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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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More to Read
- Some Thoughts on Lightroom Keywords
- How not to be a doofus with a camera
- Beyond 'Vacation Snaps'
- A teachable moment (or why I love birding, even when I make a fool of myself)
- Sherman, set the wayback machine to…
- An audience of one....
- Talking about 'Stuff'
- What I do for a living…
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Want more? Try this list...
New on the Blog
- Lightroom and Photography resources for beginners
- Yosemite Road Trip 2013: Day 2 and 3 – In the Park
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- Back from Yosemite
- Bobcat before and after
- 2013 playoffs, round 2
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Monthly Archives: January 2010
Ben Long talks about using a Hackintosh (a netbook hacked to run Mac OS X).
For the last year, I’ve been using a hacked MSI Wind as a netbook, but its keyboard played havoc with my repetitive stress injuries. Something about it made me hold my hands in a way that ultimately caused pain. I recently had the chance to type for a while on a Dell Mini 10v and found that I had no pain issues at all, so I sold the Wind and picked up a Mini 10v on sale for only $275.
Compared to my 13″ Macbook, the Mini 10 is considerably smaller and lighter, making it very usable for backcountry trips – something I would never do with my Macbook. With it, I no longer need to carry my Digital Focii FotoSafe for offloading, and I’m not stuck trying to type emails on my iPhone keyboard.
Obviously, if you’re a Windows user, you can use the Mini 10v right out of the box. If you want to use the Mac OS, though, you’ll need to perform a quick and simple hack.
NetbookInstaller is an application that will take care of the hack for you, and using it is very simple. You’ll need a copy of Snow Leopard, and a USB stick with at least 8 gb of capacity. Detailed instructions on the NetbookInstaller site will guide you through the installation. You’ll image your Snow Leopard disk onto the USB stick. and then boot off of that. The NetbookInstaller application will modify the installation to allow it to work on the Netbook.
When you’re all finished, you should have a Mini 10v running the latest Mac OS (at the time of this writing, I’m running 10.6.2). The trackpad supports tapping and two-fingered scrolling, and sleep, restart, shutdown, the web camera, and SD card reader all work fine. The model I got has a gigabyte or RAM and a 160gb drive, though both of these are upgradable. The computer weighs in at 2.6 pounds.
It’s definitely a viable option if you want to depend on an unsupported computer environment, but he neglected to mention a couple of important points:
- If you don’t buy a copy of Mac OS X or have a family pack, you’re pirating the software. Photographers need to be really sensitive about violating the licenses of others, or else we should shut up when people ignore our copyrights and rip off our photos. Can’t have it both ways, folks, although I know a lot of people who try.
- Even if you do buy a copy of Mac OS X to run on your Hackintosh, you’re putting it on hardware that isn’t allowed by Apple’s EULA for Mac OS, so you’re violating their T&Cs, which depending on how you want to rationalize it means you’re pirating the software whether or not you have a paid license for it.
- If neither of those keeps you up and night sleepless over the moral quagmire of violating Apple’s legal agreements while being hard-ass about protecting your own, it’s still an unsupported and mostly untested hardware/software configuration which may break at any moment (or which at any moment Apple might choose to “make no longer compatible” with a software update, and no matter what breaks — you have no tech support except your own sweat equity and whatever friends you can buy pizza for. And you’re using this computer in a production environment on deadline?
Wherever your choose to draw the lines in the sand in the great “How dare you do that with my photos; but I”ll do what I want with this software!” moral quagmire, you should at least stop long enough to think about it so you know how to explain it if it gets brought up by a client — or by the other party if you happen to end up in court fighting a copyright and this is mentioned to the judge. Whatever you think of them, these EULAs have been mostly upheld by courts. How are you going to react if someone uses the same rationalization for using your photos that you used for choosing to build a Hackintosh?
But I’m not judging. I have enough challenge manging my personal ethical compass, I don’t need the karma of managing yours. But I felt it was important to point these issues out so that photographers understand that this is more complications than “this is unsupported hardware”.
I, personally, would hate to be in a conference room negotiating licensing terms with a client and taking notes no a machine that has unlicensed software on it, or is running software that I knowingly installed in violation of the licensing terms. That to me seems like I’m tempting the karma gods, and they already have me on speed dial, they don’t need excuses to ring me up. You know?
