Friday, April 30, 2010

The iPad as Prius?

Even as I write this Apple stores around the U.S. are prepping for the release of the new 3G iPad. This release follows closely on the heels of the initial iPad launch back on April 3rd. The new 3G model will go one better than the stock iPad which needs to be connected to a wireless network in order to access the web. The 3G model on the other hand can access the web through the same network as a cellphone (AT&T only at this point).

Since it's release, less than a month ago, the iPad has been a resounding success. Such a success in fact that several of it's main competitors seem set to chuck in their current tablet projects and head back to the drawing board. Industry rumors are currently circulating that HP is getting ready to kill it's Windows 7 based tablet computer which was slated to be released later this year. Also circulating are rumors that Microsoft is getting ready to scrap "Courier," it's own, in-house tablet computer project.

Sudden bursts of acceleration aside, it's easy to draw parallals (that's what Comps As Humans does after all) between the iPad the Toyota Prius. So sweepingly successful was the Prius in it's domination of the hybrid market that it forced Honda to junk it's own hybrid car, the Insight. Honda released the first Insight in 1999 and continued to manufacture them until it became overwhelmingly clear that the Prius was quite simply blowing them out of the water.

Just as Microsoft and HP are alleged to be doing with their tablet projects, Honda scrapped the Insight in 2006. After spending the last three years or so going back to the drawing board, Honda re-released the Insight this year. The new model Insight appears to have been redesigned to look as much like the Prius as possible without risking a lawsuit. This is not a criticism, so much as a smug, slightly cheeky observation. Honda actually did the smart thing by realizing their share of the market was getting eaten up by Toyota and shuffling the deck accordingly. One can only think that with all of Toyota's problems the Insight has the potential be the automotive success story of the first part of this decade.

So instantaneous has the success of the iPad been that it has apparently given it's biggest competitors a severe case of the opening night jitters. If the rumors are true it would appear that both HP and Microsoft are doing the tech world equivalent of what Honda did. Only time will tell whether they both wind up releasing what are essentially knock-offs of the iPad, however as of now it looks as you can chalk up another victory for the good people of Apple.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Corporate Responsibility for Computers

Last week I wrote a blog on a computer glitch in McAfee's anti-virus software that triggered widespread system shutdown around the globe. In that blog I compared the McAfee incident to the problems Toyota has faced recently. Well apparently Computers As Humans was not the only member of the tech community to make this comparison. And apparently there are good reasons for this.

The bug itself occurred last Wednesday morning. Late Thursday night, McAfee issued a statement of apology explaining that less than .005 percent of it's users were effected. And McAfee has of course since remedied the glitch, which was causing the application to falsely indentify harmless software as viral threats and shut down whole systems. However aside from that, and stating that they were "extremely sorry," McAfee's response has largely been one of sidestepping and trivializing the problem. Sound familiar?

Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, for one isn't digging it. As Enderle sees it, McAfee have responded in a very similar matter to Toyota, by refusing to take immediate responsibility for the problem. As Enderle himself put it, "This seems very negligent. When you have an act of negligence, you have to get out in front of it. You have to show everybody that you are going to take care of it as quickly as you can." Indeed.

Now as I said in last weeks blog, a computer shutting itself down hardly seems as serious as a sudden, uncontrollable burst of acceleration. However when you consider that hospitals and police cruisers were affected by the glitch, you begin to grasp the potential seriousness of the problem. As Enderle went on to say,"Windows XP is used in ticketing systems and in security systems, so when the failures hit it can be incredibly widespread."

McAfee have behaved arguably better than Toyota. Of course that may be simply because rectifying their problem was much easier. Toyota still seems to be unsure, or unwilling to admit the nature of their product's malfunctioning.

So it would seem that, sadly, corporate irresponsibility is just as healthy in the tech world as it is in the automotive world.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. . . It Will Be Online

Israel ended it's ban on the new iPad tablet computers today. For the past two weeks Israeli customs officials had been confiscating the devices, fearing that they might disrupt other forms of wireless communication. However today the Israeli Ministry of Communication released as statement saying that, "Following the completion of intensive technical scrutiny, Israeli Minister of Communication, Moshe Kakhlon, approved the import of the iPad to Israel."

