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Of Tablets and iPads

Talk about a mulligan, I can't even write my own unique blog content this week, I'm just going to promote myself and link to a Mashable post. Sing it from the rooftops: Christina Sucks!

Since the 27th, I’ve been hounded by peo­ple want­ing to know my opin­ion about the elu­sive Apple iPad. OK, that’s a total lie. By “hounded” I mean, asked by like two or three peo­ple on Twit­ter. Then I got incred­i­bly sick, begin­ning Fri­day the 29th. Like hor­ren­dously sick. Like, holy fuck let’s not do that again sick.

How­ever, at long last, I think I’ve man­aged to put all my thoughts about the iPad and the emerg­ing device class of tablets and media pads into one 900 word post. You can read it in its entirety at Mashable.com. How­ever, I’ll pro­vide an excerpt to try to entice you to care:

What’s dif­fer­ent about this new wave of tablet devices is that the intended use cases for the device have evolved into some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. These new tablets are not being pre­sented as a replace­ment for the exist­ing com­puter but for an ancil­lary type of plat­form. The new tablets are also not being pri­mar­ily tar­geted at busi­ness users, but at home users instead. The usage cases are more tightly defined as well. The new tablet devices are about access­ing and con­sum­ing web content.

If that sounds eerily famil­iar, that’s because I totally ripped-off my own writ­ings from this blog back in Novem­ber, when I both reviewed the 27″ i7 iMac and dis­cussed Google’s Chrome OS. I artic­u­lated far more ver­bosely in that per­sonal blog post the prob­lem I see with net­books (in terms of being a tar­get for an alter­na­tive oper­at­ing sys­tem like Google Chrome) and why I was con­vinced then, just as I am con­vinced now, that a new class of device is needed for the orig­i­nal pur­pose of net­books to actu­ally take hold.

This is what I wrote a lit­tle over two months ago, again, in rela­tion to Chrome OS, but also applic­a­ble to the idea of the new wave of tablet com­put­ing and media pads as we will know them:

Here’s where net­books end up caus­ing their own­ers prob­lems. The net­book has bet­ter hard­ware than the iPhone, but because it has a big­ger screen a big­ger key­board (and the screens and key­boards are get­ting big­ger and big­ger all the time), peo­ple expect it to be faster than it is. Thus, you get peo­ple want­ing more from the device than it can offer. That’s why net­books, at least Atom-based net­books are prob­a­bly going to dis­ap­pear sooner rather than later. On the low-end you’ll have ARM and on the higher-end, you’ll just have low-priced, light­weight actual laptops…

Any­way, I think the push for ARM in net­book style com­put­ers is going to be met with utter dis­ap­point­ment from con­sumers — espe­cially if Flash isn’t hard­ware accel­er­ated when they launch. Since this is Chrome’s tar­get, I think that tra­di­tional lap­top styled devices are not going to work.

This is what I see: Some­thing like a tablet but with a more defined pur­pose: like call it a media pad. Some­thing you could use as a remote con­trol, for instance — an eBook reader (that isn’t as good as eInk) and a visual TV guide. Yeah, you can watch online con­tent and surf the web, but it’s designed to sit on your sofa and be like what we use phones for now — but big­ger and with the under­stand­ing that you need to be online at all times.

In any event, as Chrome OS stands now, it really isn’t use­able in any test form, other than for shits and gig­gles, but the fact that it exists is pretty cool.

I will write one orig­i­nal thing here for my own blog, and that’s about Flash.

The Flash Prob­lem is Overblown

I’m not going to totally get into the whole Flash debate — I think I made a very good case in the first episode of Dan Benjamin’s new show, The Con­ver­sa­tion (sub­scribe now!) and Dan made his own solid case in episode 2.

But just to put it in a tiny bit of per­spec­tive, let me give my opin­ion, mostly as an observer and web-user of what has hap­pened with Flash over the last decade and why what’s hap­pen­ing now shouldn’t sur­prise any­one, least of all Adobe.

OK, so Macro­me­dia intro­duces Flash in 1996, accord­ing to the Wikipedia, buy­ing it from some guy who wrote the Flash pre­cur­sor in col­lege for the Pen­Point OS and then ported it to Win­dows and Mac and then sold it to Macro­me­dia, who renamed it Flash. It was used pri­mar­ily for web ani­ma­tions and effects and nav­i­ga­tion and whatnot.

