Archive for the ‘ Apple ’ Category

Slacker-Luddites of the World Unite! You have nothing to lose…

You knew it was coming.

The first day the iPad went on retail sale in the United States, some fools took handheld videocam footage of themselves destroying this piece of technology. (Gizmodo story)

There strikes me as something very sad about this story.

Its not as if these kids hated the iPad itself – after all they clearly had just bought three of them, leaving us with definite impression that they’d take the survivors home with them to play with and enjoy. And it certainly isn’t as if they destroyed the iPad to make a political statement. Its not as if the iPad threatens their jobs or way of life.

No, they destroyed the iPad in search of their few seconds of Internet fame. (Andy Warhol’s famous fifteen minutes has since been downsized to a comfortable fifteen seconds – about all I could stomach, and all that was necessary to watch of their youTube video.)

Artifacts of technological wonder get destroyed all the time. A Formula One car spins out of control. A rocket blows up on the launch pad. A Las Vegas casino is collapsed by a controlled demolition. But these destructions have a point. Our engineers will learn from the  failures, making our cars and rockets of the future better. And the land cleared by the fallen casino will make way for something larger and splashier.

Have our youth become so detached from the wonder of the making things as to treat the work of others with such utter disrespect? One cannot but suspect that if any of these cretins had ever spent a week struggling to come up with the absolute perfect engineering solution to a difficult problem they would have not been so quick to pull out the baseball bat.

In my opinion, Gizmodo – and the other leading gadget sites – should consider a moratorium on these pointless destruction of new technology stories. They achieve nothing, other than encouraging future vandalism.


iPad: The Computer You’ve been Waiting for

It’s still two months before the iPad shows up in stores. But I’m betting that five years from now, it will be looked upon as one of the most important new tech products in many years. Here’s why:

1) Screen size. The Ipad hits a sweet spot in terms of screen size and resolution that hasn’t been tapped previously. I’ve enjoyed -tremendously – the iPod touch. But the truth of the matter is, there simply isn’t enough screen real estate to make it good for more than limited skimming of articles. even the shortest column requires several taps and scrolls to get to the bottom. The Ipad allows you to read in a much more natural, intuitive manner.

2) Instant on. From the earliest days of the PC we’ve been dealing with the annoyance of a “boot time” that varied from a several seconds to a good few minutes. Why? Bloated operating systems and an array of disparate hardware components. Many of us have resorted to leaving our computers constantly “on” – with the result that their electric power consumption is making a serious (negative) contribution to the carbon footprint.

3) Sometimes (really) less is more. Don’t believe me? Think of how “feature riddled” so many products – and especially tech products – have become. Cellphones come with two or three thick booklets, describing all the different features and functions you can use them for. Address books, alarm clocks, calculators, music players. And yet many people are totally baffled by these features.

4) Silence is Golden. For as long as the personal computer has been with us, we’ve dealt with its constant hums, beeps, and groans.  Steve Jobs (famously) virtually crippled the performance of the original Macintosh by refusing to have a fan in it: precluding such niceties as hard disk drives. (One of the most quirky Mac aftermarket products ever conceived was the “Mac Chimney” – a cardboard tube that allowed excess heat to escape from the top of the machine.) But with the iPad the USER is in total control over the sounds emanating from the machine. There simply is no annoying hum or whir – everything is totally solid state.

Focus Groups: Missing The Forest

The tech. blogosphere is awash with wailing and gnashing of teeth over the iPad. No built in camera. No support for Flash. No USB ports.

Obviously Steve Jobs and the people at Apple didn’t set up focus groups of technology-savvy geeks before designing the iPad.

I’d argue that when it comes to introducing great new technology, a focus group of any sort, let alone tech-savvy geeks, is probably the worst sort of tool you can use to determine what features to put in your product. There is an old joke about a camel being a horse designed by a committee. And for tech. products this is surely true.

The fact of the matter is consumers in general don’t always know what they want in a product. If someone had asked, back in 1983, what computer buyers wanted – very few, if any, would have said anything at all about a mouse, or a graphical user interface. And the ability, someday, to watch TV shows, listen to music, edit photographs, or connect wirelessly with a quarter of the world’s population was far beyond what 99% of people could even conceive of.

Why doesn’t the iPad have a camera, a USB port, or support for flash? Because it doesn’t need them. Some people think they might want them. But putting these “features” in the iPad would have made it cost more. Made it more susceptible to viruses or hacking. Burned up more battery power.

Multitasking is overrated

I’m often intrigued by people complaining about the lack of multi-tasking on devices like the iPhone and new iPad. Frequently these rants include more than one mis-spelled word. Since the rants were almost always written on devices that – at the very least – permit the author to check the spelling of his work while working on a document, it suggests to me that these believers in the value of doing two things at once aren’t actually that good at doing one.

We’ve become a society of multi-taskers. New laws in European countries and many US states are aimed at restricting, and in some cases outright banning, of the use of text-messaging devices while driving. (As an aside, I notice an exemption from most such US regs. for law enforcement officers. Is this really necessary?)

From the standpoint of the Apple devices (iPhone, iPad) the complaints are not strictly true. You can do two things at once: You can listen to iTunes music (or podcasts, audiobooks, etc.) while using most other applications – although obviously, applications that make extensive use of sound are probably not a good idea.

Doesn’t this limited-multitaking model actually mimic what works best in the real world? I think most people can safely drive a car (in most circumstances) while listening to the car’s stero. Its when we try and perform other, more mentally demanding, tasks while driving that we run into trouble.

One complaint I read came a day after the annual State of the Union speech. The commenter complained that with the Apple devices, he would be unable to upload to his Twitter account while simultaneously watching  feeds on his iPad/iPhone. Its going to take an awful lot to convince me that this is a bad thing.