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Does the iPad 2 display connect to your brainstem?

Filed in: Apple, tech, Sun, Jan 16 2011 20:16 PT

I’m sure we could ask Apple, but they don’t comment on rumors.

Still, the mill continues to churn, and this week we saw double-sized glyphs embedded in a beta of iOS. From that, the conclusion being drawn is that the iPad 2 will have a pixel-doubled, 2048×1536 display. The question is, is that insanely great, or just insane? Let’s take a look at where we are today:

Device Resolution Size PPI Shipping
iPad 1024×768 9.7″ 132 Yes
Galaxy Tab 1024×600 7″ 171 Yes
Xoom 1280×800 10.1″ 149 No
Atrix 4G 960×540 4″ 275 No
iPhone 4 960×640 3.5″ 326 Yes

What we can see here is that Apple remains far ahead in pixel density among phones, but they’re behind even already-shipping devices in the tablet world. Once they fell behind other phones, they fired back with a display that the crop of devices announced at this year’s CES still haven’t caught up to.

I think it’s a foregone conclusion that the next iPad will follow the same pattern. Let’s be honest: the iPad’s display is good. Not great. It needs a boost.

But does it need to be quadrupled? Eh. I’m not so sure. First and foremost, there’s only one application that really benefits from that kind of pixel density, and that’s text. The iPhone 4 was a tremendous advance for readability, but bear in mind that a tablet is traditionally held farther from the eye than a phone. It doesn’t need to be as tack-sharp as an iPhone 4 to be unbelievable.

Second, video is another big use case, and a 2k 4:3 display doesn’t make sense for any common video size. If we take as a given that the iPad 2 will support 1080p video, that means a 1:1 representation of that video leaves a black box all the way around. In 720p, the format delivered by iTunes content, pixel-doubling is no big improvement. It’s obvious that higher pixel density means better video, but if Apple likes controlling every pixel, then they’ll want a resolution that matches the video content they already distribute.

Third, a 2048×1536 display means over three million LEDs, all of which need to be driven by a GPU. Just to keep up, the GPU would need to be four times as fast as the first generation, which is a tall order for one generation. I know that Hitachi has shown off a 302ppi, 6.6″ display, which suggests a retina display could be made, but just because something can be found, doesn’t mean it’ll be implemented. The screen itself is only part of the balance between performance, cost and battery usage.

Finally, according to iSuppli, the iPad display/touchscreen unit accounts for more than a third of the overall bill of materials for the 16GB version ($80 out of $229.35). How likely is it that they’ll quadruple the number of LEDs in that package without ultimately affecting the price? Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure Apple will squeeze more pixels out of that form factor. But if it’s actually 2048×1536, I will be extremely impressed.

So if a pixel-doubled iPad isn’t in the cards, let’s look at plan B. I’m just spitballing here, but I think the optimal display resolution for a next-generation iPad is 1440×1080. It’s a higher resolution than any announced tablet. At 186ppi, it’s the best tablet display on the market. It also displays 1080p video at full screen when zoomed in, along with 720p at a nice, clean 1.5x multiplier, which has been fundamentally handled by consumer electronics companies for several years. All without breaking the bank either in cost or GPU: At 1.56Mpix, it nearly doubles (1.978x) the current display, while still taking up less than half as many pixels (49.4%) as a 2k display.

Apple has become known for its hardware advances. They scored a huge coup with the display technology on their flagship device. But while I can’t completely rule it out either technically or economically, I just don’t think lightning will strike twice. If it does, I’ll be first in line. Again.

Best blog comment disclaimer ever

Filed in: Apple, blogging, design, Thu, Dec 1 2005 22:25 PT

“Caveats: I have two iPods, a Mini and a Shuffle. I have no current relationship with Apple, except I was once VP of Apple’s Advanced Technology Group.”

Don Norman, in a response to a post on the 10 most-hated iPod flaws, 30 November 2005

iPod nano recall?

