Friday, November 19, 2010

The Myth of App-lication of the Web

Just read a brief summary to two CEO's remarks concerning Apple at Web 2.0

Shantanu Narayen's bizzare spin on Apple was that it was about control, and that Apple was for a proprietary and closed ecosystem, which Adobe was for the opposite, allowing content to flow across multiple devices and environments - meaning those that actually support a current version of Flash, which Adobe is the only commercial developer of playback technology. OF COURSE, this is also cheerfully ignoring the fact that Flash is the poster child of what has gone wrong with web development in the last 5 years. We are in the twilight of the era of the plugin and Adobe knows this, but has no plan B.

Jim Balsillie, who is co-CEO of Blackberry, has this quote: users "don't need an app for the web".  This is actually only partially true. What we call the "web" is now more than a browser that renders content. The web browser itself may be secondary to specific applications that use the internet and web standards to convey focused content. General design web pages that flow across platforms are hard to do, and even harder to do when attention is paid to design that interface in a way that makes best use of the device.

Apple figured this out with the introduction of the original iPhone, and it appears to me that some dstill have not grasped this message. I do not want to open a web browser to do a simple task. I want an app. It has to be remembered that when Apple rolled out the iPhone - web development was the way that developers were going to be able to write Apps for the iPhone, and even developed extensions for HTML 5 that have been adopted. Blackberry will be able to directly benefit from this. I seriously doubt that Blackberry would have had the vision to do this themselves. From all appearances, they were totally blindsided by the iPhone - confident that people wouldn't change because they were married to the Blackberry way of doing things - even though Blackberry's architecture still has legacy thinking tied to it's roots as a pager with a keyboard.

General content web pages aren't going away - but applications (whether web based or native) are definitely the future. Boxee is an excellent example of a company that understands this - how best to bridge the television experience with the internet? Build applications that can access web content and display it in a way that works on a TV.

Adobe has to begin the process of killing Flash to be at that curve. What is going to replace it? Have they even considered this possibility? I think perhaps the developers have, but upper management may not.

Remember Director? Where is it now?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Microsoft isn't too mobile

Has Microsoft actually shipped a mobile device in the last couple of years that is worth a damn?

Their strategy has been a mess. They at one point supported 5 different mobile platforms, with little overlap between them.

There was the Zune. There were the missteps; the brown Zune, the wifi that was inexplicably crippled on the device. The tragedy was compounded with the fact that it wasn't that bad a device. The menu system was actually nice.

There was Windows Mobile. It was the PDA/Phone thing. Geeks loved them. They were big, ugly and had lots of features. And they were saddled with an OS that had a poorly realized interface that was originally developed for their PDA's. I had a HP PDA, loved it's potential, but hated it's realization. Simple things like configuring wireless were almost purposely hard to do. It was almost like Microsoft didn't want you to use wireless networking.

There was that other Microsoft Smart Phone thing. It was a little nicer to use, but it was confusing as well. What is the difference? Sometimes I was confused about which was a Smart Phone and which was a Windows Mobile device.

There was the Sidekick. Microsoft bought a company that at one time had one of the most innovative phones on the market; a clever design that offered a great text messaging experience and lightweight web browsing through their back-end interface. It was killed not actively, but by neglect and lack of ability to incorporate it into their product line. It ran Java - does Microsoft write anything in Java?

The last casualty has been the Kin. It was a device that was supposed to be targeted at the "20 somethings" - you know - that "connected generation". I remember trying to figure out how to use one in a Verizon store while waiting for a friend. The user interface was a car wreck. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out how to use it to make a phone call. It went downhill from there.

Apple succeeded where Microsoft hasn't because it is small enough that it has by it's very nature been focused on using as much as it can from one device to another. Mac OS X and iOS4 share many of the same underpinnings. Expect to see features from the iPhone show up on Mac OS X - such as the re-write of Quicktime called Quicktime 10. Critics like to complain that the iPad is just a "big iPhone", but it's success is because Apple did incorporate all their research and fine-tuning in their new device.

