Friday, April 1, 2011

Acer Board: Ousted CEO Should Have Focused on Tablets, Not Laptops

Acer Board: Ousted CEO Should Have Focused on Tablets, Not Laptops, article.

I guess this sorta explains why 80 companies suddenly started making me-too tablets, despite such things having about as much chance in the market as a mosquito in a hotel fire. The CEOs didn't want to be ousted for not following the market.

It's a tough place to be in, I admit: If you do nothing, you lose, because clearly the tablet market will eat a lot of the laptop market. If you make a me-too tablet, you'll loose, because nobody will take notice of it in the crowd. But if you try to make a superior and different tablet, you'll lose too, because that takes five years and a billion dollars, not to mention a couple of geniuses, and meanwhile Apple and the others forge ahead too. I'll bet there's a lot of sleep lost in the Valley these days.

"Zite" mag

I've just started reading the app "Zite" on my iMac. It's like an RSS feed reader, except it's presented much more appealingly, like a magazine.
The famous "Flipboard" has a similar concept and includes more sources, but I think that Zite has a nicer layout and better readability. It also has multiple way of influencing the weight different topics and sources are given in the app. So far I like it, and I might use it instead of traditional RSS feed readers (Reeder, NetNewsWire, Pulse, etc), because they bore me and it often takes several clicks to get a full article.

I think by the way that Zite also expands beyond the list of sites/feeds it has imported from GoogleReader, because I'm pretty sure I already have seen a couple of articles from sites I never subscribed to. This makes it be not just an RSS reader, but so far I think it's a plus, because you just can't overview all of the web, and this opens the door to serendipity to give you a hand.

This kind of thing is actually stepping smack-dap into the area which Arthur C Clarke predicted decades ago in The Fountains of Paradise, where a main character got up in the morning and opened his electronic newspaper device, which automatically downloaded articles and news about subjects he had expressed interest in. Gotta love it.

Got my BigGrip

Just got my Big Grip (and stand) today.
I admit I was slightly in doubt after ordering, but it really feels great. Normally you're soooo careful with an iPad, but with thing on, you just feel like  you can play ball with it. And you almost can: almost the only thing which can damage it is a hard and protruding corner. Nothing flat can, you can drop it on a hard floor. Remember, the iPad has no hard disk, which is the most sensitive part of a laptop.

Admittedly it does impact the sleek aesthetic of the iPad, but honestly I feel it still has an aesthetic, it's just a different one. I like it. It's like a bulldog instead of a german shepherd. In fact this peculiar and humorous aesthetic is the reason why I got it; I don't have kids and I've never dropped my 'pad.       :-)   But I would feel much better about letting a toddler handly my iPad with this on.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Photoshop on tablet

So I felt up the iPad 2, so what...

I walked into a neighboring computer store today, just on the off-chance that they might have an iPad 2 around. Well, they had no stock on premises of course, but they did have a couple of demo models. And I must say, while this is still not at all a must-have upgrade if you have the first iPad, this thing feels good in the hand.

It's only a bit more than 100 grams lighter, but considerably slimmer, and for some odd reason the combination just makes it so much more comfortable to hold. Quite surprising. With iPad one, the weight is always there in the background when you hold it, and while admittedly I haven't yet used the i2 for any length of time, I feel sure that this is much, much less of an issue with it. It really feels great in the hand.
It also seems much smaller, even though the screen is the same size, and the body is only a couple of millimeters smaller in each dimension.

I've had a realization about why the iPad 2 is easier to hold (apart from weight/size): it's the flat back. The rounded back on iPad 1 makes it feel like your hand will slide off much easier. I don't know why Apple got the idea that those rounded backs (on older iPhones too) were a good idea, I never liked them much.

I'm faintly ticked off though: the store told me they had already delivered iPad 2s to customers. Me, I ordered mine within ten minutes after it got online on Apple's store, in the middle of the night, and I'm told delivery is likely to be in the last third of April! Grrrr!

"iPad Today" podcast

Found a new video cast I like, intelligent commentary about the iPad, and a cute host, what's not to like?
[If video doesn't work, try here.]

