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IPAD vs. Chrome OS, Fight!

Round One!

I was originally going to write this at one go, but as I wrote it became apparent that it would be much longer than I originally thought. So I am breaking it up into multiple parts that are a little bit easier to chew. In this part I am going to address the complaints from the geek community about the iPad. Unless you were hiding under a rock for the past week, you might have heard that Apple has unleashed it’s mythic tablet computer onto the world. I say mythic because, like the iPhone, this product has been predicted for several years (10 to be exact). Most of us geeks new about this months in advanced, though we didn’t have many details (Apple actually did a pretty good job keeping us in the dark, no small feat mind you.) These rumors caused many of the other PC makers out there to get in the game early and announce their own tablet devices at CES 2010 two weeks ago. But at the beginning of the event Steve Jobs, with a snub, made it clear that he doesn’t think too highly of the very popular (read: Extremely popular-almost-killed-off-desktops-and-laptops) netbook class of computers. While I do agree netbooks could be a lot better than they are now, I think netbooks (or their new form-factor coming this year: smartbooks) still have a place, and they will find that place when Google finally launches Chrome OS.

And that is what I will be doing today, giving a sane, rational assessment and comparison of a “Google Book” and the iPad. First up I will discuss many of the geeks complaints about the iPad and put them in perspective. I need to put their comments and complaints in perspective because geeks often look at a device and assume it was meant for them. Encase you didn’t know computer geeks and normal computer users have very different computing needs, so it isn’t really fair to judge a product by a standard it wasn’t made for.

Complaint #1:

It can’t do multi-tasking: This is running two programs at the same time, like in Windows or Mac when you are surfing the web while having iTunes playing your tunes in the background. They complained about the same thing when they launched the iPhone/3G/3GS and iPod Touch, and weather or not people want or need it, multi-tasking or lack there of  hasn’t stopped Apple from selling millions of iPhones every quarter three years after initial launch, this doesn’t count iPod Touches either. Other mobile smart phones, like palms’ new Web OS based phones, the Palm Pre and Pixi, has multi-tasking as does new versions of Google Android based phones. Still multi-tasking on a mobile phone is still relatively new and it has yet to be seen weather it works well enough in a mobile environment to be a killer feature.

Complaint #2:

It doesn’t support Flash: For those of you not in the know, Flash is a plug-in for a web browser, like Internet Explorer or Firefox, that lets web pages display stuff like videos on YouTube and other video sites, and allows you to play your online games like Farm-Ville on FaceBook. Considering that a lot of web pages use this element, at first glance it seems like a very bad idea to not have it on the iPad. However there are several Flash deficiencies that make it less than ideal on any mobile device, first of which is that Flash on Macs, (which the iPhone OS is based on) and any operating system other than Windows, doesn’t work very well. It tends to be very buggy, and on any operating system it is very CPU intensive. Though the next version is supposed to be GPU accelerated to balance the load off from the main CPU. But, still these are the reasons that Apple themselves have said that their customers don’t want it. Also, about the only thing that could work with Flash on a mobile touchscreen device, even if they fixed all Flashes deficiencies, is video. Games won’t work that well because of the smaller screen and mainly the touch screen interface is very different from the large screen and mouse and keyboard input of desktop class computers these games and web apps were designed for. Also the need for Flash is slowly becoming a bit of a moot point in the coming year as HTML5 and Javascript mature. While these are just newer version of existing standards, they provide web pages with abilities of native apps and promise a rich internet experience with no plug-ins, so you won’t need to download Flash/Shockwave/Silver-Light to watch YouTube/Hulu videos or FaceBook games. This may happen sooner than you think, even though HTML5 won’t be fully released until 2012 many vendors are incorporating HTML5 features in their web browsers as soon as they reach draft state, which once in that state it rarely ever changes and most of HTML5’s features will reach draft by the end of this year. One of the first features to be utilized it the new video tag, which allows a web page to load and play a video in the web site using the operating systems codecs without plug-ins, just like a media player installed on your computer can do. By not using plug-ins and utilizing a good codec for video can reduce the computers resource usage tremendously. Google is already starting to convert YouTube over to the new standard as we speak and we should see something in a few months. This is important because YouTube is the biggest video streaming site in the world and is responsible for most of the video sites on the web for using Flash. So if YouTube switches to HTML5 video then everyone else should follow, which they are, sites like Daily-Motion and Vemio are already following suit. Also Apple computer users aren’t the only ones who dislike Flash, most web developers and anyone who uploads videos to YouTube absolutely hate it and are the reason for YouTube’s switch. But after all these reasons probably the biggest is that Apple makes a lot of money on their apps and if they let Flash on their devices it may deter people from paying for an app, that being said, for better or for worse, what iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad lacks in Flash it makes up for in apps, especially games. Most of iPhones games are much better than any Flash-based game I have ever played. And the really good Flash games are usually ported to iPhone (a good note hear is the Adobe’s next release of Flash CS5 (the program used to make Flash games, video, etc) will allow easy porting to the iPhone platform.) It’s also important to point out that Safari, the browser used by Mac products are also fully HTML5 complaint. So as sites switch from Flash to HTML5, Flash will slowly become a non-issue, in-fact we are already starting to see some web apps come out specifically for mobile devices, Google just launched a web app for it’s Google Voice service so people with an iPhone can still use it even though the official iPhone app from Google was rejected by Apple. One final thing on Flash, many people in response to Steve Jobs saying that iPad is better than netbooks are quick to point out that you can install Flash on a netbook, which technically you can, however they seem to forget that Flash, because of how resource intensive it is, doesn’t run well on current netbook hardware (Intel class). This will improve in the coming months as adobe releases the GPU accelerated Flash and people switch to html5, but for now Flash is more annoying than useful, especially when I go to a site with a lot of Flash based ads it bogs down my netbook.

