iPad 3, iPad HD, New iPad – Take Your Pick

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Yesterday came and went and the rumors have moved into the recycle bin as the reality sets in: the new iPad is here! With all the fanfare and hoopla that accompanies any Apple product launch, there necessarily comes the excited cheers of approval mixed with the bitter tears of disappointment. I marvel at the range of emotions an Apple launch invariably brings. But that is not what I really want to talk about here. I would rather talk about specs.

So, what is the iPad 3 – HD – New all about? Mostly processing muscle and display resolution. A lot of both. The new tablet does indeed support a retina display like its little brother iPhone 4S, with a whopping 2048 x 1536 pixels, 264 pixels per inch, for a grand total of 3.1 million tiny points of light. That’s a whole lot for a 9 inch screen. Four times the pixels of the iPad 2, and about a million more than your standard HDTV. The new screen should appear mostly pixel free with a great deal more color saturation. And, to run this visual marvel, the tablet is powered by dual core processor with quad core graphics capabilities – for you geeks, its an A5X chip. So, its going to run fast, and look great doing it.

What else is new? An iSight camera on the front and a better rear camera, along the design lines of the iPhone 4S’ camera (backside illumination, 5-element lens, hybrid IR filter), albeit with a lower resolution sensor at 5 MP. It will shoot 1080p video, though, which should look great in playback on that awesome screen.

With similar battery life and slightly thicker and heavier body, it is virtually indistinguishable to the eye from the iPad 2.

And that’s it for hardware.

UPDATE: I just learned the new iPad also employs the new Bluetooth 4.0 technology, which means it is Bluetooth Smart Ready – the first tablet to have this. What this means is crazy-long battery life for accessories like keyboards and headsets, and better functionality with the new health monitoring gadgets that are looking to bond with iPad apps.

Of course, Apple has to give a bit on the software too – iOS 5.1 is available right now for all your iDevices and will come preloaded on the iPad 3. While Siri is not built into this iPad (sadly enough), it does come with the ability to take dictation via a mic button on the keyboard. It will also be able to access the data net at quad core LTE 4G speeds – as soon as the carrier nets catch up. The tech does actually offer greater download and upload speeds, as the demos showed during the keynote yesterday. So, the new iPad will be faster on the Web as well. And, it can even act as a 4G hotspot, to serve as liaison between your other devices and the Web.

Of course, Apple’s proprietary apps are being updated to take advantage of the new speeds and resolution. Look for updates to iWork, iMovie and Garageband. With the feature set in these apps and the specs of the tablet, you have to take very seriously the iPad as content creation tool now. Take, for example, the new iPhoto app for the new iPad – you will be able to leverage that awesome touch interface to work some serious editing magic on your pics – up to 19 megapixels in size, as well as share and combine photos into metadata-laden journals. iTunes in the Cloud will now allow seamless streaming of purchased movies to all iDevices, which again should look wholly awesome on the new iPad.

The new iPad will hit the same price points as the iPad 2, which will be dropped $100. That’s good news – you can now get a very VERY nice tablet from Apple for $399 starting, and the new features at the same old price.

Of course, Web pundits are all over the map on the release, some bemoaning the label “New iPad”, others left wishing for more. Complaints and praise abound. But the bottom line is that Apple is still the tablet maker of choice and the iPad continues to set the standard that everyone else is trying to approach.

What do the new features mean for business users? Obviously, faster speeds and connectivity mean more efficient computing. For those who are not so fond of the on-screen keyboard, dictation mode will be a nice add. Improvements to iWork should also assist on the work front. If your biz is more artistically oriented, the new iMovie and Garageband, as well as new third party apps from developers such as Autodesk with their awesome Sketchbook app, will move the iPad further away from toy and further towards serious tool for creating music, movies and art.

Should you buy it? Well, I have developed a new philosophy with Apple’s mobile devices – skip a generation and get at least a couple of years use out of each one. Apple is not wildly innovating between models, offering only modest rather than life-changing improvements with each new release. Not that these improvements aren’t great and desirable, but they do not necessarily compel me to plunk down hundreds every time a new Apple device is unveiled. So, if you already have an iPad 2, maybe the new iPad isn’t so attractive, unless you can’t live without that fantastic display.

