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Hybrid PC-Tablets – Revival or Desperate Move

Hybrid PC-Tablets – Revival or Desperate Move

Seems that Microsoft and PC manufacturers are trying to drive focus on “hybrid” PC-tablet products to combat the iPad. This article in the SMH talks about this trend based on products introduced at the recent CES show

Call these machines “hybrids”, “convertibles”, or maybe just call them “very weird”.

IMHO, one of Microsoft’s long term mistakes is trying to force-fit a one-size-fits-all approach to OS and devices. They want Windows to run every computer from a smart phone to a high end server. They, along with some of the PC manufacturers who are dependent on the Windows ecosystem, continue to focus on the techology that drives their world, rather than focus on the needs and wants of users (aka “customers”).

This is probably why Acer and Asus are dropping the netbook, and why Samsung USA is not planning to bring Windows RT products to market. Yet each of these companies is pushing forward with Andriod based tablets, and why Acer and Asus are also continuing with Windows 8 based tablets. It will be interesting to see if Acer and Asus follow Samsung away from Windows RT.

Personally, my iPad is my main device away from the office. Only occasionally do I use my MacBook Air, and generally only when needed for specific needs – particularly Keynote presentations that have embedded multimedia (the iOS version of Keynote doesn’t yet support these requirements).

Back in the office, I use my “truck” (an iMac) to do most of my heavy processing, particularly images, videos, building presentations, accounts and heavy duty writing. But for a heck of a lot of people the iPad or other tablet will handle most, if not all, of their requirements.

In the words of Steve Jobs

After all, if you need a truck, you can always borrow one from a friend.

I wouldn’t consider a hybrid PC-tablet. It will likely be the “worst of both worlds” making compromises between power, portability and usability. I think the movements by Microsoft and PC manufacturers to push the hybrid PC-tablet is a sign of desperation to keep their existing view of the tech world, and not to consider the actual needs of users.

Samsung US Not Going to Market With Windows RT Tablets ⟶

Samsung US Not Going to Market With Windows RT Tablets ⟶

According to CNET, the US head of Samsung’s PC & tablet business has indicated that Samsung has dropped plans to bring to market (at least in the US) a Windows RT based tablet.

Abary noted Samsung reached its decision about he device, dubbed the Ativ Tab, for two main reasons. First, feedback from its retail partners indicated demand for such products is only modest. Second, Samsung determined it would take a lot of investment to inform consumers about the benefits of Windows RT

Jim Dalrymple put it best:

Ouch

New iPad in March Predictions

New iPad in March Predictions

Predictions by the sometimes-spot-on, often-way-off rumour site Macotakara suggest that a new, thinner, lighter 5th generation iPad will be released in March.
I’ll make an early prediction on this one: “no way”. I give it a 20% chance of happening.

Simply, Apple loves releasing new versions of its flagship products about once per year. In the past 2 years they’ve carefully “reset” the cycle for both iPhone and iPad to coincide with the Christmas buying season.

I’d say we can predict that iPhone and iPad, along with iPod, will continue with a September/October launch cycle.

Google Maps for iOS Review: Good but sent me to the wrong place…

Google Maps for iOS Review: Good but sent me to the wrong place…

As I stated when iOS 6 was first released, map data has to work properly because of its intrinsic relationship with, well, all aspects of life.
A lot of people bemoaned Apple having dropped Google maps, because Google has been developed over many years, whereas Apple’s maps were a version 1 product. Google has also been much praised about the accuracy of its mapping data, as a result of, among other things, the fact the Google sends people out to check the mapping data.

I expect Apple will continue to improve their mapping data, and find the UI of their app to be good. But like most, we need the data to be accurate. Even Victoria Police in Australia has made specific warnings about trusting Apple Maps in navigating to the town of Mildura due to inaccurate map data.

When Google Maps was released for iOS, I was keen to try out the app to see if the app would give me the best of both worlds in terms of accurate data and a simple UI.

So I downloaded the app, and yesterday tried it out to navigate from Parramatta in Sydney’s west to a major shopping centre called Castle Towers. Castle Towers is a major centre that has been open since 1982, and is even home to one of the 7 Apple Stores in Sydney.

Google Maps’ UI was great, and it took me seconds to work out how to plan a route, and start the turn-by-turn navigation function. I really like the turn-by-turn experience, with clear information on the next turn, and (where appropriate) information about immediately following turns. In short, I like it, and can see this app replacing TomTom as my major navigation tool.