Filed in: Apple, design, tech, Tue, Nov 22 2005 09:35 PT

I ordered an iPod nano 4GB from my credit card’s reward program at the end of October. It was scheduled to ship on November 7th, then November 20th. So today, I called customer service.

The representative apologized for the delay, and said that the dates slid because Apple had recalled the inventory they had been promising customers, due to the scratching issues. She went on to say that they should be receiving new product from Apple today and tomorrow.

While this is just one person’s story, and they could just be blowing smoke to keep a customer happy, it seems entirely possible — even likely — that if Apple wanted to fix the nano display’s propensity toward scratching, they’d do it before the Christmas season. I will try to compare the nano I should receive in early December with my business partner’s device to see if I can detect any difference, but I suspect that if they have in fact recalled and upgraded the plastic on the nano devices, they’ll announce it before I ever get to that experiment.

New Apple screen reader

Filed in: accessibility, Apple, tech, Wed, Mar 17 2004 16:45 PT

Apple's Universal Access icon

Apple has announced Spoken Interface, a screen reader for Mac OS X. This will be the first to be released, since Alva gave up on its screen reader project in 2003. And it will be free, bundled with the operating system. Spoken Interface was featured in BusinessWeek yesterday. It’ll be in the next major release of OS X.

I have been saying for the last year or so that when the time comes to replace this PowerBook, if Mac OS X didn’t have a viable screen reader, I would have a hard time as an accessibility-related speaker buying in again, despite my undying love for my operating system. It looks like I might not have to choose. I’m going to go check it out and report back today.

The result: cost for an accessible operating system and screen reader from Apple? $129. From Microsoft? $99 for XP Home, plus $895 for JAWS Standard, or $595 for Window-Eyes Standard. I’d say that’s a win. And when Gnopernicus is ready for prime-time, the cost goes down to zero. The zero-cost screen reader is the next big step for universal access. I’m hoping that, er, other vendors get the point.

iPod mini redux

Filed in: Apple, consumerism, music, Sat, Feb 21 2004 21:28 PT

Here’s what I said about it in January:

[I]t’s not hard to see why Apple would never release a $100 player: it’s a high-risk, tiny-margin endeavor that runs counter to their own value proposition and would ruin the brand power they have at $300 and up.

So, what to do with this little goody, the iPod mini? They could have priced it at $199, but that would have put them head-to-head against the 256MB devices Jobs snickered at during his presentation. Better products attract a premium, and it’s completely reasonable to place that premium at $50 above what is already there. So there it is, at $249.

I found an article this week which says, basically, that I’m right. :)

iPod mini costs $249 in the US – that’s just $50 less than the low-end iPod which offers a gargantuan 15GB capacity. Press reports before the announcement of iPod mini had speculated Apple would offer a sub-$100 device to compete in the flash-based music player market. The $249 price-tag Apple then announced generated a wave of criticism from users who believe that’s too expensive. Does Apple think the price is right?

[iPod marketing manager Danika] Cleary clearly does. She said: “We really do think the price is right, and that’s because of a couple of reasons. The first is: when you really look at the flash-based players on the market, for around $200 you can get one – but for just $50 more you can get 16 times the amount of music in a package that’s not much bigger than any of the top-selling players in that category.”

More from OEMer Edgar Matias, in the same article:

“The Mac faithful do not generally understand retail. They argue that if you can get a higher-capacity iPod for just $50 more, why would anyone get an iPod mini?”

“Ignoring all other factors,” he said, there is one class of customer who almost always buy the cheapest available option – gift givers. And for these customers iPod mini is an absolute win. From a merchandizing perspective the product’s a stroke of genius,” he said.

This is just your basic I-told-you-so message. I like to prove from time to time that I’m evil enough to be in marketing.

iPod mini and price points

Filed in: Apple, consumerism, Thu, Jan 8 2004 19:53 PT

A number of people — everybody, actually — has been complaining about the cost of the iPod mini announced on Tuesday. $249 is too much, they say, when the regular-sized iPod is $299, and has almost quadruple the space. But this is a classic price-point game. It’s not about manufacturing cost, or proportionality to disk space. It’s entirely about what the market will bear.

