With the admission from Mr Cook that the Apple TV is no longer just a “hobby” (thanks to the $1 billion in sales attributed directly to the diminutive box) there are a flurry of reports from pundits about a pending release of a new version of the streaming device. Thoughts abound on what it could entail, from the long suspected Apple television set to another set top box with additional functionality. Some easy additions would take advantage of the fact that the Apple TV runs a version of iOS and the device uses an A-series processor just like other iOS devices (albeit in a single core configuration). Adding access to the App Store would be a boon, as would adding support for bluetooth gaming controllers (to take advantage of the huge library of games in iTunes); with this simple expansion a new Apple TV could rival the Wii in terms of casual gaming. When you consider practically all Apple TV owners also have an iPhone or iPod Touch the possibilities expand; having a gaming console with a secondary screen or a touch controller that also has motion sensors makes the hardware much more versatile.
All this is enticing, but it isn’t what I’d really like to see. My desires are fairly simple and easy to achieve should Apple decide they coincide with their grand strategy. First, the new Apple TV needs to play nice with other inputs. Whether you’re like me an have a digital antenna or you’ve opted for paid television service via cable or satellite, it can be a pain to switch inputs between devices. Adding an HDMI input or two to the Apple TV so that the device’s interface can overlay and work with third party sources would make the device work seamlessly with the rest of your entertainment center’s options without requiring a clumsy fumble with the remote to select what input source you need. I wouldn’t use DVR functionality, and there are too many other devices that offer it. To be honest it would run contrary to Apple’s business interest (as iTunes sells a good bit of the content you might want to record), so it would be irrational to expect such functionality.
Secondly, I’d like to see the promise of the original Google TV come to fruition- one central interface for all my entertainment sources. Give me a Google Search-like function encompassing ALL of my sources, paid and free. Want to watch a particular show? Do a simple search and have the device tell you where it’s available (and at what cost if it’s not freely available), with a single click access function. As much as I enjoy my current Apple TV, it’s not the best user experience to have to toggle between the different “channels” it offers to find the media I’d like to enjoy. Heck, really take it up a notch with Siri control in the vein of the Xbox One- tap and hold a button on the Apple TV remote to activate, then tell your Apple TV what to search for, be it a show, media type (TV, movie, music, etc.), artist, or so on. This sort of user experience would seem to be congruent with what Apple has tried to create with their other devices, and I can’t believe it would be impossible to do via a streaming device as the foundation has already been developed in its other devices.
I’ve never regretted being a cable cutter for a moment, even when Comcast has cause YouTube to stutter like a nervous sixth grader. Taking an active role in deciding what and when I enjoy content has lead to a far better experience than passively enjoying content from a paid provider, and the additional functionality of being able to enjoy it wherever I want thanks to OSX or iOS devices has made it even better. I’ve come to expect excellence from my devices, and to date Apple has rarely disappointed. Here’s to hoping they can not only meet but surpass expectations in 2014.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged apple, Apple TV, Cable, cable cutting, Comcast, cord cutting, expectations, gadgets, ios, iphone, iPod touch, mac, media, movies, OSX, streaming, technology, Television, tv | Leave a Comment »
While the iPad has given rise to a great deal of innovation in app writing thanks to its touch interface and portability, sometimes innovation doesn’t need to blaze new territory to be fantastic.
Take iPad gaming for example. There are plenty of groundbreaking games that have come about due to the aforementioned facets of Apple’s tablet: Infinity Blade’s combat input, or Real Racing’s (and a host of other driving games) use of the iPad’s spatial and motion sensors to turn the device into a game controller. While I’ve loved these games for their innovation, the core reason for them existing is the enjoyment of the gaming experience. When you take this inventiveness and use it as a lens to revisit established ideas, good things are bound to happen. Case in point: UHR Warlords.
The idea is as old as gaming- UHR Warlords is at heart a board game. The newly released app takes the time-honored platform and gives it a modern reinterpretation, giving us a turn-based strategy conflict that’s both familiar and engagingly new.
