearly all of them show red blocks in the matrix of capabilities that follows this introduction. There are also too many "light green" blocks in the requirements designed as key (those in boldface with the shiny highlight). If I could conglomerate the best features of each application, however, I'd have what I consider an ideal eReader, one that would satisfy all of the following requirements (in no particular order):

  • Handles most native file formats (including documents with images)
  • Formats HTML documents appropriately
  • Can organize documents into folders or categories
  • User can add bookmarks within files
  • Handles both portrait and landscape reading modes
  • Follows web hyperlinks
  • Lets user manage files and folders on the iPhone
  • Works offline
  • Easy to read and navigate documents
  • Easy to add documents
  • Provides a "full screen" mode
  • Resizes content automatically for both portrait and landscape modes
  • Remembers where you stopped reading

Because their orientations are quite different, the set of requirements for these "Document Manager" applications differs as well. Most of the above requirements are pretty self-explanatory, and I explained some of them in Part 1 of this review.

As noted in Part 1, any application that fully succeeds as an eReader must be able to read, navigate and appropriately format HTML documents. Whereas most of the applications covered in Part 1 could do that, only two in this list can. By "appropriately," I refer to the ability to wrap text lines while maintaining a given font size. HTML isn't PDF, and shouldn't be formatted as such. Most of these apps do this "appropriate" formatting for Word documents, and there's no reasons why they can't/shouldn't do this for HTML. That said, if an HTML file has been formatted using a rigid table structure, or if its text elements are set to specific widths using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), an eReader can be forgiven for not parsing such files into device-agnostic HTML. (However, eReader software should check to see whether an HTML file has a separate "print" CSS style, which typically removes such formatting and can be re-wrapped with a decent font size for the iPhone.)

Unfortunately, nearly all of these applications have a file-size limit, and I used one long test HTML document (about 700kb) that consistently crashed them. The exceptions were applications like TextGuru, which warned me that it couldn't handle such large files rather than trying to load them and then crashing. The file size limit seems to be much higher for some file types (e.g., PDF and web archives) than for others.

By "Easy to read and navigate documents," I mean the extent to which an application presents a document's text at a readable type size, and to which it provides appropriate navigation controls. Relying solely on the iPhone's native "tap" and "swipe" gestures isn't usually sufficient, since such gestures don't necessarily translate into navigation actions. For example, it's typical for a double-tap to mean "expand text view to fit the display," yet some of these programs also expect such a gesture to move a document forward or backward a page. Confusing the two makes navigation pretty difficult. Similarly, some of these applications use a tap gesture to mean "unhide navigation controls" when a user is in full-screen mode. If this is the case, and the user can only navigate by tapping, the full-screen mode becomes worthless. For navigating and reading documents, the best apps in this list are Air Sharing, Briefcase, File Magnet, and Files.

Since a major distinguishing factor of this group of applications is their ability to let users manage documents, it's pretty important that they provide ways for users to do just that. This means not only being able to move folders of files from your desktop computer, but also being able to rearrange and rename files and folders on the iPhone. Otherwise, the software doesn't really work optimally as a document manager. The best applications for this feature are A.I. Disk, iStorage, and MobileStudio.

One of the tantalizing possibilities that these applications offer is the ability to not only browse the web from within their interface, but also to be able to save web documents to the iPhone. Sadly, only one of these (Caravan) can actually do that at this time; hopefully others will take up the challenge eventually. That said, several of the apps have well-designed, integrated web browsers that let users follow links to the web and easily find their way back to the starting document without having to leave the application's interface. Those that have mastered this trick so far are Air Sharing, A.I. Disk, Caravan, iStorage, MobileStudio, and TouchFS.

A general complaint I have about these application is their inability to display PDF files appropriately in either portrait or landscape mode. In both cases, the display should focus on the text or page margins, not on the page borders. Not doing so makes PDF files difficult to read and navigate. The only app that handles PDF files well is Annotater, which specializes in that format. Annotater (yes, it's really spelled that way) at least eliminates the irritating "page border" and focuses on the page margin. It also automatically resizes PDF files in landscape mode, another important factor in PDF readability. PDF readers could be improved, however, by providing a "zoom" feature that would adjust the display to the text, rather than to the margin. It's difficult to do this by pinching, and after that, navigation can suffer if the document display slides off to the right or left.

As the matrix that follows this introduction shows, all 13 of the reviewed applications have something to recommend them. For specialized uses, nearly any one of them would work well. The only ones I can't recommend at this time are Folders, iStorage, TextGuru, and TouchFS. Of these, iStorage has some remarkably good ideas, but they aren't all well executed in the current release. TextGuru is designed primarily as a text/code editor, and its file-management and eReader features clearly haven't been the focus of the developer's attention.

For overall usability as a tool for reading and managing documents on the iPhone, and other textual material, Of the 13 applications reviewed, I found three that are clearly superior, and three others that, while not as good as the top three overall, are certainly good enough to recommend:

Followed by:

If you already have an account with Apple's MobileMe service, or with any other WebDAV service such as Box.net or MyDisk.se, A.I. Disk is an obvious choice. Not only does it integrate seamlessly with such services, but it comes the closest of this group to meeting all of the requirements for applications in this category of eReader. In fact, it is the only one that doesn't fail a single requirement. Incidentally, A.I. Disk is made by the same company, Readdle, that released the excellent ReaddleDocs application, which I rated as one of the top eReaders in the "text reader" category in Part I of this report. (It's worth noting that A.I. Disk was released after I had nearly finished this review, and in fact its release ended up delaying the review so I could include it.) The main weakness with A.I. Disk, however, is that it relies solely on external WebDAV servers for file management, and can't move files directly from your computer.

WebDAV
Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning, or WebDAV, is a set of extensions to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that allows users to collaboratively edit and manage files on remote World Wide Web servers. The group of developers responsible for these extensions was also known by the same name and was a working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

The WebDAV protocol allows "Intercreativity," making the Web a readable and writable medium, in line with Tim Berners-Lee's original vision. It allows users to create, change and move documents on a remote server (typically a web server or "web share"). This is useful for authoring the documents that a web server serves, but it can also be used for storing files on the web, so that the files can be accessed from anywhere. The most important features of the WebDAV protocol are: locking ("overwrite prevention"); properties (creation, removal, and querying of information about author, modified date, etc.); name space management (ability to copy and move Web pages within a server's namespace); and collections (creation, removal, and listing of resources). Most modern operating systems provide built-in support for WebDAV. With a fast network and the right client, it is almost as easy to use files on a WebDAV server as those stored in local directories.Courtesy of Wikipedia

Air Sharing makes the top cut on the strength of its terrific navigation tools and overall ease of use. Those and its ability to share documents directly with other iPhone users overcome its biggest weakness: Air Sharing doesn't let users manage their files and folders directly on the iPhone. Rather, you must set up folder structures and populate them with files on your computer and then sync with the iPhone. Hopefully, the developer will address this problem in a future release.

MobileStudio (originally known as MobileFinder until Apple asked the developer to change it) excels at just the task that Air Sharing leaves out: Creating, moving, copying, and renaming files and folders on the iPhone. MobileStudio was also the first app in this class that lets users create and edit text file. It can even read and write .zip files, and you can set specific permissions on each file or folder--all within its interface. However, MobileStudio is weak in document navigation. Although it offers a full-screen mode, its lack of navigation options in that mode make it functionally useless. (For more information on this, see the detailed description of MobileStudio.)

The next three applications in the recommended list (these are designated with a light-green background in the summary matrix) all have some excellent features that may trump those at the top, depending on the weight you place on each requirement. Files is easy to use and makes reading documents pleasant, but it can't manage files on the iPhone and doesn't have an embedded web browser. File Magnet has the best reading environment of any of these apps, as a result of its innovative "tilt scrolling" and "auto-scroll" mechanisms. Its biggest weaknesses are lack of bookmark support and inability to manage files and folders. DataCase has good built-in navigation controls and automatic "full screen mode." It's also one of the easiest to set up and move files to and from the iPhone. However, it doesn't let users create, rename or rearrange files and folders, it's not particularly good at displaying HTML or handling web links.

The remainder of this report consists of a summary matrix showing the various capabilities and usability features of each application. In the matrix, a green block indicates that the app fully meets the requirement, and light green means a partial score. A red block indicates that the app fails the requirement, and light red means if partially fails. The gloss overlay highlights the core requirements for this category.

Following the matrix are separate descriptions of each application, organized into lists of "Special strengths," "Special weaknesses," and "Other notes."

Summary: e-Readers for Managing Documents (Table 1)

Air Sharing

A.I. Disk

Anno-tater

Brief- case

Caravan

DataCase

File Magnet

Capabilities

Handles native file formats, including images

Formats HTML documents appropriately

Can organize documents into folders or categories

Has password protection or supports encrypted files

Includes search tool

User can add bookmarks within files

Provides a table of contents

Handles both portrait and landscape reading modes

Follows web hyperlinks

Can browse and download files from the web

Lets user customize font faces and sizes

Lets user manage files and folders on iPhone

Can create and edit text files

Works offline

Works without external web account

Usability

Easy to set up

Easy to read and navigate documents

Easy to add documents

Provides a full screen mode

Resizes content for both portrait and landscape

Remembers where you stopped reading

Transfer Methods

Includes dedicated desktop software to transfer files

File transfers from documents stored on the web

File transfers from computer via FTP/Bonjour/WebDav

Overall Rating


Summary: e-Readers for Managing Documents (Table 2)

Files

Folders

iStorage

Mobile Studio

TextGuru

TouchFS

Capabilities

Handles native file formats, including images

Formats HTML documents appropriately

Can organize documents into folders or categories

Has password protection or supports encrypted files

Includes search tool

User can add bookmarks within files

Provides a table of contents

Handles both portrait and landscape reading modes

Follows web hyperlinks

Can browse and download files from the web

Lets user customize font faces and sizes

Lets user manage files and folders on iPhone

Can create and edit text files

Works offline

Works without external web account

Usability

Easy to set up

Easy to read and navigate documents

Easy to add documents

Provides a full screen mode

Resizes content for both portrait and landscape

Remembers where you stopped reading

Transfer Methods

Includes dedicated desktop software to transfer files

File transfers from documents stored on the web

File transfers from computer via FTP/Bonjour/WebDav

Overall Rating


image
Air Sharing

Version 1.0.3, $6.99 Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • Document lists can be resized by pinching
  • Features navigation menu by clicking the top toolbar
  • Can connect and share files directly with other iPhone users
  • Handy navigation controls overcome some of the limitations of the click/double-click method. The next/last page buttons on the toolbar are especially helpful in navigating PDF files. Air Sharing also has an icon in the top toolbar that takes you back to the beginning of the file� really helpful for long files!
  • Air Sharing remembers where you left off reading, and on launch returns you to the folder of the document you were reading last.
  • Excellent web browser integration: If you link to a web page, you can continue browsing as needed and then use Air Sharing's back/forward buttons to return to where you started. However, you can't download web pages as you browse them.
  • Automatic full-screen mode.
  • Very useful built-in Help.
Special problems
  • Support for RTF documents is still very iffy. Often, opening one crashes Air Sharing. When it doesn't,
  • formatting can become goofy--for example, everything starts to become underlined, and hyperlinked words or phrases get changed to "hyperlink." However, Air Sharing's documentation lists RTF and RTFD as supported formats.
  • Doesn't follow links in PDF files
  • Air Sharing doesn't let you set up files and folders on the iPhone, or move files or folders around within the folder hierarchy. To set up folders, you need to design the hierarchy on your desktop computer and then synch with the iPhone.
  • Has a little difficulty switching between landscape and portrait modes, often getting stuck in between modes, or changing very slowly.
Other notes
  • Air Sharing supports the file formats that Safari does (including .webarchive files written from Safari), as well as Microsoft Office formats supported on the iPhone. Support for iWork files is limited to the file preview embedded in the file package, and support for RTF/RTFD isn't reliable. One extra class of formats Air Sharing supports is source code, which it can display with appropriate syntax colors.