One of the memes I’m seeing in the discussion of the iPad is that the Apple TV is one of Apple’s failures. It seems to be a common idea and an easy target, but I think that idea is dead wrong. Yes, it hasn’t sold 800 billion units like the iPod and the iPhone, but that it hasn’t been an insanely successful product doesn’t make it a failure.
(quick digression; when people decide to go talking about “apple’s failures”, the common commentary is something like ‘Apple’s failed products like the Apple TV and the Cube’ — when you realize that the Cube was released in 2000 — that’s ten years ago — and people looking for anything to criticize in Apple’s product line can really only come up with two examples in a decade, well, that says a whole lot about Apple’s success, no? )
I’ve got two arguments why the Apple TV isn’t a failure. It’s subjective and certainly open to discussion, but hopefully this will cause you to stop and consider…
First: Apple doesn’t consider it a failure. If it did, Apple would have dropped the product and moved on by now. They’re still selling it, supporting it and enhancing it — so Apple clearly sees a future to it. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be available to buy.
Second: I’d argue that for a product to lose, some other product has to win. The product that beat the Apple TV is…. It is… Um…
See? The answer is “nobody”.
And that’s why Apple still has the Apple TV and what gives the people who like making immediate judgements on things the quivers. The market the Apple TV is in is still forming. Nobody has won. Nobody has lost. The fight is still in the early stages.
I’m frankly a little surprised at this, I thought the market would mature and mainstream faster than it did. One component that has slowed it down is the lack of standardized interconnects — i.e. the failure to launch of the Cablecard. It’s not clear to me if Apple was ever really looking at the Cablecard as a solution here, but if they were, it didn’t happen and it never really became an option.
So Apple’s real solution here is downloadable content, and that’s dragged by the relatively slow adoption of fast/cheap broadband in the states. It’s also dragged by the owners of the video content being in no super hurry to hand over control of the market to Apple the way music was handed over to it. the music studios hate how Apple can dictate business to the studios instead of the other way around, and so there’s been this deadly and slow dance for control between the studios and Apple, and since the volume (i.e. “money”) isn’t there, the studios can take their time and push for better deals and hope for alternatives so they can play someone off against apple for leverage. So far, nobody’s really come up with something that remotely competes with iTunes in numbers and scale, though.
What can push this market forward is a change in the dynamic. Apple TV wasn’t the product to drive adoption of iTunes for video on a mass scale, so there’s no strong incentive for studios to buy in and get on board. Because of that, it’s been a slow and steady grind to get content into itunes, so things move in slow motion.
But just suppose Apple were to come out with another product, one that hooked up to iTunes, was a good experience to watch video on, was priced in a way that the general consumer would buy it — and sold a zillion units? Suddenly the studios are going to hear cash registers, and more importantly consumers complaining loudly about the things they can’t watch because they’re not in iTunes. And that creates incentive to cut deals to make it available, because now there’s demand (and revenue). And that demand (and revenue) puts titles in iTunes, so suddenly the iTunes/AppleTV option is a viable alternative to Netflix or pay per view.
So my argument isn’t that Apple TV had failed, but it was waiting. Waiting for something to come along and do what Apple TV alone couldn’t do, which was drive demand and sales and rentals via iTunes to generate revenue which attracts the studios which brings in the titles which generates more sales of units which an Apple TV can leverage because the consumer wants ot be able to watch their movie both on their — device — as well as their TV without buying it twice.
And it seems to me Apple just announced that device. And that device has the potential to create the environment where Apple and the studios can sit down and work out getting all of the content into iTunes for consumers to consume. And when they do, suddenly people will realize Apple has this device they sell where that content also will end up on their TV’s!
