Amazon’s Fire TV shows it’s time for the Apple TV to embrace gaming

My latest piece for Stuff explores why it’s now time for Apple to get serious about gaming on the Apple TV. Amazon’s Fire TV is a bold play for the living room, and although everyone won’t be lobbing their consoles out of the window to embrace a cheap-looking controller and ported 99-cent mobile titles, the market is wide. Amazon with its latest black box could grab that sector of the market looking to extend their telly, access digital content, and play the odd game here and there.

Apple had mobile gaming sewn up a couple of years ago. At the time, it seemed like it would never be caught. Now, the store is mired in clones, Apple’s gaming direction is messy and unclear, and the Apple TV barely plays a part, with even AirPlay to the device having perceptible lag. Perhaps the company genuinely doesn’t care, but it probably should. Gaming drives a lot of purchasing decisions, and Apple could soon find itself losing ground to rivals in spaces it should be dominating.

April 24, 2014. Read more in: Apple

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Apple’s accessibility strides, ‘hidden’ settings, and the dev response we need

I’ve written another piece for The Guardian on iOS accessibility. This concentrates on motion sickness issues and affordances. In the latter case, Aral Balkan weighs in on the new Button Shapes feature, which lurks in Settings > Accessibility. It adds a grey background to some buttons and hypertext-like link underlines to others. It seems a bit of a mess and strikes me that Apple still hasn’t really figured out how to make interactive components in iOS 7 both beautiful and usable. Hiding away a means of making controls more intuitive also seems perverse on a platform that, as Balkan notes, prides itself on being intuitive.

Apple’s direction in terms of balance accessibility is far better. Back in September, the system was making people sick, and I was fortunate enough to report on this for both Stuff and The Guardian (the Stuff piece being, as far as I know, the first of its kind for any major publication). Although Apple’s inclusive stance regarding accessibility was working well for motor, vision and hearing problems, it seemed balance had been ignored entirely—something I’d also found problematic with OS X. Although I had reason to be cautiously optimistic this would change, I was surprised it took Apple under a month to address the biggest concerns.

With the latest fix, the vast majority of nausea and vertigo triggers are now gone, but that’s not really the end of the story. The buck is now passed to developers, who need to do more to make their apps inclusive. Where Apple provides the tools, developers should ensure their apps are suitable for people with vision, hearing and motor problems. Where Apple doesn’t provide the tools, settings should be supplied accordingly. It’s all very well having bits of interface bouncing around playfully, but also consider an option to turn that off. By default, nothing will change, but the upshot is people like me and possibly millions of others will be able to use your app without accidentally triggering vertigo symptoms that could last for minutes, hours or even days.

March 13, 2014. Read more in: Apple

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Who cares about Office for iPad?

According to the rumour mill, Office for iPad will land this July. Unfortunately for Microsoft, not July 2010, when it might have mattered.

John Gruber explains the problem:

From what I’ve heard, Office for iPad is impressive. It’s been held up chiefly by internal politics.

Expanding on that a little, Microsoft has two major products: Windows and Office. For a long while, it wanted Office everywhere, but then for its own products unwisely forced Windows everywhere. The two collided, resulting in Microsoft holding back Office for iOS in order to use it as a differentiator for its own tablet devices.

This was a spectacularly dumb move, because it merely trained people that they didn’t need Office. Apple’s suite of office apps suffices for the most part on the iPad, and many people have also gravitated towards the free Google Docs, which works pretty well on tablets. But had Office arrived within months of the iPad’s release—or even a year—it could have been a game-changer and a cash-cow for Microsoft.

Even today, I don’t doubt that Office for iPad will sell to some extent. But I’ve a feeling it will—regardless of quality—in many cases sell to people who think they need it, but then don’t actually use it. In plenty of cases, though, I suspect people just won’t buy it at all, especially if it’s tied to a subscription service.

Still, at least Office for iPad will stop people arguing the iPad can’t be used for serious work—although they’ll no doubt smugly use the headline “Now Office for iPad is here, the iPad can finally be used for real work”, thereby leading them to be strangled with a spare iOS device charging cable.

February 19, 2014. Read more in: Apple

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Introducing 365 loops

My day job most often involves writing or design, but my underlying passion remains music. Unfortunately, a lack of time and any kind of commercial success in that area means I often find myself going for some time without creating any new tunes—and if that goes on long enough it can get me down. The thing is, although it doesn’t take me long to write a song, all of the associated bits and pieces—arrangement, vocals, editing, mixing, mastering—can see even a quick project stretch out to months or even years.

Because of this, and even though I’m still intending to release an entirely new album this year, I’ve hit upon the idea for a project that I hope will keep the fires burning regarding creating new music, inspire future work, and possibly lead me in new directions. It’s triggered somewhat by the notion of instilling some kind of routine, in much the same manner as people who take a photo each morning, or writers like Ian Betteridge who are committing to 500 new words per day.

My idea: one new loop, daily, for a year. 365 loops.

Each of these will be uploaded to my Soundcloud account, and I hope you’ll check in occasionally to see how things are going. The first one should be embedded below.


February 17, 2014. Read more in: Music

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iPhone and iPad gaming is broken: here’s what we need to do to fix it

In my earlier piece about Flappy Bird, I argued one thing we could do to boost mobile gaming is shout louder about the games that are great rather than expending a lot of energy complaining about (and therefore drawing attention to) those that aren’t. This is the central theme of my latest op-ed for TechRadar, iPhone and iPad gaming is broken: here’s what we need to do to fix it.

Incidentally, for pacing reasons, the editor hacked down the list of games I recommended (which was originally in three blocks), and so here it is in full:

Threes! The Room. Rymdkapsel. Eliss Infinity. Badland. Magnetic Billiards. Ticket To Ride. Slydris. Gridrunner. Galaxy On Fire. Joining Hands. Icycle. Bubble Pets. I Am Level. The Walking Dead. Spice: Tree of Life. Autumn Dynasty. Tiny Wings. Food Run HD…

Mutant Mudds. Death Ray Manta. Contre Jour. Monsters Ate My Condo. Forget Me Not. Pivvot. QatQi. Slingshot Racing. Dark Nebula 2. Super Hexagon. Beat Sneak Bandit. Mos Speedrun. Device 6. World Of Goo. Zen Bound 2. Blackbar. Stickets. Beyond Ynth. Edge. HungryMaster. Monster’s Valley…

Limbo. Critter Panic. Mikey Hooks. Crush. Impossible Road. Year Walk. Saucelifter. Orbital. Boson X. Letterpress. SpikeDislike2, Trainyard. Bit Pilot. Ridiculous Fishing. SpellTower. Lyne. Super Stickman Golf 2. Pinball Arcade. Kingdom Rush.

February 10, 2014. Read more in: Gaming

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