Posted: January 29th, 2010 | Author: Kevin Lee | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: Apple, cloud computing, connectivity, eInk, Game-Changing, iPad, multi-tasking, Netbook, Tablet, touch screen, Voice activation, Voice commands, Voice type | No Comments »
Image from Apple website
My good friend Tim Cascio wrote a blog post entitled: Apple iSlate Roadmap: Game-Changing Features for Version 1.0 and Beyond and asked me to comment on what I imagine a game-changing iPad should look like. Here was my response:
>> I was curious about what Apple would indeed release, but I had my doubts about what they would actually put into this new device. I concluded we needed a mini-tablet a couple years ago when I first started thinking about the need for a mid-tier device between the mobile phone and the laptop. Since then we””ve had emerge Netbooks and also eReaders. These two alternatives have really risen the bar and made it difficult for how a mini-tablet or ”iPad” could be a game changer.
After the announcement yesterday, I”ve been reading a lot of reviews about the device. I found this particular critique along the lines of my own opinions about the iPad: 10 Reasons Why you should NOT Buy Apple iPad
For me, what I””m looking for is a simple yet robust device that allows me to have a light, flexible, and versatile window into all my connectivity needs.
Building on Tim”s list, here is my brief list of what would make me feel it is a game-changer:
1) Voice activation, Voice commands, & Voice type + recording: When I think of a touch screen device, a REAL one, I don”t think the proper interface is typing on a screen. I think it is awkward and inefficient. A real game-changer would be get rid of the mouse, get rid of qwerty, and change the way we input information. Of course, there can always be a virtual keyboard when needed, or when voice is not appropriate (like in a meeting), but, a 9-inch screen should not be accessed by thumbs, and is really uncomfortable for efficient typing.
2) Multi-tasking: I think this is imperatively essential. Not that it has to be the same kind of OS and platform that we are used to in a netbook/laptop, but, some other form of convenient multi-tasking is extremely crucial.
3) Constant, continuous connectivity awareness: A real tablet should be constantly aware of its surroundings, automatically connecting you to the fastest, most stable, and free combinations of wi-fi, 3G & bluetooth devices around you. This thing should make it seamless and simple for you not only reach out to the net and external information, but should also simultaneously enable you to pull information in from other devices (pictures, media files from your mobile phone or video/content saved on your computer or other storage, and ofcourse the internet). This awareness should extend to things like credit-cards, all kinds of magnetic strips, and most importantly RFIDs.
4) An amalgamation of a bright OLED screen and eInk screen. I might be dreaming at the moment, but you better believe that someday soon someone will figure out how to make both technologies available in one device. Where you can change easily from a touch screen to an eInk screen. That would really be a game changer.
5) Really good graphics. All I really want is for this thing to be an awesome viewing apparatus. I want it to have enough processing power to show me things the way things should be seen. Maybe in the future with augmented reality and/or 3D technology. I don”t need it to have the kind of processing power to run complex gaming or heavy computing calculations. I would expect all the heavy heavy computing lifting will be done through cloud-computing. I would want this thing to be simple, light and be my window into where the real activity is going on: on the internet.
Thats really all I want. I don”t need it to have every knick-knack out there. Even a camera may not be that necessary for this thing. For me this should be my central nexus/hub to pull in all my disparate information from my disparate devices and formulate the best window for my information. Thats it.
Posted: January 8th, 2009 | Author: Kevin Lee | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: Android, Apple, Digital Ecosystem, Facebook, Google, HDD, Industry Info, Intel Atom, iPod Touch, iWork.com, Kev's Thoughts On..., LCD, Macbook Air, Microsoft, Netbooks, New Media, Screens, Screensize, Solid State Memory, SSD, Surface Computing, Tablet PC, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »
In the last post, Part I, the idea of digital ecosystems was explored with a closing question about where we are headed with these three ever-growing empires.
I believe the answer lies in analyzing the issue of screensize.
In the past year and particularly during the last few months, there has been great attention spent on Netbooks. This new sub-category of computing devices fills the gap inbetween the cellular phone and the laptop. Being larger than a cellphone with a fully functional keyboard, it allows a user experience much nearer to the laptop. However being on average 50% – 75% smaller than a standard laptop means it offers even more mobility and is a better fit for those that demand constant computing capabilities that can keep up with their active lifestyles.
