I suppose it's somewhat natural, given the way the market works, but it seems our tools for consumption are advancing at a significantly greater rate than our tools for production.
I guess the opposing side is the Web. Amazon seems to be shaping up to be solidly on the side of the centralized authority-type cathedral builders, while the Web and Web technologies are more bazaar-like. It seems more and more like Google is the only powerful singular force whose incentives align with the Web instead of with more centralized production hubs.
There isn't too much discussion when there's a new version of Photoshop, or VIM, or Django, or Wordpress, or countless other technologies (e.g. http://www.asciiflow.com/) and platforms that help with content creation. One reason I read HN is that these items usually make it here. It's easier to create content now than at any time in the past.
How many people built software before iOS and Android? A few folks scattered across huge companies that either built consumer products or provided services for those companies. Today, iOS has half a million apps -- somebody produced them. Arguably the 'consumption-only' device that you think has taken us a step backward has given tens of thousands of people incentive to produce something. Amazon's vision is for authors to be able to self-publish without going through the hassle of publishers, giving more incentive for people to produce. Whereas making movies was once a task for multibillion dollar studios, Youtube has enabled something like the Khan Academy to start earning money by producing content.
You cannot have better and better consumption oriented devices in a vacuum. Someone has to produce what the masses are consuming.
Nonsense. Pre-2008 (iPhone App Store launch) there was loads of software aimed at the residential market. There was also the open source movement, which had created a whole operating system from scratch. Yes, the App Stores have made it much easier to sell software, but to think that all software was made in megacorps is silly. This isn't the 1980s!
I guess the way it looks to me is that the last dramatic production advancement for lay people was the advent of blogging. The two major advancements after that have been social networking and tablets, which both somewhat degrade production signal.
The observation that an optimized consumption experience gives producers a bigger audience is an interesting one. But I think what I'm objecting to is the further distinction between those classes. The PC and blogging revolutions were profound to me in that they closed the gap between the producers and consumers. Tablets, on the other hand, make the distinction more overt. Same with the Kindle.
While this is true, my point is about who has the means for production. I would rather see that power distributed than concentrated.
I suspect that they were much more locally focused. Writing letters to the editor (because people still read the paper), aligning with community social organizations, being more actively involved in their communities.
So now we're able to form narrowcast tribes across geographic (and even temporal) boundaries. Are we better off? En masse, such connections may leave whole societies better off (Arab spring) but I think that perhaps we won't realize the full benefits until the focus returns to the local. And that won't happen until there's a rise in the locality of the internet.
Think reinvention of the local paper; or maybe a craigslist for the issues of the day.
And that can't happen until the technology is in the hands and power of EVERYONE. Think Kindles (or iPads, or whatever) in a rack at your McDonalds, literally replacing the local paper. Perhaps the biggest advancement here is the price point; but we need to cut that iPad cost in half perhaps 5-8 more times for this access to happen.
When that day hits--the day of the ubiquitous $1 Kindle--then I think we can claim democratization, and we will see a return to locality and the strengthening of our communities.
There is an assumption here that people with a PC will automatically become producers which I think is wrong. For people to become producers they need incentive and opportunity. These devices and the ease of content creation is means the opportunity bar is much lower (e.g. you don't need to get a publisher to agree on a manuscript to publish); and the incentive is higher (you can monetize content you produce whether its apps, books or videos much more easily).
What is missing here is actually a perspective on how consumption is a form of production itself– of perspective. Better access, and new forms and content for consumption, will create (that word!) new forms of consciousness, which are fed back in production.
Consumption today seem to me more of a form of networking of sources and producers, production of perspective. There's so little that we yet know about our still new internet reality. Polishing consumption may very well be necessary in order for us to make sense of our current social/technological stage, to produce new forms of social networking/organization and ultimately new every-other-form of content/artifacts.
To dive in at the deep end: consuming stuff on a tablet, with the accompanying delights and frustrations - is part of the networking of the device itself into the cycle of human content consumption-production. There's no reason to believe that the tablet as an object is finished, and that it won't evolve to fit the 'expressive needs' of people – your own frustration/pessimism are a part of this cycle, both leading people to not use tablets, to look for different desktop paradigms, new forms of interaction with tablets, improving tablet ergonomics and on and on. You're surely not alone.
The cycle won't stop. We must not get down when there's so much great work to be done! Yet, again, also our negative feeling in this regard is ultimately productive, if we let it.
One can at least see that the path-to-market of content has been democratized with the web over time… and the App stores/'App paradigm' are also helpful in making it possible for more to program.
I think a big part of our dilemmas have had to do with how isolated and abstract programming and development have been compared to mainstream society. A relative 'mainstreaming' of programming is still an incredible thought – yet it is happening right now!
Whatever happens to our present jobs, I can't help but think that the infusion of new programming talent is about to create a new reality – a wave that could lift a great number of us – given appropriate channels for us all to contribute so much more than regular business logic programming - and us people practicing and getting ready to catch it!
(over the top eh? :)
Reading per se, however, does not result in anything vanishing from the system. It _can_ mean that but usually the ideas or perspectives contained in the book or article change the ideas or perspectives of the reader. Reading _can_ be pure consumption, for sure, but that describes a specific type of reading.