Then in 2002, Flash 6 came with flash video sup­port, which made it easy to do web-video with­out hav­ing to rely on shit like Realplayer or Win­dows Media or even Quick­Time (though as we’ll see, QuickTime’s day would come again). The real power of this type of video really wasn’t exploited until YouTube launched in early 2005. Sud­denly, Flash, which had been a dying com­po­nent, came back and it came back big time.

In essence, video was Flash’s sav­ing grace. When the iPhone debuted with­out Flash sup­port in June 2007, YouTube worked to con­vert its videos to H.264, so that they could play on the iPhone. In Decem­ber of 2007, Adobe added H.264 sup­port to Flash 9. This was a very, very pru­dent move and it was done because Adobe could see the writ­ing on the wall: Web video was all going to go H.264. Not only is it the best com­pres­sion stan­dard that’s avail­able in terms of size/performance now, but there is tons of hard­ware accel­er­a­tion sup­port and the new crop of con­sumer cam­eras records in it natively. If Flash can act as a con­tainer for that for­mat, Flash can stave off its extinc­tion in the video space.

Well, HTML5 and con­tin­ued smart­phone adop­tion pat­terns is going to finally make con­tent providers ques­tion why they are suing a Flash con­tainer when they can just dis­play the same video natively, with­out the con­tainer. For­get­ting about Mozilla’s refusal to get on the ball here (and really, I’m just going to say this right now — I have no desire to get into any mean­ing­less argu­ments over “free­dom” or the “poten­tial” of The­ora with any­one. Do that on your own time. I don’t fuck­ing care and nei­ther does the rest of the ratio­nal world. I like the Xiph project, I don’t think The­ora, which is based on old-ass tech­nol­ogy should become the stan­dard just because toe-jam eaters like Richard Stall­man hate any­thing that doesn’t con­form their insane stan­dards. Want some­thing truly “free” to take over — develop some­thing new.), HTML5 has tons of promise because it makes sense to serve the con­tent directly rather to put in a wrapper.

As for sites like Hulu that require Flash now — if they have any brains at all, they will have an iPad appli­ca­tion avail­able at launch.

And let’s not for­get that the prob­lems of Flash are not lim­ited to the iPad. Fen­nec, the Fire­fox Mobile browser that cur­rently runs only on the Nokia N900 — yeah, they had to drop Flash sup­port because it degraded per­for­mance too much. The HTC Hero sup­ports Flash, it fuck­ing sucks and is a ter­ri­ble expe­ri­ence. Flash 10.2, which will FINALLY bring some hard­ware side opti­miza­tions to the plat­form, mak­ing it viable on net­books, is only for x86 proces­sors. ARM is out. ARM deriv­a­tives like the A4 are out. If Flash isn’t opti­mized to work on the next crop of mobile devices, why are we all shriek­ing over the fact that rather than offer shitty sup­port, Apple (and other smart­phone mak­ers) aren’t sup­port­ing Flash?

This is where, if Microsoft were smart, they would start com­pil­ing Sil­verl­giht to run and run well on EVERYTHING. That way if you want a frame­work (and not just a con­tainer for a video player) that can work on mul­ti­ple devices, you have an option.

But now I’ve writ­ten far more than I intended to write. No one said I wasn’t opinionated.

Out.

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5 people have left comments

Drew - Gravatar

Drew said:

I’ll prob­a­bly pass on the iPad, which will be a first for a new Apple prod­uct. I am how­ever glad you sur­vived being super sick and are bet­ter now! :)

Posted on: March 2, 2010 at 11:41 amQuote this Comment
Laura - Gravatar

Laura said:

Finally you got suc­cess. good.

Posted on: March 12, 2010 at 2:00 pmQuote this Comment
Brian Allen - Gravatar

Brian Allen said:

I can’t really see a rea­son (for me any­way) to own a ipad because I don’t see any­thing the ipad can do that my lap­top can’t do.

Posted on: April 4, 2010 at 6:46 pmQuote this Comment
sil­verlight guy - Gravatar

sil­verlight guy said:

hooray sil­verlight ;)

Posted on: July 28, 2010 at 9:00 amQuote this Comment
Mac Ors­burn - Gravatar

Mac Ors­burn said:

Whoah this blog is won­der­ful i love study­ing your arti­cles. Stay up the good work! You know, a lot of indi­vid­u­als are hunt­ing around for this info, you could aid them greatly.

Posted on: May 30, 2011 at 2:37 pmQuote this Comment