Indeed, some have begun to openly wonder whether the Netbook will eventually replace the Laptop. The reason for the rise of the netbook now can be attributed to two primary developments: 1) Better microprocessors made specifically for mobile computing and 2) The coming of age for Solid State Memory. With microprocessors such as Intel’s Atom, the priority is continued reduction in size, while maximizing energy efficiency while still offering a competent processing speed. The major reason for the viability of the Netbook is the rapid price reductions of Solid State Memory. It has been falling in dollars/GB for several years now, but in the past 2 years has only just begun to break the thresholds of being affordable enough to be used in mass commercial products. Apple’s MacBook Air was one of the first major mainstream computer products to set a vision for what SSDs can do, even if the price tag was (and still is) reserved for the rich and famous. Netbooks are only the next iteration of SSD usage in mass computing. While still more expensive than original Hard Disk Drives, SSD are far more durable to drops, extreme temperature, make no sound, and are more lightweight and compact. A perfect combination for mobile computing.
The netbooks also have a much lower price tag than laptops and desktops too. The reason is not because its significantly slower than the other two computing options, but because it has less memory capacity. There are two drives for having less memory: 1) To lower price of the product to an attractive level that will make it a competing alternative to the laptop and 2) Because people are increasingly needing less and less memory on their computing devices. Price is obvious, but people using less memory may be intriguing to some.
With Facebook, YouTube, Google Docs, iWork.com, Picasa, Flickr, LastFM and SalesForce.com to name a few, it is plain to see that storing things online is becoming the norm and not an anomaly. When a person finds that their life is increasingly online and all their content is stored online, the computing device’s priorities shift to processing speed and connectivity. In-device memory merely facilitates the uploading of information onto the net.
With this in mind, and the commercial success of the netbook this year, it isn’t surprising to see Apple planning a large, 7 – 9 inch screen iPod touch. And there you have it. The emergence of the mini tablet PC. Each new generation of computer strives to be lighter, faster, more connectivity, thinner, convenient, and offers a superior user interface more efficiently translate your requests.
Essentially, the computer will evolve into a simple, light-weight access panel to the internet with primarily upload capabilities.
We’re already starting to see it happen with iPhone/iPod Touch, the mini tablet PC, the regular tablet PC, the new iMacs that have done away with computer towers, and large LCD and Plasma flat-screen TVs.
As more and more functionality and our lives moves online, the need for varied formats of the computer will decrease. Eventually the only choice consumers will have to make is what size screen they’ll like.
It is a question of screensize.
Large screens for home, mid-sized screens for mobile work and when carrying a bag, small screens for ultra mobility when carrying a bag is not desired.
Going back to the three present digital ecosystems being offered by Microsoft, Google and Apple, which one will prevail if computers evolve the way its been described above? Microsoft’s present business model of selling installation-based software isn’t going to be compatible with an online, browser-based world that is more concerned with upload than download. Google’s model of offering completely free access to its online products and charging advertisers for revenue seems to fit better with a world with thinner, lightweight computers. We just witnessed an extraordinary event where two developers grafted Google’s Android platform onto one of the new Netbooks. This could be the first steps of many Google may take in securing its leadership in the next generation of computers. Apple’s closed-system software-hardware bundle still has a fair chance of succeeding if Apple can guarantee it continues to introduce the next must-have computing device that takes everyone one step closer to a thinner, more light-weight computing world. I hear iWork.com, Apple’s answer to Google Docs will be subscription-based. If Apple can keep its momentum it just might be able to lure enough people and lock them into Apple’s ecosystem to charge them all subscription fees.
It seems that if computers continue to get thinner and lighter, then for the longevity of this development (say the next 5-10 years), Google and Apple have very bright futures while Microsoft has a tough battle ahead.
But if we review the question of screensize again, an astute entrepreneur may take the idea of screensize one step further and ask: “why would we need to continue requiring consumers to carry a screen with them wherever they go? Why can’t we provide screens for them wherever they are. so they don’t have to carry screens anymore?”
Then the question no longer is about screensize, but about moving screens from 2D to 3D. Enter surface computing. All the surfaces, wherever you are, are screens for you to access your information, upload your information, and communicate. The tables, walls, clothes, all surfaces will become computing access points for the digital ecosystem.
If thinner, more lightweight 2D computers/screens is the 5-10 year mid-term horizon, then surface computing is the 15-20 year long-term horizon.
And guess who’s been leading the way for surface computing? Bill Gates and Microsoft.
