No Office for iPad: Does it matter anymore?

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ZDNet suggests that Microsoft won’t release Office for the iPad until 2014. Does it even matter at this point?

The enterprise is demonstrating that it can get along just fine without Office on iOS. Good Technology’s quarterly Device Activations Report (PDF), for example, found that iOS garnered nearly 77 percent of all activations in the enterprise, up from 71 percent last year. Also, fantastic apps like Readdle’s Documents do just about anything a mobile Office user could want. Now MS hands developers another year to improve their apps and IT departments another year to get comfortable with the iPad.

Jonny Evans at Computer World agrees, saying:

“Were the company to introduce good versions of Office for the plethora of other devices, it would create new revenue, create good feeling, and, if the software’s liked, stimulate interest in its other products.

However, by making its customers wait until some indeterminate point next year, Microsoft looks like it isn’t watching what’s happening, isn’t interested in serving the needs of its customers, and looks out of touch. These steps encourage disinterest in its products. These actions drive its customers — including its precious enterprise customers — to look elsewhere.

By adopting this path, Microsoft is signing its own death warrant.”

I felt a little late in coming to this conclusion after reading this post from Patrick Rhone, regarding a conversation he had with his wife about a year ago:

“…the iPhone came. There was no Office. People got things done. Then the iPad came. There was no Office. People got things done. Android came. People got things done. All of those things that they, just a couple of years ago, were convinced they needed Office to do. They got them done without it. And thus, the truth was revealed.

Microsoft’s biggest miss was allowing the world to finally see the truth behind the big lie — they were not needed to get real work done. Or anything done, really.”

So no rush, Microsoft. We’re fine at this point.

App of the Week: Race to the Pennant

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Today’s App of the Week is Race to the Pennant ($0.99, universal) for iPhone and iPad. It lets fans of Major League Baseball track their team’s progress towards the playoffs with fun, informative bar graphs and information.

I like this app because it’s simple and it presents information in a clear and unique way. The main screen is divided into the American League and the National League. Each league is further divided into the Eastern, Central and Western division. Finally, each division presents its five teams as a colored bar.

Each win moves that team’s bar closer to the top of the screen. As the season progresses, a quick glance presents the standings in an attractive and very readable bar graph. You can tap any division for a more detailed view (above). This reveals a team’s win/lost record, current steak, record across the last five and last ten games, and finally the number of games back.

But there’s more! Swipe across any team’s detail screen to see more info on its record and to read related articles on MLB.com. You can also identify your favorite division.

Race to the Pennant has been updated since this post was originally published, and the latest version (1.1) greatly improves the speed with which its data is uploaded. Previously, scores weren’t updated until the following morning. Now it happens on game day. You can also set a favorite division and the app loads it on launch, which is very nice. In addition, the app now pulls news from a different source and it’s much more readable on an iPhone.

Race to the Pennant is simple, great-looking and fun. Developer Tyler Hillsman is doing a great job with it, even if he is a Royals fan.

The iPad’s growing presence in London business

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The London Evening Standard has a great article on the iPad’s growing presence in London business. And it’s not just the boardroom. Apple’s immensely popular tablet is showing up — and getting things done — in bars, hospitals and fashion boutiques.

Isabel McMeekan, founder of Everybody Ballet, explains how the iPad benefits her students and her studio at large:

“This works brilliantly. Not only are our iPads pianos and orchestras but they also help us to plan ballet classes, draw images to aid teaching, photograph and film our dancers and keep us in communication with all our students.”

That’s pretty cool. Here’s a use case I hadn’t thought of:

“The iPad is also changing childcare. At Brick Oven pizza restaurant in Chiswick there’s a video camera in the play area, linked to four iPads on tables, so parents can enjoy their meal and keep watch on their bambini.”

Here in Massachusetts, I see iPads at work often. What stikes me is how workers and customers are already accustomed to seeing the devices in a business role. Sign the iPad with my finger to pay? You’ll email a receipt? Sure, no problem.

It’s hard to believe that the iPad is only three years old. What an amazing device.

Also, why don’t American pizza joints offer babysitting?!

Children need to get bored

Dr. Teresa Belton:

“When children have nothing to do now, they immediately switch on the TV, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen. The time they spend on these things has increased.

But children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them.”

Yes, yes, yes, ten thousand times, yes. I know families who flip on the in-car DVD player every single time they drive anywhere and it makes me want to jump out of my freaking skin.

Turn off the Goddamn iPad and do something.