Microsoft has been all over the place, like a kid with tons of toys but also a very bad case of ADD. It can't seem to be focused on how to make a good device. It can't even seem to get the basics right. If Android hasn't passed them, it will soon.

Microsoft can do this. The XBox 360 is a good game system despite a few annoyances. The menuing is good, you can even play back video in formats that their own desktop operating system doesn't support.

Perhaps it is time to go back and refocus. Killing off all these devices that don't fit into a cohesive strategy is a good start. The Kin tried to take some ideas from the Sidekick, but the reality is that the Sidekick's days have come and gone - the last thing that was compelling about it was the device design itself, and it has been copied and improved upon by others.

It may be that Microsoft has to look outside their own company for answers. The weight of the company, with all it's legacy, politics and culture, is preventing it from innovating. I am not an expert at this, but I can say it has been a very long time since I have seen a Microsoft anything that made me take a step back and be impressed. These latest occurances are just part of a bigger problem that is too sprawling to outline here. I am simply not knowledgeable enough to offer that kind of advice. All I can say is that when I held a Kin in my hand, it felt like a doomed product, and I am sure that I was not the first one to have this same feeling.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why Flash Must Die

The clash between Steve Jobs and Adobe was for the most part manufactured by those covering the news. Jobs said that the iPhone, iPad and any other iOS devices wouldn't support Flash. Adobe responded by saying bad things about Apple. The press loves a good fight, even when it is a fight created purely in the minds of the writers.

The reality is that the decline of Flash started a couple of years ago, and is now gathering momentum. It began when it became apparent that things that designers had used Flash for could be done with code that was based on open standards. It was at that point more about good development tools and new skill sets.

This has been driven home to me in a parallel experience I have had over the last year with a web site a friend relies on for his work. It is a multiple listing service web application for real estate. Two years ago I was chagrined to find out that this site would only work with Internet Explorer, locking out the Mac and any other platform that did not have Internet Explorer. My friend told me that this was not a big deal since everyone in his office had a "PC".

Now, two years later, this same friend has a netbook, but keeps borrowing my iPad. He loves it. He claims it is actually easier for him to type on (he is a hunt and peck typist). He loves the pinch zooming. He loves the size and general sexiness of the device.

But it won't work with his MLS web application, which still only supports Internet Explorer. The company just released a "Mac Solution", which is nothing more Internet Explorer inside a runtime WINE (crossdos) container. It works, but is a kludge. It doesn't behave like a normal Mac application, so doesn't use any of the standard file requestors, drag and drop, etc. It is ugly looking but works.

I use this example to show why Flash must die. It is a similar thing. Instead of simply using open standards that can work across browsers on a variety of platforms, this MLS application is tied to a proprietary framework that can only work in browsers that Microsoft wants it to work in.

And this is a big problem with Flash. It only works in devices that Adobe develops the flash plugin for. If something new comes out, developers have to wait.....and may have to wait for a long time. Android is getting Flash, but it has taken a while, and some reports are that it isn't great shakes in the performance department.

For me, the other point of inflection was when Adobe began promoting Flash as a total solution for web development. This is at the end of the day quite insane. While these sites do look pretty cool, they break on anything other than a traditional desktop or laptop. Settop boxes, game systems, mobile devices - it doesn't work on any of these. Adding accessibility to the mix - and you have a world of hurt. It is possible to make flash sites accessible, but many developers don't bother. A company that hires developers to create their new web site in Flash now has to use these same developers to maintain it. As we move away from the paradigm of the traditional computer and towards the computing appliance, Flash is going to struggle to keep up.

Anyone who actually follows what has been happening in rich media development for the web already had a clue that Flash would eventually be challenged by open standards. I figured this out two years ago at Apple's developer conference when there was demo after demo of HTML 5 rich media, including clean vector animation - which was how Flash got it's start. I sat next to a friend who is a flash developer, and he told me that he would keep developing in flash because it would take too long for him to learn another development environment. I bet at this point he is reevaluating that position.

