Why Apple isn’t worried about iPad competitors

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In a New York Times article entitled Rivals to the iPad Say This Is the Year, makers of would-be iPad competitors reveal their strategy. Tablet manufacturers “who have discussed their plans say they will both offer specific features that the iPad is lacking, and undercut their competitors on price.” (Emphasis mine.)

Reading this gave me a flashback to almost five years ago, when Samsung released an mp3 player that they hoped would compete with the iPod. It was a good product, and it was doomed to fail. David Pogue nailed it:

The iPod’s competitors have wasted years of opportunity by assuming that they can beat the iPod on features and price alone. They’re wrong.

In fact, at least six factors make the iPod such a hit: cool-looking hardware; a fun-to-use, variable-speed scroll wheel; an ultrasimple software menu; effortless song synchronization with Mac or Windows; seamless, rock-solid integration with an online music store (iTunes); and a universe of accessories. Mess up any aspect of the formula, and your iPod killer is doomed to market-share crumbs.

I predict that history will largely repeat itself. Apple doesn’t win because they provide more features, they win because they provide a more intentional design that results in a better experience. Many other tablets will be sold and loved (my friends love their Samsung Galaxy Tabs), but no device will present a credible threat to the iPad’s market dominance until it offers a similarly intentional, compelling, and coherent experience.



Configuring IMAP for Gmail, Apple Mail.app, and iPhone (and iPod touch) (and probably iPad)

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Update 5, December 2011: This appears to work for Apple Mail 5 under Lion / OSX 10.7 as well.

Update 4: Step 1.1 is no longer necessary, due to updates in gmail.

Update 3: Sounds like iOS4 addresses some of this with an archive/delete toggle for gmail, as pointed out in the comments.

Update 2: I suspect these instructions will work on an iPad as well as iPhones and iPod touches, but they haven’t been verified. If anyone with an iPad can verify, please post. Thanks!

Update: This post is all about how to get messages to actually delete from gmail when you delete them in Maill.app or on your iPhone, rather than having deleted messages saved in the archive, As Google Intended. If you like the idea of saving every message forever in the gmail archives, their setup instructions are 100% correct and you don’t need this post.


This post was spawned by my frustrations with gmail, and my inclinations to save other people the effort of having to figure it out on their own.

Introduction: IMAP, Gmail, and You
IMAP is a mail protocol that allows continuous synchronization between a mail host and one or many clients; this is a Very Good Thing. For more on IMAP and why you should want to use it, see Google’s introduction, and the first part of this post at TechnoLawyer.

Gmail approaches mail differently than most mail hosts/providers. Rather than filing messages into single folders, messages can be tagged with any number of tags. The advantage of tags over folders is that a single message can be filed in multiple places, each one associated with a different tag. The Inbox is treated as another tag by Gmail. An unfortunate side-effect of this is that when most IMAP clients (mail applications) attempt to delete a message, Gmail removes the Inbox tag, but does not delete the message. The message remains in the archive for that account, and can been seen in the All Mail view. The only exceptions to this behavior are messages in Gmail’s Trash or Spam views; these messages do not appear anywhere else. When they are deleted from Trash or Spam they are gone forever. (Here’s a conceptually useful table of Gmail’s default interactions with IMAP client actions)

It is possible to configure Gmail and Apple’s Mail application to appropriately delete messages from Gmail when they are deleted in Mail. These instructions also show how to store all drafts and saved messages on the Gmail server, and how to configure your iPhone for the same behaviors. keep reading…

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Multi-touch: Why the iPhone Matters

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The introduction of the iPhone heralded the mainstreaming of a new interface paradigm. Features and form factor aside, the multi-touch interface represents the first major interface change since the introduction of the Macintosh GUI in 1984, and a notable shift in the right direction.

Twenty years ago, Donald Norman described the relationship between a control and its effect as mapping. “Natural mapping, by which I mean taking advantage of physical analogies and cultural standards, leads to immediate understanding.” (Norman, D. 1990. The Design of Everyday Things. Doubleday/Currency. P23.) Unfortunately, when there is not a “natural mapping,” understanding is anything but immediate.

Technology interfaces are difficult to design and learn because interfaces have moved further and further away from natural mappings. When the tool in question is an axe or a spoon, the relationship between the control and its effect is clear and direct. Similarly, for simple mechanical tools such as food grinders, adjustable wrenches, latches, and the like, it’s not too difficult to divine the function with no documentation. The interface is inseparable from the tool or device, and the mapping is strong. keep reading…

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