And gee, Apple just happens to have it sitting there, waiting for consumers to discover it. And because Apple, unlike the pundits, realized the market was still creating itself and was willing to be patient, it has a product there and ready to succeed when the market matures enough to allow it to. That’s a LOT easier than trying to create a product to catch a market as it explodes any day…
So if you ask me, Apple’s stupid like a fox here. It knew that sooner or later, it’d need the Apple TV. It put it out there, it learned from it, it let it help Apple figure out how to create and own the market and bootstrap the functionality they needed to do so (like video rentals, which now exist and are sitting there waiting for the tablet. That wouldn’t have happened without Apple TV being there to implement it for). And when the market starts to grow because tablet sales drive content sales whichget the studios on board which drives consumer interest (and tablet sales which drive content sales which….), Apple can introduce an updated Apple TV to take advantage of it and start the buzz and hype to push it into the success curve — and because they started the process years ago and were patient and didn’t cut off support of the device when it wasn’t an immediate insane success, they’ve made these next steps a whole lot easier for themselves…
Apple TV isn’t dead. It’s in make up waiting for the second act to begin.
Just a few quick notes on lenses, I finally sent off my broken Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5 off to the recommended repair depot. I’ll let everyone know how fast they turn it around and what it costs and all of those sordid details. Since I wanted a wide angle (you can’t shoot christmas with a 100-400 as your widest lens!) I rented a Sigma 18-200mm from the folks at Borrowlenses.com to give it a try. My experience with Borrowlenses was frankly awesome, and I plan to continue using them in the future.
I didn’t do a lot of work with the lens and I certainly didn’t do the kind of work that would let me make “scientific” evaluations. If you want lines per inch geeking, there are places for that.
Here, just opinions. Maybe even somewhat informed (maybe not).
The reason I bought the Tamron was that I wanted a big zoom ratio and a compact footprint so I could use a single lens as a carry around street camera. It normally lives on my Canon Rebel, and my Rebel lives in the Tamrac 3385 I use as my haul-around to and from work, or in a little Tamrac 3536 I use as a city bag. For this purpose, the Tamron is a nice lens. Given my propensity to photograph small things that fly away if I move in their direction, the extra zoom oomph of being able to get to a 300mm magnification helps.
But the lens has some tradeoffs, and I’m starting to really understand the compromises using it brings. For one, I’m constantly fighting the fact that (for me) that a 28mm on an APS sensor (1.6x magnification, 44mm equivalent) just isn’t wide enough. I want wider. (WIDER! WIIIIDDDDDEEEEERRR!!! BWAHAHAHAH!); by cutting off the wide aspect to get the long aspect, I’ve limited the utility of the lens for what I’d like to do at the magnification end that is the lens’ primary purpose. that’s enough of a mistake that I found myself quietly thinking to myself that the Sigma 10-20mm f/4 lens looked intriguing…
But that really defeats the purpose of having a single lens, no? (not that I’m complaining about having more lenses!), so that made me sit back and rethink the problem from the start not as a “how do I patch what I have” but “what is the right answer?”. Renting the Sigma 18-200mm was an experiment in alternatives.
I was right, the difference between the 18mm low end and 28mm low end was significant. I much prefer the wider available angle. I also prefer the Sigma build quality. Ignoring that I broke the Tamron (hey, it happens), the Tamron has the heft and feel of a consumer lens (plastic construction, light weight) while the Sigma lens feels more “professional” — I’d call it more of a prosumer style lens. It and the other Sigma I own (the 180mm macro) both impress me with the quality of the build and their heft, they feel sturdier and stiffer and generally come across to me as more able to take the kind of banging lenses that live with me sometimes go through. The Tamron is a nice lens — but I like the Sigma lenses better. The Sigma lens seems (subjectively) crisper, but I need to also remind myself that it’s not trying to be such a mega-zoom. the two lenses aren’t directly comparable in performance or intent in simple ways. But all in all, I like the Tamron, I like the Sigma more.
But having played with the 18-200, that made me ask myself how to ‘fix’ my dilemma. Replace the tamron? Supplement it? Something else? SO MANY QUESTIONS! No easy answers.
What I decided, though, was that the idea of a “street kit” made a lot of sense and the Tamron is a good lens for the street kit, but for my “serious” kit, that lens has compromises I’m not really satisfied with; it’s not wide enough or sharp enough for things I’d like to do. So I think it makes sense to plan for an upgrade to the “serious kit” to live full time with the big lenses and make the Tamron a full time street kit lens. Since I think I’m close to buying a 7D, this seems to make sense. (yes, I’m using “seems” a lot tonight, because these plans aren’t final. your feedback welcome).
