So there have been a lot of approaches to this whole smartphone/tablet combo, and I struggle to see how any of them are truly good approaches to something that really isn’t a problem to begin with, and, truth be told, some of them seem actually harmful to the future of the PC that we’re currently headed toward.
For some reason, tablet manufacturers keep insisting that the tablet experience is hamstrung on its own, and continuously mandate the use of some sort of phone in order to complete the experience, or even use the device at all. Before anyone jumps on me for that sentence, I know that two of those examples aren’t even tablets, but take that in the spirit of the statement.
Companies designing these personal, productivity-driven devices that are reliant on smartphones are saying several things simultaneously. “You can do more!”, “You don’t have to manage the data on two devices separately!”, “You have more flexibility!” etc. What is really happening, however, is the cheapening of these devices and damage to the overall industry. Let’s take the Palm Foleo, the first of its kind and arguably the predecessor to the netbook. This device was “revealed” in an era when people got their data connections by tethering their devices to bluetooth-capable phones, so it made sense for the Foleo to then suck data out of its tethered Treo. Kudos to Palm for attempting to creating a great ecosystem, too. I applaud that. I think it was too revolutionary at the time, however, which led to its ultimate failure. (Side note: At the time, I was using a Nokia N800 paired with a Sony-Ericsson K790a (James Bond, FTW!). I loved both of these devices, but I kept thinking “I’d like to be able to use this tablet if I ever forget my phone,” and “I wish this phone was more capable at general ‘computing’ tasks so I can still use it if I ever forget my tablet.” Then I got an iPhone. At no point, however, did I think that the phone should be my gateway to the Internet for another device. It stood on its own and was perfectly functional.).
Currently, however, having this sort of dependence tells the consumer that
- Their device is not capable of real work (which is a lie).
- Their larger laptop/tablet is no more than a large phone (which is also a lie).
- The two devices are explicitly codependent.
This is really bad! It further solidifies the view that phones are “just” phones, and that tablets are “just” big phones. I have taken notes, written papers, and read books on my iPhone. The fact of the matter is that this device is powerful and capable of producing real work that I have gotten graded, real research that I have used to write papers and blog posts, and real communication with people oceans away. The reason that I have an iPad and an iPhone is because I want two separate devices, not some crazy Frankenstein monster of a device. There are times that I need to work on just one device, and, let’s face it, sometimes we just forget one at home. The key isn’t creating a physical bridge between the two that mandates the existence of one in order for the other to be used, it’s creating an invisible backbone that allows these devices to share information invisibly, so that the user can put one down,pick the other up, and resume working exactly where he or she left off. There have been hopes of iOS “state” cloud syncing for a little while, and this truly where this needs to go.
We don’t need devices that are tethered together using wires and plugs, we need devices and services that are smart enough to get out of the way and let our intention take center stage.
Update: Corrected spelling of “Padfone.”
When the MacBook Air came out last year with its super-sexy new design and blazing fast SSD, I knew I was in trouble. It’s hard for me to resist the siren call of a new Apple product, but it’s even harder when the thing looks and performs as well as that li’l guy. I was even looking to upgrade my Mac Mini, and saw that as the perfect opportunity to dive into something portable. Since that day, I’ve had to fight off the urge to buy one nearly every single day.
Then I realize that I have an amazing iPad 2, and I the conversation with myself ends. I don’t need a laptop, I already have an incredible machine. Sure, there are shortcomings, and there are certain incompatibilities here and there that make it difficult and/or frustrating, but by and large the experience is incredible, and very freeing. I have something with me at all times that I can use for *gasp* serious work (almost every blog post I’ve ever written has been with the help of an iPad, and all of my Grad school papers come from this tiny beast) as well as having fun and playing games. Truth be told, this is the best computer I’ve ever owned, and the reason is baked into the OS.
