Saturday, September 17, 2011

You get what you pay for

Just a kind word of warning: if you want an economical tablet with touch screen, make sure it at least has a capacitive screen, not a resistive one.
Just for fun I bought the very economical Tabtech (NATPC?) M009S tablet from Amazon UK (70 Sterling, 100 bucks). Well, it is amazingly affordable for an Android tablet, but... it's just frustrating to work with. The Interface is confusing, it's slow, some apps will be able to connect while others won't, and the screen is frustrating, you have to press hard to make it react, and it's not uncommon that nearby elements react instead. Also, the color and clarity of the screen is clearly inferior for discerning eyes.
As a gift to a five-year-old, sure, but otherwise...

Sure, I guess it's to be expected at such a low price, isn't it? Well, maybe some others are like me: I don't really expect it. I expect things to be made cheap by cutting features and complexity, not by simple overall crappy quality. Maybe I should have learned better by now, but it's just my basic level of think. Perhaps it is related to having grown up and lived til age 37 in Denmark, where you don't really find crap to buy. Sure, this makes things more average on the average, but they are much more pleasant to use, and they don't have to be replaced every 13 months.

On the other side, I continue to be pleased by the first-gen Samsung Galaxy Tab (7-inch). It's good quality and nice to use. I'm looking forward to their new generations with high rez screens, not the least the phone-slash-tablet, the 5.3-inch Note. (If Apple manages to keep these away from the market too, I'm going to Cupertino with a mob and torches.) (The kind with LEDs, to save batteries.)

Amazon's Kindle Net bill

I'd assumed that Amazon had gotten a highly favorable deal with the cell phone internet providers, since they are able to give the connection away for free to anybody buying a Kindle.
However now I hear that the price is, or at least was for a long while: 17 cents per megabyte! That's not cheap! If somebody only uses his Kindle to download lots of free ebooks from Project Gutenberg or other places, including Amazon itself, and I'm sure there are quite many such people, then that's easily $20-30 every month on Amazon's bill for him alone, with nothing in return.
In short, that's a really gutsy gamble Amazon has taken there, with the free 3G. I wonder how it's going so far. (They are even more close-mouthed than Apple when it comes to sharing numbers.)

My interview on TKC

I'm excited to have been interviewed on one of my favorite podcast. If you want to hear it, go to this page on The Kindle Chronicles. (Here's the download link.)
Interview (Starts at 12:25)- Eolake Stobblehouse blogs about e-books and other creative endeavors from his perch in Lancashire, U.K. I spoke with him by Skype on September 12, 2011, and we cooked up some great ideas for Amazon on how they might design the new tablet in a way that includes a special procedure for entering that focused, nondistracted realm of Kindle reading, even on the bright-screen of the tablet.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Microsoft Outlaws Flash on Touch-Interface IE 10

Microsoft Outlaws Flash on Touch-Interface IE 10, article.
Microsoft announced on Wednesday that it will ship two versions of Internet Explorer 10, one for traditional desktop use and another for “Metro,” the “touch-first” aspect of Windows 8 that is aimed at tablets and touch-interface PCs. The company has followed in Apple’s footsteps with this version by making it plug-in free, which means no Flash.

I guess this is a strong vote against iPad's Flash-less-ness being just a personal vendetta move on the part of Steve Jobs.
Steve said that we have yet to see Flash running well (fast and stable) on *any* phone or tablet, and from what I hear, this is still the case.

By the way, Bryan Chaffin wrote the article, and he's often funny...
To offer a remarkably mixed metaphor, Microsoft looked at the line Apple drew in the sand on the issue and decided that the grass was greener on the side where tablets don’t have Flash.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Intel Chip Promises 24 Hour Use

Intel Chip Promises 24 Hour Use, article.
Intel unveiled a new chip architecture on Tuesday the company is calling Haswell that promises 24 hours of use on “Ultrabooks,”

An "ultrabook" is the new generic name for very slim and light notebooks, the market spearheaded by the Macbook Air. An ultrabook, unlike a Netbook, is not meant to be feature- and power-scraped, and netbooks have never, for some reason, been very slim. But then "ultrabooks" are not at all as cheap as netbooks, au contraire.

