Monday, October 18, 2010

The end of the CD drive on laptops

Wednesday, Apple is holding an event called "Back to the Mac". People expect an announcement around a new version of the Mac operating system. Not hard to believe it is going to be called Lion, looking at the picture in the invitation card...

I am expecting Apple to also announce a new laptop. One that looks like my MacBook Air, with solid state disk and no CD drive.

I believe this moment will mark the end of the CD/DVD drive era on laptops. All Mac laptops, from now on, will look like the Air (which is a fantastic device, just a bit too pricey and slow, all things that are easy to solve today).

I have been living with a laptop without a CD drive for five years, at least. Starting with a Compaq Evo, then migrating to the MBA (as they call the Air). In all this time, I had two instances where I needed a CD drive... In both cases, someone around me had a CD drive and shared it for me on the network. The gain in weight is significant, and it means more room for battery (which is something you use a bit more often).

Apple has killed the floppy disk before, now it is time for the CD. You can put all that in an USB stick (yes, the new laptop will have more than one USB port). And if you really really need a CD/DVD drive for that emergency, you can get a USB one (but it is probably not going to pay for itself).

The world is moving to the cloud. Get ready for it. Shed some weight.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Is my iPad too big?

I have been an iPad user for over six months now. I went through all the phases: excitement (wow, this is cool), doubt (cool yes, but what am I going to do with it?), depression (really, it does not have a front camera?), acceptance (cool device, and useful, I am going to keep it and use it). I have left it in my bag for a few months, going back and forth from home to the office and to meetings in the Valley. Once I figured out I never took it out of the bag, I decided to leave it on the couch. Now it travels with me only when I take a plane.

Overall, I am quite happy with it. It is the perfect couch device. I rarely browse, I do some Twitter-Facebook-Linkedin (still wondering why the last two do not have an iPad application) and mostly email (95% reading, 5% writing). I have watched five YouTube videos - at most - and I have used FlipBoard for a while, although I am already bored with it (somehow, I end up reading only work-related stuff and it is not really what I want to do on the couch). It also comes with me to the bathroom, but only when I leave from the couch (I know, too much details, but I never walk to the couch just to grab the iPad before going to the restroom, and this is an interesting fact ;-)

When I travel, it is mostly a gaming machine. An amazing one, BTW. I play to kill time. I have watched a few movies, some rented, some found online (ehm...). I have read a few books. I have looked at the stars in the dark outside with my daughter using Star Walk (amazing app). I would not leave home to get on a plane without my iPad. It is the only thing that I take out of the bag on a plane. The laptop stays in the overhead bin these days, thankfully (in particular, if you fly economy or, worst, low-cost in Europe). I do love my iPad.

My family loves the iPad too, although for them it is just a gaming machine. WeRule is huge in my household. They cry when I leave for a trip and take away the device with me (and then they realize they should cry also because I am leaving).

Last week at CTIA I met for the first time the new Samsung Galaxy Tab(let). It runs Android 2.2. My first impression was extremely positive. I am not sure why, but I was expecting a slow tablet (maybe because Google said that 2.2 is not an OS for tablets, way to set expectations low I guess). Instead, it was very fast. The screen was great, the app I am used to (I also own a Nexus One) were there and looking even better. I downloaded the Funambol client and it worked right away. It just felt very natural, like the best of the iPad combined with the best of the Nexus One.

Once I put down the device, I was left with one major question: is my iPad too big?

It is an interesting question. I did not wonder whether the Galaxy Tab was too small, I wondered whether the iPad was too big. The iPad has a 10" display, the Galaxy 7". The difference is substantial. The Tab is almost half the weight of the iPad. It feels small, in a good way. And I never wondered if the iPad was too big, it felt just right before I tried the Galaxy.

It is fascinating to look at screen sizes and usability. The 4" screen is the way to go, for a pocketable device. I would not talk into anything bigger (the 5" Dell Streak makes you look ridiculous), take a picture (the camera on the tablets is only for video chats, in my opinion) or navigate a map while walking with anything bigger in my hands (a smartphone is just perfect). From 4" to 7", therefore, there seems to be a gap. Devices in the middle are too big to fit in a pocket and too small to deliver much more than a phone. At 7", apparently, the device seems big enough for my needs: email and browsing on a couch, gaming+movies+books on a plane. At 10", maybe it is even too much. I was surprised.

I was expecting a lot of tablets to challenge the iPad. I was expecting different UIs, USB ports and front cameras to be the big differentiators. And I was sure none had a chance. Instead, the challenge came from size. A smaller iPad is interesting in itself. It is different. And it definitely has a chance.

What's next from Apple? Let me guess: an iPad mini, at 7". They must be ready to ship it, I bet.