Is It Too Late to Post an iPad Review?

I figured since Apple announced there’s 2 Million iPads sold, perhaps it’s time to write a review.  Odd to admit…I now own my first Apple product ever – a 32 Gb iPad (non 3G version).

Yes, I’ve been affected by my iPad ownership.   (1) I’m no longer greeted with the usual “Hi Dad, how was your day”, when I get home from work.  It’s now “Hi Dad, where’s your iPad?”.  (2) I can leave my 6 lb laptop at my desk as I run off to back-to-back meetings.  I have quick access and ability to answer email, see my calendar, VPN, and jump on the internet – way better than having my 3G/WiFi mobile phone.  (3)  I temporarily look hip on BART – no very easy for me to do!  I say temporarily because they will become the norm for BART riders, particularly when the WiFi on BART improves.  (4) I’m no longer envious of Kindle owners as there’s an app for that.

Would the 3G option be nice to have?   Yea perhaps, but I have a 3G BlackBerry that’s of course way more portable and I don’t necessarily want to tow my iPad everywhere.  WiFi is becoming available pretty much everywhere you go, thus it’s totally sufficient.  Even better if you own (or able to obtain) one of the Verizon Broadband/WiFi Hubs.

WHAT I LIKE

Form factor.  It’s way better for after dinner, weekend breakfast table reading and in work meetings.  It’s simply a less intrusive internet appliance.  I predict v2.0 will have carve-outs on the sides for easier hand grip.

Educational programs for all aged kids.  The (free and purchasable) library of reading, spelling, math, science, music, and many other important learning aids makes the iPad an excellent home schooling center, particularly here as the kids start summer.  Set them up with 15 minutes of studying for every 15 minutes of game playing.   And, all aged kids including toddlers will be able to pickup games quickly with minimal instructions even if they are unable to read.  It’s amazing to watch kids figure out the games so easily.  I can’t even keep up with my son on the Snowboard game.

Power – battery consumption.  Very good.   It lasts all day.  Only downside is that based on the family usage, I do need to charge it daily.

200+ Free Applications.  Not all of them have annoying ads, but many do, which I subsequently delete after testing them out.

Newspaper and Media.   I have the free NY Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Mashable iPad applications and use SFGate.com from the Safari web browser.   This is plenty for me to read everyday.    While it’s excellent that so many magazines have made convenient iPad apps, it’s not necessary to buy them unless you already subscribe and you want another mode to read.  Go ahead and kill the home delivery service if you go that route.   Save the environment – the paper and the gas for the paper delivery to get to your house.   I don’t see this as a savior for the magazine and newspaper industry, although I would really like to know when ESPN The Magazine will be available on the iPad.

THE BAD AND UGLY

No Flash.  Come on…this is just silly.  Makes web browsing unbelievably painful.   No hulu.com – which would be an awesome app on the iPad.  Apple is unbelievably lucky that YouTube doesn’t use Flash.  It’s just the running failure of Apple to be so closed-minded about this, and also means it will never be as pervasive and accepted as Microsoft, Google and Linux are.

Price.  If only the iPad came with a quality case – currently a 3-4 week backorder on the Apple and BestBuy web sites and at $40.  I’ve tried the other covers and their strangely insufficient as compared to the Apple one.   If Apple include a quality cover and a $100 iStore gift card, there would probably be 4 million iPads in circulation — just sayin…

Internet Poker.  All of the top properties need a client app and use flash.  No way that iStore can have a gaming app for these offshore enterprises.   US Government is way too stupid to figure out how to manage and tax the online card gaming industry, so they are offshore rolling in un-taxed cash.   And, the iStore can’t facilitate an “illegal” operation.

Apps Store.  I certainly appreciate the fact that someone is building an app and they want to sell/license it.   But, what happens when you buy a $5 game and then stop playing it after a month.  It’s like burning money, and I don’t enjoy that.  Be great if there was a trade-in/trade-up policy.  Unlikely.

Keyboard.  Great for quick notes and entering your password.  Way too incomplete to use for constant typing.   The iPad docking station solves this problem – a mere $69.  Note that I’m wrote this blog from a laptop.

Screen.  You’ll see that after 30 minutes of activity, your fingerprints will be all over it.  After the kids use it, it take a good wipe to clean off.  Of course, screen covers and glare reduction films are now available, but it seems the only ones people like are $30.  I have to clean the screen about 5 or 6 times/day.

Fake Demand.  It’s amusing how Apple seems to act like they’re continually out of stock of everything.  With all the supply chain optimization techniques out there, there’s NO excuse for having a delay to purchase the iPad and a 3-4 week backorder on accessories.  Oh, sure it used to be a brilliant marketing scheme, but you ain’t foolin me.  It’s nothing but an old joke now.

