Amazon has promised a software update to the Kindle Fire which will improve the performance, touch navigation and allow customers the option to choose which items to display on their carousel. This comes from Amazons public relations team in response to criticism the device has received since it went on sale less than a month ago.
Some of the criticism the device has received relates to its touchscreen size, which a study from the Nielsen Norman Group found to be too small and prone to browser errors. Users had numerous fat finger issues resulting in frequent tap errors and accidental activation errors. The study also found the Kindle Fire to be quite heavy and slow to load pages. It must be noted that the Nielsen Study was a small study with only 4 users. Since the Kindle built its reputation as being an eBook reader, this could impact future sales of this device. The current euphoria over the new kindle still seems to be high and according to Amazon “Kindle Fire is the most successful product we’ve ever launched — we’ve already sold millions of units and we’re building more to meet the strong demand”.
It is no secret that Amazon is making a loss on every Kindle reader device it sells however it is relying on the Amazon’s virtual store to recoup those costs through sales of books, movies and music. The cost is definitely a factor in its popularity and as the old adage goes “You get what you pay for”. The buying public was probably expecting to receive the iPad’s performance at a vastly reduced price ($199 for the Kindle Fire) due to all the hype surrounding the Amazon Kindle Fires launch and now the reality is beginning to set in. It should not really come as a surprise that there are still some issues with this model since there were developmental issues surrounding this device just weeks before its launch as mentioned in the Kindle Fire to outsell iPad? Article.
The good news is that Amazon does see the Kindle Tablet model as its gateway to the Amazon store and as such will do everything in its power to improve the performance and user experience of the current devices and future models (According to the DigiTimes, Amazon is developing a 8.9 – 10.1 inch Tablet for launch by the end of the second quarter of 2012). Amazons promised update in a couple of weeks’ time reminds me of Microsoft’s products which got better with each service pack and update.
Tablet PC’s are probably going to be on most peoples shopping lists this Christmas season and with all the talk of buying products “Made in America “ I thought that I would do a bit of research and find out if you could buy a Tablet PC that was made in America. However as I quickly found out, that is not as easy as it sounds. A search of the Made in the USA website did not produce any USA made Tablets and searching the web did not help either. What is Made in America? The issue gets complicated because as with most technology based devices, Tablet Pc’s are made up of various components (Touch Screen, Processor, Multimedia system to name a few) and no one company manufactures all these components or assembles them due to expertise, costs and other factors. Apart from the pure manufacturing costs associated with these devices, there are other parts of the puzzle that need to be addressed when looking for Made in America products. Are the designers from the USA, Europe or the Far East? Who heads up these companies, are they based in America and what impact will that have on American Made products? In the case of Apple devices, it is a well-known fact that their designs have come from California with the late Steve Jobs being credited with its innovation and success. However the man most responsible for Apples innovation (after Steve Jobs) is little know British designer Jonathan Ive, who is the Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple and with Steve Jobs is responsible for over 200 Apple patents.
America’s strength lies in its leadership and creativity skills which stems from its culture. Children are encouraged to think for themselves from a very young age and think ‘outside the box’, believe in themselves and stand up for what they believe in. The success America has attained over the years has translated into a higher standard of living which in turn translates into higher manufacturing costs. California has a Minimum wage of $8 p/hr while San Francisco is $9.92p/hr according to Wikipedia. These minimum hourly rates are unheard of in the Far East where the average worker earns 800 Yuan (~US $123) per month although this has recently been increased to 960 Yuan (~US$150). According to Wikipedia China does not have a Minimum wage stipulation, however with their rising economic growth the demand for higher wages is rapidly increasing which will impact manufacturing costs that could level the playing field. When profits die down shareholders look at other avenues to increase their profit margins.
So, is it possible to find a “Made In America” Tablet PC, the short answer is not yet. In reality we have the leadership, creativity, manpower and resources to make it happen. All we need is the right incentive to bring it home.
With his Tablet PC in hand, Thomas Suarez gives a very mature presentation on developing apps for apple mobile devices. The amazing part is that Thomas is only 12 years old and already has applications published in Apples App store. As he so rightly mentions in his presentation, kids know more about technology than the teachers (that drew quite a laugh from the crowd) and therefore giving kids access to technology and allowing them to assist in developing technology in a learning environment and passing it on to other students is a win-win all around. He was inspired by Steve Jobs and by having access to Apples Software Development Kit (SDK) he started to code. He picked up Python, Java and C just to know the basics!! He is certainly an inspiration for us all and for anyone who predicts a bleak future for the next generation, here is proof that children like Thomas will rewrite our future.
Thomas Suarez – 12 year old self taught application developer
Amazon started shipping its Kindle Fire a day earlier for its pre-order customers. With expected sales of over 5million units by the end of 2011 (in just six weeks) it will mark the biggest launch of any product including the iPad. The increased demand of Tablet PC’s is forcing the industry to deliver more technology in a smaller package at a lower price. Major players in this market like Google (Android), the Nook (Tablet) and Kindle (Fire) have not only lowered the price of the Tablet, but also set the bar much higher in terms of what to expect from a Cheap Tablet PC, as far as quality, performance, and user experience is concerned. The current batch of mobile devices center on dual-core processors, but now that customers appetites have whetted with games, mobile office apps, cloud computing and being able to do most things on the go, they are clamoring for more. Users expect faster and smoother graphics, quicker response times, pages loading faster and greater flexibility in working/playing on the go. This demand has been growing since the release of the iPad and has fostered a new generation of Tablets.
