June 8, 2012
No matter what your home gaming console platform presence is, the influence of tablets was evident in the presentations of the Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. The main claim to fame of the Wii U, of course, is its second screen, basically a small tablet with gaming controls. Sony took a moment to highlight the renaming of PlayStation Suite to PlayStatiion Mobile with designs on expanding beyond its own tablets as certified devices. And Microsoft, of course, surprised many with SmartGlass, a second-screen architecture that goes beyond gaming into XBox’s new and broader entertainment domain.
It would be inaccurate to suggest that tablets are about to be as disruptive in the home console space as smartphones have been in the handheld console market. Nonetheless, beyond the game platform triopoly, the influence of tablets was not only evident in presentations from major publishers such as Activision and EA, but also in a pair of companies that may be less well-known to at least U.S. gamers. Social mobile platform Gree showed off six titles. There were also several companies showing off gaming controllers to try t bring back some of that tactile control to the tablet’s frictionless and often imprecise display.
Tags: E3, Gree, social gaming, tablets, WeMade, Wii U
June 27, 2011
Following my recent post about the evolution of the amorphous iPod brand, this week provided a great opportunity to look at another brand with a potentially foretelling malleable moniker – OnLive. The company showed off its service running on the iPad and HTC Flyer. Support will come in two phases. The first will overlay touch controls onto the games, perhaps suitable for use with your Fling or ThinkGeek Joystick-It. And while that may be the more portable option, the better game experience will happen once OnLive enables its controllers to work with tablets.
To see OnLive branch out from the PC where its content largely originates, beyond the TV where many of its games would likely be ported, and to the tablet where many of its games might not be technically feasible, clearly improves the value of the service for OnLive’s game partners. But OnLive’s other recent announcement – that it would partner with Juniper Networks to host remote PC applications – demonstrates the true versatility of the service. If OnLive has been able to remotely deliver games with good performance, the interface of the average Windows app will be child’s play. The next stop on the world conquest tour would be apps delivered via set-top boxes to TVs, which would put OnLive on a collision course with ActiveVideo.
Tags: ActiveVideo, cloud apps, iPad, OnLive, remote access, tablets, thin clients, Video Games
April 27, 2011
Most of the reviews of the BlackBerry PlayBook remind me a lot of the first reviews of Motorola Xoom. “It’s no iPad.” Yes, we know, and so do RIM and Motorola and Google. You don’t need to turn on either device to know there would be a significant app and feature gap deficiency versus Apple’s pioneering slate that has since had a year to mature. Yes, the PlayBook lacks e-mail and calendaring for the moment. Oh, by the way, the Xoom and PlayBook both multitask out of the box. Did the first iPad? No, buyers had to wait half a year for that feature.
But the PlayBook is far more significant for RIM than the Xoom was for Google. Honeycomb is a major new release of Android, no doubt. But while the user experience of Android had room to improve (and still does), it didn’t have nearly as far to go to become a satisfying user experience as the BlackBerry OS does. That’s more on the scale of the leap that Microsoft took from Windows Mobile to Windows Phone 7.
And, based on that burden, it seems that RIM has nailed the basics, taking some of the UI concepts in BlackBerry 6 and making refining them while adding the visual thumbnails from webOS. The user experience of the BlackBerry Tablet OS (OK, still some refining left to do on the naming) is as slick, simple, responsive and engaging as anything on the market. Bezel gestures strike me as far more intuitive than webOS’s gesture bar. And despite RIM’s decision to go with the BlackBerry Bridge option before developing native PIM apps, the OS itself is more feature-complete than, say, the first version of Windows Phone 7.
I’m not sure how well it will all translate to handsets, but it is exactly what the BlackBerry needs to stem the tide of its user exodus. If RIM can execute on that fusion, it is back in the game.
RIM’s also done a solid job with the PlayBook hardware. I prefer the vertical orientation of the iPad and Galaxy Tab, and (of course) Nook. The PlayBook, though – and most of the bigger Android tablets — seem to be going for a horizontal orientation by default. Of course, this is more of a curiosity than anything else. Yes, the on button is a little hard to press, but even with the paucity of apps, RIM has the best 7” tablet on the market right now.
