Still All About the iPad, Version 2 Release Edition
Josh Topolsky, who just left Engadget, wrote (a week earlier) a nice opinion piece about what the “post-PC” world means for users, and why Apple is at the forefront. The big difference, he argues, is something that Apple’s been doing for a long time with their mobile devices: not playing the specs game. Everyone other than Apple advertises their computers (and phones, but that’s another issue) on specs, and you buy a computer based on what’s faster, has more RAM, etc., for roughly the same price. With the iPad, the only spec Apple advertises is the storage—and the ads don’t mention it. Apple is saying that the other tablet vendors are still selling PCs—whether with Android or Windows 7—and Apple is selling something else, a “post-PC” device. They want you to consider whether you still need a PC at all, or whether a tablet is really the appropriate device for home use for the proverbial casual computer user. It’s an interesting read.
Steve Ballmer and Steve Jobs disagree about whether a tablet is fundamentally different from a PC; guess which side Microsoft is on. (They know what side their bread is buttered on!) Horace Dediu takes a good look at the argument over what a “post-PC” device is, starting with the first “post-mainframe” computers and working his way up to the present. He argues that the tablet, which depends on PCs for data backup but don’t have keyboards or mouses, represents a generational shift along the lines of previous shifts: “[T]he definition of a new generation of computing is that the new products rely on new input / output methods and allow a new population of non-expert users to use the product more cheaply and simply.”
Gruber: What Are the Next Steps for Apple After The iPad 2?
John Gruber, everyone’s favorite (or favorite-to-hate) Mac pundit, on where the next six months lead us. He was dead-on about the release schedule for the iPad 2, and about the iPad 2 being relatively unambitious (thinner, more RAM, camera), more like an iPhone 3G-to-3GS release. So where does that leave us? He speculates that in the fall, Apple will release a higher-end model, or an HD edition of the iPad 2.
Horace Dediu: Why Operators Will Find It Hard to Sell Tablets
Great insight from the mobile analyst on why he thinks cell operators will find it difficult to sell tablets. It’s a good point: the iPhone is by definition a phone, and at its price point, it’s one that’s designed for carriers and Apple to skim the cream off the user base. The iPhone scarcely functions without a cell radio; it seems to me that the iPod touch is primarily marketed at people who want an iOS device for video and audio, not data. But the iPad doesn’t require data service at all, here more a laptop than a phone. The carriers will only be able to market tablets as big phones without voice service—as conduits for their data service—which is not so far a winning proposition. I think we’re seeing this with the lackluster sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab.
Andy Ihnatko on the State of the Tablet Marketplace, Post–iPad 2
The Sun-Times be-hatted tech columnist, Andy Ihnatko, takes a look at the iPad 2 and what its release means for the rest of the tablet market. The short version is, “I can’t come up with any reasonable scenario in which I’d recommend anything other than an iPad.” His list of the fundamental truths of the tablet market starts with, “You can’t compete with Apple by trying to copy the iPad,” and makes a fantastic analogy of vendors using Android to a house analogy. (I love these physical analogies: he says that this is like Google giving you a house that meets code, and then you have to turn it into a comfortable, livable home. Good luck; have you seen Acer’s and Samsung’s UI work elsewhere?)
So Let’s Review the iPad 2
Pogue Reviews the iPad 2: Apple Appeals to Heart, Not to Brain
David Pogue makes a really solid point in his review of the iPad 2: the iPad itself is superfluous to the tech ecosystem. It doesn’t fill any obvious need. But, then again, so did the original Mac (my point, not his) and the instinctual appeal of interacting with the Internet with your fingers, somewhere between “The Jetsons” and “Minority Report,” is something that a lot of critics of the iPad seem to be missing.
Ars Finds the iPad 2 Makes Big Performance Gains, Likes the Smart Cover, Dislikes the Cameras
Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica, one of my favorite reviewers, got her hands on an iPad 2 for a review. She used the same benchmark device as the original iPad (16GB WiFi-only—what, budget cuts at Ars?) and found that it’s a lot faster than the original iPad (almost 100% faster and a 500%-900% improvement in graphics performance measured by frames per second). It also has a flat back, something I don’t think I realized, and roughly the same battery life as the original. On the other hand, she was pretty unimpressed by the rear-facing camera, which is apparently shooting at 1024×768 (0.7MP) rather than the high-res 2592×1936 (5MP) of the iPhone 4. So, don’t expect shooting your family trip to the Grand Canyon with the iPad. And real GPS—not geolocation by known wireless signals—is for 3G-only models. Anyway, it’s a solid review.
