Archive for January, 2010

Apple iPad has some battles ahead

January 31st, 2010 4 comments

In the realm of technology, I consider Apple to be what BMW is to automobiles.  They both make beautiful and well engineered hardware which induces an experience more evolved than mere driving or computing.  Apple has done it again this week when they announced their new product, the iPad.  Lying somewhere between a tablet computer and an eBook reader, the iPad is another showpiece of Apple engineering and design.   There was only one flaw in the logic when creating this new revolutionary device.  Apple has gone and created the most beautiful piece of hardware, which nobody needs.

Whether you know it or not, the iPad has many battles on it’s road to gaining consumer acceptance. With such a grand build up of publicity, the expectations are that this device will do more.  More than what we already do in an E Book reader, more than what we already do in a tablet computer, and certainly more than we can do in a netbook.

Where the iPad looses the eBook battle.

The Kindle didn’t win over the market for the excellent hardware design.  With awkward buttons conveniently placed where you need to hold onto the device, the Kindle is no challenging threat at all. Putting the iPad next to the Kindle would clearly expose how superior the Apple product is yet again.  Right?

The widespread adoption of the Kindle had little to do with the hardware.  As long as Apple captures everything that the Kindle does within the eReader experience, they should have no problem winning over that market.  First on that list, is it’s ability to be always connected.

It was impressive that Apple was able to get AT&T to setup non-contractual terms for the iPad. Unfortunately, contract or not, nobody wants to deal with AT&T to get, well, anything.  Especially when the agreement for the data connection on the Kindle all happens in the background.  Having an always connected service is far more magical than my ability to pay AT&T more on a monthly basis.  When you can buy a Kindle and get to download content indefinitely, it doesn’t look good to pay $29.99 a month, or $360 for the first year for unlimited data.

The Apple iPad will have a 10 hour battery life, while in use. Certainly they must mean 10 days, right?  Today most eBook readers last a week without charging.  The entire advantage about NOT having a backlit screen is to use the E ink technology to deliver content without using a lot of energy.

Talking about that E ink technology, don’t expect to bring this iPad outside to the beach, where the glaring sun is really going to do a number on a big glossy display screen.  Not too many people curl up to read a book and look for darkness.

Apple may have missed the book reader demographic, but surely this is a revolutionary tablet computer.

Where the iPad looses the Tablet battle.

I am not sure there is a tablet war. You see, this tablet concept is not new at all.  I still have my Honeywell Webpad from 10 years ago.  While they have gotten rid of the pen for the interface, the iPad misses some key elements if it is to revolutionize the tablet platform.

In true Apple fashion, they couldn’t have just stuck a standard SD card slot or even a USB slot into the side of the iPad. That may have actually made it useful to offloading camera pictures, or replacing that electronic picture frame on the mantel, which is even capable of such an easy task.  Luckily it looks like Apple is nice enough to sell an additional adapter at an inflated cost that will allow that SD card hookup and it comes with one adapter for USB.

It may not be a prominent feature, but there has to be a large concern about dropping this thing. It doesn’t come with the case to protect it, which I can pay for, and I suspect there will be a large after market surge of protective cases. How about a lanyard hookup? I know it sounds like a step backwards, but when I spend that much money on a perfect piece of hardware, I would feel more comfortable falling back to a good string to keep it safe.  In Apple world, I would suspect to see an anti-gravity kit selling for $59 in the Apple store.

Where is the camera?  If the iPad survives it’s first year, the next version better have a camera.  As I was thinking of what this thing could bring to the tablet market, I kept returning to videophones and web conferencing.  Using Skype and webcams to communicate has only made it into the homes the past couple years.  Put that in a wireless device I can walk around the house with, and you may have opened a useful feature on the list.  While my old tablet didn’t have this either, it was 10 years old.

Where the iPad looses the Netbook battle.

Apple refuses to acknowledge my ability to buy a completely usable notebook computer for under $400.  It doesn’t dismiss the fact that I can.

A large part of the Apple presentation was to show off how you can buy iWork for the iPad, indicating that you might be ready to type up your next novel or prepare a presentation on this “revolutionary” platform.

As soon as I finish retro-fitting my entire office with bean bag chairs and turning my typing productivity down to a crawl, I might be ready for an iPad.  It would appear my options are to use my lap, brace the device with one hand, or to purchase a kit that allows me to type with a keyboard.  They have those devices already, in the form of laptops and netbooks. While the iPad would look really cool around that college coffee shop, it would frustrate me as a platform to use regularly for work.

