iPad Mini Review

November 26th, 2012 by Evan McGoff

I tested the Kindle Fire HD, the Nexus 7 and iPad Mini for a few days. Here’s take on the iPad Mini after using the other two:

Let me first acknowledge that I have a personal bias in comparing these tablets. But I’m also trying my best to be objective.

Okay, with that out of the way I can say that the iPad Mini far and away beats the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD. It’s lighter. It’s faster. It has a better interface. It has fewer pixels than either device, but it’s far more functional.

Now, given my bias, I think it makes sense to devote more time to comparing the Mini to the full sized iPad—for an Apples to Apples comparison 🙂

Quick summary: the Mini is arguably the better product of the two. The weight and size make it so much easier to handle and the smaller screen is not as much of a drawback as I had initially thought. Any missing screen real estate is fairly well offset by just holding the device sideways in “landscape.”

As a test, I did a restore from iCloud. Basically, this took the exact state of my full sized iPad (apps, documents, email, contacts, calendar, reminders, music & video that I purchased from Apple) and made a near perfect duplicate. In other words, I shrunk my iPad.

This helped provide a real clear comparison between the two form factors since I had everything I’m used to using in the same place that I’m used it to see it.

I found myself bringing it almost everyone where I went. I watched a video on the bus for an hour. It was so much easier to hold for that duration vs. the full sized iPad.

I read a book on the Kindle app while standing up on the train. I never really felt comfortable standing on the train reading with the full sized iPad. It’s always nice to have a free arm in case the train makes an unexpected shift and this was much, much easier to do with the Mini.

As with any LCD display, there’s some glare and some eye fatigue. A regular Kindle is much better in this regard.

But the speed, weight and functionality of the iPad Mini make it arguably the best tablet there is, not just the best 7 inch form factor.

Movable Type

December 20th, 2009 by Evan McGoff

Yesterday I received an Amazon Kindle as an early Christmas present.

My first impression was that it’s very similar to the iPod: you can carry your entire library around with you and read whatever you choose to at that moment.

That may not be good for the ole attention span but it definitely makes reading more convenient and that’s the key.

I get the impression that most people don’t read as much as they used to (I know I don’t) so anything that makes reading more convenient is a great idea in my book.

^ see what I did there? My apologies 🙂

Google and A Brief History of *nix

July 8th, 2009 by Evan McGoff

Google’s announcement about its Chrome OS has left me very impressed for several reasons.

For each of the last 10 years I have (incorrectly) predicted the death of Microsoft Windows and the rise of Linux as the preeminent OS.  I have realized that what was missing was a respected innovator leading the way. Google has finally stepped into that role and it is because Google has learned lessons from Apple, Microsoft, and the many flavors of Linux.

The foundation matters

When Apple released OS X in 2002 they built it on derivatives (NeXT, FreeBSD and the MACH kernel) of the old UNIX operating system. In doing so they brought the time-tested code from the days of mainframes onto the everyday user’s desktop.

UNIX was invented over 30 years ago when memory was precious and expensive. Programming code couldn’t afford to be bloated; it had to be efficient. Apple understood that the foundation matters and if you want to build a modern operating system you need to have security and efficiency at its core.

Microsoft has continued to build upon the insecure and limited DOS operating system. Think of it this way: Microsoft decided to build a mansion on sand. With each successive version Microsoft builds an addition onto that mansion, causing sometimes unexpected shifts on the ground below it. Rebuilding their foundation has been an afterthought (because it would be expensive and time consuming) and that is why they continue to have an insecure and inefficient product. It just makes sense to start with a strong foundation.

Linux is a complete re-write of UNIX from scratch, started by Linus Torvalds in 1992. Torvalds showed great ambition in writing an operating system from scratch but he knew he couldn’t take on such a monumental task on his own. Torvalds chose to make the programming code freely available to the public so that programmers from all over the world could collaborate on the project. Linux is arguably the greatest product developed by the “open source community” (essentially a bunch of programmers writing code in their spare time for free).

Google has chosen Linux as its foundation, combining the reliability of UNIX with a “staff” of tens of thousands of programmers.

The graphical interface matters

Apple also build a new graphical interface on top of that foundation (a car’s engine is impressive to gear-heads but most people fall in love with the exterior) and that’s what most people love about OS X, the intuitive graphical user interface.

Unix has had a standard graphical interface (called the X Windowing System or XFree86) but it is arguably the least-evolved portion of the operating system. This lack of a strong GUI is one of the primary reasons why Linux has not yet overtaken Microsoft on the desktops of home and business users.

Google has built its own graphical user interface on top of Linux. Since we are not yet privy to seeing it in action, I cannot say for sure what it will look like.  But make no mistake,  Google knows that the GUI is crucial and I would bet  that they have “borrowed” as much as they can from the user-friendly OS X interface.

The web browser matters

Google released its Chrome web browser after supporting the Mozilla Foundation and their Firefox browser for several years. Google’s support has meant a lot to the Firefox (mostly financially) but it seems like Google is of the mindset that they can enter the browser competition more directly.

So while Firefox has chipped away at the dominant market share of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer in recent years, it sounds like Google is beginning to see this as less of a validation of Firefox as it is a condemnation of IE.

Chrome will be the centerpiece of the Google OS and this is a lesson that they learned from Microsoft. Remember the Microsoft antitrust suit? It was centered around the fact that Microsoft infused its web browser into its operating system. Microsoft had a market share of well over 90% in the operating system market, but had only a minor share of the web browser market (Netscape was the dominant browser at the time at around 90% market share). In an effort to overtake Netscape, Microsoft combined Internet Explorer with Windows, making the browser an irremovable part of the OS.

Over time, this caused many users to move to IE as their browser of choice since IE was already on their system when they bought it. Netscape lost its grapple-hold on the browser market and fell into obscurity. In 1998 they were bought by AOL and created the Mozilla Foundation to continue their work on a nonprofit basis.

The trend seems clear: more and more applications are web-based and the foregone conclusion is that the web browser is the territory worth claiming.  For the average computer, so long as his browser works the way he likes, he could care less about the operating system.