Saturday, September 11, 2010

iAds might both “fail” and “succeed.”

I just read an interesting blog post by Mac developer Manton Reece titled I hope iAds fails (via DF).

He makes two very good points:

  1. “If you are not paying for it, you‘re not the customer; you‘re the product being sold.”
  2. “I don‘t want to see ads in my apps, and I don‘t want Apple to ever lose even a little of what it means to be a product-driven company.”

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment, but I think he’s missing an important part of the picture.

When Apple first announced its iAds advertising program, I joined the nerd herd and assumed they were trying to head Google off at the pass. Google clearly thinks that in-app advertising is going to be a big deal, and as the dominant advertising-engineering company (AdEng? AE?) they want to control that market. Google paid $750 Million for AdMob, a company pursuing exactly that aim and one which Apple reportedly also wanted to buy.

Yes, that would be a terrible outcome for users and indie developers alike. If people get used to ad-supported apps, it will be much harder to sell small apps, and small apps are the foundation of the ecosystem. And, of course, the user experience will be severely degraded for most types of application.

But I now think that’s unlikely, and I further think Apple is on to something more interesting (and arguably more innovative) than Google’s subtlety-of-napalm approach to advertising.

There are, I believe, three interesting scenarios where in-app advertising is essential to the very concept, and by no means a bad thing for users. Whether it destroys user experience in these cases depends on the interaction design, not the concept itself.

First: Apps that are really about shopping.

Take, if you will, BabyCenter. Here is a web site that is sort of about community (an online network of people expecting or having or raising children). Maybe it’s even good at that. But this is undeniably also a site that aims to aggregate people who need and want to buy stuff of a certain sort. The web site makes it very clear that this is what they’re about, and they even have an online store of their own. There is nothing wrong with this, and BabyCenter is very open about it.

How should a BabyCenter App make its money? By charging people to download it — people who, after all, are just as likely to go there because they need stuff as for any other reason? Or should they help connect eager purchasers to eager sellers? (The BabyCentrists have two iPhone apps in the App Store already, one paid and one free, but no BabyCenter app per se.)

Have you looked at LookBook? There’s a concept that would be great as an iPad app, and it would be almost criminally negligent to exclude the advertisers. And for their demographic, it’d be smart to make it a free app: the kids need to save money for clothes!

There are many more, but you get the idea already. Some things are simply about shopping, even if they might be complexly about something else too.

Now the question is: what sort of ads should those be? Should they be high-quality, unobtrusive, Apple-style ads? Or should they be ugly, creepily prescient, Google-style ads?

Second: Apps that are ads themselves.

More and more Hollywood movies, TV shows, and other entertainment products have supporting apps these days. It seems to be the horrifically bloated interactive Flash site of the new era. And the kids, apparently, will download such stuff.

It seems obvious that the ad-as-app should also have in-app ads. You already have the brand loyalty, since after all they downloaded your ad-as-app. Why not make an extra buck selling them something else?

The only catch is that you probably don‘t want to sell your competitor‘s stuff. I assume Apple will give you some control over that.

This category of app may seem superfluous, but remember when you were young and fannish yourself. There‘s nothing new about hawking and extra bauble to the already-sated shopper.

Third: Newspapers and Magazines.

Of the three areas where I see in-app ads as essential, one stands out as both obvious and difficult: ”print“ ads.

Consider this: you can subscribe to the New Yorker for under a buck an issue. They sell about a million copies each week. And this would be completely unsustainable without ad revenue.

I think the App Store gives us a chance to finally have high-quality magazines on portable devices, and I‘m impressed with some of the early efforts (cf. Popular Mechanics). But even though I‘m happy to pay for them, I can‘t imagine that business working without ads.

That‘s the obvious part. The difficult part is that, thus far, nobody has made this work. I would even argue that it has not worked for magazine web sites, though the Wall Street Journal has apparently done pretty well with a subscriptions-and-ads model.

This has got me thinking. If you remember the iPad introduction, you will remember that Apple is very keen on the iPad being used as a platform for high-quality publishing. The New York Times had an app available at launch, but it turned out to be a strange and indecisive beast: the ”Editor‘s Choice“ offers very little content, and has highly obtrusive, poorly designed, in-house ads, and costs nothing even though this is the strongest brand in American periodicals.

I believe there are two big reasons why this hasn‘t yet worked out as planned. First, magazine publishers generally lack the technical expertise to make good technology choices (let alone develop software). Second, they have no idea how to approach the new ad market. Their traditional approach is simply too inefficient; and yet they are reluctant to cede any control.

