Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tailoring the Zune software

Hey Everyone,

Well I have finally got around to tailoring the Zune software and have made it soo much easier to use.

I use Windows Media Center 2005, and to put cover art on albums, you use the default Windows XP way of setting the picture to be folder.jpg. Unfortunately Zune looks for zunefolderart.jpg. So, all my immaculately organized music looked like blank albums.To fix this, use the generic patch from here make sure to select your dll file. Make sure the Zune software is closed first.

The User interface is pretty sweet when you are transferring media to your Zune, but you don't want to look at something that large all day, click the button to the left of the minimize button called Mini Player. Much easier to use, in addition, it looks exactly like the Zune HD's now playing screen! I wish I could browse my entire library this way. (I intuitively want to touch my screen now :-/)

I didn't use the Zune software for playing media because it always sounded horrible on Windows 7, I had always assumed this was because it lacked hardware sound acceleration, however I discovered, as with my other machine, disabling the Windows sound "enhancements" fixes a lot of problems. Depending on your hardware, you either have a Enhancements tab on your speakers, or in my case, the enhancements were on the Advanced tab. To do this, you click the speaker after clicking on your volume control once. Now Zune sounds as good as Winamp did. If you thought that your cymbal hits sounded "metallic", this should fix those problems.

Don't forget that since this is a Microsoft product, the integration between it and Windows 7 is very tight. This exhibits itself mainly in the fact you can change tracks just with a hover over of the Zune icon on your taskbar.

Here is a list of keyboard shortcuts from Microsoft, I preferred Winamp's ZXCVB being the audio controls, but this is ok. Rule of Thumb, CTRL + first letter of what you want to do (Back, Forward, Play and Stop) with F8 and F9 being volume controls.

To do thisUse this keyboard shortcut
Previous item or chapterCTRL+B
Go to search boxCTRL+E
Next item or chapterCTRL+F
Turn shuffle on or offCTRL+H
Eject CD (this doesn't work on computers equipped with more than one CD drive)CTRL+J
Play or pause playingCTRL+P
Stop playingCTRL+S
In audio playback, turn repeat on or offCTRL+T
Zoom video sizeCTRL+Z
In video playback, rewind video. In audio playback, return playback to normal speed after fast forwarding.CTRL+SHIFT+B
Fast forward through the song or videoCTRL+SHIFT+F
Show Zune HelpF1
Mute soundF7
Decrease sound volumeF8
Increase sound volumeF9

I am still working on a fix for the unknown album issue I and a lot of you aree probably having. This stems from the fact that a lot of my MP3's are not from full albums and this have no album title on them. I could probably tag them all Unknown Album in the Album field, but that would be sort of cheating.

Till next time!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rant on the Home Entertainment Industry

This post might be a little short as I want to get back to enjoying my new investment, heh. Also, a note on the photo, it seems to be the picture that everyone uses when they are talking about home theatre, so I might as well get on the wagon. Specs for it will be put at the end of this post.

I recently stumbled upon the best deal of all time, a Denon AVR 590 for 279 dollars. I also had a 100 dollar gift card to a certain red and white store to boot. Now I can enjoy my home theatre custom built PC through a 5.1 amp with a pure digital path.... after 2 days of configuring!

I think this is why people think Home Theatres are extremely complicated, and good ones are in the realm of people with infinite budgets or who are geniuses. There are a myriad of certifications, and each of them mean slightly different things. Like DTS vs Dolby Digital, or 5.1 vs 7.1, vs 9.1!!!! or THX! Seriously... I had a hard time justifying stereo to 5.1, I doubt I can be moved to purchase a 9.1 system. I also doubt many people even know THX is a certification at all. It just makes people think of loud sounds. (The audience is now deaf reference from Tiny Toons)

In my opinion AV manufacturers should rally around a standard, and stick with it. They think they are maximizing profits by making people upgrade their old hardware, but they are wrong. What they are actually doing is marginalizing their customers by making only the "audiophiles" upgrade, while everyone else is satisfied with their TV speakers, or old stereos. The other problem is also for connector certifications, I can wholeheartedly understand the move from analog to digital (for most applications), but why are their 3 different kinds of digital connectors, with 2 specifications of HDMI?? The industry needs to rally around ONE digital connector, and HDMI was supposed to be this answer, it had HDCP, 7.1 SPDIF audio, Network, and DVI all in one connector... what is the problem. Oh yes.... license fees. STOP DOING THINGS LIKE THIS, it should be a revenue generator for everyone, not just a coalition of the willing. heheh

On the subject of cables, when it comes to Digital cables, a crappy cable will do 99% of the time. I have the crappiest RCA cable doing SPDIF duties for me, and it sounds perfect. With a digital signal, you either have a signal, or you don't, their is no fuzziness anymore WHATSOEVER.

