Digitizing the cash counters

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I’m sure the image that you see above has become quite a familiar sight across America. Apple stores have been flaunting a similar version for quite a while now, which almost resembles the Mophie . I first noticed this at Conshohocken Cafe , a quaint little breakfast place at Conshohocken, PA. Square , as they call it, they started to make money through the 2.75% transaction fee charged per swipe. Now my post was not particularly to about the Square, but instead, the Square Stand , that was announced today. At $299 a piece and a $499 iPad, this can replace the traditional cash registers in a blink of an eye. Sounds quite simple, as we start to see more and more dependency on the mobile device .

But wait, there is more. The exact same day, Paypal decides to announce its revolutionary product know as the Cash for Register . With a free credit/debit/paypal processing for the rest of the year for any qualifying US Business, we now have a competition!

The era of cash registers which opens up a “slot machine” of quarters and pennies is slowly disappearing. Whether its paypal or square, the digital revolution has spared none. Soon the traditional cash registers will just be a piece of antique in the museum!

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Project Mighty and Napoleon – Adobe version of stylus and ruler

Does anyone remember the ancient geometry box – the one that was a common sight in middle and high schools, back in the 80s and 90s? If not, here is something that could spark those memory cells.

tin-geometry

Now, fast forward to 2013 and to Adobe’s MAX Conference 2013 held this week at Los Angeles. Although the focus was mainly on the cloud offering of their wonderfully successful creative suite, something interesting sneaked in at the tad end – a project they called Projects Mighty and Napoleon . The names don’t reveal much, just as the website does not. But the concept talked about a stylus and a ruler (!!!). The idea is to let those creative elite to now use their iPads effectively; to connect directly to the cloud and to apps such as TypeKit and Kuler . Again, not much revealed, but these images do show some potential.

Project Mighty

Exactly how much the stylus would be useful outside the Adobe suite of apps is yet unknown. Having been a long time proponent of a “stylus-like tool for iPad, esp. while taking notes during meetings, this does come as a welcome delight. And of course, this could possibly change the way geometry is taught in schools!

Gesture Technology – Pointgrab

Point grab

I spoke about touch screen walls sometime back here. Although still in its formative years, using Microsoft Kinect and a household projector, presentations suddenly became a lot more “magical”! Taking it a step further, PointGrab recently introduced the Hand Gesture Recognition Software (HGRS) using a standard 2D camera. Based in Israel, Pointgrab introduced two new mobile (encompassing both tablets and smartphone) apps – CamMe, for gesture based photography and PlungaShot, a gesture based bow and arrow game on February 25th 2013 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona . Again, it is in its nascent stages, but the possibilities are amazingly abundant. Primarily in the presentation area, this could become a game changer, with its ability to deliver presentations from a distance without a remote control or aid from a colleague.

I personally downloaded the CamMe application, both on my ipad and iphone. For long I was searching for a decent app, with the with the ability to perform time- based photography. Although a bit buggy right now, CamMe takes things even further than a timer-based methodology, to snap a picture a second after you asks it to, from a distance.

With its SDK being open to application developers, I can very well see this being picked up by the imaginative elite to develop games, customized user interfaces, what all and what not!

Think Geek item of the week

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From gestures we go to telepathy! NeuroSky Mindwave Mobile lets you play games with the power of your mind!

Where will Apple go from here…

It did happen. The meteoric rise in stock value that Apple saw in the summer, reaching its peak of $705 in September, is a history now. The stock has been plummeting ever since. Even the release of iPhone5 or the iPad mini could not help its cause. Some call it the Steve Jobs effect and other say it was the high expectations that were placed on these releases. As big an Apple fan that I am, I must admit I was never awestruck by their new releases. iPhone5, with its “longer” screen and its faster processor never really impressed as much as I expected it to. Same goes for an over-priced iPad Mini, when a Kindle Fire HD with the same screen resolution sells for half its price. So then comes the question – Where will Apple go from here?

Let’s list down each major product line and see where they can move towards. Before I start, I must lay down a disclaimer. These are just my personal viewpoints (aka dreams). You are more than welcome to tear it apart and comment on everyone of them.

iMac – one of those “ancestral” product line that brought Apple to this world, back in the 80s.
The names have changed, and the product got slimmer. But the purpose remained the same – a PC or a desktop! Its growth from the earliest Macintosh to the latest offering of iMac 2012 has been phenomenal. But what now? Do we see a touch screen added sometime in future? It is no secret that Steve Jobs has been against this all his life, simple because he thought your arms could quickly grow tired of stretching across the table to touch the screen. But that did not stop Zorro Macsk from hitting the market. Or do we see it getting collapsed (rather integrated) with a new product line – an Apple television?

