Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why the iPad shouldn't run Mac OS X

Besides the lack of Flash on the iPad there is one other popular complaint I've seen echoing through the forums. The argument is that the iPad shouldn't be running the iPhone OS; it needs to run full Mac OS X. They believe that the iPhone OS is too anemic for their needs, and that a "full-featured" device of the same size would sell far more units. I disagree. There are a couple reasons I believe a Mac OS X powered tablet would fare much worse.

ONE: If the iPad ran Mac OS X, it would do so in a limited capacity anyway. Just like netbooks can't run higher end apps, the iPad wouldn't be able to run them either. Not only is the CPU lacking, but the iPad has very little RAM compared to multitasking desktops. It seems contradictory to me to call something "full-featured" if it can still only be used for a subset of tasks. Keeping Mac OS X off of the iPad means that all of the software will be built specifically for the device, instead of being built for generic hardware. When the limits of your device are known, software can (and will) be tweaked for those environments. If the iPad ran Mac OS X I really don't think you'd be hearing about its relative speediness—at least not in a positive light.

TWO: Speaking of subsets, if you are a Mac user you have to realize that iPad users may or may not share your affinity for Mac OS X. The iPhone OS is where all the attention is right now—consumers and developers. Putting Mac OS X on the iPad would not only limit the target audience to Mac users (or those interested in switching), but it would also curb developer enthusiasm. There is no "developer gold rush" when it comes to an established platform like Mac OS X. It would be a foolish move for Apple not to capitalize on the momentum of the iPhone OS.

MISC: Keyboard shortcuts are an important part of mastering Mac OS X. They are also one of the reasons I prefer Macs to PCs. Unfortunately, a device without a keyboard isn't going to benefit from keyboard shortcuts. That alone might very well make me pass up a MacPad for a MacBook.

It boils down to this…
  • Option A: iPad + Mac OS X = Bottom of the line $500 Mac portable. OR High-end $2000 Apple designed Modbook
  • Option B: iPad + iPhone OS = Premium $500 multi-touch device
I'm sure it was an easy choice for Steve…

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mobile Flash: You Can Thank Apple

Flash fans are talking highly about the upcoming mobile Flash 10.1, and who knows, Adobe may very well deliver a decent solution this time around. The thing people need to realize is if it wasn't for Apple and the popularity of the iPhone OS, this level of mobile Flash optimization probably wouldn't be happening. As we've seen with the quality of Flash (and other apps like Acrobat Pro) on the Mac vs. Windows, it's clear Adobe doesn't spend resources optimizing their software for "less popular" operating systems. The irony is that this lack of interest in the little guy has come back to bite them in the ass.

I'm not sure what sales milestone was hit by the iPhone before it dawned on Adobe that there is a massive threat growing to their Flash business, but we know they see it now. This threat of obscurity/obsolescence has forced them to throw significant weight behind the optimization of mobile Flash. Even though they have very little chance at getting Flash onto the iPhone/iPad, they are still being forced to overhaul their product. Why? Because the iPhone has become the new baseline for mobile devices. If Adobe can't make Flash a "necessity" on competing devices, it's game over. The fact that webkit is quickly becoming the standard rendering engine for mobile browsers means HTML5 will be available to pretty much all mobile users going forward. Web developers won't have to worry about legacy support.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not one of the people who thinks Flash should fall off the face of the earth. It still has it's place (i.e. web games, DRM, etc.), but it's relevance in general video distribution is ending. The thing that sucks for Adobe is that video distribution makes up a HUGE percentage of their Flash business. The only chance Adobe has at stalling this migration away from Flash video is to have a product that competes extremely well. If there is a noticeable difference in quality and performance between Flash and HTML5 video, those non-iPhone users will no-doubt start demanding HTML5 video too. Needless to say, Adobe doesn't want that.

Now, if Apple had allowed Adobe to put Flash on the original iPhone I don't believe this rush for optimization would have taken place. People would have just gotten used to the fact that Flash content more often than not equaled "slideshow", and Adobe's answer to the problem would likely have been "Future processors will be able to handle Flash better …keep upgrading your phones." Not only that, but HTML5 video wouldn't have a near the backing it does now because the content (however shitty it ran) WOULD be available to all these new devices in Flash form. The fact that Apple has several extremely popular products that do not offer Flash support is one of the main reasons HTML5 has become relevant so quickly.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I've pre-ordered my iPad; I chose the 16GB WiFi-only version. Even though I love the idea of 3G access, I really don't think I'd use it enough to warrant the extra $130 (much less the $15-$30 monthly data charge). That, and hearing the WiFi-only iPad was shipping a month sooner sealed the deal. I plan on using it primarily on the couch and around the house anyway.

I chose the 16GB version for several reasons…
  1. I'm not afraid of media management. Having one or two movies and a dozen or so of my favorite albums is sufficient for me.
  2. SSD storage is damn expensive. Spending an extra $200 for an extra 48GB of space just seems crazy to me. It's not like I could fit all of my photos, movies, and music on the 64GB version anyway. If I'm going to have to manage my media anyway I don't see the point.
  3. This product is built for STREAMING content. Apple is already moving towards a cloud-based iTunes, and many other third-party streaming services will be coming to the iPad as well. The need for large amounts of local storage on mobile devices is going to disappear.
  4. The money I save this year will be put to good use next year on an iPad 2.0.
The thing that makes me most excited is knowing that my "low-end" iPad is going to run just as fast as the $830 version because they have the exact same CPU. It won't be that way for a lot of the PC tablets.

I'm sure I will miss the GPS capability sooner or later—I know it would come in handy for road trips. I'm just hoping the next version of the iPod Touch will have the same 3G data plan available as the iPad (and a camera). I'll buy one of those in a heartbeat.

17 more days…