Wednesday, January 27, 2010

iPad. The rest of the story.

So iPad is now official, and available in waves over the next 60-90 days (WiFi only in 60, WiFi + 3G in 90).  It shows the maturity of some of Apple's strategies, the development of the iPhone OS, and brings us the first fruit from the PA Semi purchase (the CPU is a custom ARM design built by PA Semi's team and manufactured for Apple's exclusive use).  My initial thoughts:

- iPad is reasonably well-priced for what it is.  The lack of a cellular subsidy for it is also good - contract-free and unlocked is the way to go.  Plus there's no real reason why VoIP can't be used on it, remember, AT&T said a while back that VoIP was OK.  We'll see if it flies now in the App Store.

- The form factor is good, albeit a little awkward.  It should fit in a coat pocket if not in your jeans pocket.  Of course, since it's Apple it's the best-designed tablet device to date.

- It won't replace a Kindle.  Amazon must be relieved.  But it will pick up some readers, and help grow the e-book market.  And for some kinds of print media it will be the best way to consume it.  No wonder magazine and textbook publishers are excited.

- It has just enough work in it to have some professional use.  I'd take one away with me on vacation instead of a laptop or netbook - weekender use is a good market.  Of course, that means an extra $30 to Apple for the iWork apps...

- As a media device, it's promising.  Depends on the battery life in real-world usage.  If you can mix apps, surfing, and processor-intensive activities and still get 8-10 hours of continuous use, it's a big winner.  Should be possible - other than the screen it's got pretty much the same grade of components as an iPhone and plenty more room for battery inside.

- There's still a few holes in it.  No camera means no videoconferencing.  That would be a killer app for the iPad, and would be a no-brainer for the 2011 model.  64GB in the top model is very nice, but 128GB would be even better.  Or even 96GB.  Media libraries are big.  Mine's got 21GB of photos, 17GB of music, 21GB of movies, 5GB of TV, and 2.5GB of podcasts.  Plus 3GB of apps (I've got Navigon installed plus a big nav chart app).  That's almost 70GB right there, and my library isn't huge.  An online storage option that ties to MobileMe would be compelling as a way of handling this, but there wasn't any anything on that front today.  Look for more to come from Apple, maybe between now and launch.  Apple likes to put other things out there between announcement and launch to help increase hype.  Wouldn't surprise me if that happened here.

- Also, there's other things we know are coming soon from Apple.  They chose not to reveal them today.  Most of the code in iWork for the iPad will manifest itself in an iWork '10 that I'd expect soon.  And for sharing the files will likely go into production and leave beta.  Also due soon (I thought it would be today) - iPhone 4.0 software.  This is going to be announced before the iPhone 2010 model according to Apple's model.  Probably in March, right around the shipping of iPad.  The other thing I expected today but didn't see is the Intel i5-based MacBook Pro.  All the other vendors have them out now, I figured Apple would use that as a "build-the-excitement" announcement before the main event today but was mistaken.  Probably out in the next week or so since it didn't make it today.  Apple gets too much revenue from MacBook Pros to let it wait too long.

- In a nutshell, I think iPad will be a solid success, though not a game-changer yet.  They've built a tablet device that is probably the coolest one on the market today, but has plenty of room for improvement.  So once you're hooked, you'll buy a new one every year.  Exactly what they want.  Damn, those guys are good...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why all politics is local

Here in Massachusetts, a Senate race that wouldn be in most cases a blowout for the Democrat (as usual) has turned into a nail-biter.  The result on Tuesday is completely up for grabs.  Looking at the two candidates, the Democrat (Attorney General Martha Coakley) has a solid track record of accomplishment and the Rebublican (State Senator Scott Brown) has a history as pretty much a speedbump.  Why is it so close?  Here's a few of the reasons:

National issues: The shine is off Obama as reality has begun to set in.  Though the economy has improved, it's not enough to keep him at his peak popularity.  And the messy business of governing means that a lot of his election rhetoric hasn't come to pass.  This reflects poorly on Coakley by association, and the lack of Democratic unity (as usual) means that slow progress continues.

The Teabagger Factor: Scott Brown has wingnut appeal.  He's pretty far right (hell, by Massachusetts standards he's a jackboot-wearer), and so the nuts are out for him.

The Local Factor: Here in Massachusetts, we've almost always been a one-party state except we like to elect Republican governors to pretend we've got balance.  We all hate Beacon Hill but we like our legislator.  The reality is that frustration with the Legislature's been building steadily for years, and though Coakley's a constitutional officer instead of a legislator she's seen as part of the problem.  Brown, on the other hand, is an actual state Senator - but there aren't even enough Republicans in the state Senate to affect a veto (5 out of 40).  He doesn't really show up at all.

The Arrogance Factor: Coakley won easily in the primary election, with all assuming that meant an easy win in the final.  But the primary was really just a test of early organization, and Coakley had been in the race since before Kennedy died.  She's only taken it seriously for about the last week.

The Payback Factor: One of the big X-Factors in this race.  In the 1980s and 90s, a number of high-profile cases were tried here that Coakley was a factor in - most notably the Fells Acres daycare abuse case.  As DA, she worked hard even in the face of overwhelming evidence to try and keep the Fells Acres operators behind bars.  And she still sees the decision to push to keep the Amiraults behind bars as a correct one.  I'm one of a lot of people who take that one personally.