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Archive for the ‘Industry Commentary’ Category

Palm Pre

Posted on: January 12th, 2009 by Craig Rairdin 16 Comments

Palm, maker of the popular Treo and Centro phones and the venerable Palm OS organizers (also known as connected organizers and the original Palm Pilot), has announced a new phone, called the Pre. You can read about it here: www.palm.com

If you’re into technical details, you can find some here: http://developer.palm.com

While there are some nice Web pages and pre-ads (pun intended) for the Pre, there is surprisingly little information about adding programs to the Pre.

However, based on what we’ve read, this is what we “know” right now:

  1. The Pre uses a new operating system
  2. Palm will be making additional information available to developers “over the coming weeks and months”
  3. Although it’s not been expressly stated, it appears that existing Palm OS programs will not run on the Pre
  4. It will be possible to add 3rd party programs to the Pre
  5. These new Pre programs are completely new, and not based upon existing Palm OS programs
  6. These new Pre programs are more similar to Web pages than to traditional programs written in languages such as C and C++

So, if you’re a MyBible user or are hoping to be a Pre early adopter, what does this all mean? It means:

  1. You should not expect MyBible to work on a Pre
  2. You should not expect any existing Palm OS applications to work on a Pre
  3. There will be confusion about which programs work on older Palm devices and which work on the Pre
  4. No one can start working on programs designed for the Pre until Palm releases more information “over the coming weeks and months”

What do we think about the new Pre? On the one hand, it looks like another cool new phone. On the other hand, it looks like just another cool new phone. As a cool new phone, unrelated to the current Palm models except by name, it will require an investment to create a cool new program that will work on it.

As Palm releases more information about the Pre, we’ll have the information we need to evaluate if and when there might be a version of PocketBible for the Pre.

PocketBible vs. pocket-bible

Posted on: July 10th, 2008 by Craig Rairdin 33 Comments

For those of you who have written expressing some confusion about a product called “pocket-bible” for the iPhone 2, no, that isn’t our product.

Yes, we do have a registered trademark on the term “PocketBible”. Our version of PocketBible for iPhone and iPod Touch is called iPocketBible but the trademark covers any software that is used to display the Bible text, regardless of platform.

We’ve had to deal with a number of trademark infringements over the years and so far they’ve all been handled very reasonably. We hope this one will be no exception.

On Pocket PCs, Smartphones and Windows Mobile

Posted on: May 21st, 2008 by Craig Rairdin 3 Comments

One of the more common questions that we receive related to our mobile PocketBible product line is this: “I have a Windows PDA, but how do I know if it is a Pocket PC or a Smartphone?” This can be especially confusing because some Pocket PCs are also phones, and the marketing names for these devices has changed several times over the last few years. These various devices have been referred to as Windows CE, Palm-size PCs, Handheld PCs, Handheld PC Professionals, Handheld PC 2000s, Pocket PCs, Pocket PC 2002, Smartphones, Smartphone 2002, Pocket PC 2003, Pocket PC 2003 second edition, Smartphone 2003 and now Windows Mobile Classic, Standard, and Professional. Whew. You can understand how some one might be confused. (And I might have even left out a few names!)

While all Windows Mobile devices use a version of the Windows Mobile operating system, there are significant differences between the various classification of devices (Classic, Standard, Professional).

Both the Classic and the Professional devices include a touch-sensitive screen. The Professional device also includes a phone. The Windows Mobile Standard device is also a phone, but does not include a touch-sensitive screen. We tend to call the former devices Pocket PCs and the latter devices Smartphones.

So, how do you know what kind of Windows Mobile device you have? Take this simple quiz:

  1. Does your device have both a touch-sensitive screen and a cell phone? If so, then it is a Windows Mobile Professional, which we sometimes also call a Pocket PC.
  2. Does your device have a touch-sensitive screen but not have a cell phone? If so, then it is a Windows Mobile Classic, which we sometimes call a Pocket PC.
  3. Does your device have a cell phone, but not a touch-sensitive screen? If so, then it is a Windows Mobile Standard, which we sometimes call a Smartphone.