Of these, the first problem will solve itself with time, as there are more people who can design and build a solid app. The Guardian, for example, has a good iPhone app and a good web site, even though they‘re not yet on the iPad.

The second problem, though, requires major partners for the major print media. Google has not yet established itself as a good partner for high-quality ads, and Apple is attacking that market as opposed to the long-tail advertising market Google effectively monopolizes.

It‘s starting to seem obvious, at least to me, that Apple is much more interested in using its ad platform as a profitable carrot with which to bring serious publishers to its devices. I think Apple believes the numbers will speak for themselves, and publishers will be happy with Apple‘s cut if it gives them Apple‘s quality. This is especially important for major lifestyle brands. And if they go in-house or switch to another ad provider later, Apple still wins, with more and better content on iPad.

If small publishers can also benefit from this, so much the better. And if people are going to put ads in random apps, Apple wants to at least have a shot at mitigating the user-experience failure and getting a bit of cash along the way. But I really do not believe Apple is trying for an ad in every app.

Plenty of room left for innovation.

Apple and Google are going to be the big players in app ads out the gate, but there is still room for innovation.

Apple doesn‘t play the long-tail game with any seriousness. And Google doesn‘t do aesthetic quality (in fact they are virulently indifferent to it).

That suggests one clear niche market. And because you can plug in ad content in apps though a variety of technologies, neither Apple nor Google can establish any technical barrier to entry.

Another place I see startups, or at least studios, emerging is around truly interactive ads. Call them ads-as-games. The iPad, and perhaps some day its competitors, give you an amazing level of creative freedom. And that means you can push boundaries, if you know how. The publishers don‘t know how, nor do the traditional ad agencies.

While some people will just churn out multi-platform content from their publishing workflow and use whatever is easiest or that, user experience be damned (cf. Wired), others (cf. Pop Mech) will try to lead the pack through innovation. And they will want advertising content that helps them keep that lead.

The danger & the seduction.

As a loyal Apple customer, I want them to stay focused on products, not ads.

As a potential app developer, I want the App Store ecosystem to remain healthy and profitable for independents who want to sell their best work to real customers.

But as a potential iPad publisher — I‘m thinking seriously about starting an iPad magazine for fun and profit — I want a one-stop shop if possible. I would have to deal with Apple anyway for all financials and metrics of the distribution process. I could save a lot of headache by just plugging into their ad network and having it all integrated.

I‘m still not sure that‘s any better for the consumer. I trust Apple to have high-quality ads, but I don‘t trust them at all to have depth. I definitely trust Google to have the depth, because they will find a way for Aunt Minnie‘s Tin-Can Cookie Cutters to get into the stream at $3 a click, but of course their quality will be uneven. I hope that innovative startups will bridge this gap.

I do think there is already a precedent for high-quality, ad-free, reasonably-priced paid apps in the App Store. And I think there is enough momentum behind that, and so much potential in this class of devices, that it will not be broken by ad-riddled crapware any time soon.

Thus I think it‘s possible, and maybe desirable, for iAds to "fail" in terms of undermining paid apps, while also succeeding for both Apple and publishers in helping finally port the print-magazine revenue paradigm to the digital world.

And I think there are other things besides traditional publishing that would benefit, and whose users would benefit, from a high-quality in-app advertising system.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Really Scary Gulf of Mexico Scenario That Might Be Plausible.

I followed a blog link - I already forgot whence - to an "article" on Mother Jones magazine doing several things Mother Jones is good at:

  1. Pointing us to something really interesting elsewhere.
  2. Quoting extensively without bothering to follow up.
  3. Sensationalizing a bit to increase page views.
  4. Adding no other value whatsoever to the discussion.
  5. Attracting commenters who engage in passionate meta-arguments.
  6. Attracting commenters who wish for the apocalyptic end to everything, somehow naively assuming they will not be eaten by my livestock weasels when Anarchy finally descends.

I realize the burden of passionate leftism is hard to bear if you don't happen to be South American, but hey, since when did Communists believe in Journalism? And who cares, if the end is nigh? Seriously, it might be.

Are you curious yet? Have you already gone and googled it?

OK, so let's have some more background. But only a bit. I've been thinking lately about scale as it applies to our current British Petroleum-induced nightmare. In short, we're thinking about the wrong sort of scale. A bunch of corporate geologists punched a hole in the bottom of the ocean, and it's leaking oil. We need to think in terms of geologic scale.