Considering how computer makers have struggled to push up battery life, and keep it up as laptops got more power and features, a jump up to 24 hours from what, four to six hours? must be considered very impressive, especially if it's just the chip doing it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Voice Reader Web

Voice Reader Web is an iPhone/iPad app which is a simple web browser, able to show articles cut down to text only, and to read the articles aloud. I think this is an excellent idea, especially for the iPhone, which can now read articles/stories to you while you're vertical and mobile. I've only just started using it, but so far it goes well, modern text-to-speech technology is very useful, by which I mean that the reading is quite pleasant and understandable.

Amazon tablet hands-on

A Mr. Siegler claims he has had his mits on the upcoming Amazon Kindle Tablet.
It seems it will be called a "Kindle". I would'a thunk it would have been wiser to give it another name, to keep the importance of the e-ink Kindle (which I think Amazon will keep, anything else would be stupid given how many hard-core readers are married to the screen and simplicity). But then on the other hand, the "Kindle" name will emphasize that it's basically an e-book reader.

Like I'd thought, it will have a custom Amazon interface hiding the Android base. They want to make sure people don't stray too far from the Amazon Net Store, and they want to keep the brand burned on your forehead. It will run Android apps, but it won't have access to the regular Market, only to Amazon's Appstore. Still, I guess this still makes it a pretty flexible machine.

I fear that it'll only be sold to the US for a while. Everybody seems to have so much trouble getting any rights to stream video outside the US. But they may choose to sell one internationally, which has the video store disabled. (Probably you can watch normal web videos.)

I wonder how the screen resolution will be. I think that if it's not over 200 PPI, it'll soon be behind the times. But then Amazon has millions of customers who don't know and don't care about such stuff, they just want to buy and read their Kindle books, and even if it was made from cardboard, this thing is bound to sell well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

NYT morphing pains

[Thanks to The Kindle Chronicles for the link.]

This 10-minute video speech is not new, but I find it interesting still, it's something to see one of the most powerful journalistic organisations writhing in financial and philosophical pain under the inexorable tectonic change from paper to digital communications. They find that even such rock-basic decisions as whether to charge for web content or give it away free, can be very hard to make. It was an internal briefing, not for the public, so it's of a rare honesty.

Apple is four companies in one

Why Competing with Apple Is So Difficult, article
...But competing with Apple is difficult because Apple, Inc. is actually four diverse and thriving companies all wrapped up into one. It's a hardware company, a software company, a services company, and a retail company. Most technology companies in the world can manage one or two of these disciplines, but only Apple has all four entities working in harmony.

What a thought! When you think about it, making a very good, not to mention big, company in any of these four categories is a herculean task. Making all four is a sensation and unique. And to make all four and make them work all in concert as one, is a historic accomplishment. This is not an overstatement. Sony, for instance, has suffered huge setbacks because some arms of the company did not know what other arms were doing, and those arm were nowhere as big and different as the ones Apple are wielding like the four mechanical arms of Doc Octopus.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Cosmonaut stylus

The Cosmonaut stylus seems quite promising, I think (the same people made the Glif). It's based on the simple idea that you don't draw on a tablet like you do on paper, you draw like you do on a white-board (not resting the hand on it, and with freer movements), so the pen should be designed accordingly.

It's also interesting to follow the amount of troubles and delays they've had making this seemingly simple object, it makes one appreciate why it's difficult to make a good smartphone or tablet.

Rumor: Amazon book rental

[Thanks to Umbra]
Do you want to rent books? Amazon thinks so, article.
Like Netflix and its monthly rental service that offers tens of thousands of streaming movies to consumers, Amazon is reportedly set to launch a similar service, but for books.

Len Edgerly mentioned this to me today while interviewing me for his podcast (more about this when it comes out). I said that it sounds iffy, because it seems like Amazon has many customers who spend a fortune on ebooks. With those costomers, $50 a month would be a big loss for Amazon, but for casual readers, $50 would sound obscenely expensive and they won't go near it. Soooo... I dunno.

What would make sense to me would be one or two dollars to rent one title for a month. You can take a chance on tons of books without breaking the bank, but if for a while you don't rent any, you don't pay anything.

Oh, by the way, how come the Americans get streaming video as part of their Amazon Prime membership, but here in UK we don't? It's so typical, we don't get Netflix or Hulu either.