image
A.I. Disk

Version 1.0.1, $7.99 Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • Developed by Readdle, makers of the excellent ReaddleDocs reader, A.I. Disk is extremely easy to set up if you have an account with one of the supported WebDAV servers. Out of the box, A.I. Disk can connect to your MobileMe, Box.net, or MyDisk.se accounts, and you can add whatever other WebDAV servers you may use.
  • A.I. Disk makes it quite easy to create new folders and to move documents and folders around within its interface.
  • You can easily follow hyperlinks to web pages using the build-in browser, and A.I. Disk maintains back/forward buttons so you can find your way "home." Like most other apps in this category, however, you can't save web files to A.I. Disk.
  • Supports adding bookmarks within your files.
  • You can add an extra layer of security to your document store by setting a separate passkey.
  • A.I. Disk offers a handy slider for moving quickly through large files.
  • The software adds an "automatic bookmark" to return you to where you left off reading a document, though it always defaults to show you your root library folder when starting up.
  • You can email documents from within the software's interface.
  • In addition to Microsoft Office, HTML, and PDF formats, A.I. Disk offers full support for Apple-specific formats like those from iWork as well as Safari web archives. Curiously, it can't read RTF files, though.
  • For relatively short files, A.I. Disk does an excellent job at resizing to fit both portrait and landscape mode, and it also reformats HTML files appropriately to fit the display (excluding files that have pre-formatted tables or CSS styles).
Special weaknesses
  • A.I. Disk doesn't handle the display of large documents very well. It seems to take an unusually long time to finish loading such files, although it starts to display some of it fairly quickly. I found the early display more frustrating than endearing, since I couldn't use any of the controls or otherwise navigate the document until the entire file was loaded.
  • On a related note, although you can manually activate full-screen mode, the change can take quite awhile for long documents, and equally long switching back. In addition, when in landscape view, the control for restoring the navigation bars disappears, so you have to switch back to portrait mode to close the document or do anything else.
  • One of A.I. Disk's biggest weaknesses is its inability to transfer files from your computer. If you want to get such a file to A.I. Disk, you must first upload it to your favorite WebDAV account, and then download it to the iPhone.
  • It would be nice if A.I. Disk offered a way to upload files to your WebDAV servers, but it doesn't at this point.


image
Annotater

Version 1.2.619, $4.99 Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • Annotater is unique among the current crop of eBook readers for iPhone in that it is based solely on the PDF format, for which it has the best support. It is the only app that includes full-text search of PDF files, and the only one that supports PDF bookmarks (or the table of contents you can set up in Acrobat).
  • Another unique characteristic of Annotater is that it supports PDF annotations, including drawing (in various colors, with your finger), text notes, and bookmarks.
  • Annotator is the only application that does a good job of eliminating the screen-real-estate-wasting border that seems to be the default way of presenting PDF files.
  • Synchronization through Annotater's desktop "Annotater Service" application is automatic and very fast. Once done, you can browse the files and decide which ones to keep. Whenever you launch the app, you can resynchronize, or add new folders to transfer. If you add more files to a desktop folder, you can have Annotater Service "reindex" the folder, making the iPhone aware of the new documents.
Special weaknesses
  • The desktop app only accepts folders to synchronize with the iPhone, not individual files. The folders, however, can be deeply nested if necessary. You cannot change the folder structure on the iPhone, or in the desktop app. The organization must be set up on your file system. Annotater will only synchronize any PDF files it finds in the folder structure
  • To use other file types, you need to first convert them to PDF, as Annotater cannot read HTML or any other native file types.
  • Annotater does not support encrypted PDF files.
  • No full-screen mode, although Annotater's settings let you define the toolbar's transparency, making it possible to read through.
  • The application provides no navigation controls while reading documents.
Other notes
  • Annotater relies on a wireless, Bonjour-aware desktop application ("Annotater Service") that supports only Mac OS X (at the moment). The restriction to Mac OS X support probably reflects the fact that any file on the Mac can be "printed" out to a PDF file.


image
Briefcase

Version 1.1, $4.99 (Lite version, free) Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • Briefcase is the most impressive application so far with respect to ease of connection to your computer and the ease of transferring files back and forth. You literally have to do nothing but log in. Briefcase identified any Bonjour-enabled computers on your network and presents them instantly in its interface. You have the option of having Briefcase remember your password, but the app warns you to use the iPhone's password-lock tool if you do.
  • You can not only connect to local computers, but also to any remote computers on which you have accounts. Even more useful for most users, iPhone users can transfer files among each other, assuming they have appropriate permission to do so.
  • Downloads that are interrupted when you quit Briefcase will be automatically resumed the next time the software is started.
  • Briefcase remembers where you left off reading and returns you there. But it doesn't remember which file you last had open or offer to reopen it.
  • For Mac users, Briefcase offers a plethora of special features for uploading files to your Mac, including:
  • Adding image files to iPhoto
  • Adding audio files to iTunes
  • Opening files automatically on the Mac
  • Setting images as your desktop background
  • Selecting specific folders to upload files, which you can bookmark in Briefcase for quick access later
Special weaknesses
  • Although you can download folders from your computer to Briefcase, there's no way to move files to folders, create new folders, or rename files or folders from within Briefcase.
  • In a typical first-release symptom, Briefcase's interface remains in portrait mode when you switch to landscape, making navigation and bookmark-setting awkward. Also, bookmarks you set in landscape mode don't take you to the same location when in portrait mode.
  • In the 1.0 release, I found Briefcase frequently ran out of memory and started acting erratic or bumped me back to the iPhone screen.
  • Many of Briefcase's special features are only relevant to Mac users. That doesn't make them any less special, but from the perspective of a Windows user, it makes Briefcase less useful. As the developer explains in his FAQ for Briefcase,
    While Briefcase was designed to work optimally with Macs, Windows users (with a solid amount of technical knowledge) can use Briefcase as well. Windows does not support any open standards for remote login out of the box, including SSH which Briefcase uses. This means that one must install and set up an SSH server under Windows before Briefcase can connect.
    Presumably, a Windows user would also need to install Bonjour for the automatic network detection to work.
  • Briefcase has a good built-in web browser that lets you follow links without leaving the app. Two problems, however, that hopefully will be fixed in a future release:
    1. Once you follow a link, there's no way to get back to your previous page (or to the Briefcase document you started with), and
    2. You can't save documents you browse to into Briefcase.


image
Caravan

Version 1.3, $2.99 Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • Caravan is another impressive iPhone app, which provides among the best integration between web, iPhone, and computer desktop. For connectivity to the desktop, Caravan relies on Bonjour and FTP. (Windows users will need to install Bonjour for Windows on their systems in order to use Caravan.) Unlike Mobile Studio, though, Caravan presents your file system on the iPhone, and lets you browse and download contents from within Caravan.
  • Using the same Bonjour connection, Caravan also lets users transfer files from the iPhone back to your computer's file system.
  • Caravan has among the best embedded web browser solutions in this roundup. Not only is the browser truly "embedded," so you can browse without leaving Caravan, but Caravan provides a "Download" button for every page you visit.
  • Caravan has an excellent interface for creating and editing folders on your iPhone. In addition, when downloading files, the user can browse to the correct folder--or even create it--before saving the file. Once downloaded or created, file and folder names can be changed as needed.
  • Caravan also lets users create and edit text files within its file system. These files are searchable.
  • Caravan has a related feature called "Edit as Text," which can be used to make changes to text files (including HTML) you download from your PC or from the web.
  • In addition to Microsoft Office formats, PDF, HTML, .webarchive, and text files, Caravan can also store and play audio and video files, and supports picture viewing.
  • A nice feature missing from too many others in this category is that Caravan follows HTML bookmarks within files. (Often, other apps try to reload the entire page to the bookmark which can cause your session to be transferred to the iPhone's web browser.)
Special weaknesses
  • Caravan doesn't let you move files to or from folders once they're created or transferred.
  • The "Edit as Text" feature, though great in concept, can destroy Word files if you try to use it with them. In fact, the main weakness in this feature is that it appears as an action for all file formats� even videos and images� whether or not they're actually "editable."
  • Caravan has no support for RTF or iWork file formats.
  • The application does not have any facility for adding bookmarks or other annotations to files.
  • Caravan has no full-screen mode and provides no in-document navigation tools.


image
DataCase

Version 1.1.1, $6.99 Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • Connects to Mac or Windows through Bonjour, setting up a drive in Finder or Explorer. Users can drag files to the drive(s) like any other folder on their system. This occurred without any action on my part.
  • In DataCase, you set up drives on the iPhone, and each drive can have a separate set of permissions, including read/write/browse. You can also set the drive as hidden and can have the contents of the drive backed up via iTunes' normal iPhone backup.
  • In addition, you can use a web browser to browse Database's content on the iPhone, using the iPhone's IP address at port 8080. Or, you can connect to DataCase's file store using FTP.
  • DataCase lets you filter file your document library by type, and it supports in-document bookmarks.
  • DataCase remembers where you left off reading a document, but not which document that was.

Bonjour
Bonjour iconBonjour, formerly Rendezvous, is Apple Inc.'s trade name for its implementation of Zeroconf, a service discovery protocol. Bonjour locates devices such as printers, as well as other computers, and the services that those devices offer on a local network using multicast Domain Name System service records. The software is built into Apple's Mac OS X operating system from version 10.2 onwards, and can be installed onto computers using Microsoft Windows operating systems (it is installed with iTunes, for example).Courtesy of Wikipedia

Special weaknesses
  • Built-in navigation support is OK, with forward/backward and end/beginning buttons in the top toolbar. However, these aren't available in "full screen" mode, and DataCase doesn't support navigation of HTML files in this mode except by swipe. Further, there's no way to initiate full screen mode� it just seems to happen when you resize HTML to fit the display. I couldn't get full-screen mode to activate in PDF files at all.
  • Follows web links in files, but doing so takes you outside of DataCase. This will close DataCase's connection with your PC, but DataCase warns you that this will happen.
  • DataCase takes a long time, and often freezes, when trying to load long HTML documents. In general, the app is just not reliable for viewing HTML.
  • A bug causes the DataCase interface to get confused now and then, with some buttons appearing where they shouldn't, etc. This requires closing and restarting the app.
Other notes
  • Supports standard Office documents (Word, Excel), PDF, HTML, audio, video, and images. (I had no luck with video files, however). It doesn't read RTF files, nor .webarchive files saved from Safari.
  • For PDF files, DataCase resizes content when switching from landscape to portrait mode, but doesn't do this for HTML.


image
File Magnet

Version 1.1, $4.99 Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • Very sophisticated and innovative navigation options, including a (for now) unique feature called "tilt scrolling." Using this method, you just tilt the iPhone to scroll the text� the more you tilt, the faster the scroll. File Magnet also includes a nice "page down" button that animates the text down one page, as well as a horizontal slider for moving quickly through the document.
  • File Magnet has a very good embedded web browser that will follow hyperlinks within Word and RTF documents, including links to external PDF files. Within the browser, you can navigate to other web pages, but you can't get back to the document you started with from within this interface.
  • File Magnet's file/folder list is better than most, since it provides very good icon previews as well as subtitles indicating file type.
  • Though the application doesn't appropriately size text in HTML files, it does do this for RTF and Word documents.
  • File Magnet has a very robust, automatic full screen mode, and it resizes documents automatically when switching from portrait to landscape mode.
  • File Magnet remembers where you left off reading in all file types it supports, and it also remembers the folder you were last in. Most of the time, it also automatically re-opened the last file I was reading on launch.
Special weaknesses
  • No support for PDF bookmarks or hyperlinks.
  • Doesn't support bookmarks within documents.
  • File Magnet doesn't support any kind of file or folder organization on the iPhone. Likewise, you can't rename or create files or folders. All of this must be done before adding files through File Magnet's desktop application.
Other notes
  • Uses a simple desktop application, available for both Mac OS X and Windows, for moving files and folders to the iPhone.
  • Supports jpeg, gif, tif, png, html, rtf, rtfd, doc, txt, pdf, iPhone compatible movies and audio files. Now also supports native Excel, Powerpoint, and iWork files, as well as .webarchive files.


