The iPad as a productivity tool

Bottom line? My first impressions of the iPad as a productivity tool are pretty good… In addition to Office tasks I also used SketchBook Pro and PhotoGene to both create and edit graphics and photos. Both allowed a degree of sophistication not found in their iPhone counterparts.

Pundits and reviewers alike are starting to realize (some of them begrudgingly) that the iPad is closer to a laptop replacement than they had thought was the case. To me it seemed obvious the iPad could do “serious work”.

I think for most geeks (i.e., the people who write and read these reviews), letting go of a laptop is a few iterations off. However, I believe the fact that it performs respectably for them means it can be a laptop replacement for millions of non-geeks. They just don’t know it yet.

Apple iPad Guided Tour Videos: Don’t Tell Me This Can’t Do Serious Work

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Apple posted iPad “Guided Tour” videos today. They’re all worth watching, but what strikes me most, just as it did during the original iPad announcement, is iWork.

I can’t understand how anybody can watch the videos for Keynote, Pages and Numbers and claim the iPad is “just a big iPod touch”. This device is going to change everything.

Columns, transitions, opacity, masking, photo cropping and alignment, text wrap, charts, graphs, and a boatload more features at the tip of your fingers. If you think this thing can’t do “serious work”, you’ve forgotten that serious work is ultimately measured by results, not how much of a geek or software master you had to be to create it.

iPad Can Import iWork or MS Office Files, But Export…?

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With Keynote on iPad, you can import Microsoft PowerPoint files and Keynote presentations.

And if someone emails you a Pages or Word document, you can easily import it into Pages for iPad — ready to review or edit.

So if someone emails you a Numbers or Excel file, you can easily import it into Numbers for iPad.
The above were nice things to see today in the descriptions of the iWork applications for iPad.

Though Apple had specified iWork on the iPad would open iWork Mac documents, there was some question about whether you could receive an MS Office file (say, via email) and bring it into the iWork suite. Apple answered that question today. 

In reading further, however, while all three apps export in PDF or iWork format, only Pages claims to export in MS Office (i.e., Word) format. This could put a crimp on collaboration. Will it be something they add later?

TAB – Pre-Macworld 2009 Thoughts and Rumors

The good news is that with the keynote almost upon us, the Mac community has switched primarily from crying about Jobs not giving the keynote to instead focusing on the usual rumors and speculation. This is as it should be.

I’ve written about what I think of the change from Jobs to Schiller for Apple’s last Macworld keynote, so let’s talk about what we may see tomorrow. So many rumors, so little time…

Read the rest of this article on theAppleBlog >>

Tech Headlines From The Last Week.

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More tech headlines to chew over, with my comments.

Nokia and Universal Give Away Music. Not!

So today Nokia announced a new service that allows those who purchase certain Nokia phones will be able to download music “free” for an entire year.

What kind of music? Well, it should come as no surprise that Universal is all over this, which makes it all the more clear that this music will hardly be free. This is simply the first fruit borne of Universal’s Total Music initiative, which I wrote about here.

This music is heavily DRM’ed — no subscription model can function without it. I suspect the idea that you still “own” it after the year is dependent upon one’s definition of the word “own”. I don’t think I’ll like Nokia/Universal’s definition.

When the full details come out, I bet we’ll discover that unless you continue a Nokia “Comes With Music” contract on a phone (in which case you’re still paying for the subscription), or never change the PC you’re using when the phone terms expire, you will lose the music. And good luck burning a CD.

There is simply no way Universal is going to let you download tunes for a year and keep them forever.

Sales of iWork do impact Microsoft.

There’s plenty of proof that iWorks 08 has been a hit. But some claim that even though it’s taken 16% of the Mac market it won’t effect sales of Microsoft’s Office come their new version in January (or whenever they ship it).

I don’t necessarily disagree that the number of copies sold won’t be impacted much. However, the profit on those sold will be impacted. Look at the deals MS has felt compelled to make on Office lately (e.g., Pro edition to students for only $69; buy Office low now and get Office 2008 for only $7.95).

Bottom line is iWorks doesn’t need to impact Office sales so much as profits. Office is a major cash cow for MS, and taking a bite out of that begins to reduce the free money MS gets to print.

Thurrott Loves the Kindle.

Paul Thurrott wrote a glowing review of the Amazon Kindle.

What bothers me about the review is that he glosses over the real vendor lock-in represented by the device, yet howls frequently about Apple’s alleged (but non-existant) “lock-in” with the iPod.

Another Apple-basher says Leopard’s just like Vista (*yawn*).

This is getting old. It started with the usual MS apologists (Wilcox, Thurrott, Foley), and now we have PC Magazine’s hit piece.

The article is ludicrous, and like most of them simply mentions a personal experience and what was found on various message message boards as “proof” that Leopard’s just as bad as Vista.

But what about all the great reviews of Leopard (even from non-Apple-friendly sources)? He simply doesn’t mention those. Well, I’ll correct his oversight. In fact, I already did so when calling other MS apologists on this silly argument (see the link for numerous links to great Leopard reviews).

And what about all the horrendous news about Vista (from the day it was released up to right now)? Well, he doesn’t mention those either. I’ll correct that as well; there’ve been so many I’ll just pick a few:

I picked the last three because they were written in the last four weeks. I did this in case an MS apologist wants to use the “Joe Wilcox” Vista defense. This is the claim that somehow all of Vista’s problems were early, and have since been cured (though Joe never specifies how they were cured). Well, he’s wrong. It still sucks.