Interestingly, this is not the first time Israel has banned something associated with Apple. However the last time something like this happened, that Apple was Apple Records and the product that was prohibited from entering the country was the Beatles. The Beatles were banned from Israel in 1965 due to fears that the group would disrupt, not wireless communications, but the morals of the nations youth. Incidentally, Israel officially apologized to the two surviving Beatles in 2008.

To me there is an interesting parallal in this, which actually has nothing to do with Israel. What I'm talking about is that the personal computer has been one of the most revolutionary aspects of our lives over the last ten to fifteen years. Much in the way that rock musicians reshaped culture in the '60s and '70s, the computer has done the same thing since the mid-1990s.

I wouldn't go as far as to say that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are the Lennon and McCartney of our time, but at the same time you could say they have had as great, or greater an influence on this era as the Beatles did on theirs. Indeed, Jobs took his initial cue from the Beatles, conspicuously naming Apple Computer after Apple Records.

And indeed computers have helped to influence society in many of the same ways rock and roll aspired to: Increasing communication, venting revolutionary ideas, bringing people closer together and just opening the World as a whole up a little more. Well, a lot more let's be honest.

Of course the coolest by-product of this computers as rock & roll parallal is that by proxy, quasi-nerdy tech bloggers now become the cutting edge rock journalists of the digital age. Anyone buying that? No? Didn't think so.

Still the great thing about the Beatles is how much of their message still rings true today. Because now, just as then, all you need is love. . .

. . . And a good wireless connection.

Friday, April 23, 2010

When Worlds Collide

I'm hoping this development merely heralds a collision of the tech and the automotive worlds. In truth I'm afraid it may be an indicator of dozens, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of collisions to come. What am I talking about?

USBFever released the newest iPad accessory this week. What is it? Why it's a windshield mount for the iPad. Putting your best intentions to merely use it as a navigational tool aside, is this really a good idea? How can I explain this. . .

Have you ever gone to a bar or restaurant with a TV set playing a movie and found yourself, or the people your with (ahem, my wife, who shall remain nameless) watching the TV instead of paying attention to the people actually in the room? You haven't? Liar! Of course you have. We all do it. In the same way that rats are attracted to shiney objects, our eyes are automatically drawn to flashy images that flicker across screens. We've been conditioned since we were young.

There's a reason it's illegal to talk on the phone or text while driving in California. Just that little bit of distraction is enough to not notice that the car in front of you's brake lights, or that pedestrian who has just stepped off the curb. Now imagine the distraction of being able to surf the web or watch re-runs of "The Mighty Boosh."

I like gadgets. I like gadget accessories. I'm a tech writer after all. But Computers As Humans is going to take an official stand on this one and call it a bad idea. And I'm not alone. David Dahlquist from Macworld urged his readers to "please, please not use the iPad while driving." I stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow tech journalist on this one.

However that said, in the spirit of democracy I will say the windshield mount is $29 and available from the USBFever website. Now, please, please don't go out and buy it!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

No Recalls for Software

By now practically everyone is familiar with the issues Toyota are facing. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of their cars may be susceptible to sudden, dangerous bursts of uncontrollable acceleration. This has of course, lead to massive recalls, many, seemingly flailing attempts to rectify the problems, and widespread public distrust of the brand.

Today in the tech world something occurred that closely parallels the problems faced by Toyota. Today, there was a software glitch.

MacAfee is one of the largest and most trusted names in anti-virus and security software applications. This morning at 9 am Eastern time, the company posted a software update which inadvertently caused thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of computers to go all wonky, freeze up and fall into an infinite cycle of rebooting themselves.

Now I know what you're thinking. It's just a software glitch, it's not like having no brakes on your Priuss and hurling down the highway at 90 miles an hour. Think software glitches can't be dangerous? Guess again.