The Nook as tablet

Thanks to Steve and others for pointing to this WSJ article about making the $200 Nook Color into a real Android device. (By default it's just a glorified ebook reader which can't get app from the Android market.)
You may remember, it was the first thing I said when the Nook Color came out: "this is nice. I'll bet very soon there'll be a hack to let it become a real Android device."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Squeeze for text size

I'm always trying new devices and apps, and I'm right now reading web feeds (RSS) on my Samsung Galaxy Tab (7-inch Android tablet), using an app called Google Reader, which I hadn't tried before. I could not find anywhere to change text size, which irritated me. On a hunch, I tried the two finger squeeze/spread on the text and lo: the text size changed steplessly, re-flowing and everything! Excellent.

I've seen this only once or twice before on either iPad or Android, and I wonder why, it's such an obvious way of handling text size. Compare it with the Kindle app for iPad for example, where you have to tab a few times to change text size, and there is only a handful of sizes to choose between, I can never find the right one for me.

Split iPads?

It seems unlikely to me that Apple won't make more than one model of iPad, sooner or later. They have always had different sizes of tower models, of iMacs, and of notebooks, heck, even two different lines of notebooks, the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. And I wouldn't seem like them to not take the opportunity to consolidate the huge success they have right now. Different customers have different needs after all, and why should they leave some of those customers to the Android platform?

What would it be though? Even though Jobs has poo-poo'd tablets smaller than ten inches, he has been known to do that about things Apple were not quite ready to present yet*. So personally I would hope for two or three different sizes. Like a 6, a 10, and a 15-inch model. Or perhaps just a 6- and a 12-inch model. (I'm taking about diagonal screen size, of course.)

A big iPad is just a must for serious reading of books with graphics. It really is. Technical books, art books, comic books, etc.

A smaller one... I dunno if they will do it. Perhaps just a larger iPhone... but I just really love the super-handy size and weight of the Kindle 3 (it's pocketable), and I would love to have an iPad with a high-rez screen in that size and weight. The iPhone 4 is surprisingly usable as an ereader because of the high screen resolution (super-sharp text), and that screen is only a 3.5 incher! Perhaps a 5-inch iPhone? I dunno, until the day we have screens which fold or roll out, there'll always be compromises here.

Oh, an iPad with a really good camera would be interesting, composing on a large screen would be like using an old-time large-format camera. Maybe the could avoid the thickness issue by letting the lens look 90 degrees through a mirror, some compact cameras have done that.

Whatever happens, it'll prolly be weally weally kewl.

*Much as I admire Jobs, his statement that 7-inch tablets are all but unusable "unless you file down your fingers" is silly. This would make the much smaller iPhone unusable for anything but as a phone, and it clearly isn't, it's used for thousands of things.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A real Amazon tablet?

I feel sure Amazon must be working on a real tablet. They even have an appstore for Android now!*

And here's my thought: if it were me, I would give it a different moniker. Not "Kindle 4" or even "Super-Kindle". I'd give it a different name to not disaffect the very happy users of the millions of small Kindles with their grey paper screens. No reason to injure that market.

So they could call it, uh, Klample. Or Squadimple. Or Kimdsimpopple. Or Arnold. Or FireDragon. Or BigBrick. Or "Mr. Squid Goes To Hollywood". My point being, the name does not matter, so long as it's different and memorable. This way they can build a second market, of people who want Kindle books and also want color touch screens and Angry Avians Fighting Stout Farm Animals. I've no doubt this is a very big potential market.

*Maybe I'll try it next time. The general Android Market is not rooted for crapware.

Tablet and notebook in one?

Tablet and notebook in one? Asus has one of the early tries.

It seems to me that if the software was done really right, this might be an ideal machine. The simplicity and portability of a tablet, the power and flexibility of a desktop machine.  But how many people would really take advantage of both faces of this monster? I don't think we'll know for a while, because nobody has yet written an OS designed to work well with both a keyboard/mouse and a multi-touch screen. And seeing the trouble everybody has making a really good interface for just one of those, imagine the complexities in combining them!

