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This gadget life: The lack of Flash on the iPad

 

Zillow iPad appThe lack of Flash on the iPad really came home to me this week.

I’ve been using Zillow to do some house hunting. Zillow has a dedicated iPad app, which is why I use it instead of Trulia.com or Realtor.com. The Zillow app is a good experience on the iPad, not groundbreaking, but totally solid.

For the uninitiated, using the app is simply a case of manipulating a Google Maps pane on the left of the screen to display properties details on the right. There are search filters, market data for the property being viewed and a photo viewer.

I tried the regular Zillow site on a laptop this week. I won’t say whether it was a PC or Mac, but the experience was significantly worse. The site was slow to load, Flash crashed twice and the search information was presented in a less friendly way compared to Zillow’s iPad app, which is optimized for the iDevice’s screen resolution. I went straight to Trulia.com.

The messages I take from this (admittedly singular) example are as follows. I find that I almost always use dedicated iPad apps rather than a browser where possible. If there are competing sites providing similar information I will almost always use the one that has a dedicated iPad app if I’m using my iPad. Lastly I’m glad for the first time that the iPad doesn’t support Flash because I think its omission has encouraged sites to create good dedicated apps. Zillow is a case in point.

Neil Berman

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Mar 29, 2011 Posted by | Apple, Mobile | , | Leave a comment

BlackBerry PlayBook hands-on – Update: Now with video!

BlackBerry PlayBookI just scored some hands-on time with RIM’s answer to the iPad: the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.  Unlike the larger iPad, the PlayBook sports a 7″ screen but a faster dual core processor.  The tablet’s construction feels good, as we would expect from RIM, and the touchscreen’s responsiveness is great.  The bezel is also active, although it will be interesting to see whether or not this is a good idea after sustained use.  I know I hold my iPad along the bezel all the time, and I wouldn’t want it to respond to my hand movements.  For example, to BlackBerry PlayBook 3bring up the open applications view, you swipe a finger upwards on the PlayBook’s bottom screen bezel.

What I saw was a pre-production unit, but the PlayBook’s performance was impressive.  Multiple applications were open and simultaneously active, even in the task viewer.  I would expect that kind of thing would be a battery destroyer, but it sure looked amazing.  The PlayBook seems to be aimed at either being a home multimedia tablet, or an add-on for a BlackBerry.  There didn’t seem to be a mail client actually on the PlayBook itself, and the BlackBerry rep said that the idea is to go to a browser to view email, or view it through a connected BlackBerry smartphone.

The PlayBook will share the BlackBerry App World, so I guess we might see dedicated email and other messaging apps coming out for the tablet.  However I’d really like to see some dedicated messaging apps, as well as a promise of thousands of apps coming soon for the PlayBook.  It’s launching in March, and if it’s just going to be positioned as an internet tablet with a BlackBerry hook-up, I fear it may get crushed in the consumer space by the iPad, and the wealth of apps that will likely start coming out for Android Honeycomb tablets like the Motorola Xoom.

Here’s the video of what went down…

Neil Berman

Jan 6, 2011 Posted by | CES, Hardware, Mobile, Video Features | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2010: The year that changed computers and TV?

Halo TV iPadHappy New Year to all of our readers!! If you’re already in 2011, what’s it like on the other side? On behalf of those of us still in 2010, we’re jealous of the cool fireworks that have been going on.

2010 turned out to be a pretty surprising year. Coming out of a recession it looked like the year would be a damp squib, but in fact consumer electronics spending held strong as we became ever-more obsessed with gadgets.

There were some technologies failed to make an impression, like 3DTV. I’m sure that next week I’ll see a whole new round of excitement around this technology even though consumers don’t seem all that interested in owning it at home. Even some of this year’s 3D hollywood blockbusters disappointed; Tron Legacy springs to mind, which asked moviegoers to pay 3D prices even though much of the movie was presented in 2D. The 2D parts of the movie were too dark with glasses on and more enjoyable with them off…but what’s the point in swapping them in and out for 2D and 3D footage?

The BlackBerry platform surprised us for an unexpected reason. While RIM’s smartphone strategy failed to impress with the disappointing Torch, the company surprised everyone with its PlayBook QNX announcement. I’m not sure if that’s enough to save the company long term though. I still believe that once corporates move away from the BlackBerry platform in larger numbers, the consumer market will choose to sustain the Apple, Google and Microsoft mobile offerings at the expense of RIM’s.

For me the most surprising aspect of 2010 was that the iPad really did turn out to be revolutionary after all. It completely changed the way we look at tablet computers and introduced new people to the computing world, both young and old. For kids aged 6-12 years, their most wanted gadget this holiday season was an iPad. Not a Nintendo DS, or a PSP, or a cellphone. They wanted a tablet computer; that’s how profoundly the iPad impacted the market.

