Time to Buy Apple Stock?

In February of 2012 I wrote a blog post called Chocolate Cheesecake, Apple’s Flat Panel TV and Steve Jobs. The post was my way of processing sadness over the loss of this wonderful man, who had made a huge difference in my life. I predicted iTV was coming and even described how it would work. At the same time I questioned if Apple could continue to innovate without the vision of Steve Jobs. I pointed out some things I was seeing in the updates to the Macintosh OS that worried me.

“I really wonder now that Jobs is gone how will Apple fair at this magical process? With no one like Steve to say “its crap start over” what will happen to new products being developed?”

So now, a year later (mid April 2013), can the question be answered with anymore clarity?

Based on the precipitous drop in Apple’s stock price from the $700 range to under $400 it would seem that Wall Street has lost faith in Apple’s ability to continue to alter the landscape they owned in 2012. Why? There are probably two major reasons.

Market Share. Apple has felt the power of Samsung and the Android OS developed by Google. Even though they are not as well constructed as the iPhone and iPad, Samsung offers a greater range of cell phones at all prices including low cost. In smartphones Android has more international market share than Apple while Apple still dominates the tablet marketplace. It’s not like Apple has stood still, over the last year they have developed several new models of the classic iPad (smaller screens, more resolution, more memory) but these are all evolutionary incremental changes, not the revolutionary changes that sprung from the brilliant mind of Steve. Rumors abound of the iTV, a low cost iPhone and most recently a iPod-screened wrist watch encased in a glass bracelet. Since these products have remained rumors a good deal of confidence in Apple’s fulfilling Steve’s dreams has been lost.

Perseverance. It’s too early to write Apple’s epitaph. Steve left us only a year and a half ago on October 11, 2011. While that might seem like a long time in the world of computer tech, I don’t think it’s long enough to design and test a product of the scale of Apple’s past innovations. Steve first hinted at the iPhone in 2003, and it was not ready until January of 2007. That is 4 years! So assume by “cracked the code” Steve meant that in 2011 he had an iTV design he felt could be successful. Then using the same math as the iPhone, it stands to reason we would not see an iTV until 2015, over 2 years from now. Add to this the fact that Jonathan Ive, the industrial designer responsible for all of Apple’s case designs, is now heading up the software division and you’ve added more potential delays. Couple that with the loss of iOS visionary Scott Forstall plus the fact Tim Cook runs Apple by consensus instead of conflict, and it’s easy to tack on another year of delays, taking the iTV to at least 2016.

Steve was only able to focus on a single revolutionary product at a time. Indeed he often pulled engineers off existing projects to make sure to make sure whatever was his favorite product got the priority he wanted. Thus to assume Apple is working on multiple revolutionary products, such as an iPad based watch or radial digital glasses seems unlikely to me.

The Broadcast and Cable Establishments

There is one major wrinkle in iTV’s future. The Broadcast and Cable Establishment. The term Broadcast Establishment was coined by Ted Turner when he took on the television networks during the Regan era, when the White House would not share it’s video’s with anyone but the big 3 networks. Ted showed you could beat the establishment when he created CNN’s  24 hour television and changed the model itself. But for Apple it’s way more difficult now. The nemesis is the way the networks and cable industry have locked down the commercial models distribution of television in America. There is not enough room on our the drives of our SQL server to discuss this issue in proper detail. But you can find some amazing articles online that describe why the networks and cable companies don’t want to see Apple gain a foothold in television like they have done to the music industry with the iPod and iTunes. Without the iPod there would never have been iTunes and without Jobs getting the music industry to agree to selling 99 cent tracks there would have never been the revolution in music we now enjoy. Apparently Steve Jobs has been  unsuccessful in getting his reality distortion field to hypnotize the Broadcast and Cable Establishment.

Here’s what Forrester’s James McQuivey had to say on his blog :

“Let’s be clear what the company is up against in its long-rumored interest in the TV business. The reason it has failed with the Apple TV so far is not that it hasn’t tried. It’s that the TV business is a tough nut to crack: Content is still controlled by monopolists unlikely to give Apple the keys to their content archives. And simply introducing a new display on which to watch that content as it is currently delivered by existing distributors won’t offer consumers much that’s new.”

The basic concept here is that Apple will never be able to strike deals with content providers sufficient to support an iTunes for television. And if all Apple plans to do is improve its current Apple TV set-top box, which means steaming content through television set, it will not have a compelling offering.

Time to buy Apple Stock

So with all this going against Apple it’s my opinion that Tim Cook will strike a deal with the broadcast networks. The price of Apple’s stock was run up to unrealistic levels and it has similarly been unrealistically beaten down. Indeed if we are 2 to 3 years away from an i-television you can wait to buy a while longer. However given the fact that the iPhone is due for a major hardware update, and June 2013 is the most likely time such a product would be launched, I would not be surprised to see Apple’s stock jump from its current under $400 price to as high as $500, before dropping again. It won’t be until we see the iTV, digital watch or i-Glasses that the stock will return to its highs of 2012.

