hardware

iPad Second Impressions

I’m “stuck” in Paris (poor me), volcanic ash from Iceland has closed the airports. Stranded but not ignored. I have my iPad. In business meetings, in cafés and restaurants, the iPad is, as I reported two weeks ago, an all-around guy- and-chick magnet. Sit down, stroke the screen, and Parisians, not normally the easygoing sort, admire and strike up a conversation. Norway’s Prime Minister, stranded as well, used his iPad to govern remotelytrès chic. I’ve never seen anything like this.

I gave myself two weeks to form an opinion of the iPad. (And note well the my and opinion: I may let a fact sneak in here and there, but I intend to convey my personal impressions. (As we say on-line: YMMV. You might come to a different conclusion.) I carried my brand new iPad everywhere, and I mean everywhere: From the smallest room in the house to the office, out to the coffee shop, into the 747 cabin and then on, to a magazine industry conference in Paris. I wanted to know if this dog would come back to the pail after a fortnight. Call me a skeptic, but I’ve spent too much time inside too many sausage factories to trust a demo, a first impression.

I’d pre-ordered two iPads and was given an appointment on launch morning at the Palo Alto Apple Store. In and out in a few minutes, then back home for the unveiling. Initial setup was easy, although you should learn from my mistake: I’d forgotten to prevent iTunes from synching automatically. I have thousands of pictures in my iPhoto library; this was going to take hours. My suggestion: Get the apps you want from the App Store and start enjoying your new iPad right away. Sync your media while you sleep. With more than 3,000 programs, most of them written for or adapted from the iPhone, the App Store is a pleasant and welcome surprise. My existing iPhone apps look a bit dwarfish on the bigger screen and pixelated when blown up in 2X mode, but they’re serviceable.

So how does the iPad feel?

Work
I purchased the iWork productivity apps: Pages (word processing), Numbers (spreadsheet) and Keynote (presentations). This isn’t the iPad’s strongest suit. When you transfer a document to the iPad, the hyperlinks are “unfolded”. Here’s the original…

…and the same file on the iPad:

I hoped the URLs would somehow fold back “under” the linked words when re-imported into my Mac, but no.

The trouble doesn’t stop there. On a networked PC and Mac you can drag-and-drop a file from one machine to another by using a shared folder arrangement. Here, the desktop metaphor breaks down because the iPad (and the iPhone) doesn’t have an explicit, exposed file system. To ship my Monday Note draft from my Mac to my iPad, I have to email it to myself as an attachment, or use a convoluted iTunes service. The email method is simple. I click—sorry—tap on the attachment and the iPad automatically offers to open it in Pages.

The iTunes method, slightly more complicated, uses the File Sharing section in the Apps tab that you see when you connect your iPad:

This is, in effect, a folder. You add your PC or Mac files and they’ll show up in My Documents on your iPad after the next sync. When you’ve finished tapping your Great American Novel, you can sync it back to your desktop computer through the same mechanism.

Applications such as Air Sharing HD and GoodReader help, but not completely. With Air Sharing and a WiFi connection, your iPad can show you the files on your PC or Mac, but you can’t use them—you can’t open them in your iPad apps.

There’s also a Mac app called PhoneView. Once your iPad is connected, you’ll see “everything” inside. Proceed with caution.

Geeks can go here to see more details about the promising doc compatibility and sharing features…and “promising” is the right word. I’m disappointed. I can’t perform tasks such as writing (or editing) a real-life, hyperlinked document on my iPad. Let’s hope the iWork software updates will quickly make the promise a reality.

Email
Very nice. Fast, easy to set up, easy to use. For me, it’s fully functional; not much to say beyond that. I hear we’ll get a “unified” mailbox some day.

Web Browser
Browsing shows off the iPad’s speed and smooth finish. It has the Apple design “touch”, literally. Scrolling and pinch-zooming are well-tuned and convenient. The browser doesn’t have tabs, but bookmarks sync with my Mac through MobileMe.