There is a magic number for consumer products: $300. The story goes, $300 is the most an individual is usually willing to pay before they consult with their partner. Look around at what you can get for $300: From PocketPCs and phones to Calphalon cookware and decent gas grills, you’ll see a sweet setup for $299.99. Which is where the original iPod was positioned. Then they pushed upmarket with bigger devices. Easy enough for them, since nobody else could tackle that market.

What they didn’t have, and probably will never want, is a foothold in the low end of the market. At $100, they have a million competitors, from Sony all the way down to cheesy knockoff artists. And with the unit price for the 2GB drive everyone anticipated such a device would use at $70, it’s a loss leader, too. You don’t just pour plastic over a drive and ship it, after all.

Then there’s the question of cachet. Apple has it. More of it than any other electronics company. Apple has never, never, never attempted to compete on price in the consumer market. (Okay, there was that once with AirPort at $299, but that was to create a new market.) The iMac was reasonable at $1299, but PCs could be had for $600 at the time. PowerBooks are consistently among the most expensive notebooks available. And how many Microsoft users would cry bloody murder if they had to pay $129 a year for updates to Windows? With all this in mind, it’s not hard to see why Apple would never release a $100 player: it’s a high-risk, tiny-margin endeavor that runs counter to their own value proposition and would ruin the brand power they have at $300 and up.

So, what to do with this little goody, the iPod mini? They could have priced it at $199, but that would have put them head-to-head against the 256MB devices Jobs snickered at during his presentation. Better products attract a premium, and it’s completely reasonable to place that premium at $50 above what is already there. So there it is, at $249.

As for the huge gap between the 4GB mini and the 15GB iPod for $50 more, that’s a selling point. Here’s the inner monologue they’re looking for in users: “$249 for the iPod mini. That’s not so bad. It’s only $50 more than this flash-based player. But then, if I’m going to spend $249 for the mini, I could just spend another $50 and get 15GB, if I trade up in size. But then, that one doesn’t have the remote and dock, and that’ll cost me another $78 if I want it. And for that much, I might as well buy the 20GB iPod for $399.” And there you have it. Filling that gap in the price spectrum opens up a whole new set of new users who walk in hoping to spend $200, and walk out spending $400. If you’re ready to hate Apple for this technique, again, look around. Everyone practices this approach, from the leather cases on the handhelds to the 12″ saute pan to the rack that goes with the grill.

And yes, it does make me feel a little dirty to know how all this works, but I manage to live with myself.

Potpourri

Filed in: Apple, blogging, Web, Fri, Oct 17 2003 20:49 PT

ban Comic Sans

Found while closing fifteen browser windows:

  • An Esquire article on international-fugitive blogger Isabella v.. The keyword here is “intrigue.” Whether or not Isabella v. is a real person on the run from her oppressive father, this article is worth reading merely for the cloak-and-dagger value.
  • Gizmodo: the iPod Accessories Are Out. As much as I was excited by the introduction of a microphone and flash media storage for the iPod, I’m let down by the cheap take on the former (the mic is integrated, with no plug for a better one), and the high cost of the latter ($99, when I can buy a USB media reader for $19? Feh.). Great ideas, poor execution. Better luck next time.
  • bancomicsans.com. I’ve been planning on starting up a gallery of applications of the Comic Sans font in the wild, from storefronts to menus to subtitles on the Real World Paris. Joe gave this as a throwaway link.
  • Mark Pilgrim on the Atom API. The more I think about the blogging software I’m writing, the more seriously I consider writing a major server component to Logme. (Which, by the way, may end up changing names, since I never checked to see that a hundred different pieces of software use the same name.) The server component will certainly be supporting Atom and Blogger interfaces. I also noticed in the comments a Java-based toolkit for Atom called Sandler (get it? Atom? Sandler?). That should make things easier if I feel like making that component in Java.

I still want my personal server

Filed in: Apple, tech, Thu, Oct 16 2003 18:46 PT

When I was in San Francisco last month, I was asked if my iPod was a “recording device.” I smirked and said no — and then wrote that I want a device like the iPod to be my personal server.