Why doesn’t the iBird 3.0 Update work on my device?

We have received a number of emails and posts in our forum and facebook pages complaining that the new iBird 3.0 update no longer appears in the Google Play store. I am going to use this post to try to explain why this happened and what recourse  you have to fix it.

Before I do however I would like to point out the one of the main motivators for the upgrade was actually to help customers with all kinds of tablets and phones. You see we have updated iBird so that it uses the Google servers to store its large database. Before this we used a private CDN that was not reliable and had poor bandwidth. Google has wonderful servers, with incredible bandwidth. The entire installation is far more reliable now. The fact that iBird no longer works with devices with older versions of the OS is one side effect of this new installation approach. First a graphic from our iBird for Android dashboard:

Android OS Version History

OS versions framed in purple will no longer work with iBird 3.0

As you can see about 7.4% of iBird customers are still using an OS < 2.3.3. This means devices using the Level 9 version of Gingerbread as well as Froyo, Eclair and Donut will not show iBird’s product page. You can see all versions of Android here.

Software development 101
There are two reasons we can’t offer special versions of the iBird app (nor can any Android app developer). First its because once we give someone the actual apk they can put it on one of the pirate servers and you lose control of your product. Second we can’t put a old version of iBird in Google Play because customers would have to buy it a second time which would not be fair. Google (and all other mobile platforms don’t have any kind of mechanism for allowing a developers to offer multiple versions. So you either upgrade for everyone or you don’t upgrade.

Now there is one thing a developer might do but its a terrible idea.  You might be able to  develop the new version of an Android app so that it downgrades itself when detecting the user has an old device. But think about what that would be like as a developer. You would be unable to give your customers most of the new features and so it would be very ineffective. You’d be working your buns off so a minority of your customers can keep there ancient hardware and not upgrade.

Now I imagine that if you are among the 7.5% of iBird customers who are unable to upgrade this explanation will not satisfy you. But surely you can see there is a rock and hard place here and we really don’t have a great solution. I might point out that your total loss in cash is under $10, but you would probably argue its not the money, its that you have become dependent on the app.

All I can say is that whole idea behind software upgrades is to introduce new features and usually new features means you need new hardware. Bottom line is all you can do to get the new iBird 3.0 is upgrade your phone or tablet to run Android OS 2.3.7 or newer. There are many ways to do this inexpensively. Go on eBay and buy a new device for example. Look for sales.

I hope this post helps some of you understand that there was no intention to make your life difficult.

New iBird for Android Version 2.2.1

iBird Pro Version 2.2.1 for Android is now available. This document explains what is new. Feel free to ask questions or leave any comments you wish.

Whats New

The new iBird Pro for Android version 2.2 now has a How to Search tutorial which explains how to best use the Search Engine to identify birds. You can find this on the top of the search screen in a button named How to Search. Also every attribute has its own definition of how it should be used. This is accessed by a button at the top of the values page for each search attribute.

The Android iBird Pro 2.2 App has been reduced in size from over 20 MB to around 1 MB. This means your initial install from the store will be very fast – which you might have noticed when you just installed.

A totally overhauled installer verifies all files before downloading. This means we can update the app without affecting database. And in the same way the database can be updated incrementally so only the changes to it need to be downloaded. We have removed the ability to download the images and songs for individual species because this was causing more problems than it solved. We also removed downloading by letter of the alphabet for the same reasons.

All the photos in iBird have new titles which more accurately describe the species gender, age, etc.

This version now includes incredible composite drawings of many birds, which means we show the male and female as well as the bird in flight. You will find new drawings for such species as the Acadian Flycatcher, Acorn Woodpecker, American Redstart, Barred Owl, Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-whiskered Vireo, Blue-head Vireo, Cactus Wren, Cerulean Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, Dark-eye Junco, Dusky-headed Parakeet, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Evening Grosbeak, Green Sandpiper, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Little Bunting, Mexican Whip-poor-will, Northern Cardinal, Northern Goshawk, Ovenbird, Pacific Wren, Plumbeous Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Short-eared Owl, White-eyed Vireo, Whooping Crane and Yellow-breasted Bunting.

We are aligning iBird with both the AOU and ABA species lists. For example you will now find we have split the Winter Wren into the Winter Wren and the Pacific Wren and split the Whip-poor-will into the Eastern Whip-poor-will and the rare Mexican Whip-poor-will.

New 64 x 64 pixel icons have been added which are optimized for better contrast by showing only the perching bird in the icon.

We have also fixed several small bugs.

You can find the new iBird Pro for Android at these links:

iBird Pro 2.2.1 for all Google Smartphones and Tablets

iBird Pro 2.2.1 for Amazon Kindle Fire

Thank you for your continued support. If you have any questions or suggestions please visit our iBird.com web site and use the contact-us form at this link to send us a message.

Mitch Waite Group
August 2, 2012

Adapting iBird to the new iPad Retina Display

We did some studies on enlarging the resolution of our app to take advantage of the new iPad retina display. What you get is increased detail when zooming in on illustrations. Below are two examples.