I currently use the original iPad. I still love it – it is a solid device that performs great and offers me tons of use. I take it with me instead of my laptop on business trips as I have enabled enough work arounds on it to meet pretty much every need I have. But, I will be buying a new iPad, having skipped the iPad 2’s cameras and software improvements, as the leap in functionality is much bigger between the original and the new, justifying the expense. I already know I will use the device, something I wasn’t sure of when I purchased the original iPad. And my son can’t wait until I hand down the original to him, so it is win-win-win all around for me.

For the record, I am going with the 32 GB, 4G model, which mirrors my original iPad’s specs. And, for the record, I had zero problem pre-ordering on Apple’s site, which apparently hasn’t been a universal experience. After I get my hands on it, I will check back here with my actual usage impressions and let you know whether it was worth the hype and the change. I am guessing, though, that I won’t be disappointed.

 

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March Of The iPhones

The rumor mill has been churning steadily as of late, gaining froth as we approach the most recently speculated release date for the latest iPhone, dubbed “5”. Normally, I don’t really like to engage in the speculation because, well, it’s just speculation. But I can’t resist an infographic, even if column 5 is pure speculation. Nice to see the continuum of changes in this iconic device, even if it is a tale of fiction in the end, albeit well researched fiction.

 

Hat tip to InfoMobile.

 

Personally Epic Android / iOS Battle

I have had an iPhone since the 3G. Before that, I had a Palm Treo 750. That was my first smartphone. I remember waiting for Palm to release the 750 on ATT, running Windows Mobile. It  hooked up with my Exchange server at work. I was in awe every time I picked up that Treo, marveling at the incredibly amazing feats I could perform with it. But that first sense of admiration at smartphone capabilities couldn’t hold a candle to my first experience with the iPhone. Apple’s seminal tech that changed how we all viewed such phones and raised the bar on mobile devices to impossible new heights. Quite simply, the iPhone changed the entire mobile phone industry singlehandedly. And while it hasn’t had quite the innovative leap of late as it did with its introduction, Apple keeps on refining the svelte device to make it perform better, smarter, and faster. I have the 4 now, having replaced the 3G with the 3GS, and then waiting in that interminably long line for the 4. To say that I love the phone (despite two battery failures on two different models) would be an understatement. Can’t wait for iOS 5.

However, I am now finding my attention divided. Little more than a month ago, I got a replacement for my aging Blackberry Curve, a phone I NEVER could bond with, no matter how hard I tried. My replacement? A shiny new LG G2x, an Android-powered (packing 2.2.2), dual core processing, 4G surfing, 4″ Gorilla glass screen wearing, 8 megapixel and 1080 p HD shooting monster. And now I find I have to make a conscious decision every time I reach for my phone.

The G2x is not without some difficulties. Apparently there are a few bugs in the current build, which hopefully will be resolved with the Gingerbread update scheduled for “summer.” I find that about every two weeks I have to pop the battery to wake the phone back up. But I don’t mind. Because when it is running, it is running FAST. Carl-Lewis-fast.

Look what showed up on my desk!

Why hello there, little (well, maybe not so little) phone

The box came with the phone, charger plug, separate USB to micro USB cable and battery. Well, whaddya know?A battery that you can remove and replace. Sure wish my 3GS and 4 had that. My first sense of the phone was that it felt bigger and heavier than the 4, which I can easily slip in my pocket. The G2x is a bit more of a shove – it doesn’t always fit nicely into the spaces the 4 can fit into.

When I fired up the phone, I was amazed by the big bright screen. I was greeted by the battery charge symbol, but a press of the power button on the top treated me to a cute little animation – a diminutive Android robot taking off, leaving a cloud and the G2x logo. O.k., no doubt I am easily amused.

The phone comes with 8 GB of internal memory, but it can support up to an additional 32 GB, with a micro SD card. I haven’t added one yet, as I haven’t needed to load much onto the phone directly (more on that later). A cool feature is the ability to send HDMI out – there is a micro-sized output, and you can get a cable to send to your TV or other monitor. With the high definition this phone offers, you can play some pretty awesome video graphics on the phone and see them on your gorgeous, big screen. Not to mention the games. I hear NFS Shift looks pretty amazing on the big screen.

HDMI out. Too awesome.

