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iPad is the youngest child in Modern Family

iPad birthday cake candlesIt was pretty amusing when tonight’s Modern Family on ABC became dedicated to the pursuit of an iPad for a middle aged man.  In fact it kind of validated the opinion that the iPad is being marketed as an iPod Touch for grown-ups.  Just in case any part of the message is unclear, the episode is called ‘Game Changer’.  Unfortunately though the only new thing we found out is that there is an app somewhere that allows you to blow out virtual birthday candles.  Expect the show to be available on Hulu if you missed it tonight, or you could just head on over to your local Apple emporium on Saturday to check out the real deal.  If you missed the boat on a pre-order you could interpret the store lines in the episode to imply that there might be in-store availability on Saturday.

Hardcore adopters however will probably still hold off for the 3G version at the end of April.  Insanely hardcore adopters have their 3G on pre-order with their WiFi version due to arrive on Saturday morning.  I haven’t met one of those people yet but they’re out there, oh yes.

Neil Berman

Mar 31, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Hardware | , , | Leave a comment

When smart phones disagree with smart phone words

Nokia phone

Memorable phone words made sense in the days of pre-QWERTY phone keypads

I was taken by surprise last Fall when buying a Lenovo laptop. I’d ordered the computer online and needed to call Lenovo with some supplemental information.

The surprise was that this ended up being way more difficult than I expected because Lenovo published its contact number as 1-866-42-THINK. Now how do you dial that if you have a BlackBerry or any other smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard? Chances are you’re going to have a problem as the keys will lack the traditional “letters-over-numbers” phone layout.

In the end I used Google Image search to display a phone keypad so I could call Lenovo from my BlackBerry. Sounds ridiculous. Fortunately I’ve noticed recently that Lenovo now displays its phone number numerically next to its THINK listing.

Companies that continue to think it’s helpful to display numbers only in letter format are alienating a consumer demographic whose expensive smartphones have left the old style keypads behind. That’s worrying because this demographic either has a smartphone because they are gainfully employed and received it from work, or they are happy to pay extra each month for a data plan. Either way, it sounds like they have a source of cash.

Neil Berman

Mar 30, 2010 Posted by | Rants | , , | 2 Comments

Why we need external mic inputs on high end digital compact cameras

Panasonic ZS3 1There’s a gaping hole in the digital camera market somewhere between point ‘n shoots and DSLRs, and it’s not in image quality.

High end compact cameras like the FujiFilm F200EXR and Panasonic LX3 are now good enough to make their output hardly distinguishable from DSLRs in many cases.

But while the best compacts can take pro quality shots, they’re still playing catch up against DSLRs when it comes to video capture or more specifically audio capture. Most compacts top out at 720p when the DSLR standard is now 1080p and crucially they pretty much all lack an external mic input. This means it’s difficult to shoot video seriously on a compact without a separate audio recorder.

Panasonic ZS3 2

The Panasonic ZS3 shoots excellent quality HD video at 720p but has to make do with its built-in stereo microphone for capturing audio

While I’m sure that 2011 will usher in 1080p video on high end compacts, I’m also depressingly sure that external mic inputs will not appear any time soon. This is not for a lack of real estate because cheap video cameras like Kodak’s tiny Zi8 manage to accommodate an external mic input. More likely there is a perception that most owners would just never use it.

While this assertion is probably true on a $150 HD capable digital camera, I’d propose that someone laying down three Benjamins on a high end compact might be more interested in creative flexibility. After all even at 720p today’s best compact cameras produce amazingly good video quality, but are crippled by their generally poor built-in microphone.

So how’s about it camera makers, can we get a external mic input on your next compact?

Neil Berman

Mar 27, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Rants | , , , , | 12 Comments

Aliph Jawbone ICON review

Jawbone ICON 3The Jawbone ICON is Aliph’s latest Bluetooth headset and comes with quite a family pedigree behind it.  Aliph’s Jawbone range has long been a headline name in the  Bluetooth world, so when Aliph sent us a Jawbone ICON review unit we put it through its paces …continue reading

Mar 26, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews, Video Features | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sprint & Verizon 4G mobile broadband vs iPad 3G

Sprint and Verizon’s marketing aimed at getting iPhone and iPad owners to buy their mobile data plans might not be as wacky as it seems.  The idea of asking us to splurge an extra $59.99 monthly for more mobile data appears to be a wild idea, until you do the iPad math…so let’s do it:

The iPad 3G + AT&T scenario provides one connected device for $29.99 per month at an initial premium of $130 over the WiFi only iPad.

Using Sprint as the competing provider, the offering is multiple connected devices for $59.99 per month and an initial premium of $99.99 for the Sprint Overdrive WiMAX 4G/3G hotspot.

Seems like an easy decision in favor of the iPad 3G option? Perhaps, until you consider that in many US cities the Sprint Overdrive offers up to 6MB download connection speed with unlimited 4G WiMAX usage on up to five devices. That’s fast enough to supplant a home broadband connection for many people.

