My post-PC world requires a PC

I’ve been using an iPad for a few weeks and it has replaced my laptop PC for a lot of things: web surfing, Twitter, reading RSS feeds, watching video.

For these, it’s better than anything else I’ve ever used: my workhorse desktop at work, my personal laptop, my “Internet tablet,” my Android phone. It’s comfortable to use and easier to read on. I don’t have to be plugged in, and it’s battery lasts longer than I need.

But there remains a big gulf between the world in which “post-PC devices” exist and a post-PC world. There are many simple things that I, irritatingly, still need a PC for.

I don’t mean specialized video editing and transcoding, multimedia production, or coding, either. I mean pretty light-weight tasks.

An example: Every week, I take a simple CSV file, open it in a spread sheet, delete some columns, modify the formating of the dates and save it as a plain text file which I e-mail to a weekly newspaper. Every week, I have to turn on my PC for this specific, straight forward task. (My phone can handle the e-mailing of the plain text file more easily than the iPad.)

And, of course, before you can use Apple’s new magical post-PC device, you have to plug it into a PC running iTunes.

Clearly the iPad is a success; with sales of 15 million devices and $9.2 billion, and the spawning of competing tablets (some of which have actually shipped to customers), there can be no argument that Apple has produced a huge hit with the iPad. But the limits Apple places on iOS itself prevent it from taking us all the way to a post-PC world.

Update: This gets at the marketing-buzz-word-iness of “post-PC”:

When it becomes possible for the most studliest of power users to do their work with an iPad or other tablet of their choice, it won’t be because you can no longer run Microsoft Office and Photoshop on your desktop. It’ll be because you can run them or full-featured equivalents on the tablet.

And when you can run them better on the tablet—no compromises—then “post-PC” won’t be a marketing buzzword anymore.

Notes on The Daily

I’ve been reading The Daily, the iPad-native magazine, for the last few weeks, at least flipping through it almost daily. I find it a nice take on tablet news reading, though not without frustrations or room for improvement—it is still version one after all.

Others have shared their thoughts on The Daily. Here are mine. (I also provided these to the staff there.)

  • I love the subtle little animations that appear on some pages. There isn’t too many or too few. Same with the subtle cues for where I can find more (turn for story, arrows down or right, for example).
  • There seems to be no way to turn off the startup sound. It plays even when the tablet is muted.
  • I’m often confused about what a “hot spot” might do or where it might take me. Sometimes more info comes in a pop-over. Other times, one whisks me off to a new place. This extends to links of all types. Is it going to kick me to a browser or iTunes or the App Store?
  • When tweeting a link, it would be helpful if the default text included The Daily‘s Twitter username, since the magazine’s username isn’t consistent across services, and the piece’s title. It would probably lead to more traffic from social, too, than the generic “check it out” text.
  • The app clearly pre-loads the next page of content, which is nice because I can move that way quickly or see the rest of a two-page photo without running into a seam. But I wish the app would leave the last page in its cache so I could just as quickly go back a page.
  • I’d love to see the carousel be more responsive. It remains laggy. The compressed JPGs look too low-resolution, too.
  • When The Daily crashes, it’s frustrating to have to go back to the beginning and find my place again. I wish it would save my place for when I returned. (This is particularly frustrating because of the carousel’s lagginess.)
  • The “viewed” indications on content are very helpful.
  • I haven’t found a way to access old issues. Even just being able to find old tables of contents would be a plus.
  • The stories seem to be the right length for the most part. I could do without the gossip stuff, but generally I feel like I can find and read the pieces I want. I would like to see more smart features, though — maybe one a day — on technology, food, world politics, etc. Something that wouldn’t be out of place in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Economist, etc. Just one would make the whole thing feel less fluffy and more substantial.
  • I wish the timers on the sudoku and the crossword didn’t start right away. I find it bizarrely stressful.
  • I would like to be able to select text for tweeting, quoting, etc. Pages with multiple stories are frustrating to share, too. I’m glad The Daily has made content available online for sharing purposes.
  • I do a lot of my long-form iPad reading through Instapaper. I wish The Daily had either a way to add pieces to Instapaper or an Instapaper/Readability-type reading view.
  • Even if I’ve downloaded the day’s issue, it take a while to get past the loading screen later.

Flash

There is yet another Android device saying the advertised Flash support won’t be available until “after launch.” This is embarrassing.

