Stay hungry, stay foolish

Is Apple innovative?

David Hopkins on the Google+ made an interesting point

Am I missing the innovation everyone holds Apple in such high regard for? All I am seeing is reaction to what is happening elsewhere but no real drive or innovation. The latest updates are in reaction to Dropbox, user keyboards, messaging, widgets/homescreen, etc.

Apple have always been like that, even under Steve Jobs.

What they do best is take ideas from other people and make them really work well for users.

Steve Jobs famously said in 1996:

Picasso had a saying — ‘good artists copy; great artists steal’ — and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.


The Dynabook was first revealed in 1973, the HP TC1100 was a fantastic tablet (let down by a poor OS implementation), so when Apple released the iPad in 2010, this wasn’t innovation, this was reinvention of an existing form factor, and what they did was make it work and work well.

There were a few music download services prior to iTunes, but it was iTunes that made it mainstream.

There were many different mp3 players, from companies such as Creative, but it was the iPod which turned the mp3 player from a geeky product to a mainstream need.

The iPhone was, though innovative, most of the touchscreen phones before were clunky and didn’t work very well. What Apple did was take the touch interface to the next level, reinvention again, really.

Even Steve Jobs said reinvent when he announced the iPhone.

An iPod, a phone, an internet mobile communicator… these are NOT three separate devices! And we are calling it iPhone! Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone. And here it is.

Even Steve Jobs said reinvent when he announced the iPhone.

The 11″ MacBook Air is a fantastic piece of kit, but before then we had the Asus EeePC mini-notebooks, and Sony for years were making innovative VAIO laptops.

So following the WWDC keynote where we saw Apple release their version of Dropbox, the iCloud Drive (which replaces iCloud, which replaced MobileMe, which replaced the iDisk!). The previous versions were all a bit “rubbish” in comparison to Dropbox, so it will be interesting to see how iCloud Drive works against Dropbox.

Store any type of file in iCloud and access it on any device. With iCloud Drive, you can organize your files in the cloud the way you like, create as many folders as you want, and add tags to find files faster.

This is a great example of how Apple continues to copy what others do, but also demonstrates that don’t always get it right.

Another example from WWDC is the possibility of using third party keyboards.

iOS 8 brings the biggest changes to the keyboard since the very first iPhone. Now you can tap to choose the perfect suggestion for your next word. And for the first time, third-party keyboards will be available. Typing as you know it might soon be a thing of the past.

Third party keyboards have been a feature of Android phones for a fair while now, this is another example that shows Apple rarely creates something totally new, but takes on board ideas from elsewhere.

In my opinion what makes Apple a success is they focus on the customer experience, learning from what others do and then improve it.

Lastly a quote from Steve

Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.

Tech Stuff – Top Ten Posts of 2011

Here are the top ten blog posts (by views) for 2011.

10. Joikuspot s60 limitation

This blog post which described a major limitation with Jokuspot on the Nokia N95 was the principle reason I bought a MiFi.

9. No joy with Sony PSP and JoikuSpot Premium

This was quite an old post, from nearly three years ago, when my primary method for mobile internet was using Joikuspot on a Nokia N95. Since then I have used a MiFi and now in the main use the portable wireless hotspot on a Google Nexus One.

8. Insufficient Bandwidth

This post described how a problem with my FTTC was causing me to have issues with iPlayer streams. I think in the end it was more of an issue with BBC iPlayer than an issue with my internet connection.

7. New Sony Tablets, the Tablet S

In this blog post I was looking forward to the new Sony Tablet. Having now seen the Tablet for real I am slightly disappointed. It didn’t feel like a Sony product and seemed overpriced for what it was.

6. Instagram on the Desktop

My sixth most popular post looked at a couple of Mac apps that allowed you to view Instagram images on your desktop. I really like Instagram, but sometimes feel disadvantaged when I want to see a feed of Instagram images on my Mac.

5. ITV Player and 4OD on the PS3

An update to the PS3 provided access to the watch again services from ITV and Channel 4.

4. iPhone Portable Wifi Hotspot

Back in January Apple announced a new feature for the iPhone, that allowed you to turn it into a portable wifi hotspot, something I had been doing for a while using my Froyo Google Nexus One.