Competitors weren’t ready for this. Microsoft thought they could pre-empt it by showing off the HP slate at CES 2010, and that product didn’t get very far in the consumer realm. Samsung got snubbed by Google for releasing the Galaxy Tab with Android 2.2. Even so, the Tab did put in a decent showing in sales volumes, although I’ve only ever seen one unit in someone’s hands outside of a store, review or trade show.

Netbooks also fell prey to the iPad’s assault. As iPad sales continued to increase throughout 2010, netbook sales suffered. Now nobody really seems interested in the sector at all, but that’s also because low priced ultraportables with decent processors are now hitting the market at under $500.

2010 also turned out to be the year that the mass market got excited about streaming content to their living room TV. With easy to use, high quality services like Netflix gaining huge popularity, Roku and Apple sold good numbers of their tiny set top boxes. Google had a different experience with Google TV, releasing a product that clearly hadn’t gone through a full round of consultation with TV networks, who promptly blocked the devices from streaming their online shows. But the overriding theme is that consumers definitely want to pull content directly into their living room from the internet.

The iPad changed the way we perceive computers and family-friendly content streamers changed the way mainstream consumers want to watch TV. Not bad for a year that was setup to be a “Meh” year in consumer electronics. Bring on 2011!

Neil Berman

Dec 31, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile, Rants | , , , , | Leave a comment

Mini-review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab

Samsung Galaxy Tab

I scored some playtime with the Samsung Galaxy Tab earlier this week.  For newbies out there, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is the foremost Android-based tablet competitor to the iPad both in price and intended usage.  That’s where the similarities end however.

The Galaxy Tab has a seven inch LCD screen (not AMOLED) that provides approximately half of the screen real estate of the iPad’s 9.7 inch IPS panel.  The Galaxy Tab is correspondingly around 50% lighter as well, weighing in at 0.84 lbs compared to 1.5lbs for the iPad.  The operating systems are obviously different too, with the iPad running an iPad-optimized version of iOS, whereas the Galaxy Tab runs Android 2.2 with some Samsung app enhancements to make the experience more tablet-

 

Samsung Galaxy Tab keyboard

The Samsung Galaxy Tab docked with its optional keyboard

 

friendly.  The Galaxy Tab is likely to be available on various carriers contract-free for around $599-$649 and on a two year contract for around $399.

I’ll keep this short.  The Galaxy Tab is a disappointment for the large amount of money being asked.  As a contract-free proposition it costs around the same as an iPad 3G.  I won’t even go into the pros and cons of locking yourself into a 2 year contract by buying a Galaxy Tab at the lower price.  I can’t see why anyone would want to do that when Google has said that the version of Android running on the Tab shouldn’t be used on tablets.  It’s pretty clear that since future versions of Android are rolling out (imminently) and the CEA said this week that eighty Android tablets are coming in the next 6-9 months, I can’t imagine who would want to be locked into a 2.2 device for two years with no guarantee of a software upgrade to a possible future tablet-blessed version of Android.

Using the Galaxy Tab was pretty near identical to using a large screened Android smartphone, except that the Galaxy Tab is unable to make regular voice calls.  Most apps looked the same as their smartphone equivalents but were just larger, which seemed to defeat the benefit of having more screen real estate.  Unlike the Samsung Epic 4G, loading web pages was a little slow on the Galaxy Tab but I’ll put that down to the WiFi connection where I was using it since a lot of people were pulling data at the same time.  What I can’t excuse the Galaxy Tab for however is that once pages were loaded, scrolling and zooming was laggy compared to the Samsung Epic 4G which is buttery smooth in this regard.  The physical look and feel of the Galaxy Tab is okay, but there is no real premium feel to the device.  It does look nice and feels solid, but it’s an all plastic affair rather than a more upmarket metal design.

I’m in two minds about the merits of the seven inch screen.  Like the iPad, the Galaxy Tab is too large to put in a regular trouser or coat pocket, so it is unlikely to go everywhere with you.  Given that limitation I’m not sure if the seven inch screen conceptually works.  Let’s say you carry a four inch smartphone daily and your use-case for the Galaxy Tab is to carry it occasionally or use it at home for larger screen browsing and media consumption.  I’m not sure why you wouldn’t just choose the iPad instead, since Samsung Galaxy Tab web browserwith a screen that’s around 100% bigger you really can do a lot more; it’s not as if the iPad is materially less portable.  By comparison, even though the Galaxy Tab’s screen is much larger than a four inch smartphone screen, it’s still not really big enough to fully enjoy desktop versions of websites unlike the iPad.

