iPad 2. First Impressions

So I got myself an iPad 2, to be precise the one with integrated 3G, in order to be connected everywhere.

Why, you may ask, did I do that? Why didn’t you buy a nice honeycomb tablet?
Or a MeeGo tablet, like that good old WeTab? Well, first of all, I have been noticing that I have noticed that I have become real picky about bad usability, and Honeycomb IMHO isn’t that great in terms of that – and as I felt like I would need 3G for my use case, the otherwise o.k. HP TouchPad didn’t seem exactly suitable.
Besides, I am now in the media business and at least as far as the German market is concerned, the iPad is currently THE content platform – almost the only.

When I unboxed it, I became very excited, after having installed iOS 5 on this device, I knew I had entered the often mentioned reality distortion field, that Apple devices are known to impose on their users.

Right now, as I am writing this, I am less than overwhelmed, as I stumbled on a few annoyances, despite those that I expected anyway (iTunes, being forced to spend money in the App Store to have an usable device after all, there isn’t even a voice recorder preinstalled), and so on. The most annoying thing I stumbled upon: if an app (or media file in iTunes) is larger than 20 MB, you will be forced to download this over WiFi, which simply doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I can’t understand why this is so, as downloads in the browser work nicely without any hassle, no matter how large the requested files are – while a warning would certainly be nice to those with a very limited data plan, being forced to find a hotspot near you is a real PITA.

On the other hand, everything is really smooth. I had a few apps that didn’t work too well (itself or in combination with that new split keyboard), some even crashed, but that maybe related to the new features and thus changes Apple introduced with iOS 5. In general, everything’s smooth, and those Music and painting apps are something I’ve been longing for for quite a long time, so I really enjoy that.

But then, there are those mixed feelings again, because of all these limitations, the fact, that I miss certain open source apps and know that it’s virtually impossible to ever use them on this device (more unlikely than it would be on Android, whether it would even be easily doable on the HP TouchPad using the homebrew software Xecutah) – I don’ t really know whether I will actually keep this tablet, which doesn’t lead the tablet market for no reason.

I will keep you updated about me and my iPad – don’t worry, it won’t be more often then, say, monthly.

Smartphones (and, now, tablets) have limited CPU cycles, memory, and battery life. Tight integration between hardware and software is essential for squeezing maximum performance out of these limited resources, and the Web sandbox imposed a serious performance hit.

Timothy B. Lee for arstechnica.com

This pretty much sums up why webOS has performance issues sometimes. They are there by design.

Breaking news: TIZEN is LiMo+MeeGo+HTML5

It´s a nice day, the weather in Munich is awesome, but I am staying in during lunch break to write this article on what just happened today.

Today Tizen was announced. Tizen is yet another Linux based operating system, which replaces (read: probably merges) LiMo and MeeGo into one common platform which is supposed to be optimized for HTML5 apps.

While MeeGo relying pretty heavily on Qt and LiMo was known for it´s use of GTK+ (in its fourth release GTK+ was joined by EFL, but as there are no known devices build around the LiMo r4 platform, let´s forget this here ;) ), this is a change to, let´s call it “Linux + Something (doesn´t really matter, as all of the afore mentioned Toolkits/Frameworks include their own flavour of WebKit) + WebKit.

The first release of Tizen, which is backed by Intel, Samsung, The Linux Foundation and most likely other players is going to be released alongside an SDK in the first quarter of 2012. Tizen is meant to run on a variety of different classes of devices, namely Smartphones, Tablets, Netbooks, In-Vehicle Infotainment Systems and Smart TVs.

Comment

I am not really sure what to make out of all this. It feels like an insane stunt. While it certainly makes sense to merge two foundering platforms, the HTML5 move seems odd and nothing else, considering that webOS, which was build using these exact technologies, is dying, partly because of its extensive use of these technologies which simply aren´t that mature yet (webOS always had speed issues). There is one more concern: Is there the room for yet another platform? With Windows 8 coming to ARM, Android being really huge and still growing (despite all the issues it is facing), there is not that much room for another player, as Apple has a large share of the market, too.And then there is Chrome OS, which is basically a glorified web browser, a competitor which may be (when first mass market aimed Tizen devices will surface, it will likely be late 2012 or 2013) different and stronger than we expect it to be right now.

However, I wish the new Tizen project the very best luck and success, because I believe that the market and the users need a truly open alternative. Tizen could fill this vacancy, let´s hope it will do!