Tags: 7", BlackBerry Playbook, iPad, media talets, QNX, RIM, slate, slates, tablet, tablets, User Experience, webOS
March 19, 2011
My Switched On column discussing the potential benefits of Microsoft using Windows for tablets garnered over a whopping 1.100 comments. many of which were positive. As I noted in the column, though, Microsoft still has a lot to prove in basing its tablet strategy on Windows as opposed to the currently more touch-friendly if feature-strapped Windows Phone OS.
Following a tweet in which I groused about the still unsatisfying state of driver update management on Windows, that challenge became a topic of conversation on Twitter a few days ago when the question was posed as to whether Microsoft needed to have an app store – like Apple, Google, or itself on Windows Phone – in order to compete in the tablet market. If so, the app store would presumably also be available to the next version of Windows. This leads to a number of hypotheticals. Would Microsoft include an app store in desktop Windows even if it were using Windows Phone for tablets? And is an app store even necessarily for tablets?
My answer to the latter is that it is, at least to be competitive with Apple and Google, and it’s a good idea regardless. for desktop Windows, which is under seige not be any particular operating system (OS/2, Linux) as in the past, but the idea of OS insignificance, a battle that Apple is also trying to fight via its app stores both on the Mac and iOS.
Tags: iOS, Microsoft, tablets, Window sPhone
February 20, 2011
The iPhone distinguished itself with a single home button for returning from an app to the launch screen. While its functionality may have been strained a bit as the platform has progressed. e.g., having to tap twice to bring up the app switcher, its single UI depression concession made a statement about minimalist simplicity that few platforms (webOS may be one example) have answered.
In contrast, Android launched with four major UI buttons (Home, Menu, Back and Search) and Windows Phone launched with three (Windows/Start, Back, and Search). Exactly how many – if any – buttons is optimal can be debated by user interface experts or considered personal preference. As is the case with much of what I consider Android variation, the media has jumped upon the tendency for different vendors to implement the Android button order in a different way, even in different handsets from the same manufacturer.
I don’t see that as such a major issue, but the Search button, in particular, always struck me as gratuitous. Yes, we know Google is a search company, but that doesn’t mean I need a search button omnipresent on my device. And I was somewhat disappointed that Microsoft followed suit (since, of course, Bing is really important, too).
Now Google, if not having so much seen the error of its ways, will give licensees the option to forego any and all buttons in Honeycomb tablets and presumably Ice Cream handsets. Perhaps this was due to the influence of Matias Duarte, a notion that buttons are trickier to place on a tablet versus a generally vertically oriented handset, or simple feedback from partners.
The drawback is that now, in addition to potentially having different button layouts, Android devices may now have different combinations of buttons and gestures for the same task. Regardless, these devices now have the potential to look cleaner and more streamlined because of the change. Perhaps that’s one of the liberties that Nokia will feel free to take as it balances its unique customization privileges against compromising the consistency in the Windows Phone ecosystem.
Tags: Android, buttons, differntiation, Google, IIce Cream, iPhone, Matias Duarte, Search, Start button, tablets, user interface, webOS, Windows Phone
December 13, 2010
In my recent two-part column about the forthcoming Kno tablet – as well as the follow-up regarding the Acer Iconia, I mentioned the heft of dealing with a single 14” tablet, expressing concerns about how potentially awkward it might be for two. Kno, however, noted that members of its preview beta program were more than twice as likely to say that they wanted the dual-screen version of the Kno tablet versus the single-screen version
Kno recently followed up to let me know that, according to its pre-sales data, customers are choosing the larger, heavier Kno versus the single-screened version by a 2.5 to 1 ratio. I suppose it’s not too surprising given that these are the earliest of Kno’s early adopters, and most likely to embrace the more expensive, richest experience. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them already have an iPad as a lighter alternative.
Of course, that will change over time. The larger (or is that smaller?) point expressed in the column still holds true, though. Kno will be operating in a world of tablets of many different screen sizes. If the company follows its stated model for success as a software play, there will likely be a lot more Kno’ing going on on smaller screens barring dramatic display advances.
