DEMOfall 07 Browser/OS Statistics

Stephen Wildstrom did a little survey of demo machines at DEMOfall 07. 81% Windows, 19% Mac. He says that’s growth, and I’m not shocked to hear that. He also did a survey of browsers and found all Mac’s use Firefox over Safari, and makes a reference to it’s skin (an interesting observation considering the current discussion over reskinning the browser for 3.0). Firefox did decent on the Windows front as well. I’ve noticed this myself. People seem to prefer demoing their web based product in Firefox. Is it out of habit? Or because some ajax based websites feel slower in IE7?

Identity Crisis?

Some real quick thoughts on UI this evening. This isn’t a very formal post but an attempt to get some thoughts out there.

So there’s talk of a new theme for Firefox on Mac OS X. According to some, it’s a clone of Safari. One must remember these are just early prototypes, not final UI by any stretch of the imagination.

I’m going to agree it’s got some similarities, but I don’t think there’s much choice if Firefox is to look like a native Mac OS X application. Originally Mac OS X preferred the “pinstripe” interface design. This is essentially what the current Mac OS X theme for Firefox is going for. I recall the pinstripe theme for Firefox even being considered a rip-off of other Mac OS X applications at the time. In more recent releases Apple has moved away from pinstripe and towards the “Brushed Metal ” interface. Apple in 10.5 is said to be moving away from Brushed Metal towards a “Unified” interface to address some perceived inconsistencies in the previous two UI schemes. There’s not to much on the web about Unified since 10.5 screenshots are forbidden under NDA, but you can catch a small glimpse via Apple’s Mac OS X pages for things like Mail and Finder. I’d consider it an incremental evolution from brushed metal, based on what I’ve seen thus far.

The application everyone seems to watch for cues to Apple UI standards seems to be iTunes/Quicktime. Which if you notice, even Safari resembles.

Consistency can be regarded as “boring”, but it does have an advantage. It’s becomes familiar quickly, and has less of a learning curve. It also makes applications seem more intuitive since UI elements are well understood. Apple wants this to encourage people to make the jump. Now more than ever (iPod effect).

That leaves the question: How do you blend in with the OS, while remaining unique? Especially one that’s looking to make things as simple as possible for the user by taking consistency to new levels. I personally think it’s all about making the easiest to use product out there, with the best features (not an easy combo). I don’t think most users are aren’t attracted to an “unique UI”. I think they are attracted to a clean, easy to use UI on an already great product. That’s not to say one shouldn’t be unique, or shouldn’t do a better job than others.

Perhaps it would be interesting to start a “user generated” brainstorm (yea, I threw in a “web 2.0 term”) similar to that of Gimp UI Redesign effort. Let users mock up what they think it should look like. If anyone wants to do so, feel free to do so (you can use free image hosting if needed) and leave a comment pointing to them. If someone wants to do so, I’ll gladly make a follow up post and put it on Planet Mozilla to get more eyes.

Edit [9/28/2007 @ 9:28PM EST]: Official wiki page for posting your mockups.

Bank Security Sucks

Why is it, I can get a security key fob from PayPal for a mere $5, but not from my credit card company or bank? PassMark seems to be the latest craze of banks in an attempt to look more secure. It doesn’t work. Online security still seriously sucks. 96.66% fell for phishing according to Harvard and MIT just a few months ago. Interestingly both of those links reference the same bank (Bank of America), though they aren’t the only ones.

And I’m supposed to believe RFID enabled credit cards aren’t trouble? I think not. I’ll wait until the technology has been proven a bit more. Swiping the card really isn’t that hard. I find it to be a good workout. For the security of knowing my wallet is a good security device, I don’t mind the inconvenience. When they can prove it’s secure I’ll switch. I doubt that will be for a while.

I wonder how long until financial institutions start taking security to the next level. I’m confident they will be pushed to do so at some point. I’m just wondering what the catalyst for change will be. I’m guessing some more alarming statistics. I really want to see hardware based two-factor authentication the defacto standard in all banking systems. If PayPal can do it for $5 per user, I think the rest can manage to offer it. It’s not perfect, it doesn’t cover every type of attack, but it’s the single best enhancement over a good password. You do have a good password right?

[Hat Tip: The Consumerist]

Micro USB For Cell Phones

Replacing a cell phone is one of the most insane upgrades ever. Not only do you replace the device (often with a new service plan for 2 years), but you’ve got to replace accessories in most cases, especially if you change manufacturers. Sometimes even the same manufacturer can have different connectors for the same accessories, depending on the phone model. Lets not forget the cost of these accessories. It’s a silly process. At least with computers most of your accessories plug in fine provided they are remotely modern (made within the past 4 years).