One could argue that buying a physical copy and tossing it after you're done is the act of consumption. But then the consumption really concerns only the physical medium, not the content.
Am I splitting hairs? I'm not sure, to be honest, but I feel the more people talk about reading as something "for passive users to consume", the more it narrows the industry perspective on what transmitting ideas between people means or could mean.
You are, but let me split them further. Any expense can be classified as either a capital expense or a consumptive one. Expenses classified as one can usually, with a few logical contortions, also be classified as the other. For example, food is the classical consumptive expense, but one could also treat it as an investment as food keeps one alive (and healthy hopefully) and allows one to work in the future. I think that the same can be said about reading here. If you buy a book, it's an expense, and if you read it, you've "consumed" it. Sure you can read it again or someone else can read it, but it's still a consumer good.
I think what people mean here is that devices like this and the iPad are not generally geared to the production of works and more to their consumption. What I mean is, while reading a book on the Amazon Kindle might be an investment in your own mind and future, the Kindle doesn't enable one to author his own books. The web however, does enable one to put up his own webpage or blog (if you can figure it out.) I think this is what people are talking about here. It has to do with our place in the economics of the thing.
1) A tablet is a computer you can hold. Books and magazines have over time become optimized for holding (see size and weight) precisely due to the ergonomics of reading. Thus one would expect that tablets, which can store a vast number of books and magazines, would be "optimized" for such content.
2) Due to (1) it makes sense to trade power for battery life and thus iPad-era tablets use ARM processors. Word processors, music editors, video editors do exist for tablets and each has full privileges to have any interface it wants by assuming the full screen. Over time that software will get more powerful as these low-power processors advance. It can't be argued that iOS itself hinders content creation, but it can be argued that slow processors do. Time will take care of this.
Also I don't see consumption--by which you mean reading--to be a bad thing to do with a computer. Amazon's stated purpose for the Kindle is to enable every book in every language ever printed to be available in under a minute. That's an extraordinary vision if you think about it, and we're getting there very quickly. Hardly a step backwards.
What I meant is that it's a step backward for what I saw as the trend toward a world in which the power to create things is more evenly distributed.
Don't get me wrong, I have a kindle, and I love it. But it's not just optimized for reading, it's optimized for reading content that's distributed through a centrally maintained distribution channel. (And while Amazon is trying to wrest control of that channel from the traditional publishers, it's a transfer of power from one central authority to another.) Which is why I appreciate tools like Readability's 'send to kindle' bookmarklet so much: it lets me read content from the bazaar more easily. But. Even then, I had to jump through hoops and the formatting isn't great. In short, it's not optimized.
Furthermore, while on the web on a PC I can read a blog post and then immediately comment, share, or respond in a blog post of my own, on my kindle I can't do any of that. I have to put my own system in place to even remember to do it later. In other words, the Kindle optimizes my consumption experience at the expense of my production experience in a way that's sort of profound in a way that I acutely feel is a step backward.
1) Content on post-PC devices is mediated through a central authority. You argue this is bad because presumably you cannot read whatever you want, but only what the central authority allows through. But reading whatever content you want is not enough, you also would have expected that any content you find out there that is optimized for a desktop browser be re-optimized by the tablet device for reading on it.
Response: A valid criticism of the Kindle, though in practice it seems that you are asking for an extension of what is already offered, implying a superset, not a sibling set of functionality. For example, the Kindle has always offered a browser but the technology didn't seem good enough to render a website quickly. Considering that Amazon had its pick of web-to-e-ink and books-to-e-ink, I can't immediately fault them for what they chose to throw their weight behind first--purely from the standpoint of practicality.
You criticized the iPad in your original post, but I don't see any of the iPad's existing functionality being at odds with choice of content provider or lack of optimization for reading web content (see Instapaper, Flipboard, built-in Readablility in iOS 5).
2) Your ability to "produce content" on these tablet devices is hindered.
Response: I addressed this point in my original post. This by and large is a result of the technology available for a holdable computer, not a nefarious choice on the part of the manufacturers. I think the ability to write blog posts on a plastic Kindle is asking a lot (would that even be enjoyable?), and that ability exists on an iPad today, in fact, since it was introduced.
The iPad, on the other hand, is a replacement for device for a large class of people, and it's optimized for the consumption of centrally mediated content. It's not strictly at odds with the web, but it privileges its own distribution channels. I believe that has an effect.
2) Again, not an argument against the Kindle so much as the iPad for reasons stated in (1). But the iPad offers a degraded experience for writing blog posts, for example, compared to a PC. I believe that friction matters. I believe this optimization will only continue to privilege consumption and specifically mediated consumption as time goes on, because that's where the incentives lie. This makes me sad.
[Edit: I'm not necessarily trying to criticize manufacturers as nefarious. They're just doing what the market dictates. I am saying the phenomenon is unfortunate, and I'm trying to raise awareness of the issue to get people thinking of ways to empower more people to create more, better, richer, things. I was also pointing out that Google is maybe the one large corporation that has the power and the motivation to do so.]
