Mind Grapes

and then things get awesome


Xoom Xoom -OR- How I bet against iPad 2 and won

So, I was one of the people who went out and got the Motorola Xoom on the first day (last week). I’ve kept it quiet till now because I knew I should have waited till after the iPad 2 announcement to make a decision (although there is a 14 day return policy). Now that it is out I’m trying to discern whether my gamble paid off, and I think it did.

I bet against the iPad 2 and I think I won. Now keep in mind that I’m a huge iPhone fan and will get the iPhone 5 in the first few days it comes out, but for a tablet I wanted to take a different route. Below I’m listing the reasons I think I made the right decision… for me. I still think the iPad is the better route for most people. It has zero learning curve if you have an iPhone, and almost zero even if you don’t, not to mention most of us have bought a lot of apps on the iPhone that will work on the iPad (I’ll have to repurchase on the Android). There are definitely a few more things you could put into the “pro” iOS column, but in these [below] other categories the Xoom wins.

iPad 2 specifically? OK, 65,000 apps vs 100… and this cool new cover/case thing… other than that iPad 2 doesn’t have a whole lot going for it right now. This is what I was banking on, only a slight upgrade in features and a decent hardware upgrade. The rumors of iPad 3 launching in the fall is what pushed me over the edge in thinking that the iPad 2 would be a layup.

Reasons I personally like the Xoom over the iPad (1 or 2) in order of significance:

1. Flash – Ok, ok, I know this has been delayed but it works on other Android devices and Adobe says it will be ready for Honeycomb soon. This wouldn’t have been a big deal for me in the past and isn’t an issue on my phone, but I’m using SlideRocket.com more and more so on my tablet I want to be able to edit presentations (for which Flash is required).

2. 4G and tethering – This was actually huge for me and what made me walk into the Verizon store the first day. Again, it won’t come till April or May but the Xoom will have 4G connectivity and allow you to tether other devices. I’ve been wanting a 4G device ever since I tested Clear last spring.

3. Resolution – I love the retina display on my iPhone 4 so much that I now have a hard time going back down. I also want to read more on my tablet. So, I need the highest resolution possible. If I thought iPad 2 would have had the retinal display then I would have gotten it without question, instead I bet it would have the same resolution so went with the Xoom that beats iPad (1 or 2) by 20% of so in this department. Not that much, but my standard is so high now anything helps.

4. Widgets – This gets into the Honeycomb vs iOS debate, but simply put, the “desktop” widgets in Honeycomb are designed for tablets. I get all the info I need using up the right amount of space on my home screen.

5. Width (for typing) – The Xoom is wider in landscape and narrower in portrait than the iPad. I like having a wide landscape for wide movies, but I like the narrower portrait for easier thumb typing.

6. microSD Card – I really like the option of having external memory. I can fill up one card with kid shows and have a separate card for my stuff.

7. Overclocking – Ok, this is a tech nerd thing. I’ve been reading about how people are overclocking (speeding up the processor) for gains of up to 50%. That’s huge and from what I can tell it’s relatively easy and relatively safe. That being said, I will probably wait some time before I try this out of fear of completely destroying Xoomy (that’s what I call him now).

8. Google Integration – I put in my Gmail username and pass at the Verizon store and now everything just works. All my Google life is integrated on the tablet and I think it even backs itself up to Google. This is a big advantage for a heavy Google user such as myself.

9. Google Products – Google has a habit of developing some cool new app and releasing it on the Android first and making everyone else wait. Google Goggles was on Android months before iPhone, Google Sky Map is now on my tablet and came at just the right time (my daughter was learning about constellations in school last week).

10. More file formats – It’s much easier to play almost any kind of video file, any kind of music file or any kind of ebook (and comic book) file than on Apple Products.

11. No button… ok, has a button, but I hardly ever have to use it. I’m always worried I’m going to wear out my home button on the iPhone and have seen other people have issues with the button. On the Xoom you have one on/off button, but the home and task switching are virtual touch buttons on screen.

12. Pattern Lock vs Pin – I like locking down the device since it has important information. It is much easier and only slightly less secure to use the pattern lock vs a pin #.

13. Voice Typing. Built into the keyboard.

14. File management, easier to hack, more open source, blah, blah, blah… all the nerdy open-endedness of the Adroid Platform is attractive because it will allow me to customize the device to my needs. Most users won’t do some of the modifications and such that I will eventually do so this is definitely only a “pro” for tech geeks.

If you are interested in the price debate or Honeycomb vs iOS 4.3 then please let me know in the comments. I could have kept going on those items but am trying to keep this brief.

posted by admin in Can not be contained!,mobile,tech and have Comments (5)

OnLive, phenomenal cosmic powers! ..Itty bitty living space.

Sorry for the title, I just recently watched Waking Sleeping Beauty and now have images of the mega-Disney movies from the early ’90’s in my head. You’ll hopefully recognize the line from the movie Aladdin which fits my thoughts on the new OnLive console, if you can even call it a console…

I’ve been using OnLive, the new cloud-based gaming system, for a few months now. I have been amazed at how fast it loads, how smooth it runs and the quality of the graphics. However, the most amazing feature is the ability to play a game on my wife’s run-of-the-mill PC and then play on my 17″ MacBook Pro with little to no difference in quality. Also, I can pick up a saved game where I left off. There are many other features that have made OnLive attractive like not having to download each game title, the ability to pay to play for a limited time (3 day pass), the ability to watch other people play, and even the fact that OnLive has an iPad app. The iPad app is currently only for viewing, but this video from E3 shows someone playing a game which looks like it is the same quality as what I have on the MacBook Pro. Amazing. It’s the promise of the cloud.