Prior to our recent release of PocketBible 4 for Windows Mobile, we packaged our PocketBible program in a Pocket PC version and in a separate Smartphone version. As noted above, it wasn’t uncommon to receive questions about whether a particular device was a Pocket PC or a Smartphone. It also wasn’t uncommon to have someone buy the Smartphone version, but really need the Pocket PC version. While this was easily corrected by contacting our technical support department, it wasn’t always convenient.

However, now with the release of PocketBible 4 for Windows Mobile, we have packaged a version of PocketBible designed for the touch-sensitive screen models (Pocket PC, Classic, Professional) along with a version of PocketBible designed for the non-touch-sensitive screen models (Smartphone, Standard). Our setup program will then determine which version to install to your device based on the information about itself that the device supplies to ActiveSync or the Mobile Device Center. While the features between these two versions of PocketBible differ (since the devices themselves are very different), the PocketBible setup program will now automatically determine the correct version of PocketBible to install.

You will still see some of our products referred to as “for Pocket PC”. This simply indicates that that program is available only for the Pocket PC (aka Windows Mobile Classic and Windows Mobile Professional) devices, and not for Smartphones (aka Windows Mobile Standard).

And as time goes on, you may even find that I refer to these handheld computers less and less as Pocket PCs or Smartphones, and more and more by their new name du jour!

On the Problems of Designing User-Friendly Software for PDAs and Smart Phones

Posted on: April 21st, 2008 by Craig Rairdin 13 Comments

A comment from one of our PocketBible 4 beta testers got me thinking about the nature of what we do and what users complain about. I’ve expressed this with respect to the iPhone but I haven’t put it into a larger context that might help people understand what software designers are up against when we implement a solution, regardless of the platform. These issues are especially true of the mobile device market but the same ideas apply to the desktop and other general-purpose computing platforms.

If you start from the beginning, you find a user with a problem. It might be: “How do I take my contact database with me?” or “How can I work on my spreadsheets on the train?” or “How can I browse the Web when I’m away from my computer?”. Hardware companies like Sony, Apple, HP, and HTC get together with software companies like Microsoft and whatever Palm is calling itself today and come up with a device and operating system software that address those problems. In the course of doing so, they create a way for third parties (that’s us) to create software for their new device/OS platform.

By the time we consumer software companies (independent software vendors or ISVs) get our hands on these products, we’re no longer solving the original customer problem. Instead, we’re programming for a device, and the device is solving the problem. When we program for a device we have certain limitations imposed by the hardware and software. The screen is only so big. There may or may not be a keyboard. There may or may not be much memory. There may or may not be good internet connectivity. The tools provided by the OS software developer may not be very powerful. There are a host of these limitations, and we have no control over them. It is the sandbox in which we have to play if we’re going to play at all.

We might have solved the customer’s original problem differently. But that’s water under the bridge. We can only operate within the limitations of the platform.

Some of the limitations imposed on us are not necessarily firmly fixed in hardware. They might be user interface standards that are intended to give the user a common UI experience as he or she moves from application to application on the device. So we all put scrollbars on the right even though lefties might like them on the left. Menus, buttons, toolbars, etc. are generally drawn from a common source so they all look the same and are sized and placed the same in all applications.

Obeying the philosophical limitations is just as important as obeying the hardware limitations, even though the former is not as rigidly enforced. Depending on the platform, a device from another manufacturer might expect you to have followed the rules. It may implement new features, which, as long as you’ve followed the rules, fit seamlessly into your existing program with no changes. So it’s to our advantage (and by extension, our customers’ advantage) for us to play within all the rules.

So what does this all mean? It means that when you have an iPhone, you don’t have a clipboard. It’s not the case that iPocketBible doesn’t have a clipboard, it’s that your iPhone doesn’t have a clipboard. As of right now, it means that you depend on Internet access because all your third-party apps are Web-based. It’s not that Laridian screwed up by only providing a Web-based application for your iPhone, it’s that Apple screwed up by not supporting native, third-party apps right out of the box.

