Monthly Archives: January 2010

Apple iPad – because the sane names were taken

Warning: video may not be safe for all work environments. but I think this is more a warning about the work environment than the video…

UPDATE: Read below for my initial thoughts.  After reading some more posts/thoughts, including this one by Joe Hewitt, who developed the Facebook App for the iPhone,  I have some other thoughts.  I also had an interesting chat with Nate White and had a back and forth in comments on my last post with Kenny. So my additional conclusions are as follows:

  • The iPhone has been unquestionably a revolution in computing, interface, platform, etc. and has changed the way that consume and create information.  Certainly, extending that platform to a bigger screen has tons of potential to both succeed commercially and further revolutionize computing, if done correctly and accounting for physical interaction (i.e. comfortable to hold for long periods of time).
  • A group that I didn’t initially think about who might find this first generation device especially useful is Baby Boomers who haven’t yet started using laptops on the couch, etc.  This behavior seems restricted to younger generations.  I can definitely see boomers who only have desktops using this as their first couch/kitchen/porch internet/media device.
  • However, I still am unconvinced that the tablet/slate form factor has been nailed in terms of comfort holding, using, browsing without crossing ones’ legs, sitting oddly or dropping it.  On the other hand, I could see a whole new branch of yoga in San Francisco to teach iPad sitting positions :).
  • I think that Apple’s app store approval process is still a terrible idea.  Let all apps through and have users flag malware for removal from the store upon investigation. And be impartial about competitive apps to native ones.
  • I still think the name sucks.
  • I still think that for me this device (not unlike the MacBook Air or the Kindle) is a nice to have and not a must have. So if someone were to buy it for me, I certainly wouldn’t protest, but it’s not at the top of my list of stuff to save up for either…  I will watch as it evolves though. As someone else pointed out, this is a launch and things will change a lot from here.

Original post:

Ok, so after wasting a good part of yesterday watching live blogs and poor streaming video of the launch of the iPad and a good part of today reading reviews from people who saw/tried it, here are my [hopefully] succinct thoughts:

Name: terrible. I think this is universal.  I wrote about Apple’s problem with naming and it just continues. The video above does a better job at explaining one reason why the name sucks, but how about the fact that Steve Jobs himself said iPod instead of iPad during his presentation? Way too confusing.  Someone joked that people in Boston won’t even be able to hear the difference when pronounced in a Boston accent. I really don’t get the naming decision.

Overall: So, Steve Jobs positioned the device as in between an iPhone and a laptop and said that to succeed it would have to do a much better job at a series of tasks than either of those devices. I’m not sure he convinced me of that, unfortunately.  Using touch on a big screen seems very cool and potentially one of the main modes we’ll use to interact with computers in the future (along with voice probably).  However, the specifics of the device make it seem hard to hold/awkward to position.  Notice Steve had to cross his leg in various positions in order to balance the device during the preso.  You might say it’s just like a magazine or book, but frankly dropping those isn’t such a big deal and you can toss one aside when you’re done.  I’m not sure that the limited functionality of the device relative to a laptop like the Macbook Air (probably comparable in weight with iPad carrying case and keyboard) and the limited portability relative to the iPhone leave it a huge role that I can see.  It seems like a nice to have, not a must have, as it doesn’t replace anything I currently use.  I’d put it on the list of stuff I’d buy if I had endless money.

Missing Features:

  • Camera – I’m not sure Apple realizes how much their built-in cameras make their laptops superior. However, the awkwardness of holding the iPad may have made that a tough use case anyway.
  • USB – seriously? Similarly to the Macbook Air – you’re going to make me buy dongles to connect anything?
  • Background Applications – like the iPhone, no ability to run IM at the same time as other apps? Or Pandora? or Skype?
  • Third Party Apps not approved through the App store – Defenders of this policy leave me puzzled. Apple has clearly demonstrated willingness to block apps, primarily from Google but also from other browser companies that compete with Apple’s own software or plans, e.g. Google Voice, Google Latitude, Firefox, etc.  This is a huge issue for me. Is this really the future of computing? At least Mac OSX is truly open to 3rd party apps….
  • No Flash – now don’t get me wrong, I hate Flash like the next guy, but the fact remains that it’s a huge part of the internet today.  It’s one thing to leave it off the iPhone, but if you’re going to expect the iPad to be a multimedia device and my primary device for casually browsing the web, that just doesn’t work.  Maybe if this boycott of Flash gets more momentum though, HTML 5 Video will become a reality.
  • GPS? – unclear if this is included or not at press time (just wrote press time to make myself laugh)

Cool features:

  • 10 hours of battery life! and 1 month of standby! If this is really true, this bodes well for future Apple products with their own chips and design, like future iPhones and Macbooks.
  • Speedy processor – bring this to the next gen iPhone also!
  • Cool new touch/gesture features for a wide variety of apps – I only wish that these multi-touch gestures weren’t patented, if this kind of interaction is going to become pervasive, it really shouldn’t be locked into only Apple devices.

