Wednesday, February 02, 2011

HARDWARE: Patience

I don't NEED a tablet computer. Heck, I'll be spending too much time this month setting up Quincy, my new nifty main desktop computer to replace Popeye (who gets the secondary job of doing backups and other housekeeping chores on my network .. replacing Nuklon ... which seems headed to become a media server down beside the big TV in the living room). That replacement process and my ongoing development work for the various clients shouldn't leave much time for a tablet computer. So I don't NEED a tablet computer.

But I want one.

The fact is that my current choices in tablet computers are a 10 inch iPad Classic, a 7 inch Samsung Galaxy Tab and taking a chance on getting something out of the Far East through Customs. And frankly, given how difficult it was just get some cables (and the currently ON HOLD iWin Twin USB drive) past the keepers of the border and into my hands, my desire in that area is pretty slim.

So, why not the iPad? Besides not wanting iTunes on my computer and not wanting Steve Jobs telling me what I can or can't have, I'm really worried about the Apple grab at anything and everything that goes through the various reading apps on the iPad. While GigaOM finds the grab understandable and smart to a degree, I think Apple's desire to get a 30 percent cut from any money passing through it's device is going eventually lead to a fight back from the software vendors. Sony and The New York Times howled earlier this week, possibly prematurely, and there will be others. The magazine app vendors have already been grumbling. Well, CUSTOMERS have been doing the grumbling that caused the vendors to grumble.

The the sword of Damocles that iPad holds to hold these vendors in check is exclusivity. Right now, the iPad is it. Really. So vendors bend to Apple's will. A year from now, the vendors WILL have the other-source resources to tell Apple 'NO!' Will political realities redraw the vendor-Apple relationship at that point? Possibly. Over Steve Jobs' absent body. I'm not willing to take that chance and buy into Apple. And that's made even more practical by the fact that we are at the end of the life-cycle for the iPad Classic. The iPad2 will be out within weeks and will be better and lighter and equipped with two cameras and cheaper. Oops, not the last one. Apple never spares early adopters' wallets. Nope. It won't be cheaper. And even cheaper iPad Classics won't be cheap enough for me for the earlier stated reasons.

Samsung can virtually do no wrong with me. I'm even smiling through having a bum monitor from them. Why? because Samsung's had the best price/performance ratio on hardware for awhile now. They've tried to position themselves as a upscale LG, fighting Sony on the quality front for market share. In a blind test, I'd take the Samsung over most other brands in most categories. But there's something going on in the mobile phone/tablet area that has Samsung stumbling.

First, there are all kinds of issues with Samsung phones relating to versions of Android and slow, if ever, upgrades to newer versions. Then, Samsung says they've sold 2M tabs ... to stores, more or less mumbling that last bit just a bit. Actual sales of the Tab are a fraction of that number. A fraction made smaller by a reported return rate that might be as high as 16 percent. Plus the tab is seven inches, barely bigger than my web-surfing booking-reading extraordinaire Kindle. So, no Tab for me.

This IS the month that will see change in the relatively barren tablet field. I'm watching a number of tablets that I think could provide the impetus to land one in my hands. Hopefully in time for March Madness. With a tablet connected to CBS' website for all of the first four rounds of the tournament, I can pick and choose which game to show on it, while having the other two TV's in the room tuned to CBS and to TheScore respectively. I'm more or less forced currently to watch CBS soundless as it usually focuses on one game, while TheScore does hop around to best effect,. However, Tim Micallef hosts that show and his idiot grin and stolen patter are, well ... let's say ... off-putting. Imagine being able to turn his sound off too? And letting me do my OWN game-hopping. All from the comfort of my bed. Ya, that's the plan!

The Adam by India-based NotionInk is my favourite to emerge from the alternatives and find a way to the Castle of Confusion. I've watched it's progress from a bunch of drawings to an actual shipping device and I like what I see. Unfortunately, the current batch is sold out and so is the next batch. And I'm horribly worried we haven't seen a review by an independent third party yet, like Carrypad. But I really do like just about everything I've seen of the device. It uses Android 2.3.

Motorola's Xoom will be the first out with the Android 3.0, code-named Honeycomb, software platform installed. It's the Android system FOR tablets. And Motorola's a pretty solid hardware company. I'm not enthused about an opening price reputed to run closer to a grand than I would like. But, it has to be a contender, if no reason other than it will sport the best in hardware AND the latest Android at the opening bell.

Asus has been a price-point competitor in the smaller laptop (netbook) field for some time now. And Asus makes the motherboards of all my computers. Knowledge and form expertise makes the eeePad something to consider. If it was shipping today, I think I'd order one, reviews unread. The question is, once the competition really lights up, will Asus get lost amongst all the offerings from big companies?

And you know what they say about learning from your mistakes. I'm hoping Samsung gets it right with their 2.0 gen products. I'm still not interested in the 'small' tab. But the next wave of Samsung's tabs will include a 10 incher. That's certainly something to consider. Along the same vein, Dell's followed up their 5 inch Streak with a 7 inch form factor. Getting out a 10 incher would be worth looking at Dell for a solution.

Carly Fiorina made a real effort to destroy HP (and Compaq and ... just about everything she was involved in over the last decade), but I have to admit more than nostalgia has me hoping the WebOS powered Palm tablet will be a contender. Afterall, WebOS is the descendant of the operating system on my still operational and beloved, Sony Clie PDA. The screen snapshots I've seen tend to look more like a blown-up phone screen. But there's a familiarity there that might carry the day.

Lastly, I DO have to pay attention to what Apple does when it announces the iPad2. First, they might just put together such a great hardware package that I would have to consider bending my anti-Apple bias (I remind you that I have a four-digit serial number Apple II in my house. The bias I have is to control-freak level paranoia). I could run iTunes in a virtual machine. And I could jailbreak the iPad to escape Jobs' clutches. Probably. But the main benefit waiting out the iPad2 would be the price pressure it would put on the other devices. Might be worth a savings of a couple hundred bucks when the machines that are out in this first real wave of Android tablets are facing the tsunami of sales the iPad2 will have.

In a perfect world, I would buy a cheap Far East Wi-Fi knockoff running Android 2.3. I would use it to learn the ins and outs of the Android system. It would be light due to inexpensive plastic housing. Since I don't plan to lug it around a lot and it would spend non-productive time in a charging cradle, I could live with eight hours of battery life. I'm also unlikely to watch any HD stuff on it, other than sports, which would be streaming. So, large memory capability isn't all that necessary. I want to read magazines and comic books, do some light web-browsing mostly centered around looking up things. And, on the rare occasions when I go out and head off somewhere I've never been, I wouldn't hate GPS capability. I would accept Google Maps. I don't need it to be a phone, but the occasional use of Google Voice wouldn't hurt. And the outward camera will be undoubtedly better than any that I have in the house. And I take pictures, on the average, about ONE time a year.

I'd get about a year out of that first tab. Then, by replacement time, I would have a panoply of second gen tabs to pick from, at all price points and multiple capability points.

But first? A tab for March. Please. I've been ever so patient.

1 comment:

Ganesh said...