While I'm loathe to make estimates about how any new product might sell, there were early reports that Apple moved between 600,000 and 700,000 iPads on the first day it went on sale. The real figure ended up being 300,000, according to Apple, more in line with many estimates ahead of the Saturday introduction of the fancy new tablet computer. The second day may be far less, since most stores were closed for Easter Sunday.
Meantime, on last week's episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, Macworld Editorial Director Jason Snell discussed the iPad, corrected more of the misconceptions about the product and presented some of his expectations for the future of Apple's mobile platform. As our resident TV expert, he also talked about what he regards as the hits and misses for the second half of the 2009-2010 season. For him, and perhaps most of you will agree, it was mostly misses and near-misses.
Cutting-edge commentator Daniel Eran Dilger, of Roughly Drafted Magazine, also joined us to clear up some of the common iPad misconceptions. He focused his razor sharp analysis on the — so far at least — limited multitasking on Apple's mobile platforms and the lack of support for Flash.
This week on our other show, The Paracast, Gene and co-host Christopher O'Brien present an "Ultimate Abduction Roundtable," featuring Budd Hopkins,Dr. David M. Jacobs and Kevin D. Randle. This is an episode you won't want to miss!
Coming April 11: We honor the memory of the late Mac Tonnies and his final work, "The Cryptoterrestrials: A Meditation on Indigenous Humanoids and the Aliens Among Us," about Earth-based UFOs, with co-host Paul Kimball, Greg Bishopand Nicholas Redfern.
Coming April 18: Co-host Paul Kimball presents a roundtable featuring science fiction author and filmmaker Paul Davids and paranormal writer Nicholas Redfern to discuss the dysfunctional relationship between Sci-Fi, UFOs and the paranormal.
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So when a certain cable TV news network featured a talking head from a PC magazine to discuss the iPad, the review touched all the expected points. The screen is gorgeous, it's razor fast and everything works just beautifully. The interface is intuitive and easy to master without having to dig through a manual.
This very same play was acted out on other TV shows, while the media covered the iPad's first day on sale as a major news event, sending reporters to camp out at the nearest Apple Store or Best Buy to catch the crowds and provide the proper level of human interest coverage.
They were rewarded by the presence of Steve Jobs at an Apple Store in Palo Alto, CA, where he greeted customers and did a little window shopping of his own, no doubt to make sure that the store was properly organized and the employees were doing their jobs correctly. I wonder if a few workers were also shaking in their boots over the possibility that Jobs might, for some unknown reason, take a disliking to them and send them packing.
The only potential downside was the report that crowds thinned after a few hours. But don't forget that most of the people who actually came to the stores had already reserved their iPads and simply needed to pick them up. There is no activation requirement, in the fashion of a mobile phone, so it was just a matter of regular retail sale processing. Many more iPads were actually ordered online. Those customers only had to wait for the overnight delivery service to bring the package to their homes or offices, although, in some areas, that may wait for the next business day.
As the tech media waits with bated breath for the official word from Cupertino as to how many iPads were actually sold, as they attempt to feel the public's pulse about the product, it's a sure thing that its potential shortcomings will be repeated — indeed regurgitated — over and over again until you feel you want to run for cover.
Yes, we know that there's no multitasking for non-Apple apps. That supposed limitation has been mentioned over and over again, yet I'm surprised that few members of the media, even the ones that are supposedly knowledgeable in technology, actually understand what multitasking means and why Apple has imposed this limitation, and no it's not just to retain control over the platform. Of course, that's when they're not busy speculating about how iPhone 4.0 is sure to include enhanced multitasking.
Let's not forget that unfettered multitasking has created the need for task monitoring and killing apps for other mobile platforms, so that you can manually stop things from getting out of hand. While power users may lust after such utilities, the average user isn't going to want to have to worry about such problems. The underlying technology doesn't interest them, so long as everything simply works.
What this means is that, when and if expanded multitasking appears on the iPhone OS, Apple will offer the feature with lots of careful thought. It will be executed in a way that recognizes the smaller screens and resources available on the iPhone and iPod touch, and the enhanced screen real estate and performance on the iPad.
The other negative mentioned is, of course, the lack of Flash support. While some of you may have held out hope that Steve Jobs will ultimately come around and make peace with Adobe, that's hardly likely to happen soon or ever. Apple has already posted a page on their site where you can discover sites that are iPad ready. That means they adhere to current Web standards and, of course, do not contain Flash content, or at the least offer a non-Flash version to visitors who use one of Apple's mobile gadgets.