It means if you have a Nokia phone you can’t tell if software is going to run on it because it doesn’t tell you anywhere what version of the operating system you’re running. Yes, if you’re an expert user you already know you have an S60 or whatever, but the average person who reads the Bible and bought a Nokia phone “because it’s blue” isn’t going to be able to tell whether a particular piece of software will run on the phone or not.

It means that if you have a Pocket PC, it’s hard to operate programs with your fingers instead of a stylus. The buttons are too small, the keyboard input methods are too dumb, and many of the controls are simply impossible to operate with something as big as a man-sized finger. It doesn’t mean that PocketBible is hard to operate with your fingertip, it means that Microsoft expects you to use a stylus and designed their device that way.

Sure, we could make our buttons really big and give you all kinds of flexibility for defining how the d-pad buttons work with our program, but eventually you’re going to have to type a note on that little software keyboard that pops up at the bottom of the screen, or select an option from a little combo box or menu, or try to tap on just one Strong’s number in a sea of blue underlined links. We can’t do enough to overcome the limitations imposed on us by the underlying software and hardware, for which we have no responsibility.

It’s fairly common for people to complain to the wrong party about these things. Since we’re the last link in the OEM – OS – ISV chain, we get blamed for a lot of the problems of our software running on these devices — problems that actually are the result of limitations dictated to us by those who came before us. So if you have fat fingers or you don’t have WiFi at your church, I’m afraid we can’t help you. Someone else stuck you with a bad solution before we got to you. The best we can do is create software that works well on the platform you’ve chosen. Whether that platform is right for you is a decision you have to make, and one that the OEMs and OS developers are more responsible for than we are.

“How Do I Contribute to Your Ministry at Laridian?”

Posted on: April 14th, 2008 by Craig Rairdin 3 Comments

From time to time we’re asked how a person can contribute to our work here. They like what we do and they want to be a part of it. Frankly, we’re really touched by such requests and appreciate the attitude that is contained in questions like that.

Needless to say, we’re a commercial venture. We’re not a charity, nor a “ministry” except in the broadest sense of the word. We pay our bills by selling the product of our programming and editorial efforts. While we think it might be profitable to put a “Donate to Laridian” button on our Web site, we’re concerned about conveying the idea that we’re something different than we really are. We have competitors who are just as profit-minded as we are, yet organize themselves as non-profit organizations and even charitable organizations in order to be able to tug at people’s spiritual sensitivities and hopefully get paid for doing nothing. We don’t want to even come close to being seen that way.

While we make no secret of being a commercial company (and will defend that position from scripture if you press us), we really are humbled when people like what we do so much that they want to just give us money for being us and doing what we do. That’s pretty cool. So what we usually suggest is that they buy one of our CD-ROM or USB Drive collections and give it away. That way they bless us with their purchase and they bless someone else with an unexpected gift of software to help them better comprehend the Bible. Everybody wins.

iPhone SDK rumors and delays

Posted on: February 29th, 2008 by Craig Rairdin 20 Comments

Please note the date on this post. Read our more recent posts on the iPhone for more up-to-date information.

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Laridian at BibleTech:2008

Posted on: January 28th, 2008 by Craig Rairdin 22 Comments

Just got back from BibleTech:2008 in Seattle. About 90-100 developers, ministry leaders, academians, content-owners, and end-users met for two-days of in-depth technical sessions on the current state of technical challenges facing Bible software.

I handed out several of our Gold Edition USB Library devices to blog readers who were in attendance. Unfortunately I put the same serial number on all the devices, so they’ll have to contact tech support to get a fresh serial number. Sorry about that.

I did a session late in the day on Saturday on synchronizing user-created data and proposed the possibility that we could exchange notes, highlights and bookmarks (and potentially other user-created data) between various Bible software based on our model. There was some interest, but these things always sound more exciting when you’re right there than when you get back to your desk on Monday morning and there’s a pile of work to do. So it’s hard to say where that will go.