SOURCE: Tizen.org, MeeGo, LiMo

HP announces to kill webOS devices, looks for licensees

Imagine you were spending a day at work lifting boxes and while doing so you would think of what kind of blog article you were going to write later that day. This article would be an announcement, that you were going to write about some kind of a product, say a HP Pre 3 in the future because you just made the decision to get this device as your next primary phone. Later that same day, right before sitting down to write that aforementioned article, you would check twitter and see rumors of the very company making that very product was going to discontinue that, and not only that but the whole range of devices using the same software platform.


Well, this is what happened to me today. And you know what? I will buy a Pre3, anyway.

This was quite a long introduction to a rather sad story. HP has, about 16 month after purchasing Palm, decided that they will stop producing webOS devices later this year. While this doesn´t neccessarily mean that webOS is all dead, this is sad news for me as a person that likes choice and loves Linux, and most importantly, loves webOS.

I haven´t been happy with HPs progress with webOS anyway, but this news is a huge disappointment, especially because it always felt like that HP hadn´t really started to push webOS forward: The Pre2 was a lot, but definitely not too exciting and little more than a ruggedized and sped up Pre (Plus), the Veer has this special form factor which doesn´t make it too attractive for many (even though it has become really cheap recently here in Germany – you have to pay a little more than 150 EUR) and the Pre3 is just being launched. HPs TouchPad isn´t a flawless product, but it´s nice – initial pricing was way of and the fact that it was released in what one may call a pre beta stadium is a real disappointment. These are all the products HP has launched, 3 of them only very recently and yet they are pulling the plug. Knowing something about business I do understand that measures are possible this early, but seriously: They didn´t launch one exciting smartphone and postponed the one, that could have been exciting for more than six months, they released a tablet which, in terms of look and feel, is unfortuntely inferior to the first iPad (Samsung somehow managed to quickly crank out an even thinner Galaxy Tab 10.1 in about the same time it took HP from announcing to selling the TouchPad) – it´s all a sad story. And the software: I would have hoped for HP to move forward at a faster pace there, too.

I could start to critisize HP webOS even more, but I will do so, when I´ve got the Pre3 – if necessary. I like this software, and webOS is a weak platform right now, which doesn´t need any harsh words – it needs (and deserve) soft care instead. Just saying: Even with the flawed Pre Plus hardware (which is already a lot better than the original Pre) I love to use webOS for its ease of use that you feel once you are used gestures and cards. HP, btw, announced a purchase and that they are actively considering to externalize their PC business – this day could be the day that marks the end of HP as we know it. I, for one, feel like Léo Apotheker is trying to make HP another SAP – I may be wrong there, but seriously, I believe most of you didn´t see as HP as a software company until now.

The future is open, it will always be. I am excited to get my hands on the HP Pre3 and hope for some licensees that will crank out the kind of products webOS needs to become what it maybe could not become with hardware made by HP / Palm: A Success.


SOURCES / RECOMMENDATIONS TO READ ON:
thisismynext (the fellows that will become “The Verge”) have a great live blog of HPs Q3 2011 earnings call
thisismynext: HP killed webOS devices

Application Recommendation: pReader Native

There is one big reason besides surfing and gaming that people are interested in tablets: Reading. Be it magazines or books, be it readers or publishing houses, everybody is exited about the new opportunities of digital publishing.

Actually you don´t need a tablet or a special ereader device to read on a mobile device. You can read on your smartphone, too. While there are many options on Android (including the brilliant open source application FBreaderJ) , it boils down to a few on webOS.

One of these applications is the GPLv3 licensed pReader Native (SourceForge.net / PreCentral thread), which is available in Preware (or via webOSQuickInstall). It is a rewrite of the original pReader application (which was homebrew, too), using the PDK features introduced with webOS 1.4.5.

pReader native supports many popular E-Book formats, ePub, eReader (including DRM), PalmDOC + plain text. Installing via Preware shouldn´t be to difficult, if you don´t have Preware yet on your webOS device, get it quick, it´s really worth it.

pReader works nicely. The UI may not be as fancy as the iBooks UI, but the application just works as it should, uses stock webOS UI widgets and thus doesn´t break the look and feel. Settings are plenty, you can set colors and scrolling options – everything I need is there. Reading on the Pre works nicely with pReader Native – because the Pres’ display is bright and has an acceptable pixel density.

