I love CNET. It’s one tech news source where I can find everything from straight tech journalism to flawed editorials on the latest things happening in the tech world. Take the overhyped announcement of the iPad a little bit ago, CNET provided the following excellent straight news reporting on the event
Then there’s this excellent example of the tech news analysis by Tom Merritt and Rafe Needleman in CNET’s “Real Deal” podcast. The two put the iPad announcement into the historical context, looking at many of the previous, mostly failed, attempts to popularize the tablet/handheld class of computer. Make sure to visit the podcast website, these guys have excellent show notes and links to all of the gadgets mentioned in the video/podcast. Then there’s this speculative editorial that wants to pass itself off as news reporting.
Molly Wood is a smart, funny journalist, but she’s definitely from the media personality school of thought where snarky strong opinions are pushed to the front, generating huge positive or negative responses. I can’t watch this video without getting pissed-off. Ack. Moving on.
Discounting the noise being made by those who flat out hate all things Apple, iPhone or Steve Jobs, I’ve noted at least two trends between the fanboys and the haters. The first trend seems to be that pretty much none of the haters have actually touched the device and are making their vitriolic pronouncements based on the videos and the device spec sheet. This leads to the second observation: all of the haters are freaking out about all of the things the device doesn’t have. Oh my god, it doesn’t have a walk-in closet! Perhaps you missed that opening slide in the keynote where Jobs placed the device between a smart phone and a laptop. The idea is that the device will have things missing in the smart phone and won’t have things found on the laptop, like a three-car garage (crap, now I’m sounding like Molly Wood). Moving on.
In the Real Deal podcast, Needleman said that the Newton failed because it tried to do too much given the technology limitations of the time, whereas the Palm succeeded because it focused on a few things that needed to get done: contact list, calendar, notes and successfully syncing the three with one’s PC. Years later the iPhone successfully followed that path by focusing on being a great phone, being a great media player and being a great internet device. AND they had the wisdom to NOT try to boot-strap the Windows/OSX mouse/keyboard based user-interface to the thing. They broke with the past and focused on what needed to get done (a la Palm). Conversely, Microsoft had already been churning away in the smartphone space for years when the iPhone was introduced, but all they kept doing was trying to cram the Windows desktop (that was meant for big desktop LCD screens) onto tiny 2-inch screens and it did not take hold because Window-Mobile required seven-menu choices to do anything. Anyone remember this video from a few years ago on what it might have been like if Microsoft had produced the first iPod box?
Andy Ihnatko, Chicago Sun-Time Columnist, said it best in his initial reflection on the device, writing that the device is not something that can easily be assessed by a feature list or an illustration. I think the reason that the iPad is more than a dumbed-down tablet or giant-iTouch is that it’s not meant to be a stand-alone do-everything desktop computer replacement. In fact, it’s greatest feature might be something that has nothing to do with it’s beautiful design or the list of things it doesn’t have. The revolution that the iPhone started, of having useful Internet connectivity in the palm of your hand… maybe the iPad represents the next step as far as having an even better experience playing ones media, a more immersive experience interacting with “print” journalism in a way that books, newspapers and magazine could never deliver, and in a form-factor that’s much more natural than a keyboard and mouse. It’s not the thing, it’s what the thing connects you to. The word Portal comes to mind.
