Wednesday, September 28, 2011

All Good Things Come to an End (for now...)

After taking the summer off, I thought I would write one more post.

Today marks the introduction of the Amazon Kindle Fire. This iPad competitor stresses services over hardware. As such, they could charge $499 and do well. Instead they're charging $199.

This contrasts with HP, RIM and others who offered only hardware with NO services and STILL charged $499. They should have charged $199 for these 'hardware only' products. Now they can't even do that thanks to Amazon.

The next move is RIM's. Will they add services and become a premium tablet? Or will they just sell basic hardware and be happy as a commodity tablet? As of today, 'hardware only' tablets need to sell for much less than $499.

Bye for now - and enjoy tablet computing.  We are just getting started.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Post-Mouse Era

Apple has declared we are entering the Post-PC Era.  Previews shown at WWDC 2011 suggest we are actually entering the Post-Mouse Era.

Finger Gestures Rule! 

I am not talking about the gestures we were so proud of in high school.  Tablet and trackpad gestures are in our future.

RIM has made a good start with PlayBook margin gestures. The most common ones are familiar to PlayBook users.

Power on gestures are 1. side margin to margin and 2. vertical margin to margin:

Other common gestures are 1.  Show application menu  2. Show task picker  3. Switch to next task on left  4. Switch to next task on right  5. Show system menu  6. Show keyboard:

What else can RIM do?

First of all, gestures need to be customizable by a user. My preferences will likely be different than yours.  RIM needs to accommodate such preferences.

The power on gesture could be split to allow 1. ON = side margin to margin and 2. SLEEP = vertical margin to margin:

RIM can also address problems with the gestures that open the application menus or switch tasks:

What's problem?  Inexperienced users invoke these operations by mistake and get confused. I have seen many people inadvertently switch tasks when flipping through pictures or pages in an application.

A simple configurable preference provides a solution.  Use two part, out->in gestures to invoke these functions:

Now we have slightly different gestures in an application for paging and scrolling versus those used outside the application for task switching.  I have tested this new gesture with many users. They like it!

Other functions can leverage a left or right turn in the gesture.  For example, the following multipart gestures could be configured:

1. Open Camera  2. Open Browser  3. Close this task immediately 4. Open new file.

The specific functions don't matter.  RIM simply needs to use the margins more effectively to compete with the newly announced iOS 5 multitouch gestures.

Here are some special examples that could be used for things like: a secret login password gesture, initiate a system restart, verify a credit card PIN or do anything the user wants to make less than obvious.

What do you think?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Apple iCloud Postmortem

Apple announced their iCloud initiative a few minutes ago at their developer conference.

Here are some summaries:

CNET iCloud Summary

Engadget iCloud Summary

Gizmodo iCloud Summary

Apple Insider iCloud Summary

Hey!  I was pretty much correct with  my predictions a week ago:

My iCloud Predictions

I even got the death of MobileMe right :)

My Postmortem:  YAWN.

My Next Prediction:  Apple will do much better than it did with Mobile Me.  The differentiator  between cheap $200 tablets and premium $500 tablets will be the underlying services like those provided by Apple iCloud.

The Ramifications for RIM:  Want do you want to be?  One of the many $200 cut-rate, commodity tablets or one of the few $500 tablets that will dominate mobile computing for the next decade?

Up Next: Back to our regularly scheduled blog with some original suggestions for RIM on how to improve the PlayBook.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Apple iCloud

Anyone who has read my blog knows I have a certain dislike for the Apple iPad.  For me, it is more toy than technology.  And I think the Apple jihad against Adobe Flash is disdainful and bad for all of us in the long run.

Yet, I have respect for Apple in other areas. I use my MacBook Air more than any computer I have ever owned. After using Adobe media editing products for more than a decade, I switched to Final Cut Pro in 2007.  It is a tremendous video editing product.

Apple will announce its iCloud service next Monday. Leveraging its South Carolina Data Center (see satellite image below),  Apple is going to shake up the world again.

View Larger Map

Why should we care?

Apple is making another of their signature BIG bets on a technology that everyone else has just been talking about.

In the past, I have complained that you need another computer to synchronize and backup the iPad.  This tethering requirement never made much sense to me. Starting next week, the iPad will lose its umbilical cord.

Storing your digital life on the web is an obvious path for Apple. They will subsequently use the iCloud to leverage greater dependency on iOS devices

How will it work?

iCloud will be like Facebook for data. Or for those who have been around long enough: It will be the 21st century equivalent of AOL.