The good news for Flash developers is that they will be able to continue to develop flash applications for the near future. There will still be demand. But this is also the bad news as well; there is no "the house is on fire" scenario that will force entrenched Flash developers to change, which will set them up for a scenario similar to the company mentioned above that makes the IE specific MLS system. At some point, these developers will look up from their code, and realize the world has changed underneath them, and now they are in a situation where they have to either adapt quickly, or get left in the dust.

So - the point here is that the Flash issue is not an Adobe versus Apple thing; it is another example based on historical precedent where we are moving away from proprietary code and plugins towards open standards that can work across devices. It is what the web has always been about.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

iPad, Kindle, etc.....

This article does a good job of summing up the dilemma both Amazon and Barnes and Noble face in selling ebooks - both have dropped the price of their readers today.

I've written in the past about e-books and the problems they face. The argument that would be given today for something like the Kindle would be the extraordinary battery life, and crisp display. The iPad's display is decent, but average (around 95 dpi I would guess). But wait......Apple has just started selling the iPhone 4, which has a much nicer display. It is really just a matter of time before this display technology shows up on the iPad, and at that point it becomes an even harder choice for those trying to decide between the iPad, Kindle and other ereaders.

I am not saying that Amazon's Kindle is doomed,  just that their reader's sales growth will slope downwards. Where they will make their money is on their ebook publication, since there is Kindle software for the iPad and other devices.

The Android tablets are already here, and pricing is bound to drop. They will be the iPad's biggest competitor, and unlike the iPhone/Android Phone, they have a very good chance of dominating the tablet market. Apple will have to move quickly with better display technology and more aggressive pricing. As always, the difference will be content, whether it be in textual content or applications. The Kindle lags far behind in the latter.

One final aspect that is worth considering is the book or magazine remediated in digital form. At the end of the day, static books on the Kindle and Nook are a bit more than just a book itself on a device, but on the iPad and other devices publication can be something quite more. Content can be dynamic; it can have interactivity that the Kindle and Nook can't really provide well. These new devices offer the dimension of color, which makes digital magazines much more like their analog equivalents. This is, in my opinion, the overarching reason that e-ink devices are going to suffer. It is akin to the move from black and white to color film. Suddenly, black and white looked dated. It is even more of a problem here in that color publication has been available for centuries.

What is HTML 5 good for? Emulating a Vectrex!

I have been switching back and forth lately between Firefox and Safari as my default browser. The main motivation has been Apple's announcement of (finally) supporting extensions in Safari, which is the one last thing that kept me using Firefox.

The speed difference in Javascript of Firefox versus Chrome or Safari has been noted by others, but it really becomes apparent with a good HTML 5 demo.

There have been a lot of amazing things I have seen lately using HTML 5. How about emulating an semi-obscure game system that is now about 30 years old?

The Vectrex was a self-contrained vector based game system that sold for around $200.00. It was the first game system I owned. I was still in college and miraculously managed to scrape the money together to buy one. I ended up owning a bunch of cartridges because Milton Bradley went out of business, and systems and cartridges were dumped for pennies on the dollar. As part of the fallout, rights for the games and system returned to the original inventor, who in turn put all this stuff in the public domain.'s the game system emulated in a browser. It is notably faster in Safari and Chrome, and in a way it again illustrates why Flash may really be in trouble. The only thing lacking now are good visually oriented development tools designed more for artists and graphic designers, and less for programmers. Flash almost strikes this balance, which is why it is so popular. I think it is just a matter of time.

Adobe is not out of luck, though. I imagine they are busy at work on just what I described.....not necessarily Dreamweaver, not necessarily Flash....but perhaps something new.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Handheld 3D

Nintendo is showing off it's new handheld game system that uses a 3D display that doesn't use glasses. Is it a bell-weather moment? I think it is because it shows how rapidly 3D displays are becoming mainstream. Nintendo's implementation is not perfect, but still compelling - the reviewer in the linked article complained about eye fatigue.

