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Pushing the limits of the iPad – complaints with answers

6 April, 2010 (12:11) | technology | By: Shannon Clark

What are the limits of the iPad?

Many earlier reports about the iPad complain about various elements – missing multitasking, the weight of the device or the lack of built-in cameras but I think these reports are missing a great deal about what is already possible on the iPad and where in just a little while the device may be heading.

  1. The lack of multitasking or the “I can’t listen to music while I work” complaint. While it is true that at the moment you can not run two or more third-party apps at the same time, it is, however, not at all true that you can’t listen to music while working in another app. In fact there are at least two different ways to accomplish this on an iPhone or, I think, on an iPad. see below for how to do this
  2. The missing built-in cameras or “how can I get photos onto the iPad” plus the related “you can’t do video calls/chat”. While it is true that the iPad does not have a built-in camera there are at least two ways to get photos onto the iPad. And see below for another possible third way which may even offer an opportunity for video on the iPad!
  3. The weight or “this thing is very heavy” (usually compared to an iPhone/iTouch). As the nearly 4+ year owner and daily user of a tablet convertible ThinkPad, a tablet which weighs in at over 5.5lbs with the extended battery and over 6lbs with the charger I have to carry with me (as even with the extended battery my battery life is only ~4hrs now) I do not have much sympathy for this complaint. But see below for a few ideas about how & why this isn’t much of an issue actually.

How to listen to music while doing other things on the iPad (or iPhone/iTouch)

To listen to music while you are working inside of other applications on the iPad you have at least two easy solutions.

Option 1 – iPod application. As you can see in Apple’s Guided Tour for the iPod application on the iPad, you can play music via the iPod application while you are running other applications. You can sync your favorite music from your iTunes on your PC or Mac and play back on your iPad. I would suggest you construct Smartplaylists (I’ll post an article in the future about how to do this – I use dozens) to have fine-grained control over what portion of your library you keep on your portable devices. You can also download and purchase additional music from the iTunes store (I don’t think you can download podcasts directly but I always sync my latest podcast subscriptions to my portable devices)

Option 2 – Streaming via Safari. A not entirely well know feature of Safari on the iPhone/iTouch & now on the iPad is that it is capable of playing back streams of audio (or video) which are formated correctly for HTML5 & Safari. And these streams will, at least on the iPhone/iTouch (and I suspect also on the iPad) continue running in the background if you close Safari and open another application on the device.  This is not, to be sure, all sources online but it includes a large and growing number of sites. The MLB (Major League Baseball) iPhone application uses this “trick” to offer access to streams, via Safari, which can play while you are running other applications. Friends use this to stream NPR while they run other applications on their iPhones today.

and of course there is the less elegant but equally valid

Option 3 – listen to music via another device. Many iPad owners, including myself when I buy my iPad in a few weeks, will also own an iPod and/or an iPhone/iTouch. I certainly expect that as having my iPad will mean I need to use my iPhone for data & applications less frequently that I could easily play music either via the iPod application or via an application which does Internet radio (Pandora for example) on my iPhone while I run other application on my iPad. Though I have heard that the Pandora iPad application is a great experience.

And don’t forget that a solution to the complaint about the location of the iPad headphone jack is to use a bluetooth wireless headphones which I suspect will see greatly expanded sales in the coming months.

The missing cameras.

There are many options to get photos onto the iPad already. On the Apple website they list three.

  1. Sync via iTunes
  2. The camera accessory for the iPad which offers SD card reader & USB connection options via the dock connector
  3. Save photos from email to the iPad
  4. not listed by Apple but likely you can also save images from Safari to the iPad

But there is an interesting possibility which I have not see mentioned anywhere – neither on Apple’s website or in any coverage of the iPad. With the advanced Bluetooth capabilities of the iPad potentially Bluetooth enabled cameras, including video cameras, could be attached to the iPad.

Now as I mentioned I don’t know if this is a possibility and to be sure the current models of Bluetooth capable web cameras are mostly pretty ugly devices intended for use in an office, but it possible wearable Bluetooth capable cameras could open up an amazing range of applications to the iPad.

The weight.

As I mentioned, I have been accustomed to carrying around with me all day long over 6+lbs of tablet computer & related devices. I don’t know if the iPad will be a full replacement in my daily usage but in a large range of situations the iPad will offer capabilities impossible with my current tablet and for me shaving off over 5lbs of devices I need to carry along with the ability to use a vastly smaller and more lightweight bag are huge advantages. I am eagerly looking forward to shifting to a much lighter and smaller bag, a bag without the weight of extensive padding to proteect my heavy laptop in favor of carrying an iPad (safely in a protective case that doubles as a multipurpose stand) in a much smaller & lighter (and to be frank better designed) laptop bag.