You want some music?  It's on the iCloud. But music is not the only part.  Want to rent a movie? iCloud. Want to start watching that video on an Apple TV and finish watching on your iPad? iCloud.  Update your software? iCloud. Want to share the pictures you are looking at in iPhoto? iCloud. Want to make a video call to Grandma? iCloud. Want to make a free phone (a.k.a. Skype) call to another part of the world?  iCloud will eventually be there to.

Apple is going to make the iPad the Control Window to everything you have on the iCloud. A computer will be completely optional.

(Aside: expect to see to see iTunes and Mobile Me branding fade with time. iCloud is the new brand)

Cloud Storage for Dummies

I never understood why Apple outlawed files and folders on the iPad.  Now it is clear.  iPad content will seamlessly move from iPad to iPad to iPhone to desktop using the iCloud.  Newbee users won't know that it is just a synchronized file system. Apple will call it 'magical' - and many users will buy it.

What About RIM and everyone else?

Amazon, Google, Microsoft and RIM need to get serious and provide some coordinated competition.  Each has strengths that beat Apple in particular areas. Individually, they lack the breadth of solutions to match Apple in the consumer oriented application space. They need to seriously consider a more unified response - or at least - a less proprietary approach.  Either way, they will need to back their bets with significant investment.  Will they do it? That is a good question.

The iPad will be less about hardware and more about the underlying services. Just like the iPod was never really about MP3. It was always the vehicle for weaning users onto iTunes and thereby locking them into iPod hardware. iPads will now wean us onto the iCloud. It's Déjà vu all over again


UPDATE: Based on question from forum

Hardware Paradox

Apple is primarily a hardware company. Yet iTunes is more important to them than hardware. 

Here's why I say that: To continue selling hardware, Apple needs barriers that stop others from offering alternative hardware that just costs less. iTunes is that barrier.  Mac Computer buyers are offered exclusive iWork and iLife applications.  Where do they by these apps today? iTunes!

Now Apple is doing the same with the iPad. You can buy cheaper hardware (Soon to be 200+ Android tablets available - many with attractive prices). You can buy better hardware (the PlayBook). But you cannot get Apple services any other way.

iPads are no longer just about hardware.
Competitors need to take note.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Apple Religion: Apple tells a few lies - That's OK


"We will have android support and an email client later this summer."

Press response: Punish!

Steve Jobs:

"No one will ever watch video on a phone."

"We are not working on a tablet."

"We are not interested in making phones."

"There is nothing wrong with the iPhone 4 antenna.  You are holding it wrong."


Press response: That's OK.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Apple Religion: Hear No Evil - See no Evil

Recent studies have equated Apple buyers to being members of a religion.  I am sorry to say: this cult appears to extend to journalists and writers. Here's another example...

You can't copy a @#$%^&* file on an iPad and no journalist seems to notice!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Apple Religion: No Thunderbolt Devices = Just Great!

Recent studies have equated Apple buyers to being members of a religion.  I am sorry to say: this cult appears to extend to journalists and writers. Here's another example...

RIM Playbook Apps: Unusable

Few PlayBook applications were available at launch. More will be available this summer. Journalists decreed PlayBook is unusable.  

No Apple Thunderbolt Devices:  That's Terrific

No Thunderbolt data devices were available at the launch of the latest MacBook and iMac computers. Some may be available someday. Journalists said: That's just fine! Give us more!  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Apple is a Religion

Recent studies have equated Apple buyers to being members of a religion.

I am sorry to say: this cult appears to extend to journalists and writers. For the rest of the week, I'll share some examples...


RIM Reality: Negative Press on Minor Issues

RIM recalls 1,000 PlayBook tablets due to buggy OS build
RIM has decided to recall about a thousand of its PlayBook tablets thanks to a buggy operating system, the company has confirmed.

In other words: A A problem with 1000 devices that was fixed before anyone bought them was negatively reported.

Apple Reality: We Forgive You

Apple AntennaGate
Apple is temporarily giving away free bumper cases to iPhone 4 owners to address phone reception problems. The defect was never fixed. Every GSM iPhone 4 still has the problem.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Whitespace: I want a computer for the 'Post PC Era'

I think Steve jobs is the only CEO on the planet without ADD. The iPad is a great device for doing one simple thing at a time. But I don't work that way! For me, the web is all about: What else is out there? 

