I’m still on the fence about buying the iPad, but it appears from early reports that enough customers are out there to guarantee that Apple will sell every one they can build, at least for the initial sales period. How well it fares on the long haul is anyone’s guess, and the figures about that potential have been all over the place. Nonetheless I’ll be watching those developments with interest. I’ll also have further comments later on in this newsletter.
Now on last week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we had two extended discussions about all things Apple. First onboard was commentator Jim Dalrymple, from The Loop, who explained why he was wrong about the potential failure of Macworld 2010. I suppose I was as well, as I didn’t expect to see it succeed so well the first year, and this augurs well for the future of this trade show even without Apple’s participation. In fact, that may have been that act that freed them from depending on the whims of a single company when setting up conference schedules or planning special events.
During my session with Jim, he also addressed the ongoing controversy over Apple’s App Store approval policies, and, of course, his hands-on encounter with the iPad. Yes, he’s going to buy one. Did you expect otherwise?
We also presented Paul Curthoys, Editor-in-Chief for Mac|Life, who joined us for a wide-ranging introductory discussion about his experiences with the original NeXT operating system, his hour-long iPad encounter, Apple’s App Store approval policies, the future of print magazines and his hopes and dreams for iPhone 4.0.
This week on our other show, The Paracast, guest co-host Paul Kimball presents a pair of highly experienced paranormal investigators from the UK-basedUnknown Phenomena Investigation Association. You’ll hear from Steve Mera, author of “Strange Happenings: Memoirs of a Paranormal Investigator,” and Dave Sadler, author of “Paranormal Reality: Ghosts, UFOs and Pussy Cats.”
Coming March 21: Guest co-host Christopher O’Brien presents an animal mutilation roundtable featuring Ted Oliphant, a former law enforcement officer, and Philip Hoyle, of the Animal Pathology Field Unit. This is reported to be the first such broadcast discussion involving three experts on the subject.
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.
Sometimes I feel that I’m becoming the tech equivalent of the Media Matters Web site. That’s the one where they analyze what they regard as erroneous reports from their opponents. Since they have a liberal orientation, that means anyone with a conservative bent; their biggest target is Fox News.
But I have no political agendas to advance. I’m just interested in reading responsible and informed commentary and news about my favorite subjects. Contrary opinions don’t bother me, so long as they are based on logic and reason and not knee-jerk reactions to something that hits the wrong emotional nerve.
Unfortunately, far too many news sources, particularly the online variety, seek hits and ad revenues above everything, and the facts be damned! Combine that with the terrible proliferation of lazy research, where it doesn’t seem they are even doing a basic Google search, and you understand why such much misinformation passes muster.
I’m also deeply concerned about the fact that some of the sources quoted in these stories have their own overt agendas that make anything they say suspect. Unfortunately, what they say is taken as near-gospel anyway.
Now let me make it quite clear that I agree that there may be a risk in buying the introductory version of any new product, particularly one as complicated as a personal computer — and make no mistake, the iPad is a personal computer first and foremost. There are apt to be early production defects, software bugs and certain key features are likely withheld by marketing people to entice you to upgrade to Version Two.
On the other hand, the piece in question loses its credibility pronto by quoting alleged industry analyst Rob Enderle near the top of the article, and treating him as a genuine expert on technology. He claims that owners of the first iPhone were not satisfied with the product, which is demonstrably not true, based on every single owner survey conducted. Worse, Enderle is nothing more than a paid shill for such companies as Dell and Microsoft. He’s no better than any run-of-the-mill PR flack. How can anyone take what he says seriously?
Later on in the article, the hack writer in question claims that all existing iPhone applications will look pixellated on the iPad because of its larger screen and resolution. That’s only half true. You have the option of opening one of those legacy apps in the standard view mode, where they’ll appear in a small window with their full resolution intact. Sure, if you’ve read any respected publication about the iPad’s features, you’d know that it can optionally double the screen size, and you would experience an expected falloff in picture quality. How much depends on the artwork contained in the app and other factors that don’t necessarily mean they’ll look bad.
Over the next few months, more and more of these apps will be optimized as “universal,” meaning they will display at the proper resolution on either the iPhone or the iPad. But half-truths are nothing new when a writer wishes to instill fear, uncertainty, and doubt and, of course, build profits from ad revenue.