A while back, I went to the Apple store to ask some questions to the friendly folks there about the MacBook Air, to see if I should choose that over the Mac Mini. I came away with this realization: if you already have an iPad, skip the MacBook Air, and if you already have a MacBook Air, skip the iPad. They’re pretty close in form and function, anyway (despite one being a “laptop” and one being a tablet). The reason I say that is because of the use-case. People buy a MacBook Air because they need a computer that is:
- With a full keyboard
The MacBook Air is that machine, among other things. So is the iPad, however, and I’ve found that the pseudo-multitasking of the iPad is far more preferable to me when I’m working because I know that the apps won’t crash, won’t interfere with anything else, and won’t start to bog down. The’re lean, simple, and engage me physically, why I need when I’m writing. The MacBook Air is essentially redundant…except that it runs the full MacOS, instead of iOS. This seems great, until you start trying to manage multiple media libraries, apps, save files, etc. Then it gets to be more of a pain to work with MacOS than an iOS device. But wait…the new version of MacOS, Lion, looks and behaves a LOT like iOS, doesn’t it? I mean…Apple expressly talked about the similarities in their “Back to the Mac” event. So then there’s this:
Most people had dismissed that rumor due to the compatibility issues that would be introduced with such a transition. Another major issue is that while ARM processors are more power efficient, they presently offer significantly lower performance than their Intel counterparts.
Sure, an ARM-based A5 wouldn’t make sense running MacOS…but what about iOS? Let’s even blow it up a bit and look further down the road a year or two. Let’s focus on a time in the not-too-distant future when iOS and MacOS start to merge, when the distinctions between the various Apple OSs start to become blurry. Then, ARM chips would make sense. They sip power, and (currently) iOS sings on those chips. It’s built for exactly that type of chipset. The two work in perfect synergy, and you can bet that Apple is spending a lot of time making sure that, when it’s time to make that jump, that they’ve gotten the whole machine tuned and tweaked so the transition is beautiful. If you look at it that way, it makes a whole lot more sense to be using ARM-based chips for your supermodel MacBook Air, while the MacBook Pros would still run Intel chips due to their more “Pro” nature. I’m willing to be dollars to donuts that most people are going to start shifting away from MacOS “Classic” and will absolutely love the new look and feel of Lion. Who knows, maybe the Mac OS “Classic” look and feel will persist, while everything else will run some new version of iOS that is fully scalable across any hardware, much like HP is planning to do with their new version of WebOS.
There’s also this little nugget:
Although not mentioned in the most recent rumor, one of the largest features may be over-the-air updates that would finally make iOS independent of a computer for all but backup and local media syncing.
So…like a “real” computer? Can you see it? Can you see how the walls are disintegrating? The distinction between a “mobile” OS and a “desktop” OS is not as clear now, and I think the lines will continue to blur.
And this, too:
Talk of Apple using Nuance voice commands in iOS was already supported recently by code mentions in Lion. Most also presume that Apple’s cloud music service may play an integral role in the new mobile software.
So we can infer here that iOS and Lion are very closely related (doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out, Apple said so), but that they share code is telling of Apple’s long-term strategy, and the strategies of several major players out there (Google, Microsoft, natch).
The jump from what we see in our hands and on our laps and desks and what we will be seeing over the next few years will be immense, and will change what every single person recognizes as a computer.
Mind the gap.
Anyone out there have an iPad 2? Anyone out there experience a failure with their SIM card? About a week ago, I started noticing my internet connection spontaneously resetting while I was using 3G data. Soon enough, the spontaneous resetting became full-blown network dropout, followed by the iPad telling me “No SIM Installed.” Funny, because there most certainly was.
Being understanding of these types of things, I tried lots of things. I put a piece of tape on the back, cut to size, in the hopes that perhaps that might make the fit a little more snug. No luck there. I did the old Nintendo blow-in-the-slot trick (no heckling, please). No dice there, either. I’d have to manually eject the SIM card tray and push it back in every single time, which became quite annoying when the thing couldn’t hold on to a signal longer than a few minutes.
Finally, I took it into an Apple store to have it looked at. A really nice guy helped me out, but seemed to think that, at least initially, the failure was caused by a faulty SIM tray, and that replacing the SIM tray would fix it right up.
For those who don’t know, the iPhone and iPad 2 (and some other phones, as well), have a SIM card tray that slides into and out of the phone instead of an integrated slot buried somewhere under the battery. This allows the entire design to be more or less seamless, while still allowing the owner to swap SIM cards in and out, if necessary. It has very little to do with the phone spontaneously being unable to recognize the presence of a SIM card. If the tray were broken or out of alignment, sure. But the idea that swapping the tray out for a new, identical one is just silly.
