Windows 8 is not the long bet, it’s Windows RT

Today’s post on Daring Fireball, Windows 8 as a Long Bet, seems to have missed something important.

“But why put the touch/tablet UI on all PCs? A touch-optimized UI makes no more sense for a non-touch desktop than a desktop UI makes for a tablet. Apple has it right: a touch UI for touch devices, a pointer UI for pointer (trackpad, mouse) devices. Windows 8 strikes me as driven by dogma — “one Windows, everywhere.”

This is all right, and yet all wrong. If you read it with Windows 8 Pro in mind, which many consider to be a train wreck combination of two different environments, then yes, the above should make sense. But not if you read it with Windows RT in mind.

Think about this: What can iOS do and not do? What can Windows RT do and not do?

They are both “Post PC” operating systems. They are super simple to use, they only run apps from an app store, they don’t need drivers, and they have a touch-optimized UI that makes perfect sense on a multi-touch tablet. They have a lot in common, but there’s a huge difference that is missed in the quoted text above. Windows RT and its 3rd-party apps are touch-optimized, but are also aware of the presence or potential presence of a mouse pointer, and they can work with pointer input and with a keyboard without relying on touch gestures at all. So…

What can iOS do and not do? Easy. It can run any kind of app you can imagine. But these apps are almost universally built for touch. Not all apps can be redesigned to be as comfortable or efficient with touch as they were with mouse pointer input.

Touch can be as precise as mouse pointer input, but in different ways. The initial touch is never very precise. Apps like Photoshop will not work on iOS – their UI must be designed differently. But even redesigned, they may never be as efficient. Apps like development environments or desktop publishing will also need to be rethought, but may also never work as well. iOS requires a lot of back and forth between a keyboard (on-screen or not) and the screen – so that screen tends to need to be horizontal. Who wants to lift their hand up to a vertical screen, even if occasionally. It’s just awkward.

Installing iOS on a desktop PC would never make sense, touch screen or not. So what can’t iOS do? Let users comfortably use applications that work best with mouse pointer input. If a user isn’t efficient and comfortable, the app is a failure. This means that OS X has it’s place for the moment, until the “Back To The Mac” concept reaches revolutionary new heights.

What can Windows RT do and not do? Windows RT is like iOS. Touch input is a first class citizen, and everything from OS to apps, are built for that. The one exception is Office,  which is why there’s a bastard remnant desktop mode that will hopefully disappear once Office goes native.

Installing Windows RT on a desktop PC, however, can make perfect sense, touch screen or no touch screen. Windows RT and all its 3rd party apps fully work with mouse and keyboard without requiring even occasional touch gestures. There’s a reason for that (I’ll reveal it at the end of this post). When running on a desktop PC or laptop with a trackpad, Windows RT can handle applications like Photoshop, Visual Studio, Xcode, Final Cut Pro X, you name it. Sure, these apps would have to be rewritten to run in a fully sandboxed environment, but thanks to cloud computing becoming  more pervasive, this is a software problem that’s inevitably going to be solved soon (Apple has the same need on OS X),

Windows RT on a desktop PC makes sense because it doesn’t subject people to needlessly complex operating systems like Windows 8 Pro or the very latest OS X, with all their baggage and complicated UI paradigms, drivers, trojan horses and malware. Yes, even OS X Mountain Lion still doesn’t prevent users from installing things from random sites.

OS X and Windows 8 Pro are still way too geeky for non-techie humans to work easily and comfortably with – but iOS and Windows RT, well, even toddlers and the oldest grandparents can handle those without breaking anything or calling a geek family member for support.

So what can’t Windows RT do? Nothing. It can run on tablets, run any kind of app that iOS can, using touch-only input that works very well, and it can also run as a mouse+keyboard driven operating system on laptops and desktops, and run desktop-class applications that don’t work as well or as comfortably on a touch-only device or operating system.

So let’s deal with that Daring Fireball quote now, piece-by-piece:

But why put the touch/tablet UI on all PCs?