image
Files

Version 1.1.1, $6.99 (Lite version, free) Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • Files does an excellent job at handling a very wide variety of file formats. Although it doesn't resize HTML content to fit the display correctly, it does preserve HTML formatting, images, and CSS styles quite accurately. Besides handling the usual baseline of PDF and Microsoft Office formats, Files also fully supports Apple's iWork formats (Numbers, Pages, and Keynote), as well as web archive files.
  • Files remembers where you left off reading� an unusual gift in this category of eReaders. However, it doesn't remember which file you last had open or give the option to start there.
  • Files has good navigation features� in particular, providing a page up/page down button is useful for content that a user has resized with a pinch-type touch. This keeps the page from sliding left or right and maintains a steady reading view. Files also has "go to page" and bookmark navigation options, and users can move quickly up or down a document by holding the page up/page down buttons rather than tapping them.
  • Although Files doesn't win any special points for readability in general, reading PDFs in Files seems to be especially practical. For whatever reason, text in PDF files are very sharp in Files compared with some other apps. That said, it's disappointing that the app doesn't automatically resize PDFs or HTML files when switching from portrait to landscape view.
Special weaknesses
  • Users can add files and folders to Files when uploading from their computer, but there's no way to modify the folder structure or file names on the iPhone. Users can, however, delete files from the iPhone.
  • Files can follow web links in HTML and Office documents, but not in PDF or other file types. Further, following links takes the user out of Files, making it difficult to continue reading your original document.
Other notes
  • Files runs a WebDAV-enabled server that users can connect to from their desktop PC. Files provides the WebDAV URL on startup, and connecting to it is a simple matter (apparently a bit more complicated from a Windows PC than from a Mac). Files allows you to start and stop the server from within its interface. Once connected, the Files document store appears as a folder in the Finder or Explorer, and you can move files to the iPhone from this interface.
  • To access Files on the iPhone, you must authenticate with a username and password. This security setting is optional and can be configured in the Files options window. In addition, you can optionally password-protect the Files store itself.


image
Folders

Version 1.4, $1.99 Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • Users can add folders and change the names of files (but not folders).
  • Folders provides a built-in web browser that offers the capability of download HTML and other documents from the web. (However, see entry for this function in next section.)
  • Folders lets users password-protect individual files and folders� in effect, "hiding" them from intruders.
Special weaknesses
  • Downloading files from web is a great idea but is buggy and not very usable. The app reports an error with each file you try to download, and seems to download some of them multiple times. It wouldn't display a .txt file, but did display a .pdf one. The .html file I tried to download never made it.
  • Many screens display a "tool" icon that doesn't work.
  • Folders provides no way to transfer files to or from your computer, except by running your computer as a web server and connecting to that. The software description on iTunes speaks of being able to export files to your computer with WiFi, but I found no built-in way of doing that.
  • Sometimes you lose the navigation icon back to your "home" list of folders and documents.
  • You can't move files from one folder to another, nor can you add nested folders.
  • Folders provides nothing in the way of in-document navigation.


image
iStorage

Version 1.0.4, $5.99 Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • iStorage has the best tools of any of these apps for connecting to network file systems and servers, navigating them, and uploading or downloading files. You can set up numerous network drives, which can read FTP sites, your iDisk (and other WebDAV servers), nearby Bonjour devices (such as other iPhones), and any computers on your local network you have access to. You can define and have iStorage remember the connection information for each server for later use.
  • With iStorage, you can bookmark files and/or folders on any of these network drives for quick access later on. The bookmark feature also applies to web pages you might encounter. This capability is unique among these apps, and it's almost enough to overlook iStorage's lack of in-document bookmarks.
  • Although the rest of the application's interface is confusing, inconsistent, and just plain buggy, the home screen is very nicely set up and very easy to use.
  • It's easy to create new folders (and subfolders) in iStorage and to move files into them.
Special weaknesses
  • iStorage has a number of excellent ideas, poorly executed. It's not clear what kind of application it wants to be. For example:
  • You can download HTML files just fine, but you can't view it except as source code. (You can, however, edit the source.) The HTML view provides good tools for zooming in text, but no control over font color (white) and background (black). In any case, since you have to read source code, what's the point?
  • iStorage has a nice built-in web browser, and a setting that lets it "Switch To Downloads." However, the interface provides no way to download files using the web browser.
  • iStorage has terrific connectivity to various document stores, but every document you try to download generates an error. Even if a document downloads, often the downloads are incomplete.
  • The application has poor navigation and toolbar functions. When browsing a network drive, it's easy to completely lose a way back to iStorage's home screen, for example. Likewise, when viewing a document list, there's both an "Edit" button, which only lets you delete files, and an unclear icon on the bottom toolbar, which you must use to move files into folders; as in other similar apps, these should be combined. Finally, one of the icons just duplicates the action of selecting a file from the list.
  • iStorage's file format support is weaker than most. In the latest version, I could now read Word and Excel documents in addition to PDF and images. However, that leaves HTML, RTF, .webarchives, and iWork formats, among others, that it can't help you with. Even text files I created on the iPod couldn't be viewed in iStorage.
  • Prone to crashing fairly frequently.
  • When you follow a hyperlink from a Word document and then close it to return to iStorage, the application returns you to document directory rather than to the document you were reading.
  • iStorage doesn't remember where you left off reading, loading each document from scratch on each access. I also found it annoying that you have to go through a set of menu choices when clicking on a file, one of which is to open it. The choices are great ("Info," which is how you'd change the file's name among other things, and "Upload," which lets you move the file to a server), but since I hardly ever used them, I'd rather have my choice of defaults (which would be "open").
Other notes
  • iStorage does a great job with switching from landscape to portrait mode when viewing documents, but it doesn't support this mode when traversing directories or using any other parts of the top-level interface.
  • iStorage supports full-screen mode, but it's a manual process that's not totally intuitive.
  • iStorage can follow hyperlinks from Word documents, but not from any other file type at this point.
  • iStorage has a search feature that lets you search on filenames in a directory.
  • For Word documents, iStorage resizes the file content when switching from portrait to landscape modes, but it doesn't do this for other file types that it can read (e.g., PDF).


image
Mobile Studio

Version 1.1, $1.99 Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • One of the many impressive features of Mobile Studio is the ease with which users can copy, move, create, and rename files and folders, without relying on a desktop application.
  • Mobile Studio is also one of the only apps reviewed that lets users create and edit text files within the Mobile Studio hierarchy.
  • Mobile Studio also supports zip files. It can decompress zip files, and it can also compress files into zip format.
  • This application has excellent security features. It lets you lock the application with a password, in addition to the password lock available for the iPhone itself. In addition, Mobile Studio lets users define whether a given file is readable/writeable/executable, effectively letting you "hide" files from external sources.
  • Although it cannot download files from the web, Mobile Studio has an excellent embedded web browser, which lets users browse websites without leaving the app, as well as navigating backwards and forwards among the web pages they visit. Mobile Studio can follow hyperlinks in Word and HTML documents, but not in PDF or iWork files.
  • The application provides a very responsive slider control for navigating long documents.
  • Mobile Studio remembers where you left off reading (though not which file you last read).
  • This app has unique tricks like importing images from your photo library with the option to resize and/or crop them before placing them in MobileStudio. Cool!
  • Another unique feature of Mobile Studio is that it maintains a "trash can" that contains all the files and folders you delete� thus letting you restore files if necessary before deleting them for good.
Special weaknesses
  • Mobile Studio does a good job of appropriately resizing Word and plain text document content to fit the iPhone screen, but it fails to do the same with HTML files.
  • Users have no way to add bookmarks within their files, and there are no search or sort options.
  • Setting up Mobile Studio for file transfer is harder than necessary, and is perhaps the most difficult of this group of apps.
  • Navigating documents (I confirmed this in HTML, Word, and PDF) is a bit of a pain, since you can't use any kind of tap gesture to move back or forward. Doing so takes you out of full screen mode to use the slider. For HTML, this is also a problem since a double-tap gesture usually resizes the text to full width if it isn't already there.
  • Mobile Studio has a handy "Home" button on the bottom toolbar, but every time I used it I ended up with a black screen and had to exit the application to actually return "Home."
Other notes
  • Mobile Studio relies on FTP (and an FTP client) for transferring files to the iPhone. The app has built-in instructions for doing so from Mac OS X, Windows XP, and Windows Vista.


image
TextGuru

Version 1.0.7, $4.99 Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • Reading PDF and native Office documents with TextGuru is very good, with both landscape and portrait modes supported. Both of these modes offer full screen view and a slider for fast navigation. (The slider works better for Word documents than for PDFs.)
  • TextGuru is first and foremost a text editor, so many of its greatest strengths pertain to those functions. Though irrelevant to its use as an eReader, TextGuru's ability to edit (including search and replace, cut and paste, etc.) HTML and text files is remarkable. Other file formats (such as a test Pages document) can be viewed/edited as ASCII or HEX.
  • This application offers full-text search across your document store, and it can also do search and replace for editable files. For editable files, TextGuru navigates to the first instance of the search term and highlights it. However, there's no way to navigate to the subsequent instances.
  • TextGuru not only remembers where you left off reading, it remembers which file you last had open and takes you there first by default. You can change this setting in the Settings pane.
  • TextGuru is the only application in this review that by default reformat HTML content to a font size appropriate for the iPhone display. (Except, of course, where the HTML content is inflexibly formatted using tables or CSS styles.)
Special weaknesses
  • No landscape mode for HTML files.
  • No support for adding folders or editing document names. TextGuru's otherwise nifty FileServer software (available for both Mac OS X and Windows) also cannot share folders.
  • The interface can become a little confusing as you switch from document viewing to document editing to document searching. Another confusing aspect is in the search feature for editable files. Doing a search here launches the "Search and Replace" screen, but the implication is that if you just enter a search, the term will be replaced with nothing if you don't enter a "Replace" term. (In fact, that doesn't happen, but this could be much clearer.)
  • The search feature promises more than it delivers, in two respects:
  • It delivers some false results (for example, a PDF file showed up in a search for the word "bold", but I determined that the word does not in fact exist in that file).
  • It doesn't display the instances of the search text in the files when you open them. In the case of files of more than 1 or 2 pages, this renders the search feature less than useful.
  • TextGuru reads neither RTF nor web archive files, and to read HTML files you must first bring the file up into its text editor, and then switch to a web preview mode.


image
TouchFS

Version 1.2, $14.99 Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • TouchFS can follow hyperlinks in Word and HTML documents (but not in PDF files). It has an excellent implementation of an embedded web browser that doesn't take users outside of the TouchFS interface. The interface also lets user navigate backwards and forwards while they are browsing the web.
  • For HTML files, TouchFS follows in-document bookmarks as well as external links.
  • TouchFS lets users set up a username and password to authenticate against to protect access to the iPhone document store.
Special weaknesses
  • TouchFS offers no ability to annotate or add bookmarks to your files on the iPhone.
  • Users can't change the names of files or folders, or create or move them within the TouchFS interface.
  • TouchFS has no built-in navigation tools to help users while reading long documents. All navigation relies on swipes, which don't work very well if you've enlarged a particular document (as you frequently want to do with PDF files.) Lack of navigation aids also hinders reading of HTML files, since a double-tap changes the page zoom as often as it causes a page scroll.
  • The file list is difficult to use, since icons are so small you can't always tell what file type you're loading, and filenames typically don't display completely with the very large font size.
  • TouchFS has no full-screen view.
  • TouchFS resizes PDF files when switching from landscape to portrait view, but doesn't do the same for HTML. Like most of the apps in this category, it also doesn't attempt to appropriately format HTML to fit the screen with a readable font size.
  • Expensive. Considering how many other, better eReaders there are in this category--all for much less money--TouchFS is clearly overpriced. It's by far the most expensive of the bunch ($14.99, almost twice that of the top-rated app here, A.I. Disk, at $7.99).
Other notes
  • TouchFS supports display of PDF, Microsoft Office documents, HTML, and text files The application will display image files, but won't play audio or video files. It supports iWork formats using the document's PDF preview.
  • Like some of the other apps reviewed here, TouchFS uses WebDAV and Bonjour to connect the iPhone to your PC. The user connects to the iPhone server, which sets up a folder in Finder or Explorer from which you can add files and folders.

The summary table below uses some advanced CSS techniques that aren't yet possible with your browser. WebKit, the open-source browser engine underlying Apple's Safari browser (for both Windows and Mac), has implemented numerous features of CSS 3.0, as well as pioneered some candidates for new graphics functions using CSS. (For more information on these, see the Mars article on the subject, or visit CSS3.info.
In particular, the table uses CSS border-radius (which produces the table's rounded edge), CSS box-shadow (which gives the table a drop shadow), CSS gradient (which produces a gradient in the table headers), and CSS background-size together with background-attachment and background-clip (which lets me automatically resize a small tiled image-- --both horizontally and vertically to fit the various-sized table cells).

Here is a screenshot of how the top part of a similar table looks in Safari:

Screenshot of table utilizing CSS techniques not available except in Safari
    
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Posted in:Reviews, eReaders, iPhone/TouchTags: |
October 14th, 2008

Discover a Treasure Trove of iPhone eReader Software
Part I: Eight Apps for Reading Books

iPhone Readers illustration. Based on a photo courtesy of the U.S. National Science Foundation.
Updated 11.14.08 to update information for Evernote, Instapaper, and Stanza to their latest versions. Updates to Bookshelf, Bookz, eReader, iSilo, and Readdle are forthcoming.