In the past it's been stated that money, or perhaps even love, makes the world go around. Well today, it's computers baby and when tens of thousands of them suddenly freeze up, problems can arise. Software glitches are not uncommon. Usually they merely disrupt productivity for a couple hours. They may be costly, but they are usually not dangerous. However sometimes they are.

Today's glitch caused no less than a third of the hospitals in Rhode Island to postpone all elective surgeries and to stop treating non-trauma patients in emergency rooms. This means that everyone outside of gun shot, car crash and blunt trauma patients was left to fend for themselves. It may be somewhat comforting to know that patients who suffered crashes in their Toyotas due to sudden bursts of acceleration would still have been able to receive treatment. Meanwhile in Kentucky state police were instructed to turn off the computers in their patrol cars until the problem could be fixed.

Thankfully when it comes to software glitches, the fix is a lot easier than having to deny it's an electrical problem and then saw an inch or two off the gas pedal for good measure. McAfee was able to determine that the software update caused the anti-virus programs employed by many of it's corporate customers to identify a harmless file as a virus. A replacement file has already been posted and is available to download. No recall necessary, and as of this time, no injuries or lawsuits.

If only Toyota had it so easy. . .

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Clockwork Oranges and Ticking Bombs

Anyone who knows me, or reads this blog regularly, knows that I am a soccer fan. Some would say, a rapid soccer fan. Others might lengthen the word and call me a fanatic. While there is some merit to these opinions, there are other sporting events that occasionally pop-up on my radar.

Like when the Giants come to town to play the Dodgers for instance. Having grown up in the Bay Area and lived in San Francisco, I have a soft spot for the Giants. So I must admit it was a real pleasure watching them clean the Dodgers clock yesterday. But I'm digressing. . . Or rather, I'm gloating you could say

Watching a baseball game live for the first time in a couple years got me to thinking about some of the fundamental differences between baseball and soccer. And being a tech blogger, of course, it's my job to see how such sports compare to things in the tech world.

Let's start with soccer, the sport which I watch and play so passionately. Soccer involves twenty-two men in nearly constant motion. With the exception of the goal keepers, almost no one stands around, but instead they are continually repositioning themselves into attacking and defensive formations based on the movements of the ball and the other players on the pitch. This near constant rotation of players is something like the workings of a clock and indeed the great Dutch World Cup teams of the '70s were called the "Clockwork Oranje."

In a tech sense, soccer could perhaps be likened to a fast processor: expansive, flowing, constantly processing and shifting information and capable of producing a sudden, instant result. Just as the eleven men on both teams are constantly running and moving to score or prevent goals, the processors in one's computer are constantly shifting and processing information to produce the applications that appear on your screen.

Baseball, on the other hand, like most computers, seems to have a kind of sleep mode. Innings change, coaches come out to the mound to chat, fans meander off to buy beer and hot dogs. The whole thing can be rather like a '90s era Internet connection: you click on a link and wander off to do something else while it loads.

But of course when it does actually load, it can be very exciting.

Baseball games play more like ticking time bombs than clockwork oranges. Players stand statue like as tension mounts. Pitchers and batters face off with the same posture as gunfighters in a western. Muscles tense, crowds fall silent. Then all it once everything explodes! The pitcher pitches and the batter swings. If it's a hit men on the attacking team begin running bases while the outfield team spring into action, trying to shut down the danger as quickly as possible. Everything is very dramatic for a few seconds, and then of course, it all falls static again.

Baseball can be a very exciting sport, and far be it for me to knock it. I love a good day at the ballpark and all that goes with it. However I guess when it comes to sports, I prefer the action to be the same way like I like my Internet connection: fast moving, instantaneous and constant.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Myth of Macintosh Invulnerability

Macs have long since been regarded as sort of the Volvos of the computer world: Safe, stylish and very popular in the SF Bay Area. Like Volvo drivers, Mac users are also thought to be somewhat smug and elitist with their latte drinking, faux-continental lifestyles.

Before I go any further I should confess to not only using a Mac, but also driving a Volvo (I prefer cappuccinos to lattes for the record).

