The Gilded Cage: Why My Next Tablet Won’t Be an iPad

I love my iPad, truly I do.

But this is my last one.

Other than a few iPods over the years, it’s been my first true Apple product — at least one I purchased and wasn’t handed to evaluate — and the experience has been nothing short of excellent since I lucked into one late last April at an Apple store in North Carolina. The anticipation leading up to the launch of the iPad made it a foregone event — at least within the walls of Lenovo — but no one anticipated the excellent responsiveness, elegant user interface, and impeccable integration with iTunes and the iTunes app store. The product was far more than an upsized version of the iPhone, and came as a sharp rebuke to the stylus-based tablet computing model pushed by the PC makers and Microsoft.

Nearly a year later I spend as many hours with the iPad as I do with my classic laptop. I’m purchasing and reading an average of three Amazon Kindle books per week on it, do nearly all of my television/movie consumption through the Netflix app, and use a mixture of browser, Google Earth, and other reference tools as I read and research various non-fiction topics. I hate typing on it

In short, I’m a satisfied customer and am glad I winced and bought the $500 device when I did. I think it represents the most significant shift in computing devices in over twenty years, and has shown a way forward for a completely new model of information/entertainment delivery and consumption.

Now with the next version allegedly already in manufacturing, I  can also say this iPad is probably my last Apple tablet. My next one will most likely be an Android Honeycomb version, not purchased with a 3G/4G contract from a carrier, but most likely a WiFi enabled device.

I shared a table on the Acela to NYC this week with Forrester’s tablet analyst, Sara Rotman Epps. Like any good analyst she took the time to survey me, the average man on the train, on my purchase intentions. I told her — this time next year I’ll probably spend as much as $350 for an Android tablet and expected it would be much lower in build quality than an Apple — plastic instead of brushed aluminum. The real question is what, other than god forbid breakage or loss, will induce me to move to a new tablet. Camera? I don’t think so. Video calling is the most overhyped technology since speech to text recognition.

Why will I leave Apple?

In order of importance:

  1. Monopoly: I’m alarmed by Apple’s monopolistic moves towards publishers — and book sellers — that essentially forces them to sell content — books, movies, magazine subscriptions, through Apple’s commerce infrastructure. This tollbooth will jack content prices up, with the impact inevitably being handed down to me, the buyer. I am sick and tired of Apple’s proprietary/walled garden approach to their platform from the lack of Flash support to sticking guns into the sides of the third parties that have coalesced around the platform to make it so successful.
  2. Google integration. I am a Google person. From Gmail to Google Docs, Google Voice to Google Earth, Chrome to ….. the Google mobile app on the iPad is weak. I am also an Android phone owner, so I want better sync capabilities between devices. Google’s stuff works ok on the iPad, but not great.
  3. Cost: I want to pay way less than $500 for basically half of a laptop. I hated netbooks although I inflicted one on my daughter, but regard the $250-$350 price point to be just right for the form factor. Sure, my next tablet will be made out of cheesy plastic, but slide it into a nice cover/case and who cares? It’s all about the screen and the processor.

What I’m reading and watching

For baseball fans it is hot stove season, the interregnum between the World Series and the call up of pitchers and catchers to spring training. I’ve got my wood stove roaring and my bookshelf groaning with winter reading. Here’s a quick list of what’s in the backpack, on the nightstand, and on the Kindle these days; and then what I’m watching on the DVD player.

What We Had:  A brief memoir by James Chace of life growing up in the southeastern Massachusetts city of Fall River — once the largest cotton spinning city in the world — now a sad hulk and husk of its former self. This is where Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her father forty whacks, but Chace writes an amazingly poignant story of the decline of a Yankee family from privilege to irrelevance. From his grandfather, the former president of the Massachusetts State Senate to his brother, a crazed World War II war hero, Chace tells a elegant story of a family, a city, and a society in decline.

Not on the par of “Goodbye to All That” — but nevertheless a good book about the slide of a Yankee family and one man’s determination to make sense of it.

Going to See the Elephant: Rodes Fishburne’s first novel. He worked at Forbes ASAP when I was at but I didn’t know him. He edited the annual “Big Issue” — a compendium of essays by big thinkers and celebs — and that most shows in his brilliant portrayal of the mad scientist/big thinker that seems like an amalgamation of Dean Kamen, Nathan Myhrvold, Esther and Freeman Dyson, and every other digital visionary to draw breath and haunt a podium the last twenty years. This is a good San Francisco novel — worthy of the canon that includes McTeague and rolls through the ages — but being a comical effort, it may irritate on occasion as it reaches for laughs that are not always (but occasionally) there.


I decided to dig through my son’s amazing 50 DVD collection — Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films, and have been toting around some discs as I travel. This past week I viewed:

Brief Encounter: 1945 David Lean directed this Noel Coward weepie starring Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson. Listed among the best efforts of all time in British cinema. Amazingly effective, melodrama aside, in terms of Lean camera work and impeccable editing, but mostly in the pre-WWII depiction of adultry and morals in suburban England. I wasn’t boo-hooing in my hankie, but it’s interesting to see how to do a weepie right.

Ballad of a Soldier: directed by Grigory Chukhraj. 19-year old Russian soldier in World War II destroys two tanks, is hailed a hero, asks for a leave to go home to fix his mother’s leaking roof. Makes his way through peril and travail, falling in love along the way with the awesome Zhanna Prokhorenko (with whom I have a crush now). Interesting flick released in 1959 during the post-Stalin thaw, so not a lot of propaganda weirdness. Apparently a major sentimental favorite in Russia to this day.

Richard III: Laurence Olivier as the deformed evil tyrant and usurper Richard in Shakespeare’s masterpiece of treachery and lust for power. All I can say, is whoa, I mean I know Olivier had the reputation, but for some reason I had never full appreciated why (and it isn’t for his role as the Nazi dentist Dr. Zell in Marathon Man). This confirms why. The dude can act. Directed by him, this is considered his cinematic Shakespearean masterpiece. Technicolor makes the sets and costumes bizarrely gorgeous.

I wish I could memorize his “Now is the winter of our discontent …” soliloqy for my next staff meeting. Watch this piece of acting:

M. Hulot’s Holiday: Faithful French readers will doubtlessly say, “Duh, where have you been?” — but this is the funniest movie I have seen in a very long, long time. Jacque Tati, director and star, has to be one of the greatest physical comedians ever — up there with Chaplin and Keaton. The tennis scene made me pee my pants.  See this.

Kindle Klones?

I really need to understand the Amazon business model better — but I want to know why the Kindle format isn’t being evangelized to other readers. Peter Kafka blogs at AllThingsD that the buzz out of Verizon is that Kindle Klones are coming — what isn’t clear is if they are just eInk devices, or Kinle compatible.

Does Verizon use Kindles for Field Dispatch?

Watching the Red Sox game tonight (Beckett is back!) I saw an ad for Verizon FIOS (bring it to Cotuit you slackers!). The ad shows a poor cable guy leaving and apartment and running into the FIOS installer in the hallway. They say hey, compare notes. Cable guy asks the Verizon guy what’s happening. Verizon guy consults an Amazon Kindle, sans leather cover, hits the touchscreen (wait, my Kindle doesn’t have a touch screen) rattles off some addresses. Cable guy, who is a schlub, consults a lo-tech clipboard.

Okay, so Kindle is wide area wireless, but no way Verizon is using them any place other than TV ads. Right?

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