What with the tablet computer explosion, it’s no wonder the media can’t stop talking about what appears to be the hot ticket gadget for this holiday season, and that’s the iPad. What’s even more fascinating about the latest surveys is that children are placing them high on their wish lists, but whether loads of parents are willing to part with $500 or more per copy is anyone’s guess.
Certainly, getting an iPad is trivial. More and more dealers have them in stock, and it appears a couple of discounters may even have gotten them from unofficial sources. Regardless, sales estimates may be off the charts. Some suggest upwards of 10 million for the holiday quarter, but nobody really knows how many iPads have been manufactured and shipped to dealers. At best, the surveys you’ll see after the start of 2011 will only be rough estimates. You’ll have to wait for the official announcement from Apple in late January.
Anyway, Saturday night’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, began with commentator Peter Cohen, co-host of the “Angry Mac Bastards” radio show, who covered the tragic state of iPad killers, and the technologies and products that Apple has recently abandoned, such as the Xserve.
Cutting-edge commentator Daniel Eran Dilger, of Roughly Drafted Magazine, provided another thought-provoking reality check about the failures of the Google Android mobile platform, the lack of compelling iPad killers, and lots more.
On the first, Daniel continues to complain about the inconsistent user interface of Android OS products, and the fact that some setups that may be simple on the iPad, are complicated on Google’s mobile OS. That begins to sound almost like a replay of the Mac versus Windows wars, except that Android user interface, being open source, can pretty much be redone by handset makers and carriers to suit their own needs. As I’ve stated before, there’s no consistent branding, no single look and feel that speaks Android that has been adopted in all or most smartphones using it.
This week on our other show, The Paracast: Co-host Christopher O’Brien presents producer/writer Tracy Torme, who will cover his work on science fiction television, along with Hollywood and the media’s role in shaping public perception of UFOs.
Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt. We’re taking orders direct from our new Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: “Separating Signal From Noise.” We’ve also added a selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show.
Whenever I see another TV spot touting a Microsoft product, I have to wonder whether their ad agencies have a clue about how to create positive customer awareness. I mean, those ads are pathetic.
Take the one I saw recently, where some coworkers are pondering a solution to some sort of business problem, and one says it’s time to go to the cloud. Yes, my friends, the magical, mystical cloud, which is the common label for storing and working on things online. That may include movies and TV shows, but also increasingly represents a source for collaborative work in the business world.
By putting one’s data on a central server farm, there’s the advantage of having it available wherever you are, regardless of which device you might use to get online, be it a Mac, PC or mobile gadget of some sort. That, of course, is a good thing; that is, until or unless you’re not able to get Internet access, or a server failure makes your stuff inaccessible.
The problem with Microsoft, however, is that they make this “to the cloud” announcement something akin to a lame attempt to create a compelling message. But it reminds me of that famous 1960’s TV show, where Batman, the caped crusader, says to his cohort, Robin, “to the batmobile.”
The real question, though, is just what audience is Microsoft trying to reach with these sorry Windows-based promotions? If it’s the consumer, this sort of nerdy play-acting isn’t going to generate a whole lot of interest on the part of potential buyers of Windows PCs. If it’s the enterprise, they don’t care about TV ads; they are more interested in what they perceive is suitable for their computer networks, and the source of that information won’t come from the mass media.
Another silly ad is the one that touts Windows Phone 7 as something that will reduce the amount of time you spend diddling with a smartphone, and let you return to your life. All well and good, except that it’s not proven that you’d necessarily spend less time accessing your email, or the Internet, with a device outfitted with Microsoft’s new mobile OS. There’s no evidence of what magic they’d wrought to accomplish that miracle.
More to the point, however, it may well be that one reason to spend less time on a Windows Phone 7 device is that there are far fewer apps available for it. Since it’s not backwards compatible, you won’t be able to use whatever apps you acquired for older versions, so you have to start anew. If the few basic functions aren’t enough, you may find a tiny wasteland consisting of perhaps a few thousand choices.
So forget about choosing from tens of thousands of games, business utilities, or any of the varied and sundry offerings you’ll get on, for example, the iOS. Even the Android Market, with its vast selection of ringtones and fart apps, offers better.
This means you might spend less time with a Windows Phone 7 smartphone simply because there’s less to do. I suppose you can credit Microsoft with being smart enough to figure a way to tout less as more.