Will the iPad win the war?

We have this beautifully engineered piece of hardware, which we hopefully have under-estimate in potential.  With so many strikes against it, before it hits the actual market, Apple has some work to do in order to make it a success.  As we have learned with the iPhone, the majority of the success comes through a viral adoption of the technology.  So now the pressure falls to the reaction of the consumers and the app developers.  The platform will only survive if it becomes more than it was sold for. That will not happen when it reaches the shelves.

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My living room doesn’t need 3D

January 10th, 2010 No comments

Anaglyph 3D GlassesI remember being 8 years old when all of the kids on the street got together to watch our first 3D movie. It was awesome. A pile of kids in one room with red and blue glasses on all to capture this cool technology. I don’t remember the movie. But what I do remember is that I didn’t get 3D at the time. It didn’t work well enough for me to know whether or not I was seeing something or I wasn’t.  3D has progressed over the years, the glasses have become polarized, but my entertainment value still remains.

I went and saw Avatar in 3D at an IMAX theater.  Yes it looked cool.  Yes you have to go see it. If you are going to see it, it should be done in 3D in IMAX.  Just to clarify, No, I don’t want that in my living room. We were there, in that environment, for that experience.  It was a moment, and now it has passed.

I might be the only one who doesn’t want 3D in my living room.  There were some large players announcing larger investments coming from CES this week. In case you weren’t paying attention here are the highlights to pay attention to.

The Discovery Channel, IMAX and Sony huddled together to deliver the first 3D channel. Press Release

ESPN will be delivering a 3D sports channel. This isn’t a stretch, as they have broadcast 3D events before, as they broadcast college football last year in 3D.

Sony is pushing the platform hard, bringing 3D televisions and throwing the 3D label on top of the rising BluRay name.

Intel had a demo of a 3D television without the glasses.  It’s a move in the right direction, but far from living-room ready.  Intel 3D Demo – Engaget

Panasonic makes a 3D camera you can buy for a mere $21K, if you don’t want to duct tape two normal cameras together.  Though it was not new to CES this year, it has been “officially announced for pre-order” making it still not available.

Photograph: Steve Marcus/Reuters

What does all of this lead to with the innovation and adoption of 3D into my house?  Absolutely nothing. The industry is scrambling to create this false notion that 3D is the next evolving technology and that I need it.  On the list of things I need right now, 3D isn’t it.  You see, 3D has been around most of my life. Yes it has evolved from anaglyph systems to the polarized systems, but I don’t care.

It is depressing to hear that predominant trend for CES in 2010 is 3D.  It means the industry is in trouble so much that it is grasping for anything, falling back on this old friend they have been with for 30 years for support.  It isn’t a surprising move, only depressing. When Panasonic expects to sell one million sets in the first year alone, I almost feel bad for them.  Unless people buy the TV and it happens to have 3D in the feature list, I can’t imagine a flock of anybody stating that they now need 3D.

Will 3D ever capture my attention?  Ever since Princess Leia was able to project herself out from a little droid, I expected that next evolution of technology to show up. I don’t watch many sports now, but if I could fill my living room with the football game or put myself inside the car for a race, with the ability to look around me, you will have my attention.  The current definition of viewing the scene straight ahead and watching for objects to draw my eyes closer than normal “is not the 3D I am looking for”.

Until that day arrives, I wanted to give the industry a few pieces to help gain my attention again. Consider them requirements I will judge against when you bring us your next great 3D revelation.

1. I don’t need to wear apparel to make it happen.  I don’t have a pair of sunglasses that last more than a year, so buying in to some special polarized glasses in order for me to appreciate a show, isn’t going to happen.

2. Keep the cost jump to 3D under 15% of the cost of the hardware I was going to buy anyway.  It might allow you to sneak the hardware into my room if I have to buy the TV anyway.

3. I better be able to get up, walk to the fridge and have the same experience when I look back at the television than when I am in your perfectly measured optimal viewing position.   I don’t watch TV from a perfect “one seat” only position.

Considering my Avatar movie experience was the first time back to a theater in a long time, keep focused on making that 3D experience only get in a theater.  I don’t go to the theater any more, because it is better to watch everything in my living room.  I don’t have to wait long for movies to hit the shelves, so the only thing you can hope for is to offer something in the theater that I can’t get at home.

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