My biggest concern about the Galaxy Tab however is the one I previously wrote about; I think this device is heading for a soft fail.  There just isn’t enough software that takes advantage of the Tab’s seven inch screen to make it compelling just yet.  The Wall Street Journal Android tablet app is probably the first high profile release, but the Tab-optimized app selection is tiny compared to the tens of thousands of iPad-optimized apps.

Would I buy a Galaxy Tab right now?  Dedicated Android followers will undoubtedly enjoy the Tab, but based upon what I’ve seen so far I’d have to say that the iPad is a better proposition for typical Main Street users.  I really want there to be good Android tablets out there to push the overall market to a higher level, and Samsung has done a solid job with the hardware, but the software is just not in place yet to turn the Tab into the market leader.  If a good selection of optimized apps gets released then I’d be willing to give the Galaxy Tab a second look, but for now I can’t see a compelling mass-market case for buying one over the similarly priced iPad.

Neil Berman

Nov 12, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Frost’s holographic projection iPad is the coolest TV gadget effect ever

Holographic projection iPadIn tonight’s episode of Chuck on NBC, Frost pulls out an iPad to set the scene for Chuck and Sarah.  But this is no ordinary iPad…this iPad magically projects a holographic image R2-D2 style.  Is this iPad 2.0?  Sure would be cool!  Is it plausible?  No way!  Do I want one?  Hells yeah!!!

Neil Berman

Oct 25, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , | Leave a comment

Hulu Plus and the cost of coming second

When Netflix launched its online streaming service it was anyone’s guess as to whether it would catch on. For years now the Berman living room PC has been our primary source of couch media. Between Windows Media Center, Netflix and more recently Hulu and Fancast, our TV needs are fully served. But we still haven’t adopted Hulu Plus.

Around a year ago when we found we were gobbling 90% of our Netflix food online and only a snack through the mail, we cut down from two DVDs per month to one. The online selection has become enormous, with movies such as Ironman, the new Star Trek and Wall-E available through the pipe. We’ve also consumed all eight days of 24 over Netflix this year. It’s little wonder that recent stats suggest 20% of all US peak internet traffic is Netflix streaming.

So when Hulu Plus came along offering content WITH commercials for a dollar MORE a month than Netflix, I wasn’t really interested. We were already in the Netflix ecosystem; all our large screen devices (Windows Media Center, iPad, laptops) support Netflix and most importantly in the living room Netflix works with a simple remote control on Windows Media Center or the Xbox. In my household Hulu Plus was paying the price of coming to market a late second. Sure, Hulu Plus offers different TV content to Netflix but its overall library is weaker, due to its relative lack of quality movie titles. Hulu is also coming out with a remote control interface, but it’s not in production release yet.

It looks like I wasn’t alone. Rumors are circling about a possible 50% Hulu Plus price cut, which can only be a result of a lower than expected adoption rate. At $4.95 per month the service would definitely be more tempting than the current $9.95, but the most frustrating part of the Hulu experience remains i.e. the ever increasing amount of commercials. Ad breaks on Hulu have rapidly increased from an acceptable 30 seconds to around 2 annoying minutes, and I’m sure that duration will continue to increase. With Netflix being commercial free, Hulu Plus will always have a hard time convincing consumers to pay for an ad-supported service when much of its content is available on its free site.

I’m guessing therefore that the real objective of a lower Hulu Plus subscription price would be to remove the free service altogether when subscriber numbers reach critical mass.

Neil Berman

Oct 24, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Software | , , , , | 1 Comment

Did we just live through “Crazy Pricing Week”?

First was the Logitech Revue Google TV at $299, then the Cisco Umi home videocon came along at $599 and yesterday we saw rumors tha the Samsung Galaxy Tab might launch at $399 on a 2 year contract with T-Mobile.

If that last one turns out to be accurate, it could end up as a disaster for the Samsung Galaxy Tab.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, it looks like the Samsung Galaxy Tab will not have the software and app ecosystem to compete effectively with the iPad.  Heck even Google said Android 2.2 is not designed to run tablets.

These issues might be surmountable if the Galaxy Tab were to be priced competitively – and I mean something like $199 on contract and say $399 contract free.  The rumored $399 with a contract make it seem irrelevant, since anecdotal evidence suggests that only a small percentage of iPad owners have subscribed to the ontract free AT&T  data plan, which starts at just $15 per month.  The rumors also suggest that the unsubsidized Galaxy Tab might cost $649, which is slightly higher than the 16GB iPad 3G.

Samsung does have a history of expensive tablet pricing.  The company’s Q1 7-inch Windows XP tablet and Q1 Ultra follow-up device were too expensive to win significant consumer attention.  If the Galaxy Tab pricing rumors are true, expect to see limited numbers out and about.