Whitespace: A tablet computer - not a big phone

The iPad evolved from a phone. The iPad is virtually identical to an iPhone - just with fewer features.

RIM has the opportunity to be the dominant Computer in (as Steve Jobs calls it) the Post PC Era. Building on QNX is a real advantage that no one else can leverage.

In technical terms, QNX is a mature real-time operating system designed to run on embedded devices. It is fast, efficient, technically advanced and robust.


In contrast, Apple's iOS is a phone-oriented task swapper that is remarkably similar to the 1989 version of Windows 2.0.

Apple IOS

From the consumer point of view, QNX let's you do many things at once. It's the opposite of the iPad, where focus is limited to mainly one activity.

I like to watch a movie, browse the web and read a book in rapid succession. If you think that's a stretch, just watch a teenager use a computer and you'll get a glimpse of the future. Either way, I have little interest in doing just one thing.

With my PlayBook,  'human directed multitasking'  is easy. Videos automatically resume when the player comes into view; and pause when they seamlessly move to the background. I can build up a reading list of web links while listening to music and then switch to a book or two. Trying to do the same on a iPad is an exercise in frustration.

I don't want to go back to 1989 with my tablet. I want to move into the future. And so do my teenagers.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Whitespace: Privacy

General Motors used to say "no one buys based on safety".  Times change.  How's that workin' out for ya? Ask Sony about hackers.  Their PlayStation business took a big hit the last few weeks.

RIM and the PlayBook are well positioned with their BlackBerry Enterprise Server Virtual Private Network technology to lead us toward safer web access.

When Apple has this kind of lead, they invest heavily and further solidify their leadership position.  They have done this numerous times with LCD's, Flash memory and even Intel processors.

The next whitespace: Safe Open WiFi

Open wireless hotspots cannot be secured without using passwords that effectively remove the open part of the equation. Creating a Virtual Private Network (VPN) over an open WiFi link fixes the problem.  Data is safe; and the connection is seamless.

Here's the challenge for RIM:  Invest in a large scale VPN that leverages the BlackBerry Enterprise Server  for all RIM users. It won't be cheap but it will create the world's only safe solution for wireless.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Whitespace: Right-Click

Why can't I do a right click on a tablet?  Lack of right-click gestures is one of the main reasons I still use my MacBook Air more than a tablet.  Right-click is a truly wonderful function.  Beginners can ignore it when doing simple things.  Experts can do amazing feats when they need it.  Few functions have such wide appeal.

The iPad can't do a right-click for two reasons:

1. Right-clicks were less useful on the iPhone (and the iPad is just a big iPhone with the same interface).

2. Steve Jobs doesn't think we need a right click. Apple users waited almost two decades to be granted right-click privileges on a Mac computer.

A right-click could be an extension a press and hold gesture used with copy / paste today more options on the pop up menu (but honestly this method is a bit slow for people who want to invoke actions FAST!).  Or it could be a proper two finger gesture like on a Mac trackpad.  Either way, Apple wouldn't put one on a tablet as long as Steve Jobs is around.  It's the best Apple Whitespace ever!

 - - - - - - - -

Want more proof that Apple doesn't get right-click?

What does a two finger tap do on an Apple trackpad?  You guessed it:  Right click.   


Do the same gesture with the new Apple Magic Mouse. Carefully rest your left finger on the mouse. Now click with your right finger without lifting your left finger.

What do you get?  Wait for it...  Left Click!    

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Artists know how to use it.

           Entrepreneurs salivate over it.

                It's WHITESPACE             

Apple has done well with whitespace. They succeed by finding underserved markets and providing better solutions. They don't look at the competition and say: "How can we be like the market leader?"

I have been asked several times: "Why did you buy a PlayBook?  It's not like the iPad".  My answer is: "I want better. I want more than a phone".

RIM has found several whitespace opportunities with the Playbook  First is the 7" screen. Second is the true multitasking QNX operating system.  Third is... wait for it... Flash!

For the rest of this week I'll suggest other whitespace arenas where Apple is not and RIM can win.

Just remember, winning with whitespace requires two steps:

1. Finding it
2. Executing on it

Over the next year we'll see if RIM can win.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Apple is All About User Experience

Apple insists that user experience is paramount! No expense is spared ensuring only the finest materials and technologies are employed to ensure absolute perfection!