Or is it simply that the iPad makes so much consumption so easy – on a PC NOTHING is very easy to do in comparison. It's a little bit like the idea that TV only is for kicking back, even though you can make very difficult content for it too – all creators exlore the nature of their medium/device, whether it be developers or content producers!
iMovie - plenty of amazing music-making apps in addition to Garageband – and an increasing number of outlining apps, OmniOutliner, productivity apps like OmniFocus – seem to suggest that appmakers are still only starting to explore what can be done with this new UI and what the usage scenarios are for this device. They're different!
TODAY, most of the apps existing presume that you have a PC, and indeed, until iOS 5 – soon coming out – you need a PC for backups and various device management tasks. That PC dependence will end, and with it maybe most of the need for tablets to be defined as complementary 'consumption' devices. How file management will work with apps in the iCloud is only about to start to get worked out. Indeed, looking at how the iCloud works suggests their vision of how people will use their various devices together – it's still quite untried!
So, I'd not say tablets are doomed to be for consumption – it's more of a market dynamics question, like you note, together with technology just getting created. It's really about what gets explored. And one can hardly say that the app store model can't be successful for those who want to create something new.
I'm hopeful – and also did some of my best work at that time on a Psion Series 5, back in 1998. For editing, the touch interface, with a stylus and a keyboard, turned out superior to desktop word processing - at least to me.
What we're getting away from is maybe the idea that work is done at a desktop – something that still lived on with laptops. It will partly be a sort of 'self-conscious' loop of what is possible to be done – what we make possible to be done – and how convenient and productive these tools then turn out. 'A bicycle for the mind' indeed...
Content consumption devices (aka radio, TV, books, mp3 players) have not had a significant advance in decades. The browser was the first new conduit that moved people away from these devices. These people used a PC, but merely as a content consumption device, NOT as a content creation device!
Now tablets - which are mostly hardware for browsers, becoming more so with 'cloud' services - are becoming personal content consumption devices.
As long as there's a browser, it's a window to the world of content - not just the central authority's content.
For so long producers have wanted to have a powerful computing device in every hand. Now that day is closer!
As for the geeks, things haven't changed either. We find ways to open up the devices and get the freedoms we want.
Basically, the flip side of the increased consumption is that it's a lot easier to get your work out to other people, which means people who previously couldn't or wouldn't are now becoming producers. For example, a lot more people are publishing books for e-readers because those platforms make it so easy — with Amazon, it's pretty much as simple as logging into your Amazon account and uploading a text file. Web series (e.g. "The Guild") are a viable medium because so many people have these easy-consumption devices.
Yes and no. They didn't create software, but they created content. Just look at Facebook & other social network sites. It's full of user generated content. Likewise people generated content to print out with word processors, and they generated content as emails to send to people. They also generated photographic content. However pretty much all of this is now done in web browsers, so in a way, you can generate all this content with iPad/Kindle.
And just to be clear I do believe that tablets are aimed at content consumption and not so much content creation, and I believe that to be a good thing. Why? Well people don't need a $2000 laptop to surf the web and check email.
Our tools for production have advanced as far as they can—what major changes have the desktop and laptop PC had over the last five years?
People said the exact same thing when the mouse and GUI came along - it was eye-candy, a substitute designed to distract the credulous from the fact that we had hit the limits of productivity and that it was all downhill from here on. They said the same thing about microcomputers and minicomputers as substitute for mainframe terminals.
Tablets have any number of interesting productivity software being developed for them (innovative word processors spring immediately to mind), but developers are severely limited by the hardware capabilities of those platforms... Obviously we won't see a full fledged version of Photoshop or Final Cut written for a tablet for many years to come, but I think we might see that eventually.
Machines optimized for creating stuff keep getting better, and aren't going away. I don't think it's necessarily bad if those machines drop to a smaller market share. It's usually a much smaller percent of people who create the apps and content that aren't crap anyway, and most of the consumer audience goes to them. Getting optimized video production machines out to the masses via cellphones is cool, but it's not really improving the average video on YouTube.
For creative ideas at the OS and interaction levels though... yeah, the platform owners need or want to own most of it. I think they're OK with jailbreaking the platform to the extent it creates a testing ground for new ideas, that they can then adopt.
What's easily missed too is that the 'free creativity and production for all' ethos on the web – all the good stuff that got us here! - so far largely missed out on financing for most of the traditional cultural sectors. Much of what is most highly valued in our cultures has been woefully underfinanced for our entire lives.
The iPad/app model – positioned between all these previously-existing devices and media/content like books/mags/+ – at least makes a start for a venue, a potentially enormously widely available venue, for content producers where they can be discovered – consumed/networked and get paid for their work by a simply enormous audience.
This is not necessarily at all a boon for central distribution in the sense of the old massmedia institutions!
I'd say that Apple having a lock on it – to the extent that Apple IS the central distribution channel, even if Amazon's tablet is just around the corner! – is not as important as that they provide a relatively 'flat' market for distribution – as I perceive them to do right now. To my understanding, they're basically running their stores at break-even.
With Amazon coming into the picture, it's about to become SO interesting – there will be so many different business models: sellers of Gadgets, Content and Ads!
I just happily browsed the web, listened to podcasts, checked my RSS feeds and flicked through my Twitter stream for six hours during a train ride on my iPad. All tasks for which the iPad – or more general the tablet form factor – is ideal.
I think your argument is incoherent.