Apple TV – one of those products yet to produce that aura of awe, which all others carried.
The tiny box that almost resembles a cable set top box, has not been able to replace cable as it was slated to do. And for that same reason this product is yet to undergo a significant revolution. The primary reason for this has been the fact that not many news channels and sport channels have been able to successfully offer their services on it. Rumors have been floating around this year about Apple talking to cable providers . Do we see Apple TV transforming itself to Apple Television? After all Apple did revolutionize the music retail industry. Can we see something similar soon?

iPod – a product that killed the cd players and “walkmans”
Undoubtedly, this has to be the product that brought Apple closer to common man. Along with iTunes, it changed the way people listened to music and ripped apart the music retail industry. It has gone through several shapes and sizes, with the classic, the mini, the nano and the touch. Although the latest of the iPod nano, to me was a step back from its “watch” form factor and its market was partially killed through the launch of iPhone, I do still see music lovers walking on the streets flashing those white ear plugs with an iPad on the other end. So where do we go from here? With the decline in sales that this product has seen over the years since the launch of iPhone, I see it paving way to be collapsed into iPhone at sometime in the future. That seems to be the only logical path. On a slightly lighter note, I did dream of an iWatch when I first saw the 6th generation iPod nano!

iPhone – a fresh face in the world of smartphones
I’m sure I don’t have to talk much about this. Almost 1 in every 10 people I see around me carry an iPhone these days. That in itself says a lot. And what more, Apple has pushed the incumbent mobile phone makers to start thinking outside the box. Touch technology still has a lot of room for innovation. Battery life and cellular technologies can still improve and so can the processor that goes into these smartphones. But what could really make a difference will be its form factor. With bendable phones slowly starting to pop its head out, iPhone can one day turn into a “wearable” gadget (hopefully not as creepy as this ).

iPad – a “personal” laptop
I’m sure the idea was to converge PC and tablet one day. In fact the convergence has been following its natural progression. However iPad in its present form, is still a long way off from replacing a laptop. A beefier processor and storage and an open minded install system for the iOS could potentially take us there. Now a lot of those could be overlooked, with the emergence of cloud. But I guess I will leave that discussion for a later post. Also, the fact that I cannot have a clear path to its file system (unless of course jail broken) is still a limiting factor for its progression.

Macbook – a true laptop
There isn’t much to say about this. The product, although is gaining significantly in its market share with the bigger and better macbook pros, the feather weight macbook air and the competitive pricing models, the only reasonable future I see for it is a touch screen add on. I’m sure, as long as iOS continues to tread its journey towards Mac OSX through the slow path, this product will remain significant.

All that said, could be yet another product in the making – one of those “magical” devices that could revolutionize yet another industry?

Like I said earlier these are all just my hopes and dreams and viewpoints. I’m very much interested in hearing your thoughts on each of them as well. So let those ideas flow… In the meantime, let me leave you with this wonderful concept video!

iOS 6 and Maps

iOS 6 has taken more of a backseat amidst the growing speculations about iPhone 5, as the days get closer to a rumored Sept. 12th launch. Although Apple is yet to give out a release date for this new version, “this fall” is an indicator that iOS 6 will be completely clouded under its hardware counterpart, the iPhone. I must admit I’m as excited about its launch as I was about iOS 4 which came with the first of the multitasking capabilities. And the primary reason for the excitement – The Maps .

Although I’m equally skeptical about how much of a success it can turn out to be, simply due to the fact that through maps Apple has directly opened a battle with Google and for the first time, starting from behind. But the fact that Apple now owns “maps.apple.com”, which currently redirects to the iOS 6 page for maps, is a positive start.

I’ve been (and I’m sure the rest of the world as well) a regular visitor to Google Maps for directions. Google and its well established repository of wealthy data has helped maps to evolve rather quickly to become a common household name, ousting Yahoo Maps from the top. And ever since the launch of iOS, the fact that google maps did not feature a turn-by-turn navigation, as a direct replacement for a physical GPS (such as TomTom) was a major disappointment, esp. since it was pitched as a major feature in Android. The result was, iPhone users, who decided not to jail break their phones had to be content with a $50 TomTom application.

I should however say that over the last 2 years, TomTom app on my iPhone has been a terrific travel companion. Its free map updates and the user-friendly UI is a class apart from the google maps on Android, which to me seems like a UI cluttered with data.

