in Geeklife, Opinions

Re: iPad, iPass. By Andrew Fischler

This is the response to my post “iPad, iPass” by Andrew Fischler.

I’ve tried to counter some of your points here as objectively as I could. For the record, I’m a happy Apple user, but consider myself to be open minded to all platforms.

An unsubsidized iPhone is $599/$699 depending on the memory size. This thing is twice the size — physically and in available memory. That’s not that bad considering some sources were saying $999 as a possible price point, though I never believed that myself.

The A4
The chip is a BIG deal. The A4 is actually an ARM processor, just like the chips used to power all iPhones, so no platform switching here. Even so, the OS is platform independent, and they’ve shown they can manage that kind of switch easily enough if they ever want to do so.

PA Semi — the company Apple bought to make these chip designs — have a history with high performance, low power chips. Even the Military loved their stuff. The A4 is clocked at 1ghz — twice the speed jump from the iPhone 3GS than it took from the 3G, and Apple is still willing to claim super-human battery life. Even at a more realistic 5-hours max, that’s a lot of horsepower for a mobile device (though not for a full-sized laptop). Every hands-on account I read points to screaming fast responsiveness, but I reserve final judgement until I have that same privilege.

The fact they will sell a WiFi only model and you’re not interested is missing the point. Some will want the always on connectivity option, but what if you were happy just to play games, watch movies and read books while out and surf the net at home or a hotspot?

Plus, there’s the added cost of the 3G service. Considering my phone already lets me get to the net, I have a harder time justifying the added payments to AT&T. I could really see myself using the WiFi only version — that’s the same way I enjoy my laptop when I’m out and about. ^_^

3G Tax
$130 for the chips and radio equipment for 3G is bullshit, but I can’t say this is unexpected. Just like they get you on the price of memory with the built-to-order, there’s usually one spot where they hit you cause they can.

Storage Size
I would consider myself to be both a power user and a music connoisseur. My iPhone (16GB 3G) has 11 pages of apps and web shortcuts, and my music library is 30,000 tracks strong. I could never get that whole library into my phone, but I couldn’t get the whole thing on a laptop comfortably, either. I keep about 1,800 tracks and rotate albums in and out every few weeks. It’s worked for well over a year and a half.

Now answer this question: If a netbook was your only computer, would you have a music librabry as large as you do now? The large part of us who get a netbook or an iPad aren’t going to use it as their only computer, so I don’t think you should treat it like one in your example.

Flash Support
A whole ‘nother kettle of fish. I will admit that the day Flash is used more for content production and less for content distribution, the happier I will be. HTML5 is being built to supplant a lot of the jobs Flash does, and I think we’re starting to get to the tipping point. Apple and Google both use WebKit at the core of all their browsers — computer or mobile — which means you have two very ambitious companies with huge clout and their own good reasons for making WebKit be the best engine it can be, which is helping to accelerate standards support elsewhere.

In short — unless Adobe opens the source code for Flash like Apple did with WebKit, they will never put Flash on the iPhone OS. Web Devs will find a way around this, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Adobe be the one on the short end.

Netbooks aren’t that bad
Steve Jobs, as with any CEO, needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

Netbooks as a platform will remain, and they will still have their advocates. But I’ll bet it’s less than 18 months before someone gets an Android or Chrome-powered touch tablet to market — more hackable and working to compete on merit with the iPad. I’ll also bet Google forms a team to do that ala the Nexus, along with licensing to 3rd parties.

OS Choice
The iPhone OS is a scaled down version of OS X specifically with touch devices and low power consumption in mind. I really don’t see how you could have thought they’d use anything other than that in their tablet.

stevenf has a GREAT piece about “Old World v. New World” computing, which talks a lot about how the device is perceived by those who are used to their computers doing everything vs. those who are used to it doing one thing at a time well. They may be computers at heart, but they are built and designed as consumer electronics, which have higher expectation levels and less tolerances to things not working like they should.

That said, this relatively young branch of the OS X and more will need to be done to flesh out the platform. Moore’s law will help the hardware eventually handle most (but not all) of what one of today’s laptops can do. We know the OS can multitask because the iPod software runs in the background. You can dislike their decisions, but you can’t fault the reasoning: they want stability first, performance second, and multiple background apps put strains on both.

At some point Apple will ease the restrictions and let dev have multitasking apps. But not today.

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  1. There are already multiple Android tablets. The idea of using a cycle of your songs is ridiculous, especially considering that 3 films fill you memory entirely. The processor from what I’ve heard is pretty much the same as the one in the Nexus One (1GHz ARM), and the reason for the responsiveness is that the device still can’t multitask (something which you don’t seem to mention). You say that $500 is cheap because an iPhone costs $599, but that $500 price tag is for a device which is a large iTouch, not a large iPhone. A more accurate comparison would be to the $200 iTouch. HTML5 is by no means going to replace Flash, for Flash can be used for more than just videos, it can be interactive and there is more flexibility on the way in which the videos can be displayed. That is all :3

  2. @Chaddledee, here’s some counter-points for you:

    1.) A quick search and I do indeed see Android tablets. I was not trying to slight existing products out there, but I can clarify my argument a bit more.