I follow Nintendo more closely than any other game company because they have a lot of interesting ideas about how innovation can take place in a company. In a nutshell, they use small teams to develop ideas to the point where they hit critical mass, and if they pass scrutiny, Nintendo then commits resources to moving it forward. This is in opposition to how Microsoft works, and it shows in their products. The 360 is not a bad platform (in fact, their menuing system is quite good - very un-Microsoft like), but they are typically trailing in development.

But clearly - Nintendo is the one to watch. The fact that it can play back 3D movies as well is particularly interesting. And....Nintendo has an online store for purchasing games....ala Apple.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

One Last Thing about the iPad

The inclination was to take both the Macbook Pro and the iPad to Apple's World Wide Developer's conference, but I still went back and forth on this, and finally decided to take just the iPad for the week.

PDF support was a big snag in that acrobat forms simply wouldn't work on the iPad. My co-worker said that it was Adobe's fault in that they purposely made it that forms created with Acrobat form wouldn't work with anything other than Adobe's products. I can't verify this, but the two pdf forms I got via email attachments simply gave me a message that I needed to upgrade Acrobat 9. I ended up using a friend's netbook running Windows XP.  However, I wrote my signature on the iPad using a Pogo stylus and Autodesk Sketch, exported it an image and mailed it to myself.

Other than that, and the stray web site that relied on Flash for all or most of their navigation, or the one web site where their embedded window with scrolling didn't work at all, it was as I expected in that it met my needs just fine.

While the Apple bluetooth keyboard I carried along was welcome for writing long emails, the onscreen keyboard ended up being used more overall. I think I could just leave the physical keyboard a home and probably will do that next time.

I bought Autodesk Sketch and Korg iElectribe. Both are great applications that show off the iPad in different ways. I bought iElectribe because I have admittedly experience with beatboxes and want to learn about them. Sketch is very nice and intuitive. However, Brushes won an Apple Design award at this conference.

In the end, the iPad is so almost, almost there. My friend with the netbook is selling his and getting an iPad, even though there is one web site he relies on for work that only works with Internet Explorer (they even warned people to not upgrade with IE 8 when it was first released). He's betting this will change and I think he is right. I think we are witnessing a big, rapid transition to HTML5, which all the major browser manufacturers are behind - including Microsoft. It is not that the iPad will singularly force this change, it is that it illustrates why this change needs to take place.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Smart Camera

Apple's new iPhone has an improved camera, which is great. Underneath the hood, developers can get access to the camera to use in their own applications, which will lead to some neat stuff beyond just taking pictures. But what I thought about while watching the keynote was that while cameras on phones continue to improve, cameras themselves are still bound to a closed operating system bundled with the camera. Occasionally there are firmware updates, and in the past there have been hacked versions of firmware for cameras that unlocked features that manufacturers chose not to include.

Having a development platform that gives access to the camera allows for such things as custom processing (aka Camerabag) or more sophisticated stuff such as follow focus for video recording. Thinking of a camera as a development platform is an intriguing idea that has been explored in the past - both Kodak and Apple shipped cameras that developers could write apps for (such as the DC265 etc), but that idea never really caught on. It may be a neat trick to be able to run Doom on a phone, but really - is that really that compelling? Evidentially not.

I think that is about to change. Again - the gap between point and shoot cameras and cell phones is closing - and it won't be much longer before many people will simply not buy a new point and shoot, since their phone will do as good a job - and can get new features via the App store. This is certainly the case with me - I love my Fuji point and shoot with it's great EXR mode (instant HDR photography) but I am expecting that my new iPhone will do much the same thing - and much more. Sure - I will halve the number of pixels of my camera - but at least 70% of the pictures I take now are with my old iPhone 3G.

I am not predicting the demise of point and shoots - there are always compelling reasons to have devices optimized for tasks - but it going to be a challenge to make buying that new sub-$200 camera a compelling choice. The maxim is true - the best camera is the one you have with you. Indeed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

One Month with an iPad

I was fortunate enough be given an iPad through work. It was easy to justify based on what I do for a living. The reality was that I was prepared to buy one for myself, so I am sitting on the money to do just that at a later date.