Several manufacturers including Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and LG have now standardized on Micro USB meaning that future phones will use the same connection. Not only that, but it’s USB, so just like your computer. A few cell phones currently use Mini USB (such as Motorola cell phones). Micro USB is even smaller, which should be sufficient for a few years until cell phones become no more than a piece of paper. You can see a picture of various USB sizes here. Advantages of using USB rather than another standard include that it’s powered (meaning you can charge with it), is compatible with virtually all PC’s (meaning you’ll be able to charge your cell phone from your PC, or even transfer data if your cell phone’s software allows), and it’s pretty fast.

Having one standard means that like we see for Bluetooth devices, there will be a ton of options for consumers to choose between. Not just 1 data cable, a handful of charger, etc.

Of course that means pretty much everyone will need to buy Cell Phone accessories at least one more time. But hopefully when you do, you’ll buy ones that last.

MoFo’s MailCo To Coincide With MoCo

Did you catch that title? Thunderbird has a new home, but it’s not moving far. I mentioned this a few weeks ago. The most interesting bit is this:

The new organization doesn’t have a name yet, so I’ll call it MailCo here. MailCo will be part of the Mozilla Foundation and will serve the public benefit mission of the Mozilla Foundation. (Technically, it will be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation, just like the Mozilla Corporation.)

Awesome! And other minor details…

Mozilla will provide an initial $3 million dollars in seed funding to launch MailCo…. Mozilla may well invest additional funds; we also hope that there are other paths for sustainability.

It’s great to see it’s going to be well taken care of. Keeping it in the family is also good for XULRunner and the Mozilla platform since it ensures everyone will continue to work as closely as they have in the past. Also insures that the new organization will keep the same principles at heart that made Firefox what it is today.

The Rumbling Edge has a good list of media coverage.

In other news, Yahoo acquired Zimbra for a cool $350 Million. This has been the biggest week for email since Gmail launched.

Email Image Protection

Many people think that making an image out of an email is a good way to protect it from being harvested by spam bots. It’s now possible to convert it from an image to email link via a Firefox extension. Guess what, an email harvester can do this just as well. What’s a better solution against email harvesters? Don’t put any trace of an email address online, use a form. Yes you could distort the image a bit to make it more difficult, but using a CAPTCHA as an email isn’t going to make you any friends. JavaScript can also be done, but no reason why it can’t be interpreted (though that may be more difficult in some cases, since a JS engine isn’t the easiest thing to work with, and implementing anything less can easily be defeated by throwing some extra JS in there. Some discussion on the Firefox Extension implementation can also be found on Gerv’s blog where he proposed the idea.

Apple On iPhone/iPod touch Development

So it appears Apple is neutral on development for the iPhone/iPod touch platform. That’s according to Apple’s Greg Joswiak. He also confirms the lack of Bluetooth on the iPod touch. Interestingly he also notes the two devices are practically the same platform. Which makes me wonder: why is the iPod touch crippled? It doesn’t seem to make sense. I guess we’ll learn more once hackers get a hold of it and start tinkering. I’m sure someone will compare the two and see what’s different.

IBM Joins OpenOffice

I guess everyone wants in on the office space. IBM is joining OpenOffice. Not a bad move considering IBM’s general investment in non-Windows based OS’s. IBM seems to have favorite projects when they participate in open source communities. I wonder what specifically IBM is planning to work on. For example IBM’s big interest with Mozilla was XForms. It’s going to be interesting to see what they do. There are many things that they could be interested in.

iPod touch Is Read Only

According to Gizmodo (boy I’m linking to them a lot lately) the iPod touch doesn’t have an add button for calendar. It runs the same software, so it was most likely just disable to persuade people to get an iPhone. Bluetooth likely removed to keep cost down. As I said yesterday it’s critical to keep that price in range.

Hopefully someone will hack together a fix, or Apple will realize this product is to crippled to be fun. If they didn’t disable features it would have been a PDA killer. Now it’s a tiny overpriced iPod with a big screen.

Engadget has the story as well. Comments are also interesting. It seems lots of people are very disappointed by this.

iPod touch 2nd Generation?

There’s been a storm of news about the new iPod lineup, and of course the iPhone price drop (and refund). Some interesting things have been said. I think Gizmodo has put it best. “iPod Overload Offers Up Hard Choices, No Clear Winning Device“. Between expense, poor provider (AT&T), lack of 3G, and being new, people are hesitant to move to the iPhone. Price and a mere 16GB is keeping people away from the iPod touch. The Classic and Nano feel pretty outdated for what they cost. The shuffle could put you to sleep.

Gizmodo’s title is pretty accurate, because it illustrates the problem with this lineup. There’s no easy choice, just a lot of concessions for most people. I’m guessing a few things will change in the first half of ’08

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