The Wonder Of Apple’s Tablet – washingtonpost.com

The Wonder Of Apple’s Tablet – washingtonpost.com

Well, well, well….yet another “hype” article for the rumoured (though probably real in some form) Apple Tablet. I must admit, that I am of two minds on the the Apple Tablet (what ever it is will be called). On the one hand, I am very interested in seeing what Apple does with the idea. Will it be a real tablet, or will it just be a big iPhone? Will it run the iPhone OS or a real operating system?

I am mostly concerned simply because it comes from Apple. I personally find Apple to be one of the most troubling companies on the planet. Their closed systems and closed attitude towards the rest of the computing world bother me. Even worse are Apple fans. I dread to see the Apple Tablet merely on the grounds that 6 months later all of Apple fandom will be declaring loudly “how brilliant Steve Jobs is – he invented the Tablet!”.

Back to the article in the Washington Post. The author rightfully asks the question “Why would anyone want a tablet computer?” I personally love them. I have been using them for years (remember this for next Christmas kids – APPLE DID/WILL NOT INVENT THE TABLET PC). I have written several other posts about why I like them, and where I would like them to go in the future. Right now I have two Tablets – one is a slate model which I love. The other is the convertible Tablet given out to attendees at Microsoft PDC . This one has a great multi-touch interface running Windows 7. Its only weakness is pour handwriting support due to interference between touch capabilities and handwriting. In the house we also have two HP Touchsmart convertible tablets. These both support multi-touch and handwriting extremely well, and are well priced at just under $1000 (in Canada).

(Note here that MS already has a multitouch interface that supports gestures, handwriting, and runs a real OS, so is useful beyond just being another gadget.)

Now for the stupidest statement in the Washington Post article (possibly the stupidest tech statement made this year):

“The truth is that most of us don’t understand the allure of a tablet computer because they’ve all sucked up until now.”

Ok, the author just revealed himself to either be a moron, woefully uninformed, or just completely lacking in objectivity (perhaps stemming from the Crunchpad association). There are a number of very good tablets out there (and have been for a number of years). Any of the tablets from Motion Computing are great, though they are not consumer oriented (I have been using an LE1600 personally for 4+ years). The HP tablets have been consistently good. I have also heard great things about Toshiba, Fujitsu, and Dell tablets. The one complaint I have about all of them (except maybe the HP Touchsmart) is that the prices are way too high, but that is improving.

I will say I really want more out of a Tablet, as I said in a previous post. But that does not mean that all of the existing devices suck. Such a broad generalization, is well, just stupid.

Here is another statement from the article:

We’ll be living in a future with Minority Report, Star Trek, and Avatar interactive technology

it is interesting to note that the user interface in Minority Report was actually inspired by another non-Apple device – the Microsoft Surface.

The last quote I will take from this article is

Part of it is that Apple has a sterling record with consumer-oriented products.

Well, seems to me that Apple has failed a few more times than the author mentions. Seems the Mac Book Air didn’t do so well. Going back much further, anyone remember Steve Job’s Newton? Going back even further, Apple could be the dominant desktop OS right now if not for Job’s immeasurable ego back in the 80s (has that changed at all?).

My big concern here is how much of the consumer community reads and believes unsubstantiated drivel like this, and so dismisses anything non-Apple without even looking at it.   

A big part of the blame for this has to go to Microsoft, as well, and their atrocious marketing department. Tablet PCs have been around since 2002, and yet I still get stopped everywhere I travel by folks asking what my tablet is. How is that for getting the word out on one of your coolest technologies? It does not help that the press does not like to write about anything Microsoft because it is not “cool” to support MS.

So please folks, remember this – multi-touch, gesture-based computing is real and available today, and it is not from Apple. In addition, it runs an OS that lets you use everything you have been used to using, and does not lock you in to buying everything you ever want through Apple. And, you can even replace your own battery, unlike most Apple devices 🙂

PS – More hype for the “Apple saves the tablet” community is here. Also there is an older article Why Have Tablets Flopped? Here Are Five Reasons referenced. Of the five reasons quoted, only one is valid – price. Note also that the only pictures they use are of the Newton – the only real failure of the bunch. It is really sad that all of the media writing about tablets seems to have drunk the Apple Koolaid.

Must you be either 100% Microsoft or 100% NOT Microsoft?

I was reading this interesting post Coté’s Excellent Description of the Microsoft Web Rift « SmoothSpan Blog, as well as the post to which it refers. It is an interesting discussion of the fears many have with respect to choosing to work with Microsoft technologies versus non-Microsoft. The chain is worth a read, whether you agree with the ideas or not.

One statement I found particularly interesting was

This thing he calles “lock-in fear” and the extreme polarization (encouraged by Microsoft’s rhetoric, tactics, and track record) that you’re either all-Microsoft or no-Microsoft is my “web rift”.

While I would not disagree that Microsoft strongly encourages the use of its tools and technologies (after all, that is what most companies do, isn’t it?), I see far more rhetoric and tactical positioning on the part of non-Microsoft, anti-Microsoft, and Open Source communities insisting that one must be 100% non-Microsoft (and preferably not even play nice with anything Microsoft), or you are obviously a Microsoft fan boy.