When I first started delving into the Home Entertainment ground, I was very young and had my parent's JVC stereo as a bench mark. 4 foot tall speakers with 3 different sized drivers, 10 inch woofers, and a 100 watt RMS/channel amplifier driving them. One of my fonder memories as a kid was having a Goldeneye deathmatch with friends and cracking the shells of hardboiled eggs with that stereo. This was a 2.0 (2 speakers and no subwoofer) system. Nowadays, you almost require a subwoofer to get that kind of power, or an extremely high end amplifier.

I "upgraded" from a 25 year old 2 channel 50w/ch amp to this Denon AVR590, and I am very impressed with the sound levels at all decibel levels, except for the complete lack of low end. Do the amplifier makers just hand off the hard work of making a full range amplifier to the subwoofer makers? If yes, then why are speaker makers still making full range speakers??

A subwoofer and small speaker will almost never reach the sonic quality of a good full range speaker with a quality crossover. The main reason is this, a speaker of set diameter produces only a certain diameter of sound properly. The diameter of the diaphragm is inversely proportionate to the frequencies it produces well. So, large diaphragms produce low frequencies the easiset, and small diaphragms produce high frequencies. The ideal speaker would have an infinite amount of drivers (diaphragms), however since we cannot have an infinitely sized speaker, we try to use as many different sized drivers as possible to get the best sounding... sound. A popular speaker maker in the public eye, only has 2 different sized drivers for the entire system. As a result of this, there is a... complete lack of low end, but the manufacturer uses psychoaccoustics to mask this (rather well). Psychoaccoustics modify the sound as well, so you are not getting the full sound you expected.

My other point I have to make is this, the AV industry really needs to get more in bed with the computer industry (Intel VIVO and AMD LIVE) was a good try, but it needs to be presented in a easy to use light. UPNP AV (DLNA) is a shot in the right direction, however having a computer as the nerve centre of your home theatre is an experience unlike no other. When it works! It isn't only the hardware makers that need to try harder with this, the software makers and AUDIO FILTERS need to start working together. It is not easy to get all of your filters to do passthrough for a good receiver, but when it happens, get ready for pure sound.

Stop looking at computers as a revenue stealer, and more of a revenue generator. Imagine having a Windows MCE/Linux MCE interface, with massive storage (realm of 2-4 terabytes) where you can LEGALLY back up your OWN DVD's for your own consumption, play all of your purchased/ripped music that you own, with a iTunes like music/video store where you can buy more. I do not see how this a lose/lose situation for the Media industry and the AV industry.

Also, SCREW you MPAA for closing the Analog hole and making it impossible to record TV that you have paid the subscription for.

That is all,


PS: See to see the stats on the theater in that photo.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Apple going to acquire ARM

I don't think I've read a news article that has pissed me off soo badly in my entire life.

Apple, is possibly going to acquire the UK chip architecture licensee ARM as discussed in this article :

This would be extremely bad for all mobile phone/device makers as a ridiculous amount of devices that you own are probably powered by an ARM based processor. ARM itself doesn't make the processor, however it licenses its IP to companies like Marvell, Qualcomm, and Freescale to make the chips.

Just looking around my apartment, my Router (Linksys WRT310n), Mp3 Player (Zune HD), TV (Sony Bravia), Phone (Nokia E71), and my Squeezebox Boom all run off ARM architecture processors. Since it only licenses its IP, if Apple acquires them it will enable it to cutoff its IP and all of those devices will have to be radically redesigned.

This news comes hot on the heels of newly announced Windows Mobile 7 phones which run ARM based Qualcomm Snapdragon processors that are extremely well designed and are a threat to Apple's iPhone. I don't even know if this deal will pass regulation as it will give Apple a stranglehold on the entire mobile electronic domain.