3. I don’t like BT FON

My third most popular post was a rant about BT FON, well actually it wasn’t a rant about BT FON itself, it was rant that BT routers configured for BT FON also broadcast a BT Openzone SSID which wasn’t a real BT Openzone and so as a result my iPhone (which has free access to BT Openzone) couldn’t use it.

2. BT Openzone-H

This post was a follow on to my BT FON rant, it was apparent that BT were aware of the problem I discussed and are in the process of changing the settings on the BT Homehubs so that instead of broadcasting the BT Openzone SSID they have renamed it to BT Openzone-H. I should say that though I posted this in July, here nearly six months later my neighbour’s BT HomeHub is still broadcasting BT Openzone and not the new Openzone-H.

1. Live BBC TV on the iPad

My most popular post was not really a post more of an addendum to another post reviewing the BBC iPlayer app for the iPad.

The addendum mentioned that the main advantage of the app over the web interface was that you could access live TV through the app.

Touching the Tablet

Managed to get a hands on with the new Sony Tablet S. In my recent blog post on the new Sony Tablet I said:

I do quite like the look of the Sony Tablet S, I do like Sony stuff and if I was at this time choosing a tablet, I would be giving serious consideration to this new Sony Tablet. The price is similar (from £399) and that probably is now what will hold this tablet back, if it had been released at the same time as the original iPad it would have been a serious contender.

I couldn’t really give the Tablet S a proper hands on, as there was no real apps on there, no content (apart from an optimised demo) and no internet access. Why can’t retailers selling tablets take a leaf out of Apple’s book and provide internet access for their tablets so that prospective customers can actually try out the tablets properly? Oh I know because they don’t want people to use them for internet stuff…. Of course if they did, then they might in the end and try and buy one!

Back to the Tablet S, the touchscreen was quite responsive and I did quite like the interface. I was less sure though about the form factor. Whereas most tablets rely on a case to slant the screen if you are using the tablet on a desk or table, the Sony Tablet S has a slant built in. It felt as a result quite thick and clunky in the hand, suspect it might be better placed on a desk or table. I didn’t feel in my hands that this was a quality product, certainly not what I anticipated from Sony.

At the end of the day I won’t be spending £399 on a tablet that in my mind isn’t an iPad. I know that sounds like an Apple fanboy statement, but as the HP TouchPad shows, people aren’t willing to choose alternative tablets which are the same price as the iPad, but are willing to try something different if the price is right. I am sure given the choice most people will choose the iPad, not because it is better, but merely because people perceive it to be better.

I am expecting Sony to reduce the price of their new Tablets in less than a year, that isn’t unprecedented, they did it with their innovative UX1XN and other devices, so I may be tempted then.

New Sony Tablets, the Tablet P

On one of my other blogs I recently wrote about a fondness for gadgets from Sony. Well it would appear that Sony are wanting to enter the Tablet market (again, anyone remember the Clié?)

Sony have announced the Tablet P and the Tablet S. I wrote about the Tablet P in a previous blog post.

Much of what I wrote in that blog post also applies to the Tablet P. However whereas the Tablet P is in some ways is a traditional Android tablet, the Tablet P is a completely different and in many ways very innovative Tablet design.

It has two screens in clamshell design. These are small 5.5” screens, bigger than the 4.3” screen of the PSP and there are two of them. The clamshell design means that one screen can be used for the display and the other for input. This could mean a keyboard filling the bottom screen, or a PSP style gaming interface.

Much of what I wrote about the Tablet S applies to the Tablet P, especially in terms of apps, games, books, music and video. It has DLNA capability, can play a wide range of video and audio, there are games, books and all the apps from the Android marketplace.

Like the Tablet S it runs Honeycomb, the optimised version of Android for Tablets. There is only one model available and it comes with 3G as well as wifi. It does come with limited storage with only 4GB built in, but unlike the iPad does have an SD memory card slot. The camera is only VGA, so okay for video calls and Skype, but not that good for taking photos or video.

Though I really like this concept, the thing that will stop me buying it, is the price. I don’t really see this as an iPad competitor, though I am sure Sony see it as that, I see it much more as an alternative to the iPod touch. The 8GB iPod touch is only £193, the Sony Tablet P is £499 which is in my opinion very expensive for a tablet device. It’s a clever design and with its back end support in terms of content, it can compete with the iPad or the iPod touch in that area, but £499 is a very uncompetitive price even for a device with an innovative design. I can’t see this selling, and I am sure then Sony will be forced to reduce the price.

