Category Archives: iPad

Worst iPad reporting ever

This article by Jonathan Zittrain is why it’s wise not to let law professors write about technology:

If Apple is the gatekeeper to a device’s uses, the governments of the world need knock on the door of only one office in Cupertino, California – Apple’s headquarters – to demand changes to code or content . Users no longer own or control the apps they run – they merely rent them minute by minute.

I know he’s striving for an analogy here, but putting in an analogy which suggests you simply don’t know what you’re talking about isn’t exactly good practice.

Danny’s “jet plane emotions” on the iPad

My deputy-nemesis Danny O’Brien on the iPad, openness, and hacking stuff:

“It’s easy to see the iPad as the final tragedy in a long history of openness and tinkerability in general purpose computing. But the truth is, the cyclical fight against locked-in systems has been the recurring theme of computing since the mainframes. Our open systems are as wonderful as they are because they had to set themselves up against the shiny proprietary wonders of a previous age. The iPad isn’t a threat; it’s an inspiration. They’re always trying to steal the revolution; we always have to steal it back.”

This is the point that lots of people miss. Yes, the iPad (and iPhone) is a pretty closed system as it goes. Yes, it’s not open. But perhaps without the “shiny proprietary wonders” there wouldn’t be much inspiration for open systems to improve for real people.

The challenge for those in favour of open systems shouldn’t be what Apple is doing: It should be doing better than Apple.

Andy Ihnatko sums up the difference between iPad and Android

Otherwise, the release of the iPad marks a classic battle between two philosophies:

Is it better to have a device that is loaded with bullet-pointable features?

Or is it better to have a device that has a shorter list of specs … but which does everything right?

That’s not a loaded question. It’s the key difference between the Android and iPhone operating systems. It’ll also define the difference between a netbook and an iPad. The former looks great on paper. The Apple product looks great when you’re actually trying one out firsthand.

A nice summary from Andy.

Posted via web from Technovia Notebook

The iPad and me

There’s a million posts around about the iPad today, and there will be a  million more tomorrow. My reaction is simply that I’ll be buying one, because I’m a geek, and that’s what I do.

As for whether it’s good or bad, game-breaking or Apple-breaker, that I’ve yet to learn.

I learned with the iPhone never to judge Apple products until I’d  had them in my sweaty paws. As a dyed-in-the-wool BlackBerry user, there was not way I was going to get an iPhone. Not a chance.

However, as a general nerd, I felt duty-bound to experience the interface – so I bought an iPod touch. Within two weeks, I’d bought an iPhone. Having used the interface  on the touch, there was simply no way that I was going to not have that lovely interface on my phone. It made my perfectly-good BlackBerry feel like something from the 19th Century.

So, till I actually have one in my hands, I’ll refrain from too much comment. People who judge Apple products by looking at the spec sheets simply don’t get it.

(Image by MarketingFacts)

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Why I’m willing to bet this rumoured iPad ad is fake

Nowhereelse has dug up what it claims is an ad for the forthcoming Apple tablet, dubbed “iPad”. Watch for yourself…

So why do I think this is fake? Simple: Apple wouldn’t lead off an ad with a line like “After 10 years of development…” Apple ads are all about feeling, and what you can do with something. The “10 years of development” sounds like something they would have done in 1994, not now.

So I’m calling this one a fake.

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Today’s Apple Tablet dumbness: Step forward, The Apple Blog

How to put this? Oh yes, “the stupid, it burns”.

Liam Cassidy has used his magical gift of clairvoyance and decided that a product about which no one knows any concrete details is better than a product which has been publicly demo’d for 30 seconds. And he’s managed to write 845 words of detailed analysis on why these pixies are better than those unicorns.

Liam, I hate to break it to you: but you know nothing about either product. That’s “know” in the sense of “actually know”, not “think”, “have an opinion about”, or “need to write a long post to get my monthly pageviews up, otherwise I won’t hit my targets and will get fired.”