1. The first illustration is from our current iBird Pro app. On an iPad 3 I opened the Portrait and page and enlarged the head of the Acorn Woodpecker as it is now, so you can see how it pixilated on the iPad 3. (It would look this way on any iPad).

2. In the 2nd photo I made a new image of the Acorn Woodpecker so its height is equal to the height of the iPad (1536) (overall 1229 w x 1536 h). I then imported into the iPad 3 Photo Gallery and zoomed in to about the same size as the one in iBird. Compare the differences. Is it not amazing?

Since the iPad 3 is actually 264 dpi I could make the image even higher res and it would look even better.

3. Bytes wise the larger images takes up 230K which is pretty large. Let’s assume this was the average for all our images (which may be close to correct). So if you multiply this by the current 1300 drawings in iBird it would be about 300 MB for all illustrations. That might not be so bad an increase in app size since we are already at 600 MB for Pro with about half this being the sounds.

But if we also do this to photos then we have to add 3,000 files and that is another 900 MB or 1.2 GB. Add in our sounds you are talking about a 2.5 GB iBird app.

At first I thought this would be too big to try to sell then my marketing brain kicked in like this. We are planning to do iBird HD for the iPad completely over, starting from scratch. This app will have a new UI to replace the sucky one in HD. We use the SAVE algorithm (SAVE stands for Smart Attribute and Value Elimination and is covered by this patent: http://www.google.com/patents/US7363309). Let’s say we let this app be 2.5 to 3 GB.

We may call it iBird HD Ultimate.

We would let it replace the current iBird HD and it becomes our super-sized native iPad bird app (current iBird HD Pro owners see it as a free upgrade). Perhaps it becomes the King of birding apps in the iTunes app store and nothing will ever touch it.

How cool would that be?



Current iPad

Hi Res iPad

Chocolate Cheesecake, Apple’s Flat Panel TV and Steve Jobs

I’ve parked my buns at Barnes and Noble, with a steaming venti Americano, a double chocolate cheesecake and a few magazines including the newest issue of Wired UK (The Smart List 2012) and Popular Science (The Future of FUN – How Science is Reinventing Play). I’ve picked out a few new books to browse: Robert Harris’s The Fear Index, Sebastian Seung’s Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are and Preston and Child’s Gideon’s Corpse.

Normally I have shied away from allowing my personal tastes to leak into this blog. I came to Barnes and Noble today to review the development schedule for our current iPhone app but I have been wrestling with some personal questions I feel like sharing, even if it’s to the small audience who reads this blog.

The Future of Apple without Steve Jobs

I’ve just finished reading Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired–and Secretive–Company Really Works by Adam Lashinsky. A few months ago I devoured Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. I really loved Walter’s book and didn’t want it to end. Having known Steve and written about him on this blog the book resonated with the Steve I knew (Lessons I Learned From Steve Jobs). Walter’s book gave me more insights about who Steve really was, since my impressions came from when he was just starting out and while I followed Apple’s products (which I used in my business since the day the Lisa came out.) Walter “opened the Kimono” as they say and showed how much more complex a character he was then the persona presented in the press.

The first hundred pages of Adam Lashinsky’s Inside Apple seemed to rehash a lot of what I had learned but was still very interesting because it showed how other people saw Steve. And in taking that approach Adam caught a side of Jobs that Walter didn’t focus on. The real meat of Inside Apple starts in Chapter 8 – Apple After Steve and that is what really grabbed me and made me wonder if there was way more to Apple and Jobs than Walter had revealed. In this chapter I really began to understand that as great as Apple is, the companies product development is “single-threaded”. This is a term from the CPU chips in today’s computers – they are capable of running multiple processes or routines in parallel, and each can run independently without interfering with another. Apple on the other hand runs like a single process when it comes to product development. When Steve started on a new product he would pull talent from other divisions and those divisions woud feel the pain. For the iPad (which became the iPhone before it was released as a tablet) he pulled people off the Mac OS and as well all know the OS was delayed.  Steve’s focus might have had the intensity of a thousand lasers but he could only focus on one product at a time. And this, Adam Lashinsky says, will have to change if Apple want’s to survive in the long run.

I don’t want to ruin the Inside Apple book for you so I am not going to give much away about it other than to recommend it highly. But I do want to explore some of the thoughts I’ve had since I finished the part about “Apple after Steve”. One thing that became really clear to me after reading it was that Steve’s dictatorial rule over Apple created people who were highly motivated but a great amount of that motivation came from fear. Fear of failing Apple, fear failing your coworkers and most of all fear of failing Steve. I am not saying Apple is a good or bad place to work just that its not for a lot of people. It’s even more of a puzzle to me how Apple has been able to retain so much great talent. But what helped me understand that is what Adam made so clear; the people that are retained at Apple are not really entrepreneurs. They are more great generals, captains and lieutenants in an army.  Its not an incubation environment like say General Electric where dozens of managers went on to great riches with their own businesses. Apple’s talent seems like a religion in that to leave Apple is like leaving your church.

