Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things Media

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Should You Take The iPad On Vacation

I just spent a week in Mexico on vacation. I left the laptop at home, brought the HTC Inctedible (but kept it off) and packed up the iPad. The iPad makes for an interesting vacation companion. It’s thin and lightweight, which means you won’t need a separate bag for it (we’re all trying not to let the airlines screw us with bag fees) nor will it break your back. You don’t need to pull it out for security and that’s a big time blessing.

So we know getting it on vacation is a joy, but what about what happens when you’re on vacation? Well Mexico was sunny, warm and surrounded by water and sand. I mainly used it as my all in one news and entertainment reader. No need to carry several books and magazines when you have the iPad. That’s a huge plus in theory. Yes, you have access to a seemingly unlimited arsenal of content. However, trying to read that content outside, even in the shade, is a horrendously unsatisfying experience. You’ll find yourself trying to find an angle that works, shading the iPad and squinting/straining your eyes to read. On the plus side you can do this for 10 hours without scorching your legs. The iPad’s battery life lives up to the hype and the great job the engineers at apple did with the design ensure the iPad is cool to the touch, even after heavy use. Additionally, the sealed form factor and lack of a keyboard are great at fighting the elements…like the sand that gets blown around, the rain and of course the splashes from the pool.

All in all the iPad is a wise choice for a vacationer. It saves you space, let’s you enjoy content on demand and if you so choose will keep you connected to the “real world.”. Just keep in mind that the visual viewing experience you have indoors is not even close to the experience you’ll have outdoors. It’s a tough and initially frustrating situation to get used to. For me, it took nearly 2 full days to start seeing passed the visual shortcomings. I imagine this will be different for each person.

The HTC Incredible Isn’t Very Incredible

I was a disgruntled iPhone owner. You know the type. I hated Apple’s walled garden approach to the App Store and their Operating System. For all the luster that is anything Apple there was a certain dullness that started to show. As cool as the iPhone itself was, having to use it, or rather not be able to use it, on AT&T’s network made the iPhone a crippling device.

To say I was lusting for something new and different was an understatement. I wasn’t 100% ready to embrace the android platform because I wasn’t impressed with any of the hardware. Even the “Droid” wasn’t enticing. That was, until the Nexus One came to the market. As an early adopter I was one of the first to plop down $549.00+ for a Nexus One. While it wasn’t a perfectly perfect device, it was awesome and it sold me on the android.

The Nexus One I had was set to be used on AT&T, but I was looking forward to eventually getting a Nexus One that would work on Verizon or Sprint. It became clear that unfortunately the Nexus One was never going to make it to those two carriers. So this left me with two choices…wait for the HTC Evo on Sprint or the HTC Incredible on Verizon. Why those two phones? Because, HTC seems to have a great understanding of user experience and design. Sprint’s poor communication about the Evo’s release date made the HTC Incredible the logical choice.

Apologies for the lengthy history and background, but I wanted you to have context. I’ve had the HTC Incredible for a few weeks now and here’s what I can tell you…

The Good
Verizon’s Network – it’s everything you hoped it would be and more

HTC Sense User Interface – better than the stock google android UI and very intuitive
Android Market – thousands of Apps and total flexibility, for example I have 4 browsers installed

Peep – this is HTC’s Twitter client and it’s great, pre installed and with subtle tweaks could be perfect

The Camera – as has been covered elsewhere, it’s stunning, sharp, smart, vibrant and powerful

The Screen – it’s rich, gorgeous responsive and a joy too look at

Weight – lighter than an iPhone and thinner

The Bad
Battery Life – honestly HTC should be ashamed. The battery they chose is horrendous. Thankfully companies Iike Seido offer an extended battery…albeit at a $60.00 incremental investment. This was poor planning and short sighted.

Form Factor – the Incredible feels cheap and doesn’t wear well. There’s too many plastic pieces that will flake, show every scratch and lose its luster. Inside of a month, the Incredible will look quite average. Oh and yes the visual aesthetics do matter, because how the phone looks is part of the emotional connection we have with the device.

USB Location – it’s a little thing that’s a big thing. The location of the USB power socket is illogical. It should have been at the bottom of the phone like the Nexus One. This would have made charging the phone via a dock at home or via a lighter in the car easier. As it is right now, charging is cumbersome, which is a big time problem when you consider how bad the battery life is.