I suppose you can say, as many did with the failed Microsoft Zune, that Windows Phone 7 isn’t a bad place to be. Certainly the user environment is far more consistent than under the Android OS, so you can be assured of essentially the same look and feel from device to device, and from carrier to carrier. That’s an area where Google has failed utterly, but that was probably an issue way under their radar. Google is only interested in getting more eyeballs for their targeted ads, and if loads of people suffer from a less-than-stellar user experience with an Android smartphone, that doesn’t matter. So long as they use the proper ad-laden apps, such as Google search, it’s no big deal.
As for Microsoft, they still don’t get it. Aside from the use of tiles, rather than icons, which may largely be a distinction without a difference, there’s little to distinguish it from loads of competitors. It’s not as if Microsoft has somehow changed the game, as Apple did when the iPhone first arrived.
Indeed, adopting Windows Phone 7 means you won’t get such features that are a given on the iOS and Android OS, such as cut, copy and paste, and some form of multitasking. As usual with Microsoft, they build a product that’s second or third best, and hope you’ll be patient enough to allow them time to catch up. The only thing is that, as they add the features from last year and the year before, the competition will be moving on to the next great thing.
That being said, there’s no indication that Windows Phone 7 is an abject failure similar to the Kin. It may not be setting the consumer electronics world afire, but at least you can depend on a reasonably stable product that does support Microsoft’s key technologies. That may well be sufficient to attract customers who have used earlier Windows mobile devices, or otherwise have large financial commitments to the Microsoft Way.
Now when it comes to personal computers, the Windows market has one thing that Apple won’t offer, and that’s cheap gear. Based on surveys, however, more and more customers are willing to pay a little more for a Mac, knowing they’ll get greater value, superior longevity, and the best reliability in the industry.
Instead of keeping their heads in the clouds, Microsoft needs to look at today’s marketplace and a discouraging future where they are destined to become more and more irrelevant.
Even though the economy is still in toilet according to most expert opinions, more and more shoppers are lapping up flat panel TVs at a fever pitch. With HDTV models costing as little as $300 and $400, even those who have challenged budgets are finding ways to stretch themselves into a new TV set if the old one has finally expired.
Meantime, the consumer electronics makers are busy cutting prices to the bone, hoping to prosper on volume at the expense of price.
Our family TV, a Panasonic plasma, was acquired several years ago when we actually had the extra money to spend, courtesy of a big ad deal for the two radio shows. It was one of the early 1080p models, and is thus pretty much on a par with current technology. While the latest and greatest might use less power, offer somewhat superior brightness and panel longevity, that’s no incentive for us to upgrade. It’s not as if the set is going to fail tomorrow; it already had a power supply replacement shortly after the warranty expired, but Panasonic reluctantly agreed to foot most of the repair expense.
Clearly some of the deals these days are clearly too compelling to pass up. But then there’s the question of what TV to buy, and here LCD smokes plasma, at least in terms of total sales.
That’s unfortunate, because it means the inferior and sometimes more expensive product has emerged victorious.
Now when it comes to a cheap flat panel TV, smaller than 42 inches, LCD is the only game in town, and that might account, in large part, for its greater volume. However, when you consider larger TVs, plasma is far superior in most respects.
Consider that a plasma set offers superior blacks, sharper depiction of action scenes, and a nearly unlimited viewing angle. On the downside, power consumption is apt to be higher than LCD, although the difference in the latest energy-efficient models is sharply reduced. You might also encounter reflections in a well-lit room, same as an old fashioned CRT television. Earlier plasmas suffered from a dimming of the picture after a very few years, and a tendency to sustain a permanent burn-in of stationery pictures, which might be common in the backdrops on a cable news channel. These problems are mostly history, however.
LCD’s advantage, other than lower power consumption, is a brighter picture that, except for glossy panels, is far freer of reflections, and that might be a deciding factor in your home. Then again, a large screen TV is best watched under dim lighting, so the issue of reflections shouldn’t be a problem.
Certainly, newer technologies have also addressed some of the well-known LCD shortcomings in terms of action scenes and viewing angles. They don’t match plasma, but the differences may no longer be significant except for those with supremely critical eyes. Besides, if you tend to watch your TV in a family or bedroom setting straight on, rather than at an angle, and don’t count sports and action movies on the top of your programming list, it may not matter.
Now when it comes to newer technologies, such as 3D, those dreadful glasses are the deal breakers for me, not to mention the lack of movies and TV shows in that format. Besides, as you’ll learn on next week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, there are technologies under development that will some day let you lose the glasses. Maybe 3D will then truly come into its own.
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
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