In contrast, the native Web on PCs is more read-write by nature. And Web technologies are making production increasingly easier.
However it instantly became my go-to e-mail client at work, reminds me of appointments (integrates with Exchange), holds my to-do list, has my personal issue-tracking database (Bento), browses trough our github projects, syncs with Dropbox, allows me to connect to SQL Server, is on Skype all day long and I even did some (simple) presentations on Keynote for our meetings.
I also use it for online banking when I'm not home and I have Amplitube and iRig to play guitar trough it on weekends.
I also know some people who use it in college, my sister borrows mine sometimes when she's in town and her classmate also owns one.
Granted, I'm a developer, not a manager, so those apps aren't critical to my work... but I LOVE having only two apps on my Windows Workstation: Firefox and Visual Studio. Talk about focus!
Also, I work on a university, and we're in the process of buying tablets for the whole staff. Probably not iPads, idk.
Of course, it's a weird use case, but well, it is possible...
Mainstream PC use is for games, netflix, and facebook. All passive. I guess facebook is 50/50, if you call writing a never ending Christmas card update letter creative :)
That is a pre-tablet mindset. It wasn't long ago that GUIs were chided for being "just a fad".
"GUIs are just a fad,when their novelty wears off, users will soon return to true command-line interfaces like DOS", Jon Gladden 1986.
I also don't claim that Apple hates the web. I just think it's in their interest to privilege 1. Consumption over production; and 2. Consumption through their centrally mediated channels of distribution.
It doesn’t matter what I did or did not produce with the iPad. Computers are cheap, software is cheap, creation was never as easy as it is today. We are living in a golden age of content creation but content creation is not for everyone. So what.
Not that passive consumption is inherently evil. I just was imagining a world where the power of creation is more evenly distributed. I'm a little sad to see that trend start to reverse.
I agree that creation isn't for everyone. But the available tools have an effect. They encourage or discourage in subtle ways. The iPad's software keyboard imposes just a slight amount of friction on inputting text. That has an effect. It matters, to some however small degree, and it aggregates with every other way that Apple optimizes consumption over production.
On centralized authority: again, the way you are consuming content is not the case Apple is optimizing for. They have allowed it, but their most sanctioned way is for you to buy content from their partners through their distribution channels. It's not a complete restriction, but an optimization of a certain model through UI. TFA's description of the new Kindle seems to follow, and, indeed, to go farther down this path.
Meta: Not that I'm particularly offended, but why take such an abrasive tone? "Central authority bullshit," "obvious nonsense"? Do you simply not consider it a possibility that you didn't fully understand what I was trying to say, either because I communicated it poorly or because it doesn't align with your preconceived notions? I'm actually quite happy to be having this discussion, as it's one I've tried to have many times, but never got much uptake. But, why start with such a dismissive tone? I've seen so many threads start with mild, mutual abrasiveness and spiral quickly into full-out flamewar. Why take a step down that path? Is it so hard to be overtly civil? Honest question.
But I feel you are ignoring the larger picture. Tablets are currently third devices and prices have developed in such a way to actually allow for a third device. What’s wrong with a consumption oriented device when what most people were already doing was consuming?
Given that creation is as simple as it never before has been and that all the tablets actually can receive all of the created content I just do not understand how tablets could threaten content creation in any way whatsoever. It seems absurd to me.
Tablets are freaking awesome for content consumption of any kind and they can do quite a few other things. They are also cheap enough to make it possible to also buy a very capable PC. I … I really don’t understand how that could have any negative impact.
(Meta: I actually feel very bad about my tone now. I sometimes start to furiously write stuff like that and I always regret it but hardly ever learn. I’m very sorry for my tone. It was a mistake.)
Tablets look like the end of that side to me. It looks like an optimization of the consumption aspect at the expense of the creation aspect.
You may see it as a third device, but I think a lot of people see it as a replacement device, and those are exactly the people who could benefit most from tools that make it easier for them to produce things.
I think my ultimate lament was that the way the market works, of course large companies are going to privilege consumption, because they can make more money that way.
(Meta: Thanks, I accept and appreciate the apology!)
People want music, want videos, want books, want apps. The market gives them what they want. This is not a case of the market delivering something consumers don’t actually like.
This is not a conspiracy of big companies to dumb people down. People are already that way. The PC didn’t help with that one bit and tablets certainly also won’t help.
Again: there is no problem.
I don't think it's an overt conspiracy, it's just self-interest and centralized resources and power.
I believe that PCs did change the way people are, and the way they think. Not everyone, maybe not even a majority, at least not overtly. But I think it had a profound effect on the culture. I believe the Web made a difference. I believe the ways we have to access the Web make a difference.
You can point to dumb people continuing to be dumb and say there is no problem. I see a problem, and my solution is to talk about it, to try to get influential people to think about it, and think about making tools to empower creation by the technically lay (like me).
The media distribution model of all the mainstream stuff is not different between PCs and tablets. Tablets might be a bit more convenient when it comes to buying stuff (probably not even that) but that’s it. You can get mainstream stuff on both. People want mainstream stuff on both. Napster and all the later filesharing is a testament to that.
But that’s not the whole story. Far from it. All the other content out there is perfectly accessible with tablets. They are just as good at accessing non-mainstream content as PCs. They are not limited in that respect. They all have awesome browsers (the most modern stuff you can get), they allow you to download podcasts or to subscribe to RSS feeds. It’s all possible.