Speaking of scrolling and zooming, the Maps app (in collaboration with ex-friends at Google) is spectacular on the iPad. Treat yourself to a satellite view of your favorite city, move around with one finger, zoom with two. I just sent myself this iPad screenshot; you push the Home and Sleep buttons to take it, just like on the iPhone:

As on the iPhone, the iPad’s built-in Safari bookmarks show a User Guide, very nicely done. Enterprising geeks have discovered that Apple uses a specific framework, dubbed AdLib, to create a “desktop-like” Web application. They speculate that this augurs well for more high-quality Web apps from Apple.

Entertainment
Everything works well–even very well. I’ve loaded iTunes movies, rented one, I’ve used Netflix and the ABC app. Same for the iPod function and its CoverFlow. “Nothing to see, here”, by which I mean no trouble, no disappointment, the iPad does a spectacular job.

Games
I have nothing to say about games; I’m simply the wrong customer. Out of curiosity I loaded Smule’s Magic Piano, and Korg’s iELECTRIBE, Accordio and miniSynth Pro. Very impressive although, again, I’m not the target. As food for thought and extrapolation, I typed “iPad game” into Google: 112 million hits.

eReader
After two weeks, Apple’s iBooks and Amazon’s Kindle still look good. I hear the debate about e-ink versus backlit screen. I don’t mind reading on a computer screen, but I also like paper. I can load a math textbook from the Kindle bookstore on my iPad, and solve exercises using pen and paper. As an investor, I’ll be watching what the iPad (and its competition) does for–or to–the textbook industry.

Turning to newspapers and magazines, I like the agitation surrounding the iPad. The presentation I gave to the Presse Magazine conference in Paris last week confirmed the  enthusiasm and the anxiety. There’s much skill, energy and €€ in play.

I’ve tried the New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Popular Science, GQ, the Zinio magazine distribution app, Paris Match and Le Monde. They’re all promising but they show that the genre still needs work on both the UI side and particularly with the business models. I have an aversion to subscriptions that make it difficult to cancel, and only Le Monde lets me buy a single issue using their in-app purchase mechanism.

Regarding the UI, the gold dust needs to settle for some, while others need to lose their East Block smell. The former (names withheld) enjoy the new UI toys a bit too much. They’re tiring, distracting. The latter need to do better than a timidly sexed-up screen replica of the paper-based product.

Still, I’m hopeful. There’s no good culture without bad taste; the excesses prove that designers are pushing the envelope and conquering uncharted territory. The medium has yet to coalesce and find its sui generis place, but I’m optimistic because there’s enough competition, interest, and customers to make “it” happen—a thriving electronic newspaper and magazine industry. As for Apple’s role as an advertising platform (iAd?), that, too, will be worth watching.

Presentation
Keynote, Apple’s PowerPoint-compatible superset app, shows us the iPad idiosyncrasies. I brought the official iPad-to-VGA adapter with me to Paris, hooked it up, and hoped for the best. Zero setup, as we have come to expect, with no fiddling with F-keys or Desktop Properties. The projector displayed the presentation while my iPad displayed a (limited) presenter’s console. But, wait, switching out of Keynote, there’s no way to display the main screen. The iPad manual says I can display photos using a projector, but there’s not a word about a general replica of the iPad screen. At the conference I tried to show a movie but got an “Unauthorized” message, instead.

The conference organizers had insisted: Don’t forget the VGA adapter for the iPad. I didn’t. But, while I brought two machines for friends, I forgot to pack mine. No problem…almost. My configuration automagically resurrected itself on one of the spare machines when connected to iTunes. This gave me the opportunity to use MobileMe’s Find My iPhone service. It found my two iPads, the one left behind in my office and its freshly minted clone. The one in it found in Paris is shown below:

I could lock it, display a message on it, or remotely wipe its content. I chose the latter, I’ll see the results when I get back. In the meantime, as advertised in the screenshot above, the one left behind is now “dead”.

