Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Device Interoperability

I'm four days into my iPad experience and there are two features I long for most: multitasking and device interoperability.  Multitasking is a popular request and many are hoping the OS 4 announcement scheduled for this Thursday will address this issue.  But what do I mean by "device interoperability"?

I now have a MacBook Pro, an iPhone and an iPad.  All are terrific devices but they don't talk to each other as well as I'd like them to.  Here's an example: Let's say I'm looking at a PDF on my MacBook.  I realize I'm going to have to spend more time reading this document than I originally thought and it would be far more convenient to do so on my iPad.

Sure, I can email it to myself or find some other way to get it from MacBook to iPad, but why not build this device-to-device communication mechanism right into the hardware?  I should be able to right-click on the document on my MacBook and the menu should include an option to "View on Joe's iPad".  If I select that one, the file gets transferred to my iPad and in two simple clicks the operation is complete (via wifi or Bluetooth).  I should also be able to do the same in reverse.

How about the AIM app?  I'm one of those people who sometimes forgets I'm still logged in on my MacBook when I run an errand over lunch.  People IM me and nobody is there to respond.  Why not leverage the sensor technology built into many of these devices and have my AIM session follow me around?  So if I log into AIM on my MacBook, it uses Bluetooth to sense what other devices I have nearby (e.g., iPad, iPhone).  The MacBook AIM app notes that my iPhone is close by and immobile.  When I get up for lunch, the sensors realize that I'm still logged in on my MacBook but now my iPhone is moving and getting further away from the MacBook.  As a result, the devices work together to shift my AIM session from MacBook to iPhone and I don't miss any messages.  The session automatically moves back to my MacBook when I return.  All of this is customizable by distance between devices and other relevant settings.

Those are just two examples but they show how these terrific devices could be even more powerful working together rather than independently.  Can you think of any other scenarios where this would be useful?


  1. Great thoughts Joe. I'm really hoping for an iBooks app for the phone & computer. Not ready to buy any books on the iBooks app if I can only read it on my iPad. That's where Kindle has definitely thought ahead...I can read a Kindle book anywhere I go... Surely Apple will figure this out and include iBooks for the iPhone in the next OS...Right?

  2. Re: your first example, is a good use case for a mobile me account (me.com). I use iDisk (10 GB of storage) frequently to keep files available on multiple devices and there's a great app for iPhone / iPad called iDisk from apple that gives you direct access to your content. Just drag your content to your iDisk on your mac, and it will become instantly available on your iPad (as long as you have a connection). It will even cache up to 500 MB of content on your iPad/iPhone for offline use.

    Your second example requires a little bit of tinkering but is a great use case for Automater to come in. You can create an Automater script that logs off of AIM after so many minutes of your computer being idle.

  3. The free Meebo iphone app (which allows AIM, etc) works with the regular web app that you can use on your macbook and will only send IM messages to your iphone if you're idle from your computer.... Works great!

  4. It would be nice if all devices could talk to each other