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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 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.





February 2010

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