Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for March, 2012

Google Will Abandon Android

Charlie Kindel argues that Google will abandon Android as a brand:

Moving forward, Google will invest heavily in the Play brand. To effectively create new brand you have to mute your usage of other brands in the same space. At the most, any further use of the term “Android” in consumer marketing and branding will be relegated to “ingredient brand” status (“Certs with Retsin!”). Google will start distancing itself from the Android brand completely.

Outlandish Claims

The Macalope:

Much is made of Rob [Enderle]’s seemingly poor analytical ability when it comes to Apple (personally, the Macalope thinks he’s deliberately just ginning up hits and further prostrating himself to his masters), but he’s also a really horrible writer. Let’s not forget that.

I like this beast.

Google Goes After Apple and Amazon

David Streitfeld and Nick Bilton:

Google’s long-awaited tablet might finally be on the way to becoming a reality. For at least two years, there have been reports that the search giant was working on something that could compete with Apple’s iPad. […]

Google’s target audience, however, seems to be as much those who use Amazon’s Kindle Fire as people who favor the more expensive iPad.

I’d be surprised if this does well. In order to compete with the Kindle Fire, they need to make it cheap, which means the hardware has to be cheap. Therefore, the experience will suffer. In order to make the experience not suffer, they have to get closer to the iPad price point, and that’s dangerous.

“Sir, I Have a Plan”

“We can’t do everything ourselves, but we can do what we’re good at,” RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said.

I think your idea of what you’re good at differs substantially from what your shareholders think you’re good at.

Hot Mic

On March 27 in Janesville, Wisconsin, Rick Santorum was giving a speech to a group of supporters. Midway through, he was berating Obama for his hot mic gaffe. Immediately following this, he said (and I quote):

We know the candidate Barack Obama, and what he was like: the anti-war, government nig—the, uh… America was a source for division around the world.

This occurs 34 minutes into the linked video.

Santorum should immediately drop out of the race for this disgraceful, hateful, derogatory, disrespectful remark. He continues his record of being the single most vile human being on the ballots, and he’s getting votes and cheers.

Clarification: I’m going to give Santorum the benefit of the doubt and assume that he doesn’t use the epithet in conversation, even in private. I’m sure he did not mean to say that. The closest explanation I’ve heard is that he meant “negotiator” and stumbled. In that case, why not finish the word?

But while what came out was probably just a strange slip of the tongue, it sounded offensive, and he’s the only candidate with a record of two of these stumbles on the campaign. Remember the “blah people” incident?

Two Weeks with the New iPad

March 7

Like so many others, I fired up the live blogs at 10 AM local time and waited to see what the then-rumoured iPad 3 would entail. A retina display looked like it was certain, but would it make its way into the $499 model, or would they have to increase prices? Would it have LTE networking, or would Apple save that for the iPhone for marketing purposes? What would happen to the iPad 2? Would it be called iPad HD?

Two hours later, we all knew. Not just us geeks, but seemingly everyone. I walked down the street to grab a coffee between the event and the preorder, and overheard a number of conversations concerning it. What was once a toy for those with $500 to drop has realized itself as a mainstream, common product. And now we knew that this everyday, everyman product would have more pixels than most desktop displays at the exact same starting price. It wouldn’t even carry a suffixed number.

Sorry for breaking your website @pschiller. 1:03 PM, 7 March 2012

After apple.com stopped being broken and started being a website again, I placed my preorder. Black, 16 GB, WiFi-only. Same as always.

March 16

UPS arrived a little under two hours after they guaranteed, and I noted this with my usual subtlety and class:

Toot toot, the turdmobile is here. 1:52 PM, 16 Mar 2012

Unboxed, I fired it up.

The display is the first thing that will grab you. It has to be the first thing that amazes, because it’s the essence of the product. Virtually all functionality exists within those 9.7 diagonal inches, and the new iPad improves every aspect of that. It’s not just the best display in its class, but the best consumer display at any price in any product. It’s brighter and more saturated than the display of the iPad 2, and the difference is immediately noticeable. Whites are white, except for those iPads that were apparently balanced incorrectly. The ubiquitous blue gradient signifying selections within a menu now looks regal, making its counterpart on the iPad 2 look like a bleached pair of jeans in comparison. It’s stunning.

Unfortunately, many of my oft-used apps were not updated within the week-and-a-half post-announcement. Marco Arment worked nonstop to push a major Instapaper update out, but it wasn’t available until the evening. The developers of Twitterrific, Flipboard, and PlainText all issued updates as soon as they could. But while non-retina apps look like crap on the iPhone, the difference is less noticeable on the iPad. That said, nothing compares to a fully-optimised application.