For a great collection of additional articles and coverage of the iPad see this Pearltree:


Alternative suggestions for the “power of print” campaign

1 March, 2010 (13:06) | branding, social media, technology | By: Shannon Clark

According to PaidContent a group of five leading print publishers have banded together on a $90M+ campaign called the “power of print” launching with ads in their various publications. PaidContent cites an article by the Wall Street Journal today on the launch of the campaign, an article which is behind the WSJ subscriber-only paywall but in the preview  the first few paragraphs mention that the campaign will include over 1400 print ads scattered across the publications of the five publishers.

This is not how to save print media nor is it the best use of $90 million

Instead the publishers should be rethinking their print publications and using that $90M towards the following.

  • Hiring better writers with more diverse views. I’m a longtime New Yorker subscriber and in the past year I have seen a significant decline in the quality of the writing. Furthermore the lack of diversity of perspectives, especially in the reviews they publish has become really glaring. Even though I have been a subscriber for 20+ years I am thinking about not renewing my subscription when it expires, especially if the current decline in quality continues.
  • Investing in cultivating new advertisers and in adding greater value to current advertisers. For over a decade I have been suggesting that print publications – from monthly magazines to daily newspapers – should have long ago extended their print advertising relationships to the web. Perhaps in the 1990’s and even early in this century many advertisers in print publications did not have related web presences but today it is a rare ad which does not feature a web URL and an even rarer advertiser who does not have a web presence. But even without making every ad a link to the relevant advertiser, print publications have missed out on many great opportunities by not extending ads into the web. Many print publications are bought for the ads as well as the content – in a few cases almost entirely for the ads (see many fashion magazines).
  • Do not retain content sections just because they are traditional. All parts of every publication should be rethought and be up for revision in the light of the changes brought by the web. The New Yorker, for example, should consider editing down the front events pages and remaking them into a highly curated selection of just events, restaurants, art shows and movies which the editors recommend to their readers. Perhaps make the comprehensive listings available as an online extended service (and do not hide this behind a pay wall) but focus the print edition on just what will be lasting, what matters, what are truly don’t miss.
  • Invest in editors. Invest in writers. Invest in photographers. Online there are a seeming infinite number of writers and other content creators, print publications should invest in and cultivate great writing. Don’t publish filler content or throwaway articles, invest instead in great editing that makes content tighter. Invest in great photography that tells a story and captures a look or a moment.
  • Frame the content of the magazine in great design but do not over do it. Wired magazine has, at times, had great articles but the ever present “design” of the magazine often hides the value of the content and makes it harder to read. Furthermore by having a different design for many articles the overall costs go up for little added value to the reader – in fact by having to figure out how to read each article anew the value to most readers goes down.

Most importantly, however, advertising the “power of print” via only ads in other print publications is preaching to a currently shrinking population. Instead the publishers should be looking to ways to engage with the rest of the media landscape – increasingly that means digital – find a value-adding role for each print publication within that ecosystem.

And do not confuse the form with the mission of the publication.

Great publications have a mission which can and should extend well beyond a single physical form. The physical editions however frequent should be a reminder of that mission and serve to further it, but shouldn’t be the only part. The editors and writers and other creative parts of the publication alongside the advertising and commercial relationships should all act together towards a common goal. For a magazine such as Vogue it might be a celebration of fashion, for the New Yorker it might be a celebration of the diversity of New York City (and the inhabitants of that city – culture, politics, business, fashion and more).

Print publications today have many audiences – subscribers, newsstand buyers, readers of shared copies found in doctor’s waiting rooms. But they also are part of some community – whether fashion or a city or an industry. But very rapidly those communities around the globe are finding new means of communicating and magazines which are stuck in the past will and are being left behind.

Creating on the iPad or a few million dollar ideas

1 February, 2010 (01:30) | technology | By: Shannon Clark

A few days ago here in San Francisco Apple announced the iPad. On Twitter and across the web the reaction was swift and overwhelming some positive and much negative. The follow on press hasn’t been very positive – much of is has been people complaining about features which are lacking or trying to define who the iPad is for – typically coming to the conclusion that is for some group of “others” (non-computer savvy folks, “your mom” etc).

I think most people are flat out wrong.

I didn’t attend the Apple Press event so I have yet to play with an iPad in person myself, when it goes on sale I hope that I’ll have had enough consulting (or writing or a new full-time position) to allow me to buy one for myself.

But I think that most people writing about the iPad are missing MANY important details about the device and the opportunities which these pose. Below I outline a number of business ideas which I think will be multi-million dollar businesses and which, in many cases, I think will drive many purchases of iPads.

A few important points.

  1. I see a lot of content creation and not just content playback opportunities with the iPad
  2. I see many serious business uses not just individual personal uses
  3. I also see some hardware & software combo opportunities (but need to confirm they are feasible)
  4. While I think there will be a huge, mass audience of iPad users I think it is actually the very technically savvy and demanding who will find great value from using the iPad especially as they (and others) build great & powerful applications.