Complaint #3:

Not a revolutionary UI: Keeping a UI (User Interface, essentially everything on your computer screen you can interact with) that is similar to the iPhone is actually a good idea as it keeps people from having to relearn a device. Some geeks insist that every new device needs a special interface to maximize productivity, however history tells us that normal computer users (which account for about 90% of all computer users) have a hard time relearning UI’s, they would rather it be familiar to them than be engineered to be as intuitive as humanly possible. I heard a story on TV when I was a kid that illustrates this point. A company that made toothpaste hired an engineering firm to design a better toothpaste tube. One of the changes they made to the traditional design was to go from a round cap that you would twist off to a square one that you simply pulled off. When they sent it to ordinary people to beta test it, it was a huge disaster, no one could figure out how to get the new cap off to save their life. everyone expected it to twist off. The engineers could scientifically prove that their cap design was better in a hundred different way, but it didn’t matter because could use it and would actually deter people from buying that brand. So it is usually better to go with a more familiar design than a “better design.” Don’t get me wrong you can improve a UI but it needs to be small changes that don’t radically alter the layout of the UI. People can handle small changes over time, like the Windows UI, for the most part the layout has changed very little since Windows 95 and for all the features they have added over the years Microsoft always makes it possible to revert to older UI’s for people who don’t like or can’t handle the new UI.

Complaint #4:

Misc.: These are small complaints nit picking at relatively unimportant lacking feature. First up, the name, many geeks feel “iPad” is just plain boring, well get over it people don’t care what it’s called and iPad will cause people to associate it with iPod. Next up no camera, while they complain more about a forward facing camera for web chatting than a traditional one for taking pictures, I will address both. 1) taking pictures with a device that big could prove to be awkward at best. 2) video chatting isn’t as popular at voice or text chatting and currently no mobile devices besides laptops and netbooks have web cams. So people will not miss that on they iPad because they are probably not expecting it. Also I doubt AT&T’s network is up to that kind of load yet. Also there is evidence that a web cam may be added to a later generation as wireless broadband speed and coverage increase.

In the end these complaints are from people who expected the iPad to do things geeks wanted not taking into account it was not designed for them but for normal people. That being said I believe the iPad will do well mainly because Apple has yet to produce anything that hasn’t done well, their iPod line of portable media players claim about 85% of that market, and their computers, while only having a 10% market share, is actually doing well when you consider that their market share when from under 8% to a little over 10% in the middle of a recession when they are the most expensive consumer grade computers you can buy. Also Apple has mastered the art of making computers simple, that’s what they are know for. Macs just work which is what people want, they will sacrifice features and pay more money if they can get something that just works. Also it will do well because Apple will market it and that is the key. I can get people to buy just about anything with the right commercial, parents you want you kids to eat healthier, make a commercial with Wolverine enjoying a plate of veggies and a plain glass of water and I suspect we’ll see results. And the final reason, on top of all that, people will want the iPad for the same reason they want any Apple product. Because of the high quality materials used in it’s construction, no matter how much you hate it, once you pick it up you’ll love it because it just feels like your holding a million buck in you hand, and no matter who else releases a tablet, while they may be cheaper they will not reach the quality of the iPad.

Tune in next time when I will discuss Google’s Chrome OS.


2 responses

  1. I am totally looking forward to the iPad, and I am enjoyed to see what sorts of gamez and applications will be sold for it. I just don’t get the point some of the nitpicky criticisms in this blog. Size of the bezel?? Damn!

    February 1, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    • I wasn’t nit picking, these are other peoples complaints and concerns. I am not condemning or praising it, just dissecting it, wait for the rest of the article before making judgment.

      February 2, 2010 at 4:15 am

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