What if our little corporate geologist hole keeps leaking for four more years, nonstop, without any sign of abating? Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Four years? WTF?!

Go ask the folks in East Java how they like their mud. MUD. Oh yeah, and the mud is freely accessible, open-air mud, not five thousand feet below the friggin' ocean mud.

So, my point, which I freely admit I wouldn't be qualified to make if BP and the US Government weren't lying through their clenched teeth and enforcing a data blackout, is that we may be radically overestimating our ability to control this situation. And the scale on which it works itself out may be deeply uncomfortable for us: think hundreds of years without any fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, think permanent abandonment of all the relevant shorelines and as far inland as the hurricanes drop their black oily rain.

Even if I pretend BP is telling something resembling the truth, I think that all sounds eminently possible.

But here's a way scarier idea: What if the BP well is broken deep under the sea bed, and it's going to turn into some kind of massive expanding undersea gusher in the highly likely event that BP fails to relieve the pressure? What if the most optimistic version of success would still vastly increase the amount of oil being spilled? What if "bleeding" the well at, say, double the current release rate, for the rest of our lives, is the absolute best we can hope for?

Yep, that's the conjecture I ran into on the Innernets.

Here's the link you've been waiting so patiently for, thanks to the source, The Oil Drum.

Read the comments. Keep in mind that it's a largely anonymous forum in which both experts and paranoid cranks can be found. But of course also keep in mind that Tony Hayward is going to have to shoot his way out of the bank if he wants to live in anything other than infamy, and he's controlling your access to the truth accordingly.

I can see two potential upsides to this: first, it might maybe be the wake-up call to the dangers of our petroleum addiction, and thus trigger a real energy revolution; and second, there's no way in Hell we can fight two foreign wars while we deal with this.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A strange feeling about Google.

I have this strange feeling about Google. About how they seem dead-set on competing with Apple everywhere they can, even though they're really terrible at the things Apple is good at. And even though Apple isn't particularly good at the things Google is good at. And even though Google has such a mind-numbingly large head start in their two crucial technologies - search and contextual ads - that a company like Apple most likely can't pose any kind of existential threat any time soon, even if they do end up dominating the "rich mobile ad" market. Google was never any good at rich media ads to begin with.

The feeling: it's as if Schmidt went to a board meeting at Apple one day and a lightbulb went on above his confused little head, and he heard a choir of angels on a stack of pinheads say: they're making serious money with this shit! We can do that too!

But the thing is, on the evidence they actually can't.

Google has already proven, with YouTube, that it's perfectly willing to lose billions of dollars, and possibly never recover them, preventing someone else from dominating a potentially lucrative market that might be a good match to Google's talents. But in this case you already have a leader, the market's already proven very lucrative for that leader just as it was for the pack that leader just displaced, and there's very little overlap - possibly none at all - with Google's in-house talent. Not to mention there's a little company up in Redmond that's going to take its gloves off as soon as it can find the laces; and there's a little company in Palo Alto that just placed a small bet on following Apple's lead.

I'm curious what's going to become of Google's efforts here. I could easily see them spending many billions of dollars, which they do of course have, just to somehow stay in the game. But remember, Google makes money on advertising. It would be so much cheaper for them to simply extend their domination of that market into the mobile world.

I suppose it's at least theoretically possible to beat Microsoft and Apple at the same time, each on their home turf. But it's a little like racing your sailboat against Larry Ellison: are you really sure you've got the silicon cojones for that?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Early iPad Impressions

I just got back from a trip to Italy. While there I ate a lot of salted pig parts and picked up a shiny new iPad - and by shiny of course I mean smudgy. No, the Italians have not figured out now to make iPads out of salted pig parts and finely worked leather: I had a private courier bring it over. Here now are some initial impressions of the Jesus Tablet.

Smudgy and Reflective

The first two things I noticed about the iPad - literally before I turned it on - were its oleophilic qualities and the mad reflectiveness of its screen. As a MacBook user I long ago made peace with the reflectiveness, though I do wonder whether there isn't some kind of overlay one could use to make that go away, for example when writing in anything other than a dark tunnel. The iPad continues this Apple trend, and seemingly pushes it further. But then, the backlight is so powerful your experience is usually one of "wow this screen is gorgeous," except when it's not, and then you're shading the thing and trying angles like a geometry teacher and seeing little but your own self.