So, about that. ThinkSecret is now saying that Apple will unveil a microphone for the iPod in conjunction with its iTunes Music Store for Windows announcement. Additionally, ThinkSecret claims that there will be a flash card reader to store digital camera images. I’m disappointed, though unsurprised, to find that a third-generation iPod will be required.

Anyway, the lesson here, if this is in fact what is in the announcement, is that you can control large amounts of data away from your computer, and the ramifications of that are pretty darned neato. I have friends who carry around CDs of customized Knoppix installs so they can boot up random machines and run their own desktop of choice. If you can store your pictures and voice memos on your iPod, why not a bootable disk? And, from there, why not just use that iPod as your primary storage device all around? Why don’t they hurry up and make a 200GB iPod like I asked?

iTunes feature request

Filed in: Apple, music, Wed, May 28 2003 22:30 PT

a dollar sign and the iTunes logo

So, when are they going to look at my database of existing songs and recommend more music for me?

If you’re paying attention, you know it’s going to happen. It’s the most obvious untapped potential in iTunes. And, naturally, they’d have to ensure data privacy to prevent a backlash, perhaps promising not to archive the input, or storing it as aggregate and not associating it with any one user. But people like me want the ability to, say, select a playlist and ask for tips. (Hell, people like me have already spent hours rating items we own on Amazon.) With a couple million downloads, Apple should be getting close to a good enough data store to start issuing recommendations, and I’ll bet dollars to donuts that they’re about to start doing it Real Soon Now.

2-Minute MacWorld SF

Filed in: Apple, tech, Tue, Jan 7 2003 19:59 PT

Apple Safari browser icon

A quick look at MacWorld San Francisco:

New Browser
Safari, free, open source, available now as public beta. Based on KHTML browser engine. (Remember this is not the first time Apple made a browser…)
Airport Extreme
  • Based on 802.11g
  • 54Mb/s wireless
  • Backwards compatible with 802.11b
  • Base stations auto-bridge for seamless connections
  • USB print server
  • $199 Base station
17-inch PowerBooks
  • 1GHz G4 w/1MB L3 cache
  • 512MB DDR memory
  • 60GB hard drive
  • 1440×900, GeForce 4 440 Go video chipset w/64MB
  • FireWire 800 (new) + FireWire 400 and 2 USB inputs, DVI/VGA and S-Video outputs
  • Bluetooth built in
  • Airport Extreme 54Mb wireless
  • 6.8lbs, 1″ thick
  • Fiber-optic keyboard backlighting and ambient-light-sensitive brightness control
  • $3299 w/free QuickBooks Pro, ships February
12-inch PowerBooks
  • 867MHz G4 w/1MB L3 cache
  • 512MB DDR memory
  • 60GB hard drive
  • 1024×768, GeForce 4 420 Go video chipset w/32MB
  • FireWire 800 (new) + FireWire 400 and 2 USB inputs, DVI/VGA and S-Video outputs
  • Bluetooth built in
  • 4.6lbs, 1.2″ thick (smallest PB ever)
  • Airport Extreme ready ($99 card)
  • $1799 w/free QuickBooks, $1999 with SuperDrive, ships late January
Keynote
$99 presentation software used by Steve since his 2002 MacWorld keynotes
  • Uses all of OS X’s component tools (Quartz Extreme, Aqua, OpenGL, QuickTime)
  • Exports PowerPoint, PDF, QuickTime (and imports PowerPoint for editing)
  • Imports various formats, including QuickTime, Flash, PDF, and MP3
  • Antialiasing, transitions, theme-based design
iLife
iTunes 3, iPhoto 2, iMovie3, iDVD 3 integrated together, including DVD chaptering, music import, archiving photos to CD/DVD. Sold in a box for $49, all but iDVD will be free to download soon.
Final Cut Express
$299 for a slightly-reduced version of the $999 Final Cut Pro
3rd Party Software
Burton jacket
$499 Snowboarding jacket with iPod controls on the sleeve

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