Steve’s Remarkable Talent for Home Runs and Who Will Keep It Up

Besides all the great things that are said about Jobs many of them can be found in other leaders. But the ones that are truly his alone are his ability to visualize the kind of products people would fall in love with. Now in my life I have seen lots of inventions grow up to be incredibly successful: autos, televisions, computers, etc. And looking back in history the inventions like electricity, the telephone, and even radio seemed huge but in a certain class of invention that everyone who heard about it instantly knew it would be a huge success. Talking over wires? Very few people thought that would fail. Watching movies in your home that are transmitted over the airwaves? That is a no brainier anyone would want. But when I think of the products Steve created they are all in a class that require a great deal of explanation before you can grasp their value. And really until you use his products you won’t fully grasp what makes them so special. I’m thinking of the iPhone. The task of explaining to a alien why it turned the existing smartphone market upside down would take a lot more effort then explaining why the television was such a success.

So with Steve running Apple he brought not just incredible vision but the guts to take the risk to build the vision. And not just a crude version of it but one that is elegant and tested over and over until its perfect. Like Adam I really wonder now that Jobs is gone how will Apple fair at this magical process? With no one like Steve to say “its crap start over” what will happen to new products being developed? But we know from Walter’s book that Steve claimed he had “cracked the code” for how to make an Applesque flat panel television. And if he was willing to spill that fact to Walter its probably not unlikely that the company had gone far down the development path. So what about the Apple TV?

Will the Apple iTV Be As Huge a Success As the iPhone?

A useful thought experiment is to consider the rumored Apple iTV and what we would expect to come out of Apple if Steve was still around to guide its development. This product is supposed to break Apple into the flat panel television market and at the same time like other Apple products, to turn the market on its head. And we all know what a terrible job manufacturers like Sony, Samsung and others are doing with Flat Panels. Sure they have got the prices a lot lower and they are getting skinner everyday. They suck fewer watts. But the UI for a flat panel television still sucks big gas. Pick up any modern TV remote and you’ll know exactly what I mean. And it’s not just the remote its the entire television. Have you taken a recent look at the back of one the big LCD panels? They are a ugly mess of black plastic and randomly laid out connectors with labels that are unreadable without a magnifying glass. The cooling vents dominate the back along with the mounting screws for the wall bracket that none of the come with.

And its not like no one else is trying to build the Flat Panel television of the future. Have you tried Google TV?  I have two of them in different rooms and one of my coworkers has one in her home. Can we learn anything from Google TV? As much as I want Google TV to be a success I am sorry to report that the one thing we can learn is how NOT to build the television of the future. Google is certainly making a valiant effort but the product is really a mess. I just got the 5th update to my Logitech Revue (mistake number 1 Google is not using the Motorola engineers to do the hardware) and it did not go well. Anyway I digress.

Apple’s iTV will come in a remarkable custom box with with small wheels on the bottom of the flat panel so it rolls out with a gentle tug.

You should already be able to already visualize how the Jobsian Apple iTV will look. It will be a dark slab of gorilla glass with no sharp edges, wrapped in a white sculptured case that looks like it came from the future. Instead of needing a razor knife to cut into huge amounts of brown cardboard and two people to haul it out of the box and Styrofoam wrapper, Apple’s iTV will come in a remarkable custom box with with small wheels on the bottom of the flat panel so it rolls out with a gentle tug. Roll it out and remove its black cape and you’ll gasp at a visually stunning tactile work of art. It will have an amazing wall bracket like nothing ever seen that doubles as a stand so you can set it up and watch immediately.

Siri TV and Your Personal Concierge

There will be just one power button on the iTV and everything else will be controlled by talking with your own personal TV concierge at Apple. When you first turn it on Siri will begin the conversation with you, gently guiding you along though the initial set up. She’ll first help you to get iCloud working so Apple’s servers can get involved with the install. Then a support person from Apple will join in the chat to make sure your set up goes smoothly (what you didn’t’ expect that? Your paying twice the price of a television from Japan so you better have a personal concierge.)

Now if you think this is my double chocolate cheese cake and Americano talking your vision glasses need to be cleaned. There is nothing I have described that could not have been built when Steve was alive and in his prime. I have no doubt that at least 10 versions of this product are sitting on a table in front of Johnny Ive while he walks around them over and over, looking at the TV while its OFF from every angle.

iBird for Android 2.0.9 and 2.0.10 Troubleshooting FAQ

UPDATE: iBird Pro version 2.2.1 is now available on both Google Play as well as Amazon.com. It’s approved for the Kindle Fire and for any Android smartphone or tablet.  The way the installer works has completely changed. We no longer allow downloading one species at a time or all the birds starting with a certain letter of the alphabet. Instead the entire database is downloaded before the app can be used. I will be updating the blog in the next week to give more details for for now please update your current version of iBird.  We have discovered that occasionally the server we use for storing our database (MaxCDN.com) will drop a connection while its syncing. When this happens it can cause the entire db to be corrupted and the only solution is to erase the database,  uninstall iBird and start over. We have a solution we hope to implement soon that keeps track of the download of each file and if it drops the connection iBird will retry three times to reestablish the connection.  If you would like to beta test this for us, please send an email to support at ibird dot com with the title “Would like to Beta Test iBird” and reference this post.