-We haven't seen a significant change in how we interact with computers since the keyboard and mouse (a late 1960's invention). We can point to tablet PC's as the early innovators, but ultimately that isn't true. They did feature pointing devices and a flat screen, but the operating system and user interface was pretty much the same interface that was designed for a keyboard and mouse. There was little or no attempt to rethink how something would work without a physical keyboard. Like many things Apple, the iPhone/iPad is not as revolutionary as profoundly evolutionary. With the iPad developers now have a successful model for how a touch interface can work on a tablet. This is good for everyone.

-The iPad represents the shift from computer platform to computing appliance. There are many examples of this now, but the iPad represents the most blatant. The Tivo is a computing appliance in that it runs an operating system, has a processor, ram and storage, and a modest amount of 3rd party support. However, unlike a personal computer, it is a "closed" environment that not just anyone can write for. Videogame systems, to some extent, represent the same idea. It is possible to hack these to run 3rd party applications, but it's really not the intended use. The iPad represents a further shift in this idea, whether someone agrees with it or not.

-There are notable gaps in the experience. Flash is the most hotly contested. It is a disservice to not support embedded flash applications in the browser. There are legitimate technical reasons to exclude flash, but at the end of the day I would have included Flash application support in the browser, but not necessarily for stand-alone apps. As for flash as a video player - I think that bird has flown. The HTML video tag has too many benefits to not adopt it. The "which format" issue will sort itself out - I root for the open source alternatives - but the pragmatist in me says that h264 will win - hardware acceleration, better tools, more content.

-Battery life on the device is a game-changer.  I am watching my battery go down on my macbook right no, but on the iPad I am forgetting to check because the battery life is so phenomenal. It will be a deciding factor for some as they consider buying a tablet.

-Some applications really shine on the device. My music apps (such as megasynth, bebot etc) work fantastically on the iPad - megasynth has become something that is actually more than just a novelty - truly useful. I can't see what midi support for it could be like. I am running these in pixel doubled mode, but the double size make it more useful. I look forward to seeing what kinds of graphic applications show up on the device.

It will take about a year before the other manufacturers begin to ship truly competitive products to the iPad. HP's purchase of Palm (and WebOS) has some attraction. Most of the tablets out now are using hardware that is not nearly as power efficient - just netbooks in a different form factor. Price will be a factor - but just like is the case with netbooks - there is definitely a price/peformance tipping point. The $150 netbooks aren't selling because they are too underpowered for what people want them for. A $200 tablet versus a $350 tablet may be a world of difference. Apple figured this out.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

3D as the next medium

With the onset of home 3D television sets, and the commercially successful use of 3D in feature films, we will see another shift in medium - as was with film, radio, television and youtube. We recognize how artifacts of each of these impacted the other, and when we consider 3D, the early utilization of it will be to mimic what has come before. 3D television and film are an extension of existing methodologies and composition, but soon enough a new visual language will be developed to accompany what this technology will bring us.

I think, given the pervasive use of digital media tools, and the imminent release of consumer 3D cameras, we will see content that has only a tenuous relationship with what came before. It will become more than film in 3D.

The addition of spacial beyond the use of the lens will have a profound emotional impact on how we participate as viewers - indeed the line between audience and performer can be and will be blurred. Our perception of our world will be forever changed; these ghost-projections that exist in visual space, but are but wisps of light. In time, of course, we will be comfortable with them, see them as another part of our everyday life.

What dawned on me (thanks to a email from my nephew Dane) was how quickly this is happening. There are several competing technologies - which is unfortunate, but an inevitable of free market. Wax cylinders vs records, betamax vs vhs, the numerous standards for HDTV; we see this happen again and again. Sometimes we see a convergence around a single technology, such as the ascension of mpeg4/h264 as a defacto standard for web video (either via html5, flash or quicktime).

I am fairly excited about this. There will be a tremendous surge in the next few years as we move to this new medium, away from the gimmickry to the opportunities which will be available once the technology is commonplace. My nephew talks about capturing the best minds of time for the ages; I think that will be a great place to start (think TED in 3D). Performance art, documentaries, artifacts of our lives recorded forever - it seems to me to be the next leap. I think I need to be there.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Flash, iPad and publication

IEEE weighs in on the iPad

A very long posting follows. Sorry.

