Andy Ihnatko: iPad Hands On

Andy Ihnatko, Chicago Sun-Times, writes about his impressions regarding the iPad, which he was able to play with after the iPad introduction:

It has a feeling of being The Right Size. … This is no cheap hunk of netbook plastic. … Its weight is just fine. … The display is gorgeous … Viewing angles are immensely wide … This really is the iPhone OS. … Fast. Fast, fast, fast. … it plays HD video smoothly and smartly. … I’m not worried about the lack of Flash. … As a consumer, I’m hoping that the iPad will indeed be the One True Thing.

Can’t wait to get my hands on an iPad.

Nexus One Dock: Video Review

Kevin C. Tofel at jkOnTheRun reviews the Nexus One dock on video:

It’s just not seamless, yet.

A quick summary: The Nexus One can easily slide out of the dock because there isn’t a USB connection on the dock: the connection is via Bluetooth. The clock app runs when docked, most of the time. Audio plays via Bluetooth, some times. The dock is $45 and you get an additional phone charger and a 3.5mm-to-RCA cable.

Android Mom also has a video showing how you can stream music via Bluetooth from the Nexus One to the dock, which is connected to her speakers.

Lessons From Apple

Michael Gartenberg’s Entelligence: Lessons from the iPad launch details four important lessons to learn from Apple’s iPad launch:

  1. Define what your product does.
  2. Leverage what you’ve done before.
  3. Make your product additive to your ecosystem.
  4. Solve a problem, don’t be a feature.

Gartenberg ends with:

Vendors competing with Apple in this space are going to need to understand these lessons and in many cases change not only their current products, but the story they tell.

Ebooks at $12.99

Walt Mossberg asked Steve Jobs regarding bestselling ebooks prices. Most ebooks are priced $9.99 on Amazon but higher on the iBookstore. Steve Jobs answered, “The prices will be the same.” Apple wants publishers to set their own prices for ebooks, and the first out of the gate is Macmillan. John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan:

Our plan is to price the digital edition of most adult trade books in a price range from $14.99 to $5.99. At first release, concurrent with a hardcover, most titles will be priced between $14.99 and $12.99.

That ticked off Amazon:

We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles. We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books.

I agree that a starting price for “hardcover” ebooks at $12.99 is high. But I think it is the right thing to do to allow publishers to price their books however they want. The market will decide whether the pricing is too high. I for one would never purchase an ebook for $12.99 when I can get the real thing for the same price. If the ebook version were to add additional resources such as interviews (video), commentary (video, audio, text), index (hyperlinked), additional pictures, richer appendix, etc. I might consider the ebook version for the same price. Source: MacRumors

Don’t Need No Flash

Kendell Helmstetter Gelner responds to TheFlashBlog: Except for Farmville and Hulu all of the other sites have non-Flash version for browsers that do not support Flash, including MobileSafari on the iPhone. Earlier, TheFlashBlog’s Lee Brimelow posted up mock screens of sites that supposedly didn’t support Flash. Well, it seems Brimelow didn’t check to see whether or not these sites actually worked without Flash. It turns out they do: CNN, FWA, Addicting Games, Google Finance, Aviary, and Disney. Spongebob Squarepants has many native iPhone apps.

Daring Fireball‘s John Gruber regarding Flash:

Used to be you could argue that Flash, whatever its merits, delivered content to the entire audience you cared about. That’s no longer true, and Adobe’s Flash penetration is shrinking with each iPhone OS device Apple sells.

Technically, Adobe’s Flash penetration would not shrink as long as there is an equal number of Windows and Android devices sold. But I do agree that developers will not be able to reach their target audiences with just Flash. Increasingly the audience they want to reach will be without Flash.

iPad’s IPS Display

Maybe I’m completely out of it but there seems to be a consensus that AU Optronics (AUO) is a supplier to Apple’s iPad. Since when did AUO have capabilities to manufacture an IPS-based TFT LCD? And Vinita Jakhanwal, principal analyst for iSuppli, thinks Innolux is part of the game too. I say hogwash.

There are very few LCD companies capable of manufacturing IPS TFT LCD panels and even fewer able to supply the volume required by Apple. There is IPS Alpha, NEC and Hitachi in Japan. IPS Alpha focuses on mid-sized LCD panels geared for TV applications. NEC focuses on high-end IPS panels for monitor applications. Hitachi is more-or-less an IPS R&D and IP company. And then there is LG Display (LGD) based in South Korea. In my opinion, LGD is the only LCD manufacturer that has IPS R&D and volume manufacturing capabilities for the iPad. But I could be wrong.

While searching for more information on iPad’s IPS supplier I came up with an interesting article titled FAQ on the Apple iPad’s IPS display written by John Breeden II. There are some glaring mistakes in the article.

Most LCD screens today use TFT, which is a thin film transistor liquid crystal display. However, having tested both TFT and IPS, I can tell you that IPS offers far supperior image quality and color matching.

I don’t know where to start because it seems Breeden II doesn’t know the first thing about LCDs. First, IPS is a wide-viewing angle LCD technology. IPS re-arranges the liquid crystals so that it twists parallel to the panel, improving the viewing angles compared to a typical TN LCD panel. Second, TFT “is a special kind of field-effect transistor made by depositing thin films of a semiconductor active layer as well as the dielectric layer and metallic contacts over a supporting substrate,” (Source: Wikipedia) and is a technology used by all LCDs, which can be found in notebook PCs, smartphones, LCD TVs and LCD monitors. There can be no TFT versus IPS since any IPS LCD panel will need to make use of TFT technology.

