Apr 102012

I’d love to be a fly on the wall at some of these Android tablet launch meetings. Take the latest vomitory salvos being hurled by Toshiba, makers of your shitty Walmart television. True to form for most tablet-makers, the “Excite” series will be offered in multiple sizes, in this case 7.7, 10 and 13-inches, which ensures an even distribution of product in African landfills in 6 months. They’re also offering the latest quad-core Tegra 3 processors, which means you may not experience significant lag when scrolling through web pages. Here’s where things get interesting, and by that I mean hilarious: the 7.7″ version will start at $499, i.e. the price of an iPad that’s 2″ larger, and has a screen that shames the 1600 x 900 Toshiba tablet. Oddly, the 10″ version costs $50 less (probably because it features a lower-resolution 1280 x 800 screen). I think the logic here is supposed to be “Look at our 10″ tablet – it costs less than an iPad!” I’m sure consumers will genuinely struggle when it comes time to pick between the two.

Lest you think that Toshiba is a brain-dead company specializing in releasing stillborn kit, according to Ars Technica (link above), there’s a good amount of consumer research that went into the Excite series.

Young Bae, a product marketing manager at Toshiba, told Ars that the company’s initial tablet offering, the Toshiba Thrive, had captured an odd niche of the market: two-thirds of the Thrives sold went to customers 55 and older, according to a survey the company took of buyers. Despite that buyers had much grander ambitions at the time of purchase, like gaming, most ended up using their tablets to just read email and surf the Internet. “We’re trying to enable the things that people are telling us they want to do but haven’t done,” Bae said. The Excite line seems to be an attempt to capture a savvier demographic that pays more attention to specs and weight, and considerably less to price.

This is awesome. Let’s break it down. In consumer electronics, the “odd niche” of >55 is also known as “consumers who don’t know anything about consumer electronics” aka “the people who still trust their purchase decisions to Consumer Reports”. It’s unlikely that this demographic had “grander ambitions” than checking email and surfing the web, which is why they – shockingly – ended up doing these things. One more thing: these consumers are the most price-sensitive in the market. So how do you capture them? By creating a product that appeals to what you think they want to do instead of what they did and then jacking the price of it well out of their range.


 Posted by at 9:02 am  Tagged with:
Apr 262011

Remember that scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the French begin to arbitrarily fire livestock at King Arthur’s knights instead of actual ammunition? On the face of it, that’s what Samsung is attempting to do to Apple.

After Apple busted out 16 claims spanning patents, trade dress, and trademark infringements, Samsung said that they would “…respond actively to the legal action taken against us in order to protect our intellectual property…”. Instead of “responding”, Samsung grabbed a bunch of patents they had lying around and said “we have those too!” claiming that Apple is infringing on 5 patents that have nothing to do with Cupertino’s claims.

I’m not an intellectual property litigator, but doesn’t it look a little hokey when you’re called to the carpet by a company for infringement and you counter by producing patents that have nothing to do with the claim?  I hope Samsung defended the IP it’s claiming Apple violated against other manufacturers or has some kind of licensing agreement with them. It’d be nice to have something that would explain why these claims are being made now, especially when the tech press keeps calling it a “response” to Apple’s action. Unless “respond” means “caught dead in the act”. Then it makes perfect sense.

Mar 122011

At the height of Android tablet fever, right before people got their hands on the iPad 2, Motorola’s Xoom was considered the device that would give Apple a run for their money. Once the price points were introduced (they were the same as the original iPad i.e. cheaper than the Xoom) and the thickness and weight specs were unveiled (making the Xoom look like a last-call at the pub hookup), a lot of the enthusiasm was sapped from the Motorola camp. But the Xoom still had that sweet 1280 x 800 display and awesome Tegra2 dual core processor, so there was still optimism that the raw performance of the device would at least be able to hang with the iPad.

Well, they were half right. The Xoom is indeed faster than the iPad in most of the graphics tests run by the good folks over at Anandtech. But unfortunately the new A5 chip used by Apple in the iPad 2 absolutely buries it. Like turning-away-a-little-embarrassed-because-I-feel-badly “buries”. Full coverage of the carnage here.

Mar 022011

Since just before Apple’s introduction of the iPhone 3Gs, TMA has felt a twinge of anxiety every time Apple introduces a new mobile device. It goes something like this: Apple breaks ground with an innovative new device that sends the competition to their photocopiers for 9 months or so. The first run-offs get laughed out of the marketplace, but like a blind sniper ranging his target, manufacturers’ offerings land ever closer to the original, their shots approaching the same zip code around the time of the Apple event. Some hardware specs start nudging into Apple’s offering. Pundits shift from the “Apple is great, but” mode they use to bitch about the company’s manufacturing processes or App Store approval policies – because no popular Apple-related news survives without some antagonism in the title – to “Apple needs to respond to legitimate competitive threat” mode. Knowing that Apple only does one of these things once a year, the niggling sets in: will Apple miss a beat this time? Will they improve their product in too small an increment to survive this year’s onslaught of knock-offs?