The new generation of Tablets will consist of quad core processors like the Tegra 3 Chip which according to its manufactures will provide a five-fold performance improvement over dual-core tablets from Toshiba, Dell, Acer and Lenovo.
Although this chip will run Android’s operating system and Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS it does signal in a new era of performance. The chip will provide a tremendous increase in multimedia performance due to its 12 GeForce graphics cores. Cool features like a fifth low power core will be activated when a user wants to use a minimum power draw application like listening to music. The four other processor cores will shut down enabling a longer battery life which is estimated at 12 hours.
Asus Eee Pad – Transformer Prime w/optional Keyboard
ASUS has been one of the first to jump on this bandwagon and unveiled the first Quad Core Tablet last week featuring NVIDIA Tegra’s 3SoC processor which is due out in December at $499 for the 32GB version and $599 for the 64GB version. The Transformer Prime will run Android’s 3.2 OS and be upgraded to Androids new OS 4 called Ice Cream Sandwich when it is expected to be released. The system also has an optional attachable Keyboard.
Apple is also rumored to be working on a Quad-Core processor called the A6. Although these are unconfirmed musings, Apple is where it is today because of its innovation so it is a safe bet to assume that there is a quad-core Tablet in its roadmap for the near future. 2012 could see the launch of many more Quad Core mobile systems.
The Tablet PC market has become very interesting in recent months and is set to become more so in the coming weeks with the recent release of the Nook Tablet and much anticipated Kindle Fire on November 15. However from a consumer point of view, it may seem confusing in terms of what tablet pc to purchase. The iPad has been the dominant player in the Tablet PC market with sales expected to account for 73% of the market according to a report from Gartner. However in a recent ChangeWave survey it was reported that a good percentage of the early adopters had delayed purchasing a new iPad and there were rumors that Apple may have scaled back production due to “moderating sell-through”. Throw into the mix the increasing share of Android devices and things really get interesting.
While this degree of choice is good for the consumer market it can also be very confusing especially with all the hoopla surrounding the releases of the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire. The message boards are full of techies and wanna-be techies expounding their opinions on why their choice of tablet is the best. However with reference to the Nook tablet and Kindle Fire, the preferred Tablet of choice may just come down to the availability of content for the particular device. Either device may steal the show this Black Friday and Christmas period because of their price point. Even though at the high end, the Nook Tablet sells for $249 it is still less than half the price of the iPad and in these tough economic times that may be a major factor for the consumer.
Both devices have a very similar look and feel however from a purely technical point of view the Nook Tablet has the advantage. That being said, every good techie knows that technical specifications are not the only factors in determining a good product. In this day and age product support is king. This translates into general technical support as well as content support. The nook may have the Technical support advantage with its numerous B&N brick and mortar outlets which would provide a more hands on technical support role, however Amazon with its superior cloud offerings and abundant content has the advantage on content delivery and availability. There have been various comparisons made between Amazons Prime service and Nooks Netflix and Hulu options with pros and cons for both sides. However the choice of Tablet is probably going to be based on the consumer’s personal choice relating to price, level of technical service and content availability. I have not added technical performance because I think that the overall user experience on either tablet will be very similar. It will be the level of support from a technical and content perspective that will have the biggest impact on the tablets acceptance. The availability of applications, ease of access, mobility and end user’s experience with those applications will be the deal breaker. A prudent buyer may just want to wait to see what the initial reactions are before jumping on either bandwagon.
In a move that will certainly please iPad users, Adobe has announced that it will no longer continue to advance its development on Flash for the mobile and instead will work on contributing to HTML5 development. As mentioned in a previous blog (Why the iPad does not support Adobe Flash) HTML5 has been accepted as the standard on all major mobile devices due to its performance and lower power requirements. However Adobe will still provide support for its Flash Player 11 product which introduced numerous new features like HW accelerated 3D graphics and premium HD video to the PC browser market. Support will include bug fixes and security updates for existing device configurations however resources for future development will be focused on HTML5 and providing innovative contributions to the industry including the advanced gaming and premium video spaces.
As we move to a more common platform it does raise the question of compatibility with existing flash player content that has infiltrated every part of the consumer market. How will one view existing flash content on an HTML5 only device? Ask ant iPad user and they will tell you how frustrating it can be. On the positive side it will create a revenue stream for talented coders (with a lot of patience) to make the existing flash content compatible with HTLM5. That could take a while due to the enormous amount of flash content prevalent on the internet.