Great looking Android device with access to lots of great apps and content, but let down by an expensive price!

New Sony Tablets, the Tablet S

On one of my other blogs I recently wrote about a fondness for gadgets from Sony.

Well it would appear that Sony are wanting to enter the Tablet market (again, anyone remember the Clié?)

Sony have announced the Tablet P and the Tablet S.

The Tablet S in some ways is a traditional Android tablet with a 9.4” wide touchscreen. It runs Honeycomb 3.2, the newer version of Android designed specifically with tablets in mind. It has a camera and a memory card slot.

Whereas most tablets rely on a case to slant the screen if you are using the tablet on a desk or table, the Sony Tablet S has a slant built in. However unlike the iPad you can’t place it in a more vertical position, but you can get a cradle that will allow you to place it in a vertical position.

One of the criticisms laid against the HP TouchPad was its lack of responsiveness, the advertising behind the Sony S says that it has an “amazingly responsive touch panel and a more intuitive user interface” of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating and it will be interesting to see if the interface and responsiveness is as good (if not better) than the iPad.

In a similar vein to Apple’s AirPlay, the tablet comes with built-in DLNA media apps that can stream content to “media entertainment devices” which means things like Sony Bravia TVs and the PS3.

Unlike the iPad which has limited native playback, the Sony Tablet S can play a lot of media formats.

In terms of audio it can play AAC, mp3, WAV, WMA, WMA Pro, FLAC, MIDI, Ogg Vorbis. For video it can play H.263, H.264/AVC, MPEG-4, WMV. It can also display the following image formats JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, WBMP. This means that the Tablet S can play not only many Apple friendly formats, it can also play Windows friendly formats too. Of course it wouldn’t be able to play iTunes protected content, so if you have already made an investment in iTunes movies and TV shows then you probably won’t like the fact that it won’t play on the Tablet S. It also won’t natively play DivX files, so like the iPad you will need to rely on a third party app to do this.

I am sure one of the reasons behind the success of the iPad is the back end infrastructure which is iTunes. Not only is there the App Store, but you also can buy video and audio from iTunes Store. Sony may be able to compete on a more level playing field with Apple, as well as the Android Market Place, Sony (in some countries and hopefully will include the UK) will be able to let users “rent or purchase thousands of new movies and popular TV shows from Video Unlimited.” Music Unlimited sounds more like a subscription service allowing you access to seven million music tracks. Both are renamed versions of Qriocity.

Though I much prefer the Kindle app (partly as I have a Kindle too) there is a built in e-reader app, and as Sony has had an e-book store for a while for its e-readers devices, you can access this store direct from the Tablet S.

I am sure part of the success of the iPad (and more the iPod touch) has been casual gaming, a quick fun gaming experience. Of course Sony the company behind the PSP have made gaming part of their tablet and you can access PlayStation games through the tablet. This makes this Android tablet different to all the other tablets, you of course have access to all the other games available in the Android marketplace.

With access to apps, games, books, music and video, this means that consumers can make a real choice about what tablet they want to buy, a much more level playing field. Though I don’t think Sony will ever be able to match the iPad though, even if their Tablet is better in some areas and can match the iPad in others.

There are three versions of the Tablet S, all with wifi and one with 3G, however that 3G version only comes with 16GB of memory. Now with the iPad I found that quite limiting however with the Tablet S there is a memory card slot, so at least you can expand the storage.

I think one of the decided factors for me would be battery life, I am still impressed with the battery life of the iPad. The Tablet S advertises it’s battery life at 8 hours and I wonder if this is a real 8 hours or a don’t do anything with the brightness turned down 8 hour battery life.

I do quite like the look of the Sony Tablet S, I do like Sony stuff and if I was at this time choosing a tablet, I would be giving serious consideration to this new Sony Tablet. The price is similar (from £399) and that probably is now what will hold this tablet back, if it had been released at the same time as the original iPad it would have been a serious contender. However releasing it now, I am sure given the choice most people will choose the iPad, not because it is better, but merely because people perceive it to be better.

