Thoughts on the iPad

On Wednesday Apple announced their "latest creation" the iPad. But unless you've been living under a rock, you already knew that.

After months of nebulous rumors about a revolutionary tablet computing device, it turns out it's basically just a giant iPod touch. Kinda boring. Not that it's ugly or uncool - far from it. Still, it doesn't live up to the hype and seems like a really practical and mundane choice coming from Apple.

Oh well.

Now the question is: will this thing sell? I think it has a chance of doing decently well simply because it's from Apple and it's


The "wow" factor tends to move a lot of units on it own. This should not be underestimated. There were plenty of doubts that the original iPhone would be successful mostly due to its initial pricetag. But as the price came down and the word got around, it quickly gained a large marketshare.

But there were smartphones before the iPhone in widespread use. There were portable music players before the iPod. Apple intelligently got into those markets at the right time with the right device. I'm not sure they've done the same here.

I have very mixed feelings about this device. Let's break it down into two categories: Wins and Fails.

Win: Based on iPhone OS
Not only did this save them development time and money, but it also ensured that millions of users of the iPhone and iPod touch would already be familiar with the device. Also iPhone apps work with the iPad which is a sensible move since right off the bat there will be tons of apps for this thing.

Fail: No Background Processing
I can understand this limitation on the iPhone. People just want their phones to work and allowing users access to background processes could lead to significant problems with their devices. Even without background processing, I've still experienced some annoying technical problems and sluggishness.
Yet the iPad is supposed to replace netbooks. Granted, netbooks aren't powerful computing platforms, but you can at least browse the web and word process at the same time. Anyone looking for serious mobile productivity will have to look elsewhere.

Win: ebooks
On Thursday, I saw a spot on Fox News comparing the Amazon Kindle to the iPad. Side-by-side, it's a laughable comparison. Ask anyone what they'd prefer to own just by looking at them and I guarantee you the vast majority would chose the iPad. It's a sleeker, more capable device. And it has COLOR. That's a big deal. That means full-color illustrations and photos for textbooks and newspapers. Plus the iPad could potentially offer comic books (or graphic novels, if you must call them that). The only thing the Kindle has going for it is E Ink which is nice and comfortable to read on. It's also significantly cheaper at $260. But the iPad is so... shiny...

But did they really have to re-name them "ibooks"? That's pretty arrogant even for Apple.

Fail: Textbooks
Although textbooks would look great in full color on the iPad, there is one fundamental problem with using this for school: students are poor as dirt. Oh wait. There's one more fundamental problem: textbook publishers are a racket. Although I'd love to carry one ebook reader instead of several metric tons on books, textbook prices are likely to remain high even in digital form. And there's no reselling e-textbooks. For most students that's likely to be a deal breaker. Even if I had an iPad right now, I don't think I'd but a textbook with it for that reason alone.

Win: Web browsing
This seems an ideal device for just plain 'ol web browsing. The size and resolution are perfect. The multitouch control is unparalleled. It seems like the virtual keyboard would function very well at this size too. But will it have Flash support? Like background processing, this is a missing feature that doesn't bother me so much on the iPhone, but there's no reason the iPad shouldn't have it!

Fail: Media Player
This isn't a "fail" per se. The media playing will work marvelously I'm sure. It's just relatively useless. We'd complain if it weren't there, but how often is this going to be used as a music player? Almost never because it can fit in your pocket! And while the prospect of watching videos on its screen is more attractive than on the iPhone's, that is also a rare use case.

Ironically I think the biggest problem with the iPad is branding. Apple normally does a marvelous job at this. This time I think they failed to give their device an identity.

What is the iPod? A portable music player. It's for people who want music on-the-go.
What's the iPhone? A smartphone with a well-design operating system and the features of an iPod built-in. It's for people who want a phone with a lot of features that's easy to use.
What is the iPad? It's a... uh... portable computer that's smaller than a laptop and performs the functions of a stripped-down tablet computer and an ebook reader with the features of an iPod built-in... I think.
See how nebulous that is?

