The Cloud

Tablets on Fire

Posted: October 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Comments Off

Having been the resident Mac fanboy for a number of years you would expect that I would have nothing nice to say about Amazon’s Kindle Fire, but you would be wrong.
I have had a bit of an epiphany of late, specifically regarding the future of tablets and how they will fit into our overall computing experience.
Lucky for us fanboys Amazon has created a device that could possibly be even more locked down that the Apple ecosystem. Hell even if it isn’t, the point of the Fire is to provide an access point to Amazon’s content services, which includes ebooks, movies, TV and music, so if you bought a Fire and it was more locked down that you would expect from an Android tablet you hardly have room to complain.
The most important part of the Fire is not its form factor (hardly exciting) or its operating system. One: it is designed to be a true cloud-based tablet where everything you have bought from Amazon is accessible as long as you have a network connection and two: it is dirt cheap.
Pricing the Fire at $200 is a stroke of genius as it will very effectively segment the market into three groups of people. Those that want a true multi-purpose tablet (and they will mostly buy iPads), those who will buy the Fire (because it is cheap and connected to the Amazon service), those that will buy a tablet because it is cheap (as in cheaper than the Fire) and finally those that will shell out above the odds to buy an Android tablet because they can’t bring themselves to buy an iPad.
The one thing that got me thinking, however, wasn’t anything that any vendor has released over the past year, but rather a rather engaging piece of pulpy science fiction I read.
The books are from “Trader’s Tales from the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper” by Nathan Lowell and you can listen to the free audiobook version of them on Podiobooks.com.
However, part of the shipboard life detailed in the books is that most of the interaction with the ship’s systems happens via a tablet. The tablet is not described but it is clear to me that if you were expected to have this tablet on you 24/7 then a 10” tablet would be impractical.
This ties into my view of how our computing experience will change over the next few years. I think we could do it now but practically it will probably take 10 years for this to happen.
The core of our computing experience will be a portable device, either a smartphone or tablet. The desktop and the notebook will be dead and instead we will have a device that will be able to drive an HD TV, a monitor and keyboard or simply operate in stand-alone form for when you are on the move. The device will know when it is in range of an authorised display and offer you a range of options for how you would like to compute. Want a touch interface on a screen? Done. Want a full desktop computing experience for some heavy lifting or a long days work? Done. Want to watch your move on the HDTV? Done. All of it driven from a single device that smart enough to know where your data is (local, on the network or in the cloud) and able to deliver that media to the display of your choice.
You see the computing paradigm of the future is not about the device. Its about the display. Your smartphone could theoretically be powering a dumb tablet display, rather than having to buy a tablet and a smartphone and a notebook.
There are clues to this all around, look at apps like Airvideo on iOS where you can stream your video to your iPad almost seamlessly. Look at the Kindle service (spotlighted with the Fire) where you can start watching the video on your tablet and finish watching it on the HDTV.
The thing is all the building blocks are already there. What we need is the portable compute power to deliver the service (and I think we are getting pretty close) and the operating systems that can seamlessly switch from a tablet environment to a desktop environment (and I think Windows 8 might be the first big step in that direction).
In fact, I think the biggest hurdle will not be hardware or software, it will be battery life and the only way I think we can get around this is the massive deployment of a standards-based inductive charging technology.
Imagine that almost every surface that you put your phone down on (and I mean any phone) is a charging station. Your desk, your car, your coffee table. So it is less an issue of remembering to charge your phone, but rather an issue of remembering to take your phone out of your pocket or handbag when you get to a flat surface.
When it comes to tablets I think we are seeing glimpses of the future today, better voice control, better media integration and the ability for operating systems to perform in both desktop and tablet mode. We still have some way to go, but Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are showing the path forward.


Apple iPad, great for some

Posted: January 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Computing | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

First published on MyBroadband | 28 January, 2010

Last night at 8pm SA Standard Time about a billion geeks and I gathered around whatever Internet connected device we could lay our hands on and listened or watched someone else listen and then type up the launch of the mythical Apple Tablet, or the iPad as we must now learn to call it.

At the end of the presentation something strange happened, or rather didn’t happen. The world didn’t end, there was no heavenly host signing hallelujah and there was no shining light with a big voice proclaiming the second coming.

OK so maybe I exaggerate slightly, but in reality that was the only way that the lofty expectations of many of the Apple faithful were going to be satisfied.

To be brutally honest what we got was a large iPod touch with an option for 3G connectivity. Those people that thought they were going to get something that could run a full version of Mac OSX were so optimistic in their expectations they probably really believe that they are going to win the lottery this weekend.

The screen is 10-inches in size and that is exponentially larger than that on the iPhone or iPod touch and it is full multi-touch enabled. You can run any app from the app store, but only one a time, which when you consider that the iPad has a decent processor and a much larger battery you would have thought that Apple would have figured out how to allow multi-tasking. The only explanation I can come up with is that because it is running the iPhone OS it is bound by the same restrictions that irritate so many iPhone/iPod touch users.

I can probably think of a hundred other things that I would love to have on this kind of device, including using it for video calls.

This said the one thing that we should all be used to from Apple by now is that much of what makes the company successful is what the company leaves out of its devices, not what it puts into them. So there is no camera and it isn’t a phone, although I am sure that you could use Skype on it (lack of multitasking not withstanding).

What it is, in my opinion, is the best general-purpose portable content consumption device created to date. The TV will always be better for video, the Kindle is probably a better ebook reader, the iPod will always be better for music and the PC will always be better for surfing the Internet. The iPad, however, combines a set of this functionality into a single portable device that could probably meet the needs of most people that consume their media in digital format.

Granted you are locked into Apple’s little closed world and for many people this is simply unacceptable. I hope those people of this persuasion reading this article will have made it this far down and will keep the flames down to char-grill level instead of the usual incinerate.

What I will say is what I say to all my friends that ask me about the Apple vs Windows divide or the iPhone vs Nokia vs Android debate. Every person has a way of interacting with technology. Some people naturally drift towards Windows because it fits the way their minds work and some people drift towards Apple for the same reason.

The iPad is another one of those devices, if it fits the way you consume media then this could very well be an indispensible addition to you digital life. If not, then I apologise for the onslaught of hype that this has unleashed. Maybe you can think of it as a warm up for the madness of the World Cup in June.