Yes, this $600+ device has changed my outlook on internet appliances and convenience.  I really enjoy the iPad.   If you can spare the cash and keep your kids from fighting over it, you will enjoy it too.   And, you don’t mind dumping another $100 to $200 in accessories  and sought after apps.

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Quick Economic Recovery Optimism Wanes

Anyone else caught up in an amazing whirl-wind of seemingly endless new piles of idunnowhat since Jan 4?   Hard to believe a month of 2010 has seemed to just jam on by.

Whether you had the last 2 weeks of ’09 off or tried to polish as much as possible before year end, almost everyone I’ve talked to has seen an onslaught of renewed vengeance into business activity that seemed to be paced with undeniable optimism.  The pains of ’09 are behind us, right?  Er, at least that’s what we thought.   We were all immensely excited to move beyond the last year of the decade.   The holiday season seemed to be filled with hope that at long last the recession was ending.   And, 2010 will be filled with glorious growth and the taste of prosperity.

Brace yourself for more ’09
When Jan 2010 started, it appeared that everyone had quickly forgotten about ’09.   And, for good reason.   Last year was challenging in many, many ways.   A new year brings renewed budgets, a chance to re-start, a chance to reach back to those contacts that said “yea, let’s touch base in January”.   What’s transpired so far appears to be an over-flowing bucket of messages, requests, schedules, deadlines, budgets, and most important — defining and delivering on our target goals.  This is testing everyone’s ability to get organized, to be organized, and the realization that not much has changed.   I am also reminded that at the end of the day our schedules are really dictated by our networks of contacts, family, and business events and rarely by ourselves.  It’s really hard to control.   What ever happened to those days when I had time to blissfully fall asleep on the couch in front of the basketball game?  Those seem like decades ago.  Oh…it was.

Look at what we’ve seen in 2010 already:

  • Federal budget deficit will be worse in 2010.  Now estimated $1.6Trillion.  Up from $1.4 Trillion in ’09.  Disgusting.
  • Transit agencies fighting to close budget shortfalls.   In the San Francisco Bay Area, we’ve already heard woes from BART, Muni, and Caltrain.  I’m sure there’s many more metros and cities in the same boat.
  • Layoffs and restructuring.  Chevron, Verizon, Walmart, and Johnson & Johnson have all announced layoff plans in Jan. 2010.
  • Current unemployment rate is 9.7 (December ’09).  There were increases in all 50 states in the last month of the year.
  • Live events canceled, postponed.  2010 will be filled with inconsistencies.  some events that will trigger renewed hope;  Other events  you’ll be caught asking yourself  “how did I ever get involved in this?”
  • The Dow closed the year (Dec. 31) at10,428.05 and NASDAQ was 2,269.15.   By January 31, it’s 10,067.33 for the Dow, and 2,147.35 for NASDAQ.  Investors are not exactly oozing with consistent confidence.
  • There’s still a war in Afghanistan, Mr. President.

OK, enough of the doom and gloom
Yea, I had to dig deep here, but let’s look at some areas that are looking good in 2010.

  • Apple.  Stock (AAPL) at all-time highs.  Cool consumer electronics are continuing to be the rage.  And, for a few hundred dollars, people are willing to try almost anything Apple.
  • Venture capital improving and business results stabilizing.  Upstream has received $75Million in venture capital.   Ford reports strong January sales (could be due to Toyota’s accelerating disaster).   UPS beat expectations, which shows packages are on the move and internet sales are continuing to grow.   Expect more turn-around news in the areas of home purchasing and financing.
  • Businesses are adopting social marketing into their operations and not just using the free stuff.  Real $ being spent, department resources being re-shaped.  This isn’t an after-thought anymore of some rogue employees.  It’s mainstream and if you ain’t doing it or not supporting the efforts, you’re losing out to your competitors.  Big time.
  • Many green businesses are thriving.  Great source of jobs, economic growth, and investment into the future.
  • Microsoft Office 2010 is in Beta – that should solve a few issues, right?   Oh, possibly negated by introducing a million new Windows bugs and 100 security patches.

Personal brain hygiene perhaps
Do you really feel you can accomplish everything on your plate by just coming in and grinding it out like you’ve done for the last 30 days?  I want to suggest a few ideas that might get you back on track.   Sure, it can’t change the deficit or solve the war.   It can’t balance an ill-allocated municipal budget.   But, it will make you feel better and more productive.

5 things you need to do.