EDIT (5/13/2010) (It looks like this never came to fruition, but I will keep following the issue)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Resurgence of Microsoft

The Resurgence of Microsoft

For a company founded in 1987, Microsoft has had quite a tumultuous history. Everything from justice issues, to the rise and fall of various competitors. The unfortunate benefit of defeating all of you rivals if you become complacent in respect to your customers. When Windows 95 came out, it was revolutionary (in the eyes of the consumer) for the time, however since then there has been nothing major to come out from the company in years. Except for recently. Any veteran of the tech world for the last 5-10 years can remember Steve Ballmer's rant of Developers, Developers, Developers, and he was right. As much as it pains me to use the word, but its recent ecosystem/brands XBox, Zune, Windows, Windows Mobile, XNA, Silverlight, have all come together to create some very compelling products. Even though Microsoft still cannot market their way out of their past, they are back to their nature of being on the cutting edge.

The Zune HD has been nearly overlooked by the consumer community as a whole due to a certain (i) device. However it is a better product in my mind because it concentrates on being a media player instead of a do it all device. Doing this enables it to be a superior media player. The interface is a complete break from anything to come out from anyone in the past and is extremely intuitive to use. The screen is beautiful being that it is a AMOLED based panel. There are two buttons, however the accuracy of the capacitive touchsreen, there is no need for more. The Zune marketplace is amazing in the fact that you can preview and purchase (if you live in the US) any song directly from the internet without using a computer at all! The simplicity of this system needs to be used to be believed. It has a fully functional (minus Flash for now) browser with a superior touchscreen keyboard to anything the (i) company as came out with.

XBox, in particular the Live system is the only platform that can tear a hardened PC gamer from his PC to use. The simplicity of selecting a friend and joining an in progress game is mind boggling. The system may have had its share of issues in the first rev of its systemboard (RROD being an example of this), the Live system redeems this and more. With the upcoming formfactor change, and the semi recent introduction of the Jasper board revision I believe/hope that the RROD problem has been resolved. The games being released for the XBox and the XBox arcade (area for indie devlopers and older games to be released for cheap) are another compelling reason to get on the XBox train. Now that the original XBox has been completely removed from LIVE, there is no telling where Microsoft will take the platform. The XBox is not just a gaming system, but can also act as the primary distribution hub for all of your media when connected to a dedicated server that serves DLNA compatible media. This includes most DIVX compatible movies, and MP3's/WMA's of different kinds. They can all be output at full resolution over the HDMI cable. You can also download music and movies using the aforementioned Zune marketplace and share them with your Zune account. You can also connect your Zune directly to the XBox and use it for ingame music (with games that support this feature, luckily most do)

The Windows platform has usually been rather reliable and user friendly, minus some hiccups (ME for example), but Windows 7 in particular represents the pinnacle of their user interface design while still maintaining legacy compatibility. This is an area where Microsoft needs to tread very carefully. They think they cannot alienate their enterprise customers, and they cannot alienate their consumers, or they risk losing them to competitors. However I think their viewpoint is flawed. If they were to completely give their user interface a once over, and let consumers decide whose UI is superior and easier to use, this would be a winning move. Their competitor has dropped legacy compatibility in the past and people still buy their products, so the concept can work. People adapt, and buy a superior product anyways. Luckily Microsoft is doing this 180° with their Windows Phone 7 design and using the revolutionary UI from the Zune HD to support their efforts. People are already taking notice.

An article about the recent history of Microsoft cannot go without mentioning Office 2007. After just completing a rollout for an enterprise level company, I can say that the transition from the menu based system of previous versions, to the icon based UI of O2k7 was rather difficult. This is a trial by fire for Microsoft for standardizing and changing UI's to be cutting edge. Your enterprises will fall in line. Custom applications will be remade for new technology, and it gives companies a chance/excuse to clean out unneeded plugins. The Ribbon as it is called, looks like it is Microsoft's new design language and is hinted at in the Windows 7 UI. Even a simple program like Paint has been reskinned with it. After using these productivity apps for more than a couple months, I think their UI has made things more efficient and other software companies will take notice and redesigned their 20 year old UI. The File, Edit, View menu is a holdover from the ancient Xerox PARC UI from which Apple and Microsoft copied to make their operating systems. It has been time for a change for some time. I am impressed with Microsoft's ability to shake it earlier than Apple has. Even though Apple wants everyone to look at their Object based dock for navigation, their legacy toolbar is ever present on top and will be for a very long time. It hasn't changed since the first Apple PC's. Since Apple is attempting to create a software as a service model for most of their stuff (iTunes, iPad) etc, I think they will move away from open PC's and Laptops completely.