If you've already got a laptop and an iPhone/iPod touch then I see no reason for a device in the middle. Steve Jobs, even with his infamous reality distortion field, fail to convince me of that. It's still a niche device, but if anyone's going to make the tablet and/or the ebook reader catch on, it's probably Apple.


dans France, pt. 1

Hello everyone! This is Joshua, signing in for what seems like the first time this year. I know most of the stuff that we've done on this blog hasn't strayed very far into our private lives, mostly because they're, well, private. But I don't really have anything to say that hasn't been repeated ad nauseam and the only thing that I really have any unique ideas on is my life.

So, for those interested in what's been going on in my life, continue reading.

As some of you may know, I am currently studying abroad in Strasbourg, France

It's a little town (around 450,000 people live there) in north-east France, about a 5 minute drive from Germany. I'm studying at both the Ecole de Management and the Institut Etudes Politiques, basically the business and political science branches of the University of Strasbourg. It's been pretty fun thus far, especially the meeting new people from all corners of the world bit. I feel like I will come back from France speaking more Spanish, German, Italian, and Portuguese than I will French, but c'est la vie.

My routine has started to become routine, settling into that old familiarity with which most people approach daily life, all the while oblivious to the fact that they feel completely at ease doing what they're doing. That's the real struggle here: feeling at home and comfortable. I am constantly reminded I don't speak the language by the signs on the side of the road, the people walking by me, and the people who are unlucky enough to hazard a one-sided conversation with me.

Half the students I talk to haven't even heard of the Chateau de Pourtales, my home for this semester, so I've found it rather difficult to explain that I live in a castle. Pictures are few and far between online, so here's one I took myself.

Despite the fact that I took these pictures on a really nice camera, Blogger is for some reason down-scaling the resolution so that they can fit on its limited bandwidth, which is a bummer. Anyway, so that's where I live. It's really pretty and very castle-y--meaning it creaks, is cold at night, and just generally rocks. Here's another picture of it while the weather was warmer than it is now.

Doesn't that look awesome?

Anyhow, back to what we've actually done so far. I flew into the Frankfurt airport and was picked up by one of the coordinators here, Willi. I met Ian and Thomas at the airport, both students participating in the same program that I am. We drove back to Strasbourg, and crashed, because at that point we had all been up for longer than 24 hours.

Over the course of the next couple of days, we "discovered Strasbourg." Willi showed us the cathedral, the downtown area, and various other beautiful parts of this beautiful city. There'll be a lot of pictures going up soon on Facebook.

pt. 2 coming soon!
Boat cruise
Walk through the park
Welcome dinner: Gurtlerhoft
Alsatian museum
Wine tasting


Hilarious Sesame Street Guest Appearances

Sesame Street of course has a long history of having guest stars who no kids are going to recognize. But I guess being on Sesame Street is a sign you've "made it" or something. Here are some recent guest star segments that made me chuckle.

Jack Black - I think he's really, really good at this. Maybe he should be on more childrens' shows.

Liam Neeson - I don't think Neeson has even been scarier. I love the line: "I counted to 20 on the West End."

Neil Patrick Harris - The shoe fairy seems on oddly fitting role after having played "Dr. Horrible." He and Jack Black need to co-star on a new childrens' show. I'd watch it.

Feist - This is far better than the real music video.

Lawrence Fishburne - Morpheus on Sesame Street. Yes.

Anderson Cooper - Cooper doesn't seem to be that into it, but watching him pop out of the trash can is priceless.

Natalie Portman - I can't decide if I like her better in this or in her SNL rap video.

Ricky Gervais (creator of the original British version of The Office) - This is just surreal.

Jason Miraz - I've not heard that much of his stuff, I just thought others would appreciate it.

B.B. King - Yes. B.B. King's the man.

Ray Romano - I find the subject matter very fitting.

Joe Torre - I think it's funny how Torre basically tells Elmo to stop playing baseball and go for a walk... y'know, 'cause baseball is so unhealthy.