The iPhone application marketplace now offers a tantalizing variety of tools that can be used as eBook readers and file managers. As I concluded in the September 2008 report, "Without Even Trying, Apple's iPhone Takes the eBook Reader Sweepstakes," the iPhone and iPod Touch hardware finally enables truly practical eBooks, and the software now available for the iPhone platform just clinches the deal.

Having worked with the growing number of these applications since the first started appearing in June, I've concluded that the market is clearly divided into two major objectives:

  • Applications designed primarily for reading text (books), and
  • As I finalized this report, a 20th eReader for the iPhone was released, but is not included here yet. Libris is an application specializing in text reading and has features similar to eReader. Its interface is--how shall I put it?--quite ugly, and so far I've found it rather annoying and somewhat difficult to navigate. However, it does seem to do the job and has a desktop application that's much better than Stanza's for converting documents to PalmDoc format and transferring them to the iPhone.
  • Applications designed primarily for storing and managing documents.

As I compiled notes and usability data on this group of applications, it became clear that trying to cover all 19 different applications for the iPhone that can serve as e-document readers in one article (a 20th was released just as I was finalizing this report) would be a bit much--for me as well as for readers. As a result, this will be the first of two installments of the overall report. (Note: All of these applications, with one exception, work equally well on both the iPhone and iPod Touch. For simplicity and brevity, I'll use "iPhone" to refer to both devices going forward.)

This first part covers the following iPhone applications, which are primarily aimed at reading text and HTML documents:

  1. Bookshelf
  2. Bookz
  3. eReader
  4. Evernote
  5. Instapaper
  6. iSilo
  7. ReaddleDocs
  8. Stanza

The second installment will cover applications that specialize in enabling document repositories on the iPhone: Air Sharing, Annotater, Caravan, DataCase, File Magnet, Files, Folders, iStorage, Mobile Finder, TextGuru, and TouchFS.image

It's important to note that like any categories one devises for grouping things, theses two categories of necessity form a Venn Diagram. Some of the applications discussed in this article have characteristics that also make them useful for managing documents, whereas some of the applications that are most useful for managing documents are also quite good at reading text. Hence, my use of the qualifier "primarily" in the article title.

Venn diagram
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Venn diagrams or set diagrams are diagrams that show all hypothetically possible logical relations between a finite collection of sets (groups of things). Venn diagrams were invented around 1880 by John Venn. They are used in many fields, including set theory, probability, logic, statistics, and computer science.

Although most of these "Reading Text" applications are quite good--especially given how little time they've been in production--one of the frustrating aspects of this crop is that there is no single one that incorporates all of the potentially desirable characteristics. Some of the lacking abilities are, admittedly, optional. However, once you encounter the ability in one app, its absence in others becomes noticeable.

Again, because their overall orientation differs significantly, I found it fairer--and more helpful--to draw up separate sets of basic requirements for the two groups of applications. I'll go into the requirements for the "Document Manager" applications in Part II, but here are the requirements for those reviewed this time (in no particular order):

  • Formats HTML documents appropriately
  • Can organize documents into folders or categories
  • Includes search tool
  • User can add bookmarks within files
  • Handles both portrait and landscape reading modes
  • Lets user customize font faces and sizes
  • Easy to read text
  • Easy to add documents
  • Provides a "full screen" mode
  • Resizes content automatically for both portrait and landscape modes
  • Remembers where you stopped reading

I think most of these are pretty self-explanatory, but let me elaborate on a couple of them.

To traditional publishers of eBooks, use of HTML as a document format has been troublesome for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the difficulty of protecting copyrighted content using HTML. HTML is also perceived as being unable to easily handle included images, which some eBooks require. However, both Apple and Microsoft have developed archival formats for web pages, which encode the text and images into a single package. Although the package itself doesn't securely protect the content (there are "un-archivers" for both formats freely available), doing so is probably not beyond technical feasibility.

Sadly, only one of the applications in this review can handle .webarchive files (which you can create by saving web pages from Safari), which is a shame because this is the ideal, unlicensed format that preserves not only text, but also text formatting, tabular material, and images.

Still, a non-negotiable requirement, as far as I'm concerned, is the ability to read and appropriately format HTML. Fortunately, most of the applications in this list can do that.

By "Easy to read text," my main consideration is giving the user some control over the size of type that's displayed. If you can also change the typeface and/or display colors, that's a nice bonus. All of the applications in Part I provide this feature, and it's a major distinguishing factor compared with the applications in Part II, none of which provide any sort of font customization tools.

Finally, after some use I've determined that any e-Reader I'll use must work even if I have no wireless or other network connection. It's simply unreasonable to expect that Internet access will be available during my backpacking trip to Sequoia National Park or while taking in some rays at a remote beach on St. John. And those are just some of the places I'll want to have a good book along with me. A book that simply "stops working" is obviously no good, is it? As a result, I can't recommend some iPhone applications that have otherwise terrific features. My books must work offline. (Frankly, even if you do have wireless Internet, I've found that sometimes the servers hosting my online books report that they're unavailable. When was the last time a book you were reading told you it was busy and couldn't be read right now?)

As the matrix that follows this introduction shows, all 8 of the reviewed applications have something to recommend them. For specialized uses, nearly any one of them would work well. The only exception at this time is iSilo, which is just so badly designed that it's not only hard to navigate, but impossible to use in any practical manner.

For overall usability as a tool for reading books and other textual material, I've found five of the eight good enough to recommend:

Bookshelf and Stanza are both excellent choices for general text reading, though they're quite limited in the range of document formats they support. Stanza has superior annotation capabilities, as well as full-text search that Bookshelf lacks, but Bookshelf makes it much easier to get content onto the iPhone and does a superior job of converting documents. Unfortunately, Stanza's desktop application, still in beta, is unusable for converting non-text document formats (particularly HTML and PDF) to text files, yet it leads users to believe that it can. To use files with Stanza, you really need to convert to plain text format before opening in Stanza Desktop, which is the only way to get personal/business content onto the iPhone.

One of the major weaknesses of both Bookshelf and Stanza is their lack of integration with any kind of commercial e-bookstore. This reflects their current inability to display DRM (digital rights management) content, which of course is the security wrapper commerical bookstores use to protect copyright. This means that your book choices are pretty much limited to public domain classics and other free books. I, however, want a reader that will easily let me buy the latest novels by my favorite authors, and that's the reason eReader is among the recommended applications. eReader has allowed me to completely eliminate reliance on paperbacks and other tree-killing book forms for casual pleasure reading. It's delightful and very reliable for this kind of reading, even though it lacks some of the primary requirements noted earlier. To purchase a book, I log in to the eReader bookstore and buy a book online. This places the book in my online "shelf," and when I launch eReader on my iPhone, the new book is there, waiting to be downloaded.

Readdle is on the recommended list because it's a terrific cross-breed between the text reader category and the document-storage category. Readdle can handle many kinds of native document formats as well as HTML, it excels at folder and file organization, and it has a well integrated web browser with which you can download files to your Readdle library. Readdle users also have an online account, which is a password-protected repository of their files. The repository accepts files through a web form, from email, or, for Mac OS X users, from a simple, drag-and-drop desktop application. Readdle lacks some of the standard features of the best text readers, such as customizable fonts and the ability to remember where you stopped reading. This latter weakness is mitigated, however, by Readdle's excellent bookmark support.

With its latest improvements, Evernote is now one of the applications I recommend in this category. Like ReaddleDocs, Evernote spans the "text reading" and "document management" categories, and it's chock-full of great features for gathering and managing a document and text collection that most of the other applications lack. Besides handling your everyday work or personal documents, Evernote can clip web content (similar to Instapaper) and, using its desktop or web interfaces, be used to create and edit content for the iPhone. Previously, its signature weakness that prevented me from recommending Evernote was its inability to work offline. However, you can now designate "Favorites" to be stored on the iPhone. Unlike any of the other eReader applications for the iPhone, Evernote's desktop software adds greatly to its overall value, with features approaching those of a full-fledged personal information manager. Still, it's not perfect: Evernote doesn't remember where you left off reading, so it isn't good for long documents. In addition, it doesn't support bookmarks or landscape viewing.

I really like Instapaper as well, but its use is limited to clipping web content and can't be used for storing/viewing personal or business documents. That said, Instapaper excels at saving web content for later use, and its ability to specially format HTML content for the iPhone is remarkable. For clipping full articles to read later, nothing beats Instapaper at the moment.

The remainder of this report consists of a summary matrix showing the various capabilities and usability features of each application. In the matrix, a green block indicates that the app fully meets the requirement, and light green means a partial score. The gloss overlay highlights the core requirements for this category, and red blocks show which application fails to meet those requirements.

Following the matrix are separate descriptions of each application, organized into lists of "Special strengths," "Special weaknesses," and "Other notes."

Summary: e-Readers Primarily for Reading

Book- shelf

Bookz

eReader

Ever- note

Insta- paper

iSilo

Readdle

Stanza

Capabilities

Handles native file formats, including images

Formats HTML documents appropriately

Can organize documents into folders or categories

Has password protection or supports encrypted files

Includes search tool

User can add bookmarks within files

Provides a table of contents

Handles both portrait and landscape reading modes

Follows web hyperlinks

Can browse and download files from the web

Lets user customize font faces and sizes

Lets user manage files and folders on iPhone

Can create and edit text files

Works without external web account

Usability

Easy to set up

Easy to read text

Easy to add documents

Provides a full screen mode

Resizes content for both portrait and landscape

Remembers where you stopped reading

Transfer Methods

Includes dedicated desktop software to transfer files

File transfers from documents stored on the web

File transfers from computer via FTP/Bonjour/WebDav

Overall Rating


image
Bookshelf

Version 1.2.1309, $9.99

imageSpecial strengths
  • Excellent for reading text and HTML files, since the Bookshelf reader reformats them for the iPhone display and lets the user select font and font size for viewing.
  • A recent update added welcome support for RTF files (but not for RTFD).
  • Excellent navigation tools. Besides the usual click up and down to move from page to page, Bookshelf now includes a nice slider that lets you skip multiple pages forward or back.
  • Has a customizable auto-scroll mode.
  • Easy to use bookmarks function, and remembers which document you were reading and where you left off.
  • Excellent website support and bug-tracking/feature enhancements section.
Special weaknesses
  • Only supports HTML and text formats, plus some eReader formats (e.g., PalmDocs). Bookshelf tries to convert Word documents, but doesn't do so well enough to be useful.
  • Hyperlinks in HTML files do not work.
  • Doesn't support image files (in the documents I transferred).
  • Although you can organize files into folders prior to transferring them to Bookshelf, after that you can't change the file names, or move them to folders, etc, on the iPhone Touch.
Other notes
  • Uses free Java QuickStart desktop app to move files to iPhone (through a wireless Bonjour connection).


image
Bookz

Version 1.3.2, $4.99

imageSpecial strengths
  • Remembers where you left off reading
  • Integrated full-text search
  • Has cool page-flip animation for turning pages.
  • Excellent support for bookmarks and tags.
  • Portrait or landscape mode, but must be changed manually with the toolbar button (not by tilting device)
  • Very readable with good customization for colors, fonts, and margins.
  • Well integrated web browser includes support for bookmarks.
  • Useful navigation widget lets you see, by percentage, how much of the document you've read and then use the slider to move backward or forward.
  • Provides fine-grained customization for click control. Bookz lets users divide the display into 9 quadrants, each of which can be set to handle next page, previous page, toggle full-screen mode, show bookmarks, or add bookmark.
Special weaknesses
  • Supports only text files for now; displays only source code for HTML.
  • No facility for transferring files from computer. (The idea is that you'll get text files from web downloads or from libraries like Project Gutenberg.)
  • Can't add folders to device's library
  • Uploaded a .txt file to Google's Pages site, but the software wouldn't download it per the developer's instructions
  • Can't activate landscape mode when using the web browser.
  • Web browser offers to download "web pages," but then the application won't display it (except as source code).