Content creation and authoring

Apple demonstrated their full iWork suite for the iPad – Keynotes, Pages and Numbers. These will be very useful and powerful applications for any author or presenter. Indeed as an entrepreneur and writer I am looking forward to using an iPad w/Keynote to give adhoc presentations, using Pages to write anywhere and even using Numbers (making it likely the first time I use a spreadsheet on a regular basis) to track various things.

But I don’t think that begins to scratch the surface of the types of content creation applications which will be created on the iPad.

The Brushes application which was shown during the Apple iPad announcement and which was famously used (on the iPhone/iTouch) to create a New Yorker cover) is just the beginning. I predict that a very soon someone (likely more than one company) will create a comics illustration application (or likely suite of applications) for the drawing, coloring and lettering of comics. With output for the web, for eComic readers including on the iPad and even print-on-demand or just regular print publication. Idea #1 – comics creation tools (okay this might not be multi-millions but should generate real revenues & excitement, already existing eComics readers should also get a major boost by the iPad – but that isn’t a “new” idea)

On the music front the many single instrument iPhone apps will continue and grow in complexity given the greater surface area and thus greater amount of control and flexibility which the iPad could offer. Combined with either complex hardware devices connected via the 30 pin dock of the iPad, via Bluetooth or via the headphone jack the possibilities are quite complex. I also suspect that very quickly  someone will create an iPad based sampler with a wide range of options, beat generation and remixing. Using the microphone (or Bluetooth connected microphones) to record additional samples as well as in-app purchasing of samples and even additional instruments. I can imagine a full ecosystem within a single music creation & remixing application. An application which very likely could rival physical samplers in capabilities and which could support a rich ecosystem. Idea #2 – music creation/remixing/performance + licensing of instruments, samples & content to remix = big $ opportunities for many different apps, artists & companies

The lack of a built-in camera may seem a limitation but the iPad will also build on the many existing iPhone applications which offer a wide range of photo editing and manipulation capabilities. The larger screen size of the iPad will offer greater ease of editing large photographs as well as more complex manipulations such as editing together panoramic shots. Many of these applications, such as Adobe’s existing Photoshop iPhone application will connect with a web based service for hosting and sharing the photos. I would also expect that professional image licensing services such as iStockphoto and Getty will offer iPad applications for browsing their images libraries and licensing those images.  Idea # 3 – iPad app based stock photography (and perhaps video) stores combined with iPad based content creation tools as well as expanded features of photo editing applications

Writing on the iPad is more than just document creation it will also involve writing for web. Currently WordPress has a great iPhone application. I expect that the iPad version will make the creation of blog posts on the iPad even easier and more complex. Most competing web content creation services will have iPad (and iPhone) applications soon and I predict there will be a growing range of specialized iPad applications for content creation driven needs. For example applications for liveblogging events, for moderating & managing high volume online discussions and more. Idea #4 – iPad based web content creation tools which expand on what WordPress offers today.

Augmented Reality Games

But wait you are saying, the iPad doesn’t have a camera so how could you do Augmented Reality on it?

Well, and here is what I meant  above, what the iPad does have which many people haven’t fully noticed yet is full support for Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR. Apple notes that this could be used to pair wireless headphones or a wireless keyboard. But that may not be the only things which could be paired – there are already a handful of Bluetooth 2.1 enabled cameras on the market with some specifically marketed to pair with Macs.

I predict that a number of creative companies will make a wide range of input devices via Bluetooth for the iPad. Cameras would be a very logical starting point for this and done well would expand the capabilities of the iPad immensely while addressing the many issues which a built-in camera would face.

One of these uses could be a Bluetooth camera which you would wear on your head or affix to your lapel and which would then be used with your iPad to drive an augemented reality application. Ideally this device, if this is possible via Bluetooth, would also contain a digital compass & GPS and pass that information back to the iPad as well. If not then the internal digital compass and GPS (if the iPad has is the 3G version) could be used to locate the device. But even without a GPS the digital compass could be sufficient for a number of really creative augmented reality uses – for example an app which when it fires up directs you to a known, fixed starting point and then uses the digital compass from that point onward to help direct you.

Idea #5 – Bluetooth connected devices beyond headphones or keyboards – cameras, microphones, sensors and controllers. Done well these products & the apps to leverage them could be major businesses.

These are just a few immediate ideas I have for how the iPad could be a driver of a lot of content creation as well as very creative applications and services. Far far more than just being a frame for content consumption the iPad will be a platform and connected device driving content creation and interaction.

UPDATE – after I wrote this I found which is by far the best summary of blog coverage of the iPad reactions I’ve seen yet.