Falls PC Hopes

Every year around August early September your Keep an Open Eye editor gets requests from friends and family to make recommendations regarding back to school PC purchases. This year, instead of the usual  recommendations, PC Prospects looked different. First, Apple did with the  iPad what Microsoft had failed to do with its tablets – deliver a highly portable and easy too use media computer. This Redmond de-innovation occurred despite Microsoft having the exclusive license to kill with a pen and stylus on the desktop for more than 10 years.

Apple created the DOC – Display Only Computer, a highly portable, light, full day of operation computer targeted for media replay, gaming and Web surfing. But the key innovation was no keyboard or mouse attached to this iBeauty – multi-touch and gestures would do thank you very much. In the process, Apple collected a hoard of pursing Android tablets and slates which hoped to also have “a wonderful, magic” touch to offer their customers. In sum DOC, smacked of change in the usual Falls PC Order:

If doing lots of artistic, web and/or graphics work pay the Cupertino Piper and  get a Mac.
If porting a lot of previous PC work or doing a compute-intensive program [math, engineering, computer science, chemistry, biology], go  with the Gypper and  get a Windows PC laptop but hold the Office, hold the Outlook and definitely hold the loaded on “trial” games.

However,  in Spring,  Windows and HP were promising Couriers, touch screens, and the chance of my ideas actually being implemented in Windows.

Yeah Right! Whatever.

But the Courier is gone and HP’s purchase of Palm means a delay in game penalty in getting their  WebOS-powered  tablets/slates to market. Meanwhile, the Cupertino Magician did his prestidigitation and out popped the iPad without Flash and with only the barest of connectors to hook up an iPad up to . Steve also placed it and all his iDevices into a walled garden where everything you put on your iDevices a)required you paying the Cupertino Piper another tithing and b)only the anointed were allowed in to add more Apps to the Store and c)no Java, no Flash, no program generators are allowed to develop apps for iDevices. This restricted development dictum guarantees that iDevice App Goodness could not easily appear on other platforms. Just a wee constrictive. But give the Cupertino Magician credit – he knew very well that the idea of a highly portable, viewable, keyboard-less, mouse-less, multi-touch+gesture PC replacement had not a snowball’s chance in Hell of scratching the chrome dome surface of Mr. Developers, Developers, Developers.

However, the vision of being able to propose to friends and family a highly portable Display Only Computer did not vanish completely; but definitely was postponed because iPad lacks robust  docking connections [just google “iPad docking stations” and see for yourself].  But consider the idea. This vision would have an iPad [or one of its Android impostors], being docked and acting like an ordinary PC with keyboard and mouse with Wifi and/or USB 3.0 connections to printers, ultrafast SSD hard drives, and other peripherals. But at a Batagong signal, this ordinary PC could drop its work day peripherals and be transformed into a Super DOC – Display Only Computer. Voila – you have an iPad, Slate or some other display primarily computer!

And these DOCs are versatile. One could take your iPad DOC-Display Only Computer to a day of lectures with all the class textbooks and material right on board. At the lecture one could could record the audio of the proceedings and later translate it into text [okay into Intermittent Professor Speakese]. Through Google Mail or Skype or FaceTime [but FaceTime requires another iPad on the other side] you could chat with friends. One could have App powered computing power on the go. – but only Apple approved apps.

Since Apple is not doing the docked iPad robustly, maybe one of the pursuing Android slate impostors will have intuited the opportunity and will come up with the equivalent in this Fall and Christmas Season of Slates. Consider the potential goldmine in the office workplace too. Now being the secretary recording the minutes of a meeting has not only computer help but the power of “what was said”. Instead of laptops, users take their multi-touch Androids everywhere – no power worries. But if they need to get work done, then pound away at your office or home docking station. And with Wifi+Touch one could pickup all the meeting materials in a touch. There are huge market opportunities here.

More Cupertino Mephisto-ing

But the Cupertino Magician continued with more  bad-side blessings – the Magic Trackpad. For three years and counting, Apple has been delivering multi-touch+gestures but only on iDevices. For all those rabidly loyal Mac users the only sightings have been the multi-touch enabled MacBook touchpads and some multi-touch patent applications. However the graphics and design work that these Mac Loyalists do would really really really profit from direct multi-touch + gestures enabled screen operations. But then this summer the Magic Trackpad effectively made it official: Apple would not be delivering multi-touch+gestures to Mac screens anytime soon.

But hey Steve is on a disappointment roll, so why not test the adoring’s allegiance one more time. By rejecting Flash on all his iDevices, the Majestic Innovator forced a lot of Mac designers and other creatives to contemplate how they would design and develop in a future without Flash or with a lot of duplicated effort. Not Good!