Today however, the Internet security firm, Intego announced something that may put the myth of Macs being invulnerable to malware and viruses to the sword. It seems that a new strain of the deadly computer virus HellRTS has been spotted lurking in the dark alleys and backstreets of the information superhighway system we call the Internet.

HellRTS (love the name, don't you?) was first identified back in 2004. HellRTS is a difficult to detect malware program that can send email from your computer, contact remote servers and provide direct access to the infected computer. And what sets this latest strain apart from previous incarnations is that it has been modified to work not only on PCs but on Macs as well.

If it infects your Mac, HellRTS can open up a kind of "backdoor" by setting up it's own server on a private port and taking control of your computer. HellRTS is all the more nefarious as while it works it masquerades as another piece of legitimate Mac software like iPhoto or or iChat.

The good news about HellRTS is not the easiest virus for your computer to catch. You must download and install the rogue software in order to fall prey to it. And while it may be possible for your Mac to contract the virus from a "Trojan horse" style attack there have been no reports of such Trojans as of yet.

But the simple fact of the matter is that Macs are not nearly as immune to viruses as they are cracked up to be. The reason that Mac viruses don't make the headlines as much as PC viruses is simply because there are fewer of them. The reason for this? Macs command a very small share of the market. If you're the nefarious designer of malicious software programs, hell bent on wreaking havoc on the digital world, why create a virus that can only affect five percent of the world's computers when you can create one that could affect eighty-five percent? Apparently productivity and efficiency are valued in the malware industry.

So what's a Volvo driving, latte' sipping Mac user to do? Well as Intego would have it, you could buy and install their VirusBarrier X6. This is actually a good application for Mac users as it can find and scrub a variety of malware programs.

But just as it is with health care and auto maintenance, with computers an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you're a Mac user you can minimize the dangers of infection by turning off, "Open safe files after downloading" in Safari's preferences. And of course you should only download, install or launch applications that originate from trusted sources.

And when you drive your Volvo, wear your seat belt and be careful not to spill your latte!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Do Computers Run the World?

At an unveiling for Microsoft's new Visual Studio 2010 in Las Vegas yesterday, Microsoft exec Bob Muglia announced that, "There is no question that the world runs on software. Just look around you. Look at everything, look at all the devices we use, the systems we interact with."

Muglia went on to state that everything was powered by software and that, "developers are the ones who make it happen."

Now I must admit that my first impulse is to write off the entire statement as one, giant collossal backslap. But then I stopped and thought about it for a moment.

Jeez, maybe the guys got a point.

I mean think about your money. Your checking account, even your life savings. Unless you've got it stuffed in the mattress, does it really exist? Or is it just information stored in a mainframe somewhere? My savings is in an Internet bank with no branches, offices or human personnel that I'm aware of. It's just a website I go to occasionally to transfer money in or out. Stop and think about it for a moment. I keep my life savings in a website. It sounds weird, but in the context of the Internet age I guess it's pretty normal.

In the past I've referred to the Internet as the Death Star of medias. The web has affected other medias much in the same way as Darth Vader's enormous space station which comes along and destroys whole planets. Take the print news business. Or the record industry. Next in it's sites would seem to be the television/motion picture industry. However unlike Darth Vader's satellite of destruction, the Internet doesn't use any kind of death ray laser. The Internet's power can be defined in one word: convenience.

The Internet has achieved it's dominance of the media sphere in a relatively short time by making it easier to get what you want. Why buy a newspaper when there's AP online? Why go to a record store when you can get it from iTunes? Why buy it from iTunes when you can download it for free? Why watch TV when you can stream it online? The list goes on and on and on.

Okay so at this point it may be a good idea to remind myself, and everyone reading this, that I do in fact make my living writing for the Internet and have been off and on from it's inception. Far be it for my to bite the hand that feeds me. I love the Internet for the same reason I criticize it. It is convenient. Remember the days when if you wanted to know something you had to go to the library and find a book? Do you? If you're in your early 20s or younger, you probably don't.