Consider the Apple USB Cable:


Apple iPod / iPhone / iPad Connector - Proprietary circa 2000 design that was out of date before it was released. Pins typically fail within six to twelve months. Easy to knock out of alignment; occasionally hard to get positive lock. Internal parts made of plastic to avoid excessive wear with connected device. Reminiscent of recent Fisher-Price designs.



Blackberry Micro-B USB Connector - Industry standard that just works. 

Enough said.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pimp my PlayBook - Round 2

(No post yesterday - I was waiting for this one to dry)

A while ago I fixed a problem with the BlackBerry Convertible Case.  Today, let's tackle most famous of all PlayBook hardware nags: The Power Button.

Many people think the button is too small. Those with big fingers like me, know the button is simply recessed a bit too far.

I am a geek - so complaining is not good enough.  I must have a fix.  So here it is...

Raised PlayBook Power Button

1. Go and get a tube of  GOOP Adhesive.  It doesn't really matter which type of GOOP.  I have found they all work about the same. In fact, I use a Canadian equivalent from LePage.

2. Find some Duct Tape.  Just about any tape will do.  Duct Tape just has an aura about it.


3. Create a frame around the Power Button with a few layers duct tape.

4. Carefully pour some GOOP adhesive into the duct tape frame. Let it set for about 5 minutes.

5.  Remove the tape and gently shape the partially cured adhesive into a rounded button.

                               (Actual modification at 4X magnification)

6. Wait 24 hours and you'll have a Perfect Power™ Button.

The new button is a joy to use - and it works even better with the Convertible Case.

                  (Modification is invisible at normal viewing distance)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

OS Update

The latest PlayBook OS update was released last week.  Browsing and stability is much improved.  Some new apps were also added.

But a nasty bug has crept in for a few users: The battery drains when the PlayBook goes to sleep.

Non-geeks had many theories including: This is the beginning of the end  in 2012.

The fix is actually pretty simple: Open the new Video Chat application and accept the license agreement.

Odd, but this simple operation really does fix Build battery problems.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mobile sites: Dirty Little Secret

I still encounter a few mobile web sites with neutered content that's supposed to make browsing easier on small form factor devices. They rarely work as advertised. My PlayBook sees fewer of these lame web sites all the time. But Tara's iPad seems to find more
  redirected mobile content than ever...

Rules for showing mobile versus normal content have always seemed arbitrary

...then I figured it out!...

  Mobile sites are built to hide the Flash content shown on regular pages. 

That's right: Size has little to do with it. 
To avoid conflicts with Flashless Apple browsers, sites are using a 'mobile defence'.

Now we know their dirty little secret.

Monday, May 9, 2011

What Kind of Apps are You Building?

Someone asked me: What kind of PlayBook apps are you building?

While that's a great question, I think a better one is: What type of problem are you trying to solve with a PlayBook?

I categorize apps into two broad categories:
  1. Device intensive
  2. Data
Use-cases for Device intensive apps are: camera (still and video), conferencing - and specialized activities like DVD ripping. This category of application represents perhaps 20% of all programs that we use.

The vast majority of applications present data. A good example is my weather site:  It shows real-time sensor data from measuring equipment on top of my house. It also shows government forecast data that changes every hour.

With this type of app: It is the data that's most valuable.
Remember:  timeliness matters.  

Good web sites often focus on data. More and more 'mobile apps' surround this content with an 'app wrapper' that adds little to no value. I find things like native 'weather apps' to be pretty much useless packaging. Going to a weather web site is almost always better.

Favorites in the browser are a great way to access 'data'.  No downloading.  Up-to-date.  No fuss.  

Take a look at the PlayBook Browser Favorites page. The live thumbnail images
look like native apps. And they are better if the solution is mainly about the data.


That big elephant in the room has half a million apps. Many should be delivered via web sites. But you can't charge $1.99 for a bookmark can you?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to get a PlayBook

Here are the Top 10 Reasons to get a PlayBook 
  1. Seamless software updates over WiFi.  Old style iPads require a cable and connection to a PC running iTunes.
  1. Perfect size for sneaking into the bathroom for a quick read.  You know you want to do it!  With an awkward iPad, everyone else will know it too.
  1. You can use your existing wireless data plan for free - including iPhone data plans.  In many parts of the world, iPads are expressly forbidden from sharing iPhone data plans.
  1. Has a good looking flip case + stand that actually works. The new magnetic iPad case looks like a circa 1960 bi-fold closet door that is hard to hold when using your iPad. Some say it makes a great fridge magnet.
  1. You can easily copy files to and from your PlayBook.  File copying is forbidden on an iPad.
  1. Get an optimized tablet User Interface written in this decade. The iPad has just a phone interface from 2006.
  1. Shoot great looking 1080p HD video.  The iPad looks like a phone in comparison.  Oops, that's unfair. The iPhone shoots better video than an iPad.
  1. Great for thumb typing! The PlayBook is easy to hold and type. Typing on the iPad is like tapping on a cookie sheet.
  1. Watch any video media format. The PlayBook supports them all. The iPad shows only specially produced H.264 videos from iTunes.

and finally... the number one reason to get a PlayBook...