Needless to say, the Apple Genius realized that the swap wouldn’t work, and was advised to replace the whole shebang. I picked up the new one yesterday, synced the bad boy up, and it’s been working flawlessly. This swap also had the neat fringe benefit of getting me an iPad 2 with a much better screen that didn’t leak light. My first one did, and, although it wasn’t a big deal, when you buy an Apple product, you want it to look and work like a million bucks. They usually do, but it looks like the first iPad 2 I got wasn’t quite ready for prime time. This one, however, is fantastic.
I think the whole process went incredibly smoothly, and I’m really happy that the Genius Bar folks were able to acknowledge that there was indeed a problem that needed fixing.
My girlfriend also had a problem with her MacBook Pro, namely, her hard drive came down with a slight case of death. Anyone who’s ever had a laptop that I know of has, at some point in time, experienced a catastrophic and total hard drive failure. This is essentially a standard part of owning a laptop. She had the foresight to purchase AppleCare when she got the laptop, so the Genius Bar folks took it in, replaced the hard drive, and got it back to her the next day. If this isn’t awesome customer service, I don’t know what is. Since she also had her data backed up with the awesome BackBlaze, she didn’t skip a beat. A day of inconvenience (if you can really call it that), and she’s back in action.
Moral of the story: AppleCare is a necessary part of owning an Apple computer (sorry, it just is), and always always always back up your data. Twice, if possible.
It’s been ages since I abandoned the Skype app on my iPhone for any sort of serious communication. The push notifications are totally bogus, and their ability to actually handle an incoming call is pathetic. Not to mention this little thing called the iPad 2 with a front-facing camera that they seem to have ignored.
Now that Microsoft has purchased them, I hope there’s some sort of renewed interest in the iOS app. Otherwise, stay away from this one and go with the much better TextFree for making calls and/or Tango for video chat.
There was a recent incident over the border with our friends in the north regarding internet usage and the billing thereof. Those silly Canucks thought it would be appropriate to put ridiculous data caps (50 GB? seriously?) in place to make sure their customers were doing anything cRaZy, like using the internet they paid for. No, silly person! You can’t watch streaming video on the internet or rent movies from online providers! That’s silly! You need to drive out to a video rental store and take home a physical disc so you can watch it in your deeveedee player. What’s that you say? All the video stores are shutting down because all of these super awesome streaming movie companies are putting them out of business? Pish posh. Less talking, more driving to video stores. They don’t have what you want? Just rent something anyway. Rent it. Just shut up and rent something.
Before I get too carried away, this is what I’m referring to:
Canadian cable provider Shaw hit back at mounting complaints of restrictive bandwidth caps by unveiling a new set of Internet plans with much looser caps and increased speeds.
The whole thing is ridiculous, and honestly degrading to consumers in general. There is no need to be imposing these types of restrictions on the average consumer. If there’s a problem with a few users eating up hundreds upon hundreds of gigs of data each month, then address the issue with them. Otherwise, putting data caps in place, even large ones, as listed below, is asinine.
Starting June 7, capped plans will start with at least 400GB of data per month at 50Mbps down, 3Mbps up at $59 per month for those with a Legacy TV package, moving up to 100Mbps down, 5Mbps up and 750GB of data for $79 per month.
A second phase in August will add a 250Mbps download, 15Mbps upload plan with a 1TB cap for $99.Both phases will have genuine unlimited plans. In the first phase, a 100/5 unlimited plan will be available for $119 on top of the TV plan. From August onwards, this plan will be replaced by a 250/15 version for the same price. Existing 1Mbps, 7.5Mbps, and 25Mbps plans are getting an immediate boost from 15GB, 60GB, and 100GB caps to 30GB, 125GB, and 250GB respectively.
It sounds all fine and good, right? To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever hit anywhere near that amount of data in all the time I’ve been using the internet, so I’m not complaining about the size of those limits, I’m complaining about the idea that caps need to be instituted on a large-scale basis. It’s condescending and hostile towards consumers. The article then taps into the ongoing discussion going on in the United States right now:
Internet providers in North America have regularly tried to claim that the rapid growth in online video has raised the costs of maintaining their networks and that they allegedly need to institute low caps to keep these costs check. Critics, including smaller providers and advocacy groups, have shown evidence the claims are often false since the cost of bandwidth has often gone down. They have at times accused companies like Bell and Rogers of using low caps to either delay network upgrades or to discourage competition from nimbler rivals to traditional TV, such as iTunes and Netflix.
