Tag Archives: iPad

Microsoft Tablet – AGAIN?

They say that the third time is the charm. But the 430,344th?

At least it feels like that’s how many times Microsoft has launched a tablet, not counting the one that was launched to promote the company’s new Windows 8 operating system and compete with Apple’s iPad despite the latter’s modest lead – a mere 100 million sold.

A decade ago Microsoft told us a tablet was on the way and produced a slick demo showing doctors making hospital rounds with tablets and pianists reading a score on a tablet propped up where the sheet music usually goes.

But alas, in February 2011 I wrote, “Year after year I waited for Microsoft’s tablet to sweep the country but it never happened.”

Why? In a candid New York Times op-ed column Dick Brass, a former MS vice president from 1997 to 2004, wrote, “Unlike other companies, Microsoft never developed a true system for innovation.”  (See Microsoft Snoozed Its Way Through Tablet Revolution, Says Former Veep)

In January 2010 – predating the release of the Apple’s iPad by three weeks – MS introduced the HP tablet. But it laid an egg. Here’s PC World’s take on it: “The HP tablet is basically a color e-reader running Amazon Kindle software, with few other details besides a sub-$500 price point and an estimated arrival on the market by mid-2010. So disappointing was the release that Microsoft and HP’s shares fell yesterday according to Business Week.”

Microsoft had a chance to redeem itself with the Courier, but it too flopped and not long after release Microsoft threw in the towel and said it would no longer support it.

Then in December 2011, we wearily wrote Microsoft Re-re-re-relaunches Tablet. The new device, manufactured by Samsung, was to be “similar in size and shape to the Apple iPad, although it is not as thin,” wrote Nick Bolton of the New York Times.

You’ll understand, therefore, why our eyes glaze over to read that yet again Microsoft is going to give tablets a go. But who knows? The 430,344th time may well be the charm.

Richard Curtis
This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World as Microsoft Tablet – Needs Only 100 Million Sales to Surpass iPad


iPad News Daily Called “The model for This Digital Age”

Josh Sternberg of digitday.com reminds us that NewsCorp’s news app, The Daily, celebrates its first birthday this week, and after one year it’s not just viable but a growing commercial success in an Internet environment hostile to the publication’s business model: subscription.  Yet it has a quarter of a million monthly readers and 100,000 paid subscribers.

Though (full disclosure) my son is a reporter for The Daily, my enthusiasm for the app is completely independent.  I just happen to think it’s terrific. But don’t take my word for it – it’s the iPad’s third most popular app.

Though The Daily started out as a dedicated iPad application, it is now accessible on Android, but the eye-popping graphics play best on the iPad’s big bright touchcreen. Some fairly heavy-hitting advertisers like Verizon, IBM and BMW display their wares there.

“I think it is the future of print,” digitday quotes a media executive, an odd description since there isn’t a single drop of printer’s ink associated with the publication.  But that’s just the point: it delivers all the news, culture and entertainment of a printed newspaper or magazine, but the videos, popups, callouts and other dazzling graphics are exactly what the iPad was created for. If you don’t have one, borrow it, download a two-week free subscription and see for yourself.

By the way, I have dubbed The Daily a “zapp” – drawn from “news app” the way “blog” is derived from “web log”. I believe this term may be original with me and if it achieves wide circulation and enters the English language (Oxford English Dictionary are you listening?) I hope Rupert Murdoch will reward me liberally, or at least recognize me with an asterisked footnote in one of his, um, papers.

The Daily After One Year: Some Lessons Learned

Richard Curtis


New Apple Educational Tool Needs to Educate Users about Copyright

In a much-anticipated press event, Apple today introduced a textbook app it calls iBooks2. The company described it as an educational tool and, given how quickly and completely kids take to the iPad, it may well crack open the e-textbook market in a way that all prior efforts failed to. (See Surprise: Students Prefer Print Textbooks.)

One significant feature of iBooks2 is that it enables students to create their own books, enhance them with pictures, music, movies, videos, and texts from other sources and publish them, thus “inspiring kids to want to discover and want to learn,” as the Apple executive put it.

All well and good.  But isn’t it likely that the pictures, music, movies, videos, and texts from other sources published in these books will belong to somebody else?

These books will be published, uploaded into the iBooks store and sold there.  Unless the authors clear the rights to that content, such sales may be infringements of someone’s copyrights and Apple will be faced with the same kind of spamming that Kindle is combating.

Apple has the obligation to review the content it posts on the iPad and make sure that it does not infringe on the copyrights of others.  Will Apple have the time and manpower to police countless books and vooks, texts and theses? Not likely.  But surely they will not risk incurring liability for selling stolen goods.

If kids want to discover and learn, then the most important educational tool Apple could offer, as an adjunct to its iBooks2, is a primer on copyright. If Apple doesn’t instruct users on that fundamental legal principle, it will need to create an app for defending itself and its authors against copyright infringement lawsuits.