But for Not-Goodness Sake, the Mad Magician has one more nasty up his sleeve. As it turns out in tests of his Apple machines in May of this year, running identically the same Apple hardware but just switching the OS on those Apple puppies- guess what? Running the same graphics software programs[ OpenGL, games, and Flash ] on both Windows7 and Mac OS/X 10.6, Windows 7 runs anywhere from 10 to 70% faster than MacOS. Windows is never bested by MacOS. And in fact, Linux loaded onto the same Apple computer always outperforms MacOS in the same battery of graphic tests too. So its not Flash that is slow on doing graphics and movies on MacOS, but Macs run  most graphics software slower than Windows and Linux. Now Apple announced late in the Summer a new Mac refresh using the latest Intel i5 and i7 chips. This Man from Missouri is now waiting for new benchmarks using the latest Apple hardware which will demo whether or not the Apple Mac

Apple Deal at Best-Buy August 27, 2010


Windows 7 Deal at Best-Buy August 27, 2010

can deliver graphics performance at least equal to Windows and Linux. Why recommend buying a Mac if its going to cost $800 more for the slightly less hardware specs and poor graphics performance?

Security, Ease of Use, Better Browser

If you give up graphics performance and price by nearly 2 to 1 to Windows, what does Apple Macs have left? Well security for one. Windows has continued to have those wonderful monthly patch Tuesdays with the added zero day virus. Wait a second – Apple’s security  record at Secunia, the respected PC security advisory service, is not much better. Secunia has shown that Mac OS has a comparable number of  high alert advisories:

Secunia tallied 36 advisories on security issues with the [MacOS] software, many of them allowing attackers to remotely take over the system – comparable to figures on operating systems such as Windows XP Professional or Red Hat Enterprise Server.

Hmmmm – not good news for MacOS users.

So lets take ease of use – oops, MacOS does not have touch screens at all – only multi-touch Magic Trackpads. But Windows 7 has had touch screens [but not multi-touch + gestures] for nearly two years. And more PC vendors, particularly for high end desktops, are featuring touch screen operations. And touch screen alone even without multi-touch does make users more productive.

Okay , so concede a slight advantage to Windows 7 with touch screen. One has to say MacOS with Safari provides a much better Web Experience than Windows 7 and IE8. That would be true if IE8 were the only browser that runs in Windows. But Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera are all superior browsing experiences and they run on Windows 7 and all of the downloads are fast and dirt simple to do. Even, Safari, the latest 5.0.1 edition runs in Windows. And Microsoft has been working triple overtime this Summer to bring you IE9 which test versions show is right up with the other browsers on speed of operations and meeting the existing HTML, CSS, and DOM standards. But there are serious questions on how well IE9 meets the new HTML5 standards and IE9 is not available for the legion of Windows XP users [50% of all Windows users still]. A beta release of IE9 on September 15th will reveal all.

So is Windows 7 the way to go? It is much cheaper on the hardware side, has better graphics performance, touchscreen operations and a bevy of great browsers available. But on the downside there is always the security horror stories, speed often slower than Windows XP, less support for older Windows programs and peripherals, the slow decay of reliability and performance during the day as memory leaks and handles proliferation slowly do their nasties. But hey, for $800 off and all that great free, Open Source software [start with Open Office and Notepad++ and don’t stop there but go here] – why not choose Windows?

Summary

Give Steve Jobs full credit – he has pioneered for the third time with his iDevices and its inspired contrarian blend:
1)less computing power for the sake of a full working day of battery life;
2)new simplified OS to force more efficient delivery of services like more GUI bang for the memory buck and a new take on computer security;
3)drop the keyboard and mouse to guarantee untethered portability;
4)use rich multi-touch+gestures to replace mouse and displaced keyboard while making operating iDevices easier to learn and remember how to use.
This is high level innovation and quite a legacy. But in order to promote his iPad and iDevices, it appears Steve has badly short-changed his Mac Users. The call it “Creative Destruction”.

Nonetheless, this was the Summer of PC False Hopes. I really had expected to be able to recommend Apple Macs whole heartedly. But the Cupertino MagicMan has shifted his focus to the iDevices and has really short-changed the Apple Mac line. And why not ? iDevices bring in more than double the revenues of the tired old Mac line:

Make up of Apple’s Stock price

Tired old Macs? Definitely so. Macs are consistently getting the short end of the Apple innovation stick – Macs are graphically hobbled relative to the competition, cost nearly double if not more, and still do not have touch screen operations. And security has slipped a notch. Meanwhile, the iPad also does not have a docking station with enough fixtures for a unqualified breakthrough. So here is what I  am telling family and friends this year:

Take an old desktop PC or Mac to school, hunker down using lots of the free, Open Source software, and wait until next year when the DOCking computers should really hit the deck. If you must have a new computer and if you are in any compute intensive program of school studies [think arts and graphics {Macs have worst graphic performance on same hardware}, engineering, science, maths, physics, biosciences, economics]get a Window 7 laptop [ Compaq Presario Laptop / AMD Athlon™ II Processor / 15.6″ Display / 3GB Memory / 250GB Hard Drive – $379 at Bestbuy]. If your school supports eBook textbooks and course notes get the docking station version of iPad [$679 at Bestbuy] but don’t expect to load up most Mac or Windows programs. Choose the iPad only if your courses are wordprocessing, spreadsheet, emails and Web browsing intensive.

Psst, businesses! Also hunker down with what you got and wait for the wave of Android and WebOS tablets and slates to arrive over this coming year period. Mac users – too bad, so sad, going out of chic rad.

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