The app got me close to the shopping centre, but not to it. In fact, it told me I had arrived when I was in a leafy surburban street about 2 blocks from the centre. Not knowing the centre, I didn’t realise it was two blocks behind me, so I drove further down the street. A check of Google Street View in the Google Maps app showed me that there was no shopping centre there! (see photo)

So while nowhere as serious as the Mildura incident, the hallowed Google Maps failed me on its first usage, and it failed to find a major complex that is far from a recent addition.

After leaving Castle Towers, I set a course to visit Tamworth in regional NSW, a major town about 5–6 hours from Sydney. The app worked brilliantly, and tracked time and distance extremely well. In fact, it seems to estimate time a bit better than Apple Maps.

Plotting a trip home from Tamworth, Google Maps tells me it will be 5 hours 42 minutes, whilst Apple Maps predicts 5 hours 14 minutes. I bet that even in perfect traffic, 5:42 will be a best case scenario.

Google Maps will probably be my go-to app for turn-by-turn navigation, based on user experience, turn-by-turn functionality and overall better map data. I like the app, but will keep using the Apple Maps app as well to see how it improves.

Writing on the iPad

Writing on the iPad

During this month, iPads of March, one of the tasks that I have found brilliantly straightforward has been writing on the iPad.

20120319-135640.jpgI do quite a bit of writing: for this blog, and other personal and business websites, document and reports. I am also in the process of writing a book (or 2). Back on the Mac, I typically use the following writing tools:
– Pages (from the Apple iWork suite);
Scrivener;
– Google Docs;
Mars Edit;
iA Writer;
– TextEdit
Squarespace‘s custom CMS; and,
WordPress‘ custom CMS.

Moving to the iPad has been a fun journey. For reports and other documents, these tend to be done end to end in Pages. I am moving away from Google Docs, which is poorly supported on iOS anyway. I am frustrated by the lack of a Mac version of Pages that supports iCloud, but since I can print and distribute documents easily from the iPad, this isn’t as big a hurdle as I thought it might be.

One notable direction for me in recent times has been the adoption of John Gruber’s Markdown approach. This is an approach for writers to be able to focus on writing, and then be able format in an easy manner, then publish to the web or use apps that translate the formating into their own requirements. For web, thats HTML, while for other apps it varies.

Markdown allows a non-distracting environment to focus on writing, then worry about publishing later. Traditional tools like MS Word, and even Pages and Scrivener, kind of lead the writer to procrastinate with formatting, rather than focus on content. To paraphrase Kenny Rogers, there’ll be time enough for formatting, when the writing’s done!

There are a bunch of apps allowing writers to write on iOS in markdown, and then easily copy to their desktop later. For a while I’ve been using iA Writer on both Mac and iOS, and have been loving the simplicity. Its sports a great, non-distracting UI that really lets you focus on the task of writing. It supports iCloud to sync between iPad and Mac versions, and recently it has sported a brand new iPhone version. Seamless writing, everywhere.

So for my book writing, I would work on individual sections in iA Writer, then when done, copy over to Scrivener, which handles Markdown nicely.

For web publishing, this was a little harder, as I wanted to be able to publish from the iPad, but getting code translated from Markdown to HTML wasn’t straightforward, and I am not aware of a blog editor for iPad that accepts Markdown. I don’t think it’ll be long before someone comes out with something to suit.

Last Thursday, the good people at Metaclassy launched a new version of their Byword app for Mac, and also launched Byword for iOS (iPad and iPhone). This nice little app shares a lot of the best features of iA Writer (iCloud, simple UI, etc), and adds a couple of great features, including the ability to print from the iOS app (AirPrint or similar required), and importantly, the ability to export HTML from the file, or simply have the HTML output copied to the clipboard. This can easily be pasted into the Squarespace or WordPress iOS apps (which only supports HTML) for publishing. I can also copy and paste the markdown text from the Mac version of the app straight into Scrivener.

I am using Byword deeply now as my main writing tool on the iPad. To post this blog, I will simply copy and paste the HTML into the WordPress app, add this screen shot image, add category/tag info and publish. For book style writing, I work on the files in Byword, and then copy and paste completed sections into Scrivener back on the Mac.

I am loving Byword – it gives me just the right mix of simplicity and power. Its just about perfect in my work so far.

Its an exciting time in using the iPad as a primary tool. Not only is there a new version on the market, but there are a host of new apps that make mobile productivity even better. For writing, the iPad has truly come of age as a production tool, and is far than a simple consumption device!