Tablets are the content consumption Yin to the content creation Yang.
I just don’t understand how one could see that any other way.
The content is available on tablets, too, but the device subtly privileges its own centrally mediated distribution channels. I believe this privilege will only get stronger.
Of course, unless devices like tablets continue to convince them that the mainstream is the only valuable stream.
Why should that happen? Why? I don’t understand. Non-mainstream content is a first class citizen on tablets.
I … I really don’t get it. You are postulating a effect that seems so wildly implausible and absolutely absurd to me.
Some here might dismiss TV completely, but many consider this a "Golden Age" for television writing, too. Is it a stretch to think that almost unlimited access to the history of film might actually be inspiring more and more people to write smarter material for popular media?
I sure think this IS a Golden Age. The bizarre and 'negative' traits, and our moments of distress, easily hide it for us - but it's here and now. We just need to learn how to create a society out of the jumble (ie, planet) that's out there...
Someone like Ugh or myself sees you call all of this awesome a "step back" and laughs.
I think you've sold the iPad short too early. Intent or not it will be a huge device for content creation the same way the iphone is a huge device for content creation -- the best camera you have is the one you have with you and as Flickr attests, iPhone 4 is used by millions every day for creation.
Similarly the iPad will be huge and Apple has already recognized this with signature first party apps like GarageBand, iMovie, Pages, Numbers. I have a feeling in years to come a lot of musicians will say that the best keyboard, drum set, guitar, etc that you have is the one you have with you.
Do you like to write sometimes? There's an app for that. When you're not at your desk will the best typewriter be the one you have with you? Probably.
Do you like to draw and doodle sometimes? There's an app for that. When you're not at your desk will the best drawing and painting studio be the one you have with you? Probably.
EDIT: Replacing the desktop – AND drawing plenty of other old technologies into this new one.
: I wrote more on that here: http://blog.byjoemoon.com/post/3112676038/the-end-of-comment... which was a response to an essay by Zadie Smith.
That’s the sentence I was responding to. Central authority bullshit and all.
The argument seems coherent enough to me. I'm not entirely convinced about the "centralized authority" part, but the "tools for consumption advancing faster than tools for production" seems true (and inevitable).
So what if consumption is easier? Does that mean less people will create something? Why? Creating something doesn’t get harder because consumption gets easier. I don’t see the causal connection.
(That central authority bullshit is just patent nonsense.)
Oh, and our tools for creation still are rapidly improving. Prices for computers have gone nothing but down. People are today able to buy a great PC and a tablet for the same price of a PC ten years ago. Software has become hugely more accessible, hardware has become so much more capable. Creating stuff was never – never – as easy as it is today.
We are living in a golden age of content creation and in a golden of content consumption. Tablets will help with that, not hinder.
You're absolutely right that there's no necessary dichotomy, but in practice that's what's happening. The iPad could be an awesome platform for a Squeak-like development environment where you create and program a bunch of objects and have them interact with each other. But Apple won't allow such an app in their store which makes it unavailable to the large majority of users, and if they had their way jailbreaking your iPad to run it would be a federal crime.
Oh, and our tools for creation still are rapidly improving. Prices for computers have gone nothing but down. People are today able to buy a great PC and a tablet for the same price of a PC ten years ago.
That's true, today. But if tablets replace PCs for most people as many are predicting, PC prices will go up substantially: partly due to reduced economies of scale, and partly because reducing the market to professionals and geeks will allow more price discrimination.
Tablets will improve.
You predictions of doom are way overblown.
The content I was consuming on my iPad – and that was my point – did not come from a central authority (no more than before when I consumed on my Laptop) and it’s enabled by the cheap tools available for content creation today.
I was listening to one awesome podcast by a guy who made podcasting his job and survives (extremely successfully) from donations alone.
I was browsing awesome webcomics from people who would never had a chance to make their comics accessible to as many people as they can today.
I was reading awesome Harry Potter fan fiction and tales from a lawyer doing his job.
All not possible only a decade (maybe two in some cases) ago. We are living in a golden ago of content creation. To be worried about tablets in that context is – sorry – crazy.
How about the webcomic, do you think it was done in the iPad / Android version photoshop?
Was the HP fan fiction typed on a tablet keyboard?
The point the OP is trying to make is not that tablets discourage production of content at a higher level. It's that companies are spending a lot of money improving consumption device /software , instead of creative devices/software
It's that there is more money is creating consumption devices, and most of the R&D is going into creating better and better consumption devices, with less focus on creation better tools for production.
This is however a natural state of the free market - creating consumer-oriented consumption devices is suddenly a lot more profitable than creating devices targeted and production of content, and therefore that is where we are seeing the most innovation/investment right now.
Argh. This is sooooo frustrating. Why does everyone believe that it’s either the iPad or nothing? That just doesn’t make any sense at all. I don’t get it.
Exactly, OP's point is that most R&D by large co's these days is focused on building consumption devices similar to the iPad. About 10 years ago, most R&D was around enterprises/PC's, and that benefited both producers & consumers of content.
No one is arguing that one particular model is right - it was simply an observation of where R&D is focused these days, and what that means for producers of content.