One change I’d make in buying a lens to fit this need is to do away with the mega-zoom; that causes compromises in the optics that I can accept when I’m carrying a low-profile camera around a city in a walk-about, but I’m not so happy with those compromises when I’m taking landscapes on a tripod in the middle of Yosemite. I can also go wider, but if you push the zoom on the wide side, you start forcing those compromises in the other direction (and besides, I need an excuse to BUY THE SIGMA 10-20! MORE GLASS! NEED MORE LENSES!) — so I’m considering a lens with a more “normal” zoom ratio, and one that’s got a high sharpness and quality.
I’ve been researching lenses that the photographers I follow are using, and one that seems to keep popping up is the Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5 and so that seems to be my leading candidate. I need to rent it and take it out for a spin and see what I like. it gives me a tiny gap in zoom coverage (15-85, 100-400) but that’s more than acceptable to me. It’s also something I can find used if I want to. Dave Cardinal has a nice piece on the Sigma 24-70, and that looks interesting as well. If the Tamron isn’t back for my next trip, I’ll likely rent that and take it with me to try it out.
So we’ll see. No need to make this decision right away or in haste. The fun part of these challenges is that you can solve a problem in a number of different ways.
But right now, if I were to make these decisions again, I wouldn’t buy the Tamron again — I think there are better options. If I wanted to do something similar I’d use the Sigma 18-200 and give up that last ounce of zoom capability, but my general feeling now is that a better option for that street camera is the Canon G11 and not use a DLSR at all and then buy a wide angle lens just for the “serious bag” — or use the Panasonic Lumix DMC line of cameras. Laurie’s used those for years for her hockey photography because they have a great zoom and they’re compatible with the Sharks camera policies, and they really are nice units that live somewhere beyond point and shoot but aren’t quite DLSRs — but they do have two things that help them disappear from the prying eyes of the “camera hesitant”, which is they do not have removable lenses and the lenses don’t pop out far and scream “this is a serious camera” nearly as much as a DLSR, and that’s allowed her to take photos in situations where other cameras have gotten challenged. Sometimes, that’s not a bad thing to have handy…
Or the night after the Apple tablet…
I thought my view of what was coming that I posted last night was pretty darn close, if I do say so myself. With great amusement I’ve been watching the usual suspects say the usual things; the people who live inside the geekdom echo chamber forgetting there’s a real world out there, and Apple tends to build products for the real world, not the self-appointed geek universe.
A few themes within the critics caught my eye, all of them (I think) incorrect. One are the people who really want the tablet to be a replacement for a laptop, and because this isn’t that, it sucks.
This device is a new category, aimed not at the people who spend their life madly typing in their blog while watching a video AND listening to Pandora and madly checking ot see whether their deathless prose is being appropriately retweeted by their adoring followers. It’s aimed at people who — believe it or not — actually want to sit down on the couch or in their hotel room after a long day at work and…
RELAX. They want to read their email. They want to browse a few web sites, check the scores of their hockey team, maybe read a book, maybe watch a movie. Take it easy and — do what people did 20 years ago before the velocity of life ratcheted up to the point where some people think that if you aren’t doing 30 things at once you’re lazy.
Well, hint: in the real world, where most people actually live, people do still sit down in the evening, unplug, and read a book or watch a movie. And actually feel guilty doing both at once. There’s a whole bunch of folks within the geekdom echo chamber who’d be a whole lot happier and less stressed if they figured this out, too. But they’re too busy blogging while watching a movie they’ll only half remember a month from now.
This is a device not for geeks, but for consumers. It’s for people who use devices, not hack them. It’s for people who consume content, which is actually most people, as opposed to geeks who want it to be something it wasn’t designed to be. So lots of geeks are disappointed and blogging about it, while I expect this thing will sell many, many copies, mostly to people who won’t blog about it, but merely use it.
