My iPad Will Have to Wait

Apple iPadI am sitting here in a doctor’s office with time to kill and no broadband. I spent a half hour on Google Reader on my Android Phone and now I’m seeing things blurry from straining my eyes too long. Wouldn’t it have been great if I had the iPad with a 3G connection?

Not really. I had my MacBook with me, so what I really needed is a 3G connection not a third device. And 3G connections costs money which I can’t justify based upon the amount I would use it with my laptop (only occasionally). I already have a $100 bill for my cellphone out of which probably $40 can be attributed to the data connection.

For me, and I suspect for a lot of people, the iPad is going to come down to how they answer these questions:

– Of the three devices – smart phone, laptop and tablet – do I need all three or will two do? I can see some people saying I need to stay with my company’s Windows laptop but I’d really love to have something from Apple for browsing, entertainment and light work, which is most of what I do at home. iPad could be it for those people.

– But for most people just three devices will be too many. If two will do, what are those two devices? My guess is the iPad is not going to find a place in the top two, too often.

– How many 3G connections can I afford and which devices should have them?

On the second point, Apple can’t do much. It also doesn’t need to since it practically owns the smart phone category and has a growing MacBook franchise.

But the cost of 3G plans is a big hurdle for the iPad. And with its clout with mobile operators, it can do something about it.

I think that it’s safe to say that without a 3G connection, the iPad is much less useful. It then becomes more of a bulky iPod – a gaming and entertainment device that you can’t put in your pocket – than a constant companion that saves you from squinting at your smartphone screen while waiting in doctors’ offices.

But if every 3G connection is going to cost me $30 to $60 extra, I don’t think it works, at least for my MCIM (middle-class Indian mentality).

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Why can’t I get a 3G plan that is just variable – it bills me by the MB across all devices I use?

Now that’s a plan that would make it easier for me to go for the iPad. I’d probably still wait for the price to come down and the specs to go up, which will happen in a year for sure.

Update: But maybe the iPad is actually a Kindle replacement, except that it can turn many tricks that the Kindle can’t. Really? A backlit screen for reading books? Not for me, though. And someone who agrees with me.

Photo Matt Buchanan

Google and Free Speech

Google issued a statement alleging that agents acting on behalf of China had tried to hack into certain corporate networks, including Google’s and the Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents. They also announced that they would no longer censor search results on their Chinese search engine, which is required by Chinese law.

This is pretty important in many ways. Google is willing to give up China as a market in support of free speech. Some commentators have said that they were getting thrashed by Baidu anyway and so there’s not much that they’re giving up. But that is wrong. China is going to be the biggest internet search market in the world in a few years. It is unquestionably important. To even be second in that market could be worth a lot. That Google, a public company, is willing to give that up to hold up a principle, is huge. I can’t immediately recall any sacrifice of this magnitude by a public company for a principle.


Evernote for Android

I recently moved to an Android phone. I also use Evernote extensively and so I was thrilled when they launched Evernote for Android.

Besides the fact that it makes it so much easier to access my notes when I am on the move, there is another unexpected benefit. When you take a photo using your phone, the process of getting it off the phone and on to your computer is an extra step that slows things down. Taking pictures using Evernote makes that pain go away. When you take a photo using Evernote, it is automatically synced to the Evernote cloud and from there to your computer.

Here’s the first photo I took using Evernote, “Wake Up Sid” style!

Open Toolbox

Ever since I moved to a Mac, the tools I use have changed. Also my work and life patterns have changed. I thought I’d share what I have found useful.

Email, Calendar, Contacts

My personal email is on Gmail. I moved from Yahoo Mail after many years and have never regretted it. Gmail totally rocks. For work related email, I first tried Mac Mail. The integration with Exchange was supposed to be better with Snow Leopard which is why I thought I’d give it a spin. But it is surprisingly clunky. I was constantly battling authentication errors which were clearly a problem with the email client not Exchange. Google Calendar sync with Mail didn’t work for me. Also Mac Mail has other irritants like saving drafts even after one has sent out the email. Eventually I gave up and moved to Thunderbird. The email client is trouble free although the performance is a little sluggish compared to Mac Mail. The Lightning add-on for calendar functionality within Thunderbird now works quite well for me, though it took a couple of tries to get it going. Another add-on called Provider for Google Calendar, takes care of the calendar sync. And a third one gContactSynch handles the sync with Google Contacts.