I don’t know why, but I do know that developers that write Modern UI apps are forced to also make their app work with mouse+keyboard – because Windows 8 Pro will be installed on many PCs that don’t have touch input. Like the 27″ iMac I’m using right now running Windows 8 Pro. Also, the more obvious answer, to get desktop and laptop PC users used to the look and feel of Windows RT.

A touch-optimized UI makes no more sense for a non-touch desktop than a desktop UI makes for a tablet.

See now why this doesn’t quite apply? Windows RT is designed to offer a touch-optimized UI when running on tablets, and also a mouse+keyboard optimized UI when running on laptops and desktops. Heck, if the laptop or desktop also has a touch screen, you can use both. But that’s gravy.

Apple has it right: a touch UI for touch devices, a pointer UI for pointer (trackpad, mouse) devices.

It’s right only up to the point when your competitor has a Windows RT descendant everywhere, the exact same OS on both tablets and desktops, that lets users transition from desktop to tablet/mobile with no change in environment.

Users may realize that moving from OS X to iOS is just not as great. Windows 8 Pro and descendants? Who cares, that OS will be forgotten by the consumers (not businesses) once most desktop-class apps like Photoshop and Visual Studio start running on Windows RT or descendants. These mouse-optimized apps may not work on tablets, but that’s not the point, the point is, the rest of the apps you use will.

Microsoft has something special with Windows RT, it’s just not obvious yet because everyone’s focusing on Windows 8 Pro.

Why the iPhone 5 will drop the 30-pin iPod connector

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The iPod connector is, quite simply, no longer needed. Not only do I think it will disappear with iPhone 5, but if it is replaced with another connector, it will be used solely for power. Not data.

Consider the following new technologies and capabilities that have recently been introduced by Apple. Each of these replaces capabilities previously possible only through the iPod connector:

  • PC-free setup: no longer requires you to plug into a PC/Mac for initial setup.
  • WiFi sync to iTunes: iOS backup, music/videos/app sync when plugged into power.
  • iCloud: Over-the-air iOS updates, backup, restore, app locker.
  • iTunes in the cloud and iTunes Match: – you don’t even need iTunes.exe for music.
  • Stream your home library: The iOS Music app now lets you do this over Wi-Fi (It’s true!)
And a couple more new things that are quite relevant:
  • AirPlay: Lets your devices output audio and video to 3rd party devices. Clock radios, home theater receivers, etc. It is the new way of sending audio to devices, and 3rd parties are already supporting it. The dock connector is used less and less.
  • Bluetooth 4.0: hours of low power communications on iOS devices.

So what’s left to keep the iPod connector? Transfer speed? Nope, if it work’s for WiFi sync and the other above listed features, it’s not key. iOS developers tell me that debugging is done through the connector cable. That’s something. Enough to keep the connector? I wouldn’t bet on it. iPad might keep it for projector use, but, hey, Airplay could help there.

But why would Apple want to get rid of the iPod connector? Why stir up trouble?

  • Design. Without the iPod connector, Apple has more design freedom for the iPhone. Edges can be tapered or thinner, the internals can be rearranged, a larger speaker can be added to the bottom edge, etc.
  • Harder to jailbreak. The connector is used by hackers as a point of entry for jail breaking. With the connector gone, it might be harder to hack the iPhone.
  • It’s ugly. It’s a connector. Things Apple usually likes to get rid of when possible.
  • No cable to include. Less materials to waste. Less cost.
  • Better for the user. The message that you’d want (or need in any way) to use a cable, gone.
  • 3rd party market entropy. New opportunity for 3rd party device makers to exploit.
  • The sooner, the better. iPhone 5 will probably outsell all previous iPhones combined, so it’s an excellent time to “move on”.
So here you have it. With no connector, power still needs to get into the iPhone, so I think we’ll see the MagSafe for iPhone or, less likely I would say, inductive charging.
I think I also need a blog post on why iTunes.exe is on the way out, too.

Bonus thought: I suppose it is too early to suggest that after the iPod connector, the next thing to go will be the stereo headphone jack. Bluetooth headphones must be pretty cheap to make now, and with Bluetooth 4.0, their battery would last pretty long. I would just not enjoy having to charge yet another device… So no, I guess.

