Is it safe to upgrade to iOS 7?

I ask the question because like many other users, I am holding off upgrading to iOS 7. I have even backed up a copy of iOS 6.1.3 to “freeze” it in case I am forced to upgrade before I am ready. I am holding out until some of the potential glitches and bugs are ironed out. I was first alerted to the issue by the developers of Audiobus, but it seems that they are not alone….


Leaving aside the fact that many customers could not easily download the new operating system, or the fact that the shiny “new” iTunes Radio is not available outside the US, it seems that iOS 7 has been launched rather hastily, along with iTunes 11.1 (barely a month after iTunes 11.0.5….).

Audiobus had earlier notified their customers that iOS 7 would automatically update apps, without users even knowing, which risked corrupting personalised settings, especially for more complex apps. Now, it seems that the upgrade function has been modified, so that users can select when and how their apps will be upgraded.

But Audiobus, who launched inter-app connectivity for live audio, could be one of a number of apps that Apple is seeking to render obsolete or redundant, since iOS 7 supports Inter-App Audio. Other apps seemingly under threat include those featuring, photography, music streaming and document sharing.

Even an app that utilises the amount of contact area made by your fingers on the device touch screen was forced to remove that functionality by Apple. To me, this type of gesture or articulation could be critical in helping people with accessibility issues – so why should its deployment be restricted at the whim of Apple, rather than being made available to all developers?

Apple will not countenance any app that “interferes” with the telephony functions of an iPhone, and until iOS 6 introduced “Do Not Disturb”, I wonder how many 3rd party apps with similar functionality were rejected by the iTunes Store?

Now Apple appears to be cornering other functionality and interactivity design – even if Apple didn’t think of them first…. In fact, every original app design or feature is like a piece of middleware, that allows the user to interact with the device’s operating system, in a way that the system developers probably had not anticipated; this process is at the heart of innovation – taking something good and making it even better.

The fanfare of the new iPhone 5S (and its colourful cousin the 5C) probably won’t allow any criticisms about iOS 7 to rain on Apple’s new product parade – but I can’t help feeling that as customers we are being oversold each new release of an Apple device or operating system upgrade.

Although every incremental release or upgrade is supposed to come with lots of great new features and benefits, we actually lose some functionality and user options as Apple continuously locks down customisation and personalization. For example, iTunes 10.8 disabled the option to manually sync Notes between devices – now it’s all done via iCloud, and legacy data that predates iCloud (or is in a folder “On My iPhone” and thus not “recognised” by iCloud) has to be copied over to a cloud-enabled folder, one-by-one, as I have learned to my cost. Why does Apple think it can determine how I manage my own data?

While I understand that all product developers rely on user experience and expectations to help them develop new features, and they need customers to migrate to single, common platforms and versions as quickly as possible post-release, I’d prefer that my loyalty and patience were not taken for granted.

My Top 10 Blogs

Following on from my Top 10 Tips for Effective Blogging, I decided to list my most popular blogs so far this year. According to the WordPress stats, these are my most popular blogs this year by number of views:

1. Audiobus – a case study in app collaboration

2. In Praise of Analogue

3. Product Development 101

4. Bring back the Court Jester

5. Six Melbourne Start-Ups to Watch

6. Broadcastr signs off: 9 Challenges for Social Media

7. “If it’s not on Facebook, it didn’t happen…”

8. “Everything on the Internet should be free…”

9. Would you take career advice from a sushi chef?

10. Ten Reasons why the Lean Start-Up Model is here to stay

My conclusions?

1. Anything with numbers and lists does well

2. Anything about Start-Ups is popular

3. Anything on social media creates a buzz

4. Anything a bit leftfield (sushi chefs, analogue production, Court Jesters) gets attention

5. Audiobus is a phenomenal app!

Whose content is it anyway?

Faust 2.0

Every social media and digital publishing platform is engaged in a continuous battle to acquire content, in order to attract audiences and bolster advertising revenues.

Content ownership is becoming increasingly contentious, and I wonder if we truly appreciate the near-Faustian pact we have entered into as we willingly contribute original material and our personal data in return for continued “free” access to Facebook, YouTube, Google, Flickr, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, MySpace, etc.

Even if we knowingly surrender legal rights over our own content because this is the acceptable price to pay for using social media, are we actually getting a fair deal in return? The fact is that more users and more content means more advertisers – but are we being adequately compensated for the privilege of posting our stuff on-line? Even if we are prepared to go along with the deal, are our rights being adequately protected and respected?

In late 2012, Instagram faced intense public backlash against suggestions it would embark upon the commercial exploitation of users’ photographs. While appearing to backtrack, and conceding that users retain copyright in their photographs, there is nothing to say that Instagram and others won’t seek to amend their end-user license agreements in future to claim certain rights over contributed content. For example, while users might retain copyright in their individual content, social media platforms may assert other intellectual property rights over derived content (e.g., compiling directories of aggregated data, licensing the metadata associated with user content, or controlling the embedded design features associated with the way content is rendered and arranged).

Even if a social media site is “free” to use (and as we all know, we “pay” for it by allowing ourselves to be used as advertising and marketing bait), I would still expect to retain full ownership, control and use of my own content – otherwise, in some ways it’s rather like a typesetter or printer trying to claim ownership of an author’s work….

The Instagram issue has resurfaced in recent months, with the UK’s Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act. The Act amends UK copyright law in a number of ways, most contentiously around the treatment of “orphan” works (i.e., copyright content – photos, recordings, text – where the original author or owner cannot be identified). The stated intent of the Act is to bring orphan works into a formal copyright administration system, and similar reforms are under consideration in Australia.