Conclusion and memoriam
Has the long-suffering tablet device finally emerged? The iPad isn’t perfect but, for me, it’s more than good enough, and extrapolating from the iPhone trajectory since 2007 we’ll see a steady string of improvements, especially if competitors such as HP and (the now-disliked) Google spur Apple and drive investment and creativity.
A final word…for Bill Gates. In 2001, he predicted that within five years, the Tablet PC would be the most popular form of PC sold in America. The timing was off, but he might end up being right, even if he might not enjoy the fruits of his vision.

Being a visionary is a bitch.

Bill’s prediction was only one of a long string going back to Dynabook, Newton, Grid, Go and other prophecies. The iPad might be the real thing, finally.

JLG@mondaynote.com

Catching The iPad Wave: Seven Thoughts

1. Design

The iPad is all about design, and interface expectations. From a graphic design standpoint, with the iPad, the quantum leap is its ability to render layouts, typefaces, page structure. No more web HTML lowest common denominator, here. What comes out from an art director gets WYSIWYGed on the iPad — if the implementation is right.
Two things will be needed, though : talent and tools. Talent requirements for the iPad won’t be limited to conceiving great graphic arrangements fitting the 9’7″ (25cm) screen. As in multimedia  journalism where storytelling talent is to be enhanced by technical skills, layout and contents will have to be supported by great technical implementation. Clumsiness is not an option.
As for the tools, there is a need for what I’ll call “the first  layer” of content creation, i.e. the design phase that stands above the hard coding. What we need is a set of tools to be used by production people to arrange contents; it is badly needed: consider how often multimedia designers rely on… PostIt to sketch their projects out. Apple could provide this toolkit, of course. As for others, don’t count on Quark Xpress, they badly missed the web design train, but rely more on Adobe, they’re said to have an iPad design toolbox in the pipeline.

The WSJ.Com – OK for a Generation 1 app, but...

The WSJ.Com – OK for a Generation 1 app, but...

2. Innovation / Disruption

The app market is likely to split into two different paths. “Generation 1″ iPad applications will be a direct translation of the print reading experience, slightly improved using the finger-as-a-pointing-device feature for browsing and zooming. That’s the Wall Street Journal way. No point in blaming their designers; like everybody else, they had to crash-code their apps: game developers are handled console prototypes 12 to 24 months in advance of the actual release; for the iPad, it was just weeks. (We’re told many apps never “saw” an actual iPad before they shipped, they were written and tested entirely on the software simulator that comes with the Apple development tools…)
“Generation 2″ apps will have to reinvent navigation, the invitation and handling of user input, the integration of videos or animated graphics, a key challenge.
Publishers will be well advised to stimulate out-of-the box thinking by drilling into new pools of designers, through public, crowdsourced contests. Inevitably, great stuff will emerge; it will not be applicable before a year or two, but this innovative/disruptive stimulus approach is essential (not only for media, but also for books). More

Wanna see my Japanese etchings — on my iPad?

The frenzy surrounding Apple’s new product, the iPad, could give a new life to the old pickup line. I just got mine, that thing is an equal opportunity guy and chick magnet. Better than the proverbial (and fake) Ferrari car keys negligently dropped on the counter in a bar. Here, with the iPad, you can forget to take your bicycle pant clips off, the magnet will still work.

Seriously, I’ve never seen such excitement since I’ve been in the high-tech business (42 years). Not the Macintosh intro and its justifiably historic “1984” commercial, not the iPhone launch in January 2007. The fact I’m only citing two Apple events already signals how Apple, and I actually mean Steve Jobs, have been able to engineer launches as well as (sourpusses will say better than) its products.