Oh, but did I say oleophilic? Isn't that supposed to be oleophobic as in repelling the oil of your dirty, dirty fingers? Isn't a single wipe across your equally dirty jeans all that's needed to make the iPad all shiny and hygienic again?

In a word: no.

This thing is a fingerprint magnet, a smudge magnet, and as such quite unsettling at certain angles. And while it's relatively easy to get it nice and clean, it's not a one-wipe operation: with a good glasses cloth it took me about 30 seconds to get the bugger fully clean. Clean enough to not bother me is another story: I get there in about 5-10 seconds with any old cotton cloth. Except of course the one I keep soaked in turpentine: don't want to mix any finger oil in there.

Fortunately, with the brightness of the screen you usually don't even notice the smudges. But even though I have no plans to share this iPad - mine mine mine! - I have a feeling I'll be giving it a good scrubbing once a week and also whenever I take it out of the house. Otherwise it just looks... icky.

As my private courier was testing the device in the US and is a mysophobe, I'm very lucky the iPad wasn't soaked in hand sanitizer for an hour after sneaking through customs.

And Yet So Much The Future

Smudges and reflections pretty much complete my complaints about the iPad's industrial design, and I even think the reflection problem is probably beatable. Beyond that, I think this is so obviously the mid-term future of general-purpose computing devices that it's laughable to think of "normal" people using anything else for their immediate computing needs.

The lack of a camera is puzzling only until you have an iPad in hand. Then you realize you'd never really want to take pictures with it. Video chat would of course be grand. We all expect a front-facing camera in the next version, and I strongly suspect they only left it out in order to have a single "must-have" upgrade feature in a year.

I encounter quite a lot of people, mostly online, asking "why not a Netbook?" Well, for me of course, and for my class of user - tech professionals, basically - it's really about which thing is the more useful extra computer. I have three laptops, two of them professional-grade; access to hundreds of servers at work; two smartphones and one dumbphone; and an iPad. This is by no means unusual in my line of work. And weirdly, the loudest anti-iPad, pro-Netbook voices are coming from people like me, for whom the issue is only about replacing the last in a chain of devices. Yes, it's true: you're never going to compile a Linux kernel in your hotel room on an iPad. But why would you want to? Ever heard of AWS?

So that leaves the other 99.5% of the developed world, for whom the iPad seems a great option as a second, portable computer (where the first might also be portable actually); and for many of whom it's more than sufficient as an only computer.

Remember that almost everything you're not satisfied with can be improved by Apple and provided in a free update. Including the need for another computer through which to get the updates. And I think that's the future: an iPad, or if you like an HP WebOSPad or an HTC DroidPad; and basta if you are not an actual professional producer of either code or some other crazily CPU-intensive product such as video. Even casual videographers will one day just have a tablet and a camera. Whatever they call "HTML Programmers" now, they'll need only an iPad. Ditto every garage bandista.

People Who Need No Computer Other Than a 2011 iPad

A partial list, assuming the iPad is fully untethered and has a videochat camera and a year's worth of software updates. Other devices might also fit the bill; I really hope they do, but I'm not holding my breath for five years.

  1. Journalists, including Bloggers
  2. Salespeople
  3. System Administrators
  4. Chefs
  5. Doctors
  6. University Students
  7. Clinical Researchers
  8. "HTML Programmers"
  9. Editors
  10. Tour Guides
  11. Senators, MPs et al.
  12. Zookeepers
  13. Teachers
  14. Kids
  15. Astronauts

The Keyboard

First let me say that I love my iPhone's virtual keyboard, and I also love my Apple Wireless Keyboard. So the iPad should be that much better, right?

Not quite. I haven't tried Apple's Bluetooth keyboard with the iPad yet but I expect it to be just fine - at a cost, of course, of portability. I've also seen some other interesting Bluetooth keyboards in use. But the virtual keyboard - really two keyboards, one slightly too wide in portrait orientation and one almost right in landscape - take a lot of getting used to.

I can touch-type a bit faster with large virtual keyboard than I can hunt and peck. With the small one I hunt and peck reasonably fast with two hands, but with one hand it gets very slow. I haven't clocked it yet but I strongly suspect I type faster with one hand on my iPhone virtual keyboard than with two on the smaller of the iPad keyboards (portrait orientation).

I imagine this will just take some getting used to. And maybe a little Mavis Beacon along the way. Dan Moren wrote a nice little MacWorld article on the keyboard situation, after using his iPad for a whole month.