Tags: 14", dual-screens, education, iPads, Kno, knowedge workers, research, students, tablets
September 12, 2010
Long before the launch of the iPad or the introduction of the smartbook concept, a client asked me what I thought about the idea of netbooks that didn’t run Windows. Versions of the ASUS Eee and HP Mini had been available with Linux distributions, but were ultimately cancelled in the face of consumers’ overwhelming preference for Windows on those devices. If it walks like a mouse being used on Windows, consumers expect to use it with a mouse being used with Windows. Now, SlashGear notes that Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs says that the iPad has delivered the concept of “always-on, all–day devices” that smartbooks had originally promised.
I read that comment as potential validation, but SlashGear frames it as a concession. If Jacobs has indeed taken up the white flag from Shantanu Narayen, It’s oddly timed given the barrage of ARM-powered Android tablets that are in the works. Archos, for example, just announced a whole family of Internet tablets (if you can call a device with a 3.2” screen a tablet as they do) and Samsung has announced the highest-profile iPad competitor to date in the Galaxy Tab (more on that name later).
So perhaps the term smartbook, like netbook, implies a keyboard – something that wasn’t the case in concept videos shown early on by Qualcomm. The Lenovo Skylight (pictured) was shelved, but promised to return one day running Android. Challenges abound. Not only is Android is not optimized for larger screens, but it needs a staple of applications to fill in the gaps with Windows (something Linux actually had for productivity in OpenOffice). Furthermore, channel, task and usage scenario overlap with Windows becomes more pronounced.
Over time, though, consumers may be more accepting of a keyboard-equipped smartbook. As the SlashGear post notes, HP and Toshiba have dabbled in the market. The paradox is that consumers need more successful non-Windows tablets like the iPad to understand such a device with a keyboard. Apple probably won’t produce one, but has opened the door to accessory makers to create an equivalent, and others will. The key for these vendors is to show consumers that even keyboard-enabled smartbooks are not neutered netbooks, but supersized smartphones.
Samsung appears to recognize that in using the “Galaxy” brand across its smartphones and the Tab, but it is both a new brand and one that has been subdued (at least in the U.S.) under the monikers that various carriers have given it. In any case, consumers have of course accepted physical keyboards on smartphones (with at least one successful clamshell feature phone that may be Android-bound).
Tags: Apple, Archos, ClamCase, Internet tablets, iPad, keyboards, netbooks, Qualcomm, SlashGear, smartbooks, tablets, touch, Windows
February 1, 2010
Over at Technologizer, Harry McCracken has a great post comparing some of the early skepticism around the iPad to that of the iPhone; it was a topic that came up in the TUAW Talkcast that I participated in last night. Personally, while I certainly remember some skepticism regarding the lack of a physical keyboard or 3G (the latter ultimately addressed) in the original iPhone, I remember the overall reaction as far more positive than that for the iPad. Most people were impressed by the iPhone, but turned off by its pricing whereas the iPad pricing has been perceived as quite reasonable or perhaps even aggressive.
But is it? Over at The NPD Group Blog, I’ve provided my take on its value versus standalone electronics, but let’s look at more directly competitive products. The answer is yes if you compare it to Tablet PCs or Apple’s notebooks, maybe if you compare it to netbooks, and not so much when you compare it to some of the other large tablets introduced by startups in the past year, at least on the face value of hardware.
Take, for example, the embattled Joojoo by Fusion Garage, which also intends to debut at $499. It has a 12” capacitive touchscreen as opposed to the iPad’s 9.7” screen, and it can handle Flash and Hulu, albeit with only half the battery life of the iPad. Then there’s Always Innovating’s Touch Pad with an 8.9” touchscreen and a keyboard attachment that turns it into a functional, albeit non-Windows-based, netbook. Like the iPad, it boasts ten hours of battery life and costs just $299 or $399 with the keyboard.
Neither of these products blow away the iPad in terms of absolute pricing or value, but remember that they are from small startups with no brand and are producing limited volumes compared with the millions of units that the iPad will likely ship in 2010. The iPad’s price is a breakthrough judged against the fictional rumors that preceded it, rumors that may have been based on features and added cost it did not have. Not to take anything away from the engineering that went into offering the iPad at its price, but it’s pretty easy to hit a bullseye when the rest of the world is giving you the side of a barn on which to paint it.
Tags: Always Innovating, iPad, Joojoo, pricing, tablets, Touch Book