(Image from nDevilTV)

Proof that thinking about the Apple tablet makes you stupid

Gregg Keizer draws the short straw with this story:

‘”The tablet will be supported by multiple [mobile] carriers,” said Brian Marshall of Broadpoint AmTech, citing unnamed sources he said were close to the situation. “Verizon and others,” he continued. “Definitely Verizon. I’ve been told that’s a certainty.”‘

Yes. Because the one thing that Apple will do with a product which it wants to sell globally is tie it to a CDMA network, rather than the global standard of GSM. Because Apple is renowned for not giving a damn about economies of manufacture, and so will build two versions of a product for different markets, or sabotage its ability to build to a lower cost (or increase its margin) by equipping it with dual CDMA/GSM radio capabilities.

There is more chance of an Apple tablet being available only on T-Mobile than Verizon. Seriously.

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Tech rumours and wish fulfilment: The Google Phone and the Apple Tablet

There’s always been a hype-cycle, particularly with products from Apple, but something I’ve noticed recently is how the hype-cycle has changed into a world of fantasy.

The two best examples of this lately are the Google Nexus One and (apparently forthcoming) Apple Tablet. You see a simple pattern: In blog posts and forums the hype gets whipped up… and up… and up. More than hype, though, the rumoured product becomes a method of wish-fulfilment for writers and commentors, to the point where – upon real announcement – there is a massive sense of disappointment.

Take the Nexus One. First came the rumours of the hardware, which were at least based in the fact that Google had given some employees some advanced phones. The hardware was hyped up – it was going to be the fastest, greatest Android hardware ever seen. Next the software was hyped up: it would be released with the most advanced, most amazing version of Android.

Then more and more wishes got attached to the product, as if they were really part of the plan. The phone would be as low as $100, subsidised by Google because it could then sell more ads. And that would be without a carrier – Google would introduce unlimited data, no-voice plans for $20 per month. It would use Google Voice for communications, and you could use it on any network, anywhere.

The rumours piled on thick and fast. Someone on a forum would say “wouldn’t it be cool if…” and within a day or two you’d see this repeated as an “I heard a rumour that…” type of post.

Of course, it was all too good to be true. And while my post was wrong on the core point that Google would release an “own brand” phone, all the arguments I made were correct. There was no special plan, no subsidised price, no carrier-less phone, no souped-up version of Android. The Nexus One is just another Android phone. Not a bad one, to be sure: but just another phone, with just another plan.

Surprise, surprise: the reaction was massive disappointment. A lot of “GOOGLE YOU SUCK!” Even some comments that Google had conducted some kind of “bait and switch“. And, of course, the usual hypesters trying desperately to justify their earlier breathless claims that the Nexus One would change everything.

The same thing has been happening with the purported Apple Tablet, only there’s been a lot longer for people to attach wishes to the machine. Publishers, for example, at looking to this mythical beast to save them from the free publishing model of the web. It’s going to run OS X apps. Or maybe be a bigger iPhone. It’s unicorns and fairies and the tricorder – all in one. It will change computing, change your life, amaze you… and be the biggest thing since Jesus.

You can see how much wish fulfilment there is attached to the Tablet when someone dares to suggest that maybe (just maybe) it might not be all things to all men – that it might, in fact, be a niche product that really only a few people need. My friend Joe Wilcox, for example, had the temerity to claim that tablets as a whole are niche products, and that there was little that Apple could realistically create that would change this.

Cue hysteria from TechCrunch, which has invested almost as much time and energy whipping up fantasies about the Apple Tablet as they did about the Nexus One. Cue general tutting from publishers (who really, really want a tablet). Cue lots and lots of True Believers – who all want a world-changer from Apple, but who rarely all want the same thing – piling on and claiming that Joe just doesn’t get it.