But, before we proceed, let’s deal with the product review. I want to use it for a couple of weeks, just to see how the initial reaction evolves, how the dust and the bugs settle down, how the iPad feels at work, at home and on the road – I’ll take mine to Europe in a week.
In the meantime, here are a few reviews by recognized experts:

- Starting with a negative one, by Cory Doctorow, a science-fiction writer and Open Source, anti-DRM advocate, here. A useful counterpoint to the overriding enthusiasm.
- David Pogue gives us a friendly tongue-in-cheek, his usual tone, walk through the pros and cons, here.
- The Wall Street Journal’s hugh-tech guru, Walt Mossberg, gives it a pretty good pat on the pad, calling it a game changer, here.
- At Wired, Steven Levy (ex-Newsweek) explains: Apple’s iPad is “One Small Step for Tablets, One Giant Leap for Personal Computers”, including a tip of the hat to a just deceased PC pioneer, Ed Roberts, here.
- An enthusiastic BoingBoing piece by Xeni Jardin, here.
- Lastly, Dan Lyons (the Fake Steve Jobs author turned Newsweek columnist when Steven Levy left) switches his opinion. He panned the iPad at the January 27th event but graciously changes his mind in a piece titled “Think Really Different”, here.

And, many, many more (Google gives 74 million hits for “iPad review”), mostly positive.
I’ll conclude this section with a Steven Levy quote: “The iPad is like the Beatles of 2010, it takes something that we thought we knew and makes it seem fresh.”
Can the iPad live up to such an endorsement?

And, we have the launch itself, which makes Red Army precision marching drills look like a drunken Spring Break outing. Consider the synchronization: all the Big Media reviews came out Wednesday March 31st evening at the same time exactly. iPad App developers were under strict embargo orders, which they respected: no press releases before Launch Day. The order got rescinded and we had a deluge of on-line PR material starting Friday morning – at 10:00 am.

Saturation bombing comes to mind when you see all TV channels, ABC, CBS, NBC…, news and comedy; all newspapers, from The NY Times to USA Today; magazines such as Time and Newsweek:

and

And, of course, the Apple fans themselves, lining up outside Apple stores the night before.
You’ll find pictures take at the Palo Alto Apple Store here, scenes like this are all over the Web.

More

The Jesus TV: What For?

You’ll recognize an echo of the August 2009 note: The Jesus Tablet: What For?

This time, we’ll walk around another increasingly popular topic: Apple’s putative entry into television sets, a huge Consumer Electronics segment.

The argument for Apple making TVs is two-pronged: the money and the UI.

For the money, there is the $31B television set market, one where Apple should go next, according to Piper Jaffray’s analyst Gene Munster. The gent is one of the usual suspects, I mean an oft-quoted “industry observer” following Apple. (Oft-quoted and no less often wrong: in February 2009, our Gene predicted Apple TV would get a CableCard and a Digital Video Recorder capability by the end of last year.)
For Apple to continue to grow, the reasoning goes, it must enter new markets. This clearly implies Apple’s existing product categories can’t supply double-digit growth; this no less clearly overlooks the huge growth spurt provided by the smartphone segment. The iPhone is Apple’s fastest-growing and largest and most profitable business. And this with less than 7% of the total worldwide market for smartphones, a market that is going through a huge growth spurt as these devices emerge as “the next PC, only bigger”. So much for the lebensraum, room for growth argument.
Furthermore, getting into a huge commoditized (meaning very low margins) consumer segment as TV sets can also be viewed as we sometimes call the Great Chinese Soft Drink Market Fallacy. ‘Chief, if only each one of these guys buys one can of our newest power drink a month, one billion cans, we’re rrrrich!’ – But they don’t. Fighting the Samsungs and the Sharps of that world on their own ground is a risky bet.