And this was all possible a decade ago. There were at least 50M people with web connections a year ago.
Overall, the UI of this Kindle felt very responsive. You can flick through the carousel seamlessly. This is something Amazon has apparently been working on quite a bit, I’m told. And they continue to.
If Amazon gets this right, they're a long way towards recreating the iPad UX. In fact, this entire article suggests that the Kindle tablet will be the first widely adopted non-iPad tablet. In addition to the above:
1. The interface sounds great. I am a humongous fan of the Kindle Cloud Reader and iOS interfaces, and I believe they're designed very well. Users can expect a well-designed tablet from Amazon.
2. Users can draw from a central source for their content. Amazon will provide all the movies, music, and books you need--something every other Android tablet has lacked so far. Mainstream users will appreciate the centralized content provision, especially from a company as respected as Amazon.
3. Cutting the Android Market solves a lot of potential issues: no spyware, no OS incompatibilities, no apps with large hardware requirements. Everything in the Amazon Appstore will work on this Kindle (I expect it to be a requirement for admission).
This tablet sounds very...Apple-like. A very closed ecosystem with access to interesting content and a curated app store. I would buy it if I was shopping for a tablet.
I think breaking away to complete Android incompatibility is a huge mistake.
If anything, breaking Android compatibility and using it like an embedded OS is your only option right now. Google simply either refuses to polish Android for tablets or has too much on their plate right now to do so. Fixing that problem without Google's help will definitely cause compatibility issues. The question is what do people expect from a $250 tablet? I would say "vast app compatibility" is not high up on that list.
To answer some of the parent's questions:
Q) Why would you buy it?
A) Because it's significantly less expensive (more within reach). Because it's Amazon, and it will have ready access to: music, movies, books, and an exemplary shopping experience for a wide variety of products. This experience will be well integrated with the device, and in the traditional Amazon way, everything will be extremely easy. "From the people that brought you 1-click purchasing."
Q) Is it just that it's cheaper?
A) You say "just that it's cheaper" as if that's insignificant. Did you see the way HP TouchPads flew off the shelves at $99? Do you know anyone smart enough, or with enough experience, to say that a properly priced Amazon Tablet won't fly off the shelves at half the cost of an iPad?
Q) Are developers going to want to build apps for it?
A) On a cached copy of their "Inside Amazon" page , they state: "Over 137 million active Amazon customer accounts". If I recall correctly, Steve jobs was proud of the fact that iTMS had over 100 million customers with credit cards on file. With 137 million active customers, they've got a massive base to which they can market.
1 - http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:CwHkwbS...
I can see why Amazon has gone down this path, but I do wonder if it's the right thing, rather than doing everyone's favorite/most hated carrier-specific bolt-ons instead. I also hope that Amazon doesn't give up on color e-ink, because reading on a Kindle is so much nicer.
If any API incompatibilities emerge (beyond the normal API level that Android uses to distinguish between release APIs) then developers will be forced to fork their own products and maintain 2 separate release channels -- one for the Android market and one for the Kindle market.
Beyond that, Android will continue to fly ahead with each release and the Kindle won't be able to keep up without significant time pulling and merging changes from upstream. I'm not looking forward to continually only having access to last years apps because the Kindle is a year behind the mainline Android release.
Unless Amazon goes through the Android certification process, and keeps their "fork" as a pure UI modification, I'm going to pass on this. It might be bright and shiny on day 1, but on day 365 it could be a different story.
There's a big market out there for people who just want to read a book. They don't want to GPS with Google Maps, they don't want to install Yelp, or Trulia, or GrubHub apps. They just want to read, listen to music, and watch a video when they're on the bus or on the couch.
Amazon has done well by providing focus to the Kindle. Where I commute it's more popular than the iPad. They may someday decide to take Apple head-on with an Android tablet, but it's not gonna be this year.
This might mean a focus on magazine/more graphically designed newspapers, perhaps distributed through the Kindle Store, that take advantage of the nature of the Tablet's screen; but at the very least it will have to be a tablet with an exceptionally capable browser.
Mom 'n' pop users don't care about "apps". They want books, email, web browsing, music, free streaming movies, and whatever silly game is popular at the moment (Angry Birds, Sudoku, and Bejeweled). A Kindle tablet can do all of these.
You buy a Kindle because you want to read books, if you really wanted all those other features you would buy an iPad which is actually good at them.
Amazon is an online:
* media retailer
* department store retailer
* book seller
* catalog warehouse (third-party resellers)
They have broad distribution agreements with thousands upon thousands of merchants in all product spaces (including media). No other tablet manufacturer (not even Apple) has the kind of vertical reach that Amazon does.
Amazon is also a pioneer in understanding the way their customers shop for products. Amazon's iOS apps are some of the coolest shopping applications I've used. Scan a bar code of a product at a store, and instantly find out if you can buy it cheaper on Amazon. Usually you can. That's smart. They constantly refine their website to fit customer usage patterns. They know how their customers behave, and they know how to adapt to customer change.
