Something you should consider before buying an iPad (2010-04-01)

Everyone can agree that Apple does indeed very appealing (sexy) products which are also fairly good in many other ways, but to be honest with the money you’re paying you could get the best wooden watch and still buy something else. Understandably, many people would love to put their hands on one of them but because the direction towards closed and controlled systems Apple has taken, people should think about the consequences that can happen if they all are going to buy them.

The latest product Apple is about to launch is the iPad, it has been generously defined as a “magical” device, and some people think it will revolutionize the computer world as the iPhone did in the mobile scenario. The main reason people think that is because its accessibility, natural interaction and very simplified computer management, basically a super-sized iPhone. Unfortunately this simplification hides pretty well other political and economical reasons which limit in many ways what the user could do with a device like that in an open world.

Not everyone was so impressed during the presentation of the product. Someone, me included, thought straight away “no Flash Player? …you gotta be kidding!” especially if the product is promoted as the best internet browsing experience. Clearly there is a lot of politic involved in the decision and may not be much about the technology itself, which of course is not perfect (as the device which would host it). If Flash Player is such a dangerous plugin, why not having it disabled by default and make people enable it when needed, maybe as many third party softwares already allow you to (ie. ClickToFlash), I’m sure it wouldn’t take so long to implement it.

Do Apple really think that most of people these days don’t need Flash when browsing the web? I’m sure there are many others which regularly see websites with Flash content, like the one showed during the presentation, which are not the popular large Web 2.0 sites (YouTube, Vimeo), many small and personal sites can host videos these days, or maybe the future is Facebook pages not websites, maybe… but the reality that not even Google, which is a big promoter of web standards, thinks of ridding of the Flash Player, in facts they just announced the plugin will be embedded, and better integrated, in their browser. On a personal level, the lack of Flash Player in the iPhone is the reason why I don’t use Twitter on it, too many links points to sites with Flash content and not only videos!

If many people will buy an iPad (or an iPhone), browser plugins (i.e. Flash Player, Java VM, Silverlight, etc…) won’t be used any more on the web, bringing the web many years backwards.

Other very important aspect is the apps distribution. As mentioned earlier, Apple has basically full control on choosing which application you can run on it, this might be one of the reasons they want to keep Flash out of it (since there are many flash games on the web like the new destiny 2 trials of the nine flawless), so if you want to play flash games, or other games like csgo, you better get a computer and the best mouse for csgo to play them. Create a close system where any paid content has to give a part of the revenues to Apple has proved to be a winning solution for their pockets, it also allowed to be very aggressive with the price of the device itself, exactly the same thing happens in the Game Console market. Don’t get me wrong, Apple is entitled to try their very best to monetize from their inventions. But I can’t help to see this also as a step backwards in computer history. So far people didn’t mind and many bought 1 or 2 iPhones, me included. In my mind a mobile phone wasn’t really a computer and, also because the other options were not really competitive, I didn’t mind. With the iPad, though, Apple kept pushing in this direction to the point that, if they will be proven right, in the future instead of having an iPad with MacOS, which I would buy straight away, we might have a PowerBook with iPhoneOS! This is just too concerning for a Pax 2 vaporizer! I can agree that an iPad can be a good device for people not very digitally-savvy (ie. elderly) and as content consumers we don’t need much more from a device (Flash Player apart) but it can be very dangerous if kids start using it as computer. Who is gonna create the content or the channels of the future? Sure people can be creative also with an iPhone, but still it would limit a lot the media options. I think Ben Fry summed up that aspect pretty well. You don’t have to be a geek to realize how computers, and programming, today are key tools for creativity.

“Jailbreaking” the device is still a valid option, and I reckon, if Apple keeps this direction, it will become a more popular practice, especially for devices “less essential” than mobile phones (which should be 100% reliable when it comes to phone calls).

I am sure anyone would enjoy a lot the unboxing of an iPad but, before deciding if to buy one, we should just think about all the consequences. Not buying a product sometimes can be the only way to vote against a direction which we don’t agree with before it’s too late and all the competitors following it make the need to change in the future less relevant.

Disclaimer: Unfortunately I am not particular neutral to the argument because recently I bet the astronomic amount of £10 on the fact that Apple will sell less then 1M iPads in 2010. It’s more of a hope than a possible way of income, for the very same reason I’m writing this post. I’m sure no one is so crazy to think this post will help me to win the bet. Actually I feel pretty stupid after the rumors about Apple planning to sell 5M units in that period, especially considering how aggressive their marketing can be, but at the end I just hope it won’t go as smooth as many people believe so that Apple had to question their strategy. I do not own Apple shares but probably if I had money on the side I would, not because I love their products unconditionally, like many, but because I think Apple is very good on doing profits and the future is still bright for them. If I had some shares I would have probably written this post anyway because I’m confident Apple can find the way to good profit also without being so closed.