The Apple “Tablet” Lure

Why is Apple working on a Tablet or other device with a new form factor and 10″ screen, and why do we need one? Part of the answer has do to with the App Store. The rest is simply Apple doing what it does best: providing products with compelling user experiences.

Let me spell it all out. By the way, this entire blog post was written (and photo edited) on my iPhone, no desktop, laptop or netbook was involved or harmed.

So…

- Since the original Mac, and even long before, owners of personal computers could purchase or download software from whomever or wherever they wanted. Money would transfer from buyer to seller without involving the manufacturer of the computer or operating system. The cut for Apple or Microsoft was 0% on the world’s software transactions.

- June 2007, iPhone was released. The only way to get apps on it for most users (those that don’t jailbreak their device) was, and remains, to purchase them from the App Store. Even free apps must go through that channel.

- So far, Apple has sold upwards of 30 million iPhones, not to mention similar orders of iPod touches that also must use the App Store. Apple gets a 30% cut on ALL software transactions for iPhone / iPod software. That is already bringing in upwards of 100 million dollars a year for Apple at current rates.

- Thats a decent amount of money but…

- Wouldn’t it be amazing if Apple or another company could somehow pull off the same App Store stunt with Macs and/or PCs? Yes, but it would never be accepted by the existing user base. Both developers and users would cry blue murder at having that imposed on them all of a sudden. It would never pass in the Mac or PC worlds.

- How then did it pass for the iPhone? Simple: As a brand new platform, the choice was that you either accept the App Store, or take a hike, or jailbreak if you have the guts. Why would people accept the closed App Store system, both developers and users? Because the iPhone is a sufficiently advanced and attractive (and now popular) device that we just love it and to hell with the 30% and the App Store system, we gotta have it or develop for it.

- There are therefore hundreds of millions of PC and Mac users out there which do not transact through the App Store, leaving potentially billions of dollars on the table for Apple and Microsoft.

- So how can Apple, or anyone else, tap in and start the ball rolling to get their hands on 30% of some of the rest of the world’s software transactions?

- Simple: Introduce a new computer system that is sufficiently advanced and attractive that we just gotta have it. Force the App Store on it as the exclusive way to load apps, and slowly have it take more and more market share from desktop Macs and PCs.

- How can a new system be so much more attractive to the masses than a nice Macbook or cheap $300 netbook that does most everything you could want?

- Therein lies one answer: Today’s computers can do a lot. They have lots of ports (USB for any device, video, keyboards, mice, network ports, SD reader port, E-sata, power, and sometimes more). They have powerful processors, can run powerful software, they can be used for complex tasks like CAD, creating Hollywood films, developing software, real-time encoding, you name it. In short, they have great power, impressive flexibility, and are pretty complex to use, often making even power users sweat to get them working smoothly.

- What if a computer system was invented that did not need to do 100% of the things typical compters with powerful processors (even Netbooks) could do? What if it only did 80%, a fun and useful and entertaining 80%, such as casual games, productivity, social networking, etc. but nothing fancy like software development, full-fledged Photoshop, CAD, heavy word processing, you know — work stuff.

- What if, though not a do-it-all, it was really really easy to use, as easy as an iPhone. I know lots of people who have no trouble with iPhones but a Mac or PC would frustrate the hell out of them. I’m a computer veteran and often run into issues I can’t easily solve, that’s just wrong.

- What if, like the iPhone, users would never have to deal with “Files”, filesystems, Finder or Windows Explorer, backups, task manager, device manager, menu bars, windows, function keys, viruses and virus detectors, adware, etc, as long as they didn’t jailbreak (keyword: break) their device?

- What if the new system had only an audio out port and a power adaptor hole and that’s all? What if it used Bluetooth, 3G, WiFi N, abd maybe an iPod port, as it’s sole method of communicating to other devices? Hint: Not having a full size USB port means no expectation that you can plug random stuff in and it has to work.

- What if a new, modern paradigm, such as multi-touch, whose time in the spotlight has come, was used? What if the operating system and user interface were really designed for multi-touch, as well as ALL the apps for it? (This has never been done before, Windows 7 barely qualifies as touch-aware, and Surface is too specialized.)