I like Android. I don’t hate Flash. But both Adobe and mobile hardware makers need to come to terms with the fact that Flash and mobile devices are not friends and may not be friends until it’s too late to make any difference. My Android phone supports Flash, but I have long since uninstalled it and haven’t really missed it. My iPad doesn’t support Flash and I haven’t really missed it. There are millions of devices using the Web that do not support Flash. These people are getting along just fine and are, in fact, buying more devices that do not and will not support Flash. I’m convinced that the only people who see Flash on a mobile device as a something desirable are those that have only used Flash on their PC.

So my totally unsolicited advice to mobile hardware makers: stop using Flash as a selling point against iOS devices. It’s been difficult to deliver on time, with smooth-playing video or playable games. Never mind whatever effect it has on battery life. If you can add it, great, but stop razzing Apple by promising something you can’t deliver. It’s pathetic.

Adobe and some hardware maker may, eventually, build a mobile device that can display Flash well, but by the time they do, the world of content providers (and, along with them, consumers) will have moved on.

iOS is here to save print (for a 30% cut)

The media world is on fire with news that Apple is finally allowing subscriptions in iOS apps! I want in, too, so here’s Apple’s press release and my blow-by-blow commentary.

CUPERTINO, California—February 15, 2011—Apple® today announced a new subscription service available to all publishers of content-based apps on the App Store℠, including magazines, newspapers, video, music, etc. This is the same innovative digital subscription billing service that Apple recently launched with News Corp.’s “The Daily” app.

Cupertino is where Apple is headquartered. Cupertino is headquartered in California. At least today, Feb. 15. (Note to journalism students: this is called a dateline, despite its emphasis on place.)

Subscriptions purchased from within the App Store will be sold using the same App Store billing system that has been used to buy billions of apps and In-App Purchases. Publishers set the price and length of subscription (weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, bi-yearly or yearly). Then with one-click, customers pick the length of subscription and are automatically charged based on their chosen length of commitment (weekly, monthly, etc.). Customers can review and manage all of their subscriptions from their personal account page, including canceling the automatic renewal of a subscription. Apple processes all payments, keeping the same 30 percent share that it does today for other In-App Purchases.

Apple continues to try branding generics (note the capital letters): App Store, In-App Purchases, Publishers, Customers. Don’t try to use these terms without Apple’s permission. One-click is, apparently, a compound adjective and different than a single click in Apple’s usage. Apple likely didn’t call it One Click because Amazon has patented the amazing innovation that is clicking a button to buy something. And I’m still unclear about who picks the length of the subscription: the publisher or the consumer.

“Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app. We believe that this innovative subscription service will provide publishers with a brand new opportunity to expand digital access to their content onto the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, delighting both new and existing subscribers.”

Nearly a third of a subscription price seems like a hefty amount to charge publishers for reselling subscriptions. Maybe junior-high students would be pleased with such a cut (in my day, we were given little colored cotton balls with feet and eyes glued on). But don’t worry, it’s just a philosophy so — oh it’s a take-it-or-leave it philosophy? Hmmm. Don’t forget, subscribing for things is innovative. Or maybe it’s just the charging for subscriptions? Or maybe that’s just a word Apple likes to attach to as many things it does as possible.

Publishers who use Apple’s subscription service in their app can also leverage other methods for acquiring digital subscribers outside of the app. For example, publishers can sell digital subscriptions on their web sites, or can choose to provide free access to existing subscribers. Since Apple is not involved in these transactions, there is no revenue sharing or exchange of customer information with Apple. Publishers must provide their own authentication process inside the app for subscribers that have signed up outside of the app. However, Apple does require that if a publisher chooses to sell a digital subscription separately outside of the app, that same subscription offer must be made available, at the same price or less, to customers who wish to subscribe from within the app. In addition, publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.

Leverage? Whatever. And “publishers may no longer provide links in their apps which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app”? Anyway, remember when the iPad going to save the old print philosophy model? LOL.

Protecting customer privacy is a key feature of all App Store transactions. Customers purchasing a subscription through the App Store will be given the option of providing the publisher with their name, email address and zip code when they subscribe. The use of such information will be governed by the publisher’s privacy policy rather than Apple’s. Publishers may seek additional information from App Store customers provided those customers are given a clear choice, and are informed that any additional information will be handled under the publisher’s privacy policy rather than Apple’s.

“Here,” says Apple, “have a bone. A small bone.”

The revolutionary App Store offers more than 350,000 apps to consumers in 90 countries, with more than 60,000 native iPad™ apps. Customers of the more than 160 million iOS devices around the world can choose from an incredible range of apps in 20 categories, including games, business, news, sports, health, reference and travel.

“Can we use ‘innovative App Store’?”
“No, I don’t think so. What’s the thesaurus got?
“How about ‘revolutionary App Store’?”