-Flash has grown from a nice vector animation program with some handy scriptability into an application development environment. In the process, a lot of what made sense before doesn't. To make an app for Flash, you first have to add an event to a timeline. Inside that one frame can live all of your application code. It is incredibly loopy. The programming environment itself has been plagued with bugs. I speak from experience here.

-Flash is indeed a memory and CPU pig. That is why Adobe developed Flash Lite, which is what many of these smartphones will be running. Adobe has a "device central" environment to help developers. I would prefer this on the iPhone etc although some might complain - it is enough though to write games, and I think stream video.

-Apple is put a lot of it's focus on retail revenue. The stores (online and real) are profitable. They have developed this incredible ecosystem that everyone wants to emulate (including Microsoft, Google, Palm, Amazon, etc.). Flash cuts into this - you can have flash games running from web pages, effectively cutting Apple out for some things - although the best experiences will always be native applications that can effectively use Apple's hardware and software underpinnings. Some of the apps are big as well.

I think an excellent compromise would be a version of flashlite that allows for basic embedded functionality - playback of video, slideshows etc, but greatly limiting other flash development.

I really do think Apple needs to address this because it significantly damages the iPad web experience. Seeing lots of pages with blue lego blocks leaves the customer going "why doesn't this work?".

Other than this, and a missing video camera for web conferencing, I am satisfied with the iPad. I read the iEEE spectrum article you mention, and the focus was on "is this a Kindle killer". That is really not the right question. Can the iPad be used read books satisfactorily? That remains to be seen. My guess is that it will be "fine" - not astonishing good - not necessarily a replacement for real books for those that are picky - but good enough to make it comfortable.

Really - the question is - is it something that people will buy? Tablet computers have been a "holy grail" since Alan Kay's dynabook, but no one has figured out the right balance of  functionality. Apple tried it before and failed. In my estimation, Microsoft has failed as well - the most popular tablet pc's are those that are "convertible" - essentially laptops with a writable screen that required a stylus to use. Microsoft didn't go far enough to ditch Windows interface for something that was pen-centric - at the risk of alienating hard-core Windows users - but making a device that ultimately could be more compelling.

Apple took what they learned from the iPhone and applied it to a new device. Exactly the thing to do, despite what all the pundits say. There are a lot of iPhone developers that suddenly have a new device to write for without having to learn a bunch of new stuff. I think we will see some very innovative software for the device, since a bigger surface opens more possibilities. I am amazed at times at what developers have done with the little screen on the iPhone - this will let them take it to a whole new level.

The hype was so much that it would have been impossible for Apple to deliver on it. OLED displays in the size that Apple needed are crazy expensive. It would have killed the product/platform immediately. Something more powerful would have been heavier and had a shorter power life - 10 hours is pretty compelling. Handwriting recognition has never really been there - remember graffiti - you had to learn it's characters - instead of the device learning yours.

I guess I am writing so much about this because it is not so much the iPad itself - it is the potential change in the periodical market it could help usher in. I will actually start subscribing to magazines again if I can avoid the paper - my subscription to Automobile is a mere $12.00 a year - I would pay that exact same amount in a digital form. While the pundits say that "no one will pay for content ever again", that is quite untrue. People still buy music, still watch movies; some even still buy a newspaper. I think a compelling case can be made for a digital publication that features quality writing that has gone through a editorial process, excellent graphics and photographs, and - on top of all that - a modest amount of interactivity and dynamic content. Plus they can still sell Ads - I am fine with that.

This is important to me because I think at some point someone has to get paid. People say "newspapers are dead", and think they are being profound - but the reality is that most of the news they read on the internet was written by a professional journalist that works for a publication - they are simply getting the second-hand version of it through their favorite blogs or web sites.