The Internet has brought us all closer together. First through email and then through social networking sites. The Internet has truly brought about what Marshall McLuhan may have had in mind when he envisioned a "global village."

However at the same time it has effectively shrunk the world and made it a little less mysterious.

There's no arguing the fact that computers have become central to our lives. They've created new industries and revolutionized existing ones. They've brought distant family members closer together and lead to a greater sense of the world as a whole. However by the same token they've launched jihadist networks, fostered right wing para-military groups, and increased the sense of paranoia and disenfranchisement felt by many. The truth about the global village is that you don't always get along with your neighbors.

So Bob Muglia may have had a pretty astute point. Which is why every now and then it may be a good idea to turn your computer off. Leave Amazon alone and go buy a book from a bookstore. Sit in a cafe' and read it for a couple hours. Or go to the park and sit under a tree, or kick a soccer ball around. Turn your cellphone off for an hour or so if you dare.

Software and computers do effectively run much of the world. But they don't have to run you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

El Classico: Mac vs. PC

For those of you who are new to this blog, or are prone to miss the exceedingly obvious, I am a soccer fan. A soccer fan who makes his living writing tech blogs. This leads to occasional overlap because while Computer As Humans is technically a tech blog, it may at times read like a soccer blog. It's because like many other rapid fans out there I tend to see everything through the spectacular, colorful prism of the beautiful game.

As I write this I'm waiting for my friends to come over to watch "El Classico." For the uninitiated, "El Classico," is quite simply the biggest rivalry in European football: FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid.

Two of the biggest teams in all of Europe, Barcelona and Real Madrid can be almost regarded as the Mac and PC of Spanish football. Which is which and why exactly you may ask? Well, as I see it, Barcelona is the Mac and Real Madrid is the PC.

Now I'm aware that as I sit here in my Barcelona replica jersey typing this on my Mac laptop that I could regarded as being somewhat biased. However this assessment is based on more than just personal preference, or as some would see it, my extreme bias.

So let me be the first to say that Real Madrid is a great team. Historically one of the greatest and most successful in all of Europe. They won the first five European Club Cup Championships (predecessor to the Champions League) consecutively. Their current lineup reads like a whose who of current international football superstars: Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Rafael Van Der Vaart, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain, to name a few.

By the same token, PCs are great computers (mostly). My wife uses one, I've owned several myself. They're practical, more affordable than Macs, more compatible with different software and hardware components, very suitable for business uses and for the most part, get the job done.

Macs on the other hand are more expensive. They are esoteric, slightly eccentric and often regarded as being pretentious and somewhat overrated. Yet, like FC Barcelona, they have a certain undefinable, artistic, creative quality about them that sets them apart.

Apple, like the modern Barcelona, has it's roots in the 1970s. Apple, which was founded by Steve Jobs in 1977, was named after the Beatles record company. FC Barcelona, as we know it today, was born in 1975 when the great Dutch football maestro Johan Cruyff transferred to Barcelona from Ajax Amsterdam. Cruyff transformed Barcelona as a player and later as a coach by redefining their style of play along the lines of late '60s/early '70s Dutch "total football."

In total football creativity, flair, and flow were placed in high regard. Players changed positions on the pitch with such fluidity and speed that the original Dutch total football sides of the '70s were called the "clockwork orange" by fans and opponents alike.

Barcelona as we know them today, are the descendants of this style. Much as Apple has evolved from a 1970s post-hippie company that also places a high premium on creativity, flair and versatility.

While they are undoutbedly as successful or even more so historically than Barcelona, at Real Madrid, flair, creativity and spectacle take a back seat to results. Just as in the PC world what works is what gets the job done. Real Madrid have no real defined "style." While they may spend exhorbitant sums of money to bring in great players and great coaches, Madrid seem to be lacking in something. One would be tempted to call it "soul." Which perhaps explains most of all why, in the opinion of this writer, they can be seen as the PCs of Spanish football.

Now, I wonder who will win today's "El Classico," the Mac or the PC?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Dell Latitude Takes to the Road

The iPad continues to run rampant over the tech world, much as Barcelona did to a woefully outmatched Arsenal in Tuesday night's Champions League quarter final clash (Yes, I to find it amazing that I am able to work so many soccer references into what is essentially a tech blog).