Staples, really no idea!

It has been sometime since I went to a mobile phone store, but I do remember that all the phones on display were fakes, plastic copies to give you an idea of how it looked and size, but had no functionality whatsoever and were very lightweight so bore no resemblance to how heavy the actual phones were.

How different it is at an Apple store. If you have been to an Apple store you will know that all the kit that is laid out is the real kit. It also all works too. If you want to make a phone call on the display iPhone, you can! Well you could the last time I tried… All the iPads have real apps on them that work, okay some are “lite” versions, but they do function as well as the real apps. I also like the fact that they have photographs in the photo albums, music, films and TV shows. You can really get a feel for how the iPad will work and how it would fit into your lifestyle and your needs. The same can be said for the Macs, which again are populated with Apps and content in a similar vein.

Another key feature of the Apple store is that all the devices can connect to the internet, so if you want to check how the web works on the device you can.

So what has that go to do with Staples as it says in the title of the blog post?

Well Staples could learn a lot from Apple about how best to present the kit they sell they have on display.

I was in there the other day and they had a really nice range of tablets on display, most were Android, but there was also the HP TouchPad.

Most had power, but not all.

None had anything on them except the default install, so no apps to try, no content to view or look at.

Though all had wifi, none could be used to access the internet as none of them were connected to the internet!

Really what was the point of having them on display, when the average consumer is going to have no idea about how they work and how they could fit into their lifestyle.

In a recent blog post of mine I said:

1.21 million Android tablets have been sold, and in the same time period 28.73 million iPads have been sold by Apple.

In that post I put the focus on the price and went on to say:

…with the iPad, though its price is more than the price of similar Android tablets, people buy the iPad because of factors other than price.

Well if the buying experience is anything to go by and I had to make a choice based purely on that, it’s a no brainer you would go for the iPad.

Apple have made a reputation in the retail business by providing a good retail experience. I am sure if Staples created a buying experience that matched the one you find in the Apple store I am pretty sure that the sales of Tablets in there would increase. By how much, probably double or even treble. It’s not that difficult, get the tablets to sell themselves.

I am sure it’s not entirely the fault of Staples, the suppliers of the tablets probably don’t provide anything either except perhaps a “demo reel”.

So have you bought a tablet from Staples or other retailer? What was your experience like?

Back to the Future…

Check out this quote.

Checking out your favorite movie during a road trip. Downloading and listening to the latest hot tunes at the coffee shop. Surfing the Web at the beach while your friends surf the waves. More than ever before, people around the world are demanding simpler, more convenient ways to access and enjoy their favorite digital content while on the go.

Sounds like the iPad doesn’t it?

So was this quote about the iPad?


It was from March 2006, five years ago, before the iPhone, before the iPod touch and four years before the iPad.

The quote above was from Intel about the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC). Back then they also said:

The Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) addresses these needs with small, stylish products you can carry with you everywhere you go. The UMPC devices offer ultra-portable sizes and long battery life, plus full PC and Internet capabilities, so you can access your favorite web pages anytime, virtually anywhere!

I remember back then really liking the concept, so much so that I ordered the Sony VAIO UX1XN, which was a great little UMPC computer that fulfilled the dream


So what happened to the UMPC?

Well it wasn’t killed by the iPad, no it was well dead by the time Apple released that. No it was the netbook and more specifically the Asus EeePC. What happened was that when companies like Sony started releasing products like the UX1XN, and Samsung their Q1 they charged a premium price. The UMPC was not a cheap product, it was much more a luxury. The price did drop quite quickly.

When the Sony VAIO UX1XN was released in the UK it commanded a £2,000 price tag. This was a lot of money for a device the size of a PDA (even if it could run Windows Vista).

In July 2007 I noticed my local Sony Centre had reduced the price to £1,600. Still expensive, but 20% off is quite a reduction. Such reductions usually imply that a new model is just around the corner.

On Amazon in August 2007 you could get the UX1XN for just £1,199 which considering the features of the UX1XN (the cameras, flash hdd) makes the UX1XN seem like a reasonable proposition.

In October 2007 it was just £999 at the Sony story and only £899 on Amazon.


Today used models can be have for less than £500 on Amazon, which is the same price as an iPad!