Remember when the iPad came out and geeks everywhere united in sentiment that it would fail. "It doesn't run a full desktop, OS!!! It's doomed to fail!!!" That's a caricature of tech punditry at the time of the iPad launch. Today, the iPad is way out front. All those arguments sound eerily familiar to:
"If any API incompatibilities emerge (beyond the normal API level that Android uses to distinguish between release APIs) then developers will be forced to fork their own products and maintain 2 separate release channels..."
This is all geek speak. Turns out, the market doesn't really care.
Amazon, like Apple, isn't trying to enter a market, they're trying to create one.
I'm not smart enough to know if they'll be successful, but if you look at Amazon as a company, they're an entirely different animal from Apple, Google, or Samsung. I think they have the tools to make it happen, but it will ultimately come down to execution.
As for forking, I'm guessing it's not really a fork. It's just got their own UI on top, but they'll continue to get the rest of the updates from Google.
I would posit that they believe people care about apps a great deal, and that Amazon would like to be positioned to make some money from that demand, either through a cut of sales or by making their hardware more attractive since it "has apps."
They're the original kings of one-click buying, before Apple even sold apps. They'll make a killing and so will any developers who hitch their wagon to Amazon's strategy.
(1) $250 with free Prime? Buying one for sure, maybe two.
(2) No camera? Ugg. At least a front facing camera for Skype pls, I'll pay extra.
(3) November, meh I was hoping late September.
(4) Eclair fork? That has to be wrong lots of optimizations made in Froyo which has been available for over a year.
(5) Maybe this provided some additional incentive for Google to withhold Honeycomb source?
(6) MG Siegler continues to break character and occasionally commit actual journalism. Would love to see this trend continue.
This is disappointing. The Kindle 2 (the model I had) did one thing, and one thing phenomenally well. I don't want my kindle to be a Swiss army knife.
Speak for yourself! I do this and love it. I find that the faster page flipping more than makes up for the slightly less readable text. The thing that I think most phone/tablet makers get wrong at the start is not putting it in "night mode" by default. White text on a black background on a phone screen is so much more pleasant (at least for me) that it wouldn't surprise me if bad defaults are a large part of people's aversion to it.
-They want a purpose-built device where no tradeoffs have been made, where every single design decision as you’re walking down the process has been made to optimize for reading.
-The number one thing that people are doing on their iPad right now if you look at the rankings is playing a game called “Angry Birds” where you throw birds at pigs and the pigs blow up. The number one thing that people are doing on their Kindle right now is reading Stieg Larsson.
>Amazon has been working on a multi-touch screen/e-ink hybrid tablet device.
Presumably it's just much, much easier to develop the backlit tablet than one using e-ink. The technology will be there eventually, but it might take a while... :(
I played with a Nook a few weeks ago, and almost bought one. $249 is nearly an impulse purchase price point. But, I already had a netbook, a Kindle, a laptop, a Nexus One (which broke a few days ago, to be replaced by a Sensation), a desktop, and a DS, so I talked myself out of it.
One of the big reasons is because I wouldn't be able to get rid of my existing Kindle. The Kindle has a killer feature, which I can't replicate: International 3G Internet for free. It's a piss poor excuse for a web browser, but when I'm out of the country, I can google "wifi hotspot city-name" and find a place to connect my netbook or laptop and get some work done. This is a miracle for someone that travels as much as I do.
The battery life is also spectacular. Since I travel in a motorhome, and sometimes go days without plugging in, the ability to read books without having to think about charging my ebook reader is awesome.
So, the two really awesome things about the current Kindle that I have, are not present in the Android Kindle. Also, the fact that they've forked Android hard makes me more than a little hesitant to consider it. My new phone is only a slight divergence from standard Android, and I find it annoying as hell...I'll probably be rooting it and putting a more standard Android on it when I have more free time. The notion of a total fork without a standard Market and all the Google apps (Maps is my lifeline when travelling), and possibly without some of the other apps I rely on, is just crazy. It's hard to imagine such a thing not sucking.
In short, it sounds like I'll be better served by a Nook, should I decide to buy a little ebook/tablet. At least it is readily converted to a standard Android device. Or, maybe I'll just wait out the next round of tablets...or, maybe I'll just not buy a tablet. I still have yet to figure out what I'd use one for. They seem to be highly focused consumption devices, and I do enough consumption as it is.
However for the reasons you outlined in your comment, it's not a great e-reader. The Nook is better as a sort of cheap web browser for looking up recipes in the kitchen, looking at Google Maps, and web browsing when my wife is using the main computer.
a $250 7" tablet with a top class browser is a hugely compelling product all by itself.
For example - the tablet above has A8 Cortex, gingerbread and dual-cameras.
> resolution 800*600(4:3)
Yeah, I think I'll pass. This is the problem with all of those off label Android tablets (and the cheaper brand name ones too, looking at you Viewsonic & Acer) they have runoff parts from production of knockoff phones so they frequently have serious issues, they can be completely unusable depending on how much or how little slack the community picks up, and without exception the screens are absolutely atrocious.
I just picked up an Acer Iconia A100 for $300 and it has the shittiest TFT screen I have seen on a tablet, ever. It's going right back to the store because of it. A tablet comes together. It's not a good screen, a good OS, a good CPU, a good GPU, etc... It's all of those things executed well and working harmoniously.