Who needs it? asks all of the haters and most of the pundits. It’s not for the PC hardware tweakers or the hardcore gamers. Leo Laporte says it’s not for content creators, but I think that depends on what kind of content one is creating. I have begun blog entries and other correspondence on my iPhone. The idea that I can have the same access anywhere at any time and have more screen space to work with (and I can choose to use a real keyboard!), I’m in. I wrote a few weeks ago about the difference it would make having a smaller footprint than my 15′ laptop while enjoying those long afternoons cheering on my teams in my local pubs while grading papers and/or writing my blog. In fact, not long after I got my OLPC-XO netbook-sized $100 I took it to my local pub to enjoy the evening. I loved the size but the machine was just too underpowered and UI was too weird to be useful. That’s one of the things that’s kept me from buying one of the cheap netbooks, the prospect that it’d be too underpowered to do the things that I want to do. I watched the videos from CES of IdeaPad U1 hybrid, and when they used the touch and swipe gestures, the device lagged behind the finger. Two Processors and still underpowered. Boo! the The other thing that stopped me was that I wanted always-connected G3 service without having to dish out another $60 a month. I want to be able to grab my small device and write or play with my blogs while out and about. When I need to break-out the Final Cut Pro or need to spread my Dreamweaver layouts across three large monitors I have my macbook pro or my 27″ iMac to get the job down. But lately I’ve been choosing to compose and edit work while on my treadmill or on the couch. So, I guess I must be one of those “no ones” that Molly Wood was talking about (did she actually predict that there’s a market of only 2800 people for this thing? Maybe she confused this for the Palm Pre or her beloved Droid…[snark]).
You know who else this device might be for? My mom. She does email and loves getting photos of her grandchildren. I gave her a mac mini a few years ago but the combination of me living too far away to help her when the Internet breaks and the fact that she uses the computer just infrequently enough to never be very good at it makes me wonder if something like the iPad might work for her. Besides being a simplified device that’s always connected (saving her probably $30 a month to drop her DSL service!), she can use the thing anywhere she wants to, making the “computer” something that she doesn’t have to go to a special room (their spare bedroom) to do and maybe she’ll do it frequently enough to enjoy it more. Only downside (besides the price) is that I’d worry that if it fell off the couch she or dad would step on it and break it. Damn. Having a camera for video-chat would be great too (the OLPC-XO had that!). My siblings and I just bought mom a new 19″ LCD because the old CRT was … old. I think she need to break out of that room and grab the Internet with both hands, but I’m probably the only one who thinks that.
The device might not be meant for content creators, except for us text-jockeys and bloggers who like to roam when we write. But content creators, especially the vanishing “print” media, better be paying attention because this might open up a real platform to re-imagine what they could be producing and marketing. It could completely blur the lines between what used to be called Print and Audio and Video. Add social networking and citizen journalism and you have something completely different. I already have a plug-in that make my blog more iPhone-friendly, I’d love to see a WordPress plug-in that would retain more of my magazine-style blog layout. Then there’s the problem that I like posting flash videos in my posts and Adobe and Apple aren’t getting along. Damn. If they don’t fix it, then someone will because we want our videos and we’re not going to wait for h.264 Quicktime downloads. Well, Time, Inc. understands the potential. Question is whether they’ll join up or try to lash-up their own walled garden. I wonder if this might help Mad Magazine go back to being a monthly instead of a quarterly. I’d subscribe to Mad Magazine on my iPad. Too bad only 2800 posers will be buying this thing ’cause it doesn’t include a fire-alarm or any self-sealing stem bolts. Damn.
Real Deal Podcast 195: Tablet computers. http://www.cnet.com/8301-17920_1-10443889-84.html retrieved on 2/15/2010
Apple gives every other reader reason to be nervous with iPad by By ANDY IHNATKO, Sun-Times Columnist. http://www.suntimes.com/technology/ihnatko/2015552,ihnatko-ipad-apple-launch-jobs-012710.article retrieved on 2/15/2010
image: OLPC Goes to Taco Beach by Joe Bustillos. http://joebustillos.com/2008/03/29/olpc-goes-to-taco-beach/ retrieved on 2/15/2010
IdeaPad U1 Hybrid Hands-On: Meet Voltron. He Could Be Amazing by Brian Barrett. http://gizmodo.com/5440922/ideapad-u1-hybrid-hands+on-meet-voltron-he-could-be-amazing retrieved on 2/15/2010
info: self-sealing stem bolts. http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Self-sealing_stem_bolt retrieved on STARDATE -313125.89 (2/15/2010)