All Joe has done, really, is point out that the tablet form itself faces some serious technological and ergonomic challenges if it is to ever break out of a niche. Can Apple meet and beat those challenges? I hope they do. But Tablets are not an established product area in the same way that phones or MP3 players are, so they’ll need to break a lot of ground to make it work.

But that doesn’t matter when a product rumour gets to the point of the Tablet, a point where it has had attached to it so many wishes and dreams that it’s impossible to meet all those dreams.

Of course, like everyone else, I have an idea of the Tablet that I’d like Apple to produce. Slim, light, capable of touch and also pen input (got to be able to draw and write notes on it). But like everyone else, I’m just indulging in wish-fulfilment. The problem with tech writing these days is that all too often, those writing write from a perspective of wish fulfilment rather than hard information. And that’s sad.

(UPDATE: As if to make one of my points, Joe has published a post listing some responses to his request for comments on what people want from an Apple Tablet. The answer is “pretty much everything”. And, with the exceptions of browsing and e-book reading, pretty much no one wants the same thing)

(Image by Photo Giddy)

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2009: The year tech blogging died

Most years are full of idiocy. But I think I can make a decent case for this year being the worst on record, at least from the perspective of writing about technology.

This was the year when tech writing plumbed new depths of stupidity, repetition, and sheer unadulterated circle jerking. It was the year when blogs picked up each other’s stuff, no matter how ridiculous, and strove to take it to the next level of dumb. You get what you pay for – and with tech writing, nothing could be more true.

There were three perfect examples of the tech blog world’s increasing descent into infantilism and irrelevancy. These were, in no particular order, the CrunchPad; the Apple Tablet; and pretty much everything written about the iPhone and market share.

Example One: The CrunchPad
TechCrunch – which almost defines awful tech blogging on a daily basis – was guilty of probably the worst example of narcissistic stupidity with its foray into actually trying to make a product.

Now making products is hard. Very hard. I have nothing but admiration for people who get up off their behinds and ship a product, because it’s a tough thing to do. Even the shittiest products usually take thousands of man-hours and thought to bring to market. In fifteen years of writing about tech, I’ve been privileged to know hundreds of people at companies all over the world who have managed to ship stuff. It’s tough.

So when Mike Arrington – the blowhard’s blowhard – decided he was going to create a product – the CrunchPad –  ship it at an absurd price point, and all within the space of a year I was prepared to applaud. Then I remembered this was Arrington we were talking about, and knew without a moment’s uncertainty that it was going to implode at some point.

Lo and behold, it imploded. Why? Because making stuff is hard and writing about it is easy, and Arrington confused being a big wonk in the tiny world of tech media with actually being a serious businessman capable of harnessing the energy to ship a product.

What the CrunchPad demonstrated perfectly was the tech blog world’s hubris and utter lack of perspective. Just because you can bang out 200 words about what some drunk coder from Company X said at a party doesn’t make you capable of defining, designing and building a product – nor of harnessing other people to do so. And, more importantly, making a product which you and your tech blogging friends think is cool is an almost guaranteed method of creating something that no one else in the world will want.

Example two: The Apple “Tablet”
More words were probably written about this nonexistent product in 2009 than about all the great hardware that every company not called Apple actually shipped. Google now lists 1.8 million documents referencing “Apple tablet”. That compares to 20,700 documents referencing “Acer Tablet PC”. One of these companies has actually shipped tablet hardware. The other has not. Can you guess from those Google figures which one is which?

“Nonexistent?” you say. “But I’ve read all the details on TechBlogDailyShit, it’s launching in March with an OLED screen and will kick Amazon’s butt/save the publishing world/cure cancer!”

No. No. No.

What you have read is a load of stuff that bloggers in desperate search for page views have made up on the basis of bar-room rumours, anonymous emails, stuff some random guy posted on Twitter, and just general shit. No one, outside of probably a hundred people in and around Cupertino, have a solid line on what Apple is doing – if, in fact, it is doing anything.