To counter the commodity market giants negative, we have the User Interface argument. Picture, if you will, the back of an Apple television set: two connectors, one coax for the cable signal, one RJ 45 (Ethernet) for the Net connection (if not achieved thru the coax cable). Inside, an embedded computer and hard drive, a WiFi link. Outside, an iPod Touch or iPhone as a remote. Instead of the touchingly antiquated Made in East Germany UI of our Comcast cable box (mine can only display two digits for the hundreds of channels it switches), we get to search TV schedules and movie libraries the way we search the Net or our hard disk. All this is Apple style. (Or Google style, as we’ll discuss in a moment.)

This isn’t a new vision: this is exactly what a friend of mine and real industry insider, a serial entrepreneur, Peter Yared, CEO of Transpond, described in his August 2008 blog post:

Up Next from Apple: Apple TVs

Apple’s next move occurred to me while I was walking by my local Apple store: Apple iTV, which will be:
Wall-mountable 37″, 42″, 50″, 60+” LCD screens
Look cool, with a hip Apple logo
Stream iTunes video and audio content from the web and from your Mac
Have special apps on the appstore that run on your TV (sports scores, etc.)
Cable card compatible so you won’t need a cable box
Wirelessly display your MacBook’s video feed
iPhone-like touch screen remote control
Include a browser controllable by above remote control’s keyboard
Built-in DVR
So a very cool looking TV that is plug-and-play capable of showing video rentals and playing music. This will do to Sharp/Sony/Samsung/Comcast what the iPhone did to the Blackberry and AT&T: cost more, eviscerate the market, and bypass the network operator. Sweeeet.

If this is so obvious, why hasn’t a “TV done right” happened yet? Or, to be even more derivative, why hasn’t Apple added a CableCard and a DVR software module to its “hobby” Apple TV and thus cause it to graduate to the full-on product status?

I know, I’m mixing two threads here. One train of thoughts is the fully integrated television set made (designed) by Apple, the other is the Apple TV external box.

Let’s start with today’s external box, Apple TV, a strange creature that’s neither a set-top box, nor a PVR (a.k.a. DVR), nor an AV receiver for a home theater (home cinéma for Europeans). The hobby is more like a Roku, or a Vudu with expected Apple twists: clean UI and pairing with your iTunes and iPhoto libraries on your PC or Mac. Why hasn’t Apple made the obvious move of extending it by adding a CableCard and a DVR software module? More

Who will buy Palm?

by Jean-Louis Gassée

Who will buy Palm?

If you’re in a hurry: no one.

If you have more time, here is the sad story: in one day, this past Friday March 19th, Palm shares collapsed, -29% in one Nasdaq session, closing at $4. The obvious question is why? But a second query immediately comes up: why $4, why not zero?

For months, the Wall Street “sentiment” — I didn’t know there was such a thing there — let’s say the calculation was this: ‘Sure, Palm’s cooked but one of the Big Players will buy it.’

By “cooked” the haruspices meant Palm had no future as an independent company.

Why?

You’ll recall the sky-high expectations raised by its main investor, Roger McNamee, from Elevation Partners, a private equity firm. (Since October 2007, Elevation Partners has invested $460M, 25% of its $1.9B fund in Palm, for 30% of the company.)
In March 2009, Roger claimed the just announced Palm Pre would cause iPhone users to switch smartphones: “June 29, 2009, is the two-year anniversary of the first shipment of the iPhone. Not one of those people will still be using an iPhone a month later. Think about it — if you bought the first iPhone, you bought it because you wanted the coolest product on the market. Your two-year contract has just expired. Look around. Tell me what they’re going to buy.”
Palm quickly disowned such statements, but the damage was done, lofty, out-of-reach expectations were set.
Apple said little but announced a new iPhone model and lowered prices to $99 for the older model in June 2009, just one week after the Pre shipped. Worse, Palm’s “savior” and “iPhone killer” smartphone suffered from a lethal combination of self-inflicted problems: ingenious but clunky hardware implementation, promising but buggy software, restricted SDK (software tools for applications developers) availability and sophomoric cat-and-mouse games with Apple over iTunes synchronization, to name but a few.
Most of the saga is documented, or opinionated here at Endgadget, one of the more “animated” high-tech blogs.
Now, Palm’s CEO, Jon Rubinstein (a.k.a. Ruby) offers his own if-only-coulda-shoulda-woulda explanation: according to him, bad luck struck Palm when Verizon launched Motorola’s Droid two months before shipping Palm’s Pre. This type of lame explanation is embarrassing. Jon always knew Verizon to be a better channel than Sprint, 91 million subscribers for Verizon vs. 48 million for Sprint. What very probably happened is this: initially believing his own propaganda, Ruby didn’t want to yield to Verizon’s demands. Palm’s CEO bet a successful launch with Sprint would cause the bigger carrier to come around — only to take a less advantageous deal later and too late. By then, everyone knew about the Pre’s tepid reception at Sprint, taking any leverage away from Palm in discussions with other carriers. More