  1. Clean up. Take a look at the papers and magazines on your desk.   Shuffle them into 1 neat pile and set it in the corner.   Check back in a week.  If you haven’t touched the pile, recycle it.  You’ll probably never have time to read them this year.
  2. Organize your inbox.  Find a 3 hour window on your calendar next week.   Block it off.   And book yourself a conference room regardless if you live in a cube or an office.  No one bothers you in a conference room — they think you’re in a meeting.  While you’re at it, turn off your mobile phone, and log out of social networks — particularly Facebook and Twitter.  You’ll survive.  At the end of your 3 hour one on one meeting, write down the 10 most important items you’ll work on next.
  3. Plan a vacation with family or friends.   Even if only for 1 nite.  Perhaps you went away at end of December and came back to work and it’s been go-go-go.   You need something to look forward to.
  4. Stay focused on value-add vendors.   This is a two-fold suggestion.  It means #1 – shortlist your vendors that are viable and let the rest go, and #2 – make a decision, sign agreements, generate POs, build a plan, and start executing.   Everyday you postpone is 1 more day you don’t have a solution and won’t be addressing your MBOs.
  5. Attend a seminar outside of your business domain.  Perhaps you have a hobby or new interest.  Find a local event or seminar and make plans to go.  Meet some new people and get your mind on something fresh.

Worth considering?   Any other ideas that are personally helping you?   Or, do you believe 2010 will be way easier than ’09?

I have no doubts we will exit 2010 in a far more prosperous situation than ’09 and way beyond ’08.   Until then, address your own productivity now…it’s only going to get harder.

Bill Gates Has Heart Attack While Watching His New TV Commercials

There sure was a lot of talk about the new ad campaign featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld.  It was supposed to be hilarious.  It wasn’t.  They are complete duds.  There’s not a chance anyone, and certainly not even Bill Gates, would have a heart rate issue watching these ads, ’cause they’re really boring.  Sleep inducing.  About the only thing you might be having trouble with is keeping your hand from scratching your head as you try to reconcile what Bill, Jerry, Microsoft and some ad agency were thinking.  The only good part of these ads for Microsoft is that everyone is talking about how crappy they are, so at least they can attribute the marketing spend to “share of voice”. 

It’s been rumored that Microsoft will spend $300Million on this campaign with a new ad firm Crispin Porter & Bugusky.  And, Seinfeld is getting a cool $10M for his spot.  Now, there’s some heart valve clogging material for you.

In case you’ve been a little out of touch with seeing any good TV ads, Microsoft is seriously losing a branding popularity battle with Apple – even though the Apple ads only refer to “PC”.  It could be Intel, HP, Dell, or Microsoft they’re actually talking about, but everyone knows it’s an on-going jab at Microsoft.  And, Microsoft thought, “let’s just take our top visionary and a ton of money, and we’ll beat those Applewholigans”.

So, enter Jerry Seinfeld.  The head comic, writer & producer of one the most successful TV sitcoms (at least in my generation).   You know we’ll be watching Seinfeld re-runs til eternity, about as long as M*A*S*H and the Brady Brunch.   We know Jerry for his comedy, his writing, his unbelievable wealth.  Why on earth risk your reputation with the fuddy-duddies of Redmond?  It couldn’t have been for the pay-day.  Did Jerry have some sick debt to Gates with no chance of retribution?  And, we’re subject to the aftermath?

It’s completely beyond comprehension why a man of Bill’s stature needs to be involved with such a terrible spot on TV.  Is this his last gasp to inject positive vibes into the Microsoft brand?  Did he really buy off on this?  Please don’t tell me it was actually his idea (read = you better do what Bill says).   You’re talking about a person that’s done hundreds, if not thousands, of appearances.  Mostly all very serious and thought provoking, and I’m sure he’s left a few scripted chuckles along the way.  But, other than having a great, geeky smile, he’s not someone we rely on to hit the funny bone.  Surely, if you were able to play a roaring practical joke on him, it would be outrageously funny, but unlikely anyone would sign up for that.   Love him or hate him, Bill certainly can never be replicated, duplicated, or in any way replaced, but doesn’t mean we need to see him do the robot or shake his booty on TV.

In a web2.0 world, where Ray-Ban, Nike, and Levis are kicking butt with viral videos and ads using a combination of YouTube, print ad, and TV, why is Microsoft simply left in the dust?   Because in the web2.0 world, it’s not about outspending.  It’s about outmaneuvering, creativity, and novelty.  With all the money in the world – literally – it’s truly amazing Microsoft could compile such a horrible attempt. 

Microsoft would have been better off paying a bunch of college grads $2Million to come up with whacked content and rough-cut video, and the result would be better viral branding and positive messaging than the waste they put on TV, and now subject to during national sporting events.