- What if the computer required to run this new OS and UI and it’s apps only needed to be as powerul as an iPhone, but with a slightly better GPU to handle more pixels?

- Think about the volume (cubic inches, not decibels) of an iPhone. In it, there’s everything: CPU, GPU, battery, WiFi, 3G, Bluetooth, GPS, camera, etc. Apply that volume to a Tablet or other portable form factor, say with a 10″ screen. That would make it PRETTY DARN THIN and light for a Tablet even with 3 times the battery.

- Important remark: That would be far thinner and lighter than anything else ever seen for the form factor.

- Add to that a touch-optimized user interface and core apps FULLY adapted for such a thin Tablet or other portable form factor, and presto, you have something that’s sufficiently advanced and attractive that we just gotta have it.

- And that’s where it starts… The era of this new form factor and overtaking of the hard-to-use desktop or laptop computer. And a 30% cut for Apple out of every app sold, instead of 0%.

- Many geeks the world over will say this new device is useless, weak, stupid, not good enough. They aren’t the target market. To them, everything’s doable. This Tablet or “thingy” is for the rest of us.

- Odi

Naming the Apple Tablet

I have been trying to figure out what Apple will name their tablet computer, but most names just don’t work. It’s much easier to figure out what won’t work than what will… Let me explain:

1) Names containing Mac, like MacBook touch or MacBook Mini or whatever. The Tablet isn’t going to be a Mac. A 100% multi-touch computer just won’t work the same way a Mac does. It won’t have menu bars, a windowing system, etc. Ever used Microsoft Surface? You get my drift now. Calling it a Mac would be a mistake. The operating system will not be Snow Leopard on this thing, so Apple cannot confuse people by associating it with the Mac name. (See my other post here to read about what I think the Apple Tablet will really be like — if I’m wrong, then this article will miss the mark too because the name definitely would have “Mac” in it then)

2) Names with “iPod” in them, like “iPod tablet” or “iPod page”. Even if the tablet is really an overgrown, more powerful iPod touch, Apple can’t really risk messing with the iPod brand by using the name for this new class of iPod-derived devices. We think of iPods as pocket music devices, not tablets, and this will foster confusion in the marketplace.

3) “iPad” can’t be used because it is too close to “iPod” and would definitely create confusion in the marketplace.

4) “iPage” might work, I’m not sure, but “iSlate”, “iSlab” or “iTablet” are weak. I mean, they don’t really seem like they are “it” for a game-changing device like this. More weak names I thought up: “iTap”, “iSlice”, “iPoint”, “iReach”, “iPaw”, “iScreen”, “iSheet”, “iClear”, “iDact”, “iTact”, “iSurf”, “iScribble”, “iPaper”, “iBlock”, “iSwipe” but then if Apple chooses one of these then I might no longer think it’s weak… ok I might still think it’s weak. “iTab” is a bit better, but is it as durable as the name “Mac”, for an important device like this?

5) Names with “iPhone” in them. Since you won’t be bringing this device to your face to make calls, and for the same reasons as not using names with “iPod” in them, Apple can’t use this in the tablet’s name.

6) Names with the Apple logo in them like AppleTV (where Apple is replaced with the logo). That might be possible, but somehow it doesn’t seem to make as much sense as a name that starts with “i” because “i” is for Internet and the Apple Tablet definitely will behighly used for internet surfing.

7) “iTouch” might be too close to “iPod touch”, I mean some people already erroneously call the iPod touch the “iTouch”.

8) Names relating to Netbooks. Well, “iBook” was already used before. Can Apple reuse it? I don’t know. Why not, the name’s been forgotten already, it could be brought back to life. Except if the device doesn’t open up like a book of course. So much for that.

So what can it be called? In the pre-iPhone days, folks had already guessed the name, so could it really be the “iTablet”? But what if it does have 1 moving part, something that would allow the device to tilt at a better viewing angle? Well, iTablet still works… but somehoe I think this blog post missed the real name they’ll choose.