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork, and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple is reinventing the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and has recently introduced its magical iPad which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices.

“How about ‘digital music revolution’?”
“Too techno-y?”
“Look, dude, I’m just trying to go home.”

Press Contacts:

LOL. Like you’ll get a call back.

iPhone vs Android the way normals see it

Android’s conscientious users are the same people who choose to run Linux on their desktops, said Dan Benjamin in a discussion with John Gruber on the latest episode of The Talk Show.

Now, this is nothing more than total annecdotal evidence that doesn’t prove anything, but this I found it interesting: A discussion on a normal, non-techy friend’s Facebook wall asking “iPhone or Droid. Which way does this current BlackBerry girl go?” (I’ve removed names and some off-topic responses.)

  • DROID
  • I am currently a bb girl too, but when I’m not I’ll be a driod!
  • Droid.
  • iPhone, baby!
  • Love my iPhone, but my ATT service is terrible when I go to IA…so how’s Verizon in your neck of the woods?
  • Droid all the way.
  • Apple blocks Porn in their App store, that should be enough to tell you to stay away.
  • Ummm not that I’d download porn from a App Market, but it’s the point that they block it as if they think they known what people should and shouldn’t have access to.
  • Droid. It is what i upgraded too and I HEART IT! HEART IT!
  • Love my iphone.
  • Droid.
  • Good poll…I was pondering the same thing this week. I’ve been begging for an iphone, but now I think I will wait until this summer to make the switch. I heard there will be a new version of the iphone for Verizon out then and hopefully the bugs will be worked out of the system.
  • Work with people that have both. Even the ones with the iphone wish they had a Droid. I got one too. Love it! Beats the hell out of the blackberry I had.

So 12 answers, only of which are three pro-iPhone. It’s a glimps into the way normals think about Android (which they don’t think of as “Android” but, rather, as Verizon’s “Droid” branding of Android). Also interesting was the comment a non-geek made away from keyboard about being unable to figure out his s0n’s “iTouch,” the term for an iPod Touch that instantly labels the user as a non-geek, while at the same time having no trouble navigating and using his own “Droid” phone.

Why you should use Twitter’s built-in retweet feature

Yesterday, Shoq offered two reasons you shouldn’t use Twitter’s built-in or “native” retweet feature. Me, I much prefer the new-style native retweet function, and I tell you why later. But, first, I think Shoq and others are wrong for preferring the old-style retweet.

First, Shoq argues that if everyone uses native retweets, we’ll all miss important things.

Repetitive tweets tell you a story mattered to a lot of your followers. You might ignore the first few retweets you see, but when the 3rd, 4th or 5th come in, you’re going to notice, and may well be glad that you did.

This is true if all people are sharing is the original tweet and not engaging in any sort of conversation or adding their own thoughts. If a story is important, people will be adding their thoughts and sharing other links to important parts of the story.

Now, this might seem to reinforce Shoq’s second reason against using native retweets:

Users can’t add their own comments to the built-in retweets

This is true. You can’t add a comment to the original tweet with the new-style retweet. But with only 140 characters it’s hard to do that with the old-style retweet without completely mangling the original tweet anyway. If I want to reshare a link and add my own comment, rather than butchering the original poster’s words I prefer write my own post and credit with a “via @username” at the end.

Native retweets give my followers control over seeing what they’re retweeting since I can turn off native retweets on an per-user bases. I can’t do that with old-style retweets. Native retweets keep 15 instances of the same post out of my timeline. Native retweets shares original tweets without the need to mangle “to,” “your” and “for” into “2,” “yr” and “4.”

Twitter’s native retweets are certainly imperfect, but I find the hard-core stances against native retweeting hard to understand.

Verizon sees iPhone as not just another smartphone. Also the sun as bright.

Want more evidence that Verizon sees the iPhone as in a different class than Android? And the iPad as in a different class than any other tablet? Well, both are broken out from their class, smartphones and tablets. I’ll bet iPhones get different, agressive plan pricing than other smartphones. But that’s just a guess.

Android and iOS, better and right, saying and linking

I find John Gruber, when he’s got the snark dialed up to 11, annoying, grating, vial and egotistical. But that’s only when I disagree with him. I, of course, love it when we’re on the same side.

Gruber seems like a smart guy. His analysis and reporting is usually good. He’s willing to point out the iPhone’s and Apple’s flaws, even if he sees the world of technology from a decidedly pro-Apple perspective. That’s why, as someone who as never owned any Apple device, I continue to read his blog.