I guess that the point that I am making is that a large part of the “lock-in fear” is created not by Microsoft’s behaviour, but by the behaviours of the anti-Microsoft crowd.

More absolutely moronic Anti-Microsoft rhetoric

Soviet Microsoft: How Resistance to Free Markets and Open Ideas Will the Unravel the Software Superpower. « VistaSucks.WordPress.Com

This is a very amusing analogy, since it was the “free market economy” which created Microsoft’s success, and continues to sustain them. They are not being propped up artificially through government subsidies or bailouts, as so many companies in other industries seem to be. They are not trying to force governments or the courts to force their competitors to give up proprietary information or abandon markets to make it easier to compete.

In reality, it is the open source community, the “capitalism is evil” crowd, and those lobbying to take Microsoft down legislatively or litigiously who more resemble socialists/communists – “all intellectual property belongs to everyone”, “the government should intervene to level the playing field”, and other such crap.

The reality is, if you truly believe in the world of “free markets and open ideas”, the you believe that better ideas, smarter people, and better business models will ultimately prevail. This is the world in which Microsoft has played successfully for 20+ years. It is this model by which others can ultimately defeat Microsoft. It is Microsoft’s competition which seems unable to live within this model. 

Microsoft Unveils New Linux Hate Site?

The post Microsoft Unveils New Linux Hate Site, refers to Microsoft’s replacement for their “Get the Facts” site as a “Linux Hate Site”. I saw the same comment on Digg a couple of days ago.

What are these people smoking? Where on that site is there anything “hateful” about Linux. Microsoft is a commercial software organization. They sell operating system software, including some for servers. They consider Linux to be competition. Hence, they have content which compares their products to their competition (Linux, mainframes, etc.). In typical marketing fashion, their site shows that their products are better than the competition. It would be sort of stupid to do otherwise.

How is this different than the marketing efforts of pretty much every other commercial organization in the world?

I also noticed a rant in a comment on Digg about how badly designed the page was, because the person making the comment could not find the so-called “comparison”. I think the tabs along the top point to the comparison pretty clearly, as does the big piece of white text on bright orange background that says “Find out how Windows Server compares to Linux ->”.

The point I am trying to make here is that the Linux community damages its own cause by making meaningless, fact-deprived statements. Stop ranting about MS and do something useful.   

VentureBeat » Google continues its assault on Microsoft, offering StarOffice suite

VentureBeat » Google continues its assault on Microsoft, offering StarOffice suite

Two thoughts spring to mind:

  1. If StarOffice cannot compete successfully against MS Office, does it matter that Google is bundling it?
  2. If Google had faith in its web-based office applications, and in the vision of all apps as web apps, why is it bundling a desktop-based office suite?

Anyone else out there sick of “Us versus Them”? Afterthought…

This morning I had an afterthought regarding my post last night Anyone else out there sick of “Us versus Them”?

I recognize that there are cases where the debate is necessary, or at least may be perceived as necessary. So, in that case I would add one more item to my “guidelines”:

6. If you absolutely must try to convert people to your point of view (in violation of item 5), try describing what is positive about the solution you support, rather than ranting and raving about why the alternative is evil and will bring about the downfall of civilization as we know it. (“Microsoft is evil” is not a valid argument).

(Note this is one of the biggest problems of our time, not just in software, but everywhere. Look at our leadership – no one presents viable, intelligent alternatives to anything, they just bash the opposition.)

Anyone else out there sick of "Us versus Them"?

Well? No, I am not talking about politics, war, or religion (though I guess I could be). I am talking about the software/technology business. There are days the whole business just annoys the crap out of me. Let me step back a bit…

I was just on Google Reader, reviewing my various RSS feeds – specifically my Digg feed. I know I should stay away from that feed, but I just cannot seem to – it is like watching Fox News, or listening to clips from Howard Stern, even though I know something in there is going annoy me, bug me, disgust me or otherwise create negative feelings, I just cannot resist looking.

What typically ticks me off on Digg is a post (usually more than one) on the following ongoing us-versus-them arguments:

  1. Linux versus Windows
  2. Mac OSX versus Windows
  3. Open Source versus Microsoft
  4. Open Source versus any commercial software
  5. ODF versus Open XML
  6. Java vs C++ vs .NET versus any other language
  7. Dynamic languages versus any other languages
  8. Web Applications versus Desktop Applications
  9. And many many more

At any given time on Digg, on blogs, and in the “regular” press, you can find lots and lots of people blathering on about these subjects. Sometimes, you can even find me blathering on about them. Most of these posts are characterized by the following:

  1. They are poorly written, grammatically incorrect, etc.
  2. They are very emotional, and often hate-filled (and occasionally filled with colourful metaphors)
  3. They are low on factual information
  4. They imply (or more often, openly state) that anyone who disagrees with the post is so completely stupid that they do not deserve to live

Here are a few examples: So you think that Microsoft’s Open Office XML is ‘Teh Shiznitz’?, Virtualize Windows on Linux? Microsoft Says No Way!, Surprise: Microsoft not so ‘open’ after all?, Is the era of Microsoft Ending?, and a lot of the VistaSucks blog.

