This weekend, msnbc.com launched a sweeping redesign of the most important part of their site: the story page. The result is something unlike anything any other major news site is offering and is a bold step in a direction no competitor has gone down (yet): the elimination of pageviews as a primary metric.
For many years, I’ve railed against tricks like pagination and “jump pages” as a means to goose pageviews. Honest people in the industry will tell you these are simply acceptable tricks to bump revenue a bit, while disingenuous or uninformed people will use “readability” as an excuse to make users click ten times to read ten parts of a single story. For this latest redesign, msnbc.com has decided to de-emphasize page views entirely and present stories in a manner that maximizes enjoyment and as a result, total time on site.
That FaceTime is currently only available when connected to Wi-Fi is, obviously, a limitation. But that it uses Wi-Fi — data, rather than voice networking — is an indication of just how big a deal it is. It’s the beginning of Apple’s end-run around the phone carriers.
You can switch to FaceTime from a call that started as a voice call, but as Dan Frommer reported at Business Insider this week, once you switch to FaceTime, you’re no longer using voice minutes. The voice call ends once the FaceTime connection is made.
More importantly, you don’t need to initiate a FaceTime call using a voice call. You can start the call using FaceTime directly, in which case the entire process takes place over IP networking. The advantage to starting with a voice call is that you’ll get a voice connection even if the recipient isn’t on Wi-Fi at the moment.
But consider the implications of the fact that you don’t need to start with a voice call. That means you don’t, in theory, need to start with a phone. A hypothetical camera-equipped iPod Touch could make FaceTime calls. So could a hypothetical camera-equipped iPad. Or even an Apple TV. This notion occurred to me during the WWDC keynote, when Steve Jobs said that Apple expected to ship “tens of millions of FaceTime devices” (emphasis added) this year alone. (Skip to around the 1:33:30 mark in the keynote.)
Today, a FaceTime-capable iPod Touch would not be a proper replacement for a phone. You could neither send nor receive calls when not connected to a Wi-Fi network, nor send or receive calls with anyone using a device that doesn’t support FaceTime. (The Wi-Fi limitation similarly anchors Skype-equipped iPod Touches today.)
But surely, someday, there will be a non-phone-carrier wireless networking technology with far greater range than Wi-Fi. FaceTime, I think, is a first step in the direction of a mobile “phone” with no mobile carrier. If and when FaceTime is supported over 3G in addition to Wi-Fi, it’ll be data, not voice — megabytes, not minutes. And immediately, starting today, it’s a step away from tying your iPhone’s “calls” to your carrier’s network.
Comparison of the 2000 iMac to the new iPhone. SPOILER: The iPhone wins in practically every stat. In fact the only thing that the iPhone doesn’t “win” in is the number of onscreen pixels, which is deceiving because the iPhone packs almost the same number of pixels into a screen that is a fraction of the size, meaning that the iPhone’s screen is actually much much more precise for its size than the iMac’s, so really the iPhone wins there too. Amazing how far technology has moved in 10 years; what used to weigh 35lbs and sit on your desktop now weighs 4.8 ounces and fits in your pocket.
Operating System – Mac OS 9.0.4
Processor – 500 MHz PowerPC G3 CPU, 128MB Memory
Graphics – ATI Rage 128 Pro, 8MB of memory (8 million triangles)
Screen – 786K pixels
Data Transfer Speeds – 1.3-12.5 MB/s (DVD-ROM-1/100 Ethernet)
Storage – 30GB Hard Drive
Dimensions – 15.0 x 15.0 x 17.1 inches
Weight – 34.7 pounds
2010 iPhone 4
Operating System – iOS 4.0
Processor – 1 Ghz ARM A4 CPU, 512MB Memory
Graphics – PowerVR SGX 535, uses system memory (28 million triangles)
Screen – 614K pixels
Data Transfer Speeds – .04-20MB/s (3G-WiFi)
Storage – 32GB Flash Drive
Dimensions – 4.5 x 2.31 x .31 inches
Weight – 4.8 ounces