This FAQ is written for the newest version of iBird Pro for Android: version 2.0.9 and 2.0.10.  Unless you are already a very patient and hard to ruffle person, I suggest you jump down and read my earlier post iBird 2 for Android Troubleshooting FAQ. This was written in Nov of 2011 and will not only cover issues with pre 2.0.9 iBird Pro but also help you get through the non trivial issues that arise when dealing with Android software.

FAQ You are installing iBird version 2.0.9 and get the message below:

The  message “iBird encountered an error and is unable to create or download the database….etc” means something has gone wrong during the installation of iBird. We are working on a solution to prevent this but for now to fix this you need to uninstall iBird from your device (phone or tablet), remove any iBird database folder that may have been created, and try to install the app again and sync its database. The rest of this FAQ explains how to do that and gives tips on how to make sure the sync is successful.

Tips for Downloading the iBird Database

iBird’s database is very large, pushing towards 600 MB. We often get complaints about its large size. Less frequently we get complaints that there are not enough illustrations, photos or other content. The deal is you can’t have both large amounts of data and small size. You want higher resolution? Then you have to accept that data is going to consume more space on your phone or tablet. Why not just put it on a server and download as needed some people ask? Because that means you wont be able to view it in the field where there is no WiFi or cellular connection available. Maybe someday when telecommunications is so ubiquitous that everyone has there own personal satellite in orbit a server solution will work. But for now downloading the database is the only good solution. And it’s really not that hard as long as you take a few precautions before you start. Here are some tips to help increase the odds of not running into trouble.

  1. Only download the iBird database over a fast WiFi connection. DO NOT USE YOUR CELLULAR CONNECTION. Because most cell carriers are metering the download of data, if you go over your monthly allotment you will incur additional costs.
  2. Monitor the download and be prepared to intervene if there are problems. Some networks will intentionally slow down your connection when they sense you are “hogging” the bandwidth, particularly DSL type of internet services, so you need to keep an eye on the progress of your iBird synchronization. (BTW we are not alone in the approach of downloading the database as a separate process from installing the app. The Audubon app uses the same approach.)
  3. Insure you have at least 1 GB (One gigabyte – 1,000 megabytes) of space available for the iBird database. While it only uses half that, as it downloads it may put part of the files in a temporary part of your memory so at times you can have twice the space consumed. Once the database has finished it will take up the advertised amount.
  4. Set the Display Time out setting to Never or as long as you are allowed on your device.
  5. If you have problems downloading please don’t leave a 1 star review that says “This product is a !@#$%^ and won’t download”. Instead take the adult approach and write to our support group using the form we have prepared to help us do a good job. Here is the link: iBird Support Form. If you just want to drop us a quick question you can use the email address support@ibird.com. But we warn you – if you need more help you will have to fill out the form and we will send you to it.

When Syncing My iBird Database Stalls

Its not uncommon for the database to stop downloading in the middle of the process. We are working on a programmed solution to this but for now we have put together this quick tutorial on how to cure the problem manually.

Go to the More Page to Sync the Database

Step 1. Go to the More Page to start the synchronization (downloading) of the database.

Step 2. Read the instructions.

Step 2. Read about the different ways to sync the database. You can sync in small sections by selecting then syncing all the birds starting with the letter A, then move to B, and so on. Or  you can Sync All the birds at once. You can even sync one bird at a time by just opening its species page and waiting for the data to download.

Step 3. Press the Sync All button to start the download

Step 3. Press Sync All to sync all the birds in the database. You will need to monitor the progress.

Step 4. Monitor the downloading. If the progress bar stalls press the hardware back button than press Sync All to resume.

Step 4. Monitor the progress bars as the download continues.

If the progress bar stops and does not move for more than a few minutes press the  hardware Back button then press the Sync All button again. You will see iBird verify the species that have already been downloaded and the bottom progress bar will move. Once it gets to the first bird that was stuck the progress should resume.

How to Start the iBird Installation Over

Some people have found that iBird gets in a state such that it can’t finish the installation or synchronization. Or it gives an error that there is no SD Card and you know that you have an SD Card and its got plenty of room. In this case the best solution is to start over. Here is how to do that.

Know Your WiFi Bandwidth

One of the first thing you need to do is make sure you have a good connection to the internet with a fast WiFi. We have seen many situations where the customer thinks they have a fast WiFi only to discover upon testing this is not true.