See a video demo of Microsoft’s Surface Computing
Posted: January 5th, 2009 | Author: Kevin Lee | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: Android, Apple, Apple TV, Avatar, Blogger, Blu-ray, Chrome, DRM, Gmail, Google, Google Docs, Gtalk, Hotmail, iChat, IE, iLife, iPhone, iPod, iTunes, iWork, Kev's Thoughts On..., Live Spaces, Mac OSX, Mail, Microsoft, Microsoft Office, MMO, MSN Messenger, MTV, MTV Generation, Netflicks, New Media, Safari, SecondLife, T-Mobile G1, Windows, Windows Mobile, Xbox, YouTube, Zune | 3 Comments »
I think its fairly clear the direction we’re all headed. The movers & shakers of our generation, whether we love them or hate them, are busy at work creating competing information/media/communication ecosystems for us to live in.
Want to access the internet? Microsoft has IE running off Windows, Apple has Safari running off Mac OSX and Google has Chrome which, for now, is just running off Windows but will eventually run off of everything.
How about doing work? Google Docs are 24/7 networked up-time, Microsoft Office has a lot more bells and whistles but you pay a pretty penny for this stand-alone product. And Apple’s iWork is just prettier.
Big on entertainment? Apple’s iTunes has cornered the music market and offers some of the best webcasts, games & apps in a sweet GUI. Add to that Apple TV and all these goodies can be accessed not just on your computer but in your livingroom too. Microsoft’s Xbox attacks the entertainment question from the gaming angle, but with MMO and SecondLife-like Avatar capability now the norm, interactive communication is a readily available function available on your bigscreen tv. Xbox’s next iteration will see Blu-Ray player capabilities, and its cooperation with Netflicks brings a mountain of new content. Google has YouTube. And as it inks more syndication agreements for YouTube content, it spreads its net wider. Even now, record labels and broadcast networks are sweetening to the YouTube platform as ad revenues start coming in. YouTube has become today what MTV was for the MTV generation.
Microsoft’s MSN Messenger vs. Apple’s iChat vs. Google’s Gtalk.
Microsoft’s Hotmail vs. Apple’s Mail vs. Google’s Gmail.
Microsoft’s MSN Live Spaces vs. Apple’s iLife vs. Google’s Blogger.
With Apple’s domination of mobile music with iPod and pioneering of mobile digital communications with iPhone, the digital ecosystem continues to extend. Microsoft is fighting an increasingly uphill battle with the Windows Mobile Platform, and its Zune, while the first in its product segment to boast Wi-Fi capabilities, far trails Apple’s iPod. Google has gotten into the mobile game in a paradigm-shifting way with the open source Android platform a year ago. Now with the T-Mobile G1 phone, or any of the other new Android phones coming out in 2009 from Huawei, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson, Google is on its way to being a household name for mobile devices.
So catering to your whole digital life, Microsoft, Google and Apple have each created separate digital ecosystems for you to inhabit. Whether its on your desktop, laptop, in your livingroom with your big-screen TV or out-and-about with your mobile device, these three digital giants have some product to keep you linked into their domain.
These three are building their digital ecosystems in different ways though. Microsoft, coming from a long heritage of selling installation-based software maintains the philosophy that the device doesn’t matter, but a digital ecosystem is all about a software ecosystem. Albeit, Microsoft has made forays into devices with the Zune and Xbox, with fair success. In part, Microsoft has seen the success of Apple’s approach. Apple maintains the philosophy that a digital ecosystem is derived from the complete user experience in a hardware-software bundle. As a closed system with high standards and high focus on the User Interface both virtual and real, Apple has produced hit after hit and everyone is taking notice. The closed system also makes Apple’s ecosystem particularly sticky with things like DRM in addition to general design appeal. Selling these hardware-software bundles at a premium price, you’re literally ‘buying into’ Apple’s ecosystem. Finally, Google’s philosophy is similar to Microsoft’s, in that the digital ecosystem should be primarily software, and should be run/accessed from any device regardless who made it. Where Google differs from Microsoft is that instead of selling installation-based software like Microsoft, Google’s ecosystem is web-based with little or no download/installation required and -even more shocking- Google is offering its ecosystem for FREE. Google’s ecosystem is powered by ad dollars.
Three digital ecosystems, one selling installation software, one selling hardware-software bundles, and one offering free use of software hosted online while making money from some other guy.
Which ecosystem will we eventually find ourselves in? Is there room for more than one?
Well, its a question of screen size.
Read it here in Part II.