Richard Curtis


High-Tech Kids in No-Tech Schools

The jury is still out on the academic benefits of e-books, “There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines,” says Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University.

Researchers and psychologists report that screens create distractions for students. (See The Medium is The Screen. The Message is Distraction). And even students are far from convinced that they learn better and faster or retain as much (See Students Give E-Textbooks a Failing Grade)

These would appear to be the reasons why many parents have reservations about schools that rely on high-tech educational tools.

You would imagine that the one class of parents that embrace “screen learning” would be denizens of Silicon Valley. Yet, as the New York Times‘s Matt Richtel reports, “the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.” In fact, in the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, “the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.”

The school, one of a chain, is not an experiment but one of a chain of institutions founded on the belief that “computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.” The parents are the likes of a Google communications executive and a former employee of Intel and Microsoft who is currently working at a high-tech start-up. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous,” says one father.

But there is one category of youngster that seems to be thriving on screen learning: autistic children. “The iPad might be the difference between communicating with the outside world and being locked into a closed state,” writes John Brandon on FoxNews.com. Autistic kids respond to the devices in ways that are absolutely thrilling to parents and educators and promise breakthroughs in understanding the mysterious condition.

One three-year-old could not articulate even the most basic of needs.  Yet an iPad helped to bring him out of his mental cage. “The iPad has given us our family back,” his mother rejoiced. “It’s unlocked a new part of our son that we hadn’t seen before, and given us insight into the way he connects with his world.”

Richard Curtis


When Steve Jobs Looked Mortality in the Eye

The following piece was written last August, less than two months before the death of Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs Looks Mortality in the Eye

He is Steve Jobs. Look upon his works, ye Mighty, and despair.

Early in 2009, when Jobs’ was forced to temporarily give up leadership of Apple in order to combat pancreatic cancer, we reminded our readers of Charles De Gaulle’s grim remark: “The graveyards are full of indispensable men.”

“Every business captain,” we said, “needs to post that quotation on the wall in front of his or her desk as a reminder that great leaders must be great delegators. Jobs is as indispensable as corporate heads can possibly be, but adverse health has forced him, as it did De Gaulle, to look at his mortality and relinquish to others tasks that threaten to sap the energy he needs to restore his health.” (See My Irreplaceable You.) Jobs’s medical leave in ’09 was enough to depress the value of Apple’s shares by 2% in the domestic stock market and as much as 7.9% overseas.

And now the day of reckoning has arrived for Steve Jobs and the company he has fashioned like a masterpiece wrought by a modern-day Cellini: today he resigned as CEO, admitting he was no longer able to effectively run it. The reins will be picked up by Chief Operating Office Tim Cook. In his poignant statement Jobs said “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.”

What will become of Apple? In the Wall Street Journal Yukari Iwatani Kane writes that “People familiar with the situation have said that Mr. Jobs continues to be active at Apple and is closely involved in the company’s product strategy. Apple watchers don’t expect that to change even after Mr. Cook takes over.”

The first test of that statement came today when the stock market opened. The last trade before the announcement on Wednesday August 24th, was $376.18. Overnight, before the market opened today, shares dropped over $12.00 a share. However, it closed at 373.72, an unremarkable drop of $2.46, less than -0.65%‎. This would seem to suggest that sensible investors see that Jobs’s signature on his company is deeply embedded in the quality of its products and service. It doesn’t hurt that in the last quarter Apple reported blowout earnings of over 7.3 billion dollars.

The company is scarcely vulnerable. Its presiding visionary, however, is all too mortal. We wish him godspeed on his journey.

Richard Curtis


Steve Jobs Dead at 56


Men are from Tablets, Women from Nook

Are e-readers gender-specific?  Fox News seems to think so.  Laura Hazard Owen happens to think so too. She says tablets are a guy thing, Nooks and Kindles are for females. “A new study from Nielsen finds that 61 percent of e-reader owners are now female, she writes in Paid Content, “but women lag behind men  in ownership of tablets, 43% to 57%.”

To what does Owen attribute these tilts? She speculates that Barnes & Noble’s pitch of the Nook to women has been very effective:

Use your Nook while you get your hair done: Marketing also plays a part. Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch recently introduced the new Nook Simple Touch Reader by suggesting it was easy enough for a grandmother to use. The Nook videos on B&N’s website are narrated by women, and someone named ‘Kate’ describes the product features. An ad, ‘I love my Nook Color,’ features a female special-ed teacher, a ‘marketing professional’ named Megan who describes the Nook Color as ‘pretty,’ and Rhoda, a ‘retired teacher and grandma, who says, ‘I’m a dinosaur, that’s what my kids call me…but if I can do this, it’s definitely easy.’ (One guy, who doesn’t speak in the ad, is thrown in at the end.) One Nook TV ad, ‘Love of Reading,’ shows women using their Nooks while cooking, pregnant, and at the beauty parlor.”