Sheesh, that really was the week of crazy pricing.  Sure sales might have been down recently due to the weak economy but the way to win back sales is surely to price appropriately and look for volume buildup rather than having to endure price cuts that anger early adopters.  Apple already went through that with the original iPhone launch and hwere wise to avoid a similar pitfall with the iPad.

Neil Berman

Oct 11, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pulse comes of age as one of the best RSS readers ever

PulsePulse was launched as an RSS reader for the iPad some time ago now but recent updates have really catapulted the app to new heights. Version 2.0 of Pulse was released a couple of days ago and now brings the ability to pull sixty(!) feeds across five pages. The cool design remains intact, and the funky feed organization just looks awesome. The iPad version will set you back $1.99 and there’s an iPhone version too.

Neil Berman

Oct 5, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Mobile, Software | , , , , | Leave a comment

This gadget life

Just a year ago we thought no interesting tech stuff would come out a recession, but it’s been a great year for both hardware and software. Here are my three favorite purchases of 2010 so far:

1. Apple iPad 3G

cat ipadNothing less than a revelation, and the only computer I use at home unless I’m working or watching/listening to media content. The iPad set the bar so high for the sector that it’s only now that other multinationals seem almost ready to launch true competitors, and even those look likely to disappoint on the software front. Rumors of a new iPad for the holiday season are surfacing; if it does happen then my money’s on an additional 7-inch version with Facetime camera, rather than a straight replacement for the current model.

2. Battlefield: Bad Company 2

The Call of Duty competitor hit a high with this year’s FPS release. Set in wildly varying scenery with plenty of variety of both weapons and gameplay, Bad Company 2 is a worth adversary to Modern Warfare 2 and a must have for any FPS lover.

3. Kindle 3G, 3rd gen

I’ve never been a huge reader, but the $189 combination of an E Ink screen, Webkit browser and free 3G data make the Kindle 3G a winner for sun worshipers. It’s no YouTube player, but if your outdoor surfing needs involve sitting at a beach/park/Times Sq catching up on the New York Times then the Kindle 3G is just the thing.

Neil Berman

Sep 19, 2010 Posted by | Gaming, Hardware | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apple TV channel apps

For the last couple of weeks on TWiT, Leo Laporte has been proposing an interesting idea about the Apple TV. Prior to Apple’s press conference last week many people were expecting the new Apple TV to launch with apps, similar to those on the iPhone and iPad. Leo went further, suggesting that those apps would include individual channel apps, so for example we would watch ABC programs through the Apple TV ‘ABC app’ just like on the iPad.

Apple TVFirstly everyone should watch/listen to or download TWiT; it’s great. While Leo certainly gets it right a lot of the time, and the idea of individual network apps is a logical extension of the model that exists for ABC on the iPad, I’m not sure it holds for Apple TV. The fundamental app model does hold, and I definitely agree that we will see Apple TV running the App Store one day. But I don’t believe we will get to the stage where individual networks have their own apps on Apple TV. It just doesn’t work for the channel-hopping armchair consumer and if there’s one thing we know about Apple, it’s that the company cares deeply about the user experience.

It just about works on the iPad because we are still figuring out how best to devour content on that device; while aggregators like Hulu Plus and Netflix work best on the iPad, the ABC app is free unlike the others. However armchair viewers want a simple remote control with a simple program guide. Having to navigate multiple apps with different interfaces won’t convert them away from a cable set-top box.

In time I think even the ABC app will fade away as cable company aggregators push that content to the device, and I mean currently non-existent aggregator apps from the likes of Time Warner Cable for use by their subscribers. The cable companies will not give up their revenue streams without a fight and I think they’re more likely to develop their own streaming aggregators for subscribers than allow the TV networks to go it alone.

I would dearly love to see the ad-supported online content continue to flourish, but I fear we are enjoying a heyday that will disappear when the cable companies enter the online streaming market more forcefully.

Now go and subscribe to TWiT, TWiG, MacBreak Weekly and all the other ones!!

Neil Berman

Sep 7, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is the Samsung Galaxy Tab heading for a soft fail?

Samsung Galaxy TabAs we await final pricing for the Samsung Galaxy Tab, one constraint is known: The iPad costs $499.  Regardless of the fantastic energy around the Android platform at present, any tablet launched at or above this price point must present a winning combination of software  and hardware in that order.  The Samsung Galaxy Tab, while endowed with promising hardware looks set to disappoint on the software front and but most importantly may simply self-destruct if current pricing rumors are true.

