I am an early adopter or, as my family puts it, a sucker for new techie toys.
I am currently using an iPod (well, several), an iPad and a Kindle. I don’t have an iPhone, mostly because I don’t like phones much, but am thinking of the Nexus S using the latest version of Google’s Android operating system.
I am not sure about the Kindle. It is a neat piece of technology . It uses a process called e-ink which results in a screen much easier to read text on than the iPad or any other similar product I have seen. It handles text very well, but only in grayscale and it does not do pictures or graphics well. I understand a colour e-ink is coming. You order books or magazines for the Kindle through the Amazon store. They arrive through the 3G network (Telstra, I think) and the delivery cost in included in the price of the book. The price is, at this stage, not too different to the hard copy price, though that will surely change. Cross subsidizing the printing and distribution costs of books from the price of e-books won’t work for long. It is very neat to order a book online and have it turn up on your Kindle within seconds.
Still, I find I don’t read from the Kindle all that much. Perhaps I’m just not comfortable with the format yet – I still prefer a paperback.
The iPad is a different kettle of technology. I am still not sure what it is for – what it does that nothing else can do for me. It connects to the net via wifi and (some models) 3G so it is a mobile device. It does email very well – the only drawback being the virtual keyboard which touch-typers don’t like much. It has a browser – Safari – though Apple is betting on apps which you download through the iTunes store. Some are free, other cost a few dollars. Apps include games, news, weather, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and so on. If you have young kids around, I recommend Itsy Bitsy Spider. MOMA (New York) has a wonderful app through which they will make their whole collection available. Most things that you might normally access through a browser have an app. But I suspect we ain’t seen nothing yet – thousands of developers are out their writing apps. Although Apple is technologically a walled garden (that is the big battle building between them and Google) they recognise that a decentralized network of developers can create much greater innovation than a central department.
The screen of the iPad is beaut. Photos (you can store your photo album on the iPad) are spectacular. Some magazines with a lot of graphics look better than in the dead tree version. New Yorker, Wired, Travel and Leisure are especially good. Strangely, you can’t subscribe to a magazine, you have to buy each issue separately. It does, by the way, have a Kindle app which I have not seriously investigated.
So, so far, my conclusion about the iPad is that it is a beaut product but I’m not sure that many people will find they can’t live without it. I don’t think I will travel with it alone. The fact that the iPad is selling like gangbusters shows the trust people have in Apple and its products. I can’t think of another business with that degree of trust.
But of all these, it is the iPod that I use most often. I have three: the Classic with a fair chunk of my music collection onboard, an iPod Touch and an iPod Nano (the model before the latest).
I use the Classic to listen to stuff on long flights and to carry music to the beach house. It has a 160GB harddrive and I use it really as a portable storage device. There is talk of the Classic disappearing as the solid state storage on the Touch increases. The Touch is an interesting machine. It’s like an iPhone without the phone. It stores Music, photos, calender, address book and all that stuff as well as many apps designed for the iPhone. It connects to the internet by wifi so you can use Skype or iChat for phone or video calls. On a bike trip we did in Spain and Portugal a while back, I used my Touch through the hotels’ wifi to investigate and book the next hotel through Tripadvisor . You can do that with the iPhone (I was the only one of the four in the team that did not have one) but the iPhone roaming charges are horrendous.
Finally, the iPhone Nano. I use it most of all. On it I have lots of podcasts and several audiobooks, bought from audible.com. I listen to these on long walks, at the gym and on flights. In other words, in situations that might otherwise be very boring. So far, an audiobook is just about my favourite way of reading, partly, I think, because I can do something else at the same time.
At the moment I am listening to Tim Wu’s The Master Switch, a book about technology I recommend highly.
I have been playing with online stuff since before the internet opened to the public. I still have no idea where it will lead and which products will prove indispensable. Most predictions have proved to be empty. We can be pretty sure, though, that it is a disruptive technology that will bring about much creative destruction (two ideas discussed in Tim Wu’s book). And unless we work for one of those industries that will die, it will all be a lot of fun.