Andy Ihnatko: the iPad 2 Isn’t Revolutionary, It’s Just a Great Update
Another of our favorite critics, Andy Ihnatko, was impressed by the iPad 2. As a lot of reviewers have pointed out, the iPad 2 is mainly an incremental update to the original iPad, not a revolutionary set of changes. Ihnatko says, in effect, So what? Or, to quote him directly, “The iPad 2 is the same iPad. It’s just better in every conceivable way.” He also makes a point more eloquently than I’ve seen from most reviewers and commentators, that the iPad 2 and some of the accoutrements around it (like GarageBand and iMovie) are designed to make the consumer wonder whether they need a laptop at all, or if the laptop is just the last manifestation of a highly portable computer. I agree with him here: I recently replaced my MacBook with an iMac, and for the cases when I used to carry around a full-scale Mac, now I just take my iPad. (Of course, when work intervenes, the work MacBook Pro calls, at least until Adobe releases Illustrator and InDesign for iPad.)
David Worthington’s 60-Year-Old Mom Reviews the iPad
I thought this was a fun piece, so you’re getting the benefit of it, too: David Worthington of Technologizer interviewed his mom about her iPad. It’s her first computer, but she sounds like she picked up on it really fast. Hard to imagine that you could be using a computer for the first time in 2011, but a lot of people are, and I suspect their experiences are a lot like Mrs. Worthington. I’d also guess that a lot of people with relatively limited computer experience and expertise, like my own mom and grandparents (who are a generation younger and older, respectively), would find iOS a lot less intimidating than a desktop computer…that’s the point Horace Dediu is making about what “post-PC” means and the further democratization of computers. The elites fought democratization at every step—look at the sneering way the technorati still refer to Macs, even now that the underlying core is Unix! But people who aren’t computer-savvy don’t care about those arguments.
Ryan Paul at Ars got his hands on a Motorola Xoom tablet to try it out first hand. That, of course, is the big rival to the iPad. It sounds like he liked the hardware a lot, but that the software is holding the device back. (Boy, that doesn’t sound like Motorola, does it?) Paul sounds particularly frustrated by the e-mail client, which is stock Android and has a bunch of IMAP issues, and the Android Web browser, which doesn’t use Chrome’s WebKit or inherit its HTML5/CSS3 supports. (Worth note: Google clearly does not care about non-Gmail mail. Whatever you will say about Apple and iOS, Mail’s support for IMAP, Exchange, Gmail, and Yahoo are mostly top-notch.) He also notes that it has a proprietary power adapter. Haven’t we seen this story before? Can all of you device manufacturers please get together and pledge to support Micro-USB or whatever?
And Speaking of Apple, Can You Hear Me Now?
AT&T to Buy T-Mobile for $39B; Apparently This Ends iPhone Speculation
I’ve often wondered when, if ever, T-Mobile was going to get the iPhone. (Short answer: only if they ever managed to build up a marquee customer base.) But today it sounds like Deutsche Telekom wants to get out of the American mobile market entirely. They’re selling to AT&T. That’s a lot of extra spectrum, guys: the two companies use virtually identical bands (850MHz and 1900MHz) and T-Mobile has been losing customers and, therefore, really underutilizing its spectrum. There’s some antitrust issues here, but if you’ve ever wondered when is AT&T going to stop dropping my calls, the answer could be soon.
CIO Magazine Analyzes USAA’s Mobile-Banking App
Mobile check deposit is something that you see in commercials (like those dreadful Chase ads with the newlyweds), but I have to say that it seemed a bit silly for most customers. It seems like you’re never far from a bank branch. But USAA, which caters to military personnel and their families, has only one physical bank branch, in San Antonio, and members scattered to the four corners of the Earth. You might say they have rather more need of a mobile infrastructure. (They pioneered a program allowing you to scan checks using your home computer for deposit.) Turns out, according to CIO magazine, this was a great idea: they’ve processed 3 million checks for $2 billion via mobile devices, beginning with the iPhone in 2009. The future is now!
Trade Commission Rules for Apple on Patent-Infringement Charges
The International Trade Commission ruled on Friday in favor of Apple in the complex patent dispute that the company is engaged in with Nokia. I wrote about this a few months back: it’s this extremely complex interwoven Web regarding patents for GSM and UMTS data transmission standards on Nokia’s part, and Apple’s counter-charges of infringement for other technologies. Jacqui Cheng, writing for Ars, suggests that the ITC may simply rule (eventually) that there was no infringement at all—on either Apple’s or Nokia’s parts. Good thing, because the penalty would be a blockade of import of those companies’ manufactured goods into the US.