Samsung does have a history of expensively priced tablets, with the Q1 and Q1 Ultra (which I lusted after for months) being examples of good hardware that failed to achieve significant adoption due to high retail prices.  I have a feeling

Samsung Q1 Ultra

Samsung's Q1 Ultra failed to achieve significant adoption due to its high price and lack of tablet-optimized software

that the rumored prices we are seeing for the Galaxy Tab might be total costs of ownership based upon a cell carrier monthly contract plus a low initial purchase price.  This model does mean however that a standalone device would be very expensive and I suspect that few people want a tablet tied to a two year carrier contract.  So on a like-for-like basis the Galaxy Tab might end up being cheaper than an iPad 3G, but this is a probably a far smaller market than the regular WiFi model.

The bigger issue aside from pricing is the software.  While Android is clearly now an excellent smartphone OS, there’s no current indication that it ready to be a good tablet platform competitor to the iPad and here’s why:  The iPad has 25,000 apps that take advantage of its large screen to optimize content delivery and presentation compared to their iPhone versions.  At present pretty much all Android apps are optimized for 3-5 inch screens, and while they will probably scale up to fit the Galaxy Tab’s screen most of them will not be able to take advantage of the extra screen real estate.

While there were initial concerns that the iPad would not sell enough units to generate enough revenue for developers to built dedicated apps, the opposite has happened. iPad apps typically sell at a significant premium to iPhone versions.  Plants vs Zombies is a perfect example; it’s $2.99 on the iPhone and $9.99 on the iPad.  Herein lies the real issue for the Android tablet software developer.  The Android Marketplace has a larger percentage of free apps than any other mobile platform.  So before developers can even think about drawing higher margins from an Android tablet there’s work to be done on the smartphone platform first.  Plus, we don’t yet know if the majority of Android tablets will be 7 inch 1024×600 devices, 10 inch 1280×720 or some other resolution and these variables will create developer challenges to optimizing apps.

For the last decade it’s been clear that tablets are only as useful as their software.  While Android is clearly a good starting point for tablets we’re going to need to see a solid growth of dedicated apps to make the platform successful on the bigger screen.

Neil Berman

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Sep 3, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Hardware, Mobile, Software | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Halo reads iPad, wants to learn swipe gestures?

cat ipad

Halo, you geek!

Neil Berman

Aug 10, 2010 Posted by | Apple | , | Leave a comment

Where next for Kindle?

Down and across. That’s the answer for those who like to read the end first.

Down: The price of the Kindle hardware looks to be in a race to the bottom with the Nook and every other eBook reader out there. I’d say that’s just fine for Amazon, and I reckon the Kindle’s selling price is almost inconsequential to the e-tailer. Kindle is all about wrapping the consumer up in its online store, after all Amazon is perfectly happy for you to read Kindle books on your compatible smartphone or computer. The overriding priority is probably to ensure that consumers choose Kindle over competing ecosystems, and in the standalone eBook reader market I’d say that means selling the Kindle hardware as cheap as chips if necessary.

The iPad has created some downward pressure since its perceived value as a multi-function device is significantly higher than that of the Kindle, which is designed to do one thing well. It’s nice that Kindle 3 will have a Webkit internet browser and some other candy on the side, but its core competency is presenting books from a huge library, which leads me to…

Across: Well, “Smooth” might be a better word. One of the things that makes companies like Netflix attractive is their smooth and partially predictable revenue stream, due to their subscription model. I think Amazon may move to offer an x-books-at-a-time tiered subscription model for Kindle alongside the existing buy-once model. This would be perfect for pulling bookworms into an unlimited plan, while Kindle newbies could experiment with a one or two books per month plan. Plenty of similar models exist for digital content distribution; Zune Pass, Rhapsody and of course the aforementioned Netflix.

Perhaps the most compelling example is the cellphone contract model. Consumers buy a cellphone for a fraction or sometimes 0% of its full MSRP and the hardware cost gets recouped by the carrier over the life of the contract. Whether Amazon would follow a contract or no-contract model is a pointless discussion since this whole article is pure speculation but, if you’re waiting for a $99 Kindle, I think it will come. Heck by my logic it may end up even cheaper than that.

Thanks to Eytan and Charlie for helping to trigger my thoughts about this.

Neil Berman

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Aug 3, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Mobile | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steve Ballmer talks up Windows 7 tablets, devices still lacking

Steve Ballmer Windows 7 tabletIt feels like a long time ago that I was sitting in Microsoft’s CES keynote in January where Steve Ballmer showed off HP’s elusive Windows 7 tablet. That device is yet to come to market, while the iPad has walked off with over 3 million sales. It also seems that Android tablets are set to make a splash with companies such as Archos already at market, Samsung coming and plenty of others due to follow.  HP has intimated that it is concentrating on the Enterprise sector with its Windows 7 tablet and refocusing on Web OS for consumers.

So it was bizarre that Steve Ballmer’s press conference produced less certainty around Windows 7 tablet delivery than his CES keynote. At least in Las Vegas he was actually holding a tangible prototype device that seemed like to come to market. The message this week was that Windows 7 tablets are coming but we don’t know when.