Another theme I’m seeing tonight is the lack of flash on the device. No surprise. If you really want to know why, think back a few years when Apple was trying to get back on its feet, and Adobe made a decision not to support its video products on the Mac, and instead tried to convince its mac customers to switch to PCs. Apple’s response then was ultimately to bring out its own video products — final cut — and ultimately ate the market out from Adobe. Later, when Apple was making the conversion to the intel platform, Adobe’s enthusiasm for bringing out Photoshop and its flagship products was most noticable — by how late they were and how uninterested Adobe seemed in actually trying to help Apple succeed. So now, when Apple has these really successful platforms and Adobes wants a piece of them, and yet Apple shows no real enthusiasm or hurry to cooperate? Well, folks, payback’s a bitch, and if you only see your partners for what they can do for you today, well, don’t whine when they choose to return the favor when the shoe is on the other foot. Burn your bridges with thought, folks, because you never know when you might want them back. And they’ll remember. Apple sure does. And wouldn’t it be great irony if Apple uses its platforms to turn Flash from a success to an also-ran by supporting HTML5 on platforms that are in enough demand that people who currently are building flash-based things end up recoding those things away from flash to support the platforms people are demanding? Just like — oh, say — Youtube just did? Hmm.
A final theme I’m seeing is the geeks defining products as successful or failure. The Apple TV is being tossed about as a failure, even though, every time I look at estimates on unit sales, it’s still outselling Tivo and has been almost since launch. Yet it failed, Tivo is what the geeks keep saying the Apple TV ought to be. Hmm. Apple could use a few more failures like that. Especially given that I agree with most of the geeks that much of the potential of the Apple TV line of products is still ahead of it. Maybe the Apple geniuses were busy on some other product line. Like, oh, maybe a tablet…
Finally is a recurring theme with some that Apple didn’t “blow them away” (and therefore, I guess, this sucks). Folks, you all need to reset your internal adrenalin meter back from 11. Some of you would take anything less than being personally tasered by Steve himself as “boring”. One word: decaf. Not all products and not all announcements have to be over the top. There merely have to be damn good products.
This one is. To me, it’s a perfect device for my mom, who lives and dies by email, yahoo, access to recipes on Food TV, wants her audiobooks and to read Stephen King and Jean Auel novels and watch the occasional movie (and Emeril). THERE is your target audience.
Me? I like the idea of having one. It won’t replace my carrying my laptop on the road, but it’ll give me something I can use while my laptop is processing photos in Lightroom or crunching away at some compile for a program I’m writing. I doubt I’d write a novel on an iPad, but I’d sure write a blog entry and catch up on email. It supplements why I need a laptop wonderfully, and means I won’t need to worry so much about bad cable TV in a hotel room or hauling books around when I travel. It’s a nice supplemental device for my life. For a traveller who’s content creation issues aren’t so — intense — this very well could replace carrying a laptop. If your job is about writing email, memos and presentations instead of Ruby, HTML and Photoshop, you’re probably already ragging your boss to get approval to get one. Or should.
Nope. This isn’t a sexy repackaging of a laptop. It isn’t a tablet-PC. it isn’t a “netbook done right”. It’s an entirely new type of device, and I think it’s going to be rather successful. now, two or three generations down, it well COULD become those things; I could see down the road these things having the potential to make Mac OS X obsolete and running whatever Lightroom becomes and doing the heavy hitting, but right now — it is what it is, and what it is is very good if that’s what you need.
I think it blows away the Kindle, and I wouldn’t be suprised if Amazon doesn’t quietly breathe a sigh of relief that this lets them get away from building devices and go back to what it’s really good at, which is distribution. And I think it effectively kills “unitaskers” like the Epson P-4000 and digital wallets. Why buy that when you can buy an iTab that does it ALSO? Maybe not for the high end user, but for most of the market, definitely.
All in all, I’m impressed. and looking forward to getting my hands on one. One thing I’m going to be curious to see is whether this thing is going to be allowed to take on the Mifi. If I could use it to wire up a wireless network to 3G in a hotel room (even if I can’t use the iTab for other things!) to handle the work to the office, that’s gravy. Then unplug the laptop for the night and use this beast for recreation (and to prepare tomorrow’s presentation for the sales meeting!)…
All you folks dissing the device, I think you’re looking at it wrong. Here’s a hint: Steve’s not stupid, and knows what real people want. And isn’t afraid to offer it. And this is, I think, it.