    I’m not sure if this MSI manufactured tablet is indicative of the current state of Android tablets, but it looks more like a standard computer GUI. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but iPad is treating the UI of their product (which is in a similar form factor) in a new way, and if it proves to be successful, you are more likely to see Android-powered tablets with similar UIs. If one already exists, please share that link!

    2.) I don’t think my cycling of songs is “ridiculous”, especially since I know others who do the same thing. Would I rather keep all my music and movies with me at all times? Yes, but I do NOT let that be my ultimate deciding factor when making a purchase. If having all your music with you at all times is a make-or-break proposition, then we just have differing criteria.

    3.) How many times do you watch a single movie? Do you really see the need to have all your movies with you at all times? Even with my favorite movies of all time, I can still count the number of times I’ve seen them without resorting to using more than my fingers and toes, and the overwhelming majority are never watched more than 5 times. Even if you fault my music swapping idea, I challenge you to find fault with my movie viewing metrics. Would you say swapping films in and out for a road trip or a flight is a lot more realistic expectation?

    Also, I concede that 3 films at 720p would take somewhere between 12-14 GB of storage space, but not every film is going to be encoded at that resolution. I have many films that clock in at the 800 MB – 1 GB range that I find quite watchable on my flat screen via my PS3. Those films would probably gain some quality on a smaller screen where visual artifacts would be less apparent.

    4.) The device CAN multitask, and I did address the point. My quote: “We know the OS can multitask because the iPod software runs in the background.” The fact that Apple doesn’t let any 3rd party developers make apps that do so is not a technical limitation: it’s a business decision.

    5.) Flash. My quote: “HTML5 is being built to supplant a lot of the jobs Flash does”. Notice I say a lot — not all. Ask your mom and dad what Flash is used for, and I’ll be willing to bet their answer will be video. I’m old enough to remember when javascript had glacial speeds and now it handles just as many slideshows and fancy UI treatments as Flash does. And then there’s CSS3 and CSS transformations.

    Now, look at this CSS3 AT-AT walker demo and this HTML5 Video Player in Chrome or Safari. Yes, they may not be as fancy or as fluid as Flash — yet. But they are built with browser-rendered, native code — no plugins. Multiple companies are pounding away on the performance bottlenecks and as standards support for things like SVG and the Canvas tag become more reliable across browsers, the need for Flash as a solution will decrease.

    Will Flash disappear? No. Is it going to be marginalized? I think so. A lot of what Flash is used for in a web developers toolkit (animation, video playback, interactive user interfaces, font replacement) has a standards equivalent (and some have existed for a LONG time), but up to this point Flash has done a better job at displaying it reliably across browsers and platforms. But we’re reaching the point where the standards for those things are becoming reliable across browsers and platforms.

    Do you remember when font tags ruled the web and only Internet Explorer supported CSS? I do. But the CSS standard evolved, matured, and now can do things that designers 10 years ago would never have dreamed of. I see the same thing happening, just with a larger set of standards.

    A lot of what happens next depends on where Adobe’s focuses their Flash roadmap, but even in a best case scenario I think its reached its peak. Flash won’t die unless the project is completely mismanaged, but where a standards based solution can replace it, it probably will. That’s my opinion, and you can take it or leave it as you wish.

    6.) For the record, I never said $500 is cheap. In fact, I never used the word “cheap” until this sentence. Half a grand can never be “cheap” unless your happen to have a trust fund or are gifted enough to be a pro athlete. As someone who’s family once had to subsist on food stamps, I know the meaning of a dollar fairly well.

    Now then, from a pure component cost standpoint, you might be onto something with the iPod Touch comparison, and as numerous product disassemblies have shown, Apple usually has a pretty high profit margin between actual component costs and the prices they set. Every electronics company does. That margin is how they pay for R&D, manufacturing, advertising, salaries, paying investors — profit margins are what make a company go. Outside of game consoles, very few pieces of consumer electronics are sold at or below manufacturing costs.

    But more to the point, this is THE SAME PATTERN Apple used with the iPod and the iPhone. The original prices were somewhat high, especially for version 1.0. But come the following year, they shift last year’s model to a lower price point and put an upgraded version at the top of the pyramid.

    Not everyone will be able to afford paying $499, but in a year or two when the price is $399 or $299, how many people do you think will be interested then? This is not a sprint. Apple has a formula that has worked for them, and they see no reason to change that.


  • iPad, iPass » » Blog Archive February 5, 2010

    […] Update: Now read Andrew Fischler’s Point of View on each of my issues. […]