Screenshots:

MWC2011: Day 1

Platforms (software):

  • Intel shows off MeeGo tablet UX on ExoPC/WeTab platform (Atom N450): mobile bloggers not too impressed: Lot of potentital, but not much progress on UX side since Computex (probably because Intel and Nokia focused on the “below UX” parts of the platform first): Impressions on Engadget, Carrypad, Laptopmag, @chippy´s audioboo 1 2
  • Intel furthermore stated that there will be a Medfield phone this year – the device they showed ran Android, though: Carrypad
  • @charbax (ARMDevices.net) was told by an unnamed source that Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) will also run on cheap tablets (ARM11). It remains to be confirmed, but due to Androids open nature this sounds highly likely and it is nice to see that those initial “Honeycomb will only work on Dual Core ARMv7” bullshit rumors are what they are: Bullshit. Furthermore, this makes cheaper tablets like the SmartQ N7 a lot more interesting.
  • Alien Dalvik by Myriad apparently running quite nicely on MeeGo: @chippy´s audioboo Isn´t going to be available for end users (due to it´s rather low level nature and monetization, I assume), but I am sure that once it shipped on a device or leaks out people will try to integrate it into webOS or LiMo, too.
  • LiMo foundation announces the 4th release of its platform, featuring multi touch and 3D effects, while going on to build on GNOME software – first devices to be out in summer: press release 
  • Windows Phone 7 2011 future: CDMA, Copy and paste in March (engadget); IE9, multi-tasking, twitter integration later this year (engadget) – multi-tasking UI looks surprisingly like webOS´s cards, well, Microsoft have always been good at reimplementing the ideas others had before, haven´t they? Adding the recent Nokia partnership to this, counting out this platform would be overhasty.

(Noteworthy) Devices:

  • LG Optimus 3D, OMAP 4, 4,3” glasses free 3D smartphone: ARMdevices.net
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, nVidia Tegra 2 based Google experience tablet: ARMdevices.net
  • Samsung Galaxy S2, 4.3” WVGA, 1GHz dual-core Samsung Exynos Cortex A9 with ARM Mali 400 graphics: ARMdevices.net

More tomorrow.

Pre-MWC speculations & more

What we’ll see at this years MWC won’t be too surprising. Top level smartphones will feature dual core ARMv7 SoCs with fullHD capable graphics; WVGA will be replaced with higher resolutions in these devices (qHD or “Retina”(DVGA)-displays, 1GB of Ram will acompnie these.

The software side might be more interesting, I hope for some MeeGo smartphones that will actually make it to the market – even though this has become a lot less likely with Nokia’s WP7 announcement. Regarding webOS, the only news that might come up are carrier partnership announcements, and Android? Second Gingerbread release with some Honeycomb bits pulled in? Possible.

Personal I am not too interested in all these new devices, as I don’t have the dough to buy any of these now – and besides that I am much more interested in getting a tablet device to replace my netbook.

Nontheless I will buy another smartphone very soon – and this will be exiting. (Maybe it’s on my Android ports list.. Feel free to guess.)

HP kills “Palm” brand, presents S, M, L sized webOS 2.0 devices

HP held a great announcement event yesterday, which was all about webOS, the mobile OS running atop a linux kernel, which I find quite likable, even though parts of it aren’t open source. The UX is just great, webOS offers the user true multi tasking – it’s not only the cpu which runs multiple processes or tasks, webOS offers a great way to switch tasks really simple and fast – Android really can’t compete on that front, and iOS either.

Let’s start with the smallest newcomer (and thus Pixi (Plus) successor), the HP Veer, which, while still featuring the same 2.6” 320×400 screen now looks like a down-sized Pre, making it form factor wise a 15mm thick credit card. Most importantly the internals have been bumped up – while storage is still the same as with the Pixi Plus before, HP cramped some more horsepower into the little thing, making it a real smartphone: The SoC bump (QC MSM 7230 vs. QC MSM 7225) doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a real 800MHz second generation Snapdragon with Adreno 205 graphics and thus a huge improvement, RAM is said to be similar to the Pre2 – it should be around 512 MB which should be enough for serious multitasking – if only your hands are small enough to feel comfortable with this 5MP camera ;-).

