Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Apple iPlop

The iPad

I don't know how many years it's been since we've had rumors of an Apple tablet. When people saw the Modbook - OS X running on external tablet hardware - I think that really fueled the fire. I never really thought it'd be more than a giant iPhone given how much Apple had invested in the iPhone, and it looks like I was right. Instead of a Mac-based tablet we got an iPad. Engadget did their normal great job of liveblogging the whole event, but it was all about the iPad. It's funny because when you look through the pictures and read about the iPad it actually sounds pretty good. I'm sure seeing Steve Jobs demo it made it even more enticing. However, it's not long afterwards that you start to realize what's wrong with it.

In case you've been living under a rock: the iPad is literally almost just a big iPhone at about 9.5" x 7.5". It can do everything an iPhone can, other than make calls (or send texts), take pictures, or take videos, but it can show you eBooks natively, comes with iWork, and supports painting. Some of the other native apps are a bit varied from what you'd see on the iPhone but just to take advantage of the larger size. I don't think it's bad at anything that it does, but at $500 it's too expensive for the need people don't have for it. It's more or less a toy device for people who already have an iPhone since it's limited by the Apple App Store. You can see some videos of it in action here.

I figured that everyone else would be drooling over it, but not so much. At least not among the tech journalists. I think it's a neat niche product that will sell a few units, but it won't be a smash hit with this many people disappointed almost to the point of being offended by it. It has plenty of things wrong with it. It's locked to the Apple App Store, there's no HDMI, still no support for Flash (supposedly because it's buggy), and you can't really multitask. On the plus side, it's fast and it does has affordable data plans starting at $30 a month. Oddly enough, they partnered with AT&T again for the data service, which may be just that AT&T gave them the best deal. Plus, AT&T has a more widespread WiFi network than Verizon.

I wonder if this will end up being the nail in the coffin for the tablet PC? It's a niche market that has never taken off and maybe it's a product that's cooler to think about than actually develop? Or maybe it's still ahead of its time? If there was an iPod or iPhone of tablets though, I don't think anyone is going to look back on he iPad and consider it that thing. I think if it was $300 cheaper it would be a really awesome device, but at $500 it keeps it out of reach of the average person. We'll have to see when it comes out if people forget its negatives and buy it anyway. Until then, if you watch one parody video you should definitely watch College Humor's.

CES 2010

I missed out on CES being in India, but if you missed out also then it's never too late to catch up. I don't think there was a lot of really impressive stuff, but Robert Scoble put up a pretty impressive roundup of the biggest articles around CES. One of the more high profile announcements was Microsoft's tablet, which was seen as a flop, as well. Microsoft keeps trying to build tablets without carefully thinking about what the user interface should be like.

The coolest thing I saw was the Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus coming to Verizon (just a week ago, actually), which feature tethering in addition to more RAM and more on-board flash memory. With the new webOS coming out next month though all Pres and Pixis will get video recording, video editing, and Flash support. This will either support Apple's criticism of Flash or debunk them. The new webOS update is coming later this month.

Apps on the Kindle

Amazon recently announced an SDK for the Kindle to allow for third-party apps on the Kindle. Some people have criticized the Kindle as being a one-trick pony (even though it does do that one trick very well), so this touches on that a bit. I think it'll be neat for really simple applications, like word games and restaurant guides and stuff. It's not the reason you'd get a Kindle, but I'd file it away in the "nice to have" category.

Firefox 3.6

We now have Firefox 3.6, which has HTML 5 support, form auto-completion (like entire forms, not just individual fields), personas, and significant performance improvements. It's still not at Chrome's level yet, but I'm glad that they're at least trying to close the gap.

Ready for 3-D?

Digital Trends put up an article that I wanted to talk about because it's an issue that keeps coming up: do we really need 3-D TVs? Will they sell? Well, as I understand it, it's not very expensive to add to TVs (at least the kind where you need to put on 3-D glasses) but helps drive sales to buying new TVs for folks who don't have high definition yet and just needed that one more reason to upgrade. In reality, it'll still be at least another couple of years before people actually seek out 3-D TVs. The content just isn't there, which I think makes sense. Why invest in 3-D content if no one can view it? That would be like creating a bunch of HD channels when no one has an HD TV. HD TVs didn't make a whole lot of sense when they first came out but it wasn't long before they did become useful. I think we'll see the same with 3-D, we just haven't reached the point yet where it's really desirable.


I'm surprisingly exhausted so I need to end this post rather quickly and pass out. Here's some quick last notes.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton (still weird to say that) is taking a hard stance for cybersecurity and the free flow of information. This supports Google's decision to stop censoring their Chinese site and tries to combat censorship in other countries as well. It may be a little overreaching, but it is important for the portion that seeks to punish those who do hack the United States military.

Samsung threw its hat in the e-Reader game. It doesn't impress me, but it's just YAER (yet another e-reader).

After a long courtship, Oracle now owns Sun, he creators of Java among other things. In other news, Oracle is slowly taking over the world (it wasn't long ago that they acquired Linksys).

If you want to know how secure the identity of your browser is, this is a really cool tool to find out.

Have a great week, everyone!


Jose A. said...

I think I'm a bit more optimistic about the iPad than the plurality of naysayers in the tech journalism industry. The hype that built up around it made disappointment seem almost inevitable, and I also detect a "bash the big guy" undertone in a lot of the writing, similar to the attitude that's been applied to Microsoft for so long. Apple seems to be losing its hip "alternative" image and is now becoming the target of anti-establishment talk.

The price, while naturally higher than an iPod touch, is still far lower than the $999 originally expected, and I think that explains a huge amount of the disappointment among tech junkies. Instead of targeting heavy tech users who expect enormous functionality, as Apple usually does, they seem to be shifting demographics a bit and going for a more casual crowd.

OF course, armchair theorizing can only go so far. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Elton said...

I think you've hit the nail on the head: Apple is no longer the little guy. It's harder to root for them now that they have all this power. The reason the tech savvy hate the iPad isn't because of that though, it's more because it's a disappointment. If it had come out before the iPhone though, I think it would've been more well-received.

Just because $500 is less than $1000 doesn't make it any more reasonable, in my opinion. $1000 was always an astronomical price for a tablet, $500 would be more reasonable if it was running OSX. The way that it is though, it's really just $500 for a bigger iPhone with a couple more features but a couple of less features also.

They're hitting a different demographic than in their past new products, but I don't understand what that audience is and I don't know if they do either. It's like the Apple TV - I don't think they thought far enough with that product who really needed that product. My view of gadgets is that they have to fill a need or fix an actual problem that people have or else the best it can do is mild success.

Jose A. said...

I can see where you're coming from. I guess I'm more optimistic about the device because I myself am quite interesting in it. It seems to be targeted toward heavy content users. Being someone who spends hours a day reading articles and books, that may explain the appeal.

I'd say that in this iteration it's certainly not going to make as big of a splash as the iPhone, but I do think there is a niche to be had and grown, one which overlaps somewhat with the Kindle. And as a lot of people are saying already, we don't really know what is on the table until iPad-specific apps start rolling in.

The Apple TV, in my opinion, was less a failure of understanding demand than in execution; perhaps a bit of both. The technology was simply a flop.

Elton said...

I agree that it's a very good product and I think it definitely has a niche product, but I think we've just come to expect more from Apple and I don't think they raised that bar. They don't have to kill it every time they come out with a new product, no doubt, but for $500 I'm definitely going to prefer to buy a new Win7 laptop for a couple hundred bucks more.

Jose A. said...

No, Elton. The iPad is MAGICAL. LOL. Regardless of the product's technical merits, their marketing director needs a smack in the face.