Team iPad Pro

My wife says I’m highly suggestible. She points out stuff all over our house that she recognizes hearing about on ad reads in the podcasts I listen to. So maybe this was inevitable, but I’ve lately started using an iPad Pro as my primary computer, even at work, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

My wife started it, to be honest. I got her an iPad Pro for Christmas to supplement her “why don’t you just sand your eyeballs” non-retina MacBook Air. To both of our surprise, she found that not only did she love the iPad Pro, but she found less and less she needed to do on the MacBook. She’s moved all of her writing and editing for Taledancer.com to the iPad, and if Vellum would just come out with an iPad version, she’d be done with the MacBook entirely.

So last week as I fretted with what to replace my iPad Air 2 with, an iPad Pro or the forthcoming 9.7″ iPad (now rumored to also be an iPad Pro, just smaller), she suggested that we switch iPads for a week. I’d take a week to see if the 13″ size was really right for me — I’d previously remarked at how unwieldy her Pro seemed compared to my Air 2 — and she could spend some time with the Air 2 and appreciate the things she liked about the Pro. Last Thursday night, we both did iCloud backups, erased all content and settings, and swapped iPads.

At first, I wasn’t sure. The iPad Pro feels every bit as big as it is. It’s the same size as my 13″ MacBook Pro, and in portrait the screen looked ridiculous.

Until I fired up Marvel Unlimited. Comics on this are a completely different experience compared to the Air 2. Okay, so that’s nice.

I also quickly discovered that in landscape split view, a lot more apps than I expected use the normal iPad-style layouts rather than the compact iPhone layouts I was used to in split view on the Air 2. It really is like having two iPad Airs side by side.

By mid-day Saturday I was starting to really enjoy the iPad Pro, but wasn’t sure I liked it enough to switch. Then I started really using the Pencil.

I’ve been drawing since I was old enough to hold a crayon, and thought I knew what to expect from using a stylus on an iPad screen. I drew a lot on both my iPad Mini and various 9.7″ iPads. But the precision and palm rejection on the iPad Pro are, again, in a completely different category. I had to force myself to rest my hand on the screen like I would on paper, but once I did, I found I could draw just as fast and fluid as I used to in the old analog days.

The author napping with his cat

On Friday Jump Desktop released an update that made their remote access app much more useful on the iPad Pro. In addition to supporting the iPad Pro keyboard and split view, it also dynamically resizes Windows desktop and server sessions to fit the split view window, and fully supports the Pencil as a pointing device in the remote session. I do a lot of systems administration work in the day job, and this was just jaw dropping for me.

Windows desktop on the left, blog on the right

At this point, I was starting to make little excited noises. Then on Monday, I picked up a Smart Keyboard before going into the office. I was going into the office late because I had an errand to run that morning: picking up a client’s Surface Pro to image. So I got a chance to compare the Surface Pro to the iPad Pro side by side.

Similar, yet so different

The Smart Keyboard itself is nothing like I expected. The keys are crisp and depress with a satisfying click, unlike the Logitech Keys-To-Go I’d used with my Air 2. There’s no Bluetooth lag because of the Smart Connector and likewise nothing to charge; it runs off the iPad’s power.
And coupled with the iPad Pro’s screen and the Pencil as a pointing device, I prefer the iPad Pro for virtually everything I do. It’s better at remoting into RDP sessions than either of my laptops, runs familiar iOS apps, and — and this is a big one for me — doesn’t waste screen space with overlapping windows. Every pixel is useful.

A few caveats:

  • If my job required recording audio — podcasting — this wouldn’t work. I hope iOS 10 has a more flexible audio system.
  • There are a few apps I need every day that I can’t use on iOS, or that don’t work very well in their iOS versions (looking at you, Zendesk). Fortunately, I can work around those by running them on my Windows laptop, which stays in a dock on my desk 24/7 and I access via Jump Desktop. My wife needs to do the same to use Vellum on her MacBook Air.
  • I can’t see as much at once as I could on the Mac with Mission Control. Oddly, I think that actually helps me stay more focused, but YMMV.

Overall, I can see why so many of my favorite bloggers and podcasters have switched to using an iPad Pro full time. This is more than just a big iPad as the original iPad was more than just a big iPhone. Scale matters — ask science fiction’s 15 foot ant, which can’t breathe thanks to the square cube law — and a bigger screen on iOS lets you do things that previously were either impossible or at least inconvenient. I really don’t see myself going back to an Intel-based computer as my daily driver.