Much harder than I thought! Anyone care to contribute? Tweet to @kosmatos

Piecing Together The Apple Tablet

Rumors of an Apple Tablet have been spiking lately, kind of like iPhone rumors did the year before the iPhone was released. Even so, the rumors discuss few details about the device. I couldn’t find any blog posts or articles that attempt to figure out what the tablet might really be like overall, so I decided to make the attempt myself.

In this attempt to figure out what the Apple Tablet might be, I observed the devices, services and software Apple has released in the past two or three years, and I listened to what Apple head honchos said. Also, I tried to think like Steve Jobs and the designers at Apple, not like a typical Windows or Linux geek. That means keeping things simple, elegant, in context and eliminating anything that’s not absolutely necessary in the first edition of a ground-breaking device.

Because this device, if it is what I think it is, would really be game-changing (pun intended).

Here’s my prediction, including all the most fundamental details about the device that I could think of.

Tim Cook, Apple COO, said in the latest Apple conference calls for stockholders, that Apple will not be making inexpensive netbooks with cramped keyboards, and that Apple will be doing their own thing. That, my friends, is because they are working on the Apple Tablet. Netbooks are great for surfing the web wirelessly and checking email. The Apple Tablet will be that, and so much more.

Steve Jobs said the first 30 years of personal computing was dominated by the mouse, the next 30 years is all about touch. Multi-touch. The Apple Tablet will be a 100% multi-touch device, just like the iPhone. It will use glass and aluminum, just like all the latest Apple devices. There will be no cramped keyboard, because the device’s on-screen keyboard will be as big as the Apple Wireless Keyboard’s, which has full sized keys. Assuming about a 0.25” margin from screen to edge, that means the tablet’s width has to be about 11 inches, and implies a height of about 8.25” to leave enough space for the rest of the application and have a paper-like form factor, which we’re used to.

How thin can this thing be? I won’t answer that prematurely. Sure, Apple has developed multiple recent technologies that will enable a really thin tablet. Aluminum Unibody construction allowing great rigidity in a thinner product, custom non-removable batteries that are spread throughout the device, and most importantly, the iPod touch and the iPhone. The Macbook Air is also important to note. But how thin the Apple Tablet will be really depends a lot on how powerful it needs to be.

So how powerful does it need to be? Before anything else can be said, an all-important issue has to be dealt with here and now. What operating system and what kind of applications will this thing run?

The operating system it will run is going to be far closer to iPhone OS than it is to OS X Leopard. I suppose it will be a new and distinct branch forked from iPhone OS.

Part of the reason Apple will use iPhone OS on the tablet instead of OS X has to do with the success of the iPhone App Store. It is too late to accomplish such a feat on Macs and PCs, users have come to expect being able to download and install whatever they want on their full-purpose computers. But the Apple Tablet won’t be a full-purpose computer like your powerful laptop or desktop computer. It can’t be, because not all applications are suitable for multi-touch, and doesn’t have to be, because there’s really no reason to reinvent most software for running on a tablet. So long story short, the only way to get software loaded onto the device (unless jailbroken) will be through the App Store. (Some geeks won’t like me for even thinking that, but hey, just don’t buy the tablet if you don’t like the restriction. Microsoft will eventually do it the “open” way so just be patient.)

The other part of the reason for using iPhone OS is that it doesn’t need all the bells and whistles of full OS X. Sure, you’ll be able to use the Apple Tablet to surf the web, do email, take notes, calendar, watch YouTube, buy and play music and movies, play some amazing multi-touch games alone or with a friend, or run a multitude of other application types that can (and have to be) be redesigned work on a multi-touch tablet. But don’t think that you’ll be able to use the device to develop software with, like using Xcode, or doing CAD, or running any other kind of software that doesn’t work in a multi-touch-only environment. This means that this computer doesn’t need to have nearly as powerful of a processor as your typical laptop, and doesn’t need the full OS of one, either.

Think about the iPhone. It has a rather wimpy processor by laptop and even netbook standards. Yet it can speedily run its applications on a 320×480 screen. An Apple Tablet wouldn’t necessarily need a much better CPU, just a better graphics processor to handle its higher resolution. Look at what Apple did with the Macbook Air, that device is a whole lot more powerful than an iPhone, yet the width goes from 0.16 to 0.75 inch, and that includes the keyboard. Now what if Apple only needed to pack half that power in there, and no keyboard? That would be more than enough power to run iPhone-style apps at 1600×1200 resolution and many times faster.

