Monday, November 02, 2009

This week's gadgets:

This week's gadgets:

Ok, Ok, most people that know me and my gadget proclivities know that I've had smartphones since they first were invented and am currently in the market for something new - plus they would also know that I'm deeply, totally in love with my Kindle.  So this week has basically been really annoying.

First the smartphone issue. I'm a corporate IT guy (duh) so for me phones and PDA's are tools.  They are about as sexy to me as a torque wrench is to a mechanic.  What is sexy to me is how they function.  I don't care if the album covers flip past in a really pretty/smooth way.  I care if the music app plays Ogg files and if the device will connect A2DP to my bluetooth headphones.  I don't care if the device shows pictures of the caller and plays their favorite auria as a ringtone.  I have about 5k entries in my address book and I need for the phone to be able to handle that without hanging or crashing.

Because these things are tools to me - I'm a Verizon subscriber.  In my experience they have really awesome customer service (I've put this to the test. Believe me) and lest it be said again.  THE BEST NETWORK hands down.  No one even comes close.  Even with that in mind I've been pissed at them for years with their crappy phone offerings.  I've been a Palm user since they first came out.  I think I've had 8 different devices running the PalmOS.  5 of them have been smartphones.  Only one was what I would call a "great" device.  The others have all been a compromise.

I love the utility of the PalmOS.  It's simple, elegant and reliable in a way that makes even Apple's stuff seem clunky.  I have gobs of apps I've purchased over the years that I use many times a day.  Things like an IP subnet calculator.  A conversion utility (converts from pretty much any measurement to annother).  An app that lets me keep notes and passwords safely encrypted.  And yes, a few really good games and a media player that does play my .ogg files and connect A2DP.  The device itself has been able to handle my massive contact database with ease from the first day.  It's always been able to send MMSMS, capture video, cut and paste, and multi-task.  I've had these features FOR YEARS!

The problem is that the hardware has been fragile and clunky.  I went through two Treo's and I really need to replace my year old Centro as it's buttons are starting to fail.  This is why I'm in the market for a new phone.

I was hugely excited for the PRE.  Being a Unix snob for the last 20 years I've been in a state of anticipation for the Linux based OS successor to appear.  WebOS looks wonderful.  But I fear that Palm is circling the drain.  They just simply took too long in development.  The Pre is their last gasp and I think Sprint is letting them wither.  Add to that it seems Palm forgot what made their platform the one to beat for so long - and now fuels the current leader.  Availability of apps.  You have to make it worthwhile and easy for the developers to make things for your platform.  Palm didn't even get the developer kit out until months after the PRE hit the shelves...  To date there are only around 300 apps for the pre.

Enter Android.  It's open.  The way Linux is meant to be.  Currently there are around 10000 apps!  This is dwarfed by the iphone app count I know, but I don't think that will last once the Droid is released.  An Android based phone on the best / largest carrier - oh my!  I may just be in line on November 6.

The other thing I've been getting asked about.  My Kindle - and the release of all the competitors.  Mainly the Nook from B&N and the rumored tablet from Apple.  I've had everyone from close friends and family to people in airports / planes ask me about this.  Here's my opinion.  The Kindle is a single use device.  It's excellent at it.  So good that I pretty much only purchase novels on the Kindle.  If it's not available - I simply don't read it.  It's awful at reference books and newspapers.  It must be horrible for text books as well.  The Kindle is ideally suited to the long form narrative.  The E-ink is fantastic.  The delivery system has (so far) not been matched.  The inventory of available books is also unmatched.  Any electronic attempt at making a reader do reference/text/newspapers in their current form will fail.

I think that the Nook will be a worthy competitor.  Mainly because it's a copy of the Kindle with a few tweaks.  It uses the same E-ink "display", Has wireless delivery and an inventory on par with Amazon. It has some incremental improvements over the Kindle but as we all know - that won't last long.  

I'm sure that in the end, current B&N customers will choose the Nook.  Amazon customers will continue to stick with the Kindle.  The other devices will go the way of the Dodo.  As far as the Apple tablet.  It will see use as a book reader for a percentage of tablet owners - the same way the ipod / iphone are currently used.  The Apple tablet will be "ok" as a book reader since it will be a multi-function device and Amazon will win either way since they already support the ipod/iphone as Kindle readers.  I love my Kindle.  You would have to pry it from my cold, dead, fingers.  I'm sure the Nook owners will feel the same.  There is room for both.

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