However elsewhere in the computer world, other things are happening. Other products are being released. Dell Computer for instance has today released the Dell Latitude E6410 and E6510. The significance of this? The Dells, unlike the iPad, or the most recent Apple MacBook Pros for that matter, have something special under the hood: Intel's latest processor updates.

Both the E6s, the 410 and the 510 are equipped with the Intel dual core Core i5 and Core i7 processors respectively. Not only that but the 510 has an extras option to be outfitted with quad-core i7s. Now if you're like me, and you enjoy surfing in the wake that technology has left behind, let me assure you that what that translates to is a lot of power, with the option for even more power.

The 410 and the 510 can be almost regarded as the new Mercedes SLR McLaren of the laptop world. Because not only are they powerful, but they are big with 14 and 15 inch backlit screens respectively. The exteriors of the new latitudes are done in steel reinforced magnesium alloy. Even the color options are something akin to a luxury German sports car: red, blue and of course. . . dark silver.

Stylish, sophisticated and fast. Am I talking about the new SLR or the Latitudes? Well. . .both in fact. The Latitudes have the Core i5 and Core i7 processors. The McLaren SLR has a turbo charged 6.0 liter V-12. However the Dell in fact offers some distinct advantages over the McLaren. For while the SLR is sleek, fast and comfortable, extras and additions have been minimized in favor of raw speed and power.

The Dell Latitudes on the other hand, are laden with extras. In addition to sleek design and high speed they are equipped with 3-megapixel webcams, Blu-ray drives, 4G wireless devices and the most advanced of Intel's WiFi cards.

However, like the Mercedes SLR McLaren, all of this speed makes the Dell Latitude something of a gas guzzler. Because of that Dell is offering several battery options including 6-cell and 9-cell versions that protude out of the back as well as a 12-cell battery that actually slides underneath the computer's base.

The good news however is that unlike the McLaren, the Dell is something of a bargain. For while the Mercedes McLaren SLR costs somewhere in the vicinity of 200 grand, the Dell Latitude E6410 and 510 can be yours for $1,681 and $1,750 respectively. And that's a lot of bang for your buck.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

iPads: No Fun in the Sun

I know I can't seem to stop talking about it, but it's not just me. The new Apple iPad seems to be the story du jour in the tech world at the moment. Small wonder as opening day sales alone topped 300,000.

Now the latest tidbit of news information surrounding the current "it-gadget," is that it doesn't like the sun. iPad users all over the country have been reporting that when exposed to sunlight for an hour or so, iPads go into a kind of self-induced sleep mode, flashing a message that says "iPad needs to cool down before you can use it. " Users have generally reported this happening after a half an hour to an hour in the sun. However, some iPads are apparently more sun-sensitive than others, going into the same mode after only ten minutes in the sun.

It would seem that in our current ozone-depleted age, the iPad, like it's user, would do best to avoid the sun. So why exactly do Apple's new tablet computers fall victim to this strange cyber-sunstroke? In truth most computers and tech devices are susceptible to heat. During my days as an in-house writer for a I can remember the mainframe room being something like a walk in refrigerator filled with hard drives and processors.

Portable tech gadgets are no different. Like star athletes, heat and overuse will leave them feeling a little depleted. The iPad apparently has the same suggested operating temperatures as the iPhone (between 32 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit). However just as a Sumo wrestler is perhaps more likely to become over-heated than a jockey, the iPads size apparently makes it more sun-sensitive than it's smaller cousin.

The good news is that there is a simple remedy. Just as an overheated or over-exerted athlete can drink water and apply an icepack, the iPad can be cooled back into optimal performance by enjoying some time in the shade, or as one New York City user found, the fridge.