It wouldn’t be hard to bring up another 40 or so articles praising Leopard or denouncing Vista or talking about them both where Leopard is judged superior.

Jermaine Dupri tells us what a good album is.

I’m a music lover, and I like albums, so reading this drivel was especially painful to me. A few thoughts on Mr. Dupri’s screed:

  • You do not get to define what a good or great album is. I would like to think that most artists who create an album at least think it’s good anyway, don’t they? Don’t they?
  • Only history can truly decide what albums are great, but good ones to the general public are noticed pretty readily. It’s already clear American Gangsta is not in that category.
  • So it sold 425,000 units? What’s your point? If singles were allowed it would have sold, what, 250,000 of those? That’s the equivalent of 25,000 more albums whose money you left on the table. And much more importantly, it’s as many as a quarter-million potential new fans to enjoy Jay Z’s music, perhaps attend a concert, buy more of his work, etc., all because they got to buy one song and then wanted more. Do you get it now? You didn’t just shutoff immediate sales, but people who could become actual fans.
  • To drive the above bullet point home, in case you didn’t get it: You need exposure. Selling a single song is a great way to gain that. What will you use instead, radio?
  • You cannot tell your customer how to consume your product. Not in this day and age. You’re as out of touch as the record labels whose credo you’ve adopted.

As for all the crap about how you guys created iTunes, blah, blah, blah, you’re delusional. Sure, iTunes (and Amazon, Walmart, etc.) have nothing to sell if you don’t produce, but without them who’s going to sell the stuff? You? Um, no. You need an outlet for sales, and you need to connect with your fans. Crapping all over iTunes while telling me it’s all or nothing for an album is not the way to do it.

Apple Mac Software: Spend much less (but get much more) than on a PC.

I wrote earlier about the lower price of the new iMac, but didn’t discuss how I’m able to spend less money on software, and yet get more, as opposed to a PC.

To explain this I’ll recount the primary software on my current Windows PC and the new Mac.

On the PC…

For photos, while Picasa and Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition are free, and quite nice, they’re not enough for me. I don’t need the features (or price) of Photoshop, but I clearly needed more than the freebies available. I ran 30-day demos of Paint Shop Pro and Adobe Photoshop Elements, and chose Photoshop Elements. Aside from sluggish performance and the organizer and editor being separate applications I’ve been happy with this choice.

For movies, none of the freebies for Windows XP were even passable. Awful stuff, really. I had run Pinnacle Studio, which I was happy with (Pinnacle is now a part of Avid), but for my latest PC I looked at Adobe Premiere Elements and opted to switch products. Like it’s photo sibling, I think its performance is weak but it’s otherwise a fine product.

Finally, there’s the obligatory productivity suite. Like most PC users I chose Microsoft Office. In my case, Office Basic Edition (Word, Excel and Outlook; no PowerPoint but I downloaded Microsoft’s free PowerPoint Viewer). Not having PowerPoint for editing was occasionally an issue, but I used another machine for those times.

The cost? Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements bundled for $149. Office Basic was also $149. That’s $300 for the “basic” software I needed right away, and I didn’t have PowerPoint.

On the Mac…

For photos, the previous iPhoto was better than the PC’s freebies, but still came up short for me. I may not use all of Photoshop Elements’ controls, but iPhoto’s editing functions were pretty spartan, and keywords were a bit weak. Since Adobe doesn’t care about the Mac’s Elements (still at 4.o when the PC’s had 5.0 for months) I was looking at Aperture. But iPhoto ’08 has changed all that. It borrowed from Aperture, with new controls for Shadows, Highlights, Noise Reduction and White Balance that are invaluable. There’s also a “gamma” slider in the Levels control, and you can Copy and Paste photo adjustments. Further, working with keywords is greatly improved. Those changes, along with other new functionality, will allow iPhoto to fill my needs. Score one for the freebies.

For movies, iMovie had some limitations compared to Premiere Elements, primarily only one video track, but I’ve never used multiple video tracks. It’s extremely capable for home movies, and iMovie ’08 looks even better. The new paradigm of easy clip selection/editing without resorting to a timeline appeals to me. So does the single library for all my shot video. Further, iMovie HD 6 is still available, so I can use both as needed. With iMovie I see no need for another movie app at this time. Score another for the freebies.

For productivity apps, I use spreadsheets and Apple’s suite didn’t have one. For that reason alone I was likely Office-bound. However, like Adobe, Microsoft doesn’t care about their Mac product, but now Apple has a bona-fide competitor. The new iWorks ’08 includes a spreadsheet and has Office document compatibility including 2007′s Open XML formats. Office costs more, is several years old (and won’t be upgraded for at least five months), does not support 2007 Open XML formats, and is still not a universal binary application. In my opinion this makes it a poor choice for anyone for which it isn’t mandated.

The cost? Photo and movie software included with the Mac. IWork ’08 for $79 (compare to $149 for Office Student and Teacher Edition).

And so…

If you’re keeping score, it’s $300 for my current “basics” PC software and $79 for the same thing on the Mac. Only it’s not “the same thing” on the Mac, it’s much better! It includes iWeb, Garageband, iDVD, and Keynote for which I currently have no direct PC equivalents. Sure, maybe I can buy PC equivalents, but then the software price delta becomes even greater. Simply put, the Mac is providing much more software, for much less money, and they all share data seamlessly!

Apple has worked hard to make software a key differentiator on their platform, and it shows. Not only the OS (which is just a means to an end when you think about it), but applications that people really use. This clear advantage took a huge leap forward with the new iLife and iWork suites. Software is yet another reason to strongly consider a Mac.