Tag 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.

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).

Chromebooks are like iPads

Ben Thompson gets the Chromebook better than any one else, possibly because he uses a Chromebook Pixel himself:

In fact, the best comparison for a Chromebook is not a Windows PC, but an iPad. Both are appliance-like devices that are easy-to-use, impossible-to-break, and designed first and foremost for the experience, not the feature list. And, if you write like Dr. Drang and need multiple windows, a Chromebook is in fact superior to the iPad.

Spot on. Both Chromebook and iPad are examples of what I call “friction-free computing” – devices which remove the cruft and hassle of an old operating system, requiring little to no maintenance. What this class of device allows you to do is live in the applications you use to get stuff done, with the operating system getting out of the way.

Where next for Microsoft?

Paul Thurrott – yes, that Paul Thurrott – has written an interesting post on the quandary Microsoft finds itself in:

Windows is in trouble because people simply don’t care about it anymore. It’s not outright hostility; there’s far less of that than the anti-Microsoft crowd would like to believe. It’s ambivalence. It’s ambivalence driven by the nature of “good enough” mobile and web apps. It’s ambivalence driven by the allure of anytime/anywhere computing on tiny devices that are more cool to use and even cooler to be seen using.

Where Paul gets things right is in identifying an attack on two fronts on Windows’ relevance to developers and users. On the one hand, for most people, web apps used on a desktop browser are more than good enough: they’re often better than the huge, complicated behemoth that is Office. Yes, there are cases when only Office will do (usually when only Excel will do). But users who need Excel are now few and far between.

On the other side of the attack are tablet and phone apps. This is where all the action is. Developers are not only excited by the possibilities of newer, more interesting APIs and platforms in iOS and Android, they also sit up and take notice every time Apple puts out a press release about a new revenue record for the App Store. Yes, the overall Windows software market is a lot bigger than $10 billion; but a large chunk of that Windows software market goes to Microsoft, and Adobe, and other top-tier vendors. The chances of a break-out hit Windows app are small, unless it’s a big-budget game.

However, this raises a question: If developers are attracted to fresh APIs and to the glamour and commercial possibilities of iOS and Android, why are new applications arriving in the Mac App Store every day?

There’s several reasons. First, Apple has continued to develop and innovate in its APIs. Every recent release of OS X has seen pretty cool stuff added to it. Even “bug fix and performance” improvements like Mountain Lion added new features for developers to take advantage of.

Second, there’s the halo effect of the iPhone. Many applications are “companion apps” to releases on iOS. The text editor I’m using to write this (Writer Pro) has a Mac version which I’ll probably use to edit, polish and post. I doubt that iA would have developed it if iOS hadn’t existed.

Third, and finally, there’s the Mac App Store itself. Its existence means that if you’re developing a new application you instantly have a place you can sell your product. Yes, it’s not perfect (and the decision by some companies to remove their products from the Store shows that) but it means that companies have a shop window that a new product can be sold from.

I would go a little bit further than Paul. Devices like the iPad (and the Chromebook) have shown people that getting stuff done on a computer doesn’t have to be complicated and messy, a constant battle with the machine to not get crafted to hell. You don’t need to have to “maintain” your computer anymore – we have moved beyond that.

Except with Windows, where we haven’t moved too far beyond that. You still have to install anti-malware software, you still have to make a conscious effort to keep things up to date, every now and then you still have to nuke the machine from orbit (it’s the only way to be sure). The same is true of the Mac, but (as it’s always been), to a lesser extent.

Can Microsoft fight back against this? Yes, it can: but it has to be brave, and bold and prepared to dump compatibility with the dull Windows of old. It has to invent its own simplified operating system, capable of exciting developers in the same way that iOS and Android have, while also being easy and reliable enough to attract customers who’ve come to expect iPad/Chromebook-level ease of maintenance.

Windows RT could have been that operating system, but it seems that Microsoft would rather kill that off. There’s still time, though: but not much more time.

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.

Your New Quote Title

“Had Microsoft brought out a version of MS Office for iOS 7 within a year of the iPad being on the market, it would have been a big success and serious money maker for them. Now it is too late. You also can’t count out more and more people moving to Google’s productivity tools. I recently found out that a major national newspaper just moved everyone over to Google Docs and away from Office. I have heard that same thing happening at other big firms and big government accounts too.” – Tim Bajarin, ”Why Microsoft will regret not doing MS Office for iOS

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.

Microsoft Skydrive causes friction between Apple and Microsoft

Apple and Microsoft are going head to head over the future of Microsoft Skydrive, according to AllThingsD:

“Sources familiar with ongoing negotiations between Apple and Microsoft tell AllThingsD that the companies are at loggerheads not over the 30 percent commission Apple asks of storage upgrade sales made through SkyDrive, but over applying that same commission to Office 365 subscriptions sold through Microsoft Office for iOS, which is expected to launch sometime next year.”

This makes much more sense than the two companies arguing over the relatively-small Microsoft Skydrive. But what I don’t understand is what Microsoft thinks it’s playing at: there’s simply no way that Apple is going to bend over this.