The average US home broadband cost as of April 2009 is $39 per month. So using the Overdrive in a 4G WiMAX covered city and canceling a home internet connection suddenly has an effective average monthly cost of $20.99. That’s $9 cheaper than an iPad 3G data plan, which of course only provides connectivity to one device and only at 3G speed.

Sprint is aggressively rolling its 4G WiMAX service within the US and its pricing includes unlimited usage, unlike most 3G mobile broadband plans which are capped at 5GB per month. Verizon is busily working on its faster 4G LTE deployment, with no pricing or caps announced as yet.  This may logically become the standard connection method for many consumers or the coming years, just as cellphones have replaced landline phone connections.

Neil Berman

Mar 24, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Mobile, Video Features | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teknica episode 6: “The Glory Days” – Palm, iPad secrecy and Mac vs PC security

The latest episode of Teknica delves into the secrecy surrounding iPads given to developers, the fall of Palm and Mac vs PC security.

Neil Berman

Mar 21, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, News, Teknica, Video Features | , , , , , | Leave a comment

theONbutton 60: The emergence of Appleiance

theONbutton 60 is a sixty second commentary on a consumer electronics topic

Question: With a hat nod to Monty Python, “What did the iPad ever do for us?”

Two second answer: More Appleiance, less Mac.

Ten second answer: iPad’s release and relative lack of Mac activity demonstrates Apple’s continued movement towards high margin easy to use consumer appliances with Macs decreasing in prominence.

The other forty-eight seconds: We continue to wait for the 2010 MacBook refreshes with current models behind the hardware curve; we have already had almost half a year of Core i7 Dell and HP laptops. There have been minimal recent OSX software releases with Google, Facebook and Windows 7 platforms stealing the large screen software industry’s spotlight.

Looking purely at component cost, the base iPad is estimated to be a 50+% profit margin product, Most Macs probably can’t get near that, especially iMacs which have low comparative volume, likely high distribution costs due to size and lower selling prices than Mac Pros. iMac and Mac Pro price points will likely increase as they continue to become niche products. Perhaps iMacs will even disappear from the line-up.

Perhaps OSX updates may become less frequent due to the expense of maintaining the environment compared to the growing range of iPhone OS devices. OSX end user support must also be that much more expensive than iPhone OS support since the iPhone OS environment is much more tightly controlled.

It is telling that Apple has chosen to focus upon a third iPhone OS device while we await MacBook refreshes. Steve Jobs recently said that Apple is now a mobile devices company. While I believe MacBooks will continue to be part of the Apple world for some time to come, looking out five years MacBooks may become the secondary devices iPad owners buy when they have a specialized need.

It used to be the case that iPhone OS device sales were seen as the way to bring in new Mac sales. I think that dynamic may alter as I expect Apple to encourage consumers towards a second iPhone OS device instead, due to their likely higher margin. I continue to view the iPad as the start of a series, with the potential for an iPad 13, 15 etc.

For a company famous for successfully maximizing its bottom line through high margin products, the temptation to turn iPhone OS consumer appliances into its main focus must be strong.

Neil Berman

Mar 20, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t hands-on: It’s no iPad killer

Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t 3With the iPad inspired tablet season well underway, Lenovo has released its new IdeaPad S10-3t in the hope of snatching some early sales before Apple’s magical tablet hits the stores.

The IdeaPad S10-3t is definitely a different beast to the Apple iPad, with Lenovo throwing the guts of a netbook into a convertible tablet chassis.  There’s an Intel Atom N450, a 250GB hard drive and the usual webcam and assortment of ports.  This makes the IdeaPad S10-3t more akin to a traditional Windows convertible tablet than a dedicated iPad style tablet device with a honed OS.  At the risk of reaching the end of this review in advance …continue reading

Mar 18, 2010 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Follow theONbutton on Facebook from today!

We now have a Facebook page so you can follow us with ease thanks to the glory of the interwebs, write a gadget-related proclamation on our wall or simply add another Facebook page to your ever-growing collection.  Click the link below to find us on Facebook:

theONbutton on Facebook

Neil Berman

Mar 16, 2010 Posted by | News | , | Leave a comment

Today in 2015: The Big Three rule the smartphone market

This article is a fictional work of my overactive imagination depicting how the smartphone market might appear in 2015.  Don’t count on it turning out this way…

Ah, how time flies!  It feels like only a few months ago that Microsoft announced Windows Phone 7 Series and fans lined around the block for Apple’s iPhone Evolution, yet five whole years have passed since then.  During these telling years the smartphone market has truly evolved.  Vertical platform integration, wider corporate adoption and growth in the tablet market have been kind to Microsoft, Apple and Google at the expense of the RIM, Nokia and Palm.