Apple has recently announced and launched the iPad, and I believe this is a clear move that they are attempting to leave their current Desktop/Laptop based ecosystem. There is more money in the Software as a Service model, and it allows content providers unhinged access to everyone with an iTunes store account. As much as Apple has been lauded in the past for amalgamating existing technologies to create their products, I believe the iPad is their first recent misstep. They are forgetting the human element. Humans in general are lazy and want immediate access to content, which a device completely dependent on the cloud and is primarily media content based cannot offer. However, the Courier being a content creation device is immune to this effect.

During the last couple years, they have come out with some really revolutionary products, Surface, their first crack at creating a tablet standard Origami and most recently, Courier. The problem with all of these concepts is they cannot market them at all, or they leave the marketing to the OEM's. Surface just fizzled out due to mass expense (10k), and 3rd parties could not make up their mind around their tablet concept. The recent change is Microsoft has taken over hardware design and are thus a competitor to OEM's. Standardized hardware is a benefit in the mobile world as it allows developers (developers, developers) ONE standard to work around and create a superior product. The first Zune was a rebranded Toshiba Gigabeat mp3 player, and failed to gain much market significance. The 2nd revision was still a Toshiba device, but designed primarily by Microsoft and marketed at a ok level. However with their recent devices, Courier, Zune HD, etc, they have went all out and helmed every level of the path to market including the design process, branding, hardware, etc. They are at risk of alienating their OEM's (Dell, HP, Lenovo) however it is making the OEM's attempt to stand out on their own. An example of this is the upcoming HP Slate. This is a fully fledged tablet that runs a full version of Windows 7 specifically tailored by HP. Competition for innovation in the tech world is an amazing thing.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Portable Computing takes a Shift Forward

Today Microsoft quietly dropped a bombshell on the mobile computing world, and like any good action hero didn't even look back as a massive fireball began to swell up.
I'm talking about, of course, the Courier Digital Journal device, slated for release just in time for the holidays.

When I watched the videos on this device's user interface, I felt a technolust I have not experienced in a long, long time. I got legitimately excited about this product. This was not because there was a huge amount of hype around it, frankly it was leaked, but because this device was so well thought out, so suited to being a collaborative device that allowed you to be as relaxed or as precise with your thoughts, collect them based on your ideas rather than what file type they are, package and share them that I was quite simply awestruck. The designers of this stopped thinking about how to make us work with mobile devices, and how to make them work with us.

And then there's the form factor and input device. The device is a notebook, not in the technology world of notebook computer, but in the classic "let me jot this in my notebook that I carry around all the time. It has two beautiful screens powered by the upgraded Terca processors that run the ZuneHD, which means fast and smooth with beautiful colour and crisp resolution. The inputs are simply touch, and stylus, neither of which are new, however this time they are being used together, to produce a seamless experience that allows you to grab, gesture and flick large objects and pages, but then allows you to pull out the stylus and get precise for writing, drawing, even painting on your work right within the handheld, the best of both worlds, and a natural interface that is a perfect fit with the form factor.

It took me a few hours of pondering exactly what elusive element this device contained that the other portables out there do not. The answer is quite simply, the other portables are largely a one way communication device, from the publisher or content store to the device. I state this knowing full well that you can take photos on them and send texts, tweets, emails and phone calls, but by far the main content stream is to the device, in that if you want to do something with it, first you have to purchase the content or application, then use it in a single linear defined way.

This device, on the other hand, is very social. You can take photos (probably video too), mark them up, smoosh them together with other information like location and scribble notes and diagrams, and then float the whole thing out to your group or the public at large and the content goes the other way for once. What I'm trying to say is you can self publish, not just tweet or do status updates, but self publish on the move, meaning that the Windows Live cloud just got a massive boost and a whole new purpose in life.

I do not think this device is going to be an iPhone killer, people who already have several hundred dollars invested in them are going to keep them, and keep using them, because they have modified the way they think and act with a mobile device to support it. This device is for the rest of us, those who want to be able to mix our professional world with our personal world and our creative streak into one device that allows us to move between the different aspects with an organic ease, not flip back and forth between them as forced one-at-a-time steps that never quite meet up with each other.

The iPad, on the other hand, is in trouble. Apple's been touting it as a revolutionary device, and with nothing else to really compete with it, people have been believing it. Now, however, people have an opportunity to see what happens when you really do go back to the drawing board and start over. If we learned anything from tablet PC's it's that just because you take something that works well, and make is smaller, it is not always a good move, Apple may just learn that if you take something small, and make it bigger, it may not be so great after all. Apple, to summarize, got lazy. They had a couple good products, the computers and the handhelds, and wanted to fill the gap, but rather than really making a new device in that gap, they just inflated the handheld and called it new, kind of like a cartoon character who uses a bicycle pump to blow up items to make them comically huge, and just like an over inflated balloon, they are likely to pop when faced with a real obstacle.

