Category Archives: iPad

Paper isn’t more natural than a screen

My old chum Liam is mightily annoyed at the state of operating systems, which he sees (and I largely agree) as kludgy, inelegant messes. Amongst the missed opportunities: Newton and the original Mac:

“And the ancestor of the Macintosh was Jef Raskin’s “information appliance”, with a single global view of one big document. Some bits local, some remote; some computed, some entered; some dynamic, some static; with the underlying tools modular and extensible. No files, no programs, just commands to calculate this bit, reformat that bit, print that bit there and send this chunk to Alice and Charlie but not Bob who gets that other chunk.

Sounds weird and silly, but it was, as he said, humane; people worked for millennia on sheets of paper before we got all this nonsense of icons, files, folders, apps, saving, copying and pasting. The ultimate discrete computer is a piece of smart paper that understands what you’re trying to do.”

Yes but… Remember the video of the child trying to swipe a magazine? Using paper isn’t genetic: using your fingers is. What’s a natural metaphor to someone mine and Liam’s generation can be alien to someone who has never know anything but touch screens.

Repeat after me: Chrome is the platform, Android (and iOS) is just the host

I’ve been saying for some time that Google’s longer-term plans for application development all hinged around Chrome. Native Android apps are silos: although Google has built tools which allow developers to make Android apps searchable (and thus a target for ad sales, and tracking) it’s much harder than with a native HTML web app. 

Building an app using native tools is also a dead-end: developers have to work harder to create a web-native equivalent. And web-native equivalents can be easily supported by advertising, supplied by… you guessed it… Google. 

Chrome Packaged Apps, on the other hand, are “native” web apps – and the web is Google’s true focus. So it’s no surprise that Google has released an early release which lets you bring Packaged Apps to iOS and Android. 

Chome is the development platform, not Android: Android is just the host, just like iOS is. 

What’s The iPad advantage?

Ben Bajarin gives a brilliant account of the advantage that the iPad has over other PCs, in “The iPad Advantage” ($). In particular, this paragraph absolutely hits the nail on the head:

The PC is for certain a general purpose computer. Yet its form factor limits all its general computing capabilities to only be taken advantage while in a fixed position either at a desk, or with the device sitting on your lap. The iPad, and the slate form factor take this idea of mobile general purpose computing to an entirely new level. The iPad enables its general purpose computing power to be used in both stationary and mobile situations. The iPad liberates general purpose computing from the lap or desk and enables it in contexts where computing was absent before.

The iPad is usable pretty much everywhere, and that on its own increases its power compared to other PC types. I’ve used my iPad to write hundreds of words on the London Underground, something I’d never do with a laptop (mostly for fear of impaling people either side with my elbows).

A fictionalised conversation between me and a Surface Pro 2 fan

Me: “Surface Pro 2 makes a pretty poor laptop, because of its crazy kick stand and lack of a bundled keyboard. Just buy an ultrabook or MacBook Air.”

SurfaceGuy: “But! What laptop can you just take off the keyboard and use as a tablet?”

Me: “Yeah, but the Surface Pro 2 makes a really poor tablet. It’s too heavy, really hard to use in portrait mode, and you keep being dumped back into the crappy old Windows desktop to do things. Just buy an iPad or good Android tablet, or even a Surface if you like that sort of thing.”

SurfaceGuy: “But! What other tablet can you clip a keyboard on to and have a fully-fledged laptop?”

Me: “But it’s a pretty poor laptop…”

And so it goes, round and round. Point out Surface Pro 2 is a poor laptop, and you get pointed towards the fact it’s also a tablet. Point out it’s a pretty poor tablet, and you get pointed back towards the fact that it’s also a laptop.

What are low end tablets used for?

Ben Bajarin takes a peek into the “white box” segment of the tablet market and finds out what they're being used for:

Nearly all evidence and data we find comes back to a few fundamental things. First, most of these low cost tablets in the category of ‘other’ are being used purely as portable DVD players, or e-readers. Some are being used for games, but rarely are they connecting to web services, app stores, or other key services. I have asked local analysts, local online services companies, app tracking firms, and many many more regional experts, and the answer keeps coming back the same. They affirm that we see the data showing all these Android tablet sales. But they aren’t actually showing up on anyone’s radar when it comes to apps and services in a meaningful way.

Is this even the same market as the iPad? I don't think it really is. Whereas the iPad is being used to effectively replace (or augment) the PC in many homes and businesses, this looks much more like a replacement for the portable DVD player. Think video iPod, not Mac replacement.

No, the market for Apple’s tablet isn’t reaching saturation point

Just when I thought that the lack of poor coverage of Apple’s financial results was going to leave me with nothing to write about, along came Christopher Mims and Ritchie King at Quartz, with their efforts to show that the “Surprise drop in iPad sales shows the market for Apple’s tablet has saturated“.

Tldr; version: It doesn’t.

“Apple sold 5.4 million fewer iPads in its most recent quarter than it did in the same three months a year ago. That’s despite having introduced a whole new iPad, the Mini, in the intervening year.”

The iPad mini was introduced in October, and, as a low-end product, was more likely to be a seasonal (read: Christmas) purchase than its larger sibling. It’s also likely there was a well of pent-up demand for a smaller, cheaper iPad which the release date of the product (Christmas) was designed to tap into.