But I was surprised to see this in his latest piece, ‘First to Do It’ vs. ‘First to Do It Right’ about the way Apple doesn’t rush features to market:

Here’s the test. Take some normal people, where by “normal” I mean people who have never heard of TechCrunch or Daring Fireball. Give them brand new still-in-the-box iPhone 4’s and HTC Evos. Now ask them to make a video call to one another. With the iPhone 4, they’re going to be able to do it. The only thing that’s technically confusing about FaceTime is that it only works via Wi-Fi (I think many people have little understanding of the difference between Wi-Fi and 3G data — at least insofar as why a feature would work over one but not the other). Otherwise, FaceTime is as easy to use as making a regular voice call.

There are many things in Android that feel like technological demos. (Google Goggles, built into Android starting with 2.1, is a perfect example of this; taking a picture of what you want to search for or add to your contacts is a neat idea, but rarely works well in practice.) And it sounds like Gruber’s right: normal people will be able to figure out FaceTime much, much faster than HTC Evo’s “Android Time.”

But “as easy as making a regular voice call”?

Well, as easy as making a regular voice call to someone with the same model of phone connected to WiFi, sure.

Yes, I’m sure normals can probably figure out how to make a FaceTime call pretty quickly, and they may not need another account. But they still need to make sure the person they want to face call has an iPhone 4 and can connect to WiFi. (While Apple says it wants to make FaceTime an open standard, it hasn’t yet and there are no devices in wide use that can makes these calls, at least until next week when the iPhone 4 is shipped.) That’s not hard, but that’s not “as easy to use as a regular phone call.”

Apple’s implementation does sounds vastly superior to anything Android offers, but it gets sticky when we slap the word “right” in there, as if there is a final, correct way to do things. Is Apple’s implementation of this feature “right” or just “better”? Is Apple’s iOS 4 multitasking done “the right way”or just done a different way? Marco Arment, the lead developer at Tumblr and only developer of Instapaper, has some suggestions for improvements for iOS 4 multitasking. (For what it’s worth, my favorite Android app, the podcast app Listen, allows me to have it update and download new episodes in the background when it’s plugged in and on WiFi.)

How did he declare this the “right” implementation? I might find Gruber’s argument more convincing if he, or anyone else outside of Apple, had used FaceTime for more than the demo time alloted at WWDC, or if he could find something to link to backing up that assertion besides Apple’s own product page. It’s sort of like backing up an assertion that the iPad is actually magical by linking to Apple’s iPad page. I’ve come to expect better from Gruber.

Why buying Palm isn’t going to help HP

About a month ago, HP agreed to buy Palm, primarily for the company’s mobile operating system webOS, which is replacing Windows 7 on the company’s touted forthcoming tablet.  A sexy mobile OS is great and all, but my recent interactions suggest a deeper problem for HP that it has to fix.

At NLTV, every year I find myself with a chunk of money in my budget I need to  spend before the end of the fiscal year and, come July, the money vanishes. I get to buy cool, big-ticket items like new high-definition video cameras.

This year, I was in the market for a new, powerful workstation that could handle high-def video editing in Creative Suite 5: a $1,500 Nvida graphics card, high-end Intel i7 processor, lots of disk space and memory. I expected to spend $5,000 or $6,000. I figured I’d look at HPs, since I’ve been happy with my new HP  laptop as well as the system and service I got when I needed a workstation to run a live-video-switching operation on.

Since I need a pretty specific configuration, I figured I get in touch, let the sales folks know what I needed and let them tell me what was possible. So I went looking for a phone number.  I work for a local government, I headed to the government section of the website. It was a few clicks deep, but I found a number for the switch board. I called it and pushed a few buttons to move along. HP’s system transfered me — the phone starting ringing as it sent me elsewhere — and then it hung up.

Strike one.

I called back, went through the same phone tree and was transfered me again. This time it didn’t hang up. So there’s that. But I did get to enter into a conversation with a gentleman who tried to determine where I was calling from (they had an old address for the city) so he could direct me to my sales rep. This conversation took 12 minutes; my phone timed it.

Strike two.

And at the end, he said he couldn’t give me a direct number to my rep, but I could call a different switch board and ask for her by name. Then he transfered me. To her voice mail.

I left a message and got a call back a few hours later when I was out of the office.

She had gotten my message and, gosh, wasn’t the Iowa rep anymore. And, gosh, she could only quote on servers and networking. So I had to call a different person, whose information, including a long phone extension that I couldn’t keep up with, she rattled off quickly and just once.

That would be strike three.

And this is HP’s sales department. I have a hard time imagining service would be smoother.

So I won’t be buying an HP, and I imagine there will be others similarly dissuaded.