The Courier Journal fell into neither of these pratfalls, they are not a desktop shrunk down to useless size, nor a phone with a big screen, they are a purpose built device with a specific goal - to work as a single go-to portable device that collects and manipulates information in a way that people can actually relate to.

This device, unlike the iPad, I don't have to look at and think "yes, that would be good for my 80 year old father, but I don't have a real use for it". I look at this and know that not only do I have a use for it, it's exactly the device I have been waiting for. It's a fusion of media player, camera, notebook, pda, internet appliance and ebook reader that I want to put in my bag and drag around with me. I look at it and say 'yes, this can let me pull up maps, read blogs, make notes, make diagrams, store my addresses, organize my projects and still play my music and movies". I look at this device and say that finally, someone understands how I want to use a mobile device.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Not everyone uses technology to enhance communication.

Twitter, Facebook and texting are making us illiterate, or so says a recent story from the Winnipeg Free Press, and it's backed up by some pretty significant figures. According to the article, some university entrance English exams are reporting failure rates as high as twenty five percent.

I was flabbergast. One in four?

More alarming, students were including emoticons in their documents. Smilies - in your university entrance exams. To coin an internet meme: FAIL.

Fact is, we all see this regularly online, I can't even count how many times I've had to stop, re-read, and then finally decipher some horribly written facebook post, not just intentionally short cut words, but real english words spelled in such horrendous phonetic ways that the average reader can't make them out by simple reading, but physically has to sound them out.

I will confess, one of the reasons I rekindled my romance with technology after several years working industrial jobs was because I knew my spelling was bad, and I wanted to take advantage of advances in spell-checking software. Of course, I thought this was kind of lazy, and initially it may have been but it helped my writing and communication, not to mention my typing. Along the way, though, something happened I wasn't expecting, my spelling and writing gradually improved naturally. It was an interesting side effect of having my errors pointed out to me by a machine for sixteen years, and through the basic process of rote learning, my spelling and syntax steadily improved. The machine helped me learn, without me even trying to learn.
I still fall prey to commonly misspelled words like tongue and have to stop to think about when to use 'ie' or 'ei', but there's been a steady improvement.

So why are kids, who grew up with far more sophisticated tools than I ever had so horrible at basic spelling and grammar?

I think the real culprit here is not the technology, but the attitude that people have, it's simply that younger people feel that conforming to the rules of language is some kind of oppression of their individuality, and that flying in the face of conformity defines them.

My belief is backed up by multiple posts I've seen where people lash out at those who correct inaccurate spelling and grammar online. They defy conventionality in an area where conventionality is the only means of effective exchange, because even when following the rules of grammar and spelling it's very easy to have your message lost if the ideas are not communicated properly, adding sloppy and lazy habits to the mix is simply a recipe for disaster. Effective communication is not an act of subversion on your individuality, but a tool to liberate it. The grandest ideas an individual may have will never come to bear fruit if the concepts are lost in poor language, the concepts become muddled and lost.

There is a silver lining to this whole story, though, and it is this; failure to make the effort to communicate effectively gives the reader a glimpse inside the personality of the writer. Human resource people have been using writing style for years as a tool to determine the value of a candidate applying for positions, knowing that if the writer does not make the effort to clean up the resume and cover letter, they probably will be sloppy about other tasks too, and the application is immediately filed in the garbage.
So, finally, I say that this trend may not be a bad thing for our community as a whole. These poor habits are telltale of people willing to take short cuts to succeed, rather than put in the full effort, and should be treated as such, dismissed as unwilling to participate as part of the productive group, and opening positions for those who are willing to contribute. This could lead to a core of harder working, more dedicated citizens, while the less dedicated can be pushed aside into their culture of image before substance to associate with others of their mindset.

Original article is located here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mr Sali's take on the Apple Tablet

My thoughts on the Apple Tablet

Lots of news surrounding the Apple tablet that is rumoured to be announced next week thanks to much consumer desires and appropriately timed 'leaks' from Apple themselves.

Starting off, the concept of a tablet device is not new, tablet PC's were pushed a few years ago and failed for a couple primary reasons

• They were just laptops with touch sensitive screens and fancy rotating hinges that often broke
• The OS on them was geared for desktops and laptops, not tablets so not all software was compatible with the touch screens.