image
eReader
image

Version 1.2, Free

Special strengths
  • Integrated search, including easy tool for finding next instance, and ability specify the starting page for the search.
  • Provides an integrated table of contents, from which you can select the desired chapter.
  • Remembers where you left off reading.
  • For books purchased from a compatible online store, eReader is the best application available today for overall readability.
  • Though it doesn't support the use of folders, eReader has built-in sorting tools for books by name, author, and date.
  • Excellent, customizable navigation controls and automatic full-screen mode (toolbars can be re-summoned with a small swipe).
Special weaknesses
  • Besides its own and some other eReader formats, this app only reads HTML, .rtf, and .txt files, and it removes or simplifies formatting in the process. In my test, images were stored but not viewable in the reader. The $30 eBook Studio software with which you can convert files to palmDoc format is outdated and has limited and rather clunky options for compiling eBooks from source files.
  • eReader's lack of support for common office file formats makes it unsuitable for business use.
  • eReader provides no way to move files to and from your PC/Mac.
  • There's no way to edit titles or other metadata (author, date) about the files in your eReader library.


image
Evernote

Version 1.5, Free Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • Evernote is a multifunction content manager, capable of storing documents as well as text notes. In addition, Evernote can work with the iPhone or desktop computer to take photo, video, or voice notes. Further, it provides a browser "clipper" that lets you capture web pages (or portions of them) to your Evernote store. You can also email documents to add them to Evernote.
  • In addition to the Evernote iPhone application, Evernote provides a desktop application for both Mac OS X and Windows, as well as similar functionality on the Evernote website (when you log in). The desktop application and website let you do rich-text editing of notes, and even web pages. All three apps let you add and edit text notes to any kind of document.
  • Evernote supports full-text search for PDF, Word, Excel, HTML, and other kinds of documents. In addition to identifying files with search terms in them, the web and desktop versions navigate and display the terms at their locations in the documents. (The iPhone version also displays search terms in HTML files, but has no way to navigate to them.)
  • With Evernote, you can access a wide variety of attributes for the files in your collection, including: Information on modification and creation dates, attachments, source of note, and "To Do" information. All of these attributes can be included with search terms, tags, and notebook names as filters for searches on your document store. Such "smart" searches can be stored for reuse.
  • Evernote is very good for reading most HTML files, since it rewraps them to fit the display. Using the desktop application, you can further customize the display of HTML and text files by changing text fonts and sizes.
Special weaknesses
  • Evernote is one of the few iPhone apps in this category that does not support landscape as well as portrait mode.
  • Evernote's support for PDF viewing is weak. When opening one on the iPhone, Evernote doesn't download and display it automatically. Instead, it shows a small PDF icon that you must press to initiate the download. Once downloaded, Evernote provides no navigation tools or other assistance, so actually reading PDFs is all but impossible.
  • Evernote does not provide a way to add bookmarks to documents, nor does it return you to the document--and the location in the document--when you reopen the application.
Other notes
  • To use Evernote, you must set up a password-protected account at the Evernote website. Accounts are free up to 40 MB per month of storage, and there are $5/month and $45/month subscriptions as well.
  • With Evernote, users organize documents into "notebooks." This can only be done via the web or desktop interfaces. Although you can't set up "sub-notebooks," Evernote emphasizes the use of tags, which you can use as an organizing tool. You can add and apply tags in all three versions of Evernote.
  • In setting up notebooks, you can specify "local" notebooks, which are accessible only on your desktop computer, as well as "public" notebooks, which contain documents you can share over the web. The default is "synchronized" notebooks.


image
Instapaper

Version 1.2, $9.99 (Free version also available) Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • Excellent readability, since web content is reformatted to a text display on the iPhone.
  • Extremely easy and effective bookmarklet for adding content.
  • Introduced innovative "tilt-scrolling" feature, soon adopted by FileMagnet, which lets you scroll a document without touching the screen.
  • When viewing on the iPhone, you can toggle between the original "web" view, and the reformatted "text" view.
  • Instapaper is an excellent tool for gathering web content for later viewing, and its ability to save just portions of a page is very helpful.
  • The Pro version remembers where you left off reading and returns you there by default.
Special weaknesses
  • No search feature.
  • Only supports HTML and text files.
  • Follows hyperlinks, but frustratingly, can't add web content for later reading from the iPhone itself. Also, the application exits Instapaper when following a link.
  • Files can be manually added if they are located on a web server, but only from the web version of your Instapaper store not from the iPhone application.
  • Can't categorize, tag, or otherwise organize articles, either on the iPhone or on the Instapaper website.
  • Instapaper can't handle articles that are published in multiple "pages," which is the norm on commercial websites nowadays. Each page has to be bookmarked separately. I tried bookmarking the "print" view of an article on Information Week, but Instapaper couldn't access it later. (This isn't true of all such "print" views, however.)
  • Instapaper does not provide a way to add bookmarks to documents.
Other notes
  • Instapaper requires registration at the Instapaper website, which is the repository for notes you collect from the web. Instapaper is designed to easily save web pages, or snippets of text from them, for later reading.
  • A $9.99 Pro version is available which adds some useful features such as "tilt scrolling," remembering where you left off reading, and a few others.


image
iSilo

Version 1.20, $9.99

imageSpecial strengths
  • Nice integrated web browsing, though it's unfortunate you can't save documents you browse to.
  • Full-text search.
  • Conversion from web pages to iSilo format (Palm format) works extremely well in most cases. If the HTML is not well formed or uses "clever" CSS tricks for formatting, the result is not so good. When the HTML result is good, the files are extremely readable.
  • From a converted web page, iSilo easily lets you navigate to other linked pages, displaying them in a likewise quite readable format. (Again, it's not clear why iSilo can't save these other pages directly.)
  • iSilo attempts to build a table of contents from the page's HTML structure. It loads these into the document's Bookmarks menu.
  • iSilo documents can have much richer elements than other eReaders reviewed here, including support for tables, images, linked sections, and others.
  • iSiloX, the desktop tool for converting HTML files to iSilo format, does very well when handling well formatted and structured HTML. It did a remarkably good job, for example, with a long Word document that was opened in Open Office and then saved as HTML. I was impressed that the conversion preserved the formatting of tabular data in the file. The conversion also resulted in a useful set of bookmarks for the document's table of contents.
Special weaknesses
  • Navigation and access to options is confusing. In many cases, the options either don't work or are too difficult to use. For example, the option to change a document's font face doesn't work. In another case, the option to enable auto-scrolling must be activated by navigating to another screen; when you return to the document, any click on the screen deactivates auto-scroll, and you must return to the option screen. Even worse, it's impossible to activate both auto-scroll and full-screen view at the same time, since each activation returns you to do the document view, and each access to the options view turns off the other option.
  • In general, too many useful options are hidden in submenu screens.
  • The application provides no useful navigation tools.
  • iSilo utilizes too many non-standard user interface methods that are therefore nonintuitive. As a result, too often I had to resort either to reading the manual or (more often) consulting the company's online support forum. For example, the function to delete files is "hidden" as a popup menu accessible only if you hold your finger on a document's icon in document view. Once you know this, it works fine, but this means there's an unnecessary learning curve and with it additional user support.
  • Loading one long document converted from a PDF file consistently froze my iPhone, requiring a reboot.


image
Readdle

Version 1.0.5, $14.99

imageSpecial strengths
  • Supports a variety of native office document and image formats, as well as PalmDoc format.
  • Has a well integrated web browser from which you can bookmark and/or save documents from the web, including web pages.
  • Remembers where you left off reading
  • Provides a nifty slider for navigation within documents, as well as a good bookmarking tool. Files can be navigated with a click or double-click at top or bottom of the display.
  • Supports "full screen" reading mode.
  • Documents can be organized into folders and into subfolders, both within your Readdle Storage area and on the device. You can also move files into any of the folders on your iPhone.
Special weaknesses
  • Readdle lacks support for RTF (despite what they say), RTFD, web archives, and iWork document formats.
  • Unfortunately, Readdle can't save web documents that you link to from within one of your saved documents only when you manually switch to its integrated browser. This is an oversight that hopefully will be fixed in a future release.
  • No search capabilities.
  • To rename your documents or folders, you must visit your Readdle Storage area online.
Other notes
  • Readdle provides a desktop application (Mac OS X only) for uploading content to Readdle's server, or files can be uploaded with a web browser. You can also email documents to your Readdle account to add them to your library. Content stored on the Readdle server is password-protected.
  • The Readdle iPhone app synchs with your Readdle storage, and files can be read remotely or downloaded for offline reading. Note that the synchronization isn't really that, since changes made in one repository aren't automatically made in the other. For example, deleting a document on your iPhone won't delete it from your online library.
  • Users can register for a free account, which is limited in storage and has some other restrictions. An "optimum" service is $5 a month.


image
Stanza

Version 1.5, Free iPhone app, beta Desktop app Home Page

imageSpecial strengths
  • Integrated search.
  • User can group documents within the iPhone app and easily add downloaded files to them.
  • User can increase or decrease font size, adjust color, font. Also customize background color, margins, justification of text. In addition, Stanza provides various other customization preferences, including navigation and display options.
  • The application tries to automatically add chapter information derived from the text, but gives the user no way to change them. However, it does let users add bookmarks to the documents.
  • Stanza's navigation mechanisms are terrific. Besides the chapter and/or bookmark options, Stanza has a slider that's particularly useful for moving within large documents. Navigation from page to page is similar to eReader just a tap on the left or right side of the display slides pages into view.
  • Stanza has a great online library of content available for download. Besides free books available ubiquitously these days for eReaders, Stanza's library includes content from newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, BBC, and Wired. These are all nicely formatted and very readable on the iPhone.
  • Remembers where you left off reading, and even returns you by default to the last document you had open.
  • Version 1.5 introduces some cool visual features that let users add custom images to their books and then displays them in a Cover flow view (when you switch to landscape mode).
Special weaknesses
  • Stanza's support for standard office document formats is very limited. Its desktop software claims to read Amazon Kindle, Mobipocket, Microsoft LIT, PalmDoc, Microsoft Word, Rich Text Format, HTML, and PDF formats, but in my extensive testing of HTML, RTF, Word, and PDF, Stanza failed to format the content in any reasonable way. Most documents had such badly garbled page elements (headings, line breaks, lists, vertical white space, paragraph breaks) that they were unreadable when transferred to an iPhone.
  • Besides page formatting, Stanza strips all documents of all character formatting (font size, color, style), tabular content, and images.
  • Stanza provides no mechanism for transferring content from the iPhone back to your computer.
  • I was frustrated that although Stanza offers the option of viewing text in left-justified format, all the documents I transferred showed up full-justified. This happened even when I specified left-justification on the Stanza desktop app.
Other notes
  • Stanza relies on a desktop application (currently in beta development) that can be used to open supported files and transfer them wirelessly to the iPhone. The app supports both Mac OS X and Windows. Lexcycle currently plans to charge "a small fee" for the software once released.

The summary table below uses some advanced CSS techniques that aren't yet possible with your browser. WebKit, the open-source browser engine underlying Apple's Safari browser (for both Windows and Mac), has implemented numerous features of CSS 3.0, as well as pioneered some candidates for new graphics functions using CSS. (For more information on these, see the Mars article on the subject, or visit CSS3.info.
In particular, the table uses CSS border-radius (which produces the table's rounded edge), CSS box-shadow (which gives the table a drop shadow), CSS gradient (which produces a gradient in the table headers), and CSS background-size together with background-attachment and background-clip (which lets me automatically resize a small tiled image-- --both horizontally and vertically to fit the various-sized table cells).

Here is a screenshot of how the top part of the table looks in Safari:

Screenshot of table utilizing CSS techniques not available except in Safari
    
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Posted in:Reviews, eReaders, iPhone/TouchTags: |
September 8th, 2008

Without Even Trying, Apple’s iPhone Takes the eBook Reader Sweepstakes

I recently decided it was time to look again at the state-of-the-art in eBook reader hardware. It seems like I've waited forever for a company to design one I could really use in place of the traditional paper-filled parallelepiped. I first got excited by the possibility while implementing the PDF format for a magazine on CD-ROM back in 1995. "Wow!," I thought, "Whoever wrestles PDF onto a small electronic device is going to make a mint!"

Technical Note:

This article utilizes some WebKit-specific CSS coolness, which those of you running Firefox, Opera, or other browsers will miss out on. (Even users of Safari 3.1 can't see the image reflections... that CSS feature is as yet only available in the latest versions of WebKit.) These CSS 3.0 tricks eliminate the need for a whole slew of graphics, JavaScript, and other code that were previously needed to produce them. Instead, with one simple CSS style element, I can add shadows to page elements (like tables or boxes), set elements with rounded corners (even table cells!), and set reflections on images. It not only makes the page download faster, but it saves me a heckuva lot of time to boot! I'll be documenting more of these CSS advances in the ongoing Mars article, WebKit/Safari Keep Blazing the Trail to CSS 3.0.