But hardware aside, the really neat experience for me is the Android OS. Of course, reviewing mobile apps as I do, I have been very eager to try out this operating system. The LG G2x apparently boasts a purer version of Android than many, with its stock Android OS  stripped of most of the usual carrier mods, bells and whistles. I personally consider this a benefit, and apparently it also means that the G2x will be nearer the top of the heap when it comes to OS updates. Although the Gingerbread update timeframe is still up in the air. Also, as a big user and fan of Google products, I love how Google’s apps are integrated so tightly into the mobile Android OS. Google keeps finessing these apps with greater functionality all the time. Setting up Google’s apps on Android is a complete breeze. Much easier than the hobbled iPhone implementations. A few clicks, entering your Google credentials and a sync with the Web and you have it. Many are included on the phone right out of the box; others you can add via the dedicated Android Marketplace app. Downloading is so easy – happens with a couple of clicks, and then you are notified that your app is installed.

 

The hard buttons at the bottom of the screen – menu, home, back and search are easy to figure out, and in some respects make more sense than Apple’s button arrangement. The phone with Google Voice integration is awesome – every time I make a call, I can choose whether to use my regular phone or my Google Voice number. I barely used Google Voice on the iPhone because of the clumsy methods necessary.

 

Now about those 8GB. Google does not appear to have the same fear of the cloud that Apple seems to. Froyo has all the pieces in place to support the connection between your device and the cloud (see Google Music discussion below). You can share information between Chrome on your desktop and your mobile easily, with the assistance of apps. Tethering, mobile hotspot and Flash support are built in. Let me say here, though, that the lack of Flash support in iOS has never troubled me. But, it is still nice to have.

 

Speaking of notifications, there is a reason iOS 5 is copying Android’s notification system. It is light years ahead of the clumsy implementation on the pre 5 OS. Instead of a pop up window that pretty much halts anything you might want to do on the phone (take a photo or video, send an email or text, or search the Web) until you manually send it away, Android’s notifications are tiny – they pop up at the very top of the phone’s screen in the Status bar and can be ignored until you pull down that bar, at which time you can either act on one or more of them or dismiss them all with the press of a button. Genius.

 

Another brilliant point to Android is Google Music. Of course, these phones aren’t entirely meant to serve as work horses. And, music does sometimes help move things along. I have access to the Google Music beta which is nice on the desktop but wholly amazing on the Android-powered  G2x. I can access my 11,000 song library anywhere I have data service or wi-fi. I use it in my car through my audio system. It works so nicely, I cannot imagine Apple beating this combination in the near future, particularly with the somewhat disappointing news of iCloud + iTunes + the Match service. I don’t need GB’s of space (nearly 40 to be exact) to house my music on the go – I just need a link to the Web.

 

I have not even really begun to take advantage of the geekier features of the OS. Without having to “jailbreak” your phone (what you have to do to free the iPhone from Apple’s closed prison and draconian app approval standards), you can root your Android phone and open up all sorts of customization possibilities. While this isn’t necessarily something that the average consumer might want to undertake, it is there and available and you don’t have to feel like a fugitive from justice when you do it.

Right now, I am driving this phone much like any consumer would. And that is how I started with the iPhone as well. I wonder whether I would find the Android phone as easy to master if I had started with Android and then moved to Apple OS.  There is no doubt that the Apple OS is targeted to the average user, with gorgeously designed applications and features pared down to their simplest form. I don’t mind that at all, even being a geek myself. I like easy, always have. While power users might chafe at iOS’ simplicity, the iPhone is not designed for them. Pressed to guess, I believe my learning curve with the Android would have been far steeper if it had been my first phone. Apple has definitely broken me in to the touchscreen, app-based interface and I still love its glossy shine.

Small pet peeve here with Android that favors iOS – I do not like the copy / paste function in Android at all. I don’t like the menu interface for it. Another pet-peeve for the particular version of Froyo (Android 2.2) and T-Mobile build that I am running – there is insufficient security built into the phone to pass my corporate security test. I had to download a Nitro app, Touchdown, for $20 to get our secured email / contacts / calendaring system to work on the G2x. Not terribly business-friendly, there.

It is true that Apple’s App Store has the better and larger selection of creative applications, many showing the marks of gorgeous design worthy of the phone. Android is still trying to catch up in that regard. There is something almost makeshift, almost underground to many of the apps I see in the Android marketplace. I cannot give up many of my iOS-only applications so I have no problem running both systems at all.