At the end of the day, these devices pretty much tanked. A small market of graphics artists still use them, but generally speaking they're overpriced, clunky, and not really a full transition device to a handheld walking around taking notes device. The fact that most of these units still had optical drives in them was a testament to them not being in a class of their own, but rather a Frankenstein creation of existing technology with touch screen screwed to the interface almost like an afterthought.

Out of the ashes of this fiasco, netbooks were born, small lightweight laptops that allowed people to take them everywhere and accomplish basic everyday tasks. Netbooks have their own issues though, the small size and underpowered processor and RAM in most of them mean they are are pretty much limited to browsing, email, note taking and slideshows. Doing any real work or play on them would be an exercise in frustration, as the machines sacrificed performance for portability, in a large way.

HP and other makers have realized the error of the tablet PC, and have started making tablet only devices, but the backbone of these units is and always will be a PC UI, that is that they are geared for productivity - designed mostly to create documents and data files, work with and analyze said documents, and at the end of the day, spit out something useful, something that pays the bills.
The problem is, other than in the enterprise, people don't want to be productive when they're mobile or lounging around the house in their jammies, they want to be social and play, and only one company, Apple, has leveraged this fact to rocket a line of mobile devices to the top of the everyday user popularity list.

The iPhone and iPod touch

When Apple released the touchscreen iPhone, I knew it would only be a matter of time before they came out with a phone-less version iPod. Hey presto, a year later there was one, and although it's sold well, it still falls short of the popularity of it's sibling, the iPhone, mostly because the iPod touch is more expensive, the phone versions are subsidized by the mobile contract, making the initial pocket shock to the consumer much easier to swallow, and the smaller more portable nano and shuffle versions are much less expensive.

Regardless, Apple has realized that the interface on the iPhone and iPod Touch is a winner, and they're betting on that interface, and the usage habits of people that already own these devices to make the Apple Tablet a big hit.

What the Tablet will be

You only need to use two words: Information Appliance. In essence, this device will be a ramped up iPod touch with a larger screen and possibly expandable memory and a camera, but that's about it. It'll still function the same way as the iPhone and Touch, and it will rely on iTunes to connect to your desktop. This device will be perfect for checking facebook, twittering, viewing photos, light email duties, web surfing, and personal video watching.

Like the iPhone and iPod touch this will also be a gaming platform, as it will be able to keep up with the lighter weight but still king of the hill (for now) Nintendo Gameboy line of products. We won't see Mario and his friends on it any time soon, Apple has gone to length to upset Nintendo too much to allow that to happen until it HAS to happen, but people who love solitaire and bejeweled will frolic in the streets, and about their homes and gardens with the tablet device powering up to play these simple idle time games wherever and whenever they want, without having to be hunched over a 4 inch screen. The video playback capabilities and the rumored 10 inch screen will be nice for catching back issues of TV shows without having to fire up the PVR or PC and kick the rest of the family out of the living room, angsty teens will be able to watch that missed episode of Vampire Diaries in the comfort of their own rooms with earbuds firmly placed to avoid any distracting family that may want to intrude on their misunderstood lives and soccer moms will be able to watch Dr. Phil with girlfriends at the coffee shop wherever broadband is accessible.

What the Tablet will not be

This device will not be meant to type school reports, compose letters to clients or even engage in lengthy email replies. Even blogging will be a nightmare on this device with it's touch interface being the bane of anyone who types at more than 5 wpm.

I've seen people talking about the implications of this device in the Photography industry, and although it will be able to show off your photos, it will not be any use in the editing or production of said photos. Nor will you be able to mix music on them or craft flash animations, this device is strictly a playback device with some interactive feedback abilities.

It is not an ebook reader, although that won't stop people from reading ebooks on them. E-readers have insane battery life because they don't use any power at all except when turning or updating pages, these units will use juice every moment they're on meaning that batteries will not last long enough to actually make it through a 300 page novel. This isn't going to be an issue for most people because they'll only read a couple chapters at a time before re-charging the unit, but for those who are a little more adventurous and take their reading seriously, the novel tablet will not be the backpacker's choice any more than an automotive GPS will be the choice of backwoods fishermen over handheld topographical GPS units.

This device will not replace a computer or a phone, but it will allow those who really don't know how to use a computer to participate in the exciting world of online socializing and networking. In short, this will not be a real computer, rather a no-training-required fun device for those who wish to participate in an increasingly technical world, without having to learn anything technical, in other words, the perfect device for most users. Also, at the size of small netbook in overall size, this will not be the device you simply throw in your pocket for everyday use on the bus, train, or wherever, it's too big for that. This unit is something you'll use at home when you're not able to access the computer, or something you'll take out and about for a purpose.