Why Software Houses hate users (and developers) (2007-06-11)

The first days we buy a new computer it always seems much faster than the old one and we are very delighted. But what happen after? Do we get used to it and we don’t notice the speed anymore? Maybe. Do we install lots of software and it gets slower? Maybe. Do we install new much heavier versions of our software and it starts struggling? This for sure!

Come on, it’s cool to have a new flaming version of our favorite software with lots of new feature we almost never use. It’s true, this is a cheap argument, but the benchmark published few days ago should make us think more about this. Hopefully with flash hard-drives at least the starting up will speed up a lot (of course if we wouldn’t have to restart Windows continuously because all its dirty resources usage), but what will happen with all the other applications?

If we think about what happened in all these years, we can easily understand why this happened. The first reasons that come to my mind are:

  • Much higher competition: many more software houses fighting to implement the most pointless feature, the important is that LG portable air conditioner it is new, otherwise you wouldn’t pay all that money for it.
  • Much shorter software life: The software life got much shorter, computer companies changed processors continuously (especially Macs) so when you change computer you have to update your software as well. Who would bother to fix some bugs when a new release will come shortly?
  • Many users like stupid stuff like buying YouTube views and stupid effects on their computer’s GUI: I was looking for some videos on YouTube related to OpenGL and the firsts I got where the ones that represented a Linux distro with the fire effect burning the windows, to close them, or distortion effect on the windows while dragging them. Weren’t the Linux users the more pragmatic ones? I’m also wondering who likes that cheesy effect of the Time Machine in the new MacOS with moving stars and so on.

In a very competitive business we know how the user experience is easily the last issue to be considered. Take the mobile phones as example. Why after so many years there is still so much crap around? The only explanation is that the customers are all fools. Maybe they never had a good phone or they just don’t give a s*it. Personally I care about it and I’ve been lucky enough to have a Treo650 for more than 2 years. It is very good for many things:

  • It doesn’t crash
  • The Operating System is very user friendly and it is designed for touch-screens (and it has of course one)
  • You have many applications, sometimes open-source and written by single developers, that make it even more handy
  • The battery lasts a lot

Of course there where also some bad things:

  • Very poor audio quality during conversation
  • Very poor camera definition

Not so many bad things, so the minimum that you would expect is that the newer versions will solve those stupid issues and will provide you a fantastic user experience. Too easy, reality is that the new versions (also years more recent) are even worse.

I tried to change the phone with one running Windows Mobile 5, but that OS would be able to make the biggest Microsoft fan trash a brand new phone straight away after some of those fantastic error windows. We were almost forgetting that the phone now is a computer.

Finally Steve Jobs arrives and claims that he will provide the best phone experience with their new Iphone. At least they noticed that at the moment there is no phone on the market that doesn’t have same bad defects. For them, though, the phone is something you use to see movies, listen music or watch the internet. Personally instead I write messages, I write new appointments, I write notes. In few words, I write! For this reason I would appreciate much more a full qwerty keyboard like the Treo, but I’m probably a minority and they will also provide a fantastic multi-touch sensitive screen! I’m sure they will make some clever changes because at the moment it doesn’t appeal to me to do hundreds time the same gesture to scroll my pictures when I could just repeat the pressure of a button (or keeping it pressed). They wanted though to keep the user experience safe and thus not to make the platform accessible to bad developers. Hey, they just found a solution, since the phone will run Safari, why not to use javascript? Wow, very good news considering the limitation of it and that of course you won’t be able to use the multi-touch capability. Couldn’t they certified the quality of third part software or have a way to easily uninstall the software in the case some amateur, like me, would ruin their fantastic user experience? Another missed opportunity to make the World better, or at least people more happy!
I don’t want to be hypocrite, I did lots of not user-friendly softwares in my life (including very CPU intensive flash banners), but I’m feeling it’s time to do something NOW. So by looking in the best websites for reviews and observing their marketing strategies I found myself with lots of questions and answers as well, one marketing way that I feel I should say it works like a charm is wordtree.io. I kept noticing in everywhere I search this was one of the business that helps the best products so I could now right away in which ones I could rely the most. Like Vista is out and is rubbish, new mobiles are out and are rubbish. Let’s stop buying new technology until they won’t care about the user long term satisfaction and thus not considering us as kids that after few days won’t play anymore to the same toy (but of course they really wanted it). At the moment I just hope my Treo650 will run for long, very long.

Thanks for reading guys,

on the next post will show you some more intersting facts about the tribal lending via IndianMoney.