Under the new UK legislation, a licensing and collection regime will be established to enable the commercial exploitation of orphan works, provided that the publisher has made a “diligent” effort to locate the copyright holder, and agrees to pay an appropriate license fee once permission to publish has been granted by the scheme’s administrator.

Such has been the outcry (especially among photographers), that the legislation has been referred to as “the Instagram Act”, and the UK government’s own Intellectual Property Office was moved to issue a clarification factsheet to mollify public concerns. However, those concerns continue to surface: in particular, the definition of “diligent” in this context; and the practice of some social media platforms to remove metadata from photos, making it harder to identify the owner or the original source.

Meanwhile, the long-running Google book scanning copyright lawsuit has taken another unexpected twist in the US courts. From the outset, Google tried to suggest it was providing some sort of public service in making long-out-of-print books available in the digital age. Others claim that it was part of a strategy to challenge Amazon.

Despite an earlier unfavourable ruling, a recent appeal has helped Google’s case in two ways: first, the previous decision to establish a class action comprising disgruntled authors and publishers has been set aside (on what looks like a technicality); second, the courts must now consider whether Google can claim its scanning activities (involving an estimated 20 million titles) constitute “fair use”, one of the few defences to allegations of breach of copyright.

Personally, I don’t think the “fair use” provisions were designed to cater for mass commercialization on the scale of Google, despite the latter saying it will restrict the amount of free content from each book that will be displayed in search results – ultimately, Google wants to generate a new revenue stream from 3rd party content that it neither owns nor originated, so let’s call it for what it is and if authors and publishers wish to grant Google permission to digitize their content, let them negotiate equitable licensing terms and royalties.

Finally, the upcoming release of Apple’s iOS7 has created consternation of its own. Certain developers with access to the beta version are concerned that Apple will force mobile device users to install app upgrades automatically. If this is true, then basically Apple is telling its customers they now have even less control over the devices and content that they pay for.

Audiobus – a case study in app collaboration

An elegant solution for audio app management

Like many leading CEOs and successful business people, I think it’s essential for all of us to have a creative outlet or a hobby, something that is not directly connected to our working lives.

For my part, I like to compose and record music using iOS apps, under an assumed nom de musique. Several of my compositions have been broadcast on national radio, and occasionally listeners are kind enough to purchase and download the music from my artist website.

In exploring this newer form of music-making, I am fortunate enough to gain access to pre-release and beta versions of new apps, which allows me to provide constructive feedback on new designs and recommend suggested features. This activity also provides some insights on best practice for collaborative app development:

  • Listen to your customers and their needs
  • Listen to your customers’ suppliers and their problems
  • Create a common technical standard (not the same as an open standard)
  • Encourage early adoption by making the standard available to key suppliers
  • Embark on an engaging programme of pre-release marketing via social media
  • Underpromise and over-deliver (but always deliver what you promised, and on time)
  • Repeat the process ad infinitum

There is a very active community of iOS musicians. This community is a thriving cottage industry: most practitioners are non-professionals; some are working on the fringes of the music industry; and a few are well-known software developers, producers and commercial recording artists in their own right. It’s a supportive community, and one where it’s easy to find your own level. It also tends to be a highly collaborative environment, with most participants willing to share their knowledge and provide help and advice. There are dedicated micromusic blogs, helpful product review sites and supportive technical forums.

Which brings me to Audiobus, one of the more interesting new apps that is gaining a lot of attention from developers, users and reviewers alike.

Music apps can be divided into 3 broad categories:

The problem is that most of these apps were not designed to “talk” to one another. Initially, it was possible to connect some apps using MIDI tools, but for many amateurs, this is probably a technical stretch. Besides, in the real world, I can plug a guitar and a keyboard into the same amplifier, or connect them to my desktop recording software via a single interface, easily enough.

Unfortunately, real-time audio generated in one app could not be connected to another app. Audio recordings could only be shared across multiple apps using some tedious save/copy/paste functions, or long-winded export and import processes. Audiobus solves this problem with an elegant design solution that works so simply, you have to wonder why Apple didn’t think of it themselves.

Rather than provide a technical overview of Audiobus, I’m more interested in the business model, and the potential case study it offers for future collaboration between app designers and content developers:

1. Audiobus is a collaboration between the developers behind two of the more successful audio apps, SoundPrism and Loopy HD

2. The developers have released an SDK for easier integration of new and existing 3rd party apps

3. There were a reasonable number of existing apps compatible with Audiobus when it launched, and more are being added all the time

4. As one reviewer has commented, buying the Audiobus app actually increases the useability (and therefore the value) of other apps

5. The key to Audiobus is providing a common standard for handling and processing audio recordings created in different apps

At least one app developer abandoned a new design for audio sharing between his own apps when he realised that the Audiobus solution would offer much more flexibility.

When combined with apps like AudioShare (a document management and conversion tool for audio files) and SoundCloud (THE social media platform for audio), Audiobus is really helping to open up and foster a multi-function environment for musicians through content compatibility, integration, sharing, exporting and collaboration.

Frustratingly, I sometimes struggle to figure out which of my iOS apps I need to use to open, edit and share text files, pdf documents, spreadsheets and slides. All too often, files suffer from incompatible formats, fonts, layout and graphics. If only we could have the same level of collaboration for e-books and productivity tools that Audiobus has fostered for music apps!