Why is bandwidth important? Because iBird is a really large database. In fact it’s too large to store in the Google Market. To understand this lets calculate how long it takes to download a 600 MB set of files over a 1 Mbps connection, which is typical of a wireless router connected to a DSL network. Assuming a byte is about 8 bits a 600 MB file is 600 x 8 or about 4800 megabits. 4800 megabytes divided by 1 megabits per second = 4800 seconds. In minutes this is 4800/60 = 80 minutes  or 80/60 = 1.33 hours. Call it 1-1/2 hours. Because there are several thousand files that make up the iBird database there is a good deal of overheard so that the actual download will be even longer. Consider a 50% efficiency the download time can double to 3 hours.  If your bandwidth is 2 Mbps you can assume your download will be 1-1/2 hours and if its 6 Mbps it will take 3 / 6 or 1/2 hour  or 30 minutes. I have a cable connected to a very fast router and speedtest.net says my bandwidth for download is 20 Mbps so should I expect it to take 3 / 20 = .15 hours or 9 minutes? I wish. The problem is the tablet or phone can’t process files as fast as my bandwidth seems to allow. The best I have been able to get is around 15 to 30 minutes.

Keep in mind that some ISPs will slow down your network if it thinks you are hogging the bandwidth and so the calculations can go out the window. Another factor are the servers that stores the files for iBird. If there is a lot of traffic on them it could slow the download time. We see this sometimes when a new update is first released and thousands of customers are attempting to update at the same time.

To test it you can download another app from the Market. My favorite is speedtest.net. Run this app a few times and make sure your bandwidth is as fast as we described in the previous section. If its lower take a look at your router to see if its using the right protocol or talk to your Internet ISP and see if they can explain why its not faster.

  1. Uninstall iBird. Use either the Market uninstall button uninstall the app from Settings using Settings→Applications→Manage Applications→iBird Pro then press the Uninstall button
  2. Remove the iBird Pro folder. Use a third party file manager app from the Market. My favorite is Astro File Manager. Find this app in the Market, download it then use it to locate the folder iBird_Pro on the SD Card. If you don’t have a physical SD Card you can find it in the folder mnt/SDCard.
  3. Now since you have already purchased iBird you can go to the Market again, search for it by typing “iBird” in the search box.
  4. Now go ahead and reinstall iBird. When it is done resync the database.

Hopefully this time your installation and syncing will work better.

If you continue to have problems please contact our support team and we will work with you.

FAQs from iBird Users


One wise user recommended disabling “automatic updates” for iBird in the Google Market. Reason? If this setting is ON (the checkbox is checked) Google Market will try to install a new update to the app in the background. That could lead to problems, for example if you are on a slow network, don’t want to incur the costs on a cellular network, or if you happened to be in the field. If  you keep automatic update OFF the Market will still let you know if there is an update when you go to My Apps in the store. But it will be up to you to start the update so you can do it when you have a fast WiFi connection. Note iBird will still let you know if there is a database update because we do that in the app. And of course you can press the Later button to do the database update some other time.

Review of Kindle Fire for Birders

Updated Dec 12, 2011
The Kindle Fire is for the birds.

Click to see at Amazon

I mean that in a good way. Yesterday my Kindle Fire appeared in the mailbox. I immediately unpacked and set it up to see how it compared to other tablets as a field guide for birding.  I downloaded iBird Pro from the Amazon app store and this is a review of what I found. I’m going to keep this short.

Caveat: I believe I can write intelligently about the Kindle Fire because as an app developer I’ve tested our Android product on about 20 different tablets to date. (In a future blog I’ll compare those devices.) I’ll start by giving you a quick overview of the good and the not so good about the device for the average person contemplating a purchase.

Overall Kindle Fire Pros and Cons for Anyone Buying a Tablet Today

After using the Kindle Fire for a day I am extremely impressed and 100% convinced it will turn the entire tablet market upside down.

In doing so it will grab a lot of share from Apple (and help Google in the process to dominate the mobile market). The most impressive thing about this device is its price of $200. Most tablets on the market cost around $500, so a $200 tablet is amazing. Compared to the iPad the Fire is missing a lot of features but on the other hand its incredibly low price may prove many of those features superfluous to most people.

iSuppli pegs the Fire’s build cost at $209.31 while Piper Jaffray puts it at $250.

The strategy of Jeff Bezos is brilliant: sell the hardware at a loss and make it up by sales of Amazon products though the Kindle. Using the Kindle to buy products in the Amazon store is a breeze, the browser is customized specifically for that purpose. We’ll have to wait and see if the profits can make up for the losses.

Pros for Everyone

  • $200 price is a steal – half the norm today for tablets
  • Solidly built and rubber back makes it less slippery
  • Customized home page works fairly well – a little too sensitive
  • Android interface has been super customized and simplified
  • The device was almost instantly useable because it came with a custom email address
  • Screen is gorgeous, bright, colors well saturated
  • No hardware buttons to wear out or menus other than start/sleep
  • Email was easy to set up
  • Speed is fast enough for several apps to run simultaneously
  • Nice drop down menu at screen top of important settings like WiFi, brightness, sync
  • Has a standard headphone jack