Then, of course, Apple releases an update that stomps the wannabes back into their developmental stone ages for another 9 months. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Today, the latest beam of vermin-scattering illumination came courtesy of the iPad line, delivered by an on-sabbatical Steve Jobs. The iPad 2 is faster, lighter and packs front and rear-facing cameras and a couple of snazzy new peripherals. A couple of things I found interesting:

  1. Jobs made a point of mentioning that the iPad2 could stream video in 1080p. Because Apple hasn’t historically been one to offer a feature that isn’t supported by its media, this suggests that 1080p content could be coming to iTunes.
  2. We got a preview of the iPhone 5 processor: the A5. Sporting dual cores, its 9x faster than the A4.
  3. Just when you thought cases couldn’t be interesting, Apple finds a way to turn a protective covering into thinly-veiled sex. The use of magnets in the iPad’s bezel and the minimalism of the new Smart Covers is classic Apple.
  4. I was rolling my eyes for the first 30 seconds of the Garageband demo, but by the time the “Touch Instruments” came around, I was intrigued.

So once again, Apple has driven the majority of the tech press back to their holes with a superior mobile device update. Not to worry: they’ll be right back at their keyboards as soon as Jobs says something too candidly for their sensitive ears or does something a for-profit company would do to succeed.

Mar 012011

As many of you know, there’s little love lost between TMA and the community of tech rag bloggers. Take Preston Gralla. The man gets nothing right, but persists in his word count. To look at it more generously, Preston does bring a contrarian viewpoint and some writing credits for books about Windows XP and Android to the table, whereas TMA might be considered a sellout in that he has critical reviews, sales figures, company performance and the market on his side.

At the risk of having you stop reading now, for those of you who don’t know, Gralla writes for Computerworld, which is the technology equivalent of cage-liner. A day prior to what will likely be Apple’s announcement of the iPad2, Gralla managed to get his latest shot across the bow of logic and overwhelming contrary opinion, “Eight reasons the Motorola XOOM beats the iPad” published just before Apple snuffs any legitimate point the author was hoping to make (read: approximately none).  His XOOM rhetoric does remind me of the lofty stuff he showed us in his now-legendary “Five reasons why Vista beats Mac OS X”, which unfortunately couldn’t rescue that turd either. Just because Gralla’s endorsement doesn’t bode well for a product’s future doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with Preston. Let’s dissect this masterpiece.

More powerful hardware

You can tell out of the gate that this is a Computerworld review of a product pitted against an Apple offering from its masturbatory frothing of the device’s requisite components. It culminates with “It’s also capable of playing 3D games”, which is hilarious in that none exist for the XOOM and that approximately 20,000 do for the iPad.

“Higher screen resolution”

“The Xoom’s 10-inch screen has a resolution of 1280 x 800, and is widescreen, so it’s great for watching movies and videos” and also how the device demands to be held. Try stretching your thumbs across the onscreen keyboard and typing on it.

“Front and rear cameras”

“With the Xoom, you get front and rear cameras, for taking photos and videos, and for video chat. With the iPad, you get no camera. Two trumps none.” For those times you want to hold your lunch tray in front of your face and shout “Cheese” or “Look natural!”. Also a “feature” whose advantage disappears in about 24 hours.

“A better browser”

“The Chrome browser built into Xoom is far superior to the iPad’s Safari. It does tabbed browsing, and like the PC and Mac versions of Chrome, a single box does double-duty as a search box and for typing in a URL. And it will also automatically sync your bookmarks with Chrome on your PC and Mac.” Tabs. A box to type search into. Sync. I have all of those now, though. Must be that cohesive development environment I keep hearing about that generates scores of alternative WebKit browsers.

“It will play Flash”

“Flash wasn’t quite ready for the Xoom launch… (Ed: Pfffff…lolololololol)…but it will be available soon. So the Xoom offers you a greater choice of content than does the iPad.” To be clear: that “greater choice of content” currently consists of jack and shit. Hey Motorola: don’t feel badly. You’re not the first sucker Adobe has strung out with this “Flash for Mobile” yarn. Any day now…

“No Big Brother”

“When you get an iPad, Apple determines what apps you can download and what apps you can’t — and it uses a heavy hand.”

It must not be a very coordinated hand because 60,000 apps managed to slip through it. Contrast this draconian mitt to the barely-perceptible hand of Google lifting your personal information as fuel for its entire revenue model. Information it’s also offering publishers as a magnet for their “One Pass” paywall. It’s hilarious how even a hit-piece like this tripe can be so oblivious to its own stench.

“Better built-in apps”

“Google’s built-in apps, including Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Calendar, beat anything built into the iPad.” Totally objective. One thing that is correct about that list: it represents just about every app available for Honeycomb in total. Google better hope they’re good.

Aside from being everything wrong with tech journalism online, I have to admire Preston Gralla’s willingness to step into the face of sanity for the sake of some fanboy rageclicks. If people like Gralla didn’t sacrifice any possible integrity from readers looking to them as a source of information, TMA wouldn’t have so much to write about.

Update: Now that the iPad2 announcement has come and gone, I thought it’d be fun to see how Apple’s new offering stood up to Gralla’s scathing take-down of the original iPad.

Good thing Preston got that article out of his “draft” folder before today. Man, would he have looked silly.

Update 2: I actually saw this referenced earlier this afternoon on Daring Fireball, but I thought Gruber was behind on Gralla’s antics and not that he was actually restating his position regarding the XOOM’s superiority after the iPad2’s introduction. TMA’s policy of no linkage for hit-whores still stands, but in summary: he’s blown right past heavily-biased Hitwhoria to full-on batshit Thurrott’s Syndrome. I would recommend Googling it for the comments, though.

  • RSS
  • Twitter