If you own an iPad 2, the next thing you’ll notice is the weight difference. It’s heavier and, while obvious, it is not a burden. It’s still light enough to hold with a single hand, but it would be nice if it went on a diet. Of course, Apple would rather they reduced weight with each generation of any of their portable products. But I would prefer to keep the battery life the same and increase its weight than preserve the weight of the iPad 2 and lose even an an hour of power. That’s exactly what they’ve done. Despite my heavy usage during the first weekend, battery life was never a concern. The combination of a bright display and a seemingly limitless power reserve is pure bliss. It’s the best user experience on any tablet.

There are some who will continue to question Apple’s use of similar designs for different products. This occurred after the iPhone 4S was announced, and has been repeated with the launch of the new iPad. It’s a stupid talking point, really. It advocates for a change in design for the sake of change, and not necessarily for any particular benefit. But there are a number of advantages to keeping a virtually identical design. My Nedrelow Sleeve fits perfectly, as does the Smart Cover, both of which I purchased for my iPad 2.

March 29

There are other little things that become apparent through two weeks of use. The system font has changed from Helvetica to Neue Helvetica. While it’s a barely-noticeable change, a switch back to using regular Helvetica in Pages, for instance, looks clunky and inelegant.

The new iPad also includes a 1 GB RAM package, double the 512 MB package in the iPad 2. It’s a welcome bump, and I’ve seen fewer low memory errors for all applications. Safari used to run into a RAM roadblock with only a few tabs open, but it’s now much more usable for daily browsing.

The dictation feature is nice, but is something I do not regularly use. As I have previously stated, I find the use of voice controls to be awkward and jarring. It’s technically wonderful, but I do not use it frequently. In fact, I’m dictating this right now, but I find it a hollow experience in my living room.

I do have three complaints about this iPad. The first concerns its weight, but as I’ve stated, I believe it was a wise compromise. My second irritation is the lack of screen lamination, which I assumed would be part-and-parcel of what Apple calls a “retina” display. Clearly and disappointingly, this is not the case. I already have a small piece of dust in the gap between the glass and the panel, but my iPhone is dust-free and will remain that way.

My final complaint concerns the camera system. They have improved the camera on the rear, and that’s a welcome upgrade. Apparently, it uses the same sensor as the iPhone 4 which produces some interesting grain and tonal qualities. It’s a decent camera. But Apple didn’t change the front-facing camera, and on a bigger-than-HD display it shows. The iPad is my favourite device with which to videoconference but it has the single worst camera to do so.

Heat problems? Not that I’ve noticed. I am sure it is warmer than my iPad 2, but not dramatically so. It isn’t uncomfortable in any way. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson’s character in the otherwise-mediocre As Good As It Gets, Consumer Reports is like a product review magazine if you take away reason and accountability.

I am not one to suggest that my ideals are those which everybody should agree upon. However, I cannot see a reason to purchase any competing tablet right now. The new iPad is a nearly-perfect product. Apple has managed to put a faster processor, a bigger battery, and a display that was unfathomable just a couple of years ago in a $500 package you can buy today.

But there’s even better news if you’re just dipping your toes in the tablet water, because the iPad 2 is now $400. That’s an insanely good starting price. Yes, it’s still double the price of Amazon’s Kindle, but there are lots of ways to waste $200. But for another $200, you can have last year’s best tablet, and this year’s second-best.

For another hundred, though, you can have the best display ever fitted to a consumer product. That’s a hell of a start to Apple’s year.

Svbtlety

Dustin Curtis introduced Svbtle last week as an antidote to the “complexity and uninspiring nature of most blogging platforms”, and it generated a fair bit of buzz. He showed off the user interface, noting its simplicity and elegance, with the concept of ideas instead of drafts.

Gravity on Mars has now released their own interpretation of the platform for WordPress, available on GitHub:

When I read about Svbtle just seemed to me to write great enter without stop from view. Having a list where these ideas “cooking” and another where the already published is just great. [sic]

But in an interview with TechCrunch, Curtis clarifies that it isn’t just a platform:

Until I feel the design and workflows are good enough for a wide release, I’m working on building a private network of extremely well-vetted bloggers. I’m running it with more of a newspaper model than a blogging platform model; I plan to offer copy-editing and other benefits to help improve the writing of members on the Network, for example.

