OmniFocus for iPad is OUT…

OmniFocus for iPad is OUT … and I just can’t get excited. Why? Hmmm, let’s see … I’ve already spent $50 on the Mac version and $20 on the iPhone version and now I am supposed to pay another $40 for the iPad version?

To be clear, this is not entirely OmniGroup’s fault — though I haven’t really heard them protest this situation either. It’s really a function of Apple’s App Store and its inability to differentiate users. (Oh, to be fireballed and have John Gruber, who has become Apple’s pony boy in the era of the iPhone, defend Apple on this.)

First, note that I only paid $50 for OmniFocus and not the full retail price of $80. I was able to do that because the OmniGroup is kind enough to offer educational discounts. Can the App Store do that? No.

Second, one of the reasons I purchased OmniFocus over other GTD apps — some of which I think are actually easier to use — is because I was invested in the OmniGroup portfolio. I have been using OmnoOutliner and OmniGraffle from their 2.0 days, before they went “pro,” and I have enjoyed the OmniGroup’s commitment to their applications and their users. I have also enjoyed their upgrade pricing, which essentially offers users of previous versions of a product the change to buy the new one at a discount.

While one can upgrade an app in the app store, there is no way, as far as I can tell, for developers to distinguish between new users and recurring users and thus to reward the extant users for their loyalty to the product — which may not only have been simply using the app but also discussing it on their blogs or in various forums or in providing bug reports or feedback.

There is also no way for developers to distinguish between classes of users, commercial versus educational for example, on the App Store, even though Apple recognizes the difference in their own Store.

And must there, must there be a separate iPad version of OmniFocus? Without a question, from the screenshots I have seen, it is a thing of beauty — perhaps nicer than the iPhone and Mac version combined — but why can’t it be a universal iOS app? To be honest, this isn’t question of money so much as a principled orientation towards simplicity when it comes to the inventory of debris one trails behind oneself as we pass through this mortal coil. I don’t really need there to be two OmniFocus apps sitting in my iTunes library.

I don’t know if the lack of an universal version was a decision based on differences in screen size or if it was an economic decision — and here I will note that the steady increase in pricing of applications at OmniGroup is beginning to make me nervous, if not a little agitated. Times are tough. I’m glad OmniGroup seeks to pay its developers well, but I just may not be able to hang with them for much longer. My paycheck has been flat for the past five years. (And by flat, I mean flat.)

iPhone Geotagging Applications

One of the reasons why I picked up an iPhone 3GS was for its GPS functionality.[^1] I had been thinking about getting a separate GPS unit, and in fact had asked for one Christmas 2008, but it turns out the delay worked to my benefit. At this point in time, I don’t want turn-by-turn directions, all I want is to be able to note my location coordinates and then tag my notes and my photographs with that information so that future researchers will have that information available to them.

However, getting those coordinates from somewhere on my phone to all those images is not as easy as it should be. This may have something to do, from what I can tell, with the iPhone’s SDK, which up until now has made it hard for apps to save data in a place or in a form that could be used elsewhere. This may all change with the iPad, which obviously needs to make something like a file system available to apps for storage of information. (Again, I could be talking out of my hat here — it’s a lovely IU baseball cap, and so I look quite good talking out of it.)

I have downloaded a few GPS apps, but none of them have done what I want. “Geo logging” wasn’t quite the right search. I should have been using “geotagging.” (It’s often one word these days.) And so I have turned up a number of applications that promise to make this pretty effortless:

* [GeoTag for iPhone](http://www.saltpepper.net/geotag/) is inexpensive at $1.99 and offers to track your location for you. You then use a desktop application to tag your photos.
* [GeoLogTag](http://www.galarina.eu/GeoLogTag/Home.html) is more expensive at $4.99 but it doesn’t require that you install any software on your Mac. Instead, you connect your phone to your wireless network and then tell GeoLogTag to tag your photos. (How exactly this works isn’t clear.)

Frustratingly neither of these apps, and a few others at which I looked, mentions specific use cases with [Lightroom](http://adobe.com/lightroom/). They mention iPhoto, Aperture, and Flickr, but not Lightroom.

All these apps also discuss tagging your photos within a given time window — five minutes or such. Since I tend to be at a given location to document something, I would prefer to capture that data, manually even, and then be able to drag and drop it onto a given set of images — rather like one tags with keywords in both iPhoto and Lightroom. Both of these apps, and others, assume a kind of automation which is very nice but doesn’t exactly fit with my own workflow.