Here are some screenshots in case you can't see what I'm talking about: Fancy image, Fancy table, Fancy box.

Of course, PDF turned out to be not particularly well suited to small viewing screens, since publishers would have to make a special layout for the PDF version. And so, years went by, with talk of E-Ink, electrowetting, electronic paper, and other exotic technologies appearing to be on the verge of practicality.

What most of the would-be designers of eBook readers have seemingly failed to grasp, however, is that to replace paper books, eBooks must be nearly as light and portable as a paperback. They must work without cords, and be compatible companions to one's daily trip to the little boy's room. (I've honestly never met a woman who reads in the john, but it seems nearly all men do.) They must be able to accompany you to the beach, the pool, or the mountains. I'd really like something I could read while holding it in one hand, like I do a paperback. I don't want a reader that will break the bank, either. And most of all, an eBook reader needs to be comfortable to use in bed or in your favorite armchair.

Even today, with devices shrinking towards the ideal size and weight, nearly all fail to meet my needs for one reason or another. Quite surprisingly, one device has in fact replaced books for me, and it's not one I ever thought would or could. Because I had bought the device for another purpose entirely, this eBook reader has actually cost me nothing whatsoever.

This article covers five eBook reader devices, including two that are full-fledged personal computers serving as an eBook reader by way of third-party software, and another that is a multifunction "smart phone" with eBook reader capabilities. All five devices have strongly positive characteristics, and two of of them possess the full range that would allow them to serve as portable eBook readers for organizations that need access to technical and policy documentation. Even though I personally need a reader that's useful for novels and such, I'm evaluating these based on their utility as devices for storing and reading technical and other documentation rather than literature, each of which have quite different requirements for eBook reading. The five devices reviewed are:

  1. Eee PC 901
  2. Iliad
  3. iPhone / iPod Touch
  4. Kindle
  5. Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium

OfiPhone as eBook Reader these five devices, the one that emerged as the runaway winner for both literature and documentation--much to my surprise--is Apple's iPhone or iPod Touch. The iPhone's small display, it turns out, is plenty big for comfortable reading, and its form factor make it the ideal eBook reader I've been looking for. Given its numerous other capabilities besides eBook reading, the iPhone / iPod Touch is an obvious choice. Among its virtues are its

  • Ability to manage all the relevant native-format files an organization is likely to produce,
  • Instantaneous availability,
  • Easy navigation,
  • Wide variety of eBook reader software,
  • Simple and powerful connectivity,
  • Integrated web browser and mail client,
  • Bright screen,
  • Excellent readability, and
  • Advanced security.

In addition to its use as an eBook reader, the iPhone has many other enterprise uses, not the least of which are its built-in cellular phone, Bluetooth receiver, GPS, and synchronized email. The iPhone also has excellent support for Windows users and can be centrally managed by an IT organization to enforce configuration and security standards.

EEE PC as eBook ReaderFor personnel who require a highly portable, full-featured PC, the Eee PC is an excellent choice. Given its very reasonable price, this device is an engineering marvel:

  • Tiny, yet with a decent-sized keyboard,
  • External controls for essentials like screen resolution and brightness,
  • Built-in state-of-the-art Wi-Fi and Bluetooth,
  • Ethernet port and 3 USB 2.0 hubs,
  • Video camera and microphone.

With dedicated eBook reading software such as MobiPocket installed on the Eee PC's Windows XP operating system, this micro-laptop can serve users well as an eBook Reader. The only downside is the eBook reader software's lack of support for native document formats, which must be converted to the MobiPocket format (and many cannot be so converted). For users who do not need the resources of a full-blown PC, the iPhone or iPod Touch would be a better solution.

Iliad as eBook ReaderThe Iliad's primary virtue is its wonderfully readable e-Ink text display, and it also has a good, portable form factor and hardware navigation controls. The Iliad also allows users to set a PIN number to protect content stored on it. Beyond those positive characteristics, there's not much to recommend the Iliad as an eBook reader for use in storing and accessing documents other than literature. And the price one has to pay for this one-trick pony, literature-only reader is far too high, in my opinion.

The Amazon Kindle is an impressive dedicated eBook Reader. The device's

  • Reading software,
  • Navigation ease,
  • Annotation support,
  • Searchability,
  • Readability,
  • Rapid start-up time,
  • and
  • Form factor
are all among the strongest in the group. However, the Kindle falls down in its support for the kinds of document formats most organizations will be using and in not providing some means of securing Amazon's Kindle eBook Readeraccess to content stored on it. The Kindle does not accept USB "sticks," either, so the possibility of storing sensitive documents externally is limited to Amazon's online Kindle service. Unfortunately, in my testing, that service was not always available, so in emergency situations I would not want to rely on it (for now, at least). Like the Iliad, the Kindle serves no purpose other than as an eBook reader, and as such its price seems quite high.

The Samsung micro-laptop gets excellent scores for search, document-format support, ease of adding documents, bookmarking, networking, and eBook navigation. However, all of these scores reflect attributes of the top-notch MobiPocket reader software, as well as its accompanying Creator software, which does a good job at converting common office-type files to HTML and/or Mobi format. Unfortunately, the Samsung hardware, combined with its reliance on the underlying Windows XP operating system, make this a poor choice as a portable eBook reader. The device is very slow to start up, has a very tiny and hard-to-use keyboard, and offers navigation options that aren't suitable for the onscreen software. The Samsung supports touch control, but the display targets that one must interact with to navigate are much too small. The same problem holds for the device's Samsung Q1 as eBook Readerwand, which requires a very steady hand and precise accuracy to reliably trigger onscreen controls. The device's external keypad is horrible and requires far too much effort for an emergency operation. Using a portable keyboard is probably not a practical alternative, either, since it requires the user to have access to a table and chair to enter data or navigate the Samsung. Finally, when not plugged in to an electrical outlet, the display's screen is so dim that I had to bring out a magnifying glass in order to navigate. I won't even mention here how ridiculously expensive the Samsung is, since it can also be used (*wink* *wink*) as a portable PC.

The summary table below presents a matrix of the various attributes used for this review. Items in light green indicate the basic criteria were met, and items in the darker gradient green indicate that the device excelled in fulfilling that particular requirement. White cells are those where the given reader failed to meet a requirement. Following the summary table are detailed tables for each of the five devices, with my review notes organized into Pros and Cons for each.


Functions/Usability Matrix

Device Characteristics

Iliad
($699)

Kindle
($359)

Samsung w/ MobiPocket
($1,299)

iPhone
($199)
iPod Touch
($299)

EeePC w/ MobiPocket
($599)

Supports native formats including images

Can organize documents into folders

Is password protected or supports encryption

Enables full-text search

Documents can be easily transferred from a computer

Bookmarks can be added within files

Documents can have a table of contents

Provides both portrait and landscape modes

Support web hyperlinks

Can browse and download files from the web

Font faces and sizes can be customized

Accessing and navigating content is easy

Documents are easy to read

Hardware design is well suited to reading

Has easy connectivity to local networks, or supports USB

Provides speedy access in emergencies

Has good hardware navigation (pen, keypad, touch screen, other controls)


Eee PC 901
(with MobiPocket Reader Software)

Pros

Cons

  • Nice design very small, but with relatively large keyboard.
  • Bright screen, and device includes external brightness controls to change it.
  • Networking upgrades that make this device very easy to connect: Built-in Bluetooth, and the latest, fastest 802.11n wireless receiver.
  • Standard Windows XP security features, including support for enterprise-grade standards.
  • Very quick to boot up (about 30 seconds).
  • Device has plenty of hardware ports, including 3 USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, external display, and memory card.
  • The device's trackpad is a commonly used alternative to the mouse, and this one works similarly to others.
  • Device has some surprisingly advanced features for its size and price, such as a built-in video camera, microphone, and high-quality and audio output ports that support 5-1 speaker configurations.
  • Besides wireless connectivity, I could use Ethernet to add this computer to my network, and I could also use a USB thumb drive.
  • I had no trouble connecting to my wireless network or to my Mac's Bluetooth service for file sharing (etc.)
  • Given its impressive and wide-ranging functionality, the Eee PC's price (about $600 retail) makes it a great value.
  • Despite the larger keyboard, I still found that it required quite a bit of practice to use efficiently... especially if you're frequently switching from a regular-sized keyboard.
  • In the toolbox of busy geeks, it's important that the tools don't fight with each other all the time, which they tend to do if they are all activated the same way.
  • Somewhat slow to boot down.
  • Using the Eee PC requires navigating through the full-blown Windows XP or Vista interface, which is way overkill for an eBook reader. Despite the bright screen, high resolution, and large keyboard, these versions of Windows are more difficult to use than the iPhone's interface or that of dedicated readers. In addition, the EeePC doesn't come with any eBook reader software built-in. For the purposes of this review, I downloaded and installed the MobiPocket Reader, which is a very good option for Windows users.
  • The EeePC has no built-in Wand or Touch-Screen capability.


Irex Iliad

Pros

Cons

  • The text display on the Iliad is excellent in normal indoor lighting. (I haven't yet tried it outdoors on a sunny day.)
  • The Iliad provides a wand for use in navigation, and I found that it works quite well (once I was able to locate the "real" one... the case includes a backup that's inactive).
  • Besides the wand, the Iliad has external navigation controls that are reasonably intuitive.
  • The device remembers where you left off reading a particular book.
  • The Iliad can be configured to display text in landscape as well as portrait mode.
  • The page navigation tools work well and are quite simple.
  • The Iliad supports use of a PIN number to protect the device. I set one up, and this works well.
  • iRex uses an embedded Linux operating system for the Iliad, and provides an extensive site for developers who want to help develop the software.
  • The Iliad's hardware is well designed. Its size is small enough, and its viewing screen generous enough to make a pleasant eBook reader for novels and other nontechnical works of fiction and nonfiction.
  • The Iliad is very slow to start up.
  • I would prefer a touch navigation system or easy-to-use keypad rather than (or in addition to ) the wand.
  • Navigation can be very confusing without reading the manual. Iliad relies on a variety of unlabeled icons and unnamed buttons, few of which are immediately intuitive to use.
  • Iliad is very slow in responding to movement from page to page during this session certainly not useful for anyone who was working in an emergency situation.
  • The Iliad can be configured to display documents page-by-page or as a continuous page. However, in the continuous mode it doesn't provide any way of "scrolling", so it's of questionable value. I would prefer a device that supports scrolling as well as page-by-page reading.
  • In landscape mode, the Iliad's navigation controls remain in portrait mode, which can be disconcerting.
  • The device provides no easy, accessible way to increase or decrease font size while reading.
  • Iliad's search function merely applies to the names of files on the device. It appears the Iliad cannot do full-text search, or otherwise search the contents of files.
  • The search function is only accessible when you're at the folder level. You can't invoke search while reading a document.
  • Getting around a large document with many parts can be quite cumbersome. A device like this needs to provide easy access to the document's TOC, or otherwise provide a tool to skip from chapter to chapter. The Iliad's only capability is to skip 5 pages forward or backward at a time, but the user has no way of knowing where 5 pages will take them, so it's a matter of guesswork, or you must return to the TOC and proceed from there. I suspect that the Iliad was designed primarily for reading novels, books that have no TOC and that you read sequentially from front to back. In this respect, it is not suitable to complex documents with many parts, such as the NSF COOP.
  • The electronic paper on this device leaves a smudgy-looking "ghost" print of the previous page in many cases (e.g., when going through the network profile setup screens). This is only a minor annoyance.
  • Setting up a wireless network profile did not work. I used the same settings as for all my network devices, including my iPod Touch. Iliad could not connect. I reentered my password and tried again, but no luck. I removed Iliad from its case and tried again, but nothing.
  • From what I could tell by navigating through the small number of documents that come installed on the Iliad, this device's navigation system will not be useful for a large document store. Navigation is too slow, and the number of documents viewable per screen is too small.
  • The Iliad does not support hyperlinks in PDF files, only in HTML files. From this, I assume (but haven't yet tested) that it doesn't support PDF bookmarks either. This is a serious drawback, since otherwise it is impossible to prepare a TOC for multiple documents the only option is using an Iliad folder, which, as noted previously, isn't suitable for a large number of documents.
  • Many business and personal documents have embedded tables, charts, and images of various sizes. Most are in color, which the Iliad does not support. I had difficulty moving such a document onto the Iliad to test its display for page elements like these, but this is a concern.
  • The 4-digit PIN supported by the Iliad is probably not sufficient to satisfy enterprise security requirements these days. Unlike the iPhone, iRex offers no enterprise-level solution for configuring and protecting the Iliad in an organizational setting. Still, the Iliad's PIN is more protection than Amazon offers for the Kindle.
  • I tried moving documents from my computer via USB and via a USB stick to the Iliad. I couldn't get any connection going with my Mac, but I could read documents from the USB stick. To do so, I had to find the appropriate setting, however, and change it back when not using the USB stick. Further, I found no way to move documents from the stick to the Iliad.
  • The MobiPocket reader on the Iliad is nothing like the desktop version. It has none of the additional features such as search and annotations. Apparently, the Iliad can read MobiPocket files, but that's the extent of its support.
  • Given the device's limited functionality (it's clearly meant to be nothing more than a dedicated eBook reader), its high price ($699 retail) makes it a questionable value.