Who's going to benefit from the tablet?

Saying Apple and their shareholders is a no-brainer, with every Boom uttered by Steve Jobs at the announcement, stock prices will surge up a notch.

Application developers will benefit too, but not as much as you would think. Big name developers will do well, as will those who develop free apps for marketing purposes and sell them to big companies to give away at their websites. Small application houses though and independent application developers will not make so much money as they would like, as their apps will be cheap and Apple will take a fair chunk of the profits off the top.

Professional IT people will benefit from the device as more and more unskilled enterprise users move to this sort of device, the less time the IT professionals will have to waste answering those home computer based questions everyone loves - "I think my kids downloaded a virus to our home PC, what should we do about it?" or my personal favorite was "I'm trying to edit a video on the software that came with my PC, I don't know how to import, work with or even the name of the software I have but I think the logo has a round thing in it. How do I use this?"

Third party accessory makers have been drooling over this since it was first dreamed up in fantasy rumor land. A new format iPod, in essence, means a whole new line of accessories for it, because this product will come with scant accessories other than a dock cable out of the box. Expect a whole line of cases, skins, stands, speakers, charging stations, car adapters, seat brackets, etc. to suddenly appear overnight, and like the other iPod lines, most consumers will spend at least one dollar on accessories for every dollar spend on the device itself, effectively doubling the economic impact of the device on the average user.

Who's going to be hurt by the table?

The list is long and distinguished:

• Makers of portable DVD players
• Makers of ebook readers (though this is not a true ebook reader, it will be marketed as such)
• Makers of Netbooks (though, not as much because netbooks are still ideal for students who take notes)
• Makers of Digital Photo Frames
• Makers of handheld Gaming systems (PSP Go is tanked. The end)
• Makers of PVR's and DVD/blu-ray consoles

Last but not least, consumers, or at least their wallets. Although this thing is about the size of and costs as much as a netbook to make, they will probably be much more expensive, the proverbial Apple Tax. Netbooks currently market for around three hundred CAD for a middle of the road unit, and can cost as much as four hundred for larger, sexier, more powerful units, which isn't bad since they only cost around two hundred to make, so the mark up from supplier to consumer is only about 50%. The tablet is rumored to be more in the four to six hundred range, so bet on an even five hundred once taxes are in to be the going street price. Being about the same size, and having much less memory to offset the cost of production, you're talking about a device that still costs the supplier about two hundred, with a three hundred dollar price difference being passed on to the end user, about 150% profit.

Still, people will be willing to pay this mark up, because the device will be exactly what they want, and convenience has it's own price, so don't be hung up on the initial cost.
Consumers will take it hard in the wallet in the before mentioned accessory market, and also on the application and media front. It's an interesting dilemma that if you compare the cost of a downloadable application to that of a cartridge application, those who download applications still, at the end of each billing cycle, tend to spend 150% more on applications and media than those who purchase more traditional versions. This is simply due to perception, someone buying a gameboy game for thirty dollars that the kids will tire of in a week feels the impact of that immediately, not to mention having to physically go to the store and purchase the cartridge. A similar title from the apps store will only cost ten dollars, not even worth fussing about, nor is there the inconvenient going out of the house aspect, a couple clicks on screen, and you can be playing a similar game in minutes, and best of all, people tend to forget those purchases until the bill comes at the end of the month. Practically speaking, a parent is only likely to buy one or two cartridges for their family per month, where they are more apt to download six to ten from the app store. This same casual download attitude also applies to media, music and TV, which will now be much more appealing due to the larger size of the screen. Going on a two hour flight, why not download two or three episodes of Wizards of Waverly Heights for your tween at the airport to keep them quiet, after all, they're only 5 dollars each, when suddenly you realize you're shelling out the cost of a movie ticket extra every time you have to do groceries or go to the dentist.

Clever marketing is what Apple really excels at, and they've been setting the stage for this device for the last year. Many of the games available for the iPhone and iPod have the ability to play between close proximity devices. Apple even shows a 3-way air hockey game on the commercials, and doubtless social games like this will exist and be promoted on the tablet. This will lead to people purchasing tablets simply to play peer games at social nights. It's not hard to imagine the social pressure on one middle class individual from his friends when he shows up for poker night, and finds them all sitting with tablets at the ready…'Oh, no one told you? We play tablet poker…' The group may grudgingly put away the shiny tablets and get a real deck of cards so their friend can play that night, but you can be certain he won't be returning without a freshly unpacked tablet the next time an invite comes his way. This is exactly what Apple wants, and I bear them no malice for using this kind of social marketing, but you just know that someone's kids are going to be living on KD & wieners a whole lot more so that mom and dad can keep up with one more aspect of the Jones' life.