If it's not, it might as well be a paperweight. If you like screwing around constantly to get things working, inconsistent features and completely random manufacturer support, then grab an off label tablet or a cheap non-Google sanctioned tablet. You want a device that can do more than read e-books, browse the web poorly and play Angry Birds at 75% framerate if you're lucky, then consider waiting a month or two and saving up the money for something that you won't grow to hate.
If the forked-OS stuff is true, this feels like a bad move by Amazon.
Free Prime memebership (for life?) is interesting. Amazon has a big content catalog, and it makes a hell of a lot more sense for them to go this alone and not be forced to use Google's shit app store.
Overall, I think they'll have trouble differentiating between them and the iPad and them and the nook Color, and it doesn't seem like they've really brought anything new to the table.
10 hour battery life, not going to fit in at the beach, nor the less safe parts of the city? Nah, I'll go for the current Kindle instead thanks :)
I can definitely see another Kindle pricedrop on the cards for the Holiday season though.
- free 3G (yes, free), to buy amazon books
- black and white E-Ink which is much closer to paper than colour displays.
- much lighter and slimmer (241grams; 8.5oz)
- long battery life (2 months - about x60 longer than a tablet), though this probably overshoots the need. i.e. they'd be better off using a smaller battery (or even AA batteries).
I'm so impressed with the Kindle because it resists trying to be the best at everything, but instead makes comprises that optimize it for its purpose. Whereas the Android tablet described here is much worse on all fronts and half-hearted as Android: neither fish nor fowl.
1) easily flashable with an actual Android ROM (a la Nook/cyanogen)
2) got a 3G data connection, similar to the current 3G kindle
If both are true, it's a really compelling device.
I'd actually be surprised if Amazon allows it to be reflashed (insofar as you can actually restrict it). That would eliminate their entire point in selling it (their ecosystem of content).
I like to read books and I was a theoretical fan of e-ink readers, but I never owned one. My younger brother, on the other hand, was against them: "why buy the device that only reads books?" On a recent trip to the countryside he borrowed a (PocketBook 301 plus) reader from a friend and put it in the tent's pocket together with a phone, iPod and other such stuff. In the morning, he found that the screen failed because it had a tiny crack. Maybe someone accidentally kicked it or something, but modern phones, iPod and such withstand abuse rather well, and this thing broke after one night - it even was in its own leather case that covers the screen! Googling revealed that cracking screen is a common issue.
I start to suspect that those e-ink screen are a flawed technology as they are. There might be a reason Sony makes their readers with a metallic case, but do they last even then?
Used to. The latest Reader WiFi is all-plastic.
However, it's not going to win in the way people expect it to; I think it'll bring a lot of people into the post-PC tablet world and introduce a cheap tablet to a lot of people, but it's not going to revolutionize anything major and won't be able to do anything the iPad and/or TouchPad can't do.
Lastly, I wonder how the rumored browser will work and how it will affect the pricing model. 3G connectivity is free with current Kindles. That works for Amazon because you only ever use the network to download books, and the Kindle browser is restricted essentially to wikipedia. If unrestricted browsing means I will have to pay subscription for a 3G data connection that will be a major pain in the ass compared to now. Particularly since I do not want to browse the web on my Kindle, I have better options for that.
MG goes on to say it is smooth and responsive. And I think many Apps are going to be incompatible with anything less than Android 2.2. Given this I would think Amazon will want to have at least 2.2 on there.
Would be kinda sad if they ran 1.6 on it in 2011!
[Edit] May be it is 2.1 - AWS SDK for Android Requires Android 2.1 (API Level 7) or higher. Oh well may be they will keep it up to date!
1. First come tablets
2. Then tablets gets a stand (so you dont have to hold them all the time)
3. Then tablets gets a keyboard (so you can type quickly)
4. Then tablets gets a mouse like device (so you dont have to touch the screen while on the stand)
5. Then they run (your favorite distro of) linux
6. Then they become keyboard-less more portable laptops
7. Then we call them notebooks
Looks like this will validate that. Now, if only webOS could chime in and make this an interesting battle. That would be special.
Personally I'd kill for a tablet that could last the eighteen hours door-to-door from SFO to SYD, but hey, ten hours is a good start.
Putting a skin on Android and not shipping it with Google apps is NOT a fork. Even if you want to consider it one in a technical definition, it's not a significant one. It's as much a fork of Android as CyanogenMod is. (CM does not come with Google Apps, though they can be added after-the-fact).
I really would like to see TC clear this up. Do they really mean fork or, as I suspect and as you state, is this just Android without the google apps baked in?
Market is a bigger question. Without considering manually side loading the apps, I'm assuming that users will be able to install google apps on the device as they are, for the most part, all available via Android Market right now.
Given that Amazon doesn't provide mail, maps or any of the other useful google apps, I'm assuming that users will be able to download them from Android Market, somehow.
Then again, no camera, maybe they are positioning it as a fancy kindle, in which $250 is too much.
Users can't side load Google Apps, because they require the Market. The Market (and it's underlying dependency of Google Talk [yes, it sounds funny, look it up, I wish I were kidding]), requires special installation and components that frankly I can't explain (I don't know how to). But I know enough to tell you that you can't simply download Market.apk and install it.
When are we as the geek community going to stop worshipping the spec sheet and realize that mainstream consumers can't give two shits about it?