… there are drawbacks to IPS, which make me wonder why Apple would put in the iPad. The first is that TFT displays require only one transistor, which twists the crystal to create an image. With IPS, you need two transistors for every single pixel, one for each end. Right there you are doubling the power consumption of your monitor.

This is entirely incorrect. All TFT LCDs require the use of two transistors. The difference between an IPS and a non-IPS TFT LCD is the location. On an IPS both transistors are located on a single side. The doubling of power consumption is simply ridiculous.

Because more of the surface area of the screen is “covered” by images, it also means you need a much more powerful backlight to shine through.

I think Breeden II might be referring to aperture ratio here. One of the challenges for all TFT LCDs is improving the aperture ratio. This is done by reducing the area taken up by the TFT, which blocks light. As far as I know IPS TFT LCDs do not have aperture ratios that are significantly lower than other technologies. The goal is for images to cover the entire LCD by minimizing the TFT. And when that happens you actually need a less powerful backlight.

… if you are actually using the device, my estimate would be less than three hours of power, and that’s being generous.

I don’t think I would stray too far from what Steve Jobs stated during the iPad introduction. Jobs stated that the battery power to be 10 hours for watching video. I would peg the iPad’s video playback at around 7-8 hours since most companies including Apple tend to share battery life that is slightly inflated. In a conversation with Walt Mossberg after the iPad launch Jobs states that for music the iPad can last about 140 hours. Watch the video here.

Raskin’s Device

I agree with Dan Cohen (The PITS and the iPad):

It only took 31 years … but I think the iPad is the device Raskin envisioned.

Jef Raskin, “was an American human-computer interface expert best-known for starting the Macintosh project for Apple Computer in the late 1970s.” (Source: Wikipedia) In 1979 he shared his principles for a computer designed for the Person In The Street (PITS) in Design Considerations for an Anthropophilic Computer. Here is one requirement I especially like:

If the computer must be opened for any reason other than repair (for which our prospective user must be assumed incompetent) even at the dealer’s, then it does not meet our requirement.

A Quick Observation: I’ve been testing the Nexus One and I cannot help being completely disappointed at the battery/microSD/SIM cover: a PITS should not know to open it and if he did, would require many trials before successfully closing it. Raskin would not be happy.

Real Work

Daring Fireball: I have often shared with my friends that the Mac just lets me get my work done. The PC, on the other hand, forces me to work on it. I think the iPad will push this distinction a bit further. Fraser Speirs comments on the iPad’s impact on doing work in his piece, “Future Shock“:

Think of the millions of hours of human effort spent on preventing and recovering from the problems caused by completely open computer systems. Think of the lengths that people have gone to in order to acquire skills that are orthogonal to their core interests and their job, just so they can get their job done.

If the iPad and its successor devices free these people to focus on what they do best, it will dramatically change people’s perceptions of computing from something to fear to something to engage enthusiastically with.

Humorous Microsoft

Brandon Watson (Microsoft’s Director of Product Management in the Development Platform) compares Microsoft to Apple in David Worthington’s “Microsoft: iPad’s Closed Platform is ‘Humorous’” at Technologizer:

It is a humorous world in how Microsoft is much more open than Apple. With Microsoft’s platforms, developers can build whatever they want, and target a broad array of devices using the same skill set.

This is exactly why Microsoft will continue to fail to make stuff with exceptional experiences. Brandon is saying with Windows you can integrate it into anything you want: smartphone, tablet PC, notebook, all-in-one, desktop PC, etc.

I remember using Motorola’s Q a long time ago. It had a version of Microsoft’s Windows and the experience was, at best, painful. Because it was ported from the regular Windows paradigm the cursor replaced the mouse and had to be controlled by a d-pad. A dedicated Windows button existed to replicate the Start menu found on the regular Windows OS. Today with the ingenuity of third-party UI developers a lot has been done to cover up the pain and actually make it quite useful, though I haven’t touched a Windows-based smartphone since the Q.

Windows 7 has multitouch capabilities built in. A fact that many hardware manufacturers have noticed. Now we have notebooks, all-in-ones, and tablet PCs that sport multitouch displays running Windows 7. And how good is the experience? To put it nicely: not so great. The reason is simple: simply replacing the mouse with the finger will not improve much of anything, quite the contrary. The mouse pointer is designed so that tiny icons, menus, buttons, etc. can be precisely targeted. Using a significantly-less precise finger will make it very difficult to control those UI elements designed for a mouse and keyboard. Again, third-party companies like HP has done a solid job of replacing the standard Windows 7 UI with one that is much more approachable with a finger.

I agree with Brandon that with the same skill set developers can build whatever they want targeting a broad array of Windows devices. But the experiences on those devices, with the exception of standard notebook and desktop PCs without multitouch running Windows, will be mediocre at best. Let me tell you why.

I don’t think the iPhone’s 3.5-inch LCD can be any wider (in landscape mode). Why? Because the average human being has hands with thumbs that are a certain length. If the iPhone had a wider screen it would be uncomfortable to thumb-type. Apple thought long and hard to make sure the hardware worked perfectly with the OS and vice versa. For Microsoft this would be considered a humorous limitation since there is just one iPhone with just one display size. Microsoft wouldn’t limit implementing Windows on just one display size for a smartphone, the company would want the developer to apply Windows Mobile 6.5 to as many different-sized displays on smartphones and anything that is pocketable. The bigger the better, why limit yourself! The experience on a multitouch 5-inch MID with Windows would be … terrible: touch type? thumb type? peck?

The bottomline is that the UI, software and hardware must be crafted to work seamlessly together. And I think Apple has done and continues to do a fantastic job. The iPad might be a less-open system compared to devices running Windows but I believe it will open up opportunities for developers who will create apps providing incredible experiences.