There will also be developers and Adobe followers who will feel let down back by Adobe’s decision. These developers have secured a living off Adobe by developing numerous content based around flash technology and as ardent followers have defended Adobe Flash against numerous critics (most notable – Steve Jobs). Flash expert Joseph Labrecque, a senior interactive software engineer from University of Denver and owner of Fractured Vision Media LLC takes it quite personally in his blog “Mobile Flash Player:RIP” where he states “Just another bad, bad decision…..Adobe sticks a knife in my back ..”
However, as an iPad user and for all iPad Tablet PC users out there who have experienced the frustration of trying to view some web content on your iPad , only to see those dreaded words..”requires Adobe Flash” or worse still, clicking on some content and nothing happens, we applaud the move!!
This move could also affect sales of Android systems that placed a lot of emphasis on native support for Flash content. That sales pitch would no longer be valid. However at the end of the day I think that it is a big win for the consumer on various levels. Consumers will be able to access information more easily and this in turn will create more competition which will produce higher quality content at a lower cost. As Tablet PC prices come down so the demand will go up. Sounds like a WIN-WIN all around!!
A couple of months ago Microsoft showed of its new operating system, Windows 8. This system has been designed with the tablet pc in mind rather than the workstation. Although the operating system has had quite a big overhaul, Microsoft say that will still maintain compatibility with Windows 7 although this only relates to the x86 platforms. This will prove to be quite a challenge since Microsoft’s Operating Systems have traditionally run on Intel and AMD processors and the new breed of tablet pc’s use ARM (Advanced RISC Machine) processors. These processors use less power, are cheaper to manufacturer and are ideal for the mobile industry even though they are not as powerful as the Intel and AMD processors. The ARM processors also use a different instruction set architecture and converting the existing windows apps to run in the new environment could prove to be a challenging task. Microsoft showed off its early build of the new OS on an Intel Core i5 processor which indicates that it will use Intel processors rather than the ARM processors although it is too early to tell. However the new Tablet OS from Microsoft seems to have some good features.
Microsoft is trying to merge the tablet look and feel while still keeping the ‘ole favorites’ from Windows 7 and maintain the comfort zone of its customers. The new desktop (now called Metro) is designed with a Tablet look and feel (the windows type desktop is now an app) with a few cool tweaks like using gestures on a chosen picture to log in or unlock the screen, being able to multitask between applications using your START screen, having multiple apps on the same screen as a split screen, instantly sharing information with Facebook, using one finger to select an icon while using another finger to scroll through the screens at the same time (great for moving apps), having a central site (Cloud) to store all your settings and data and continuing from a previous state that the tablet was left in on another tablet. The Windows 8 OS will also have its own apps store. The biggest advantage is its compatibility with external devices. You can plug in USB devices, supports printers, keyboards, mouses (mice?) and external displays and multiple monitors. Initial reaction to the proposed OS was positive however it remains to be seen what the final version will look like and how costly the devices supporting it will be.
Chris Harrison, a student from Carnegie Mellon has developed a new way to communicate with computer devices using everyday surfaces. This process could eliminate the need for conventional keyboards and screens. Read or write an email on your wall or table top, surf the web from your hand. See this interesting video from GMA’s Bill Weir as he explores this new technology
In a very serious effort to get technology into the hands of the underprivileged, humanitarian organization “One Laptop per Child” (OLPC) developed a tablet for under $200 when the cheapest tablets were going for $500+ in 2010. The OLPC’s target was to provide a tablet per child in developing countries for under $100. Even though it may seem easier to produce Tablet’s cheaper than it does to produce a Laptop (no physical input/output devices like DVD drives, keyboard, conventional hard drives), there are serious challenges in trying to develop a solution at a good price point so that it could be distributed to children in developing countries. The target was to produce a rugged tablet pc that could withstand use in developing countries where there is limited electricity and the terrain is quite rugged.
In its latest move the OLPC will be distributing its latest Tablet PC the XO-3, from a Helicopter. The bizarre move by OLPC Founder Nicholas Negroponte, is in-line with his hands-off approach to teaching children computer Literacy. As the tablet is designed to withstand a 30-foot drop and can handle rainy weather, it remains to be seen how well this unique technology distribution method will work.
There have been numerous studies that have shown how much benefit children get from exposure to computers and technology in general. It encourages children to use their own intellectual ability and curiosity to explore and develop their creativity thinking aptitude. However the trick is to get the technology into the right hands. The Indian government has taken the “bull by the horns “ and in a bold move, distributed thousands of Tablet PC’s to its students at a very affordable price
On Wednesday October 5, 2011, 100,000 Tablet PC’s called The Aakash, were distributed in New Delhi by the Indian Government. The subsidized price ….$35, with the retail version going for $60. However do not expect to get the same performance from these Tablets as you would from an iPad. The screen is resistive not capacitive which means that you have to press down very hard (pound your finger) to get a response from the Tablet. The response is also very slow because of the slow processor since the system is designed to use low power with only 3hrs of battery backup (also uses solar power). However the goal of the exercise was to give poor students access to the unlimited digital world and to that end it has been somewhat of a success. The flip side of the coin is that the type of experience that the user has when using the device. In developing countries that experience may be acceptable.
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