The fact of the matter is, Internet usage is increasing, and telecommunications companies are shaking in their boots because their fat paychecks are going to start dwindling. I’m all for making money, but not when it comes at the expense of customer satisfaction. The trend here is, as I said before, hostile. No company should treat its customers like they’re harming its business. Your customers are the reason that you’re here to begin with, and don’t you dare try to justify your actions by pointing the finger at innovation and progress.
One of the things that blows my mind about publishing, apps, etc. is the inability of most developers and/or app reviewers to actually get the target demographic and review said app from that perspective. It’s mind-boggling, really. It’s like all the different flavors of dog food at the store. We look at the “gourmet chicken and rice” that we’re holding in our left hand, and then turn our heads ever so slightly to the right to look at the “savory lamb and herb” in our right and decide either a) the gourmet chicken and rice is better because that sounds healthier, or b) the lamb is better because hot damn I love lamb. The dog? The dog doesn’t give a hoot.
As such, apps for kids are sparse because they’re designed for the people who are buying them- the parents. Kids aren’t buying apps, so the developers want to make apps that parents can look at and say “Wow this is really nice.”
Then there’s this app, which says to parents: “You really have no idea what your kids want,” and then it gives kids something fun to do with just enough silliness to keep them interested. Bravo.
So how on Earth is this a product, let alone a real product, and a tech product? Because the founders seem to understand how kids think.
Everything Butt Art is a children’s educational book and app that teaches step-by-step drawing. That’s where the crazy name comes in: every drawing begins with the kid drawing the shape of a butt.
Good stuff all around. Well done, EBA.
In my recent post regarding Google Voice and life integration, one of the main points that I may have failed to mention explicitly is the purpose of all this stuff: to live better, to be able to connect with the people who matter to you seamlessly, without stuff getting in the way.
As I say again and again, technology is designed to help us be better people, live better, feel more human. When people become frustrated with technology, it’s because what they’re dealing with isn’t good technology, it has failed. Thankfully, we’re getting to the point that we’re finally able to create good technology. Then, I ran across this article regarding the integration of T-Mobile’s Bobsled service into Facebook. Awesome stuff.
In case you missed it, the Facebook component is simply a basic VoIP service that lets you make free voice calls to any of your Facebook friends, and it now boasts a redesigned interface that promises to “more clearly differentiate it from a Facebook owned service.”
GigaOM has a great explanation of the whole thing.
Here’s how the new product works: After downloading and installing Bobsled for Facebook on a Windows or Mac PC, the software adds a phone icon next each friend in your Facebook Chat window. Tap the phone icon, and a free voice call is initiated, even if the call recipient hasn’t installed the Bobsled application yet.
Aside from one-touch calling, the service also supports voice mails in case the personal you’re calling isn’t available or doesn’t pick up. I ran a quick, early test with Mike Wolf, one of my GigaOM colleagues, and the sound quality wasn’t bad. More importantly, I didn’t have to worry about what phone number to dial.
This is it, folks, this is where we start to see the death of the phone number. If you read the above article, you see how powerful this technology really is. Now that Skype (and, concurrently, Microsoft) and T-Mobile are throwing their weight behind VoIP for everyone, we’re going to see a radical shift in the way people communicate. Voice may once again rise in popularity (I’ll only bite if people understand that a five minute conversation is an eternity to me).
We’re changing rapidly, and this is a beautiful thing, but the venerable Phone Number is staring death in the face now. It’s been a long time coming, but I believe the next ten years (even five, possibly) will see the functional demise of the phone number as the most widely identifiable and understood method of communication. As these technologies evolve and improve, we’re going to see even more features begin to emerge that will enable us to lead better lives and communicate even more efficiently. I, for one, am still looking forward to the collective human consciousness that we’ll all be tapped into one day. For those of you who have heard my theory, it doesn’t sound so far-fetched anymore, does it?
For a while now, I’ve been using an app called Audiogalaxy to get back to my music library at home and essentially have access to my library with over 100 gigs of music to supplement whatever tracks I have synced to my iPhone/iPad. It’s fantastic, mostly because I know two things:
- I have music on my iPhone that I can listen to anywhere, regardless of whether I have a data connection or not.
- I can, with a data connection, get access to my huge music library.
The recently-uncovered Apple patent application is simultaneously awesome and horrific for a few reasons, all of which have to do with #2.