The demographics on age are even more eye-opening. “Thirty percent of e-reader owners are now over the age of 55, compared to 25 percent in Q3 2010. A full 51 percent are over the age of 45. Meanwhile, market share for e-reader usage among younger people is declining for people under the age of 45. It might seem as though all of those people are switching over to tablets, but that does not appear to be the case. For example, 18- to 24-year-olds made up 15 percent of e-reader owners in Q3 2010, and 10 percent now. 18- to 24-year-olds made up 23 percent of tablet owners in Q3 2010, and that is down to 13 percent now,” writes Owen.

She doesn’t address the reasons for the decline in ownership of tablets by young people but in this economy it’s always a good idea to look at the price as a determining factor.

Who Loves E-Readers? Your Mom by Laura Hazard Owen

Richard Curtis


Task #1 for Apple’s New CEO: Amazon Tablet

Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook was just welcomed with a goody bag filled with 1 million shares of his company’s stock. That was the easy part. Now he’s going to have to earn it.

But as much as he would like to focus on developing products envisioned by the retiring founder Steve Jobs (who will remain active in the company for as long as he is able), he may first have to shore up the iPad as it comes under fire from rivals seeking a share of Apple’s commanding market for the tablet computer.

In particular Cook will have to deal with Amazon, which is not only developing a tablet of its own but planning to offer it to consumers dirt-cheap.  Amazon has not concealed its strategy of selling its Android-driven gadget at a loss – hundreds of dollars below iPad’s base price of $499 – just to pull the rug out from its competitor, according to Garrett Sloan of the New York Post.

Amazon has a long way to travel to bite into Apple’s 25 million unit lead, but no observer of Amazon would bet against its coming up with a product, a price and a marketing campaign that could close the gap faster than anyone would believe possible. Maybe Jeff Bezos should name the new tablet Orange, to facilitate comparison between Apples and Oranges.

Details in $99 tablets: Price is right

Richard Curtis


Who Wins the War of the Reading Devices?

The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and the proof of the e-book reader is in the reading.  Nick Bilton of the New York Times sampled numerous readers including that tried and true gadget called the paperback, and in  Deciding on a Book, and How to Read It presents his conclusions.

Reading one chapter on each device, he reached the following conclusions:

Kindle: “A joy in many respects…It is a dedicated e-reader, so you can’t hop off to the Web to look up facts…Kindle software works on almost every device with a screen and an Internet connection… [The keyboard] seems like a waste of space.”

Mobile phones: “Simple and satisfactory.”

Apple apps: “Big downside for many is that you can read them only on Apple devices…iBooks looks beautiful, with a design that feels more like a traditional book, with sepia-toned paper and stylistic typography, again, it is available only on Apple devices.”

Google eBookstore “Wasn’t quite as satisfactory as I’d had with the Kindle…its design felt a little too rigid and even clunky.”

iPad 1: “Too heavy and feels more like a dumbbell than an e-reader.”

iPad 2: “Lighter and feels snug in your hands… Both iPads offer an immersive reading experience. I found myself jumping back and forth between my book and the Web, looking up old facts and pictures… I also found myself being sucked into the wormhole of the Internet and a few games of Angry Birds rather than reading my book.” [Make up your mind, Bilton. Is iPad immersive or distractive?]

Barnes & Noble Color Nook: “Unlike Amazon’s device it allows you to surf the Web. It is a little slow, though, and that sometimes frustrated me…Like the Kindle software, the Barnes & Noble reading application is downloadable to several devices. It also offers some neat features that separates it from its competitors.”

Print paperback: “It took barely a paragraph for me to feel frustrated. I kept looking up things on my iPhone, and forgetting to earmark my page.” Obviously Bilton wasn’t familiar with the Floppatronic Fleeber, reviewed in these pages a while ago, but it’s my personal favorite way to read.

Notable in its omission from Bilton’s article is the Sony eReader, which may in itself be a statement of where that device stands – or falls – in the pantheon of choices.

Richard Curtis



What Do Children’s Brain Cells Do? Not Much Anymore

Long ago humans possessed a tail, but today it is vestigial.  Will the same be said one day about human imagination?

Reading Lawrence Downes’ thoughtful speculations in the New York Times about the impact of interactive books on children, we have to wonder if our descendants will be devoid of one of the key characteristics that separate us from all other species. His concerns are intensified by a study that “found children swimming in a media ocean.” “What,” he wonders, “does interactivity do for the imagination, as reading a book gets closer and closer to watching television?”

Downes’ dark ruminations were inspired by a visit to Apple’s virtual bookstore, “a wonderland of unbound creativity and astonishment. The text is just the beginning, an anchor for pictures that glow and unfold, characters who talk and tumble, words that pronounce themselves and music that enlivens everything…. But does digital interactivity engender mental passivity? As fingers flick and flit, making pixels work harder, what do brain cells do?”

What indeed?  If they don’t do anything, they will atrophy and fade into oblivion, making us little better than cabbages gazing at screens.

Richard Curtis

Every Blogger owes a debt of gratitude to newspapers and magazines. This posting relies on original research and reporting performed by The New York Times.