I want to see all of these writers, photographers, editors, researchers and artists get paid for their work - what they do is even more important than ever before. If paper publications go away (and they will) there has to be some model that can support something more than a blog full of someone's opinions.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


There is already a lot that has been said about Apple's new tablet. A surprising amount of it is negative. Or perhaps, it isn't that surprising given all the conflicting wishes that people had for this device.

The history of the tablet based computing devices has been in itself underwhelming. It is a conceptual device that has a certain amount of visceral appeal, but the compelling functionality and cost hasn't been there. Apple tried once with the Newton, and learned a lot from the experience.

It is very hard to deploy a new user interface that employs new modalities for use. Newton's concept that everything was a database is a very forward thinking idea (and is still somewhat alive in apple's search technology) but required some shift in thinking. Microsoft chose to simply deploy a "tablet enhanced" version of windows as it's solution, which buried the devices with design decisions that assumed a keyboard and mouse, thus the predominance of "convertible" tablet/laptop devices. Pure Windows based tablets with no keyboard simply aren't that popular (I know, I had one and gave it away).

Apple wisely built on what they already do well. The iPad really is just a bigger iphone/itouch. I have heard many complaints about that. Apple has a methodology where it appears that their products are often revolutionary, but in essence they are not - they are simply the result of informed design decisions and paying attention to what and does not work - learning from other's mistakes. There were many digital music players before the iPod, but Apple made a critical decision to not just make the device a pleasure to use, but more importantly - provide a sensible way for users to manage their content on their devices via a computer. Most of the software that shipped with other players, and even microsoft's own media management software, was dreadful. To Microsoft's credit, it has improved quite a bit - but only because Apple pushed them to do it.

There are a tremendous number of potential developers for the device. For some, it will mean nothing more than tweaking code. For others, the additional screen area will allow them to do things that they previously could not have imagined. No one has start over, and the clearly defined interaction and look and feel guidelines in place, combined with a good development environment and a way to directly market your applications makes the device even more attractive.

The tablet is not a replacement for a laptop. Everyone has tried to make that happen and has failed. Apple made the intelligent choice to not make a diluted device that tries to serve many needs, but does none of those well. Pricing in this light is critical; it can't cost the same as a laptop because people won't buy it. As it is, it is a bit too expensive for a device that competes with a laptop for someone's dollars.

I own a desktop, a laptop and a netbook. I will be replacing the netbook with an iTablet because it more closely maps to what I was using the netbook for, which was couch surfing, taking a lightweight and compact device with me that could display web pages better than my iPhone, and looking at images I just show with my camera. For these limited (but frequently used on my part) needs, the iTablet actually fits the bill.

It doesn't have multitasking. That requires more horsepower, which equates with less battery life and additional cost. Limited background tasking would be nice though, and it is not a foregone conclusion that this won't show up at some point. It doesn't have a camera, which I wish it had for teleconferencing.

I do look forward to see what Apple does in publication space. I hope to be able to subscribe to digital version of magazines for the device. Part of my hesitancy in subscribing to magazines these days is the paper. I am willing to pay for access to high quality, editorially vetted content - beyond the stuff I can already get from blogs for free - which is of widely variable quality. I want high quality imagery and good writing from someone who truly knows their subject, and has made writing about these subjects their primary career. There is a decided difference here - and I am optimistic that people will pay for it, just like they will pay for professionally performed music and film/video.

I do think everyone who is crashingly negative about the iPad is jumping the gun. They haven't even touched one yet. It needs to be given a year or so to see where it settles. It may never be the major success story that the iPod/iPhone has, but my guess is that it will sell fairly well.

I plan on buying one.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Irony is Dead. Hal has an OLPC.

No kidding. Really. It is just as bad and good as I thought. Tragically already outdated. It is sluggish and at times flaky. And cute as hell.

I am spending time with it to be objective about works and what does not. It is an interesting design challenge, and I admit I can't be totally fair as my adult expectations will color things. I have already been a bit disappointed, and a couple of times been impressed (the way that networking is handled is very clever). I want to take this as an opportunity to step into the heads of the people who put this together and hopefully learn something.

Here's a help ticket worth reading: