2012 Q1: iPad

2012 is a quarter gone already, and I haven’t been posting here much. It seems like a good time for to review the year so far. I’ll do so with a few brief posts. I was going to make this first one a review of technology in 2012 so far, but that could get long, so we’ll focus here on one of the major tech events of Q1: the launch of the iPad 3.

Is the iPad 3 so good that it makes an iPad 2 owner yearn for it? I have a particular interest in this question, since I’ve had an iPad 2 for about a year. In March 2011, I posted that the iPad 2 overcame some of my objections to all things Apple.

I’ve been very pleased with the iPad 2, as subsequent posts show. Other members of the family have also been pleased with it, although not to the extent that there’s been a lot of tablet-grabbing conflict.

Differences between the new iPad and the iPad 2, as described on Apple’s comparison page, and as prioritized by me, include:

  • Display: twice the pixels per inch (264 vs 132). Most reviewers of the new iPad are very impressed with the difference. I have no problems with the display quality on the iPad 2, so I don’t yearn for this improvement. On the other hand, I haven’t done as much ebook reading as I expected to do on the iPad 2, and it’s possible that I might do more on a new iPad, with its crisper display.
  • 4G rather than 3G, if you have the data plan. I went for Wi-Fi only, to save money on the iPad itself, and to save a lot more money by not paying for a data plan every month, and haven’t had serious regrets.
  • A real (5 megapixel) camera. I suspect that an iPad would feel rather cumbersome and silly as a camera.

So far then, I have no envy of people with the iPad 3 (which is actually just called the iPad). But if I were taking the iPad plunge now, I would spend the extra $100 to get the new model, rather than the iPad 2. For Wi-Fi and 16GB, the new one costs $499 – what the iPad 2 cost a a year ago.

What do you think? Would I quickly wonder how I lived without an iPad 3, where I to spend some time with one? How will the iPad 4 be different?

iOS5 and iCloud: The Apple Abides

I’ve just upgraded the iPad 2 to iOS5 (actually 5.0.1). It was silly and straightforward at the same time.

Did the upgrade really have to delete the iPad apps? Well, perhaps it did have to. The App Store allowed me to see the apps I’d installed under iOS4, and reinstall them with a click each. (This might be a good point at which to link to the PCWorld article Did iOS 5 Delete Your Apps, Music, and Data? Here’s Help.)

In some ways, the silliest thing was having to use iTunes on a “real computer” in order to upgrade the iPad. That said, one of the main improvements in iOS5 is that further upgrades can be carried out over the air from the internet, rather than through a cable from a computer.

iOS5 is the iCloud release. Let’s find out about iCloud with a Google search. The second result tells us that it’s cloud service done right. The first tells us that it doesn’t support the Chrome browser. Then I try it, and iCloud does seem to work on Chrome.

This all reinforces my view of Planet Apple as a strange place that thinks I ought to move there, do things the way things are done there, and forget about other planets. But some of the ways of other planets are familiar (e.g., planet Microsoft and the Windows continent) or appealing (e.g., planet Google and the Android moon) to me.

The Apple abides, as I stated in the post title I came up with last night. It occurs to me this morning that Alice in Wonderland might provide an even better cultural reference than The Big Lebowski. The cat – Steve Jobs – is dead, long live the grin – a rather smug one.

iPad on the Way

I succumbed to the lure of the iPad 2, and ordered one on the release date (March 11). It has now shipped, a little ahead of the original schedule, from mainland China and is in transit to Lantau Island, Hong Kong. That’s according to the FedEx tracking site, which currently estimates delivery on March 31.

So I anticipate the iPad 2 arriving this Thursday! I say anticipate rather than expect, because it seems that packages can sometimes spend a while on Lantau Island, and other delays are of course possible.

Must… buy… iPad 2

After years of being annoyed by Apple, I find myself at the online store, with an iPad 2 and a smart cover in my shopping cart. Since you ask: 16GB with Wi-Fi, black, engraved; orange.

You might also be asking what I’ve found annoying about Apple. There are three main things: smug, overpriced, closed. The first of those is still there, and is unlikely to go away any time soon.

As for overpriced, $500 doesn’t seem like a lot to pay for such a cool tablet. And there’s free shipping! And free engraving! (At least, right now there is.) And think of the hundreds of dollars I’d be saving by getting the Wi-Fi version, which doesn’t involve a contract with a phone company!

So why haven’t I ordered the thing already? Partly because $500 is still a lot of money, and I can’t claim that I really need an iPad.

Then there’s the closed thing. That’s troubling enough to deserve its own post – or at least, to cause some more soul-searching before I finally rationalize my decision to actually place the order.

It's a Beatle, Not a Cloud

BritBeatSo today’s big Apple announcement was not streaming iTunes, as widely predicted. It was Beatles music being available for purchase at iTunes.

Mashable Adam provides good brisk coverage. Comments on his post tend to be variations on the theme of “I’m younger than Steve Jobs, so I don’t care.”

CrunchGear’s Devin valiantly tries to explain why we care. “Being that the Beatles MP3 holdout is emblematic of the recording industry’s resistance against modern distribution methods, the way in which the Beatles discography will be made available should be telling.”

I’m inclined to think that those who really want Beatles music already have the CDs, while many of those who want the music in digital form without the hassle of a disc also want to avoid the hassle of payment. But the holiday/gift/rampant commerce season is upon us, so a lot of money may change hands.

I’ll be watching to see when and how the other music services announce: Beatles for Sale. As for Beatles music, I care enough to have allowed myself to be talked into a festival of Beatles cover bands (Abbey Road on the River, in DC earlier this year, and that’s Britbeat in the photo), and to be putting together a Beatles playlist/CD.

When it comes to the playlist, I’m surprised at how much Paul there is. When I think of the Beatles songwriters in the abstract, I think of Paul as sentimental, George as having penned a classic or two, and John as the man. When I listen to the music itself, I’m reminded of just how good McCartney’s best is, how annoyingly self-absorbed Lennon often was, and how Harrison doesn’t quite make the cut in that elite company.

My favorite few minutes of the Beatles come on Revolver, on which John’s “And Your Bird Can Sing” is followed by Paul’s “For No One.” The best of John (and a fine band performance) followed by the best of Paul.

Enough about the Beatles, lest I start sounding as old as Steve Jobs.

First Swings With Ping

Yesterday, Apple announced bushels of stuff, including a music-based social network named Ping. It’s part of iTunes 10. Since iTunes is running on this very machine, I decided to upgrade and to try Ping. This despite the software’s assurance that 8.2.1, which I was running, is the current version of iTunes.

Anyway, I downloaded and installed iTunes 10. It took a while. I tried it. Like Brenna at Mashable, I am unimpressed. Apparently I’d be even more unimpressed if I was a musician trying to get set up on Ping.

I noted that Ping is a corner of the iTunes store, rather than a destination in its own right. So did Sarah at ReadWriteWeb.

I Googled Ping, and saw the golf clubs above the new Apple thing. So did Leena at TechCrunch, who remarks that it seems many seem to have found and signed up at Ping.fm on Apple Ping day.

So far, I find Ping to be a foolishly-named and uninteresting corner of Apple’s empire. But it’s a large and loyal empire…

Funnels, Donations, NPR, and Apple

National Public Radio offers its radio shows at no charge, and hopes that enough listeners will donate enough money to make it viable. More broadly, NPR offers its content for free, on a variety of platforms including radio, the web, and iPad apps. There is the potential for more platforms to mean more consumers and hence more donations.

NPR has much in common with for-profit freemium services (such as WordPress.com). It can therefore use some of the same analytical tools, such as funnel analysis.

We can think of a funnel with NPR listeners toward the top. Fans of NPR, or of a particular show, are at a lower and narrower part of the funnel. Some of those fans donate; we might think of donations as money emerging from the bottom of the funnel.

What effect will iPad and iPhone apps have on NPR’s funnel? That’s what this 3-minute video is about. If it makes you want to donate to NPR, that’s good. The Changing Way Multimedia Studio is not currently seeking donations, despite this production’s use of crayon and handheld camera. The producer, however, is seeking work in the DC area.

The video illustrates, using the funnel model, an argument I made yesterday: that NPR was rather hasty in getting on the iPad bandwagon. I was prompted to make the video an following an exchange with Beth Kanter. We seem to agree that someone should write a post living up to the title: Apple or Android? Which One is More Nonprofit Friendly?. Neither of us has done it yet.

I’d be interested to see comments (or external posts) on the comparison of Apple and Android for nonprofits, on the use of the funnel model by nonprofits, on Apple’s policy toward nonprofits, or anything else arising from this post/video. Over to you…

NPR: Bitten By Apple?

NPR is a fascinating business. Yes, the word business is appropriate for a nonprofit like NPR. How can it bring in enough money to fund its radio shows and other activities?

This particular post was prompted by a remark about “Apple’s wrongheaded policy of prohibiting donations.” That’s from Jake Shapiro, CEO of PRX, writing at Ars Technica. One of the things that PRX does is develop apps for NPR shows such as This American Life (by the way, that last link currently goes, not to a home page, but to a donate page).

Apple’s app policies deny nonprofits access to 1-Click payments: “the most powerful direct-payment platform in the mobile marketplace.” Apple does provide a payment infrastructure, but takes a 30% for itself.

I don’t want to bash Apple. Well, I do, but there are other posts for that.

If there is bashing to be done, at least some of it should be directed at the people at NPR (and PRX?) who rushed headlong to kiss the iPad’s touchscreen: “we’ll be there for you Day 1 with a fully redesigned app and a Web site that’s optimized for the platform.” NPR made it a priority to expend money and other resources on iNPR.

I can see that the iPad audience is a desirable one. We might call them ABCs: affluent, brand-loyal, connected. This audience benefits from iNPR. I hope that NPR benefits as well, in terms of contributions from the ABCs.

But I suspect that most of the benefit goes to Apple. NPR has packaged its content for the iPad, thus improving the already-lauded tablet. Perhaps even more important, NPR’s eagerness to support the iPad, and to be seen to be doing so, is free publicity: something that Apple doesn’t lack, but can always use more of.

Here’s an app promo image. It’s linkjacked from NPR’s tablet page. But it links to NPR’s donate page. If you’ve used iNPR, and haven’t yet donated, please do so. No, I don’t want a cut of your donation.

I found Jake’s editorial via Beth Kanter. Her post has the title Apple or Android? Which One is More Nonprofit Friendly? I think that’s a great title, and a great topic to explore. I don’t think that the post really explores it, though, consisting as it does of little more than an approving pointer to Jake’s article.

Music Lockers and Lala Knockers

The Lala shutdown is just a couple of weeks away. How you replace Lala depends on what you used it for. For me, MOG looks like the closest thing to a replacement: a previous post includes a comparison of MOG with some of its rivals.

That post drew a comment from Martin Rigby of Psonar, a music locker service. Lala does provide a locker, as well as samples and streams, and so Psonar is a Lala replacement for those who used it mainly as a locker. Martin is critical of the Lala shutdown.

Isn’t it incumbent on Apple, as Lala’s acquirer, to continue to offer the service as designed to the people who had signed up for that service?

At Psonar we offer our users and prospective users this pledge – we will never do anything that denies you perpetual access to your music other than due to events beyond our control. And, if we are forced to change or take down the service, we will do all we can to ensure users get adequate notice… and are given a means to transfer their music elsewhere.

Michael Robertson of MP3tunes offers a similar mix of criticism and comfort to Lala users (via RWW).

I feel bad for those who purchased Lala songs with expectations of permanency only to find out they lost their music. To help those jilted customers take back control of their music MP3tunes is offering a music locker for 10 cents – the cost of just one of those web songs.

The MP3tunes offer seems to be for a 50 GB locker for one year. I presume that subsequent years will cost the regular price (currently $40, although I’d expect the price and/or size of a Premium locker to change over time).

I’m not particularly surprised or outraged by the Lala shutdown. In particular, it doesn’t change my attitude toward Apple. I didn’t expect that the Lala service would be around forever, and factored that into the decision to spend a buck for multiple plays of an album I particularly like.

One of the last albums I added to my library was Gogol Bordello’s Trans-Continental Hustle. Had Lala stuck around long enough, my cost to listen to a track would have fallen below a cent. That won’t happen, but I think I’m getting value for my dollar.

I still have $3.38 in my Lala wallet. I decided to spend it, and an additional $1.61, on The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter. It’s as eclectic as Trans-Continental Hustle, it’s freak-folk from the 1960s. As Pitchfork’s Andrew Gaerig remarks, it’s the Incredible String Band’s best album and “A Very Cellular Song” is their best song: “a 13-minute tour de force” (as much a suite as a song, and yours for only 69c if you follow the above link to Amazon).

Which brings me to something that does annoy me about Lala. If you buy something for more than you have in your wallet, you are steered toward paying for the whole thing and leaving your wallet intact, rather than emptying your wallet and paying the difference.

That said, I will miss Lala, and not just for the streams I paid for that will dry up at the end of this month.

Lala May Shutdown

Lala May shutdown: as in Apple will shut Lala down on May 31. I saw the news twice this morning: once as an email from Lala, then in my feed as a post on TechCrunch (which quotes the email sent to Lala users).

When Apple acquired Lala, I described the news as rotten. I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s taken this long for the axe to fall.

At ReadWriteWeb, Frederic followed up the shutdown news with five alternatives to Lala. I don’t think that any of the five services gives me what I like from Lala: a very wide range of music; one complete listen for free; unlimited streams of an album for about a buck.

Back at TC, Robin injected a note of fannish optimism. “Does this mean we can start raising our hopes for iTunes in the cloud?” I share neither the fannishness nor the optimism.