A lot remains to be seen on how good the Apple maps will turn out to be. Apple certainly has jumped into the race very late. Only time will tell if it can actually pick up and boost ahead. For now, I’m still happy with my TomTom Application to navigate my ways.

Apple App Store App of the week:

For long I’ve had this problem of choosing a restaurant. A simple google search or Yelp, has helped me to a certain extent, but never in its entirety, simply because they were not inherently meant for restaurant alone. Along came Zagat with an app. Zagat, with its wonderful pedigree of rating just restaurants with user generated content has found immense success. Their ratings are elaborate and distinct.

If not for Zagat (the app in particular, just for its easiness to use), I wouldn’t have chanced upon White Dog Cafe a quaint little place up in Wayne, PA.

Aakash 2 – the world’s cheapest tablet

It was touted as an “iPad” challenger in India, simply due to its pricing at around $35. Aakash simply was not able to keep up with its initial hype received at its launch in 2007.

While there are several theories debated amongst the elite politicians and technologists in India and outside, including questions raised on India’s innovation capabilities, the Canadian based company, DataWind , which has invested heavily on this product, has already announced the launch of part 2, in this saga – The Aakash 2 . Expected to have double the specifications of its predecessor, the manufacturing of this product is set to start in August.

With the failure of this Android-based version 1 mainly attributed to the lack of planning and management of the supply and demand and the amazingly high percentage of failures on the few that actually made it out to the consumers hands, I guess I will just sit back and watch where the version 2 takes us, before actually getting overly excited about it.

Think Geek item of the week

For a person such as me, who just moved into a new apartment and who just manages to wake up and run to office in the morning, a 3 in 1 breakfast station such as this will be just ideal!

These wise men from the mountains say, “The world is shrinking… you may have heard the adage”. So then why not have an appliance as big as a toaster to do something way more than just toast!

Magical “yet” Revolutionary

It was never an easy catch! A pre-order that started a month before its launch date, a case which arrived 3 weeks before the actual product, almost prompting me to judge the “book by its cover”; add on yet another week of delay on the launch on the 3G version of it, when “ships by late April” seemed like the daily “proverb” that kick started my day alongside a dose of caffeine and it finally arrived on 30th April 2010, keeping the promise on “late april” – iPad (wifi + 3G) , yet another member in my Apple Family!

While it did take me a month to completely free myself from the habitual tapping on a laptop that had almost become a part of my system (I must admit, I did experience some serious withdrawal symptoms, at the early stages of quitting), the iPad did manage to replace a vast spectrum of the work that I did on it – from browsing to blogging, from spreadsheets to presentations and even a shell (although not locally, yet) to a shelf (book shelf at that)! Being completely unbiased was never an option for me. But I must say a well written critique would perhaps sound biased anyway! So while I can go on and on praising this gadget for the way it has changed my lifestyle so far – both at work (with this being my notetaker at the meetings and a paperless replacement for the sticky notes that took a liking to my monitors at the office) and at home (being my diary, Internet, blog, book shelf and a partial technology playground through “VNCs and SSHs” of course) – for once let me try and see if I can be on the other side of the fence.

One of the applications that I was most certainly looking forward to, did disappoint me – iBooks. While the application as such gave an experience that was amazingly close to holding a real book (sans the smell of course), the store has been a huge disappointment so far, with the selection of books restricted mainly to NY Times bestsellers, which never was a choice for me. Having said that, the free Amazon Kindle application did turn out to be a life saver. Amazon did manage to make a smart move to let itself free on a gadget that was bound to kill its hardware. And this would keep the Kindle market place thriving even more!

Wise men from the mountains say, a revolution is a forcible overthrow of an existing system. So while iPad is yet to prove itself to be magical, it certainly is revolutionary, threatening to kill the existing establishment where a combination of laptops and smartphones ruled! Now turning it around again, with Apple’s traditional characteristic of bringing down its own market on its existing products through the introduction of a new product (an example being iPods through iPhones), I do see a potential for iPads to have a go at the iPhones; what with the unlimited data plan on it plus a cheaper voice only option as a phone, working out to be way more cost efficient than an iPhone plan.

BUT then came yet another ios (read iOS, that “surprisingly” rhymed with IOS). With ATT making me eligible for an early upgrade, I guess the family is getting ready to welcome yet another member! And yeah, there is a Nexus One soon to find its way in as a black sheep too!

Technology never ceases to amaze me!

Disclaimer: This was a post that I made on my personal blog sometime back. Thought this could be a good starter for a technology blog, which I hope to update frequently.