While I don't expect Apple will change anything about the keypad, I do expect that a lot of people will start making highly portable Bluetooth keyboards in the next year or so. Why now, when so many have tried and, er, discontinued before? Well, we've long had mobile devices that could somehow talk to external keyboards. But this is the first one with which you can actually do serious shit. Sorry Palm, it's true. Good luck with the acquisition.

The Forming Apposphere

I was more than a little surprised to find that, despite Apple's practically taunting us with the 200,000 iPad/iPhone apps, there really isn't that much of high quality available yet.

Maybe my quality expectations are high. But no Facebook? No proper editor of Office files? (Pages is nice, but it isn't that.) No really serious photo editor? No full-featured blogging app?

All of these have apps either close to release or released and close to serious, but a month into it none of these fairly predictable needs has been met.

Of course, for me, a software guy, lack of iPad apps is an opportunity. I'm actually thrilled by the dearth of compelling apps, simply because it's going to take quite a while for me to learn how to make my own and become even slightly competitive. But I can also imagining it slowing the adoption rate, especially in conservative countries like Germany, where I currently live.

The Brushes app deserves special mention as a fun, creative, and very iPadesque program. In short, it's a finger-painting program, but it's a very very good one. It's been around for a long time for the iPhone, but that was more of an affair for fetishists. With the iPad it's a much more realistic proposition.

And even if you're not an artist, I recommend Brushes for two needs you will definitely encounter over the next year or so: giving the iPad up to kids (supervised of course), and showing it off to strangers. For the latter case you need something that "does something" without, say, showing off your e-mail. Brushes will play back your drawings as they were made, and with the bright iPad screen that's a hell of a demo.

I'll discuss more specific apps and app categories in depth at a later date, but in short there are a few categories I thought would be very well served out of the gate but were not:

  • Newspapers - there are few dedicated apps, and what there are suck, with the New York Times giving the most egregious face-plant.
  • Magazines - same story, plus no consensus on whether to sell issues as new apps or do them in-app (the latter being the obvious solution).
  • News aggregators - yep, no good ones for iPad yet. WTF?!
  • Social networking - duh. Double-WTF?!
  • General informational apps, like... wait for it... weather. There's buggy WeatherBug, but not much else.
  • Professional productivity.

That last category deserves a separate note. Pages is very interesting, and a steal at $10, and a good first cut of a document composer. But it's fairly unpolished on the usability end - no doubt because of the necessarily limited pre-launch testing - and it's not at all suited to serious composition. It's great for making a good-looking, short document in a hurry on the go, but you'd be a little crazy to try to write anything serious with it. I've read similar things about Numbers, though I haven't tried it yet; and Keynote is said to be quite awesome but with serious compatibility and sync issues.

I see no reason why Microsoft doesn't come in here and offer Office for iPad for $99. OmniGroup has already successfully (so far) set the price bar for software with which you actually get professional work done: $50 for OmniGraffle. I think a real, almost-fully-compatible package of Word, Excel and Powerpoint would fetch double that. Hell, I'd pay that much for Word and Excel.

Oh wait, I can think of one reason why they're not there. They're not agile enough to come up with plausible names for their products at the moment, so breaking this sort of new ground is asking a bit much of Redmond. Well, OK, I believe they'll get there within two years, and I'm patient - but I'm not sure they'll be able to charge $99 if they wait that long. I paid $30 for OmniFocus for iPhone way back when, and then saw the market drop to dollar apps.

Price Wars?

Lurking around the App Store I discovered an interesting thing. No, it's not that there are thousands of apps that are made of duct tape and sawdust for an audience of three; we both knew that already. It's that the magic price point is $4.99.

I think Apple moved the needle there by charging $10 each for Pages and Numbers and Keynote. They had the bully pulpit and could have charged more - I certainly wish they'd moved the needle higher, but I'm not sure they could have. iPhone apps have mostly been a race to the bottom both in price and in quality.

So if you want to charge more than $10, you have to either be very coveted (maybe a popular video game) or have a case for why you're "worth more" than something like Pages. Not that you could ever break even investing an iWork-like amount of software development into an app you sell for $10, but never mind: people have to think it's "worth more."

OmniGraffle can make this claim pretty easily: it's a tool used by professionals, for whom the convenience of doing even a small part of their diagramming on a plane or a train is worth radically more. If you use an app like that for work, $50 is a steal.

But others can't. If you don't have a very obvious selling point for well-compensated professionals, you're pretty much doomed to be called too expensive if you charge more than $4.99.