Now before you jump on me about the money issues, I have no problems with a site being popular, nor do I oppose getting as much revenue as you can — legally of course. But I was trained early on as a mainstream broadcast journalist, and I like to think I have a respect for facts and research, and making sure you put your opinions and agendas out front for everyone to judge. That’s something that’s, alas, missing from a large portion of the journalistic community these days.
I’m also not opposed to people who don’t like Apple’s products, despite what some of you may think. There’s plenty of choice, and if you prefer Windows, a Motorola Droid or one of the new tablet computers not designed by Apple, that’s all well and good. This site is designed to be viewed by everyone, although we put up a warning notice for those of you still using Internet Explorer 6. But that’s strictly for your protection, since it’s buggy, lacks security and simply doesn’t render pages accurately. You can’t believe the hoops we have to jump to make this site look acceptable in that browser.
Going forward, I think the jury is really still out when it comes to the potential for the iPad to succeed. Yes, a few hundred thousand orders may be placed before April 3, and loads more may be sold that day assuming Apple has enough units in stock. You won’t know how well it’ll do, however, until the iPad has been on sale for a few months, and additional content offerings become available.
I expect, for example, that the iPhone 4.0 OS will bring a watershed of changes. Some are claiming there will be enhanced support for multitasking, taking advantage of the faster processors and extra memory in the recent iPhone releases and the iPad. If that’s true, however, how will the original iPhone be supported? Or will some features simply work on the newer models, but be omitted from the old due to resource limitations.
But I’ll return to the iPhone 4.0 wish list in another article. Right now, I fully expect the feeding frenzy about the iPad to continue unabated for months, regardless of how well it does.
Despite lots of skepticism in some quarters, it’s a sure thing that Blu-ray players are doing quite well. Prices began to dip below $100 during the past holiday season, and a quick glance in recent days at the Best Buy site reveals some models, labeled as factory refurbished, that are below $90. Regular models are weighing in at around $120 and up. You get closer to the $100 ideal at Wal-Mart and its Sam’s Club warehouse subsidiary.
Even though you can buy a decent upconverting DVD player for less than half that amount, the price difference is no longer as significant as it used to be, particularly now that the state of the economy appears to be improving. It’s also encouraging that second-tier or older movies are now available for $10 or less in many instances. The availability of affordable software is also a great incentive towards convincing people to upgrade to the high definition DVD format.
In building an affordable DVD technology that supports 1080p movies, interactive features and other goodies, however, the industry appears to have forgotten one or two things from the past. Remember when you’d stop a regular DVD before it finished, go off about your business for a while, and resume the movie where you left off simply by pressing Play?
Go ahead and try that with a Blu-ray disc and tell me how many of them actually support the auto-resume feature. Indeed, I saw a movie a few weeks ago where there was a button on the introductory screen that allowed me to do just that. Most require that you scan through the entire movie to return to the spot where you left off.
Now this is not necessarily a problem with a specific make or model. I’ve tried a medium-priced Panasonic and a high-end LG with the very same symptoms displayed. I’m inclined to think it’s part and parcel of the way the movie is authored rather than to any limitation in the players.
A quick Google search on the subject shows a wide variety of complaints about this lost feature, so it’s clearly not confined to the players I’ve used. What most concerns me, though, is why those concerns aren’t getting more traction.
I know that when I first evaluated that Panasonic, a DMP-BD30, a couple of years ago, I contacted Panasonic support about the missing auto-resume feature, since it was mentioned in the user manual. The support rep basically confirmed what I discovered independently, that it’s up to the movie companies to include support for that feature in their DVDs. If it’s not there, the player can’t somehow add it.
Now perhaps most people just don’t care. I mean, Blu-ray has extraordinary picture quality, and it’s great that they are cheap enough to allow for widespread adoption, at least until high definition online downloads and streaming really gain traction. Since I don’t think the movie companies really want to inconvenience their paid customers, maybe they’ll listen and make sure there’s some way to resume playback in their new releases.
On the horizon is a 3D version of Blu-ray, to accompany all those 3D flat panel TVs that are just now hitting the market. Maybe those new DVDs and players will offer this missing feature. Or is it too late to care?
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
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