Monday, February 22, 2010

Jack of all trades, master of none

There has been a lot of heady things to talk about.  Obama announced that the stimulus worked last week, then a couple of days later we find that new unemployment claims jumped up again and "unexpectedly".  If this is the stimulus working, I would hate to see what would have happened without it.  Then this week we have the President's own national healthcare plan, with a nearly $1 trillion price tag, new government databases of your information, government oversight of insurance companies, but supposedly not a cent added to the deficit, even though at this writing it hasn't gone by the CBO. 

But I digress.  I'm feeling much less confrontational today.  Haven't talked tech for a while, and the announcement of the poorly named iPad a couple of weeks ago has set my mind a whirling.  My current phone is an older blackberry that was donated by my current boss.  The calender is the best I've found on a phone yet, and I don't have to press a number multiple times to get the right letter when texting or looking for a name in the phone book.  The feature that has gotten the most use (since I haven't been able to justify another $30 a month to get internet on it) is an ebook reader I found. (mobipocket if you're that interested).  It reads .txt files great, so Project Gutenberg is one of my best friends right now, and can even make some pdfs ungarbled enough to read.  Yet, because there is a ton of ebooks, mostly in pdf form on my hard drive, the Kindle and Pocket Reader are of great interest to me.  And of course, music is a necessity, and this particular BB model doesn't have an SD card slot, so there isn't enough memory to utilize it as an mp3 player.

What does this have to do with the iPad?  Well, like the iPhone before it, the iPad is being touted as a great Swiss Army knife gadget.  Internet, music, books, pictures, the whole nine yards.  But I start thinking is how well does it do all these things?  Is it better for surfing the web than your laptop?  Does it offer a better music listening experience than your mp3 player?  Is the phone (for the iPhone) better than your regular, more dedicated device?  Do any of these wonderful, one in all toys really perform their jobs better than three or four dedicated devices?  If not, is the performance loss worth the convenience of the single device, a serious issue when we look to the iPad because that thing ain't fitting in your pocket, and I don't think we've quite reached the age of the man-purse.

I will readily admit that I would rather carry a couple of devices that do things well for everyday use, and save the super device that does everything for special occasions.  When more internet access is needed than the phone offers, that's what laptops and free hotspots are for.  Same goes for music and reading.  Maybe that's just me.  Maybe the whole thing delves into the current "instant gratification" mindset we're running into nowadays...whoops, said I was going to stay light this time around.  Anyway, we've seen "all that and a bag of chips" devices go down hard over the years.  Any one remember the Ngage?  (crickets) There's a reason for that, it tried to be a phone and a gaming system, and by all accounts, did pretty poorly at both. Why is the PSP so far behind the DS in the handheld market?  IMHO, because the PSP is trying too hard to be a great catch all device for games, movies, music and internet instead of picking one thing, maybe two and doing those better than anyone else. 

Granted, right now this is all strictly a question of academics.  I'm not getting an iPad or iPhone anytime soon, or a Kindle or a Zune.  But that's ok.  It's much more fun trying to get these darn electronics to do what you want it to than knowing it does everything out of the box.  The joy of overcoming those limits beats the convenience of no limits.  Maybe....nah better save that one for a more serious entry too.  :-D

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