The Apple Tablet wouldn’t need the typical array of ports that full-purpose laptops and computers do. In fact, it could probably survive quite nicely with only a headphone jack and an iPod connector. That’s right, nothing else. Maybe an SD card reader, but no USB ports, ethernet, or built-in CD drive.

No moving parts. No stylus. Glass screen on one side, bottom on the other side. No removable battery.

Oh, this thing will definitely fit in a manila envelope. It’s going to be iPhone-thin or possibly even iPod touch-thin.

What do I mean, iPod connector? You really have to think about it as a complement to your full-purpose computers. As a complement, it doesn’t need to do everything itself. Sure, it could run the full iTunes app with all the music library-management features, but it won’t. The app you’ll be running on it to get your music playing will be called ‘iPod’ rather than ‘iTunes’. That’s right. Just like the Apple TV, you’ll be able to buy music on the Apple Tablet but you’ll be syncing that music with your main computer, just like you do with the iPhone and iPod.

But wait. Even though this device won’t be a replacement for some people’s full-purpose computer, it might in fact do enough to satisfy a large class of people. I mean, not everybody needs to develop software or run heavy-duty applications. The Apple Tablet will be the first non-mobile device for the masses that will be as easy to use as an iPhone.

Unlike other device manufacturers, Apple won’t release a tablet device that doesn’t come complete with a full complement of extremely usable, completely multi-touch optimized applications. Nobody else can really do this anyway, because they don’t have their own operating systems, and Windows 7 isn’t really a multi-touch operating system. Windows 7 is touch-enabled, but not touch-optimized. It isn’t really designed to fully run as a touch-only system (like Microsoft’s Surface is) and it doesn’t provide the fluid experience expected. Very few smooth scrolling physics-like effects in there. And don’t talk to me about Surface, because that’s not a mass-market device.

Let’s talk about multi-tasking. The Apple Tablet will have multi-tasking (as will the iPhone as soon as practical) but it won’t use a Windowing system. It will use the iPhone’s model of one app on screen at any given time. The OS X menu bar, as seen in depictions of the tablet on rumor sites, just won’t be there, that’s not even touch-enabled, let alone optimized for touch.

It will definitely have built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, since those connectivity options are absolute musts, but it might also have 3G capabilities, although I’m not so sure about that one because the iPhone already in your pocket has 3G and you can simply use your iPhone’s Bluetooth tethering to gain anywhere-internet access from your Apple Tablet.

And let’s not beat around the bush: You won’t be lifting this tablet to your face to make or answer a phone call. You’ll still be using your iPhone for that. That iPhone won’t be rendered obsolete. Which lends credibility to 3G by tethering as opposed to built-in 3G. It also makes me wonder what you’ll do when you need to snap a photo in order to get it into the tablet. What if the tablet only has a built-in camera on the same side as the screen, unlike the iPhone, but like Apple laptops do? That would be useful for the tablet’s iChat application but not great for taking photos. Then again, there’s always the iPhone in your pocket with that built-in camera and way easier experience than lifting your tablet up to snap a photo.

On this following particular point I’m venturing a little, but some of the many advances in multi-touch that didn’t make it on the iPhone might make it onto the tablet, such as the ability to detect your fingers from a small distance away from the screen, or other sophisticated sensor solutions which will help gain more accuracy from your fingers and give them some of the precision of a physical stylus. Don’t be surprised if Apple includes some of these types of innovations, they did similar things for the iPhone (proximity detector for your face for example).

Of course, unlike the iPhone, the browser on the Apple Tablet will have to support Flash in order to offer the most complete browsing experience possible on it.

I suppose smaller Apple Tablets will also be available later, with “cramped keyboards”.

I can envision a whole new class of two-player (or more) multi-touch games, played with the tablet placed between both players… inspiring indeed. There you have it, the Apple Tablet. Or at least, the Apple Tablet as it would be if I were CEO of Apple, which by the way, I’m not.

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