Posts Tagged ‘John Gruber’


File Management On The iPad

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

So I finally worked my way through John Gruber’s 7,300 word review of the iPad. What interested me most is that in all his lead-ups to the iPad, touting how it was a revolution in personal computing, the one thing that really stood out was that Apple had dispensed with the file manager. Managing files in the background was the wave of the future, Gruber proclaimed.

So isn’t it interesting that his principle complaint regarding the iPad in his review is… FILE MANAGEMENT! Basically, it would appear that the iWork suite of applications requires you to manually move files back and forth between your iPad and your Mac, mostly by means of syncing through the dock connector. Gruber is right that this is madness, and that the correct model is for the iPad to wirelessly keep documents up to date on and even on your Mac at home, kind of like how Google Docs works today. Gruber also links to this good essay on the subject which is worth reading.

I just think at the end of the day that my original assessment of the iPad was right. It’s still suckling at the teat of iTunes, and for the iPad to grow up, it really needs to learn how to live in the cloud.

BTW, none of this means I won’t be getting one. I will be, as my old 12″ iBook is on its deathbed. I’m just waiting for the 3g versions as I think that that new data plan is pretty hard to beat, and will be a killer app on vacations and the like. Moreover, my wife had a co worker who brought one in to work and even my Android using wife was extremely impressed with the device. I’ll be sure to post my own review when I get mine.


Gruber and the iPad

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

So I’ve been relatively skeptical of the iPad, but not to the point of entirely dismissing it. I think it’s a neat device, but I do see some issues with it. But I think my approach has been reasonable. What has seemed less reasonable is the approach of John Gruber, who seems to have gone off the deep end in his defense of and ecstatic reaction to, the iPad.

Now I don’t mean to pick on John here, he certainly links to some people who seem to have iPad euphoria even more acute than he has. But what interests me about Gruber is that he’s generally pretty spot on regarding computing matters, so his euphoria surprises me more than a bit. In fact, the things he’s been linking to recently embody the contradiction I see. Allow me to show you a case in point.

John links to this engadget piece in which they ask engadget staff for a paragraph or two of reactions to the iPad. He seems surprised that all but one of the reactions are either negative or offer grave reservations regarding the iPad. So I read through the reactions and found myself agreeing with this bit by Richard Lawler:

Media playback capabilities, e-reader and gaming functions are shiny and good looking, but where’s the substance? I’d like to avoid the transcoding necessary to play back media on my phone, enjoy the wide access and support that I have using a PC to browse the web or create content and hopefully have a dollar or two left in my pocket afterward.

Allow me to translate that for you:

I want to be able to play the pirated media I get off the Internet in the formats that they come in without having to translate the files into different formats first. I pirate content because paying for every piece of content I consume will quickly bankrupt me. Therefore, I’m just not interested in buying a piece of hardware for which I either have to pay exorbitant prices for content, or which can’t play my pirated content without making me jump through countless hoops first.

Clearly, the need for players that will flawlessly play every format of video without issue isn’t lost on Gruber, who proceeds to link to a bit about a new alternative to the VLC player for the mac. The need for such a player is moot if you’re buying all your content from Apple. But nobody does that, hence the need for VLC and other media players on the mac. To my knowledge, no such players exist on the iphone. I’ve looked.

I believe that what’s going on here with respect to Apple is a misunderstanding of what drove the original popularity of the original iPod. I believe that Apple thinks that it was tight integration with iTunes, and an iTunes store, that drive popularity of teh hardware device. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Two things drove the popularity of the iPod:

  1. The iPod’s innovative circular scroll wheel enabled one to easily search for individual songs in a library that may contain thousands of songs. Every previous attempt had been cumbersome and ineffective. However, this innovation wouldn’t have mattered a wit had it not been for #2.
  2. The iPod played non-DRM MP3 files, whether they be ripped or pirated. In effect, it had the ability to play everyone’s pirated library of music in its entirety. Had Apple attempted to release a device that only played DRM enabled songs bought over iTunes, I believe that they would have found the iPod to be a hobby much like the AppleTV has become, much like the iPad may well become.

The principal difference between the mac and the other devices that Apple produces is that the mac gives you the flexibility to do what you want, to consume everything you want, without jumping through serious hoops. None of the other devices Apple sells allows for this. Apple lucked out with the iPod in that pirated music converged on a single format, the MP3, before competing formats like Ogg Vorbis could get traction.

But in the world of video, no convergence has taken place. As a result, what we need are not devices that play only a few formats, but devices that can handle whatever is thrown at them without blinking. Had the AppleTV been able to do this, I may well have had them hooked up to my televisions instead of mac minis. Had the AppleTV been built to handle any and every type of video available on the Internet, I suspect it would have become more than a hobby for Apple.

But the format issue is just one of many. Gruber and others seem to believe that the iPad is meant to be a whole new way of computing into the future. I’m afraid I don’t see it that way, and I really don’t think that Jobs & Co. see it that way either. Most notably, the iPad syncs. In other words, it requires you already have a computer to sync it to, to back up your files, to grab your photos and music and even movies. In other words, it’s a giant iPod touch.

Look, if Apple were going to make this thing into the new standalone device, then they shouldn’t have built it to sync to a desktop mac or PC. Rather, they should have built it to integrate with the cloud. Buy a MobileMe type of service with it, have it automatically save everything you do with your account online, and then be able to log in from a mac or PC or a terminal somewhere and grab your files and do other things with them. But this machine doesn’t do that. It looks like it still needs to be brought back to nurse at the desktop’s teat. Which means the iPad isn’t weaning us off of desktop type guis at all. In fact, I tend to think that if you bought an iPad without owning a desktop first, you’d be totally lost.

And those objections exist even before we consider the fact that it can’t do video chat, or any other type of chat in the background while you work on other things, or anything else in the background for that matter.

So count me among the people who think that the iPad is interesting, but who have some serious reservations regarding it. I should hope that Apple would figure it out though, because the iPad hardware does seem seriously cool as shit. It’s obviously not too late, but if Apple waits forever eventually others will figure it out.

Here’s to hoping Apple figures it out too.