The good news, of course, is that you can charge $4.99 for anything bigger than a throwaway app. Remember, probably 99% of the Apposphere is throwaway apps, for which free is the only reasonable price but $0.99 is a commonly acceptable approximation of free.

It appears that $10 is also a key price point: the basic professional app. If you have something that's not earth-shattering, that won't necessarily make people money nor save the time of highly paid individuals, but is at least a professional tool - even for aspiring professionals - then $10 is your price point. But be prepared for some negative comments.

And the bad news is that if you charge $10.99 you might as well charge $50, since people will complain all day that you're too expensive unless you're obviously not.

I don't mind, but I find it interesting. Why that price exactly? And will it hold? Or will $0.99 be the new "cheap" with $4.99 the new "expensive" and anything above that only appealing to the pros?

The Awkwardness of Holding

Another thing that has surprised me about my iPad: it's rather awkward to hold the thing. I have not yet found a good angle at which to hold it even for watching videos, much less for surfing the web or reading an iBook or typing an email.

I predict this will create a huge, lucrative and hopefully also innovative market for accessories: stands, holders, cases, the like.

I also predict that over time it will influence Apple to make the thing lighter. It's already much lighter than a laptop, but it's also much heavier than a normal book: that is, it's a bit awkward to hold it in bed or on the couch, and your hand tends to get tired interacting with it. If I'm right and most people find this the defining ergonomic hitch, I believe Apple will be strongly motivated to go lighter before they go more powerful (or go for longer battery). Once the competition wakes up, there will be competitors who will try to offer more raw power and more battery, but I have a very hard time seeing anyone get close to the power/battery/weight ratio the iPad already has. Making it lighter would be a much faster way to increase the distance from the competition.

When and if there is competition, of course. At the moment there is none. Nothing. Nobody. Not even close.

HP, with its acquisition of Palm, is the most likely contender. Google's Android OS and/or Chrome OS (designed for Netbooks) still needs a credible hardware partner, and neither Nokia nor Sony has it together right now (they could though, soon, if they wake up).

Mine Mine Mine!

One truly glaring deficiency in the operating system itself has been noted elsewhere, and I'll note it again: we need a way to either have multiple user accounts on one iPad or, better, to lock the thing into a single app.

Even in a world where every man, woman and child has their own iPad, you're still going to hand your iPad to someone else to check out that one app or that one photo album. And then you're stuck in an awkward position: you don't want to hover over them and watch what they're doing, but you also don't want them to stumble into your email (or other important document), let alone trigger one of the juicy porn links in your browser history.

And I think I really have the One True Profitable Answer to this problem. Instead of having multiple accounts on an iPad - and thus an incentive to buy fewer, and a nightmare of resource management - simply have a fast and easy way for a user to lock to one app.

There's already a bit of a precedent for this: the Picture Frame app doesn't require login, it runs - if you like - instead of the normal iPhone home screen, until and unless you enter your PIN code.

So I envision an easy way to lock an iPad into a single, running app. Say, double-click the Sleep button and you get a dialog asking if you want to lock into the current app. Once locked, the Home button just gets you the PIN-code entry option. If the app crashes, the iPad goes to sleep. And you can put it to sleep in the normal way, and if you really want to quit an app but don't have the PIN code, just hold that Home button for a bit.

I'm sure if they did this, people would immediately start screaming for the ability to lock to a drawer full of apps instead of just one. But my problem would be completely solved if I could lock to one app. I don't even want multiple accounts on my iPad: it's mine mine mine, but I'll let you use it for this oooone little app, just don't break it.

Parting Thoughts

I've had my iPad for just over a week. Yes, it's magical. Yes, it's revolutionary. Yes, it's a steal for the price. Yes, it's much more - or at least much different - than a big iPhone. No, it's not fully baked. No, the keyboard isn't easy to use. No, the App Store isn't a magical repository of life-changing software. No, we don't quite know what we're going to use it for.

But I'm old enough to remember when we figured out what to use home computers for. You felt the potential in the machines, you were sure it was a turning point in history, and of course it was. You just had to figure out what to do with them, and write or build the software or hardware or accessory to make it possible.

Ever since the iPhone came out, I've had that same feeling about mobile computers. And now I feel it with the iPad - as if Apple were trying to pull the world of "home computing" into its iPhonetastic realm of the future - the Magical Jesus Tablet Future™ but hey, it was this or flying cars, right?