There are days that I feel if I hear/read/see one more of these stories, I am going to trash my computer, tie my belongings in a kerchief on the end of a stick and become a hobo. In a more productive vein, I would like to suggest the following guidelines:

  1. Use whatever OS you like. If you like Linux, use Linux. If you like Windows, use that. Same for OSX. Heck use CPM if you want.
  2. If you are a programmer, use whatever language you want, or which makes sense for a given project. If your employer will not let you use the language you like, stop whining and get a new job.
  3. If you like MS Office, use it. Same for OpenOffice or StarOffice.
  4. If Web Applications make sense for you, use them. If you like desktop apps, use them.
  5. Whatever you use for whatever you do, please shut up about it, and stop trying to convert everyone in the world to your point of view!

Apple’s Mac Set to Soar?

I am always amazed (and somewhat amused) to listen to the press and many bloggers pound on Microsoft, and hold up Apple as this golden idol of alternatives. Don’t get me wrong, I love Macs – I have ever since I started using and programming them back in the late 80s. I even liked the Newton. And the new iMacs – damn I want one.

But there are a few points of the Microsoft is evil/apple is great discussion that I find deeply amusing and ironic:

  1. Apple, with Steve Jobs, handed the desktop market to Microsoft on a platter. The Mac UI in the early eighties was way beyond anything Microsoft would produce until Windows 95. With that lead, Apple could have taken over the desktop. However, through the closed, anti-clone, “we must maintain the purity of the platform” view they had through the eighties, they gave that advantage away. Even though DOS was crap in terms of usability, and Windows was graphical crap, the availability of cheap clones and many, many hardware choices, the PC won out. Once again, inferior technoogy won because the people behind the better technology acted stupidly. (Note that Steve Jobs continued this stupidity with more great technology with Next).
  2. Apple has always been the ultimate “closed platform”. Standards rarely come into play. If you want to develop on the Mac (at least anything useful) you use our tools. Until recently, even all of the hardware has been non-standard. If Microsft were anywhere near as closed as Apple, the Justice Department would have shut them down. Heck, on many Apple devices, you are not even allowed to change your own battery, or add an industry standard memory card.
  3. Apple has rarely created technology which benefited (from a tech community sense) anyone but Apple. Consider Microsoft’s Tablet PC platform. Microsoft could have “gone it alone” on the Tablet, as Apple would have (and probably will). Instead, Microsoft defined the specification for a Tablet PC, and left it to hardware vendors and startups to build the hardware, and IVSs to build the application, thus creating a sub-industry benefiting many businesses beyond Microsoft. Compare to Apple and the launch of the iPhone.

Again, I love Apple, and I think they have some of the best design people in the world. But I do not fool myself into believing that they are in business for anyone’s benefit but their own.

Apple and Open XML

This post Apple Beats Microsoft at its Own Open XML Game and PC World article to which it refers are both mostly just more Microsoft-bashing fluff.

It is very interesting to me, however, that Apple has implemented programs which are able to read Open XML format documents. Given that one of the major complaints from the ODF camp is that the Open XML specification is too large and complicated, and contains references to Microsoft proprietary material, making it impossible or impractical for anyone except Microsoft to implement.

How do they answer Apple’s apparent ability to import and display Open XML documents?

Also, a question for anyone actually using the Apple programs – how is the format fidelity when importing these documents? 

I do not see Microsoft going down just yet

It seems there a few almost guaranteed ways to bring some hits to your tech blog, and maybe even get it dugg:

  1. Say something really, really smart about things that people really want to read about
  2. Say something very controversial about something people love or hate
  3. Declare Microsoft dead

(of course, I always go for approach #1 😉 )

I was reading yet another post over on ZDNet (Is the era of Microsoft ending?) declaring that Microsoft is dead, or soon will be. I do not really see much data that supports anything in the post, and the post itself certainly does not provide any. Microsoft still has pretty good numbers, a fair amount of cash, and some market share to play with. And in many of their primary business units, they have minimal realistic competition. And in areas in which they are late to the table (search, online advertising, etc.), while they are certainly not dominant, they are not out of the game, either.

Will Microsoft reign supreme forever, as it has for much of the last 10-20 years? Maybe, maybe not. Like most businesses, if they fail to adapt to new technologies, new circumstances,  and new competition, they will not be successful. If they do it enough, they will whither and die. Even now Microsoft is going through major transitions, as Gates begins to step away from operations. A transition like this is difficult for any company.

I will repeat what I said above – if they fail to adapt, they will die.

However, I do not see a lot of signs of this happenning right now. yes, there are areas where they have slipped up. The only business that never screws up is one that never tries anything new (and that business is already screwed from the start).

It will definitely be interesting to see where the computer industry is 20 years from now, but I would be very surprised not to see Microsoft alive and well, and extremely viable long after many of us have stopped worrying about it.