[^1]: That makes for a total of 3 radios in the iPhone: cellular, wireless ethernet, and GPS.

iPhone/iPad App Development

For those interested in iPhone/iPad development and looking for other development environments than that provided by Apple, here is an interesting item: [Ansca Mobile](http://www.anscamobile.com/) has released [Corona](http://www.anscamobile.com/corona/):

> Corona is built from the ground up to enable designers, web developers and engineers to quickly develop and distribute highly optimized native iPhone applications.

You can download a trial version of the SDK or you can get a full version with a one year subscription to their Corona Developer Program.

The Future of App Stores

This essay might have also been titled *The Coming Differentiation of Trust* but that seemed like a really ugly slug.

### The (In)Security of Apps

Only on rare occasions do I wander into the territory of security, a domain I consider to be almost as complex as religious experience in America, but the recent scare on the Google Martketplace as well as the ongoing furor over the slow, and often byzantine, nature of app reviews at Apple’s iTunes Store has got me thinking about where the acquisition of apps might be going in the future.

For those who are not familiar with the news story, the gist (from USAA’s own press release):

> USAA recently stopped a software developer from selling an imposter USAA application designed for use with Google’s new Android phone. The developer had posted it for sale within Google’s Android Marketplace, but USAA took immediate action and had the application removed.

The scary part, from the point of view of victims of this fraud is that it could have captured their sensitive banking data — user id, login, password, account information — without their realizing that there was anything wrong other than the app didn’t work correctly.

One possible response to this is that Apple’s App Store is better because applications there have to pass a vetting process. A number of stories — too many to link here; I leave it to my readers to search on their own — have revealed that (1) the app store reviewers are mostly looking for applications that misbehave within the context of the operating system or misbehave in terms of the content they deliver and (2) app store reviewers are incredibly overworked and prone to make mistakes as a result.

Is there an alternative to [Google’s bazaar and Apple’s cathedral][esr]? I would argue that when it comes to applications, especially those that deal with sensitive data, there is: the vendor itself. That is, the very best place for me to download an application with which to do on-line banking is from my bank itself. Why would I want to risk either downloading from an open third-party site — be it Marketplace or VersionTracker (both fine places for software to be sure but not sites that can guarantee certain levels of trustworthiness — and nor should they be in that business)? My relationship is with my bank.

I can’t help but imagine that much the same thing would be preferable for other kinds of applications as well. After all, there already exists at least one decent platform for the [on-line distribution of games][steam]. Why wouldn’t I want to use them as well for my iPhone games?

This suggestion is sure not to go over well with Apple. After all, it looks like everyone wants to be in the content distribution/delivery business. (The middle man always makes his/her money.)

But the promise of the internet was the disintermediation of middle-men. And I think we should continue to hold out that as an ideal. Buying my software and content directly from its producers means the producers get more money and could, as a result, potentially afford to sell to me for less.

At the same time, one of the things we’ve discovered during this initial foray into disintermediation is that curation is, well, it’s nice to have. Librarians add value. Middlemen, in fact, add value. They add value in the form of potentially being objective purveyors and reviewers of comparable apps that then must compete. Functionality and features increase in such an environment, where the relationship is the more complex producer-channel-consumer as opposed to the simpler producer consumer dyad — which always seems ideal.

Middlemen are bound to proliferate in some fashion as more devices — including now things like cars (see Ford’s [Sync][sync]) for example — become capable of extending their functionality through software, i.e., apps. Middlemen offer us curation and the creation of certain kinds of trust but we are going to have accept that trust must now be differentiated: apps for my car should come from my car’s manufacturer and apps having to do with banking should come from my bank.

The flip side of “get your apps a lot of places” is the dangerous nature of just how easily people will download apps from a variety of websites or will swap things with friends and family. That is, we have not yet had a disaster of such scope and significance that most Americans practice any form of safe computing. Too many people are just too ready to click on PowerPoint slideshows or go to websites found in e-mails from people they don’t know. (Hi, mom and dad, thanks for all those PowerPoint shows! Really!)

Finally, my thanks to [Jon Gruber](http://daringfireball.net/) for writing the way he does and encouraging people like me to stretch my legs a bit.

[esr]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cathedral_and_the_Bazaar
[steam]: http://store.steampowered.com/
[sync]: http://syncmyride.com/