  1. Flash !!!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Calendar, Contacts and E-mail

RIM chose to deliver version 1.0 of the PlayBook without  calendar, contacts and e-mail (a.k.a. PIM) applications.  They chose instead to deliver the world's best tablet Web browser and User Interface (UI) NOW so we could benefit from these leading edge solutions without having to wait.

I couldn't be happier. As a geek, I want to see rapid improvement and innovation in preference to so called 'fully-baked solutions' that often move forward at the speed of a glacier.

Here's what PlayBook PIM apps will look like later this summer.


RIM also pushed the third major update to the PlayBook earlier this week. That's 3 updates in two and a half weeks!  

I appreciate these frequent improvements. We are getting leading edge tablet software as soon as it becomes available. This is a major improvement over old fashioned tablets like the iPad that still have the same UI and design as my iPhone did two years ago. A tablet is NOT a phone. Giving us just a phone UI on a tablet is not good enough.

Geeks create the future.  Others wait for the future to be in the past.  PlayBook owners will ride a wave of innovation over the next few months and get the best tablet OS before most anyone else.  iPad laggards will have to wait for the Apple Developer Conference in 2013.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Portability Versus Size

Portability versus size is an important consideration. My notebook computer is neither small, or portable.  You really need a cart to carry it long distances.

Tara's iPad is smaller but still not very portable. 
Carrying a tablet is very much like a hauling a notebook computer. 

Finally the PlayBook.  It is ultimately portable yet it is as wide an old fashioned iPad.   
It also has more usable screen area thanks to margin gestures.  

And contrary to what I initially thought, the PlayBook is good in meetings
You can get work done but in an unobtrusive and subtle way.  
A notebook computer or old style iPad screams:
"antisocial" and "I am not paying attention". 
The PlayBook is much less in everyone's face. 
It whispers: "I am still listening to you...

Yep. The PlayBook is Practically Portable™.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

iPhone Hotspot Tip

My PlayBook works with my iPhone WiFi hotspot. Connection is seamless and easy. Of course that often means my hotspot is also accessible to others who might want to connect to my phone without my knowledge.

Protect your hotspot with a strong password, using a mixture of upper/lower case characters, numbers and symbols. You type this password infrequently, so a long password is not a big inconvenience.

Here's my tip: Use a misleading network name in place of the default which is something like 'Craig's iPhone'.

I routinely use hotspot names like unavailable, offline, not available,  disconnected and disabled. It is amazing how well this kind of name works. Even when I tell someone exactly what to do, they get confused and have trouble connecting to unavailable or offline.

BTW - Taking snapshots of the PlayBook screen (like above) is easy:
Just press the < volume down and volume up > buttons simultaneously to have a snapshot placed in your PlayBook camera folder.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The PlayBook is the Biggest Tablet You Can Buy

Most of us know the PlayBook is only 7 inches wide. Yet, I find that its effective screen size is larger than any other tablet available - including the physically larger Xoom and iPad.  How is that?

The PlayBook has User Interface gestures that originate in the margins. These gestures open slide-out context menus with BIG buttons that I can easily hit with my FAT fingers!

Here are some examples of how the PlayBook maximizes screen real estate with "margin gestures":

On other tablets, you need to click tiny links and menus at the edges of the screen.
My fingers never had a chance. 

RIM wins this round, hands down  - I mean - fingers down.

Friday, April 29, 2011

One year from now

Let's think about the tablet market one year from now. You might not know it, but we are going to be flooded with countless Android tablets very soon. They will be ubiquitous and cheap. Remember $200 netbooks? Soon there will be scores of $200 tablets. Remember when we used to go out and buy a Windows PC? Soon we will go out and buy an Android Tablet.

Apple will stake out the high ground when a $600 dollar tablet is suddenly considered expensive. So where does this leave RIM?