The game offers three different playing modes: single player versus the game’s AI, against a friend on the same iPad, or online. You play as one of two magical warlords seeking to conquer their opponent, with the gaming board as your battlefield. You can summon eight different types of creatures with differing abilities and strengths for your battle, and use two of eight different ‘runes’ for attack or defense. You defeat your opponent by robbing him of his life points through vanquishing his forces or destroying his strongholds lining the opposite side of the board. UHR Warlords uses a clever points system forcing the player to consider their moves carefully as their limited resource points must be spent for any action: creating forces, moving, attacking, or casting runes. To further complicate plans certain tiles on the board grant additional points if one of your creations occupies it. Choose your forces and use your runic powers wisely if you want to survive the battle at hand, pairing your moves to your chosen strategy- aggressively attacking your opponent’s strongholds or picking off his forces for a slower but less risky victory.
The game’s turn-based system was easy to pick up on, but the depth of tactics and smooth 3D graphics made for a polished and engaging experience. The game begins in a tutorial match, but the concept is easy to grasp, yet complex enough not to become stale after extended playing. Should you tire of simple head to head matches you can conquer the world of the game via its campaign mode.
I can’t wax poetic about UHR Warlord’s cutting edge graphics or unique concept, but I can endorse it as a successful mashup of traditional and modern gaming concepts; an engaging combination of the new and familiar. Unlike many games I’ve play tested and then deleted, it’s won a spot in my personal games folder. UHR Warlords is available now via the iTunes App Store.
Posted in Reviews | Tagged app store, apple, board games, fun, gadgets, games, gaming, Infinity Blade, ios, itunes, real racing, strategy, technology, turn based, UHR Warlords, Warlords | Leave a Comment »
One of the big marketing angles (and criticisms of iOS) is that it can’t really be used in the professional world without the gold standard of productivity- Microsoft Office. The Surface was repeatedly advertised as the tablet for the business world because it came with (at least a portion of) Microsoft’s productivity suite, but it hasn’t helped the Surface’s sales or hindered iOS professional adaption (shown to be an overwhelming choice in enterprise).
So if Office wasn’t enough to make a compelling case for the Surface, the larger question is that is it actually a factor in the tablet market at all? Why would so many enterprise activations keep happening if Office were an integral part of what the business world needs in a device?
There are plenty of workarounds already in place. Google’s simple yet functional online productivity suite is available (as is all of Google’s products) to iOS users. In an answer to both Microsoft’s inclusion of Office and the free availability of Google Documents Apple made their own productivity suite iWork a free offering to all new iOS devices and a free online addition to iCloud. There are numerous other third party word processors, spreadsheets, calendars, and email apps to choose from as well.
As I’ve stated before I’ve used my iPad (plus a bluetooth keyboard) for productivity often, and have been more than happy with the experience. iWork fit my needs well, and the ability to export to PDF or Office documents (as well as iCloud storage of my documents) was actually a better experience than relying on my employer-provided workstations with Office.
Your mileage may vary, as everyone’s needs vary. As much as I’ve enjoyed using it, iWork simply isn’t as powerful as Office. Microsoft allegedly sees the writing on the wall, as numerous reports have stated that an iOS version of Office will be released in 2014. Ultimately, Microsoft may have missed their optimal moment as the market seems to have already spoken- Office isn’t really a requirement to be productive in the tablet world after all.
Posted in Opinion | Tagged apple, documents, Google, ios, ipad, iWork, Microsoft, Office, productivity, Tablets, work | 2 Comments »
It’s become almost as big a joke as the Duke Nukem franchise, but Half Life rumors still get my attention. Years after the last ‘episode’ was released (which by the way were supposed to increase the frequency of releases due to their smaller size) we still have no confirmed news of Half Life 3. Word from Muktware.com taunts me yet again with the possibility of my favorite all time game getting a much needed update with rumors of Half Life 3 in development. Here’s to hoping that it’s not just another tease.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged apple, FPS, franchise, gaming, Half Life, OSX, rumors, Video Games | Leave a Comment »
Just a quick word from Good Old Games (GOG.com)- they are offering the original Dungeon Keeper (yes, the same one that’s raised so much ire in iOS for it’s opportunistic in-app purchases) for FREE, as well as some serious sales on other great titles. It’s for a limited time, so if you remember this classic as fondly as I do or just want to pick up a good game at a better price check it out while it’s still available.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged apple, classic, dungeon keeper, Free, fun, games, gaming, GOG.com, ios, OSX, sale | 1 Comment »