To my mind this there are two things wrong with this message. Firstly, the lack of timeframe is severely problematic since the iPad holds the consumer mindshare in this sector. Android is poised to bite a chunk out of that near-monopoly as demonstrated by recent demand for the cheap (but unfortunately not cheerful) Augen GenTouch 78. Augen GenTouch 78So as consumers in this small market buy an iPad or Android tablet, Microsoft’s first generation sales become smaller by the day in this sector without a meaningful product. I mean when people need convincing to buy one first gen tablet, who needs two?

Secondly, as I’ve said before, Windows 7 feels like the wrong platform for a tablet and Windows Phone 7 feels like the right one. Just as Apple successfully ported iOS from the iPhone to the iPad, Microsoft should do likewise with Windows Phone 7. The OS is already touch optimized and is designed to run on low power touchscreen devices delivering sustained battery life and fun interactions.

Every Windows 7 tablet device I’ve used suffers from slow start-up times, poor battery life and has been challenging to use without a stylus. They’re essentially netbook-speed devices with a touchscreen and no keyboard; the Archos 9 is a case in point. The market has clearly demonstrated that this is not what it wants, as we can see from the success of the iPad.

Microsoft has admitted to missing a cycle in the smartphone market. It should review its tablet strategy to avoid missing another one.

Neil Berman

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Jul 31, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get UZU while it’s free

UZU is an immediate favorite on my iPad, and it’s free to download for the 4th of July weekend. Get it now, it’s a creative masterpiece. Tip: the more fingers you use, the more wacky it gets.

Neil Berman

Jul 3, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Hardware, Reviews | , | Leave a comment

Hulu Plus for iPad & iPhone is Hulu Plus commercials Minus $10 monthly from your wallet

Yay Hulu has made it to the iPad and iPhone; you might well be saying the days of Flash tyranny are over! Not so fast. The cost of a Flash free Hulu Plus is definitely not free, running at $10 monthly WITH commercials PLUS those nasty AT&T overages if you step over the monthly data cap while enjoying a satisfying 3G video stream.

Oh sweet Hulu, ’tis a sad day, for thine rating is already down to 1.5 stars in the App Store. Over 1,600 out of 2,237 previewers so far have rated the Hulu Plus a measly one star, many citing the charging as the crime. iPad owners need not decommission that MacBook just yet, why pay when it’s free on the larger screen?

Neil Berman

Jun 30, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Mobile | , , , , , | Leave a comment

iPad, like iPhone and iPod Touch, has poor stereo Bluetooth implementation

When Apple launched the iPhone, Many were stunned by its lack of stereo Bluetooth capability. This function, which allows a device to connect to wireless headphones, is critical for those who like to enjoy wire-free music listening.

Apple partially added this capability to the iPhone 3G and the iPod Touch, but failed to allow them to support the AVRCP remote track control protocol. This means that although these devices will stream music to A2DP enabled Bluetooth headphones, you have to pull out your iPhone if you want to skip a track. Unfortunately the iPad suffers form the same incomplete Bluetooth implementation.

Worse still, since the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch’s volume control is suspended when connected to a stereo Bluetooth headset, some headsets which rely on the sending device for a base volume control just don’t work properly with these Apple devices. For example I find the Plantronics BackBeat 903 is too loud even at it’s lowest volume level when connected to the iPad (see update below), yet it works perfectly with the BlackBerry Bold or any non-Apple smartphone I’ve tested it with.

Hopefully Apple will implement stereo Bluetooth properly on the iPhone 4, bringing it in line with most BlackBerry, Android and Windows Phone smartphones. If it fails to do so then those latter platforms remain a better option for those who like to listen to music wirelessly.

Update: Plantronics just sent a replacement BackBeat 903 and the minimum volume on that newer unit is fine with the iPad.  It appears the unit we had previously was faulty.  Of course, as with all stereo Bluetooth devices which support AVRCP, the Apple iOS AVRCP issue remains and we live in hope that Apple will one day resolve this.

Neil Berman

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Jun 13, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Mobile | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Slate of the Tablet

Apple NewtonThe tablet market is moving fast this year and it’s hard to keep up. So here’s the State Slate of the Tablet.

Apple iPad running iPhone OS

Since the death of the Newton a long time ago there have been rumors that Apple was developing a new tablet. Steve Jobs finally announced the iPad earlier this year which, in case you’ve been on an extended remote vacation, is Apple iPad theONbutton landscapeavailable now running iPhone OS. It is available in WiFi only or WiFi+3G, the latter being a smart choice to get the most out of the iPad (pictured). The iPad uses the same App Store as the iPhone and iPod Touch. The iPad can run iPhone apps but dedicated iPad apps look best.