Is the HTC incredible a nice phone? Yes. But, to call it an iPhone killer or even “incredible” would be a gross over statement. At best it should have been called the HTC Good. I’m bummed, because I was hopeful for something transformational. Instead we got something neat. The Incredible is the best android phone on the market and it’s on the best network. But, that doesn’t mean it’s Incredible.

The Real iPad Review

I bought my nearly 3 year old daughter an iPad this morning.  Yeap, I walked right up to the Apple Store at the Mall of America and waited behind 6 other people to purchase the iPad.  She loves it.  She absolutely loves the iPad.  Since the moment I placed it in her hands she hasn’t put it down.

Is the iPad a killer device?  Is it a game changing device?  Will you love it?  The simple answer is YES…so long as you have the mindset of a 3 year old.  Harsh?  Yes.  But, it’s the truth.  Let me break it down.

The iPad is literally a larger version of the iPhone.  When I say literally, I literally mean literally.  Everything the iPhone can do, the iPad can do.  Or rather everything the iPhone can’t do, the iPad can’t do…and it can do even less than the iPhone 3Gs.

Do you like a linear approach for doing things?  If so, the iPad is perfect for you.  Everything about the iPad interface is linear.  Every desired final action is accomplished through a series of taps.  Want to read a book?  Cool.  Tap the home button.  Tap the iBook app.  Tap the library view.  Tap the book you want to read.  Hopefully, you’re getting the point.  Some will call this brilliant.  I call it rudimentary and lacking, especially when you consider that you’ll be doing a lot of tapping since there is STILL no multi-tasking functionality.  Yes, just like the iPhone, you can’t switch between apps.  If you’re watching a movie and want to tweet a comment about it, you’ll need to exit the movie app, switch to the twitter app, tweet away, close the twitter app, re-launch the movie app, tap to resume the movie…etc.  We’re on the 3rd evolution of the iPhone and the 1st evolution of the iPad…and we still have NO multi-tasking capabilities.

The iPad, by design (weight, size, etc.) competes directly against netbooks.  You’ll find that that iPad costs significantly more than most netbooks, but lacks basic computing features that have been around for more than 20 years.  For example, you will not be able to create folders, move files between folders, rename files, edit files, upload a file, download a file, etc.  Sad.  Remember when I said it lacks features that even the iPhone 3Gs has?  Well, the big one is and integrated camera.  The iPad was tailor made for video conferencing, video streaming, video chatting, etc.  But, Apple opted to eliminate this feature.  Ugh.

The screen is beautiful, bright, vibrant, full of rich colors and a joy to look at it.  Unless of course you’ve used it for more than a minute.  Just like an iPhone you’ll find yourself wanting/needing to clean the screen every 10 minutes.  Except, unlike the iPhone, you won’t be using your shirt or pants to do so :)  Oh, and unlike the iPhone, Apple opted NOT to include a screen cleaner.  Just lame.

Sounds coming from the built-in speakers are acceptable.  They’re no substitute for your computer speakers, headphones, or home theater.  But, they do the job when it’s quiet.  However, when my nearly one year old was in the room creating more ambient noise, it was difficult to clearly hear the dialog in the movie Coraline.  Keep in mind, this was when the speakers were turned all the way up.

Apple talks about the size of the iPad as a positive feature.  I agree and disagree.  Is the the iPad sleek?  Yes!  Is it thin?  You bet!  Is it contoured nicely?  Yeaper!  But, it’s still large and not portable by any stretch of the imagination.  You won’t be grabbing for your iPad every time you’re headed out.  That’s an unrealistic expectation anyway.  But, even if you’re a traveler, like me, you’ll think twice.  Why?  Because you’re already traveling with your iPhone (or in my case a Nexus One) and your laptop.  Do you really need both of those and a iPad on the plane?  Can you imagine having yet another item to get through the airport security line?  Oyve!