Why we think they're going to be really cool

Anybody remember the movie Demolition Man? Most people remember the scenes where Sandra Bullock mixes 20th century metaphors with hilarious results, but do you remember that device used at the beginning to make phone calls? Yes, it was a video tablet, a hand held unit with a touch screen and a front facing camera that you can walk around your home with and make video calls, then with a touch of a button flip it to read the paper and watch the news. That's what we have in mind when we think of this still in the closet product, and it even gives me the butterflies.
We've been watching sc-fi for years and they've had tablets like this on TV and movies since the 80's, and frankly this is probably the third most anticipated device most people can envision only to be outdone by George Jetson's flying car and Kirk's communicator, which we already have (thanks Motorola!).

What's really going to suck about them

Battery life, capped memory and features added to new models every year.

Like every iPod and Phone, Apple seals the batteries and provides no slot for adding additional memory, so what you buy is all you get, when that's not enough the only solution is to buy a bigger, better model. Apple also has a nasty habit to not include all the features you'll want in the first release, take the FM tuner in the current crop of iPods for example. Other media players had FM tuners for years, but Apple kept on selling it as an add-on and people bought it. Same can be said for voice recording, the first generation Creative Zen had both these features before color screens were available, yet Apple waited a further 5 generations before bundling them, and many consumers purchased 6 full generations of the iPod. Expect the same thing with the forward facing camera and Skype-ish appicaions on the tablet, generation one will have none of them, and they will be added as new features in later generations encouraging you to drop another half a grand each and every year, not to mention re-purchasing all your apps and media because you forgot to back that crap up before you synchronized your new tablet.

What the hell is it going to be called

More rumors and guessing, so I'm going to guess too. The most popular floating around names out there are iSlate and iBook, but I think that iPad is probably a solid contender for the latest Steve Job's i-creation. The logic is simple, it's only one letter off from the iPod, meaning that it'll market itself on familiarity, that is, our culture has accepted the iPod as the interchangeable and easier to remember and recognize name for Digital Audio Player (just as Walkman was more recognized than Portable Stereo Device) and it will be very easy for consumers to adjust to the friendly new iPad without having to worry about adding complex names to their tech jargon.

Will it be successful

Yes, and that's a good thing, even for those who are not a fan of Apple and their techno-evangelistic methods. Granted, there are some real drawbacks to this thing, and the unending stream 'my iPad is so awesome' comments that those of us that actually know how to use a real computer will drive us all to drink, but this device is probably exactly what users need - an appliance that has limited user ability but allows them to do all the trivial daily stuff that is suddenly so important to all of us without the effort or risk involved in learning real technology skills. These devices will allow the un-savvy to play with the rest of us, socialize, share, and make online comments they'll regret later, and they won't actually have to know how it works, they'll just have to be able shell out cash, and like I said people will pay for convenience.

Another big reason it'll fly off the shelves initially is because it will be over-priced, not only will it allow the unskilled to appear tech savvy, it will also demonstrate wealth, or at least at first. If this device came out at the same price as your average netbook, the average person could afford it, but by pricing it almost twice as high, being an early adopter will send a strong social message to those around you that says a: I still have some money left after the big crunch and I want to be idolized, b: I still had some credit left and I want to be idolized, or c: I still live with my parents and I want to be idolized. A few generations later, however the price will come down and more and more people will be able to purchase them, and the whole craze will die down, people will start just using them and stop just showing them off, and invariably this will lead to a lot of people realizing they actually need something more useful, like a netbook, and splitting off from the herd, not unlike those who have early linux driven netbooks right now.

The end result

Steve Jobs will be elevated to sainthood by Time magazine, apple shareholders will get richer, and Steve Balmer will be demonized by apple fanboys more than ever. Any other tablet maker, even those who were out before the iPad and actually did real groundbreaking work will be ridiculed as being copycats, and even though more people will be online and loving it, society will somehow become less technically capable, more digitally vocal, and somehow even more stupid (Ur a h8er! U suxxors! iPad is 1337, I pwn u).

Even less people will know or care who Linus Torvalds is, and Farmville will become an olympic sport.