November 16, 2009

litl experiences: "oooh i like that."

not only has the litl been designed to reduce computer frustration, but also to maximize totally sweetness. aspects of the litl experience are truly different from the status quo. so what exactly do i mean? i'm talking about those moments when you are using a device, and you go "oooh yeah, i like that" and it changes the way you live. you wonder how you got on without these things and why it took so long to happen.

other game changers:
  • planning your cross country road trip on your phone
  • watching any episode of your favorite tv show whenever you want
  • holding entire musical collections or libraries of books in their palm
these are all actions that at one point were inconceivable, but technology and society advanced and those are now available to everyone via the internet.

here are a few of the cool things that litl has in store for you:
  • for every webbook purchase, litl asks for your favorite websites as well as which photo services you might use. since this data is synced in our servers, your webbook gets pre-populated with those sites as web cards along with the weather channel for your city. you don't need to enter ZS5G4-LVE32-MRYUO-2PWWL or any authorization key you might find printed on a cdrom to get at your data. it just is on your webbook.
  • how many times have you asked yourself the question, "now, which computer did i save that document on?" or "on which machine did i find that website?" or needed something that was on a laptop that someone else was busy using? with the litl there is no hard drive, and all of your data is synced to the cloud. your channels and settings are also shared among all of your litl webbooks too! because of this, it no longer becomes "your computer" and "my laptop," but instead "our litls!"
  • and the most apparent differentiator - easel mode. you can see all the pictures and read all of the descriptions of how the webbook "flips over to an "easel" mode, suited to passive viewing. " and you can watch the hands on videos. but let me tell you, the first time i saw an early prototype and flipped it to easel mode, my jaw dropped. it made so much sense, i wondered why it hadn't been done before! this mode opens the door for innovation and new ways to view the internet. i can hardly wait to see what the community comes up with!
i remember a conversation with john chuang (litl ceo), he wanted to make a product that users thought was awesome. i corrected him, the litl isn't just awesome, there are some differences in this webbook that make it totally sweet.

November 04, 2009

litl: there's a server component too

It's been quite a while since my last post, mostly due to all the work being put into litl's first product launch. We has come a long way and the team has definitely put together something special. As with most hardware product launches, people want to about the technical details of the software. They can range from architectural decisions at the start to interesting problems we've attempted to tackle along the way. The litl webbook has been given a lot of attention from it's unique hardware design and formfactor, but the software's use of the cloud has even larger implications. The litl's use of online photo services introduced a number of problems and challenges that I'd like to talk about.
designing for new photo services:
We needed to design our software to support multiple photo services. The litl currently tracks all of your photos stored in flickr and Shutterfly, but this is far from a complete list. Not requiring a client software update for every new service was key. Whenever a photo query is needed, send it off and let GAE do all the heavy lifting. The async nature of taskqueues allowed us to chop up and perform pretty large requests rather sanely. Having well-behaved OAuth and REST APIs made a huge difference.

the media wall:
Looking for that picture from last Thanksgiving? You don't need to remember which album it was filed in, or if you used this program or that photo service. Not only does the litl webbook display your photos stored in online services, it even aggregates all of them into a single timeline view, regardless of account.
Got new baby pictures that you want to send to your family and friends? Share a photo channel with them once, and have all subsequent uploads be included as well. Since the photos are already on the cloud, it's even easier to share. The huge amount of information required and tasks related to performing these searches forced us to change the way approached this problem several times.

This has been a very thought-provoking and challenging road. But one great thing about attempting to do something exciting and different is that the number of opportunities to learn and grow. It seems like this shift in focus to leveraging existing web services to handle and share our information with our friends and family instead of building larger machines to store everything locally is uncovering new types of problems to solve every day. Let's get cracking!