Cons for Everyone

  • No camera, microphone, GPS, Bluetooth or memory-card slot
  • No hardware buttons or menus other than start/sleep
  • Keyboard keys very small and easy to make mistakes
  • Off switch is too easy to hit by accident
  • Touch screen is hesitant and sometimes stubborn
  • Keyboard is overly sensitive – too easy to type wrong characters
  • Audio quality is good but volume is lower than other tablets
  • No cellular or whisper net (like Kindle book readers)
  • WiFi a bit wonky
  • Animation and screen swipes are a bit sluggish but not that bad (to me)
  • Screen is a finger print magnet and needs a glare reducer when used in bright light
  • Only 8 GB of memory can be used up quickly by magazines, books and apps
  • Heavy compared to the newer 7 inch tablets (e.g. Sony Tablet)
  • Unconventional and customized Android interface takes some getting used to
  • A bit sluggish and taps don’t always register but this is version 1.0
  • Registration process was not clear – came with an email address
  • No hardware volume control but slider easily accessible
  • Amazon store is lacking several important apps but there is a way around this (2)
  • Store doesn’t rank apps and is missing some really important ones (3)
  • WiFi gave inconsistent results when used with AT&T WiFi inside Barnes and Noble! This was the case in the first store I tried but the next day at a different B&N it worked fine.
  • Custom “Silk” browser is not as fast as I was led to believe, won’t resolve some pages and sometimes stalls
  • The mail program really needs to be improved, I had a hard time using it
  • No privacy – you can’t clear your browser history so anyone can see what you visited and the last app you used shows as the first icon in the home page carousel

Looking at the Pros and Cons list you might conclude that there are way  more things I don’t like than I do like. Actually I made up the list of Con’s with other tablets in my mind at the time, and it’s human nature to find things wrong easier than things right. So don’t take the imbalance as a negative. I’m convinced that most of the Con issues will be fixed in subsequent Amazon updates.

Kindle Fire Pros and Cons Specifically for Birders

These are the things people who like to bird will want to be aware of about the Kindle Fire.

Overall compared to other tablets the Kindle Fire offers the best cost and value tradeoff for birding.

The only real competitor to the Kindle Fire, in this birder’s opinion, is the new $199 iPod touch, which is not a tablet, but a smartphone minus the phone. While the iPod touch has a superior interface and can fit in your pocket its small screen means it’s not as good for reading books and surfing the web, so a personal choice has to be made carefully between these devices. The other 20 tablets I’ve used are either too heavy, too big, or too expensive. If I had to pick one “high-end” Android tablet today it would be the new Sony. It has a beautiful hardware design, and is amazingly light weight. It is great for arm-chair birders who don’t mind spending $500. The other tablet I would consider if I was not concerned about cost would be the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 running Android Honeycomb 3.2. I recently upgraded my Galaxy tab from OS 3.1 to OS 3.2 and it was a huge improvement.

Pros for Birders

  • Screen still readable in sunlight
  • Light weight – about the same as Sibley or Nat Geo printed book
  • Birding apps run well and are very easy to install
  • Cost is really low ($200) which means you get all the extra values of a tablet in a book reader
  • Will fit in a large coat pocket
  • Battery life decent, will last for at least 8 hours of continuous  use

Cons for Birders

  • No camera, microphone, GPS, Bluetooth or memory-card slot
  • Heavy and thick (1/2 inch) means won’t fit in pants pocket
  • No external storage card means limits to what can be on device
  • Changing volume is difficult in the field as there is no hardware control
  • Volume really is too low – needs an audio amp for birds to hear well
  • Entering text in a bird app is harder than it should be as keyboard is so sensitive
  • Definitely needs a case in the field, dropping it will crack the screen (1)
  • Battery life not as long as other tablets – maybe good for a day of heavy use

My Impressions of the Kindle Fire

The big surprise for me when I unpacked the Kindle Fire was it was already turned on!  Which was confusing because it was not clear what to do next. There was not one sheet of paper describing how to start the device and I could not find an on/off button. Eventually I found the tiny button next to the charger receptacle on the bottom edge and when I pressed it the title Kindle Fire on the screen started rippling and I took this as it starting up. Still this is not grandmother friendly. The packaging gives an impression of cheapness and an “I really don’t care what the user experiences when they open my product for the first time”.  I think Jeff Bezos does not have the sensitivity of Steve Jobs when it comes to presentation. Or maybe he will after he reads this review (yeah dream on).

The next surprise was the Kindle Fire opened what looked like a registration screen and already had an email address for me set (name@kindle.com). There was a link called Deregister but I was not sure what to do so I pressed it and it let me enter my normal Amazon user name (but not a password). However later I discovered the @kindle.com address was still enabled. I was able to press Deregister again and this time when I entered my normal Amazon email account it actually took. You really want to change the Kindle Fire account email address right away otherwise the apps you download will have to be re-downloaded. Apps are always associated with the email address you log into the Fire with.

Next I was presented with a WiFi setup screen that didn’t show my main WiFi account. I had to take it closer to the router to get a stronger signal. I think there is some weakness in the WiFi hardware and this is why I gave it a “wonky” note in the Cons section.