Stephen A said...
A modular approach like this may be able to finesse the inherent problems of the monolithic tablet. The big/heavy/expensive tablet doctrine explicitly dictates that a monolithic tablet must obsolete the netbook and laptop. This forces a vicious cycle of adding processing power, storage and batteries in a single package. As a result a tablet which is seldom more than a few feet from a charger used for reading, surfing and an occasional video is designed to do video editing for the length of a transpacific flight. Teardowns of the iPad2 indicates that it is mostly battery. On the other hand, there are plenty of incredibly light thin and cheap tablets which have short battery life (2-4 hrs) and moderate processing power. I have a sub $200 Telepad 10.1” which is light as a feather, decodes 1080p video without breaking a sweat but has a 2-3 hr battery life.

A modular hybrid approach like this ASUS model allows you to offload batteries, storage, ports and even supplementary-processors to the keyboard element, which can be considerably heavier since it will either sit on a table or in a bag. Furthermore, if the keyboard incorporates a processor you can establish a wireless link between it and a detached tablet, accessing storage and using that tablet for a remote for presentations and video viewing on a larger screen.

Make an art glove

A problem with using a stylus on the iPad is that you can't rest your hand on the screen, because the screen reacts to it. I've developed this solution... (I surely can't be the first, but I haven't heard about it anywhere) get a cheap pair of gloves (like thin cotton gloves, there are lots on eBay), and cut off the thumb and index finger on one. This will isolate most of your hand from the screen, while giving you a good grip on the stylus, and keeping multi-touch working for when you want to zoom in or out, then you just use your fingers.

PDF on Kindle

Reading PDF documents on Kindle can be a drag, because the text is often too small. But a clever reader found this tip on Amazon:

If you prefer to have your personal PDF documents converted to the Kindle format so you can take advantage of Kindle functionality such as variable font size, annotation, Text-to-Speech, etc., type "Convert" in the subject of the e-mail when you submit your personal document to your "name" address.

This makes a big number of PDF files much more readable!

Unfortunately the file only appears on the Kindle device itself, you can't read it in the Kindle app on other devices, at least not the iPad. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Review: iPad 2 is not revolutionary, but it is great"

Review: iPad 2 is not revolutionary, but it is great, article.
After a week with the iPad 2, I’ve come to realize that Apple’s true revolutionary change has been conceptual. [...] while it certainly earned best-in-class honors as a reader, media player, and document-viewer, there was no need to limit one’s perceptions of the device. The iPad was, and is, truly an entire new class of computer. Many of you were around for the transition from text to graphical user interfaces. Some of you were even around when the world shifted from mainframes to personal computers. Well, congratulations: you’ve lived to see your third revolution in computing.

Those are big words, but I wouldn't dare challenge them. One can't yet point to a single obvious reason why the world couldn't live without iPad-like devices, but the very strong interest in it, both on a personal and a societal level, points to something big happening, like iron grains on a piece of paper points to a big magnet hidden underneath.

...with the Smart Cover accordioned and your fingers wrapped around what amounts to the rolled spine of the iPad “book,” you can sit or lie down and read comfortably forever. The Kindle is still a much lighter ebook reader ... but now it sure isn’t more comfortable to hold than the iPad.

Ahh! Finally somebody told me something which made me want to get that durn weird cover! I've been asking (check the archives) several times for something to make these devices more comfy to hold.

Is "The Daily" failing?

Short article which claims The Daily is already failing.
The biggest problem is that The Daily still hasn't given us a reason to read it, whether through interesting stories, great writing, or captivating production.

I agree, and I hope that the lesson people take from this (if indeed it fails) is not "subscriptions can't work online", but "uninteresting content doesn't sell".

"iPad Is Tops With Doctors"

The iPad Is Tops With Doctors, article and video.
“The number of times I've had patients say to me 'That's the first time I've understood my disease' — I mean, it happens all the time to me. To me, that’s validation as a doctor,” he said. [...]
Analysts at Chilmark Research estimate 22 percent of doctors in the U.S. were using iPads by the end of 2010. In February, four out of five doctors surveyed by health marketing company Aptilon said they planned to buy an iPad this year.

I had predicted that the iPad would work great for doctors, especially such as do rounds, but these numbers are amazing. That is an explosive rate of organic growth in adoption of any device in a serious market.

And if you stop and think about the number of professions where somebody has to be mobile and access or show data on his feet... That is huge.