Where it really gets interesting is when I run the same apps on the different devices. I must admit, three of my favs – Facebook, my6sense and Feedly – actually seem nicer on the Android platform. I love the recent photo previews at the bottom of the Facebook notifications screen in Android. The nice big icons at the front page on my6sense give the app a more finished feel to it. Some of my settings in my6sense reset every time I open the app on the iPhone, but remain the same on teh G2x, so it runs better too. Don’t dismiss the Android market and App quality out of hand just yet – I feel the best is yet to come in this regard.

 

We are all learning how to live together and get along

 

So, I am betting you would like to hear which OS / device I prefer. I hate to disappoint, but I really can’t yet say. I like them both, and while many reviewers spew many a word pointing out their differences, there is much in them that feels similar to me. I remember when Android was first ascending – I scoffed at the infant system, assuming that nothing could unseat the iPhone and its impeccably-drawn OS and applications. At this stage, I don’t think a user can go too far wrong with either OS (or the iPhone 4 or LG G2x hardware for that matter). The winning feature  in both is the genius-phone aspect to these new devices and their ability to force the user to eschew traditional computers, desktops and laptops.  How can something so small pack so much punch? Apple needs Android to push the limits so that Apple can keep making its beautiful product even better and vice versa. Ultimately, consumers win. With either Apple or Google at the mobile-helm, I believe the future is looking pretty bright for our little pocket rockets.

Microsoft versus Apple – A Timeline

Who rightfully should wear the crown of Emperor in the Tech world? It’s always fun to measure tech giants and an Apple / Microsoft duel at 50 paces is hard to resist. Check out the stock values and key events in the history of both companies with this (very) long infographic. And remember back to the good old days when the Apple I was built in a garage and Bill Gates was writing Tic Tac Toe programs in BASIC.

Hat tip to BGR.

iCloud is Your Cloud, Only Different This Time

Ahhh, WWDC. There is always something fun to be had, particularly if you are an Apple fan. Today was no exception. From a new Mac OS, dubbed Lion, that will be available in the Mac App Store in July, to the brand new, re-imagined iOS 5 with tons of new goodies for iPhone / Pad / Touch toting devotees, and finally, to the widely rumored and now reality iCloud, Apple is clearly taking it to the skies.

I followed the liveblog here, working around a conference call to get it all in. Hey, I have my priorities in line with my ducks!

Skipping for now the new features in OSX Lion, iOS 5 has some great new adds. Notifications have become more unobtrusive and Android-like. No more pop-ups on the screen that have to be dismissed. Now they will discretely show at the top and disappear until you scroll them back with a downward swipe. Or dismiss them by clicking the “X” next to them. App-specific notifications will show up on the lock screen which opens the app when you unlock the phone. There are widgets for stocks and weather and such in the drop down as well. Another long overdue but still welcome change is the fact that updates and syncing will now occur over the air and without the need for cable-based tethering – Woo Hoo! Messaging between iPhones also has undergone a dramatic change, becoming more Blackberry-like with a native MMS – SMS protocol.  There is a new app, Newstand, that looks to be the iBooks for your magazine subscriptions, with automatic over air updates for new issues. Twitter is now tightly integrated into the OS, with buttons for instant share in the Maps, Camera and Photo apps. Photo editing features too, with some better control over zoom (pinch) and setting focus / light. Mobile Safari will look a LOT more like Safari on your desk top, complete with tabbed browsing, but the really cool new add is a Reading List, which lets you save articles for later reading (think Instapaper). The new iOS also includes a Reminders app, which essentially is a to do list, making all those to do list apps obsolete – it syncs across devices and with calendars automatically. A camera button on the lock screen, a split keyboard for more comfortable iPad typing, and it really is ALL GOOD in iOS 5. Can’t wait until it is available for us consumers in the fall (developers can get their hands on it right now).

Now, for something totally different and new, where there once was MobileMe, there is now iCloud. What was once $99 per year is now free. What was once limited to email, cloud disc space and calendar, now includes photos, documents, music, and apps. When you sign up for iCloud, you get 5GB of free storage, but purchased music, apps, and books, as well as the new Photo Stream, don’t count against free storage. 5GB for mail, documents, Camera Roll, account information, settings, and other app data.That is a few GB more than Dropbox but same as Box’s free cloud storage offering. What makes iCloud nice is the effortless, behind the scenes syncing and back up of vital information – it is integrated into applications and a lot of the magic occurs without much user intervention. All the data to be synced is shared across all iCloud connected devices. For example, take a photo on your iPhone and instantly see it on your iPad and instantly store it in iPhoto on your Mac or in your Picture file on your PC. And it works with both Mac and PC computers, so you really can connect your digital life to iCloud if you choose.

