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ATPM 17.03
March 2011


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by Mark Tennent,

Shock of the New

A sunny seaside Saturday, what else is there to do but stroll round the shops and browse? This time, in an emporium of electronics, where for the first time we see some of the many tablets on the market.

Without doubt, the gadget that surprised most is the Kindle. There is no getting around the fact that they are huge, so much so we wonder why people want them. They aren’t low-cost, either.

After being devoted on-screen readers through the 1990s, reading books on an iPhone came as second nature. Once the thumb-flick to turn pages becomes an unconscious action, reading on the iPhone is as easy as a Kindle or a paperback. The Internet and iTunes store are full of free and low-cost books as well as various readers for proprietary formats, including Kindle books, although it does look as though Amazon and Apple are headed for a rumble.

Adjacent to the Kindle are the tablets. Our daughter works for Samsung, so we have played with their phones and tablets enough to gain some impressions. Firstly, when Samsung boffins saw the iPad they must have said it was too big and decided to make a smaller tablet. That was a bad move and simply the shock of the new. Apple’s engineers have been right all along, a 7-inch screen is too small. Samsung’s designers have also been having second thoughts, as it was announced that the Galaxy Tab 2 will feature a 10-inch screen.

A larger display is far better for doing real work, reading a newspaper, playing games, or watching a film. An Android 7-inch tablet feels uncomfortably like a brick, and with battery time a lot shorter than an iPad’s. Coupled to that is a tiny virtual keyboard, which needs Samsung’s special shortcuts to get the best from it. We would choose a netbook in preference and get a same sized package and screen with a real keyboard and software. Better still, make it a Hackintosh running Mac OS X.

When they devised the iPad, the engineers looked at the form-factor and asked themselves how easy they could make it to use. The iPad is still at version one and an unfinished piece of work. It needs a filing system, and the built-in apps tweaking to include a better office suite, but these will come. An iPad should also be able to link with an iPhone to use its modem and data download allocation, and does it really need a camera front and back? One on the front to have iChats, but is anyone really going to hold an iPad up to take mediocre photos when they have a cellphone in their pocket, which can take equally mediocre shots?

There has been much clamouring about how Google’s Android OS has overtaken Apple’s iOS, even though Apple is selling every iPhone and iPad they can make. They just can’t churn them out any faster—something which can’t be said for the numerous companies making cell phones and tablets using Android. Anyway, Apple has always aimed at a lucrative niche of a market rather than dominating it.

The largest cell phone operating system was Java in some format or other, installed on just about every phone for many years. Yet for all the millions of Java phones, third-party applications have been dreadful, for the most part, and the market didn’t take off.

If Java’s new owner Oracle is correct, Google allegedly copied Android from Java, so its future is clouded. Android doesn’t even earn Google any money because they give it away for free only to see cell phones using rival search engines and Chinese Internet infrastructure. If Google thought Android devices would link in with their advertisements and cloud-based applications and search engine, they have been mistaken.

The final shock is the price of the other tablets and toys. The Kindle is over £150, and the Samsung tablets in some formats are the same price or even more expensive than the iPad. That must be a first for Apple.

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Reader Comments (1)

Grover Watson · March 5, 2011 - 19:02 EST #1
These companies that are building tablet computers are a lot like the dog chasing the rubber ball in the park. Apple gives the ball a good hard throw, and they take off chasing it with all the speed they can muster. I was in Thailand last October, and visited a place called IT CITY. Cell phones, cameras, Appliances, TVs, a ton of computers, and yes, an Apple licensed reseller. Some guy was selling an Apple iPad clone running Windows Vista. It was a total piece of junk and definitely not worth $300 USD. Apple leads, the dogs follow.

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