Google Not Releasing Source Code for Android Honeycomb
BusinessWeek is reporting that Google is refusing to release the source code to Android’s Honeycomb release, “at least for the foreseeable future.” They say it’s not “ready” to be released and altered. I say that’s a crock; for one thing, it goes against the entire concept of open source. What’s the point of calling something “open” if that means “only when we say it’s available”? Either a project is open source—which means that you can build it yourself—or it is not. I’m not saying that Android should be open source, because that’s a silly argument when still 95% of PCs and more than 50% of phones run proprietary OSes. But Google can’t call Android open source and then stop providing the source, without undercutting their own argument that “open” is better. (I am not convinced of this. There are some things for which open source is great; where would we be without Apache or BSD? On the other hand, companies have to make money somehow, and we can’t all make our money on ads.)
Other Odds and Ends
How old is IE 6? It was released in 2001! A decade ago! I remember wondering, at the time, if Microsoft would ever release IE 6 for the Mac! Yet even today, in February 2011, 12% of the world’s Internet users (including 35% in China) are still using IE 6. Even Microsoft is trying to shame its IE 6 users to upgrade, with “IE 6 Countdown.” Of course, we hope they upgrade to versions 8 or 9 (or, better still, Firefox or Chrome). But even IE 7 would be an improvement; and ditching IE 6 would vastly improve universal Web standards support, even though there are a bunch of CSS flaws in IE 7.
Ars Technica has a Q&A with a former Apple filesystem engineer, Don Brady, who started his own company in order to continue the commitment of bringing ZFS to Mac OS X someday. I think this is exciting news: the innovation curve of HFS has slowed down a great deal. (Can you believe it was only with 10.6 that Apple stopped supporting write access for HFS volumes? All the way through Mac OS 10.5, you could still write to a 3.5″ floppy disk last formatted in 1985! At least theoretically.) Brady talks a good deal about the project, Z-410, and the upsides of ZFS, as well as the challenges of getting the filesystem ported to Mac OS X. Pretty cool stuff!
What Can Microsoft Learn from OS X 10.7? Paul Thurrott Tells Us
Have you ever wondered, what will Paul Thurrott tell us that Microsoft could learn from Apple, rather than the other way around? Well, gentle reader, today is that day! Thurrott, he of the SuperSite for Windows and Windows Weekly and WinInfo, has seen the other side! Here’s a few highlights: only one product (no “Windows 7 Edition for X, Y, Z and Q functions, but not F, G, or R”); more touch interface-friendly controls; and the integrated App Store. Of course he also has a list of things Apple could learn to use from Microsoft…and I must say, some of them are kind of funny. (“Full screen excluding menu bar!” Uh…) Anyway, a good, fun read, full of plenty of laughter and Schadenfreude.
Chris Espinosa, who has been an Apple employee for 34 years, tells the story of how he became Employee No. 8, as well as the behind-the-scenes HR policy that explains why, even now, he doesn’t outrank Steve Jobs. Who spent 12 years at NeXT.
We get a peek inside Apple’s highly secretive retail operation, thanks to the guys at Popular Mechanics and an anonymous Apple Store staffer. (Full disclosure: I was an editorial intern at PM, many moons ago.) It’s fascinating what a culture it is. But from the customer’s perspective, this sounds like the best retail experience: sales staff don’t get commission, but they do have performance-based pay; they’re obligated to treat customers well; and they don’t get any inside information on future hardware. Listen, if you’ve been a Mac user since before the Apple Stores, you know that in the old days you could have a great experience with your retailer. (The Mac Store in Portland, for instance.) But it could also be dreadful, like the dusty corner of a CompUSA. Apple Store staff are expected to be knowledgeable and helpful, and they’re not privy to inside information. The anonymous staff member doesn’t make it sound like fun, but from the customer’s perspective, that’s beside the point.
After Earthquake in Japan, Apple Store Offers Power, Shelter to Residents
The guys at the Apple Stores in Japan really went the extra mile to help people out: giving access to their computers, providing people with free WiFi, and even bringing out the Dock Connector chargers for iPhones and iPads to let people juice up. Even after they closed the store, people were crowded around the front windows to use the WiFi. That’s character, folks, and not every company shows that kind of generosity toward its customers (and to its employees, as an update to the blog post points out).