Is there a downside? Well, yes if your focus is cloud-based music storage. iCloud will allow you access to all your iTunes purchased music on all devices with a few button clicks. If you want more than that, i.e. your non-iTunes music stored in the Cloud, you will need to pay $24.99 per year to get the iTunes matching service – your library is checked against iTunes library and matches are made available within the iCloud ecosystem. Or you can manually sync with a cable. :(. And, here is the kicker: there is no streaming. You still have to download the media onto the devices, so storage is still an issue, particularly with big music collections like mine.

Guess I will stick with Google Music, with 20,000 songs streamed from the cloud, for free.

Save for these disappointments, the new iOS and iCloud features are still exciting and will push mobile and Cloud computing forward a substantial distance. I can’t wait for Fall, and it is hardly Summer!

UPDATE: There are a few new iOS 5 features that I cannot believe I failed to mention yesterday. That is what I get for cooking dinner and writing a blog post at the same time. Probably my most used app, Mail, is getting some great new features.

Your inbox is about to receive some great new features. Rich text formatting with bold, italic, or underlined fonts. Control over indents within the text of the message. The ability to drag email addresses and rearrange names in address fields. The ability to flag important messages, add and delete mailbox folders on the fly and search the full-text, including body, of email messages. Combined with iCloud’s free email account synced on all your devices, the new Mail app is starting to approach desktop functionality. Calendar, the second most used app on my iPhone, is also getting some tweaks. You can now see year view on iPad and week view on iPhone or iPod Touch. Tap and drag to create events and adjust time and duration. Add, rename, and delete calendars directly from the device. View event attachments without leaving the Calendar app. And, of course, use  iCloud to share calendars with friends and family, with the same information synced to all devices. I can’t wait to try the multi-tasking gestures on the iPad with the new OS – you  can use four or five fingers to swipe up to reveal the multitasking bar, pinch to return to the Home screen, and swipe left or right to switch between apps. Very cool indeed! I also like the automatic WiFi sync – plug in your device and automatically and wirelessly backs up to new content to iTunes.  

There are more features, over 200 new I believe, but these are the top features for me. What are you looking most forward to?

Are You Ready for iOS 4.3?

The newest OS for your iDevice is dropping March 11, 2011. While there is nothing earth-shattering to report, there are a few sweet upgrades with the new OS. I figured that I should probably run through a few since many readers here are iPhone and iPad users, not the least of whom, me. Even my blog theme is iPhone-Like, right?

Anyway, if you take the time to upgrade your iTunes (currently available when you check for upgrades within iTunes) and take the time to upgrade your iDevice’s OS this Friday, you will be rewarded (hopefully) with the following features (quotes from the Apple iOS 4.3 Splash Page):

More Flexibility with AirPlay

Get even more play out of AirPlay — the wireless technology that lets you stream content from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to your HDTV via Apple TV.(and only via AppleTV) In addition to music, movies, and photos, AirPlay now streams video from your Photos app. So you can shoot a home video and instantly share it with everyone in the room. Even AirPlay-enabled apps and websites get the big-screen treatment with iOS 4.3. And if your photos are the feature presentation, you can play a slideshow with all the stunning themes available on Apple TV.

Enhanced Java-Script Performance in Safari:

As you surf the web, your fingers will love the responsiveness of the new Nitro JavaScript engine powering Safari. It runs JavaScript up to twice as fast as in iOS 4.2.2 Which means you get more speed behind each page load. And sites with lots of interactive features can appear on your screen even faster.

A baby-step towards Over-The-Air iTunes, dubbed “Home Sharing”:

Now you can play your entire iTunes library from anywhere in the house. If it’s on your Mac or PC, you can play it on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch over a shared Wi-Fi network.3 And not just music. Watch a movie or TV show. Play a podcast. Or listen to an audiobook. On whichever device you want — without having to download or sync.

A Personal HotSpot with your iPhone 4 (VERY COOL  – WOOT!):

On the road, in an airport, at the park — now you can bring Wi-Fi with you wherever you go. Download iOS 4.3 on your iPhone 4, and the next time you find yourself without access to Wi-Fi but in 3G territory, enable Personal Hotspot and share your cellular data connection with your Mac, PC, iPad, or other Wi-Fi-capable device. You can share your connection with up to five devices at once over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB — with up to three of those connections using Wi-Fi. (with tethering plan)  Every connection is password protected and secure. And it’s power friendly, too. iPhone detects when your Personal Hotspot is no longer in use and turns it off to save battery life.