Hulu, Netflix offer kid-safe iPad apps

hululogoHulu just updated its free app for iPad and iPhone to version 2.7. Those running the Hulu on an iPad will notice a new kid-friendly feature called Kids Lock. It allows parents to restrict the app to ad-free, kid-friendly content. It works pretty well, and is similar to the Just For Kids feature that Netflix introduced in October of 2012.

As you’ll see, Hulu’s solution is superior, but I’ve got a workaround for Netflix’s shortcoming. Here’s a look at how to make Netflix and Hulu safer for kids on the iPad, and how to get around Netflix’s poor implementation.

Hulu’s Kids Lock

Hulu offers streaming TV shows and movies on the iPhone, iPad and desktop. It selection is pretty good, especially if you’re a television fan. You’ll find several options for kids, as well as content they shouldn’t see. Kids Lock lets you restrict the app to the former. To set it up, follow these steps (remember, Hulu Kids Lock for iOS is only available on the iPad for some reason).

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  1. Tap the Kids tab in the central tool bar.
  2. A new window appears featuring a selection of children’s programs (above).
  3. Tap Lock for Kids in the upper right-hand corner.
  4. A dialog box appears describing the features of Kids Lock. To proceed, tap Enable Kids Lock.

That’s it. To watch a program, simply tap it and get started.

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To exit Kids Lock, you must enter your Hulu password (above). Once that’s done, you can browse Hulu’s complete library. This is a real advantage over Netflix’s Just For Kids. Users can exit that service’s lock-out by simply tapping the exit button twice, no password required. But don’t worry, I’ve got a fix for that. Read on.

Netflix’s Just For Kids

Last October, Netflix updated its app for iPhone and iPad (free, universal) with a feature called “Just for Kids.” It’s meant to present kid-friendly movies and TV shows while hiding those inappropriate for children. It’s a nice first step, but that’s all it is. I was able to exit Just For Kids mode easily, and even view an R-rated feature when it should have been hidden.

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Flipping the kid-friendly switch is easy. You’ll find a button in the upper left labeled Just for Kids. Tap it and the app displays a nice grid of kid-friendly programs and family features. Tap any feature to view a pop-up window that presents either a grid of episodes (if your target is a TV show) or a synopsis and rating (movies). I’d be happy to hand this over to my kids during a long road trip, if only it weren’t so easy to exit.

To exit Just For Kids mode, tap the Exit Kids button in the upper left-hand corner. A confirmation button appears (“Yes?”). Tap it and you’re out. That’s it. There’s no code to enter, no password, no question to answer or anything. Once that’s done, the full Netflix library is available.

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It’s entirely too easy to exit Kids Mode. Let’s fix that.

Add security with Guided Access

Fortunately, Apple has built Guided Access into iOS 6. It’s a new accessibility function on the iPhone and iPad that lets you disable certain controls within an app. It’s perfect for making Just For Kids mode actually useful. Here’s how. First, enable Guided Access on your iPad or iPhone:

  1. Open the Settings app, tap General and then tap Accessibility.
  2. Tap Guided Access and move the slider to the On position.
  3. Set a passcode that will be required to disable Guided Access. Exit the Settings app.

Now it’s time to apply it to the Netflix app. To begin, enable Just For Kids mode by tapping Just for Kids in the upper left-hand corner. Then, follow these steps:

  1. Triple-click your iPad’s Home button.
  2. The Guided Access options screen appears.
  3. Draw a circle around the Exit Kids button.
  4. Tap Start.

That’s it. The Netflix app will now behave as normal except for the Exit Kids button. Tapping it does nothing. Also, if you rotate the iPad, the grey area travels with the Exit Kids button. So Jr. can’t avoid it by rotating the iPad.

There are a couple of things to be aware of. First, a little “greyed out” circle appears over the Exit Kids button, and remains in place while the selected video plays. It’s mildly annoying, but Jr. should habituate to it easily enough. If he complains, remind him that he’s lucky to have the iPad at all, and that when you were a kid, road trip entertainment included staring at trees.

Secondly, you can triple-tap the Home button and enter the code to disable Guided Access at any time. Make sure Jr. does not know the code.

This is nice, but it’s still not perfect. During my testing, I was able to enter Just For Kids mode but still browse movies and shows meant for adults (see below). It’s clearly a bug but I wasn’t able to replicate it, so I can’t tell you how to avoid it. The bad news is that I launched The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo while in kid mode. That movie is most definitely for adults.

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“Daddy, why is that girl so angry?”

For now, Hulu’s solution is superior, simply because it employes a basic password strategy. Netflix’s head is in the right place but the execution is very poor, as it’s just too easy to exit the safe setting. Guided Access helps, but the app itself should have its own safeguards. Here’s hoping Netflix soon adds the same basic security measure.