Mobile World Clusterf#^k

It happens all the time: when CEOs don’t know what to do, they create a strategic alliance. Alone, they’re exposed. As a group, they must be doing something right because everyone  else in the herd does it too. In the early nineties, my friend Denise Caruso, a NYT columnist and editor of the Digital Media newsletter, listed over 150 such alliances.

They often amount to worse than nothing: agitation, confusion, hard-to-reconcile cultures, hidden agendas and fears of losing control of one’s destiny.

In the best of cases, the product of the announcement is the announcement, a short burst of mildly favorable publicity. I know whereof I’m speaking, I’m hereby pleading guilty to the Apple-Digital Equipment Strategic Alliance, that was in the late eighties. We know what came out of it: nothing. Luckily, once the talking heads left the stage, the engineers in both companies, in their usual fashion, disregarded executive orders and decided they had better things to do. No monstrosity was created.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that. There are countless examples of companies making a huge, expensive mess of a forced attempt at harnessing groups, cultures with different agendas under a politically correct standard, in the name of a warm and fuzzy goal.

Remember AIM? Apple, IBM and Motorola, an early nineties strategic alliance. (I had no part in that one, having left Apple.) The idea was to harness the technology and people of these three companies to create a new object-oriented operating system, Pink, running on the IBM/Motorola PowerPC architecture. The whole thing was folded into a new company,  Taligent — dissolved in 1998. The whole thing cost hundreds of millions of dollars. (Fortunately, in 1997, Steve Jobs masterfully crafted a “reverse acquisition” of Apple; he promptly put the NeXT software engineers in charge and we know the rest of that story.) More

Crowdsourcing Propaganda

Once again, Apple, or, getting to the point, Steve Jobs defies common wisdom. This time it’s about communication, positioning, propaganda. Never let others take control of the story, don’t let anything go unanswered, ever. (Well, almost anything, there is the ‘When did you stop beating your wife’ exception.) The recent and still on-going –raging might be a better word – public discussion of the iPad makes the received wisdom point: Apple lost control of its story, the Great Helmsman is leaving others steer the discourse.

I was tempted to agree. But a friend stopped me in my tracks as I was starting to point communication rules violations such as bragging statements better left to third parties. As the French like to say: Don’t make claims about your performance, leave it to grateful third parties. (You guessed it, the French are a tad more specific, but this is a family oriented newsletter.) ‘Look, said the friend, you’re in Steve’s office. Among the papers on his desk, you see his bank statement. Being an experienced businessman, you know how to look without looking and how to read numbers upside down. On that bank statement, do you see a line saying: Steve, you’re screwing up? No? See: there is no reality feedback telling him how wrong he is and how right you are.’
Skipping over rare exceptions, yes, my friend is right. This got me to take another look to the on-going “iPad conversation”. Using a different perspective, I come to a different conclusion. Conscious design, luck, instinct or, more likely, thanks to a retroactive, reverse order combination of all three, it looks like Apple is crowdsourcing its propaganda, its promotion of key iPad issues, its product positioning.