One of the most explosive and formative things to happen to America recently is the widespread adoption of mobile data and internet usage. As I’ve discussed before, the mobile telecom providers have used this to push their agendas and create an awful dystopian future that the American wireless subscriber is going to end up paying dearly for. It’s going to be ugly, folks. Get ready for a future based on as-yet-unwritten disgusting rates based on AT&T’s greed.
If you think this reaction is a bit overblown, let’s dissect the groundwork that needs to be in place for a person to listen to music with Apple’s new system. A person would need:
- A computer running iTunes (for syncing purposes). This is pretty much standard, and shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
- An iOS device with a data connection. Not everyone wants to or can run a persistent data connection. iPod touch devices are reliant on wifi, and people with the lower-tier AT&T or Verizon data plan (250 MB for $15.00/month, in AT&T’s case) may not be comfortable with a service that sucks up data every time they wan to listen to a song.
- Possibly: the above computer with a persistent connection to the internet. This is a variable, and the future is hazy here. Depending on how the whole “Music Locker” thing will work, or how MacOS Lion home server is structured, this may or may not be necessary. We’ll see.
Let’s assume that a person has an iPhone, is using AT&T, and is using the $15.00/month data plan for 250 MB of data per month. We don’t know how much of each song will be synced to the iOS device, but let’s assume it’s about 30% of each song to allow ample buffering time. We can then “fit” three times the number of songs on the iOS device due to the reduced footprint of each song on the device’s memory. The remaining amount of each song would then be pulled from a cloud. I say “a” cloud because it’s unclear if that cloud will be the individual’s computer or this “Music Locker” service. Let’s assume it will be from this person’s computer, so as not to incur any additional fees (yet). The computer will have to be on in order to access the library data, which means an extra power demand and a load on the person’s internet usage (we’re also assuming that internet usage is capped, which, despite some companies claiming their data is “unlimited,” is most likely the case). Most likely, the data usage through a home internet connection is insignificant (especially relative to a theoretical cap of 50-250 GB). The proposed data usage relative to mobile internet connection with a 250 MB cap is significant, however, and listening to a day’s worth of music can potentially eat up all of a person’s monthly data before they have to pony up another $25.00 for the higher 2 GB plan.
Did you catch that? Let’s look at it again.
The folks who want to use this feature will be streaming data every single time they listen to music. The amount of data that will be used is unclear, but I predict that listening to music for a prolonged period of time (even a few hours a day) will cut deeply into or completely use up a person’s data for the month (again, assuming usage of a cheaper $15.00/month, 250 MB plan). Even on a 2 GB plan, monthly data usage can quickly skyrocket, shooting people dangerously close to the ceiling or their plan. I use about 1.5 GB/month right now with occasional usage of my Audiogalaxy service to get at my home library. If I were to switch over to a model that used data every single time I played a song, I’d find myself breaking that 2 GB barrier on a monthly basis, which would cost me more money.
AT&T and Verizon made a long-term move here, and we’re staring it in the face right now. Back when AT&T first introduced tiered data pricing, I could see the act as predatory. More and more services are being pushed online, to the cloud, and so forth. What AT&T did was squeeze the pipes before the water started flowing. Netflix is growing in popularity and capability, and their long-term dominance in the mobile media marketplace (I love alliteration!), while not guaranteed, is just shy of that. How are we going to watch movies on our mobile devices if we’re being pinched to do so? How will companies innovate if they know they’re going to be dealing with hamstrung devices? People are going to be paying for subscription services and the bandwidth it takes to use them, a double whammy. The outlook doesn’t look good.
Boy am I glad I got that unlimited Clear iSpot subscription while it was still around.
Was perusing my Apple feed when I came across this headline:
I’m still amazed that there are companies out there who believe that subscriptions on the iPad are a bad idea, or that they need to test the waters. That’s insane. What these companies need to understand is that the iPad does, certainly, represent (or stands at the forefront of) a digital publishing revolution. I could get the New Yorker Twitter feed, I could subscribe to the RSS feed, but it feels different when you see the class New Yorker covers splayed on your screen in glorious color. It’s a good app, and it’s a good experience (unlike the absolutely horrendous, awful, want-to-vomit “The Daily” app).
Subscribe today, you’ll really like what you see. And no, I’m not on Condé Nast’s payroll, I just like the app.