They can differentiate themselves by offering a better user experience than Apple - which they are already doing thanks to some true innovation with the PlayBook and QNX. RIM needs a mantra: "New updates often!" They can offer more choice by opening up the BlackBerry Store to RIM and Android apps.

And here's the big one: By virtue of its ubiquity, Android will be a target for hackers and malware. RIM can offer better protection against these threats by creating a secure QNX sandbox for Android apps.

"Safe Android" may become an oxymoron.

More amusing: Next year 200 tablets run Android (including one that runs QNX). One tablet runs iOS. 200 tablets support Flash. One refuses.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

They Buy 'em like TV's

When I was in the local Best Buy getting a case, I decided to watch how people use the tablets on display.  They had a row of tablets lined up, all with the same prominence and shelf space. First was the RIM PlayBook, then a Samsung Galaxy Tab, then a Motorola Xoom, and finally an ASUS Eee Slate.

One by one people would come by. They would glance at the 7" Playbook and mumble something like "too small". Then they would then pass by the 8" Galaxy Tab and say "too expensive". They would pause at the 10" Xoom and say "hmm maybe". Finally, they would embrace the 12" Eee Slate (which is the same size as a cookie sheet) and say with a big smile "this is nice!"

People were evaluating tablets like they were TVs!  

The more inches per dollar -> the better the value.  

I fear this tablet thing is going to take a while to shake out :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pimp my PlayBook


I bought a BlackBerry branded Convertible Case the other day. It's a folding cover that also doubles as an angled stand.

I was rather surprised to discover that the case does NOT work with the PlayBook Rapid Charging Stand.  The case prevents the charger's contacts from connecting to the PlayBook.

But I am a geek so poorly designed products don't last long around me. When in doubt, I modify.  For example, here's a video of how I dealt with an iMac SSD last winter:


Fixing my PlayBook case and charging stand was easy:
  1. Cut the bottom of the case so it does not interfere with the charging stand. Don't worry. The trimmed part of the case is hidden under the genuine imitation leather flap.
  2. Trim the plastic lip on the charging stand with a Dremel tool and add a more substantial piece of wood trim to provide better clearance and stability.
  3. Case and stand now work great together.

The modified case holds my PB as firmly as before. The stand looks cool too.

I suspect the case designers didn't know about the stand and vice-versa. Don't be surprised if version 2 looks more like mine :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

iPhone Compatibility

One of the most frequent questions I hear is: "Don't you need a BlackBerry phone for your PlayBook?"

The answer is 'no'. The PlayBook works great with the iPhone 4. My iPhone's WiFi hotspot feature lets me connect to the Internet from my PlayBook virtually anytime I wish. No fumbling. No inconvenience. No buttons to push. The PlayBook finds my phone automatically when other WiFi connections are unavailable. In fact, this automatic connection feature is too good. My PlayBook likes to connect to my phone even when it is asleep!

I have a good data plan, so sharing the phone connection is the way to go. Now my MacBooks, PlayBook and iPhone itself all use the same data plan for the base $30 / month rate.

Now that I think about it, having an iPhone is preferable. It's the geek equivalent of not putting all your technology eggs in one basket.  I can use Apple's app eco-system on my phone while I wait for RIM to deliver more native and Android tablet apps.  It's good way to handle early adopter impatience.

(Unfortunately RIM rarely mentions compatibility with iPhones or other smart phones. Too bad. Only we geeks will know how good it can be)

Monday, April 25, 2011

PlayBook for Business

After a week of travel and several presentation, my PlayBook has performed admirably.  It connected to WiFi hot spots (including my iPhone) like a champ.  The web browser has rendered every site I pointed it at. I also watched at least a half dozen legally ripped TV shows (Mad Men season 2). As a portable media device, the PB is a contender.

Now I am back in the office. I struggle to find a compelling reason to use a tablet of any kind at my desk where I have 2 full size monitors and a real keyboard,  For meetings, I have MacBook Air that also trumps most tablet functions.  I get the feeling that many people who are carrying tablets to meetings today will revert to notebook computers in the near future.