And that should scare the heck out of Intel.

What to expect from the next iPhone

What we’ll see in this year’s iPhone, why we won’t seen an iPhone on Verizon until next year, and when to expect all the new Apple hotness.

We’ve got three weeks to go until Apple’s 2010 Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). Starting June 7, we expect Apple to shift into a higher gear and… Well, that’s just the thing. There’s a lot of confusion out there about, what, exactly, we’re going to see. I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t have seekrit sources deep inside Apple (seeds, if you will). But I do have the Chewbacca Defense:

More importantly, I have the inverse of the Chewbacca Defense, Occam’s Razor. In short, given a number of possible explanations, the simplest is probably true. And Apple isn’t as secretive as they think. They can’t hide their own past. We can divine a lot from what they’ve already done, extrapolate future behavior based on previous trends. So here’s what I’m sure we’re going to see, and when. Steve and company might surprise me, but I doubt it.

First, the main event. In his opening keynote on June 7th, Steve is going to announce the next iPhone, the iPhone HD. It will feature a 2VGA, 640×960 screen, come in 16, 32 and 64GB capacities, sport the same A4 CPU as the iPad, run iPhone OS 4, have 256MB of RAM and look identical to the production test model Gizmodo “acquired.” It will most likely be available two weeks later, on June 21 or 22.

How do I know this? Because it’s simply the overwhelmingly most likely scenario. Look at the facts.

  • Apple has announced and released their new flagship iPhone in June every year, at WWDC.
  • They’ve stuck to an annual update/release schedule for their other products, particularly in the iPhone, iPod (and presumably iPad) family.
  • The Gizmodo test unit is obviously real, and John Gruber pointed out than the markings on the back identified it as a late-stage production test, unlikely to change much, if at all, before full production.
  • The iPad comes in 16, 32 and 64MB capacities, and the Vietnamese teardown of a test model nearly identical to the Gizmodo unit revealed an A4 and 256MB of RAM.
  • The iPad has 256MB of RAM, and was almost certainly designed with OS4 in mind.

I suspect it will be called the iPhone HD because of the 4x resolution screen. We’ve seen multiple sources revealing the pixel doubled 640×960 resolution, the Gizmodo unit was obviously of a much higher resolution than current iPhones. No, the screen isn’t 720 pixels tall in landscape, but I’m willing to bet it will be capable of 720p HD video out. The screen will be extended viewing angle LCD, the same as the iPad, as this is more likely than Apple switching display technology to AMOLED.

Why will the iPhone HD have only 256MB of RAM? Because Apple clearly believes this is sufficient for the managed, limited multitasking in OS4, or they would have put 512MB in the iPad. And in practice, I have every confidence 256MB will be “enough for anyone.” Why? Because that’s what’s in the 3GS, and Backgrounder/Proswitcher work pretty well on the 3GS. And Backgrounder uses “real,” Android/WinMob-style multitasking. Apple’s PalmOS Cobalt-style multitasking is far more resource-friendly, and I expect it to multitask as smoothly on 256MB as Android does on 512MB. And all things being equal, less RAM is cheaper to produce, meaning more profit per phone. Apple likes profit.

I’ve heard rumors that the iPhone HD will be available June 7, but I don’t buy it. Apple wouldn’t rush a delivery date, no matter what kind of press difficulties they’ve had, and OS4, at the time of this writing, simply isn’t ready to burn onto production devices and have them in stores in three weeks. It’s far more likely that they’ll announce on the 7th and release two weeks later, as they’ve done with other devices. I’m betting the iPhone HD will go on sale on the 22nd, as Apple seems to like Tuesday launches. OS4 itself might be available for previous iPhones on the 7th, if it’s ready.

I don’t think Steve’s keynote will be all about hardware, though. In conjunction with the release of OS4, I expect Apple to release iTunes 10, with some important new features. The biggest new feature will be the incorporation of LaLa’s technology into iTunes Live, the ability to stream your entire iTunes collection to your iPhone from Apple’s shiny new datacenter in North Carolina. And because they’ve got all that server capacity lying around, they’ll also throw in the basics of MobileMe–email, contacts and calendar sync, maybe iDrive for people who aren’t already using Dropbox–for free.