A Switch-able Switch on the iPad (for those, me included, who lamented the loss of the physical orientation lock):

Customize the switch on the side of your iPad to lock the screen rotation or mute the volume. So you can lock your iPad display in landscape or portrait. Or quickly go from volume on to volume off. Just configure the side switch in Settings to toggle between your options.

Guess I’ll upgrade, and the new toys should keep me happy until the next tidbit from Apple, likely the iPhone 5.

Design Orgy Smackdown: Ikea vs. Apple

I could NOT resist an infographic comparing the lives of the brains behind two of my favorite designer / retailers. Check out the comparisons between Ikea’s Ingvar Kamprad and Apple’s Steve Jobs. It really is a fascinating read. My corporate office is 10 minutes from both an Apple Store and an Ikea store. Swedish meatballs and lingonberries for lunch! My home office is littered with Apple and Ikea spoils. I am typing this post on my Apple Macbook Pro while sitting on an Erland chair. Can you say “product placement?” Even with the subtle anti-Jobs sentiment reflected in the facts and timelines, it is till Very Cool Indeed:

Hat tip to The Next Web and 9gag for the fun.

Your Status Has Changed

Little things, like a change in status, can make all the difference. Take, for instance, this innocuous little email that popped into my Gmail inbox today:

Oh, goody! Will keep you posted …

MaxiVista + iPad: Expand Your Screen Estate

If you are an extreme computer-powered multi-tasker, there is no such thing as too much screen space.  If you aren’t already using a second (or third or fourth) monitor on your system, I will bet dimes to donuts that you have thought about it or would like to do it. It isn’t always the simplest process. Readers may recall my extensive review of the Nanovision Mimo USB monitors, a supposedly plug and play solution to the multi-monitor issue. I loved the monitors and what they did for my productivity until Nanovision updated the drivers and all of a sudden the monitors refused to work. Sometimes hardware (and software) are like that.

Finding myself mini-monitor-less, and having gotten used to the benefits of multiple screens, I have been looking for a solution to the problem for a little while now. In the meantime, I purchased an iPad, one of the benefits of which is a beautiful 9.7″ wide screen. Naturally, I wondered if somehow I could use the iPad to fill the gap left by the now defunct and defective Mimos.

Bartles Media GmBH has come up with a partial solution for those running Windows Vista or 7 – powered machines (and possibly XP machines, although I couldn’t see support for that on their site). Their MaxiVista iPad app (link here) allows you to set up the iPad as a second monitor. The iPad app costs $9.99, but they were very kind to provide me with a free discount code to try it out for myself. MaxiVista (link here) also comes in desktop versions, so you can link up to THREE additional pcs on your master computer. I only tried the iPad version, but I can only imagine how cool their desktop software might be (prices range between $40 and $100, depending on feature set, but there is a free trial available).

To get up and running, you have to first download the PC application onto your main computer. This was simple enough. Once completed, a little MaxiVista icon appears on your desktop. Then, activate your iPad’s MaxiVista app and the PC app. The devices “speak” to each other through your local network – my PC had no problem finding the iPad, and could even “see” that it was either to the right or left of the desktop. The PC app will ask you to confirm the iPad’s location, and you can check either yes or no and save your settings. Once you get past this point, you will see your desktop screen extended onto your iPad.

The app itself works well. I do get a “Com Surrogate” error message whenever I start the PC app, but the error doesn’t seem to do anything more than annoy (I did try a couple fixes, but couldn’t get it to go away). The screen refresh is a little bit slow, so I would not recommend it for views requiring fast refresh, such as video. I also note that, because the iPad always seems to default to the left side of your desktop screen, you will probably want to set up the iPad on the left side of your computer so that the movement makes sense. Some reviewers of the app seem to be sorely disappointed that the iPad loses its touchscreen ability when it is in second monitor mode, but I am not terribly troubled by this – most second monitors are not touchscreen-capable and the app does precisely what it is advertised to do – operate the iPad as a second monitor. Of course, if MaxiVista updates the app to somehow provide touchscreen control of the iPad while in second monitor mode, I will be a supremely happy camper indeed.