As a substitute for a book, I find it lacking.  Here’s why. One, you’d never read with it by the pool because the outside light is too blinding and you can’t get the iPad wet.  Two, you’d never read with it in the tub because just as with a pool, you don’t want to get it wet.  Three, would you really take it into the bathroom to read like the 71% of people who indicated they read in the bathroom?  I didn’t think so.  All that aside, the most maddening thing is their are simply way too many options for books on the iPad.  This is a true example of the Paradox of Choice.  Seriously.  You have your Kindle books.  You have your iBooks.  You have 3rd party books like the Cat in The Hat that sit on the screen like apps.  You also have content category aggregator apps like the Marvel Comic Book app.  Each of these apps requires you to have a unique login and each manages the content purchased in that app separately from the rest of the apps.  What does that mean?  That means there is no ONE app to see ALL your books.  You need to manage book libraries across multiple apps.  Add in magazine and newspaper apps and you have chaos.

One of the coolest features of the iPad unfortunately requires a $29.99 adaptor.  You can setup the iPad to be a digital picture frame.  I love this idea especially when you consider the cost of many high quality digital picture frames.  But, requiring an incremental $29.99 investment is just adding insult to injury.

No USB, no camera, no replaceable battery, no ability to create content and heck no cleaning cloth.  I could deal with all of these shortcomings and flaws if the price was something like $349.99 (in line with iPod Touch), but not at $499.99 (minimum).  At $349.99 it would be a nice affordable stretch and step up from an iPod and complimentary to a laptop.  But, at $499.99 I just don’t see how a current iPhone or MabBook user will find value in a device that does less than both of those devices.

This of course begs the question, why did I buy one?  Two reasons.  One, my job and why I’m good at it, is to be on and ahead of trend.  I need to understand what technology can do, can’t do, will do and might do for our clients.  Having an iPad in the house will help me do that.  Two, I genuinely believe as FastCompany does, that kids today will benefit from tools like the iPad.

Let’s just be honest for a second.  What need does the iPad deliver on?  What consumer problem does it solve?  The answer to both is nothing.  It’s essentially a bright shiny Apple object and that’s exactly why you’ll buy it.  However, what I think you’ll find is that just like so many other bright shiny objects, you’ll be bored with it fairly quickly.  Unless of course you’re a 3 year old; then you’ll love it and never want to put it down.

UPDATED: April 5, 2010
Is my review harsh? Possibly. Is it fair? Absolutely. I thought you might want to check out what some other industry leaders, who aren’t blinded by the bright shiny Apply object syndrome, had to say about the iPad.

Dave Winer
“Today it’s something to play with, not something to use. That’s the kind way to say it. The direct way: It’s a toy.”

Jeff Jarvis
“I tweeted earlier that after having slept with her (Ms. iPad), I woke up with morning-after regrets. She’s sweet and pretty but shallow and vapid.” and “The iPad is retrograde. It tries to turn us back into an audience again. That is why media companies and advertisers are embracing it so fervently, because they think it returns us all to their good old days when we just consumed, we didn’t create, when they controlled our media experience and business models and we came to them.”

BusinessWeek
“People who predicted that the iPad would kill the market for dedicated E-Ink readers are dead wrong. If anything, the iPad is the amazing, magical device that proves the value of E-Ink.

Don’t believe me? Take an iPad to the beach someday and try to spend the afternoon reading. You’ll be lucky if you can see around your own reflection long enough to finish a paragraph of text.”

David Pogue
“There’s no multitasking, either. It’s one app at a time, just like on the iPhone. Plus no U.S.B. jacks and no camera. Bye-bye, Skype video chats. You know Apple is just leaving stuff out for next year’s model.

The bottom line is that you can get a laptop for much less money — with a full keyboard, DVD drive, U.S.B. jacks, camera-card slot, camera, the works. Besides: If you’ve already got a laptop and a smartphone, who’s going to carry around a third machine?”

The Google Nexus One Swings And Misses

I’ve been using a Nexus One for about 2 weeks now. By using it, I mean that my iPhone 3G has sat in a bag for 2 weeks and was not used at all. By using it, I mean that the Nexus One has been my everyday cellphone. I’ve used it for everything from phone calls (including 3 way calls) to youTube watching. I really wanted the Nexus One to blow my mind. I wanted it to succeed on such an amazing level. I wanted it to kill the iPhone and knock Steve Jobs off of his pedestal. But, I didn’t get that. Nope.