iPhone/iPod Touch

Pros

Cons

  • Extremely compact form factor---nothing other than a shirt pocket (or similar) required to carry it around.
  • Bright screen, and device includes easy to use brightness controls (as well as auto-brightness) to change it. Also aiding readability are the IPhone's high resolution and font anti-aliasing.
  • The device's touch screen controls are currently the best in the industry response is excellent, and Apple's innovative "Multitouch" technology helps avoid "missed" touches.
  • Includes support for wireless 802.11b/g networking. The iPhone 3G also includes connectivity through Bluetooth 2.0.
  • For security, the iPhone has the following features for enterprise use (text taken from Apple's Enterprise Use overview):
  • Supports Cisco IPSec VPN to ensure the highest level of IP-based encryption for transmission of sensitive company information.
  • Employees can authenticate via password, two-factor token, or digital certificate.
  • iPhone also supports WPA2 Enterprise with 802.1X authentication � the standard for Wi-Fi network protection.
  • IT administrators can securely manage any iPhone that contains confidential company information using remote wipe and enforced security and password policies.
  • Instantly available from sleep mode. The boot down time is almost instantaneous, and the reboot time is about 30 seconds--the same amount of time as the EeePC.
  • iPod Touch and iPhone can connect to computers via USB 2.0.
  • Connecting to wireless networks for Internet and file-sharing was very easy and reliable.
  • The iPhone has some additional advanced features, such as a built-in video camera, microphone, GPS, push Email (both POP and IMAP), and (of course) the 3G data service for telephone use.
  • The iPhone OS, a version of Mac OS X 10.5, also includes other useful connectivity services, such as FTP and HTTP, enabling file-sharing and access through those methods.
  • Unlike dedicated eBook readers like the Iliad, Kindle, and MobiPocket, which require that documents be converted to proprietary formats or text/HTML, the iPod can view a wide variety of documents in their native formats, including:
    • Images (.jpg, .gif, .tiff)
    • Microsoft Office files (Word, Excel, Powerpoint)
    • HTML (web pages)
    • iWork files (Keynote, Numbers, Pages)
    • PDF
    • Text and RTF
  • For document viewing, the iPhone/iPod Touch supports both portrait and landscape modes. Landscape mode is activated simply by rotating the device, a technique made possible by Apple's "Accelerometer" technology.
  • The built-in App Store is a powerful way to expand the iPhone/iPod Touch's capabilities. Many of the applications that have become available are directly relevant not only for eBook use, but for other enterprise uses. For example, a recent addition called WinAdmin lets Windows users view and run their desktop applications through the iPhone interface. In a separate report, I have reviewed and made recommendations for the following eBook reader (and related) applications for the iPhone/iPod Touch:
    • Annotater
    • Bookshelf
    • Bookz
    • Caravan
    • DataCase
    • eReader
    • Evernote
    • File Magnet
    • Files
    • Instapaper
    • Mobile Finder
    • Readdle
    • Stanza
    • TouchFS
  • With its 8- or 16 GB hard drive, the iPhone/iPod Touch can serve as a USB thumb drive for loading or transferring files among an organization's computers.
  • The iPhone/iPod Touch is the least expensive of the 5 reviewed devices. If you don't want the cellphone/GPS/video/audio features of the iPhone, the iPod Touch, starting at $299 for an 8GB hard drive, is a bargain... even compared with the Amazon Kindle, which retails for $359. If you want the cellphone and other features of the iPhone, $199 is quite low when factoring in its many uses beyond those of the typical smart-phone.
  • The viewing screen is small compared with dedicated eBook readers, though it's larger than other cellphones.
  • The onscreen keyboard takes some getting used to, regardless of how thoughtfully designed it is. That said, it's far better than the tiny keyboards used on other devices like the Samsung Q1U V.
  • The standard type size for navigation on the iPhone is a bit too large for displaying long document or folder names, and the font size for these user interface elements cannot be changed.


Amazon Kindle

Pros

Cons

  • The Kindle has a very good start-up experience. The "Quick Start" guide is an excellent introduction to the device's main features.
  • I found navigation very intuitive and quite like the "silver cursor" the Kindle uses to navigate within pages.
  • I was immediately impressed with the Kindle's ability to add notes anywhere on a page.
  • After registering the Kindle with Amazon, a required step for using the Kindle, I emailed 3 test files to see how their conversion service works. I used the "free" option at the address llscotts@free.kindle.com, which will email them back to me at my Amazon-account email address. Sending the files to llscotts@kindle.com costs 10 cents per doc, for which fee Amazon will then load the files directly to the Kindle.
  • I tried both methods of conversion, and received Kindle files from each within minutes. The Word conversion is very good, and preserves hyperlinks.
  • The Kindle can follow hyperlinks to web pages and to some internal links in some (but not all) documents.
  • Kindle search functions are excellent. My only quibble--and it's not minor--is that there's no way to search a single document. The Kindle searches all the content on the Kindle. My main concern here is the time required for a lookup. Presentation of search results is excellent.
  • Adding bookmarks on the Kindle is childishly simple. Besides using the menu and scrollwheel device, you can click on the "dog-ear" graphic at the top of any page to add a bookmark. Pages with bookmarks show an active "dog-ear" icon.
  • The Kindle supports several other types of annotations that could be useful. You can "Highlight" text, add "Notes" to documents, or "Clip" whole pages for permanent storage. Using the first two can be used for navigation, like bookmarks.
  • The Kindle preserves and displays images from converted documents.
  • The Kindle's keyboard is large enough to be quite useful far superior to devices like the Samsung, for example.
  • Connecting to my Mac via USB was an iffy proposition. It took several attempts to do so I'm not sure what the problem was, but certainly the connection was very slow to be established, compared to, say, a digital camera, camcorder, or USB stick.
  • After two days of use I concluded that the USB connection was so bad as to be unusable. The device kept connecting and disconnecting every few seconds. I reset the device twice, per Amazon's instructions.
  • The Kindle only supports a few file formats natively (Kindle (.azw), Text (.txt), and Mobi (.mobi, .prc). It can also handle mp3 and audible files. Some other formats (Word, HTML, and various image formats) can be converted to Kindle format using Amazon's online service. Documents to be converted are emailed to an account set up for a specific Kindle. Kindle has an experimental service for converting PDFs as well.
  • The on/off switch is in a nonintuitive location
  • Doesn't support landscape mode.
  • The Kindle doesn't reliably support links within HTML documents, though it does support external links.
  • The text converted from Word can be a little jarring, since it displays an abundance of unnecessary vertical white space, shifts fonts and font sizes for no apparent reason, and shifts between fully justified text and ragged text layouts. You can't change the converted documents, but it would be interesting to figure out what causes the irregularities. In addition, the conversion doesn't do well with formatting such as lists.
  • The Kindle doesn't allow users to organize files into folders.
  • On the Kindle Media Manager website, you can add tags to documents, but these aren't transferred to the Kindle.
  • The Kindle's web-page access is extremely slow. After several minutes of waiting for the device to connect to http://gets.ncs.gov, Kindle reported that the server was not responding. However, when I immediately entered the URL in my computer's web browser, the site came up instantly. I tried this twice with the same results.
  • Regarding access, several times during my test the Kindle reported that it could not connect to Amazon's Kindle server. This might suggest that the Kindle server should not our primary repository for NSF's COOP documents, though it would be useful as a backup location.
  • Since Kindle doesn't support spreadsheet documents, I converted the critical personnel roster to HTML and sent it off for conversion. Received an email from Amazon saying the HTML file (a format they are supposed to support) could not be converted:
    The following attachment(s), sent at 10:17 AM on Wed, Jul 23, 2008 could not be converted and delivered to your Amazon Kindle account:
    * COOP - Critical Personnel Roster - April 2008.html
    The following document and image types are supported as attachments:
    Personal documents: Unprotected Microsoft Word documents (*.doc), HTML documents (*.html, *.htm), and Text documents (*.txt)
    Images: JPEGs (*.jpg), GIFs (*.gif), Bitmaps (*.bmp), and PNG images (*.png)
    If your attachment(s) is one of the above file types, please ensure the document is not password protected or encrypted. If you need further assistance, please contact customer support at 1-866-321-8851.
  • The Kindle remembers where you left off while reading a document.
  • The type size on the Kindle's list of documents is too large it's hard to tell which document is which when the document names are so similar. You can't adjust the font size for this screen.
  • The Kindle's documentation says that it natively supports MobiPocket files (.mobi, .prc), but it didn't recognize two that I transferred, which were created using the MobiPocket software.


Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium
(with MobiPocket Reader Software)

Pros

Cons

  • The device is compact, though surprisingly heavy.
  • The Samsung PC offers three different modes for navigating and entering data: External keyboard, a wand, and a touch screen. Unfortunately, none of them worked well for me.
  • Standard Windows XP security features, including support for enterprise-grade standards.
  • I had no trouble connecting to my wireless network. The Samsung has a decent array of external connectivity options: Besides wi-fi (802.11g), there's Bluetooth and Ethernet.
  • The display on this device is so dim I couldn't read the password screen. It's bright only when connected to a power source, even if its battery is fully charged. It has no external brightness control, and despite numerous searches (even turning it over to my teenage son, who failed, too) I couldn't locate the magic switch in Windows' control panels to change it. Eventually, I took a magnifying glass to the extremely dim screen and went through the relevant control panels for half an hour or so, but I never succeeded in changing the screen brightness so I could use the device on battery power. Since one of the selling points of this micro-laptop is supposed to be its "ultra-bright LED backlit touchscreen LCD," (what is an LED LCD, anyway?) I either had a dud, the machine was badly configured, or the task was too hard for me.
  • I would not want to be the one who has to enter my organization's 13-character password regularly. The keyboard is too small, and having to use various shift keys is terribly cumbersome. Certainly, you wouldn't want to be doing that in case of an emergency, which is one of the scenarios for which the eBook I'm looking for is intended.
  • The touch screen, and the Windows-OS widgets that you must navigate with, are too small to easily manipulate the interface.
  • The Samsung has only one USB outlet, so you can't use an external keyboard and have it plugged into a PC at the same time.
  • An external keyboard isn't practical for mobile use, anyway, since you need to have a desk or table at hand for it to be used... and they may not be handy in an emergency.
  • Windows applications don't open with a single touch you have to "double-touch" them, which can be tricky. I located a setting that lets you specify "press once and hold" to open apps, but that was finicky, and I often ended up merely dragging the icon around. When I did succeed in getting a "launch" response, the app didn't launch directly. Instead, I got a contextual menu and had to press the item "Open" to launch the application.
  • The Windows OS requires that both the pen and the touch interface position the cursor in the target control area precisely. Thus, hitting a control with the pen spot-on is not sufficient in many cases. Controlling windows with your finger also becomes difficult when they lie on the right edge of the screen, since the control is abutting the device's case, and your (or, well, mine anyway) finger is too big to make the necessary connection.
  • The device couldn't connect to my Mac via USB, Bluetooth, or wi-fi, so I used a USB thumb drive to move my test documents to the Samsung.
  • As noted in my comments on the Eee PC, the full-blown Windows OS isn't well suited to eBook reading, because its navigation paradigm is difficult to use on small screens like this. Windows doesn't come with any eBook reader software built-in. For the purposes of this review, I downloaded and installed the MobiPocket Reader, which is a very good option for Windows users.
  • The Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium micro-laptop is the most expensive of the devices reviewed as possible eBook readers. In fact, it was almost twice as expensive as the Kindle, the second most expensive device. This computer retails for over $2,000, though Amazon has it for around $1,300. As an eBook reader, or even as a computer, it's difficult to imagine why anyone would think that price was worthwhile. Perhaps they haven't looked at the Eee PC, which has better specs, is only half the price, and is only slightly larger.
Image Reflections with CSS

Image Reflections with CSS

Box Shadows and Rounded Corners with CSS

Box Shadows and Rounded Corners with CSS

Box Shadows and Rounded Corners with CSS

Box Shadows and Rounded Corners with CSS

    
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July 21st, 2008

A Desperate Microsoft Tries To Talk the iPhone To Death

Microsoft: Forget iPhone; we're still No. 2 in business

After having failed in its attempt to stop Apple's success with the iPod, Microsoft is trying the same failed strategy again with the iPhone> Talk the thing out of existence. After having failed in its attempt to stop Apple's success with the iPod, Microsoft is trying the same failed strategy again with the iPhone

Seriously, how long has Microsoft been making mobile devices (phones or Palm-killers)? And how long has Apple been making them? Is it any wonder that Microsoft has a lead in this market? Likewise, it's no surprise that there are fewer iPhone apps at this point... it's been less than a month since Apple opened the iPhone app store! I also wonder how easy it is to install apps on your Windows Mobile device compared with the iPhone.