We now either own one, want one or don’t know what it’s for. Personally I didn’t know what it was for, then wanted one and lined up on launch day to own one. I now know exactly what it’s for, which is around 75% of all my Internet and media consumption. The chances are that if a website doesn’t work on the iPad, I’ll find another website or better still, an app.

Limitations include the iPad’s lack of Flash support, no easily accessible file explorer and a beautiful screen which is difficult to read outdoors. Strengths include ten hour battery life, loads of great apps and the ability to enjoy good Internet content without having to trawl the whole Internet to find it.

PC tablets running Windows

Windows tablets have existed ever since the release of Windows XP Tablet Edition years ago. These early tablets were typically ultraportable laptops with touchscreens that swiveled to convert the device into a tablet. They used resistiveArchos 9touchscreens and required a stylus for input, or a very precise fingernail.

The current crop of Windows 7 tablets, spearheaded by the likes of the Archos 9 (pictured), are certainly far lighter than their ancestors but the weaknesses remain. Notably the resistive screens and stylus or trackpad input method. Unfortunately there are just too many aspects of Windows 7 usage that require precise interaction to allow tablets to really exploit the OS.

Multitouch gestures have been built into Windows 7 but as soon as you try using an application like Microsoft Office on a Windows tablet, it is beaten in usability by iWork for iPad which was created from the ground up for tablet usage. Battery life is also an issue on Windows tablets which mainly now use the Intel Atom processor. This is a very power efficient CPU but real life battery usage on these tablets tends to top out at 2-3 hours.

Android

The Google and Open Handset Alliance backed Android OS is making a big play for tablet market share. Or perhaps I should say lots of little plays, because like the Windows tablet market the Android one is made up of a gazillion of Dell Streakemerging models. Unlike the Windows market however, the Android devices we’ve seen so far are all running slightly different versions of Android.

Personally I feel that while Android will overcome the obstacle of fragmentation in the smartphone market, I believe it will greatly hinder the platform in the tablet market. Most users ultimately don’t care if they can’t run this or that app on their phone as long as the device runs a core set of important apps. With tablets it’s different because they are perceived as far more capable devices than phones due to their screen size. If a user tries to download an app which only works on Android 2.1 onto a 2.0 device she purchase that day, frustration will mount. The fragmentation of Android builds on tablets may hold back the rise of the platform if left unchecked.

In terms of actual Android tablet devices in the marketplace, we have seen the JooJoo come and be poorly received. That was the most high profile launch until the recent Dell Streak (pictured above), which is a small tablet and large smartphone wrapped up in a heavy, less than pocket friendly chassis. There was a ton of Android tablets announced at Computex last week running various builds of the OS, which seemed to reinforce the idea that fragmentation is the biggest issue facing this platform.

Palm Pre PlusWeb OS by Palm

HP recently acquired Palm and the jury is out on whether the HP Slate, which was due to be launched imminently running Windows 7, will be shelved in favor of a HP Web OS tablet. Those who have used a Palm Pre (pictured) or Pixi may feel that Web OS could be the foundation of a very useful tablet interface. We’ll just have to wait to see what HP has in store for us on this front.

Neil Berman

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Jun 6, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New AT&T smartphone data plans will change the market

AT&T has announced new smartphone data plan pricing which could create a fundamental shift in the US smartphone market.

The new plans, due to take effect for new contracts starting on June 7th, offer a low usage 200MB monthly data plan for just $15 called Data Plus, and a second plan at $25 monthly for 2GB called Data Pro. Additional gigabytes cost $10 each if you have the 2GB plan. The 5GB ‘unlimited’ $30 plan is gone, unless you’re already on it. Tethering will also be offered for an additional $20 per month, as long as you have the 2GB plan – and importantly this option will cover the iPhone as well as other smartphones. The new 2GB plan will apply to the iPad as well, replacing its genuinely unlimited plan, unless you’re already on the unlimited plan or sign up before June 7th.

What does this mean? For low data users, who probably represent the majority of smartphone customers, the cost of running a smartphone on AT&T is about to get a whole lot more attractive. For example my wife, who has a smartphone and uses it for daily email, Google Maps and occasional surfing burns through a massive 50MB on a typical month. The new pricing will chop her monthly data plan cost in half. A different user who pulls a lot of video and busts through the 2GB ceiling on a regular basis would likely pay more than currently.

I expect that this pricing will attract a boatload of new smartphone customers to AT&T, due to the lower cost of entry. But hey, guess what? June 7th sounds awfully similar to the date of the rumored announcement of the new iPhone, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we actually see Steve Jobs and AT&T announcing the lower cost plans on stage together. This would be a real coup for Apple as it would surely attract a whole new demographic to the iPhone, who previously rejected it due to the cost of the data plan. The same goes for AT&T’s other smartphones of course, but I just have a feeling that Apple may be the primary beneficiary of this new pricing scheme. Enterprises could also potentially save money by moving low data users to the new 200MB plan.