In short, the Nexus One is nice, but not yet ready for prime time. Let me break it down.

The Good

Form and Feel
The Nexus One is lighter, slimmer, and feels a hell of a lot better than the iPhone. Were as the Nexus One feels sleek and contoured, the iPhone feels cheap (the plastic back) and heavy. We’re talking BMW vs. Kia here.

The Screen
As already covered elsewhere, the screen is amazing. It’s bright, vivid, has amazingly sharp contrast, and it seems more scratch resistant than the iPhone.

The Battery
I’d say the battery life is roughly the same. I can’t get through a full 10 hour day on 1 charge. But, the Nexus One wins here because I can swap batteries throughout the day. Yes, you heard me. Imagine that? People wanting to have an extra battery. When will Apple learn?

Google Integration
This is where the phone. If you don’t need corporate email and everything you do in the cloud is tied to Google, this is the phone for you. It’s not even a question. Inside of 3 minutes you’ll have the phone setup and integrated with GMail, Google Calendar, Google Voice (this is such a nice feature), Google Maps, Google Contacts, etc. The one thing that leaves my saying WTF is the lack of a Google Docs app for editing and creating files offline. Strange omission Google…just strange.

GPS
It has real GPS. Nuff said. You want turn by turn navigation, you got it. You want better map accuracy, you got it. This kills the iPhone’s seemingly archaic approach to directions. In short, if your car is lacking GPS map integration and you don’t have a portable GPS device like a Tom Tom, the Nexus One makes your life so much simpler.

The Camera
It’s light years ahead of the iPhone. You can elect to choose different megapixel options, it has a flash, it has white balance options, and it even has auto-focus. Well done.

The OK

Sound Quality
The noise canceling microphone is a dream and makes calls sound a hell of a lot better than the iPhone. But, beware when using the speaker phone. The sound is tin like and overly compromised when the phone is sitting on a counter/floor/etc. with the screen facing up. For whatever reason, when using the speaker phone like this, the sound is muffled.

Customization
You can customize so many different features and behaviors, it’s almost daunting. From wallpaper to sounds, from notifications to fonts, just about everything can be customized to your liking. Please note, this can take a lot of time, but it’s worth it. While you can customize like never before, the actual act of customizing is perplexing. For example, if you have a screen full of app icons and you want to flip flop the placement of two apps, you’re going to be frustrated. Where as the iPhone recognizes you want to do this and slides all the other apps over to accommodate, the Nexus One makes this chore similar to giving birth. You’ll have to move the app to another screen, thus opening up a spot on the screen you want the app to live, then you’ll need to rearrange the apps so that you create a hole for where you want the app to live, then you’ll need to go to the other screen so you can grab the app and slide it into the spot you want. WTF? That’s horrendous.

Apps
Lots of apps. Not nearly as many as the iPhone platform. But, all the key apps are there. For example fourSquare, Facebook, twitter clients, USA Today, etc. However, the apps are not as polished as the iPhone options. For example the Facebook app isn’t even a real Facebook app. It was created by a 3rd party. Also, the fourSquare app lacks push notifications. If you want games, you’re out of luck. This really bummed me, even though I was well aware of it before I got the Nexus One. There’s apps though that you’ll never ever find in the iTunes App Store. For example email clients, calendar management tools, oh and Google Voice :)

The Bad

eMail
Honestly, what was Google thinking. Weather you’re using GMail, Exchange Mail, IMAP, POP3, etc. you will not be able to move email into folders. Huh? Really? This is classic Google. They simply think people want to to search for information and are incapable of organizing content. Also, if you work for a company that uses Exchange for mail, you’re out of luck a big time way because there is NO calendar management or integration. No, I’m serious. You will have no access to your calendar…zero…nadda. If the Nexus One was supposed to rival the iPhone, Blackberry, and other smartphone I don’t know what they were thinking with this decision. This is a huge fail and honestly almost made me send the phone back on day 1. However, thankfully you can rectify this problem by buying Touchdown, a 3rd party app that will cost you $20.00. The app is nearly flawless and takes care of all of the Nexus One exchange problems. But, seriously…I have to buy a 3rd party app for this. C’mon you’ve got to be kidding me.