Proof? This posting took 50% longer to type versus my notebook.  That's faster than my phone but really too slow for work.  This creates an interesting paradox.  The business market for tablets is wide open.  But how big is it?  Meanwhile, the consumer market is bigger than any of us expected.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mobile Web Sites

I note that many web sites serve up special 'mobile pages' to the PlayBook browser. Someone needs to tell their authors that this type of specialized rendering is totally unnecessary. The PlayBook shows web content properly. Geeks understand that there's no need to present the neutered content required for many other tablets.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

PlayBook Stability

Much has been written about PlayBook stability, mainly from journalists with pre-release versions. My experience has been much better after 5 days of heavy use. I had a crash on day one - and nothing since then.  Well not quite.  Yesterday, when I let relatives visit their favorite sites, the browser would repeatedly quit.  Then I tried and got the same results on sites that worked well days before.  I had not booted my PB for 3 days.  One restart yesterday fixed the problem.  We geeks don't generally believe in the boogey man and know this is a good sign of memory leaks. We also know it will be fixed in short order.  It's fair to say the PB is about as stable as my first generation iPhone.

Late last night a 250+ MB OS update was pushed to my PlayBook.  It will undoubtedly have the first of many memory and performance fixes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Who Knew?

I have been making videos of family events for over 20 years.  When I visit my parents, I dutifully compile DVD's to present my latest productions.  I show DVD's on a big screen television yet none of my relatives pay attention for more than 30 seconds.

This trip, I simply copied a a few .mp4 and .jpg files to my PlayBook before leaving.  I was not expecting much. To my surprise my audience was riveted to the PlayBook screen. It didn't matter if I showed new content, or old videos from YouTube, people wanted to see everything. There is something about the intimacy of holding a 7" screen that grabbed everyone's interest.

My parents both turn 80 this year. They have never owned a computer and really don't care much about technology. They were impressed by the PlayBook - and never wanted to put it down.  I may have to buy a second one.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Choose Your Use Cases Wisely

Think carefully about how you will use actually tablet and you may be happier in a few weeks when the novelty wears off.

I think of mobile devices as a progression from small to large.  Each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

My phone is always with me.  I use it for running common apps like contacts , email, emergency web browsing - and oh yeah - phone calls. I have multiple notebooks for doing real work.  With 100's of gigabytes of storage, large 16:9 screen and a keyboard, notebooks can do almost everything.   

A tablet fits the narrow use case in between: I want more than my phone but don't have access to a notebook. I will never use a tablet when a notebook is available and I have work to do.  I do not need the tablet to duplicate many of the apps from either my phone or notebook  (FWIW: I typed this post on my MacBook and not my PlayBook)

The most important tablet apps are: web browser, web browser, and web browser. The PlayBook has the best tablet browser by a very wide margin (it is based on Webkit and has the best Flash tablet implementation). The PlayBook's browser will be hard to beat for quite some time. 

OK.  I do occasionally use music and video players. To play music, I just copy AAC and MP3 files to the music folder on my PlayBook. The PB music player automatically indexes and organizes everything for me.  Playing music requires no additional steps. Tara's iPad can't even copy files. And to add insult to injury, she has to sync all content via iTunes. 

Video content works the same way. I copy WMV, MPEG2 and H.264 files to my PlayBook and they just play.  Tara's iPad can only play a limited number of H.264 files.  And once again, she must use iTunes. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Aspect Ratio Matters

The iPad screen is an Apple anomaly.  It has a 4:3 aspect ratio - like 35 mm film or 50 year old tube televisions. iPods, iPhones, iMacs and MacBooks all have wide screens that are roughly a 16:9 aspect ratio.  Why is the iPad the exception?

The only explanation: Apple intended the iPad to be used vertically (in portrait mode).  They had a vision that we would all be reading magazines and multi-column newspapers on the iPad.  Oops.  It is not turning out that way.

The PlayBook has a modern 16:9 aspect ratio that lets me use larger fonts and see almost as much web content on a screen less than half the size. How is that? Using the PlayBook in landscape mode lets me see wider web pages than an iPad in portrait mode.

Movies look great on the PlayBook. Content fills the entire screen. The same movie on an iPad has black borders top and bottom.  Not the pristine user experience that Apple claims.

4:3 aspect ratios are dead. I am glad RIM didn't try to raise them from the grave.

BONUS: Here's a spy shot of the iPad 3 showing how Apple has 'solved' the aspect ratio problem

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Quick Review of the RIM PlayBook

So here is my initial review of the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook.  Concise.  No bull.  Geek centric. No apologies.  And not 100% serious either. 

The Name

The name PlayBook wins hands down.  How quickly have we forgotten the 'uncomfortable' name iPad from just a year ago?

Winner: Doesn't really count but it is funny.

The Box

Apple boxes are works of art.  Shiny and minimalist.  The PlayBox is also nice and it uses recycled cardboard which is better than shiny these days.  RIM includes a neoprene slip case that is pretty good.