So I expect this to increase in smartphone market share at the expense of non-smartphones, since the lower cost entry point will encourage fence sitters to jump on the bandwagon. This is good news for AT&T because they should be able to increase average revenue per customer while adding people who will place minimal demands upon their data network. I also think the majority of mid level data consumers will be unaffected apart from enjoying a reduced plan cost down from $30 monthly to $25. The heavy users and those who use tethering will probably see an uptick in monthly cost.

I would expect other carriers to follow suit, although those choosing to continue offering an ‘unlimited’ plan could clearly differentiate themselves in this fiercely competitive market. I’m talking about you, Sprint 4G.

For iPad 3G owners, the situation is a little different. It would be pretty easy to go through the 2GB monthly limit on the iPad 3G if you enjoy Netflix and other data-intensive media streaming services on a regular basis. So if you fall into that category it might be worth signing up for the current genuinely unlimited plan before June 7th to get grandfathered in. Once that 2GB limit comes along, owning an iPad 3G could become a whole lot more expensive.

Wireless carriers and home broadband providers have been toying with the idea of scrapping unlimited plans in favor of charging based more upon usage. With AT&T’s new plans, this is becoming a reality, which will surely help smartphone adoption rates. If you’re a heavy data user however, prepare to spend a little more each month to feed your habit.

Neil Berman

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Jun 2, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Mobile | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

iPad overheating outdoors? How to make your iPad daylight readable

iPad screen glare outdoors

The iPad suffers badly from glare and overheating outdoors

There is plenty to like about the iPad, and plenty to get frustrated about as well. Apart from the lack of Flash and spontaneously crashing live on the BBC, the iPad’s difficulty outdoors is a real thorn in its side.

As is often the case with Apple products, overheating reports surfaced quickly following the release of the iPad. I myself suffered shutdowns after only a few minutes of outdoor use on a sunny day. Now, I don’t live in a crazily hot city, but New York does get pretty warm. We’re already into the 80’s for a few days a week, so I needed to find a solution.

But hold on, even if there’s a way to get the iPad to work outdoors without breaking a sweat, the screen isn’t exactly daylight readable. In fact it’s a glare magnet, which severely limits its usability outdoors.

So here’s what I’ve discovered over the last few weeks, hopefully these simple suggestions will allow you to enjoy your iPad in more places.

Enjoying the sun while keeping the iPad’s screen in shade

Apple iPad case sun shade

The Apple iPad case can be used as a sun shade

It sounds like an impossible task, but if you want to sit in the sun you must keep it from shining directly onto the iPad’s screen to have any hope of avoiding an overheating shutdown. The glass screen seems to act as a greenhouse and amplifies the sun’s rays making it almost too hot to touch after just a few minutes of exposure.

The best solution I have found for this is Apple’s own iPad case, whose protective flap can be held over the screen easily with a thumb to act as a sun-shade. Other cases with a flap cover should be able to be used in this way as well.

Allowing the iPad to expel heat

Although I love the ad-hoc sun-shade properties of Apple’s own case, its glove-like fit ensures that heat from the iPad’s back plate has no escape route. This helps to bring on shutdowns that little bit quicker.

So in addition to using the main flap as a sun-shade, opening the interior flap if you’re using the iPad horizontally will allow some heat to dissipate upwards. Make sure that you are holding the iPad with the internal flap at the top, to avoid the iPad falling out of the sleeve.

Apple iPad case sun shade 2

Raise the case cover slightly to allow trapped heat to escape

Also, when you are not using the iPad it will cool down quicker if you prop open the main flap by an inch or so. This will provide shade to the iPad while allowing heat trapped in the screen to escape.

Reading the iPad screen outdoors

The glare from the screen makes viewing it extremely difficult in daylight. There are a couple of ways to best this. The first is to use one of the many anti-glare screen covers now available. These do have the downside of adding a tint to the screen and reducing clarity however, and are also difficult to take on and off if you only need them once a week or so.

My preferred option is to use sunglasses with polarized lenses. These are available cheaply and mine do a fantastic job of destroying glare from the iPad’s screen.

If these tips aren’t enough to stop your iPad from showing an overheating warning and shutting down, thenmove it to a cool place and allow it to properly cool.

I used the polarized sunglasses with Apple case sun-shade technique to survive a week of use in Las Vegas, in very warm and bright conditions. The 3G reception on AT&T was lousy, but hey, trying to fix that one is a whole other story!

Neil Berman

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May 30, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Guides, Hardware | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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