Why do I expect this? Again, it fits the profile of past behavior. Apple knows they need to step up their cloud efforts if they’re going to compete effectively with Google, and yes, Microsoft. A little over a year ago, I wrote about computing ecosystems, and that is crystallizing more than ever. Apple wants to keep its users locked into its ecosystem, and that means they need to provide the same services as their competition. Google and Microsoft both offer email, calendaring and contacts management for free. Apple can’t afford to keep charging for the same. They’ve made these kinds of competitive moves before. The most recent was the introduction of the iBookstore, a direct response to Amazon’s Kindle business. Jobs and company aren’t stupid. They know they need to deliver. That said, I expect them to hold off some of the features currently in MobileMe–Back To My Mac, Find My iPhone, etc.–for paying subscribers. After all, this is Apple.

This fall, as usual, Apple will update their iPod line. Rolled into this will be the OS4 update for the iPad. Why? Because they’re also going to be updating the iPod touch to OS4, and the iPad is more similar to the iPod touch than it is to the iPhone. Makes sense that these would be related development tracks. Rumors surfaced that the iPad might be due for a price drop similar to the original iPhone. I don’t buy this. I could see it if the iPad were a slow starter, a way to prime the market. But right now Apple is still having trouble making enough of them to meet demand. There’s absolutely no reason to drop the price. Shipping it with OS4 this fall will be all the extra shiny they need for an update.

Okay, you say, but what about the elephant in the room? The big red elephant, with the V on it? As we’ve recently discovered, Apple’s exclusivity agreement with AT&T was initially for an unheard of five years. That doesn’t end until 2012. Don’t wait for the end of the world though, because we’ll see a Verizon iPhone next summer. Why then? Why not now? Because now doesn’t make sense. Verizon’s CDMA network is completely different from the GSM networks every iPhone currently uses, both in the United States and abroad. Apple is still making so much money from AT&T’s iPhones that it’s simply not worth it financially for them to design, build, test and support a different model on a completely different cellular protocol.

So why does this change next year? Because by next summer, when the 2011 model iPhone is due to be announced, Verizon will have completed their rollout of their 4G network, based on the LTE protocol. And who else is using LTE? AT&T, T-Mobile and pretty much the rest of the world other than Sprint. So next summer, when the time is right, Apple will announce the iPhone 4G–see why they didn’t use that moniker this year?–available on AT&T, Verizon and other LTE networks worldwide.

So what do you think? Does the glove fit?

Resisting the iPad just got a whole lot harder

The Spirit Jailbreak I used yesterday on my iPhone to give me most of what I was excited about in OS4 without waiting for OS4—background music, homescreen wallpaper, homescreen folders—also works for the iPad. And according to MacStories,

there’s a little trick you can perform that lets you scale iPhone apps for the iPad, without waiting for the developers to update their apps. In this way, and if you’re lucky, you can have an iPhone app running in fullscreen without pixel doubling, which supports all the various orientations and that even uses iPad’s UI elements.

This is huge. Literally. Because after doing a little hackery—warning, this involves remoting into your iPad via ssh and editing the XML info.plist file for every app you want to alter—you can get some, but not all, iPhone apps to run as though native to the iPad’s XGA resolution.

Scale - Tweetie 1

They’ve already proven it works with Tweetie 2, and they have others verified as well. Anyone with a jailbroken iPad want to tell me if Stanza works with this? Because if it does, I have to scrape together some cash.

How To: Run iPhone Apps on the iPad Without Pixel Doubling [UPDATING]

How I went from Apple store newbie to lifetime ban in one week at Protocol Snow

Okay, this is a little terrifying. While Apple on the one hand does more than anyone else to ensure a great user experience (more on this tomorrow), they simultaneously seem hell-bent on destroying the customer experience.

When Apple delayed the international iPad launch by a month, early adopters worldwide started to panic. Since my nearby Apple store initially had plenty of stock, I offered to purchase and ship iPads internationally for members of the NeoGAF gaming forum. I was doing this as a favor, unlike hoarders who were unloading iPads on eBay to cash in on the $150+ markup. Instead, my asking prices were very reasonable, just enough to cover all the tax, international express shipping, and Paypal fees with a little left over for gas and my time.

The really disturbing part is the canned, robotic language the clerks in the Apple Store are forced to use. I’ve got more information out of voice recognition phone trees. This is exactly the kind of behavior Wired founder John Battelle called out in his recent open letter to Apple, in which he referred to Apple as the Howard Hughes of the industry. And not in a good way.

How I went from Apple store newbie to lifetime ban in one week at Protocol Snow