Almost everything you have read about an Apple tablet is geek wish fulfilment, from people who stared at a lot of Star Trek merchandise when they were young and really, truly wanted a tricorder. This is standard practice with a lot of sites that cover Apple: they assume Apple is designing products not for ordinary people, but for them, the tech blogging elite. Well guess what: they’re wrong! Apple wants its products to sell outside Silicon Valley, so it does not take Robert Scoble as its typical customer.

Outside of possibly the Wall Street Journal, almost no media sources are doing any serious investigative reporting to actually find out what Apple is doing either. Why? Simple: Doing real investigative tech reporting takes time, effort and balls. What’s more, if you’re a tech blogger you don’t have to do it because you can write some second-hand speculative bullshit about the “Apple Tablet” and it will get you lots of page views. This will lead to some “blog network” owner like Arrington or Nick Denton paying you more, because you are paid on page views. And all without you having to make a single call or talk to a single real person. Result!

Seriously, the standard of investigative tech reporting now is so low that it makes me long for the days of MacOSRumors. Those guys had standards compared to what we have at the moment.

Example three: The iPhone and market share
Here’s a strange thing about the world of tech writing: there is an obsession with market share winners and losers which isn’t seen in any other product area. Of course, companies talk about their market share in all realms, whether they make cars or sell groceries. But what they don’t do is imagine that they will DIE AS A COMPANY unless they have what amounts to a legal monopoly.

In tech, though, we do this all the time. Nokia is DYING because its market share is falling compared to Apple. Apple is DYING because its market share isn’t as big as Microsoft. Microsoft is DYING because twelve and a half customers have stopped using Office in favour of Google Docs. Google is never dying, for reasons I have yet to fathom – I suspect they are either the golden child, or they simply give out better freebies than anyone else.

Is Mercedes dying because its share of the luxury car market isn’t over 80%? No. Is Samsung dying because it doesn’t dominate TVs? No. Is Bosch dying because it doesn’t sell the majority of drills in the world? No. Only in tech do we play this bullshit game.

Tech bloggers constantly play the zero sum game. For Apple to win, Microsoft must lose. For Microsoft to win, Google must lose. For Google to win, Apple must lose. And nowhere is this more obviously seen at the moment than in the world of the mobile phone.

The funny thing is that prior to the launch of the iPhone, you really didn’t see much writing about the mobile phone market that worked this way. No one wrote screaming headlines about Sony Ericsson dying because Nokia took a few points of market share that month. People didn’t talk about the impending end of Nokia when Motorola was sweeping all before it with the original StarTac.

Only with the influx of “tech geek bloggers” post-iPhone did you suddenly get the same kinds of breathless bullshit that characterised the computer media applied to mobiles. All of a sudden, these guys became experts in the dynamics of the mobile phone market and brought the same depth of analysis to it that they’d brought to things like the question of whether Duke Nukem Forever would ever get released.

The fact that they called the iPhone “the Jesus phone” tells you all you need to know about their lack of perspective and ego. Mobile phones were dull and stupid and now the computer guys were coming along to SAVE YOU ALL.

Earth calling tech bloggers: shut up, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Where next Columbus?
I’d like to end this post on a high note, but I’m actually not in the mood for happy endings. There are some really sharp writers in the world of tech, but the problem is that they struggle to be heard over all the bullshit. Old hands like Kara Swisher and Mary Jo Foley do real reporting. Newer guys like CK Sample at least know how to write stuff which is entertaining, fun and (mostly!) accurate. John Gruber is always good value, even if he’s wrong rather more often than his biggest fans would admit.

But most of the best tech writing at the moment comes from people who don’t actually do it for a living. Odd posts, here and there, that shine light on to some small part of the tech world that they deal with on a daily basis. I’ll leave you to find them, but here’s a clue: they usually aren’t linked to from any of the big blogging networks.

(Photo by Vicki’s Pics, under a Creative Commons license)

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