Yes, our sites have been submitted since, except for the one devoted to our science fiction adventure series, they all work great on the iPad. We even have a custom mobile version of this site and our forums. With hoped for volunteer help, the lone holdout will lose its Flash content soon.
As much as Apple is busy evangelizing companies to ditch Flash, it can't happen overnight. Millions of sites rely on Flash to embed video content, or provide fancy navigation bars and other special effects. It is not trivial to find replacements, particularly for people who have to rely on expensive outside help or learn new skills to change the sites.
The one significant element that will encourage the death of Flash is the fact that there are over 70 million mobile devices with state of the art browsers, from Apple, which do not recognize Flash content. Assuming the iPad becomes a long-term success, and sales of the iPhone and iPod touch increase over the remainder of this year by decent levels, by Christmas over 100 million sophisticated mobile computers will be Flash free. That is too large a number for Web developers to ignore, and thus the end of Flash is clearly inevitable.
As far as Adobe is concerned, I do not feel too sympathetic, because they make powerful content creation apps that will continue to work just fine even if you don't use Flash. By embracing alternate methods of multimedia content delivery, Adobe will probably be able to weather the storm and continue to deliver regular Creative Suite updates and earn good profits.
As for myself, yes, I chafe at the missing Flash support on certain sites, although I am quick to contact the ones who manage my favorites that they need to ditch Flash so I can see all of their online content on my iPhone. In a few years, Flash is destined to be the floppy disk of the 21st century.
So when the critics attack Apple about Flash, are they right or wrong? Or just looking for alleged bad news to generate higher hit counts, regardless of its real importance in the scheme of things?
Meantime, people will continue to touch and swipe their new iPads with excitement and wonder.
With the cost of feeding your average printer ranging from $15 to $200 and more for a single ink or toner cartridge, it makes sense to want to seek alternatives. It doesn't take long for the cost of the printer's "food" to far exceed the price of the original product.
As most of you know, that's how the printer industry is financed. Sell the hardware cheap, and exact high premiums for the ink and toner you need to keep it well fed and working properly. So it makes sense to want to find cheaper alternatives, and they are everywhere. You'll find them at your local business supplies outlet, or even at special stores devoted to printer-related consumables and parts.
But if you have to wonder: If you can get printer ink for less than half the price the manufacturer charges, are you getting a product that's equal in quality, or close enough not to make a significant difference? The problem is that it's not easy to duplicate a manufacturer's formulation, since they will patent the process and perhaps the unique hardware in a cartridge that is required to properly recognize the ink and measure how much is left.
Indeed, some printer companies have filed lawsuits against independent suppliers claiming infringement of their proprietary technology. None of that encourages the development of third-party alternatives, but there are still plenty out there.
Over the years, I've tried the non-OEM versions of toner and ink with decidedly mixed results. I remember the early days when I owned an Apple LaserWriter. I tried some "remanufactured" or refilled toner, and suffered serious quality variations from one cartridge to the next, even from the same vendor. Since I required consistent output, I relented and just sought out the best possible discounts for the manufacturer's "official" toner.
With ink jet cartridge alternatives, quality has also been variable. One of my clients called several years ago to complain about the poor reproduction of color photos, which were critical for his wife's real estate business. When I arrived at his home office, I checked his Canon printer and found he had been using a substitute line of ink cartridges. Fortunately he still had some genuine Canon ink at hand, but it took a number of wasteful cleaning processes to restore print quality to its former high level.
He no longer buys third-party ink.
For a few weeks, I experimented with a brand of ink sticks sold by an Amazon vendor for my Xerox 8560DN solid ink printer, and noticed a gradual and ultimately serious deterioration of solid black coverage. At the same time, the printer developed a serious mechanical problem. Since it was under warranty, the Xerox service rep agreed to swap the unit, at the same time cautioning me that the use of third-party ink may have contributed to the problem.
Well, maybe that was just corporate hype, but it was peculiar that the mechanical problem, involving the paper transport and imaging system, followed the use of the ink stick alternative by only a few weeks. Even if the onset of the mechanical troubles had nothing to do with my choice of ink, it was also true that print quality was decidedly inferior. I returned to official Xerox consumables, but first sought out the best possible price, so I wasn't forced to pay that much more to keep my printer happy and healthy.
Then again, if the iPad proves to be a viable alternative to reading printed materials, the printer industry might find a way to sell factory authorized consumables at more affordable prices. It's high time they had serious competition.
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
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