I've been busy both at work and at home (at home I've been reconstructing my erased hard drive), with little time for writing in-between. Frankly, I admit, the time I could have been using to write has been used for beer instead. And I'm really okay with that decision. So, faithful reader, I'm going to instead refer you elsewhere for an interesting article and make some inane comments of my own and act like this is real content. That is, after all, what WordPress is all about, right?
One of my favorite writers over at Ars has a story up today about some recent hands-on time he had with the current crop of fancy-pants upcoming Android Tablets which use the super-hyped NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor. The results?
I've been a big booster of the idea that an Android- or webOS-based tablet could be superior to the iPad in a number of key respects, so I was prepared to be wowed by the demo units. And I was kind of wowed... but not in a good way.
As one of the major sponsors of the summit, NVIDIA had a strong presence. Their booth at the exhibit hall featured three different Tegra 2 tablet prototypes, all running Android. As I poked around at the different apps available for demo purposesâ€”a Web browser, the Cooliris-based Gallery application, an AIR-based prototype of the newly launched Wired tablet app, and a short game that involved guiding a football player down the fieldâ€”confusion began to set in. The performance stank. It was a stutter-fest. Worse-than-Nexus One performance was not what I was expecting from these prototypes.
Resizing pages with the Web browser was jerky and uneven. The Gallery app stuttered a bit and generally wasn't nearly as responsive as it is on my Nexus One phone. And the Wired tablet app was just awful, running as it did on Adobe's AIR platform. If you compare the demo app to the Wired iPad app released Wednesday, the difference is night and day in terms of performance. All three tablet prototypes were a huge let-down.
He goes on to say that he spoke to some of the Nvidia reps at the event about his issues with the prototypes and they basically just regurgitated PR-speak about how the Tegra 2 was "teh r0x0rs!!11one!" The whole article is worth a read, so check it out.
Wow. That's really a bummer.
Like Jon, I'm really looking forward to see what HTC, ASUS, and others bring out to compete with the iPad later this year. I'm absolutely interested in an iPad in theory. I've really wanted a good tablet-form-factor device for a long time. Up until the iPad, though, none of them really worked out when you actually got down to trying to use them (and I've tried a number of them out). The Windows tablets available so far have been absolutely terrible (if you ever need to pick up a stylus, you've already failed). The iPad may look somewhat lackluster on paper, but until you try one out, you really have no idea what they are like to use in the real world.
However, in my opinion, the current iPad really has one major issue that I don't see Apple addressing any time soon: the file system.
I'm really fine with Apple hiding the complexity of the filesystem on my phone. Would it be nice to be able to use my media management application of choice (rather than the junk that is iTunes) to sync music, video, and images over to my phone? Absolutely. J. River's Media Center has FAR better options for managing media, converting, and syncing that media to a handheld than iTunes could even dream of handling (in fact, you can't even load my full media library into iTunes without suffering through numerous crashes and without being forced to convert many of the files to other Apple-blessed formats first). However, there is some benefit to using iTunes for the sync. It makes managing the content on the phone relatively simple and self-contained. I just use MC to sync the content I want on my phone to a folder on my hard drive, use iTLU to sync that folder to iTunes, and then have iTunes just sync EVERYTHING it contains over to the phone. At my house, iTunes is only used to sync the phones, and never really "manages" any content on it's own.
The difference on a phone is that I'm using my phone mostly to consume content on the go. I'm listening to music and podcasts, viewing the occasional episode of Breaking Bad synced to the phone (or, more often, using AirVideo), listening to podcasts, looking up recipes on Big Oven or AllRecipes, reading email, and browsing the web. I don't, very often, use it for creating content (unless you count the occasional text message, tweet, or brief email as "content"). When I do actually create something "real", it is mostly notes in the Notes app (or occasionally things in Evernote). To get files onto the phone if I need them, I just use Dropbox (or AirSharing if I need something larger than I want to dump into my free Dropbox account). Either way, I generally don't really need to save this content out, re-edit it on my computer, and then round-trip the documents back to the phone. It just isn't an appropriate device for that type of use very often. Therefore, the closed and inaccessible file system really isn't A Big Deal.
On the iPad, I think it would be an entirely different situation. The iPad form-factor would open it up to being used as a content creation device as much as a content consumption device. I'd want to be able to open Word or PowerPoint documents up on the iPad, edit them, save them, and then edit them some more on my desktop machine, then put them back on the iPad, and so on and so forth. Even more, imagine a Tablet version of Illustrator or Photoshop? How about a tablet friendly audio editor, or a video editing suite that can round-trip with Final Cut? While these things are all possible with the iPad's locked-down file system, each application handles things a differently, and there are many ands, ifs, and buts when you get right down to it. Want to choose what application you want to use to open up one of those files in your Dropbox? Better hope the makers of Dropbox thought you might want to, because if not, you're out of luck. Since there's no filesystem, you can't just browse the files on your iPad in a "finder" and then choose what app you want to use to open them. You can't edit a document in one app, and then switch over to another app to tweak it further, unless support for that exchange has been specifically built into both of the apps by the developers (and then you can't come to rely upon this capability, because version 2.0 of one of them might break this support).
Look, I understand that complex file systems confuse novice users. But someone explain to me why can't we just have a simple shared "My Documents" folder, that is accessible via traditional USB-mass storage means on your computer and then let all the apps on the device play in this space? You can hide all the other complexity of the file system, but let us have this one special folder where we can easily stash our stuff. For a device in this "space", this feature is a must-have, not a "would-be-nice-if-it-did". Having each and every app vendor completely re-invent the wheel while stuck inside of their own little storage fiefdom is absolutely not a viable long-term option.
I had (and still have, really) great hope for someone to make a good Android-based competitor to the iPad that will fill this need for me. But, the clock is ticking, and this early look does not bode well for the revision 1.0 of the competitors. It looks a lot like the first ones out of the gate will have a very HTC G1 kind of feel, and that isn't a good thing at all. Here's hoping that Stokes saw only a cross section of some of the worst examples, or that the improvements over the next 3-4 months will be dramatic beyond belief, but somehow I doubt it. What concerns me the most is the implications this report has for the timing of the release of the final products. By the time we get something competitive actually shipping, January will probably be just around the corner, and with it, the announcement for the iPad HD or 2.0 or whatever. And say-what-you-will, but Apple is probably going to come on strong with the next rev of the iPad. They are taking this market very seriously.
So, like Jon, I still have a lot of hope for the Android Tablet future, but this isn't really a good start at all.
PS. Oh, and no. Chrome OS is not really what I want at all. Again, I want a content creation and consumption device, and not everything can or should run inside a browser.