Implications:

  • Kindle: I’ve read lots of predictions re: the impact of the iPad on the Kindle.  I would definitely be concerned if I was Bezos but I think it remains to be seen if Apple will allow the Kindle App/store on the iPad and how the higher prices in the iBook store will matter. Also I think that eInk’s advantage from being easy on the eyes for reading shouldn’t be discounted.
  • Success: I think that touch and eventually gestures will definitely be amongst the key future trends in computing, so I won’t eliminate the possibility of this device becoming successful across a broad range of people, however, I’m just not convinced.
  • Niche: For specific purposes, I can see this device being quite interesting. For example for businesses – Square (squareup.com) already announced that their system for accepting credit card payments will work on this device, seems like a more realistic point of sale tool than an iPhone perhaps? Maybe this will be the tablet that finally succeeds with doctors?
  • Focus: I hope that having a third platform to manage and yet another line of hardware doesn’t make Apple lose focus on innovating on Macs or iPhones, but I fear that it will.  What kind of iPhone would we have now if all the resources/thoughts/innovation that went into producing the iPad had gone into the iPhone instead? Where are the quad core Macbooks?
  • Carriers: – many have praised Apple for negotiating the deal with At&t to have a no-contract requirement and [supposedly] reasonable 3G data pricing.  Maybe a small step in the right direction, but it’s still At&t, who now even more transparently admits their network sucks. And at some point it would be nice if I didn’t have to pay the same company for using their network on different devices that I own. Let me pay one monthly fee to your company and use your network on all my devices, is that too much to ask for?

Anyway – just some thoughts without having seen it or tried it in person, still many unanswered questions. Some other good reviews to read (positive and negative):

http://www.techcrunch.com/2010/01/27/ipad/

http://mossblog.allthingsd.com/20100127/apple-ipad-impressions/

http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/the-apple-ipad-first-impressions/

http://i.gizmodo.com/5458382/8-things-that-suck-about-the-ipad

Has Apple forgotten how to name products?

What will Apple (or presumably Steve Jobs who decides) call the new tablet launching tomorrow?   The iTablet seems like a good guess, but eager to hear. I’ve been pretty disappointed in Apple’s naming techniques for products lately, more specifically  new models of existing products.  The iPod seems like a pretty good name, although probably only in retrospect.  Same goes for the iPhone although since the phone part of the iPhone is the most maligned part of it, maybe a new name is in order. The iPod Touch seems a bit odd too, it’s more like the “iPhone without the phone part” than an iPod with touch controls.

My biggest disappointment is in the models of the iPhone.  It seems that there was no plan there. The first iPhone was, appropriately just the iPhone.  Next up, the iPhone 3G was confusing to ordinary people who had no way of knowing that the 3G referred to the 3rd generation data network the phone was [supposedly] taking advantage of.   Mostly though when numbers like that are used it’s to refer to the generation of the device, not the network?? So now people with the first phones were left wondering if their phone was a 1G or 2G or something else? Not to worry though, we all figured Apple would figure out a snazzy new name for the latest iPhone this past summer. Lo and behold it was called the 3GS.  Huh? Did they just launch a plural of the 3G? Sure looks like it when you write about it.  Oh, the S is for speed? That’s clever. Or confusing…. So now, you either have the 3rd generation iPhone or is it 4G? Nope, it’s the S.  So people resort to  things like, mine is the one with video….

Why would Apple not get this right? It seems like they worry about every other miniscule detail (other than the phone/network part).  Blackberry nailed the naming for a while. Everyone knew what the bberry Pearl was and the Curve and even the Bold and the Storm.  Once in a while they’d slip a random one in too though, like the World Edition on Verizon that only got a number 8850. They seem to generally get it though.  At least Palm is trying with the Pre and the Pixi.  Android phones are very confusing now.  Since the Motorola Droid and the Droid Erris, everyone thinks all Android phones are “Droids”, understandably confused.  Google tried with the Nexus One, but nobody seems to like that name very much.  Nokia hasn’t really excelled here either – quick, name a Nokia model.

Back to Apple – they messed this up with their laptops too. Do you have a Macbook or Macbook Pro? Uh – I have the silver one, but it’s smaller, but it has the Intel chip? Or – I have the white one.  Maybe Apple thinks not having clearly distinct names is simpler?

I would argue that having a clear and catchy product or model name helps in a big way with word of mouth.  How can I recommend my phone if I can’t even tell you what it is in a way you’ll remember?

Anyway – will be interesting to see what the new tablet is called and what new versions of it get called also….. What do you guys think?

More Shenanigans from Att and Verizon

Can’t believe it took me this long to get this posted/written but better late than never.

Last weekend, I walked outside and saw this unbelievable site.  (read from right to left). These were mobile billboard trucks driving down Market Street in San Francisco.

At&t seemingly decided that instead of spending money upgrading its [self-admittedly] woeful network, it would actually spend money advertising how great/fast its network was? In a city where its CEO acknowledged that the network sucks? If it wasn’t so infuriating and sad, it would be funny. Now in fairness, At&t did announce this week that they’re upgrading their networks to faster speeds. Oh – except only in “Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Miami.”  Yet neither San Francisco or New York, their self-acknowledged most constrained (i.e. sucky) networks are on that list.

Meanwhile, not to be outdone, Verizon’s CTO took an opportunity to chastise the “bandwidth hogs” that offend him by liking his service so much. As such, Verizon plans to meter usage with their 4G LTE network.

“The problem we have today with flat-based usage is that you are trying to encourage customers to be efficient in use and applications, but you are getting some people who are bandwidth hogs using gigabytes a month and they are paying something like megabytes a month,” Lynch said in an interview with the Washington Post. “That isn’t long-term sustainable. Why should customers using an average amount of bandwidth be subsidizing bandwidth hogs?”

Now to me, this is a matter of philosophy. I don’t deny that having usage tiers or usage based pricing may be a better solution to existing flat-rate plans. However, how about thinking about it in the realm of offering new faster, higher throughput plans to the most demanding/valuable customers for an increased price instead of punishment for “bandwidth hogs”. Seriously, since when did bandwidth become a conservationists cause?  Verizon and At&t need to wake up and be grateful for those of us that use their network and stop alienating us.

(ed note – it’s really annoying that WordPress can’t handle an “&” in its title.  Maybe it’s an At&t conspiracy?)