Saturday, April 30, 2011

Age of Tablets

The media this month is full of stories on smart phones and tablets all seemingly competing with Apple. Just at the end of the month however we have heard the problems that Sony has had with ntruders on their network revealing the personal details of 77 million users as described in our lead article. And not to be overlooked Nokia is now facing those difficult decisions necessary for re-engineering the organisation, today they have announced 7000 people will be leaving the company.

The tablet revolution is interesting. I always felt that a small light touch screen device was the ideal portable computer. The other half of the household is even more gadget mad and has been experimenting for the last 10 years or more, the NEC Versa comes to mind as one of the early candidates for Microsoft's tablet software. We have gone through many incarnations including a more recent HP touch device with Windows 7 but none of them really captured the imagination. Then came the iPad, I can honestly express a totally unbiased view, perhaps even a little cynicism but hey this device is great. It is what you always wanted as a really useful PDA (I'll bet you've forgotten – Personal Digital Assistant, do you remember the Palm Pilot?). Anyway it seems like I'm to get the iPad one when he upgrades to the iPad 2. Apparently you have to have a camera – why?

Not only does it do email, calendar and web browsing but you can even read books under the Amazon Kindle banner. There really isn't a problem carrying 20 books around with you and unlike the Kindle they can be in colour. OK hands up I admit that in the full midday sun that screen is a bit hard to read but in the shade with a gin and tonic its shear bliss, just waiting for my own machine, sharing is a pain!

Now watching the others trying to catch up is interesting, Google's Android OS is of course gaining momentum but there is no obvious challenger to give Apple a problem just yet. With the iPad 2 people complain, the camera is not good enough, there is no Flash and much more, but let's not kid ourselves this device works with a vengeance. Everything is more than fit for purpose and I've long since been educated this is the way to think in business.

The Flash argument seems to cause the most excitement but it's really not a problem, if you want to watch Flash videos there are browsers like Skyfire and iSwifter that can handle that plus applications from many content providers that handle their content directly such as the BBC for example. What I hadn't fully appreciated was the problems that you can have with Flash animation on a touch screen where you have to decide what to do between hovering and touching, apparently this is going to be a problem with all touch screens when trying to work with Flash animation.

Back at the ranch we have been having lots of security discussions about these new smart phones and tablets, they are of course going to have problems, I think we all agree that but actually we think the biggest understated problem is lost (and stolen) phones and laptops/tablets. Both Apple and RIM have their enterprise solutions for security and without arguing the finer points we really wonder why Nokia has missed this angle. Clearly they miscalculated the explosion of smart phones and should have reacted much quicker but where is the enterprise offering, presumably it's going to be Windows? I suspect a lot more people are going to jump ship than the 7000, and somehow or other Nokia's strategy just seems like too little too late.

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