Moving on to M size, aka Pre3, which will be available in an EVDO/CDMA flavour (Veer HS(D)PA/GSM only).
As the M indicates, this thing is bigger, and it is bigger than the earlier Pre devices, as the 3.6” sized WVGA (as opposed to 3.1” HVGA before) indicates. Looking at the internals, RAM is said to remain about the same – but it’s now a Snapdragon inside (before TI OMAP 3 3430/3630) – the model number is 8655 (EVDO/CDMA) respectively 8255 (HSPA/GSM) here – and that means 2nd gen Snapdragon here, too – but this time clocked at 1.4GHz. The camera remains at 5MP, but gains autofocus and HD Video recording – and there will be a secondary, front facing camera for video telephony) While the Veer is said to be out in spring, the other webOS 2.2 running portrait slider, the Pre3, will be out in summer – which makes sense, as the first webOS 2.0 device, the Pre2, is available in the US on Verizon from today on.

The tablet device (aka L sized according to HP (I believe it’s 9.7” screen makes this rather XL or even XXL) is much like the iPad – with better specs: about a gigabyte of Ram, a dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU sounds like quite some horsepower, and it’s got some more fascinating features like a camera – the screen is just plain XGA (if iPad2 will have the rumored 2048×1536 pixel “Retina” screen, this will .um.. suck – as both will be out in summer). The name is pretty generic, it’s Touchpad, overall this is a tablet running webOS in its third mayor iteration (no gesture area, btw), which might turn out nice if HP manages to communicate the advantage of their solution – I will just mention the great synchronization with webOS phones here (I am typing this on my G1 and don’ t feel like looking up buzzwords).

All devices feature the same design language which surfaced first with the Pixi and its flat surface and was since refined with the Pre2. And there is on point, that I do not like too much about all of them, and which is really bad on the Pre3 and the Touchpad, considering that these are HPs top notch products: Storage. 8 GB or 16GB on the Pre3, which most likely doesn’t, just like its predecessors, feature a microSD slot really sounds like a bad joke – 16GB / 32 GB would have been much more adequate. It’s the same for the Touchpad, 32GB/64GB would have been appreciated. Please HP, if possible, fix this before you really ramp up production.

Having mentioned that HP plans to bring webOS to PCs, too (As a layer on top of Windows? As an Instant On System? They didn’t say.), these are some nice new things, and HP really seems to be devoted to push webOS – which is great, if only they keep the platform as slick as it is and don’t mess it up.

And guess what: They kinda mess it up: J. Rubinstein stated that the promised webOS 2.0 update for legacy webOS devices won’t happen – the community seems to be upset. HP says that it the Hardware wasn’t good enough to run webOS – while the webOS 2.0 might really stink on a Pixi, it most certainly wouldn’t on a Pre Plus. Probably this is the time to port Android to the Pre(+)… it should run just fine.

Prē only – Days 5 to 12

It’s about time to give an update on how my feelings on the Palm Prē are after using it exclusively for a time close to two weeks. After I found out how to switch to 2G only mode (which doesn’t hurt at all, as I have been wasting the 200 megabytes that run fast pretty fast (thanks to tethering)) battery standby time has become good enough to make using the Prē quite a pleasure. Even though apps are limited (exspecially for me, as I don’t have a credit card and can’t purchase any paid apps), thanks to the pleasant web experience (web rendering speed is fast) and the best multitasking experience I have ever had on a mobile device. After all this time I suddenly feel like I got used to the bits I didn’t find before, because I simply wasn’t used to the way webOS, I really don’t miss Androids menu button no more. What I still miss a little bit (but only a little bit) is a softkeyboard for the landscape mode which works like androids soft keyboard (tap the text area and up it pops). That would be cool, but I got used to what was so annoying at first: slide to have a hardware keyboard, and of course my typing has become faster as well.

Besides that, I did some testing to confirm the experience, that webOS’s browser version is not the latest. HTML5 Browser Test result is 132 points (plus 5 bonus points) out of 300 possible – your average stable Google Chrome (5.0.375.125) does a 197 (plus 7 bonus points). In particular this results difference is shown in webOS lacking support of most HTML5 section elements (all besides nav), several form element types and attributes, a session history management, support for web applications, geolocation and webworkers. We’re told that all this will be fixed with webOS next major overhaul, webOS 2.0 – HP / Palm is going to follow the web, as stated several times, e.g. in this Palm Developer Podcast. – which are an interesting watch if you are really interested in webOS or even just contemporary web development, but you’ll need some knowledge, I as a web layouter and maybe designer (but not really web developer, though I am trying to get into that), I struggled to understand more than just terms from time to time.

More will follow soon..