As part of my presentation I demonstrated creating a note and highlighting a verse on my Pocket PC, then sync’ing that to the desktop where it is displayed in PocketBible for Windows. I then edited the note and changed the highlight color and sync’ed to my iPhone over the internet. When I selected the verse number in iPocketBible I saw my note, which I then edited again. While I was there I changed the highlight color yet again, then sync’ed up to the desktop. There was my note, with all the edits from the Pocket PC, desktop PC, and iPhone; along with the verse highlighted in the color I’d chosen on the iPhone.

We made some good business contacts there and perhaps you’ll see something come of those in the future. However, I also took away a number of small points that are worth mentioning here.

  • One publisher admitted that digital rights management (DRM) was a losing battle. He cited several cases where DRM schemes were defeated within days of a new product being introduced. He lamented the opportunities lost by publishers who are waiting for a perfect solution to security of their data. This is something we’ve been preaching for twenty years.
  • The open-source/freeware community was chastised by one Greek professor in attendance for distributing and promoting “classic” commentaries from the 19th century. While her calls for publication of these materials to be suppressed were perhaps over-the-top, she makes a good point: We have so many more manuscripts and archaeological evidence today than we had 150 years ago that it’s a shame that we promote these dated materials just because there’s no royalties on them (they’re old enough that they’re in the public domain). Since the open-source/freeware guys aren’t in business to sell things (and thus collect and pay royalties) they tend not to have the more contemporary resources available to them that are the bulk of what we do here at Laridian and at the other commercial Bible software houses.
  • Crossway gave quite a presentation on the marketing research they have done with respect to the English Standard Version (ESV). It was pretty impressive to see how much time they spend thinking about who their readers are and where, when, why, and how they’ll be reading the ESV. This allows them to better tune their product development and marketing to meet readers where they are instead of where Crossway wants them to be.
  • The Crossway presentation also included a couple quotes from Business Week. One, from 1998, stated that “practical e-book devices have finally arrived”. None of those devices are available today. A second recent quote said the new Amazon Kindle is the “iPod of e-book readers”. We’ll see.
  • The only commercial Bible software companies represented there were us, Logos, OliveTree, and e-Sword. I was disappointed not to see anyone from the major Bible software companies like Findex (QuickVerse) and Biblesoft (PC Study Bible). I realize these companies are not generally considered “leading edge” when it comes to technology, but it would’ve been nice to see them all again.

Ironically, a Logos employee won the prize for answering my trivia question correctly at the beginning of my presentation. Twenty years ago this month I started work on the product that would become QuickVerse. The question: What was the name of that program when I first started selling it in September, 1988?

I’m Done Answering QuickVerse Questions

Posted on: September 3rd, 2007 by Craig Rairdin 56 Comments

I get several emails every month from people running QuickVerse 4 and needing help to install it on a new machine, or to install some add-on product. Or they want to know where to find a particular QuickVerse 4 Bible, CD, or other related program.

I’ve made a decision tonight to just be done with that topic. Laridian has its own Bible software for Windows now, so there’s no need for anyone to keep using QuickVerse. If Findex wants to support their product, they can do it. I’m not going to do it anymore.
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PocketBible Moves to the Desktop

Posted on: August 3rd, 2007 by Craig Rairdin 47 Comments

As many of you have already seen in a recent newsletter, PocketBible software will be coming soon to your Windows desktop. The newsletter was somewhat vague about features so I thought I’d take a few minutes to provide some details.

Briefly, PocketBible for Windows is the desktop version of our PocketBible software. It uses the same LBK file format as our PocketBible program for Pocket PC, but adds a tiled user interface with windows for your Bibles, commentaries, dictionaries, devotionals, and other books. You can hover your mouse cursor over any Bible reference to instantly see the text of that verse. And of course you can search, annotate, highlight, and bookmark the text just like on your PDA.

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iPhone Musings

Posted on: July 5th, 2007 by Craig Rairdin 35 Comments

Please note the date on this post. Read our more recent posts on the iPhone for more up-to-date information.

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