Media Management
Again, as with eMail Google assumes you want to search for content and you want your content aggregated. So, for example if you go into your photos Google for some reason thought you might want to see every photo attachment in all of your emails. Huh? That’s right. Let’s say I emailed you a photo. Google thinks that photo should show up in the photo library. The concept of folder structures is non-existent. This makes no sense. Music is the same way. Total fail.

Soft Keys
I love and hate these 4 keys at the bottom of the phone. I love the concept, I hate the implementation. The number of times I’ve been typing an email only to hit a soft key and then lose my entire message is in the 100s by now. The irony of course is that when I actually want the keys to work, they don’t. Seriously. Often you’ll press the keys and nothing will happen. This is either a hardware failure (the touch screen portion of the screen for the keys is defective) or there’s a bug with the software. I lean toward hardware.

Power Connector
Why? Why? Why? Why, didn’t they just use a standard mini-USB? Instead they’ve opted for this connector that looks like a mini-USB, but isn’t. Why is this a problem you might ask? Well because the number of accessories for the Nexus One is few and far between. If it had used a traditional mini-USB, existing car power cables (amongst other accessories) would work. And let me tell you, if you take advantage of turn by turn navigation you will want the phone plugged in and drawing power from the car.

The Network
Oyve. T-Mobile or AT&T are your options. AT&T will work only on Edge. Thus you get no 3G. And while T-Mobile will give you 3G, there 3G coverage is worse than AT&Ts. Besides the exchange server mistake, the biggest mistake by Google was not releasing this phone on Verizon first. A Verizon version of this phone will be made available in Spring of 2010. If Google had really wanted to take a bite out of the iPhone market share they chose poorly, by launching with T-Mobile and AT&T first.

Summary

If your entire life is bundled in the suite of Google applications like GMail, this is the perfect phone for you. If you need a kick as smart phone for work, I can’t recommend the phone to you until they fix the Exchange Server Syncing problems. Google and HTC did a great job with this phone, but it’s not perfect and more importantly in a lot of ways it pales in comparison to the iPhone.

My Issue With AT&T’s Pricing Structure For The New iPhone 3Gs

Here’s a simple question. Do you believe that consumer loyalty should be rewarded? Let me rephrase. Isn’t it better to reward your customers for being loyal than to pay them to be loyal through so-called “loyalty programs?”

If you’ve answered YES to those questions, good for you, you understand customer relationship marketing.

If you haven’t been following all the conversations about the pricing structure for the new iPhone 3Gs, let me know bring you up to speed:

  1. Apple announced the third generation iPhone – it’s called the 3Gs. the “s” stands for speed.
  2. If you aren’t currently an AT&T customer, you can purchase the iPhone 3Gs for $199 (16gb version) or $299 (32gb version).
  3. If you are a current AT&T customer, that does NOT own an iPhone, you also qualify for the $199/$299 pricing.
  4. If you are an existing AT&T customer and a current iPhone owner, you get to pay $399 (16gb version) or $499 (32gb version).

So basically, AT&T is opting to reward:

  1. Non-AT&T customers
  2. Non-iPhone AT&T customers – you know, the ones not paying over $100 a month for the iPhone monthly service plan

If you’re an existing AT&T iPhone customer you are out of luck. Huh? The rationale being pedaled by places like Gizmodo, is that AT&T is subsidizing the cost of the iPhone for customers. And, given that existing iPhone users were subsidized once (when they originally purchased their iPhone) they shouldn’t be fully subsidized again. To give you an idea of how much they are subsidizing, a brand new iPhone, with no contract would cost $770/$870. Thus, everyone is receiving some type of “benefit” from AT&T in the form of a subsidization.

You know what? In theory, I don’t disagree with this at all. HOWEVER, and this is the key, if that’s the approach you want to take, then I should be able to buy an iPhone 3Gs directly from Apple and then use that phone with any cell phone service provider. I should be able to use the phone with Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, or any other provider.

That seems fair, no? If I don’t want to pay for the subsidization I should be FREE to use any carrier, because AT&T wouldn’t be providing me any benefit. Shouldn’t that be an option?

So, that’s my beef.

Are You Part Of The Tribe?