Lightning and the other two add-ons are still in beta. And my move to Thunderbird on Mac is still less than a month old, but it’s working well so far.


Leaving the Kindle On During Takeoff

airplane The last time I took a flight somewhere with my newly acquired Kindle, I was posed with this dilemma – should I turn my Kindle off during takeoff and landing? Or should I pretend that I was just reading a book that looked a little different?

Now the airline rules are very clear and are rigorously implemented by the airline crew:

1. All Portable Electronic Devices (PED) must be switched off during takeoff and landing.
2. No wireless devices can be operated during the flight.

The second rule is pretty unambiguous in how it should apply. All cellphones, laptops and devices with WiFi – anything with an RF signal – must not be turned on during the flight. The Kindle does have a cellular signal which can be easily turned off. Not a problem – the wireless anyway drains the battery real fast and its probably a good thing that you have to turn it off in case you had it on at the time.


Digital Book Economics

kindle_2_-_frontI got a Kindle recently and have so far enjoyed it. In almost every respect it beats the experience of reading the dead tree version. It is light and portable. I read non-fiction more than fiction and I hate lugging around the heavy hard cover. Turning pages (no paper cuts!) and bookmarking are both better. It seems to be perfectly designed to be read while working out on an elliptical. Font size control is a boon for those of us over 40. If you want a new book, buying it and downloading it wirelessly is dangerously simple and quick. I foresee bigger contributions to the empire from the Pradhan family.

There are a few disadvantages of course. The biggest one is the price. At $360 or so you don’t want to leave it on the airplane! You can’t loan a book to someone else. Books with illustrations won’t offer the same experience for a while (no DC comics on the Kindle so far). You are forever tied to as your supplier of books. Much like the lock-in that music downloads from iTunes created for the iPod until Apple also moved to mp3 downloads. Funnily, the DRM that the publishers insist on creates a lock-in that benefits the device manufacturer the most.

Kindle, and hopefully other e-books, will change the economics of the book publishing industry. I can’t say if it will be for better or for worse for the publishers (probably worse) or authors (probably better). But the readers will certainly have more choice. And this can be very, very good for Amazon’s shareholders.


Google Voice – Different and Useful

google-voiceI have been a user of the Grand Central service for a long time, but I didn’t switch over completely until Google relaunched the service as Google Voice. Google acquired Grand Central a couple of years back after which there was nothing but silence for a while. When they relaunched in March, the new service had a couple of nifty features, but what tipped it over for me was that the relaunch indicated that Google was firmly committed to the future of Google Voice. After all, you don’t want to go handing out a new phone number to people and then have to change it again if the service was discontinued.

Google Voice is a pretty unique service. It is like having your own personal PBX system for free. You get a phone number when you sign up for the service. Calls to this number can be routed to a different number (home, mobile, work etc.) or sent straight to voice mail based upon time of day, caller ID or rules that you set up.


IT and the Government

Atanu Dey has a series of posts that criticize the IT Vision Document released by the BJP in the runup to the Indian elections. In his latest post The Rational IT Policy, he proposes an IT policy that basically does nothing – an Unpolicy, if you will. It requires government to stay out of the way of individuals and the market which will make their own decisions about using IT or not.

To me this seems wrong-headed. I think it is important for any government that comes to power to nurture and encourage the use of IT in government, business, education and at home.


Zoho and the Bottom of the Software Pyramid

Last week Sridhar Vembu the CEO of Adventnet, makers of the Zoho suite of software, was featured on the Economist’s Face Value. This may seem like a big deal for the CEO of $60 M company (The Indian CEO featured before Sridhar was TCS’s Ramadorai). But you have to hand it to the Economist. For a magazine that covers politics, economics and business, it has the pulse of the software industry. What Zoho is attempting to do can be game-changing for business software.