The best laid plans… I have a bunch of blogging stacked up, none of which you’ve seen yet. Just as the New Year kicked in, so did a bug, which struck both myself and Laurie, and after a few rather grumpy days as a head cold, it headed to laurie’s chest and off camping in my ears, so I started off the new year under the weather and on deadline with both the CES announcements and our newly refreshed developer portal and blog.
Thank god for Sudafed, that’s all I can say, even though they make you sign 37 forms to get the damn pills now. I do not, for the record, recommend the sneezing, Sudafed and Starbucks Diet, but it does seem to work. After one last “battle of the bulge” over the weekend, I seem to have fought the bug off for the most part and the energy levels are returning, so the ability to string words together and have them make sense seems to be back. you really didn’t miss anything — insightful — the last week or so, anyway. Trust me.
But if you’re wondering why I’m just getting to looking back and setting goals as we roll into February, that’s why. So 2010 is off to a rousing start…
But it’s time to get back on the horse and start riding again, and I’m thinking through the next couple of months and one thing I’ve decided is it’s time for a damn vacation. I went looking, and I’ve suddenly realized that in the last
- 2009: 2 days (an extended weekend in Morro Bay for Photo Morro Expo
- 2008: 5 days for the trip to Yellowstone
- 2007: 3 days for my aborted research trip for Dare2Thrive after leaving strongmail, 5 days into the Northwest after leaving Laszlo, and 2 days for a spring trip into Yosemite
- 2006: 2 days for a christmas jaunt into Yosemite, and the 8 day summer celebration into the Northwest celebrating leaving Apple and moving on to whatever was going to be next…
The trip to Yellowstone (after spending most of the year dealing with Dad’s illness, death and the estate with my mom) seems like forever ago. Because to some degree it was. My moving to Palm was on a tight schedule so no time off, and this last year has been an amazing year that I’ve loved just about every minute of (the minutes I didn’t love were the ones I was considering throwing myself, or someone else, off a roof…) — but it’s time for a break, so I’m starting to plan out some time off. Not sure what, or where yet, but I know I need to get in the car and take the camera and mostly unplug for a bit.
I’m guessing late february or early march. have to figure out what the work and hockey schedules are, and of course get Laurie’s thoughts and permission (shh.. I haven’t mentioned this to her yet… literally just thinking this through tonight after she’s gone to bed). The obvious ideas come to mind, which include Yosemite (too late for serious winter work(?), too early for waterfalls and WAY too early for spring and dogwood), but also to finally get to Salton sea and maybe spend time in Joshua tree and Anza/Borrego and the deserts — I had a trip planned for Salton Sea when dad got sick, and it got blown up and I’ve never gotten it rescheduled. But I’m hearing other things whispering also, whether it’s Grand Canyon or Bryce and Zion, or even shooting up the coast into the Northwest (but I’m likely to hold that off for a summer trip with Laurie…); some other venues come to mind like an extended visit to the San Diego zoo (I haven’t shot at a zoo in a while) or Disneyland or Vegas for the kitsch.
Dunno. Have to think. Have to make sure I don’t overschedule and spend too much time travelling and not enough time visiting. Maybe define a starting point and then see what happens. Right now I can definitely feel a tug between revisiting comfort zones (disneyland, yosemite) and pushing into fresh territories. I think I need to lean myself towards the latter, this feels like it’s time for some exploring.
I’m definitely open to suggestion. Feel free….
(and I think I’m going to try for a long weekend or a mid-week jaunt to Yosemite for the dogwood this year, if I can. But I’m always up for more than one trip to that place, especially in times when it’s relatively quiet. It’s been probably 15 years since I’ve visited at a time when Tioga was open…)
I tend to shy away from talking about Apple much these days because of the possible conflict of interest issues, but I wanted to say a couple of things about the announcement tomorrow.
Derek Powazek sums up my — anticipations — of the product very well.
The typical run-up to the announcement, with the leakers and the guessers hyping each other into a frenzy until people start trashing the product before it’s even announced (because they’re basically tired of hearing it) is in full force. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with all of this stuff any more, except as an amused outsider. But as an amused outsider, I count myself amused, but frankly, I tuned it out days ago because it’s so over the top and silly, after a while, it just stops being interesting.