I had the pleasure of reading Seth Godin’s Tribes recently. I’ve been on a book kick lately and Tribes made a recent flight back to Minneapolis pass quickly. In Tribes, Seth makes the case that “…any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea.” This is a really powerful concept. It’s one that I’ve seen up close and powerful. One of the most important things to keep in mind in mind is that leaders aren’t necessarily the people at the top of an organization. In fact, often you’ll find that they are several layers down.

Some of the key takeaways for me, without giving away all the goods, were:

  • A tribe needs a leader, shared interest, followers, and a way to communicate
  • “No one gives you permission or approval or a permit to lead. You can just do it. The only one who can say no is you.”
  • Companies need people to drive change; change is what drives growth
  • Change is inevitable, life is too short to fight the change, so hop on the change bus
  • Systems, processes, and the like while once successful can become dangerous when “you fall in love with the system”

Perhaps my favorite quote and the thing that stuck with me was this passage, “being charismatic doesn’t make you a leader. Being a leader makes you charismatic.”

Shortly after reading Tribes I came across this article from Strategy+Business.  It’s an awesome article, that takes a somewhat counter standpoint. Specifically, they argue, “research shows that most transformation leaders go unpromoted, unrecognized, and unrewarded. And their companies suffer in the long run.”  If you will, “change agents” are casualties of war and often cast aside as heretics.

I sent this article on to Seth and asked him specifically:

Seth

Just finished Tribes. Thoroughly enjoyed it. On the same lengthy business trip I also read The Three Signs of a Miserable Job. I saw a lot of similarity between the two. Recently, I also read this article titled “Stand by Your Change Agent” which outlines that, “Research shows that most transformation leaders go unpromoted, unrecognized, and unrewarded. And their companies suffer in the long run.”

Article Link: http://bit.ly/16f9H

I found myself relating tremendously to the article. I’ve watched, quite often, transformational leaders leave organizations…myself included.

The research seems to be at odds with many of the concepts presented in Tribes. I’d love your point of view the article.

Best

Adam

I was surprised and impressed when Seth sent me the following response:

often, tribe leaders leave because they won’t sacrifice the tribe to please management

cost of changing the world…

There’s a lot of truth to what Seth says.  As I look back on my own career, I can point to several instances where I elected to leave rather than sacrifice the tribe.  In some situations, people in the tribe even elected to follow me.

The world needs more leaders and companies need to embrace them.

Why I Never Played Major League Baseball

This was a busy week for me when it came to reading. I read Tribes by Seth Godin, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni, and Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. I’ll have some mini reviews up soon on the first two. Today, I wanted to focus on Outliers. Having previously read Gladwell’s other books: Tipping Point, which I didn’t care for, and Blink, which I loved, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Outliers. It was an awesome and humbling read. The book truly makes you question the reasons for your success or lack there of.

The book tries to uncover why some people succeed and why others simply don’t. I won’t ruin the book for you, but I did want to share some of Gladwell’s arguments:

  1. What year you were born: For example, if you were born just before the great depression your life would be much harder than if you were born in the 70s.
  2. What month you were born: This was perhaps the most interesting element. If the age cut off for little league eligibility is July and you are born in August you are in a better position to have success than someone born in June. This is because the August birthday would make you 10 years and 11 months old. While The June birthday person would be 10 years and 1 month. Technically both are 10 years old and eligible for the cutoff. But the August birthday person has a 10 month advantage.
  3. Where you grew up: For example New York vs. Montana or the United States vs. Iraq.
  4. The type of home you were raised in: Did you have wealthy parents? Did you have 2 parents?
  5. How much you practice: Specifically he hangs his hat on 10,000 hours. Loosely, people that practice for 10,000 hours at something (eg swinging a baseball bat) are more apt to become experts.

Ok, so what does this have to do with me becoming a professional major league baseball player? Well, I was born in a good era, in August (little league cutoff was July), in New York City (very competitive environment), and in a upper middle class house with 2 parents. Where I fell short was in practice. I dominated little league and high school baseball. This isn’t too surprising when you consider the afore mentioned information. But, it all came too easy. I never practiced enough. At most I estimate I practiced 5,000 hours. Based on the information in Outliers, this wouldn’t even put me in the tier below expert. I’m sure there’s more to it than just lack of practice, but Gladwell’s perspec

Pick up the book, read, and enjoy.