So until someone develops sunscreen for portable computers (sure you laugh now, but wait!) it looks like it's best to limit your iPad's exposure to the sun. For iPads, much like humans, sun exposure would appear to be unhealthy after more than an hour.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bigger is Not Always Better

The Apple iPad hit stores yesterday and consumers from coast to coast were eager to get their hands on the tablet sized portable computers. As noted in Friday's edition of this blog, the iPad is intended to occupy territory somewhere between a smart phone and a small laptop computer. Much in the same way it could be said that Smart Cars occupy an area between motorscooters and economy cars.

So just how does the iPad stack up against the Smart Car?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with them, Smart Cars are a brand of economical "microcars" that were launched as a joint project of Swatch and Mercedes Benz. Available in Europe since 1994, the Smart car brand became wholly-owned by Mercedes Benz in 1998. The Smart Car was immediately successful in Europe but was only released in the U.S. in 2008.

While few could argue against the benefit of a car that offers 33mpg city and 41mpg highway, the Smart Car's reception on these shores has been nonetheless mixed. America's love affair with the automobile is long standing and well known. In Europe the Smart Car is ideal for the narrow streets and tight parking spaces of cities like Amsterdam, Paris and Rome. However Americans with their vast highways and love of big, roomy, status symbol cars have been slower on the uptake.

In January of 2009, some nine months after the Smart Car's U.S. roll out there was a twelve month waiting list to attain one. However by June of the same year there was no waiting list and dealers nationwide had them in stock for immediate delivery. Perhaps the April 2008 edition of Men's Vogue put it best when they raised the question: "in a nation where your supersized car is your castle, is the Smart too mini for a man?"

At the moment, consumer interest in the iPad is certainly off to as good or better a start. While other brands of tablet computers have not done well in the past, it's just possible that in this case Apple may have done things right. The iPad's usability for Internet and email applications as well as it's ability to serve as a delivery system for all manner of media, including books, television and movie rentals, would seem intriguing.

The iPad is bigger, and more comfortable than a smart phone, yet more portable than a laptop. Seemingly this would make it ideal for relaxedly doing one's emails on the couch or reading an e-book or the news on the subway.

While the sales figures are not yet in, analysts have predicted that Apple will sell between 300,000 and 400,000 iPads this weekend. Perhaps proof positive that in America, bigger is better . . . except when it comes to portable computing devices.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The iPad Cometh

Hyundai has just unveiled it's new 2011 Hyundai Equus. A big, rear-wheel drive sedan, the Equus is meant to compete with cars along the lines of the Mercedes S-Class and the Lexus LS. However one of the things that set the Equus apart from other cars in it's weight class, is it's owner's manual.

Instead of the usual 300 pages of paper bound and stapled together, Equus owners will receive their owner's manuals virtually on a new Apple iPad. For those of you, like myself, who prefer to surf the waves left in technology's wake, the iPad is a portable, tablet computer that is about to be released on the market by Apple.

Functionally the iPad operates sort of like a bigger, badder version of the iPhone and in fact it runs on a modified version of the iPhone's operating system. Unlike the Hyundai Equus, however, the iPod is intended to be something altogether new.

It is meant to stake out territory somewhere between a decked out smart phone and a small laptop computer. If a laptop were a Honda Civic for instance, and an iPhone was a motorscooter, the iPad would be kind of like a Smart Car: small, portable, economical and easy to park.

Initial review of iPad do in fact seem to be good. It's got touch pad keys, good speed on the web and it's is also being touted as competition for e-book devices such as the Amazon Kindle and the Barns and Noble nook. Many praise it's ten hour battery life and experts believe it will be able to compete with many of the larger, existing netbooks already on the market. Within a few days of it's unveiling the iPad received praiseworthy comments from British author/actor Stephen Fry who was impressed by the iPad's speed and responsiveness.

In that sense, perhaps the iPad could be seen as being more like celebrated Barcelona forward, Lionel Messi: small, fast, smart and able to punch far above it's weight.

However unlike Messi, who is now the highest paid athlete in world football and whose transfer fee (if there was one) would be a king's ransom, the iPad is quite reasonably priced at $499.

Although, it can be yours for free. If you've got $50 grand to spend on a new Hyundai Equus that is.