But, first, what is crowdsourcing?
For us, non-native English speakers, it is yet another manifestation of the great creativity, plasticity of American English, of its ability to constantly invent very practical, very compact words and phrases. Behold astroturf: it designates not artificial turf, the original definition, but fake grassroots political movements. We have outsourcing for the practice of moving the making of goods or services outside, to have someone else make those for you. We’ve all encountered the outsourcing hell of customer support. We also read the label on an iPod: Made in China, Designed in California.
Moving one more step in the continuous deformation of language: using the Web, we’ve come to see the crowd as a source of ideas and, in some cases, services such as answers to questions, guidance, directions. Wikipedia is one good example. Actually, it offers a good definition for crowdsourcing. A direct quote from the crowdsourced encyclopedia: “a neologistic compound of Crowd and Outsourcing for the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing them to a group of people or community.”

Back to the iPad stories, what do we see? Or what do I choose to see? More

The iParanoid Scenario

I’m not through with the iPad. Actually, I’m just warming up. For today’s column, let’s focus on the perils of a closed system.

I live in a country (France) where censorship is a big deal. It comes mostly from greedy celebrities (sorry for the truism); they use a legal system that largely favors them. Often, they find a compassionate judge when it comes to extracting money as compensation for a supposed privacy violation or for some other unauthorized disclosure. Convictions are frequent and expensive; they can lead to the seizure of a magazine or even of a book. France has a long history of such practices. In the early sixties, the country was waging a colonial war in Algeria. Then, for the most avid news readers, the game was to get the weekly magazine l’Express at the kiosk as early as possible before French authorities seized it. (No such risk with today’s Gallic newsmagazines).

Let me reframe this in the context of an upcoming iPad era. An iPad newsmagazine publishes an investigative piece that triggers a legal injunction: remove that from the publication or face a $10,000 penalty per day. No, says the publisher, who has guts and money (proof this is a fiction), we want to fight in court. The plaintiff then turns to Apple. Same talk: face a huge fine, or remove the offending content. Furthermore, says the plaintiff’s attorneys, thanks to your permanent and unique electronic link to your proprietary devices and the fact that the electronic kiosk now resides on the device – yes we can argue that point, they say– , you must extend the deletion to each user’s tablet. C’mon, you keep pushing updates, and various contents bits to these gizmos, you can push a delete instruction code.

What would Apple do? This is a question of balance of power. If the legal action involves some neuron-challenged celebrity, chances are Apple won’t balk. But what if Nicolas Sarkozy or his whispering-singer wife are the plaintiffs? Truth is, given the pattern of legal actions against the press in France, it is more than certain a French judge will be tempted to request an immediate remote deletion of a presumed infringing content. Then we’ll see a replay of what happened last summer in the 1984 case, when Amazon remotely deleted a copy of George Orwell’s novel in the Kindle of buyers for copyrights issues. Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos apologized profusely for the mishap (plus it involved 1984 not Alice in Wonderland, tough luck). More

iPad Thoughts

Let me start with an important caveat. For this I’ll refer you to a post from my favorite high-tech blogger, David Pogue. “Don’t pass judgment until you’ve tried it!” Wise counsel: three years ago, industry sages “knew” Apple had no business making a phone. Normal humans voted with their wallet.

Customers come in two categories: cats and dogs. Put new cat food before your feline companion, she’ll walk around the dish, indifferent to your entreaties, suspicious, bidding her time. Dogs aren’t that complicated: they jump on the new dog food and greedily scarf it down.
I’m a dog, I’ll try (almost) any new high-tech product. But, as the advertising lore likes to say: Will the dog come back to the dog food? That’s how you know you have a viable product. We’ll see in a couple of months if I keep my new iPad or if our daughter Marie resells it for me on eBay – for a fee, she’s a businesswoman.

In the meantime, five thoughts.