Like most cloud-based endeavors, the people at OnLive realized all you need to play a video game is the picture (and sound) of that game and a way to control the picture. If all you need is a picture and a way to send control commands somewhere else then you don’t need very much hardware on your end. Basically all you need is a decent internet connection and an output to your monitor that can handle the HD stream. So, OnLive introduced their “MicroConsole” a couple of months ago with a introductory cost of only $99 (plus you get a voucher for a free game included). During the week of CES they dropped the price to $66, still including the free game voucher. Some games are $50, which means you are really only paying $16 for the console and controller (at least that was what was on slide 5 of my “Buying the OnLive MicroConsole ROI” PowerPoint presentation I gave to my wife). I ordered one and this is what I got:

Very nice packaging for an item that cost $66

I was impressed with the quality of packaging and what I found in the box. At first glance it would seem as if you aren’t getting a lot for $99 but I think it’s a good deal and even better at $66. They really want to get the user base up to attract better game producers and eventually advertisers.

MicroConsole and 1 Wireless controller

You get the MicroConsole, 1 Wireless controller* that seems to be as nice (from a material quality & feel) as an XBox controller, an HDMI cable (that would cost you $10+ alone), a USB cable (for the initial controller sync), 2 AA batteries [Duracell], a NiMH rechargeable battery pack, and an Ethernet cable (that looks like the most high quality Ethernet cable I have ever seen).

That's my actual hand for scale

Setup was a breeze. Just plug the MicroConsole into your TV via HDMI, turn everything on, and sync the controller (20 secs or less). After you are hooked up and logged into your account all your games are instantly available to you. I can now turn on my TV and the MicroConsole and get from zero to playing a game in under a minute (individual game load times may vary).

How is the game quality? What you would expect, this tiny box performed just as well as my MacBook Pro because in reality neither one of them is running the game, some OnLive super-computer-server-farm-thingy (“cloud” for short) is. I’m not the biggest “gamer” ever so I’m not a good one to judge gaming systems. What games I do play are almost exclusively PC based** over the years and I only own a console (Wii) because of the kids (or that was my excuse). That being said, if you are a PC gamer who is always frustrated that you can’t play the latest titles at the top settings without upgrading to the latest graphics card or adding more memory, then you will be as impressed as I am that this little box can out perform any computer I have ever owned and will theoretically*** always out perform any computer I will ever own in the future.

I think this is exciting for me not because I’m a huge gamer, and not because it’s something we didn’t see coming, but because in some ways I see this as the beginning. The gaming and entertainment industries have traditionally pushed technology to the edge that eventually makes it into the rest of our lives. This represents the next step (which we knew was coming but can now feel) of everything we do moving to “the cloud”. I think we all want more than just file-sharing and note taking, and this is a step in the right direction. If I can currently remote access my PC at home from my Mac at work, and OnLive can run the most hardware dependent apps (games) through a tiny box, then it won’t be long till I can have that cloud-OS I’ve always wanted (seriously, since I saw Penny’s “Computer Book”). It’s also just good to see someone has actually made a real and useful “cloud” device.

*Comes with 1 controller but you can sync more. Also has USB ports so that you can plug in a keyboard and mouse.
**I’ve been using Steam for years now as my sole repository for games. I think it’s the best thing going as far as PC games go, but OnLive could take them if they can increase their library.
***I’m sure when we start to see “Super HD” TVs, or whatever the next jump in resolution will be, then I’ll have to upgrade but until then this system should keep up.

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iAd Producer, finally

Apple finally launched software to help individuals and agencies to create rich media iAds. Apple launched iAd earlier in the year around the launch of iOS 4. Until now Apple forced advertisers to use its own services to produce campaign creative, with the launch of iAd Producer things will change. This is, of course, a response to low usage in iAd inventory that they should have done since the beginning. Apple, being Apple, wanted to control the quality of interactive ads that ran on their platform but it would seem likeĀ  actually running ads is more important than quality control at this point in time.

I installed iAd Producer this morning and played around with it a bit. I had an ad developed in less than an hour and was pretty impressed at how easy it was to manipulate the different aspects of the ad. If I flew through the tutorial I probably could have had the ad up in 15 minutes or so.

Opening Screen of iAd Producer

iAd Producer has a nice clean interface that lets you choose your platform from the start. I chose the iPhone just to keep things simple but definitely want to go back and play with the iPad options.

Layout shows all the panels

Here I get to layout all the “pages” of the ad. Simply clicking on each component allows me to go in and edit. Each view in iAd Producer allows you to pull in the appropriate material, from objects, to templates that are built in, to assets you add to your own library.

iAd Producer made it very easy to set up transitions, video and maps. There are a ton of other features to add as well as adding commands that interact with the accelerometer and gyroscope. I just put together the basics to show how easy it is to get up and running with video and maps.

Below is the ad just to show how good the HTML5 animations look, not the graphics I slapped in there…

OK, so mine is not as cool as the one below [Tron iPad iAd] but you can start to see how complex you will be able to get with these:

posted by admin in banner ads,Can not be contained!,mobile,tech and have No Comments