In other words: Lots of people were waiting for an iPad mini, and, when one was released, promptly bought them.

By comparison, the previous iPad release – the retina iPad – shipped in March 2012. That means the first full quarter of supply for that new, radically improved model, was Q3 2012, the equivalent year-ago quarter to the one they’ve just reported on.

In other words, Q3 2012 was the first full quarter of sales for a radically new and improved product. Q3 2013 was the quarter following a major, lower-cost product introduction and biggest buying season. If you think that’s not going to affect year on year sales, I have a bridge to sell you.

The second factor Mims and King ignore is that Apple is not selling solely into the US: 57% of its sales come from “international” markets. And in those markets, tablet penetration remains significantly lower than the US, and so has more headroom to grow. The UK, for example, has around 19% tablet ownership – half that cited for the US.

Mims and King’s failure to look at the effect of product launches other than the iPad mini lead to them to a false conclusion. The failure to remember that Apple is an international company which sells over half its products abroad is an additional piece of myopia.

Why buy a Nexus over an iPad?

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is really quite impressed by the Nexus 7, going as far as to say that:

If Apple doesn’t raise its game with respect to the iPad, my next full-size tablet could be a Nexus.

I’m going to leave to one side a lot of what Adrian says in support of the Nexus 7, because it boils down to things which are either personal preference or equally applicable to the iPad mini. However, I’m not sure why he makes the statement above: After all, there’s already a nice, big Nexus device which – from the perspective of hardware – matches the larger iPad.

Personally, I haven’t used my Nexus 7 since I bought the iPad mini. There’s nothing in the N7 that’s superior to the mini, apart from the price. If you want a tablet and are on a really tight budget, the N7 will serve you well. But really, if you can afford the extra money for the mini, spend it: you won’t regret it for a moment.

Even if you’re wedded to Google services, the mini is probably the better option. With Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, Google Drive and pretty-much everything else well supported by apps on the iPad, you’re missing out on almost nothing, and you have a wider variety of apps to choose from (and generally better quality ones too).

My favourite meme: “The iPad is just a bigger iPod touch”

Claim chowder, special Nintendo edition:

“Nintendo president Satoru Iwata doesn’t mince his words; asked about Apple’s iPad launch this week, the outspoken executive has told reporters that the tablet ‘was a bigger iPod touch’, and that ‘there were no surprises for me’. “

Nintendo’s entire revenue for it’s most recent financial year? $6.39 bn

Apple’s revenue for just the iPad in its most recent financial year? About $31 bn.

Grumpy old men of tech redux

Trevor Pott, over at El Reg, makes an early entry into the “Doesn’t like this new-fangled world” competition with his piece on how “Netbooks were a GOOD thing and we threw them under a bus“. Pott’s demand of a machine – all-day battery life, a multi-tasking OS – aren’t outlandish, but his stalwart rejection of, basically, anything that isn’t a netbook running Linux marks him out as someone who really doesn’t understand the new world of “just works” computing.

Consider, for example, his rejection of the Chromebook as an option:

“Google could make Android a serious contender as a ‘good enough’ netbook OS in a very short timeframe. The web giant won’t because it views Android as its touch-based consumptive tablet and phone OS, and ChromeOS as the desktop replacement. ChromeOS is entirely reliant on internet connectivity and keeps you trapped into doing everything using SaaS apps; great for Google because it can ruthlessly invade your privacy in order to sell more advertisements. Bad for us because it cripples the OS in order to achieve this goal.”

Where to begin with this? Aside from the “ChromeOS is entirely reliant on internet connectivity” error (it’s not), saying that ChromeOS “keeps you trapped into doing everything using SaaS apps” is a bit like saying Windows “keeps you trapped into doing everything with Windows apps”. And there’s no compulsion on you to use Chromebooks with Google services: mine happily works with iCloud and Microsoft Online services (yes, including Office web apps). 

Using apps written with HTML/JavaScript isn’t lock in, particularly if you choose your software providers wisely. If you want data portability, choose a software company that provides easy ways out

And of course, the iPad also fits Pott’s bill… 

Claim chowder, special netbook and iPad edition

Paul Thurrott, explaining in 2010 how the iPad is Not ‘Killing’ Netbook Sales:

“And IDC is now forecasting that ‘mininotebook’ (i.e. netbooks and sub-12-inch machines) will sell 45.6 million units in 2011 and 60.3 million in 2013. If I remember the numbers from 2009, they were 10 percent of all PCs, or about 30 million units. Explain again how the iPad will beat that. Please. Even the craziest iPad sales predictions are a small percentage of that.”

Total number of iPads sold in 2012: 58.31 million

Netbooks, on the other hand

Netbook shipments in particular fell from 39.4m in 2010 to 29.4m in 2011, a 25% fall, as the total number of tablets shipped rose almost threefold from 23m to 63m by Canalys’s calculations.

As Paul put it in his original post:

So. Who you gonna believe? An Apple blogger from a web site and a Morgan Stanley employee? Or IDC and The Wall Street Journal.

I think we now have our answer to that one.