Speaking of apps, I don't know where the Microsoft spokesman is getting his figures. If you visit Microsoft's "Certified Software" at Windows Mobile Catalog website, you'll be surprised how few there really are. I did a quick tally of the Windows Mobile software (the site also lists software Pocket PC), and there are only 41 applications available... all but 6 of which are non-business-related. (There are perhaps 50% more apps for the Pocket PC platform... which means maybe 60-70.)

Microsoft's spokesman Rockfeld is engaging in the typical Microsoft strategy (It's called "lying"), since in less than a month, Apple has more than 10 times as many "certified" apps available for its mobile phone than Microsoft does. This despite the fact that Windows Mobile has been on the market for about 3 years now. I'm sure some reader will say, "But there are tons of Windows Mobile apps that aren't in Microsoft's catalog." To which I'll reply, "Yes, but that means they aren't certified to run on the platform." If Microsoft thought those apps were worth adding to its mobile platforms, don't you think they'd do so?

I've been using a Samsung Q1Ultra with Windows XP on it today, and I never want to touch the thing again. Compared with the iPhone, its touch interface is unbelievably clumsy, and I never did figure out how to adjust its screen brightness so I could use it on battery power. The pen is also horrible... I don't know about Windows Mobile, but on this thing, clicking inside a control is not sufficient. You have to make sure the cursor is there as well. Given these tiny controls, I can't imagine how anyone who's used an iPhone would ever be happy using this.

Microsoft is just desperate, since both RIM and Apple have better mobile devices than it does. This kind of Microsoft PR rubbish is simply not worth publishing, and Computerworld should exercise some judgment before merely passing baloney along to its readers.

    
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July 22nd, 2007

Microsoft Junkies Spreading “Apple Messed Up The iPhone” FUD

Windows Mobile needs fixing, fast | InfoWorld | Column | 2007-07-18 | By Oliver Rist

I was so incensed by this posting at InfoWorld, which builds on an earlier one by respected InfoWorld Test Center lead Tom Yager, that I dashed off the following email to InfoWorld, canceling my print subscription and putting a stop to all of their RSS feeds. From what I can see through my 18-year-old son's eyes (we got him an iPhone as a high school graduation present), Apple has hit a bulls-eye with this gadget. Playing with it myself for a few minutes, this cellphone, Palm Pilot, and Blackberry resister suddenly understood the appeal of such devices. You really have to try the iPhone interface to appreciate how amazing and revolutionary it is. Clearly, this Oliver Rist creep is more interested in pushing Microsoft technology than in assessing the relative merits of whatever technologies exist. It's reminiscent of the way guys like this tried to talk the iPod into a hole 6 years ago, and given their dramatic failure at that attempt, this anti-iPhone talk would be sad if it weren't so creepy.

I've sadly watched InfoWorld go slowly downhill in the last year, as its IT coverage moved more and more mainstream and less honest. By "mainstream," I mean coverage that pays homage to where its advertising dollars come from rather than to integrity ("honest journalism") and the needs of its readership.

After having been mostly a fan of Tom Yager in recent years, I was appalled at the sensational slant of his article on the iPhone, "iPhone: The $1,975 iPod." That article was of course widely quoted and utilized by others at InfoWorld who it seems are determined to talk the device down. Apple has made clear that it isn't a business device (heck, it doesn't even offer business accounts!)... it's a consumer device. And a good many of Yager's "cons" are based on unreasonable assumptions of performance that neither Apple nor any other "smartphone" provider aim for.

All that has done is made idiots who think everything IT should be for business first and people later mad. Today I got this garbage in my inbox:

WHAT GIVES WINDOWS MOBILE EDGE OVER IPHONE

Columnist's corner: Even though Apple messed up the iPhone, Oliver Rist writes, "much of the device's problems aren't technical, but just bad business." Not so for Windows Mobile, which is plagued by troubled technology, including ActiveSync issues, Wi-Fi woes, application incompatibility, and worse, its very own Blue Screen of Death. "Microsoft has all the advantages that count in this space right now," Rist adds in Windows Mobile needs fixing fast. "The company really has the chance to win one based on functionality and capability rather than just marketing." The news beat: Sources say that a beta of Vista SP1 is... ...

More of this blog:

The InfoWorld writer who wrote this also calls consumer who buy Apple products "iSheep," saying they're the type who "need an Apple logo tattooed on as many of their belongings as possible." This is a guy who probably never understood the appeal of the iPod, either. Heaven forbid that he'd see the virtue of a Mac. And he's determined to do Microsoft's bidding by spreading FUD about the iPhone while it's still in its infancy. This is honest journalism? He bases his lead premise that "Apple messed up the iPhone" on Tom Yager's own piece of crap.

I don't know if Yager chose his article's headline or not... oddly, it doesn't seem like his style to me. Because it's the headline that made me not want to read the rest of whatever garbage he was peddling in that article. My teenager has an iPhone (high school graduation gift), and I figure I'll form my own impression of it by hands-on use [Update: I've now done this... see intro]. I really don't know how anyone can form a valid impression of a device like the iPhone in the few days Yager had before spouting off. Yes, I was disappointed with the arrangement with AT&T, too, and the requirement to buy a plan will keep me from buying an iPhone--at least in the short-term. But I seriously doubt that this requirement defeats the obvious genius of the device itself, as the headline asserts. After all, in my opinion the whole cellular industry is built on greed... nothing comes for free in that market, that I can tell. Yet I'm sure the FCC required Apple to establish a relationship with one of the existing carriers if they wanted to offer such services in the iPhone.

Not only does Yager's headline make the deal sound outlandishly expensive, it also gives AT&T equal billing with Apple as the device's creator in the subtitle. I've never owned a cellular phone... I still don't see how it could possibly be worth spending so much a month in order to be constantly available... but my wife and son are heavy users. My wife's plan is paid for by her employer, or she wouldn't have one either. But we pay a monthly fee for my son's plan... which was a Cigna plan at about $30 a month. The plan had no data or SMTP and very limited call options. That would be $720 for 2 years. His phone has no web connectivity, no bluetooth, no video, no email, and no music options.

With the iPhone, he not only gets an incredibly cool device with a revolutionary interface, but he also gets web, bluetooth, video, music, email, and potentially much more over time. With a 2-year plan, this will cost $1,440, and he'll be getting unlimited data services, some limited text messaging, video email, and all the wireless capabilities as well. I mean, to me, this sounds like a great deal to anyone who can afford it, and you can't measure the value of actually being able to use the device for those functions rather than fiddling with unworkable wands or teeny thumbpads.

So at the most, Yager and other idiotic price critics who just don't get it could argue that the iPhone is $500 over 2 years. Given what it offers in terms of functionality and ease of use, I really doubt that your average consumer, who doesn't have Microsoft or its XMinions whispering in their ear, is going to think that's very expensive. After all, given what my son has said, he plans to replace his current 60GB iPod with this 8GB iPhone. I was surprised he could make do with such a small capacity, but he seems to think the device's other virtues make it well worthwhile.

And this is just the first model iPhone... remember what the previous such idiots said about the first iPod's price? Sheesh.

I wanted you to know that I'm canceling my RSS feeds and will not be renewing my print subscription.

Regards,
Leland Scott

    
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July 21st, 2007

Apple: Optimizing Web Applications and Content for iPhone

Apple Developer Connection - iPhone for Web Developers - Optimizing Web Applications and Content for iPhone I now see how Apple plans to make its standard for web "widgets" the de facto industry standard: Through the iPhone! Since widgets are now the only way third-party developers can get applications onto users' iPhones, and since Apple's released Safari for Windows, anyone can develop widgets, Apple-style, and they have an incentive to do so. Certainly, I'll be adding this onto my to-do list, and this document is an excellent starting point for learning how to do so.
    
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May 5th, 2007

Daring Fireball: Microsoft Still Relying on Nasty FUD Rather Than Actual Competition

Daring Fireball: The iPhone's Funny Price iPhone promo imageNow that they've lost round one in the mp3 player wars, Microsoft is using the exact same FUD strategy that failed it in fighting Apple in the upcoming "smart phone" wars. It's doing this while simultaneously continuing to fight with nothing but pure FUD in the "home theater" wars. Meanwhile, Apple has released the Apple TV unit, an actual product in the home theater wars that's providing customers with some real value over existing solutions, and the iPhone is a brand new category unlike anything else on the market. This is one thing Microsoft still doesn't understand--or wants to make sure you're confused about--the iPhone is only a phone in name. To consumers like me, who actually don't give a hoot about its telephone creds, the iPhone is first and foremost, a huge-screen iPod. Close behind, it's a wifi internet device for browsing the web, checking email, weather, etc. while traveling. And finally, it's the first step in the development of an actual new Newton, a tiny computer that will ultimately replace things like the Treo. Unlike those other smart phones, you don't even have to get phone service to use the iPhone... nor do you need to subscribe to a data service, if you already treat the web as your data source. Ballmer would like you to think it's not a competitor for the touchpad PCs they've been trying to sell, but it ultimately is. And as John Gruber points out in this recent editorial on Microsoft's latest nastiness, Microsoft itself has nowhere near the market share in the smart phone market that it does on desktops. He quotes Wikipedia's stats that measure Windows Mobile at having only a 6-percent share of the smart phone market, behind 17 percent for Linux and 72 percent for Symbian. Yet Ballmer has the necessary evil to try to say Apple would be wasting its time going after that market, because they could never get more than 2-3 percent of it. As long as Microsoft lets a guy like Ballmer speak for the company, I will continue to have absolutely nothing to do with it, and I hope others feel the same way. This is no way to conduct business in a modern, adult society. It's the playground tactic of a middle-schooler, which apparently is the state of development at which Ballmer stopped.
    
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January 12th, 2007

The Ultimate iPhone FAQ’s from David Pogue

The Ultimate iPhone Frequently Asked Questions - Pogue’s Posts - Technology - New York Times Blog This is definitely worth bookmarking... Hopefully David will be adding more QA's as they arise, as they undoubtedly will. :-)
    
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Posted in:Apple, iPhone/Touch, iPod & iTunesTags: |
January 9th, 2007

iPhone: OK, I’m Impressed… Now Gimme The Goods!

Apple - iPhone Apple iPhoneIn these jaded times, it's hard to impress people. But I sincerely doubt that even the most ardent Apple-haters will be able to look at these demos of the new iPhone by Apple, Inc. (yes, they just dropped "computer" from their name!) without giving in to awe... pure, marvelous awe. If the delivered product is half as good as it looks, I'll be standing in line for one, because it so far exceeds my expectations that I'm really, really... impressed! The iPhone is a misnomer, because this is the "convergent" product the market has been anticipating for years. The iPhone is:
  • A widescreen iPod for video and audio, synked through iTunes
  • A mobile phone (yawn) with integrated camera, voicemail and photo sharing
  • A web browser (Safari), including email, Google maps, search, and widgets
  • A technological marvel, featuring a new "multitouch" touchscreen system (no buttons), an embedded copy of Mac OS X, wireless computing (bluetooth, 802.11b/g, and Cingular's Edge network, and sophisticated new sensors that do a heckuva lotta cool things just by moving the device around.

Did I mention it comes with a Bluetooth headset?

Help! I can't wait until June!

    
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Just Say No To Flash