Akin to Read & Trust, the Svbtle Network is a group of writers that are all producing great content. The difference is that the latter also includes a consistent style. You know when you’re on the site of a Svbtle writer. Now, a small amount of that familiarity is lost with the copycat styles.

Make no mistake: I’m intrigued by the platform, and would love to use it. But I’d hesitate to even install the backend theme for my copy of WordPress. It would feel as uncomfortable as using the custom platforms of Ars Technica or Engadget to write my own blog. Svbtle is a total package, not just a platform.

Paper for iPad

Yesterday, I was slightly bemoaning the unproduced Microsoft Courier tablet concept. Today, some of the guys behind it announced a new application for the iPad called Paper. I’ve been playing with it for a while and it’s pretty fantastic for a debut. It’s beautiful, for a start, and the drawing engine allows for a wide range of expression on the limited display.

I was a little disappointed that it doesn’t have the flexibility of the Courier concept. It’s just a drawing app, albeit a very good one. Just because it came from the Courier guys, it doesn’t mean it’s going to have Courier functionality. I guess that’s where Taposé comes in.

163 Reasons

A. T. Faust:

Still, rumors are just rumors, and they aren’t particularly convincing in and of themselves. It doesn’t matter how many sources echo some generic sentiment. What does matter is a rumor’s singular specificity. In this case, it’s that pesky 7.85 inches.

And what makes everything even more convincing is that the leaky sources never sought to explain why that number’s so darned significant!

Nice detective work by Faust. At the end (spoiler alert!), he is certain Apple will launch a smaller iPad this year, to be called the iPad mini. Watch it destroy everything in its path. Via John Gruber.

Taposé for iPad

Remember Microsoft’s Courier tablet concept? One of the ideas I enjoyed most from it was the lack of a clipboard. Instead, one could drag things into the “spine” for temporary storage. Now that, and many other Courier-esque ideas, are on the iPad. Looks great.

Google Drive in April?

Om Malik:

According to the details from my sources, Google is going to offer 1 Gb of storage space for free, but will charge for more storage. The market leader Dropbox currently offers 2 Gb for free.

It doesn’t make sense that they would launch with less space than is offered by either Dropbox or Gmail.

In addition, they’re facing a similar problem to that of Google+. Google Docs, for example, was launched into a market dominated by Microsoft Office. Google Docs was free, though, which allowed it to gain market share quickly, and retain a large user base. Google+ was launched as a competitor for Facebook, but without any differentiating factors (apart from easier privacy controls). Facebook is a free product, so nobody switched on price, nor stayed because nobody else stuck around.

Google Drive would be launching as a competitor to Dropbox, based on Malik’s sources. But Dropbox is free, and people love it. There’s no reason for someone to switch away, especially not when they’re launching with half the storage (again, based on Malik’s sources).

Fixing the App Store

Wil Shipley on the need for paid upgrades in the Mac App Store:

Right now developers selling through the Mac App Store face a lose/lose choice: either provide all major upgrades to existing customers for free (thus losing a quarter of our revenue), or create a “new” product for each major version (creating customer confusion) and charge existing customers full price again (creating customer anger).

I think this is necessary on the iOS app store, too, hence the title. There are many little things to fix in both App Stores: trial/demo versions, easier transition from elsewhere-purchased applications to Mac App Store copies, and easier discovery of the best apps in the each store. Paid upgrades are part of what needs fixing, especially from a developer’s perspective.

Rob Enderle vs. Reality

Last week was an interesting week. Apple announced what appears to be a penis iron in the new iPad, and folks are burning through their monthly 4G data plans in a few hours. Tim’s having his first Antennagate moment, and Steve Jobs he isn’t.

He also oversaw an extremely successful product launch, but don’t let that get in the way of your point. By the way, what’s a penis iron?

On the other hand, Meg Whitman announced her first major restructuring since taking over HP, and on paper it not only looks impressive […]

Wherein Enderle equates HP’s plans to Apple’s execution, and determines at the former is more likely to produce success than the latter.

Ironically, the stock market continues to reward Apple and punish HP, which suggests the market remains consistently out of step with reality.

Rob Enderle is consistently out of step with reality.

Penis Iron

Oh I get it. The new iPad gets warm, it’s metallic, and it sits in your lap. Therefore, penis iron. I thought it was Enderle’s nickname for his junk.

Evidently…

Trailer for a new documentary about John Cooper Clarke. No air date has been provided, but it will be shown on the BBC “in the coming months”. Fantastic.