Winner: This doesn't really count either but I will give a half point to RIM for including the slip cover.

Video Playback

The PlayBook can play WMV (Windows Media), FLV (Flash) and other common video formats.  The iPad plays only a small subset of specially encoded H.264 videos.

Winner: RIM 

Web Browsing

I spend 90% of my time using websites. The iPad can't show Flash content - or worse - it is forced to show limited HTML content in place of Flash.  I generally don't like Flash.  But I hate being shut out of websites even more.

Winner: RIM


Size is a personal preference  Some people like the iPad's size.  Some don't.  I have several notebook computers.  The iPad is too close in size to my other more powerful and versatile  notebook devices.  I really don't need another 11" display.  I like the portable size of the PlayBook.  I also appreciate the modern 'widescreen' 16:9 aspect ratio.  Apple chose to use a more pedestrian, 1960's style 4:3 aspect ratio.

Winner: Tie but I personally prefer the PlayBook


I think the Apple iPhone is innovative and groundbreaking.  I've had 3 of them - and have found all of them useful.  But to me, an iPad is just a bigger iPhone.  I find it odd that the iPad has the same controls and functions as an iPhone.  The iPad screen is so much bigger.  I think that calls for a different user interface in many situations.  So far, Apple has chosen to simply bring forward iPhone functions and declare them as 'new'.  The Playbook has added new gestures and functions specifically targeted at tablet users.  Apple gets the innovation mindshare but RIM is actually delivering.

Winner: RIM


Both lack SSD and USB ports.  You can't even copy a file on an iPad.

Winner:  Tie - they both lose. Tablets need much more work in this area!


When I'm not using a web browser, I use email 5 percent of the time and 'apps'  the other 5 percent of the time.  On my iPhone I have bought about 100 apps.  I use two or three regularly.  For something that is used so infrequently, I am surprised so much importance is associated with apps.  Also Apple censors apps, eliminating many competitive choices.  iPad users cannot use universal video apps like VLC or even other popular web browsers  like FireFox or Chrome (I will have much more to say about this in upcoming posts).

Winner: There are more iPad apps so Apple wins here.  I expect this to change when more open Android tablets apps arrive on the Playbook.  

Operating System

Apple says they added multitasking to the iPad this year.  In fact they added a simple task manager that is reminiscent of the 1992 version of Microsoft  Windows.  That's acceptable when iOS is  used on phones.  But on a tablet computer, iOS it is fairly lame.  Just look at the running apps  page on your iPad after a day or so to see what I mean.  The PlayBook has a new OS that does some very elegant multitasking. The task switcher has a nice 'cover flow'  view to show running applications.  Managing apps is simple and understandable.

Winner:  RIM (not even close)


The PlayBook does not include an email application.  The justification:  RIM could not get a secure business email solution running in time.  We geeks know that they could have - and should have - supplied a POP3/IMAP email client for personal e-mail.  No excuse RIM - you blew it.

Winner: Apple.

3G Wireless

The PlayBook has WiFI only.  An iPad can use 3G wireless as long as you pay for a separate data plan.  On the surface, the iPad would seem to win.  But I am a geek!  Anytime I am using the PlayBook outside my home I have my phone with me. I only need WiFi to connect to my phone's mobile hotspot so I can share its 3G data plan. Here's the big irony: With some carriers Apple prevents you from tethering your iPad to your iPhone's hotspot unless you pay an extra fee. My PlayBook shares my iPhone's data plan via WiFi just fine.  I do not want separate data plans for every device I own.  Apple's 3G feature is not appealing to me at all.   

Winner:  I'll call it a tie but RIM wins for me because its WiFi works better than an iPad with my iPhone!


The PlayBook asked what WiFi network I wanted to connect to (I chose the WiFi hotspot on my iPhone!), signed me up for a BlackBerry ID, updated my tablet OS and let me start using the web browser immediately.  On an iPad, Apple insists that I connect a sync cable to a computer running iTunes to get started.  WTF?

Winner: RIM

Final Score

RIM: 5.5   Apple:2   Ties: 2


Geeks should get a PlayBook.  My mother should  wait.


This review was partially tongue-in-cheek.  I will make new posts over the next few days to better describe a good, modern tablet.  At first glance, The RIM PlayBook seems much closer to my ideal tablet than the iPad.  Come on back.  I promise you will be entertained :)