So when the Asus EeePC was launched with a £200 price tag, the concept of the netbook was launched and the UMPC effectively died. Companies did try and compete by reducing prices, but in the end it was impossible to compete on features and low prices were what people looked at.

Pricing wasn’t the only flaw, there were some others. One of the main drawbacks was battery life, iPad users who probably don’t even worry about it today would gasp at the 1½-2 hour battery life with those UMPC devices. These weren’t devices you would use all day, much more a casual device that always needed to be close to it’s charger.

I remember taking the UX1XN to a conference in Cardiff and back then said

It’s small enough to be unintrusive, unlike a laptop which can be a bit of a barrier, it has two cameras which enable me to send images to Flickr or take short video clips, and the keyboard is usable unlike the fiddly mobile phone type split keyboard of the Q1 Ultra. You can also use it without needing to put it on the table or on your lap which makes it ideal in the conference hall or break-out room environment.

I wouldn’t want to write a long blog entry (like this one) on it, but for entering URLs or posting tweets or jaiku postings, I think it will work just fine.

A big flaw for me was the operating system, Windows Vista was rather too bloated for a device which lacked the power and memory of standard desktops and laptops. This would eventually be solved with Windows 7, but by that time the UMPC was just a distant memory. Microsoft really needed to do what Apple and Google have done and create a completely new OS that works on new formats for devices, but that wasn’t going to happen at that time.

Another problem were the touch screens, whereas big Tablet PCs required a dedicated stylus, the UMPC often resorted to a simple touch screen. However with an OS that really didn’t work with touch and needed a stylus, too often you found that neither worked satisfactorily and the experience was not nice.

However many people like me, saw that these early products, though expensive and having some flaws, they really demonstrated the potential of small mobile computers, something we now see in Apple’s iPad and Android tablets. Looking back at the UMPC we can see what worked and what didn’t, as a result when something like the iPad comes along that solves many of the flaws, price, battery life and OS, but still has the the main features of the UMPS, such as solid state drives (SSD), cameras, touch screens. You start to realise the influence of these devices on companies such as Apple and Google.

Many people see the iPad as Apple’s response to the netbook, I don’t, I think Apple looked at the original UMPC concept from Intel and went, “we can do that, and we can do that better!”

How much?

Reading the Metro over lunch the other day I was surprised to see that O2 were offering the Samsung Galaxy Tab for £399 which was a lot less than the £599 launch price. The Galaxy Tab was only available from the 1st November and now less than four months later we see £200 off.

Well after posting the advert to Twitter, it would appear that £399 is quite expensive for the Tab now.

HMV have been selling in their stores (and not online) the Galaxy Tab for just £249. That is a considerable saving from the original list price. I was very tempted and nearly called into HMV on the way home. I stopped (well I didn’t actually stop, I kept driving) and thought about it and asked myself two questions.

Firstly, you have an iPad, why do you need another tablet device, especially one that only runs Android 2.2 Froyo and this is not optimised for tablets. Yes I know have an interest in these kinds of devices but though I do quite like the Tab when I played with it in a shop a month or so ago, I really did think when and where was I going to use this where I wouldn’t be using my iPad? In other words no use scenarios came to mind.

Secondly, why was the price dropped by so much in such a short time. I know some will say that the announcement of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the main reason.

The new Tab has a bigger iPad sized screen, is more powerful and will be running Android 3.0 Honeycomb which is optimised for tablet devices.

Yes that would certainly be one reason, but is it the right reason.

I have to wonder if the 7” form factor is not selling well? I have to ask is the Tab selling well, anyhow? Generally devices that don’t sell well do often end up with price cuts later. And it hasn’t been that much later has it, less than four months.

So though I was tempted, I don’t think I will be going to HMV and getting myself a Galaxy Tab. If I didn’t have an iPad, I might well have been more tempted and splashed out the cash. As it happens I am probably more likely to save up now and get that Tab 10.1 when it gets to the UK.

Google Chrome Tablet

Download Squad are claiming that there will be a Google Chrome Tablet coming on the 26th of November.

Yes, our source tells us that Google is building a Chrome OS tablet. It’s real, and it’s being built by HTC.

HTC of course made the Nexus One.

Sounds interesting, might get one.

Doubt it will be as good as the iPad, but you never know!