First, we have no idea of what the iTunes App Store will do for the iPad. As usual, the temptation is use derivative thinking: The iPad is like ___ only bigger, or smaller. A bigger iPod Touch is the more common thought. So, yes, most iPhone or iPod Touch apps will scale nicely. But this much bigger XGA (1024 by 768) screen is “more enough” for iPad applications to be genuinely different as opposed to mere derivations of iPhone apps. Apple comes up with their own iWork apps showing but one example of uses that aren’t just an extension of the iPhone world.

Gizmodo has one of the few posts, among the tens of thousands of iPad-related blog entries, focusing on in-app purchases. Last Summer, a new iPhone OS release introduced the ability to make purchases from within an application, without jumping out to a Web site. As a counter-example, look at the current iPhone Kindle app: when you want to buy books you leave the app and go to a dedicated page on Amazon’s site to order the book and direct its digital delivery to your iPhone. Apple offers a simpler mechanism: buy what you need, weapons or lives in a game, virtual reality clothes, furniture or buildings from within the gaming or VR app. Apple smoothes out the transaction, billed to your iTunes account, takes 30% for its services. This is great for some merchant but Amazon doesn’t see it that way.
This is relevant to Frederic’s point about newspapers and magazines in today’s note: the Financial Times could deploy a free FT app on the iPad, complete with teasers for today’s paper or for a special research report. Click and you download the paper, or a magazine. See here what the Swedish group Bonnier thinks of the new possibilities afforded by powerful tablets. The Mag+ demo is very Apple-like, I’ll even say Jon Ive-like, complete with a veddy Briddish accent.
I can’t wait for the things I can’t imagine coming out of the brains and loins of my fellow geeks.

Second, real users, paying customers, as opposed to geeks and braying critics.

I’m going to get in trouble for this, but hear me out.

More

The Apple Licensing Myth

Legends die hard. In the pre-Web days, they got printed and reprinted, told and retold and so became official, like spinach being good for you because it held the iron your red cells needed. After decades of the disgusting veggie inflicted upon young kids – I remember, a scientist went back to the bench and found out there was no digestible iron whatsoever in spinach. You don’t get calcium by ingesting chalk, you need a calcium compound that’ll get through the sophisticated filters in the digestive system. Eating spinach gives you as much  digestible iron as sucking nails.

The spread of legends gets worse with the Web. Stories, I’m avoiding the word “information”, travel fast, I’ll sidestep “light-speed”. Yarns bounce around a world-wide echo chamber. If I hear it from five sources, it must be true. Never mind the so-called sources heard it from one another in sequence. Worse indeed, as the Web never forgets, everything gets cached, archived and will be unearthed by search engines.
This creates a need and entrepreneurs pop out of the quantum vacuum ready to fill it: a Google search reveals at least three companies, reputationrestore.org, reputationrestorer.net and restore-reputation.com who promise to clean up your besmirched Web image. Actually, these three look like the same company and, at the risk of unfairly tarnishing their own rep, they look like one of these only too frequent scams purporting to protect you from scams. Ah well…

So it goes for a tenacious legend, the one that Apple “lost” the market because it failed to license the Mac operating system to “everyone” and thus get to own the market instead of losing it to the “obviously inferior” Microsoft product.
A few days ago, no less than über-blogger Henry Blodget, the Internet Bubble repentito now head of Business Insider blog hub fell for it. This industry observer who admitted he never set foot in an Apple Store, not a sin if your territory is the quick oil-change industry, chides Apple for “making the same mistake again”. In Dear Henry’s view, just like in the 80’s, Apple insists “on selling fully integrated hardware and software devices, instead of focusing on low-cost, widely distributed software”. As a result, Apple will lose to the Open Source Android, just like Apple lost to Microsoft.

I know we shouldn’t let facts get in the way of a good story, but let’s take a closer look at today’s as well as yesterday’s data. More