By now, the whole Internet has seen the latest product to roll outta Cupertino, the new iPad. And once again, people are going to be lining up at one of the company’s 327 stores to get one, two, or 542 of the “amazingly, stunningly, awesome” slates. I gotta admit though– I’m certainly thinking about it myself…
I remember when the first iPad came out two years ago, and lots of people were saying things like “oversized iPod Touch” and “well if I need a screen that size, I just use my laptop.” These same people RAILED me when I told them that tablets were the “missing link” between smartphones and PCs. Or how I told them that my 60-something mother who is very computer literate, would rather relax with a tablet and not a laptop on the living room couch. Or how my 80-something grandmother who is NOT computer literate, was taught in a few moments how to send an email to me on a smartphone, and promptly ran out and got one. And in true Apple marketing fashion, they also told you “We made it, so you know you’ll love it.”
I’ll remind everyone that the concept of the tablet PC is not an Apple invention; They’re just good at making something so damn easy to use for the average person, everyone THINKS they invented it… I had 2 MP3 players 3 years before the first iPod came out Tablets were being marketed as UMPCs in the years before the iPad… and they SUCKED. They all ran some version of Windows XP or Vista which is NOT touch optimized… Some ran Windows CE or Windows Pocket PC which was designed to power smartphones, but still was stuck in the PC paradigm; Start menu, file registry, CAB files, etc. These things sucked down more battery and had terribly inaccurate resistive touch screens and were heavy… They also simply didn’t fill a void–they were laptops minus a keyboard, and you could pay less and get more by buying a regular netbook… Enter Apple. The same thing they did with the MP3 player to make it into the iPod, the smartphone to make the iPhone, they did by taking these garbage tablets and created the iPad.
And here we are two years later… the iPad *IS* the tablet. Admit it. Pull out something that looks like a 10″ rectangular piece of glass now and people will automatically call it an iPad– like you call tissues Kleenex, or a copy machine a Xerox. It set the standard. And other OEMs have been trying to catch up after being caught with their pants down two years ago ever since. Some have failed spectacularly– the HP Touchpad (which I thought was a whole lot better than the iPad) failed because when HP bought Palm, they still put their stodgy marketing spin on the device. No one KNEW about it… so 49 days later, it was tossed by the wayside. Rule #1 when competing with Apple: F*** HIGH SPECS, GIVE THE DEVICE A PERSONALITY. Apple always gives their product some “puppy-like charm”. Real people couldn’t give a damn about how many cores the processor has, or how many lens elements are in the camera. They just want to know “Can I take a movie of my kid, make some cute transitions and titles and put it on Facebook with it?” Apple answers sounds like Obama’s campaigns… “yes you can.”
Tablet makers using Google’s Android OS have had a tough time… Android is POWERFUL. There are so many things that you can do with it, and many of the things Apple has been throwing into their iOS updates recently, have already been in Android for years. Again, it’s all about marketing spin. But with great power comes great responsibility. Google came out with a totally different version of the smartphone OS called Honeycomb to be used in tablets, then a year later merged the two forks back into the same codebase with Ice Cream Sandwich. I don’t need to tell you what a mistake that’s been– There’s plenty of stories on the interwebs. But now that tablets and smartphones can share the same OS (like Apple’s iOS) I feel we now have a level playing field for “The Tablet Wars” to commence.
I like Android because it’s open source (to a degree, I know, but more open than iOS) and flexible. For example, if I want to share a picture from my camera roll to Facebook, I just push the share icon and Facebook shows up as a choice, because I have the Facebook app installed. iOS’ share intents are hardcoded into the OS. Apple and Facebook are on rocky terms now, so I can’t share with them directly– I have to have the Facebook app ALREADY OPEN in order to do it. Things like that FRUSTRATE ME and it’s what keeps me on Android. Simply put, I can make Android work how *I* work. iOS makes you work the way some engineer designed it to– which isn’t bad for most, but not me. I like CHOICE.
So there’s a lot of new tablets on the Android side of the fence as well– and minus the iPad’s new Retina Display screen, they’re just as equipped to take on the tasks of tablet computing– but one thing Tim Cook pointed out in his iPad unveiling last week is something I’ve known for a while now. The hardware is only one side of the coin. The other side is software. The iPad has way more tablet optimized applications than Android I think. Part of that can be attributed to time; iPad has been on the market longer, and Honeycomb and now Ice Cream Sandwich tablets are only a year into the game. That may be true, but how hard is it to put out a universal version of your software app makers? When the first iPad came out, I remember every major app vendor put out a universal app (one that both iPhones and iPads can use) immediately. Android developers need to be on the same mindset in order to compete now. Also many assume it’s more difficult to develop for Android because unlike iOS, there’s different hardware in play; different processors, screen sizes, form-factors, device capabilities. I say “so what?!” Have you ever tried to make a WEB-APP? We have to make sure webapps run on ALL PCs, Macs, Linux boxes, TVs, etc… We have to test for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Opera. So my message is “quit b!tching.” This is what developers do. Quit taking the easy way out and try to innovate. Now if it’s a question of money, then sure–go get some of that iOS gravy. But remember, what goes up must eventually come down. You don’t know what the next go-to platform is and neither do I, but if you put all your eggs in that one basket, it only takes one serious bump to have a bad day.
So what are my plans? I’m still looking at the ASUS Padfone. Read why I think it’s a good device for my needs here. The only thing I’m worried about are price, Japanese and American cellular radio availability and software. Also notice I said *my* needs. These devices aren’t one-size fits all… Choose the device that’s right for YOU.
- Tablet Shoppers Spend More Than Smartphone, Laptop Shoppers (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Biggest Mistake People Made About the iPad (gizmodo.com)
- The Asus Padfone is nearly here (samizdata.net)