The last surprise was before I got to the home page the Kindle Fire needed to be updated with new Amazon firmware.

This update process took a half hour to download and install. When it rebooted the device there was a long period where I could not tell if it was starting up or stuck. Amazon left all the waiting indicators off the design which will have you scratching your head at times wondering what its doing.  Amazon could have included a tiny low cost LED that blinked when the device was busy, or just used the customary spinning cursor, but perhaps they have reasons for dropping activity indicators I can’t fathom.

One thing is clear about the Kindle Fire: it’s the first true competition to the iPad. Imagine you are an Android tablet manufacturer today. Lacking Amazon’s huge online infrastructure the only way you can compete is by adding new hardware features. And that means raising the price which will just push more customers into Amazon’s grip. And while Apple can counter Amazon’s store with its iTunes ecology the iTune’s store is only good for media like music and video and software like apps. Jeff Bezos says Apple’s approach is to sell hardware at high margins while Amazon’s approach is to sell everything at low margins. Both approaches have pros and cons but if you think about it Amazon’s more varied product strategy gives them insurance should people tire of the excitement around tablets and smartphones.

There are many extensive reviews on the Internet about the Kindle Fire (for example see David Pogue’s excellent and amusing Fire Aside, Other Kindles Also Shine.) These reviews are not all as positive as mine but I think that’s because there authors are trying to compare the Fire to an iPad or expensive Android tablet by features rather than ecology. In such a comparison the Fire won’t win. There are also a lot of debates about whether the Fire is an iPad killer and several other controversies. However it is my opinion that if you are a birder you will be VERY happy with the Kindle Fire.

One recent review in the New York Times (As Kindle Fire Faces Critics, Remedies Are Promised by David Streifeld, Dec 1, 2011) raises some interesting points regarding the different impressions people have. It reminds me of the story of the blind men describing an elephant by touch. In various versions of the tale, a group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement. One reviewer is particularly negative.

“I feel the Fire is going to be a failure,” Mr. Nielsen, of the Nielsen Norman Group, a Silicon Valley consulting firm, said in an interview. “I can’t recommend buying it.”

This particular review, in this writer’s opinion, Mr. Neilsen seems to have got stuck touching the tail of the elephant. It’s always easy to find things wrong with version 1.0 of any software product and that is why I recommend you stand back and see the product as dynamic and evolving.  Mr. Nielsen seems foolish to underestimate Amazon and discount the Kindle Fire.

The Tablet Arm’s Race

Right now there is a major fight to be king of the tablet between Amazon, Google and Apple with Samsung quickly gaining traction on everyone. This epic battle is unlike those of the past that relied on who offered the best hardware. Today all companies have access to roughly the same hardware technology and so these companies are looking for other ways to win the tablet battle. Right now Apple owns most of the market from a profitability viewpoint by choosing a strategy of the best hardware, the most fun interface and its iTunes and iCloud ecology.  iTunes offers a huge number of apps, songs and videos which are now, though iCloud, seamlessly integrated with the iPad hardware (you no longer have to sync your iPad to a computer running iTunes). While Apple has had an enormous lead in the market and its hardware has super high margins, the field is rapid shifting because of Google’s Android OS. The recent addition of iCloud is Apple’s attempt to make the use of the iPad even easier than before, and to allow all your media and apps to live in the cloud instead of taking up room on your device.

Both Amazon and Google are attempting to unseat Apple’s lead in the tablet market by jumping beyond just media. While they both provide music and video stores, Amazon beats Apple with over one million ebooks plus an online supermarket with unlimited products you can buy. Think of Amazon as the Walmart of the tablet makers. You would think that with Amazon having such a killer infrastructure that Google is handicapped in this race.

Never Underestimate Google

Right now Google is working very hard to bring Near Field Communication or NFC to the Android standard. NFC is the ability to for devices to be used as credit cards by communicating with card readers in stores. They call this an open commerce ecosystem and the official name of the feature is Google wallet. Thus Google hopes to leap over Amazon by allowing any Android tablet or phone to tap into every store in the world that takes credit cards. Thus rather than being limited to just the products that Amazon has in there warehouse you have access to every store that offers an interface to Google Wallet. That is a huge vision.

Google also has YouTube which they are attempting to turn into a television network on the internet and they are working on Google TV to bring every Google product to your living room flat panel television.

With such a competitive race it’s very difficult to choose who will be the winner but one thing is certain; consumers are going to be offered amazing products as companies fight for their allegiance.

Despite Amazon never giving out the units sold of any Kindle model (unlike Apple who loves to brag about their awesome numbers), analysts are predicting that the company will sell between three to five million Fires this quarter.

(1) I bought the Belkin Verve Tab Folio for Kindle Fire, Purple case because it had good reviews on Amazon, it’s leather and I like the color purple. However there are many choices.
(2) Search the web and you’ll find how to trick he Kindle to download apps not in the Amazon store and I am not describing jail-breaking the tablet (Nonetheless I take no responsibility for this and your on your own if you do it).
(3) The apps are on there way I am sure, just be patient.