With the benefit of hindsight it should have seemed obvious that as vertical platform integration improved, the smartphone market would come to resemble what used to be called the desktop computing market.  In the last five years the Microsoft, Google and Apple smartphone platforms developed such successful …continue reading

Mar 15, 2010 Posted by | Analysis | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

theONbutton’s Flash HD video test: Hardware acceleration Mac vs PC

Flash has gained huge amounts of column inches in 2010.  This is mostly because of Apple’s current stance of not including it on the iPad while claiming at the same time that the iPad will be the best way to experience the Web.  Many commentators have disagreed with this statement because Flash is integral to so much online multimedia content.  As we previously explained part of Apple’s contention is that Flash is too processor intensive, which we agree with, and the company is pushing for HTML5 to be more widely adopted as an alternative.  Meanwhile as we also previously explained, Adobe is taking steps to use graphics hardware to accelerate Flash HD video decoding, which promises to allow smooth playback of content on computers with supported graphics cards.  The problem for Apple users is that due to the ongoing sparring between Apple and Adobe …continue reading

Mar 11, 2010 Posted by | Reviews, Software, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Google goes green and adds bicycle directions to Google Maps

Google Maps Biking DirectionsTo our cyclist readers, have you ever been frustrated by mapping software which directs you to major routes so you can get to your destination as quickly as possible?  Well I would imagine the problem with cycling major routes happens when the quickest way to the destination ends up being in the back of an ambulance.  Cyclists like cycle routes and Google is going to try to help them out.  Google Maps now features bicycle directions for several major US cities including New York and San Francisco, so give it a whirl and see if it can help you find a safer route home.

Neil Berman

Mar 10, 2010 Posted by | News | , , , | Leave a comment

What might the Apple Mac Mini HDMI rumors mean for the HTPC market?

There was an interesting rumor surfing the interwebs last week that Apple might add HDMI to the Mac Mini.  Apple, which has so far spurned HDMI in its computers in favor of the newer Display Port and Mini Display Port connectors, has not had an HTPC contender in its line-up apart from the non-live-TV-capable Apple TV.  So what?  Well if the Mac Mini HDMI rumors are true, I think this could mean more for Apple and the living room HTPC market than may initially be apparent, and the reason comes back to the iPad …continue reading

Mar 6, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

iPad 3G firmware unlock by design would benefit both AT&T and Apple

iPadWhile other cellphone carriers have been encouraging customers towards smartphones with data intensive use-cases, such as ski-lift surfing, AT&T has been under fire over its data network.  The carrier, which recently caused waves by saying it would focus on educating some customers to reduce their data usage, has now said it does not expect widespread 3G adoption of Apple’s forthcoming iPad …continue reading

Mar 3, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Mobile | , , , , , | Leave a comment

ThinkFlood RedEye Mini might be the coolest universal remote control ever

If you’ve been toying with the idea of universal remote control to replace the growing mass of blasters on your coffee table, your days of procrastinating may be coming to an end.  ThinkFlood has announced its RedEye Mini, which is a scaled down affordable version of its RedEye WiFi remote control for the iPod Touch and iPhone.  Instead of relying on WiFi like its more expensive older brother, the RedEye Mini opts for a traditional infrared connected directly to the iPod/iPhone, making it more portable and easier to instantly setup.

We think the RedEye Mini might just do to high-end universal remote controllers what free navigation on Android 2.0 did to the GPS market, i.e. set them on a path towards extinction.  After all, if you’re in the market for a $150 universal remote, I’d say there’s a decent chance you have an iPod Touch or iPhone.  So at less than $50, the RedEye Mini is an exciting proposition.  Heck it might even be worth buying a dedicated iPod Touch for this, just so you can tell your pals all about your new remote control which just happens to surf the web, store your music collection and get you email.  The RedEye Mini will be available later in the Spring.

Now just imagine the delicious irony of using this on an iPod Touch to control Windows Media Center…

Neil Berman

Mar 2, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Home Theater, Photo & Video, News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Today is Windows 7 RC shutdown day

Windows 7 RC shutdown dateIf you’re one of those smart people running Windows 7 RC then take note; today is the day your PC will start shutting down every two hours.  On June 1 that install will become completely unusable, so do what you need to do now to get your all-important files off that computer and buy a upgrade full version/new PC/new Mac/whatevs.  Perhaps you’ve been so impressed by Windows 7 RC that it’s reignited your love for the PC, perhaps you got a free flight to Tokyo because Windows 7 was your idea (link is to my personal fave), or maybe you were just in it for the free ride and you’re now reading this on your new MacBook.  Hey we don’t care what you choose, we’re not platform snobs, we just love good technology.  Whatever you do though, do it soon; the clock is a’tickin, your files are a’fearin and the economy is a’beggin for your hard-earned money…

Correction: there is no upgrade path from RC to retail, it’s a full version clean install or nothing.

Neil Berman

Mar 1, 2010 Posted by | Microsoft, News, Software | , | 1 Comment


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