The tablet looks to be the creation of a new market segment, and I’m going to be fascinated to see how it’s positioned and how well it does — not to mention how well Apple does it. Right now, we have these broad usage capabilities:
Life in your pocket — your phone, which increasingly allows you to carry your essential stuff around without hauling a huge beast to try to manage it. That this data syncs up to other places where it’s available on your other electronic environments is great, but ultimately, this is about managing who you are and what you do in a portable format. We’ve made great strides at turning these pocket devices into information consumers as well, but the small screen makes that a set of compromises. They are also — bluntly — pretty crappy at content creation because of the compromises needed to fit in your pocket. the thought of blogging via my phone doesn’t intrigue me. The thought of writing a novel on my phone scares me.
Portable content creation — your laptop. Carry your office with you. I remember long ago when I got my first PowerMac Duo, which in many ways was a netbook 15 years before anyone thought to invent a netbook. Loved that machine, and the docks, because for the first time I could carry my life with me and turn it back into a desktop when I wasn’t mobile. I still strive for that model today, rather than keeping multiple computers and trying to keep the data in sync. Today’s laptops have enough power and a good enough screen than you really CAN turn one into a portable office with few (if any) compromises.
Desktop content creation — the iMac, the mini, the mac pros. We’ve seen this class of machine shrink out of prominence over the last few years because, frankly, laptops have replaced them for most people. Plug a laptop into a monitor and you have the best of both worlds, large screens AND portability. iMacs continue to have some popularity because there are times and situations where portability isn’t a feature (kids being a big part of that). Mac Pros exist, but are clearly a power user (or ego user) niche now; few of us really need that kind of oomph.
What’s missing here? There’s a huge class of user that’s never had a product designed specifically for them. Tomorrow we’ll see the first one.
That’s the content consumer.
Laptops are aimed at creation, they carry a lot of “stuff” with them that are underused by a lot of people, starting with the keyboard. If your primary use of a keyboard is typing in URLs or emails, you don’t need all of the bulk and mechanics a laptop keyboard bring along (not to mention weight and power consumption and…). The iPhone model (software keyboard, etc) work fine here, but the iPhone form factor for the screen creates other compromises that make the phone tough for these people (but great for the “life in the pocket”).
The thing that kept me from buying a Kindle was simple — it’s a unitasker, and while it does it quite well (and I have the kindle software on my iPhone), I don’t want multiple devices to do the different things I want in this usage space. The reason I think the earlier attempts at PC-based tablets didn’t take off was because they were really “laptops in a tablet”, not tablets designed for content consumption — and just created a new set of compromises that most of us realized made them — compromised.
That’s where I think this tablet lies: content isn’t “books” or “newspapers”, it’s web, it’s video, it’s audio, it’s games, it’s text and content. And this device is going to be all about consuming content, and all of it in a single device.
If it is, it’s going to sell zillions. It’s going to cannibalize laptop sales to some degree, but that’s a good thing. It’s the kind of device that I have wanted for my mom, who’s primarily a consumer of infomration and doesn’t need the complexity of a Mac (much less a windows computer).
Would I buy one? Depends. I’m a content creator, and I’m rarely without my laptop. A device like this isn’t going to be optimized for the kind of things I’m doing (especially my photography, I don’t see this as a device particularly interesting for serious photography geeking), so it’s interesting only to the degree I can’t also do these things on my laptop; it’s not a replacement device, but a supplementary device. But then, I bought an Xbox 360 for gaming as a supplement to my Mac for computing, so who knows….
To the degree that this device makes using your content as painless as your phone makes managing your email/contacts/calendar, it’ll be a huge success.
One thing I’ll be fascinated to see, perhaps not tomorrow: how much of what they do on this device also ends up on my Mac. the closer they come to a “virtual tablet” on the mac (via iTunes?) the less I need one, but I can believe ultimately I’ll have one because I do like to sit down on the couch with a good book, and I’ve never really found a way to do that comfortably with a laptop.
I don’t think tomorrow’s device will solve the final problem — taking a good book with me into the bathtub for a soak. But who knows? maybe that’s a third party opportunity.
What my gut tells me: tomorrow’s announcement is going to change things significantly, is going to be hugely successful, and many people are going to trash it because they don’t get it. This may turn out to be the biggest thing yet. And given the things that have come from Apple (and Steve) over the years, that’s saying something.