In any even, MaxiVista is a complete bargain in my book. My Mimo monitors, which had half the screen size of the iPad, cost well over $100 apiece. Most screens will cost you at least that. If you already have an iPad, the MaxiVista app will only set you back ten bucks. And, unlike my Mimos that relied on buggy device drivers, it WORKS.

How am I using it? Right now, I have two scrolling social feeds in side by side windows on the iPad, while I write the blog post in my main screen. I specifically chose auto-scrolling / updating feeds so that I wouldn’t need to shift my attention to that screen other than to glance at it. I can see the updates in the corner of my eye and take a quick peek, then get back to work. As such, I can keep tabs on more information at once.

iPad & Desktop Screens

iPad Screen Only

Desktop Screen Only

The mouse moves easily between the screens – much better than the mouse movement on the Mimos. Resolution on the iPad is more than adequate – I can see the iPad fine at 20 inches away without my distance glasses. In addition to monitoring multiple websites at once, I can see using this set up for my vector graphics program, setting the palettes and brush menus off to the iPad and keeping the main screen fully open for the drawing itself. Another great option would be to use the iPad to house your chat windows, while working on the main monitor. I had a reason to use this set up back a couple months ago and only wish I had MaxiVista installed at that time. How about loading a document that has no cut and paste option over on your iPad screen while you type what you need from it into a document in your main screen? Been there, needed that too.

MaxiVista is not the only App Store option out there. As I haven’t tried the other, Air Display (separate apps for Windows and Mac systems), I cannot comment on how effective it is. I can say that I do recommend the MaxiVista app for anyone running a Windows Vista desktop and an iPad. I can’t think of a simpler, most cost-effective solution to the multi-monitor problem.  Well done, MaxiVista!

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Confessions Of An Early Adopter

I really have never done this before. Waited in line for a piece of electronic equipment. But last Thursday, I found myself in a line outside an Apple Store in a suburban mall waiting to purchase an iPhone 4 .

In my defense, I would not have planned to wait in such a line on opening day if I had known I would be waiting in such a line. Chalk it up to my woeful inexperience with an Apple device launch day – I have always purchased my Apple-phernalia months, even years, after such devices have been introduced to the masses.

My general rule is not to purchase a technological marvel on its first run out of the gate, preferring instead to let the device work out the kinks, receive some field testing and updates and achieve a more mature form. But I figured I was getting into a fourth generation device, albeit with a new OS and hardware configuration, so it wasn’t really breaking my general rule, then, was it?

My decision to purchase hinged on two factors. One, ATT kindly advised that I was eligible for the lowest possible cost upgrade on my old iPhone 3GS (when I say old, I should clarify – 6 months old). I also knew that I could sell back the 3GS either privately or through one of those on-line retailers and recoup most of my new iPhone 4’s purchase price. Two, I was able to actually snag a reservation through the Apple Store iPhone App on that fateful June 15 day when Apple and ATT struggled and crashed under the weight of 600,000 pre-orders. Naive little me thought that I would simply walk into the Apple store, reservation in hand, and walk back out with a shiny new toy.

Not the case at all. I stopped by the store on my way home from the office. Outside the door stood two long lines stretching past two more stores and around the corner toward Nordstrom’s. I asked the kindly Apple employee at the door where reservations were supposed to go. She pointed to the back of the line. I asked “really?” She said, “really.” Apparently, the line on the right was for hopefuls with reservations and the line on the left was for hopefuls who were simply hopeful about getting a phone that day. I asked about the wait. “Two and a half hours right now.” Hmmm. “But”, she added “you can come back later this evening and wait if you have something to do right now. But you have to pick your phone up today or your reservation will be lost.” Wait then. Wait later. Tough choice. I decided to roll the dice on then.

The line seemed to crawl. But the reservation line crawled slightly faster than the “I just hope there is a phone in there when I get in there” line. People in the latter line seemed punchy. Some had lawn chairs. My line seemed a bit calmer. Except for the woman behind me with her friend who kept jostling me (unintentionally) as she repeatedly complained about being in a reservation line to begin with. I could sympathize with that.

Some people waited in line with small children. I marveled at them. My small children would have completely terrorized the line dwellers within ten minutes and I would have been thrown over the Nordrstom’s balcony to the subfloor below if I had attempted to bring them with me. I was very grateful for child care at that moment.

While in line, harried Apple employees periodically showed up with water (it was dang hot in there) and baskets bearing Lindt chocolates. Not a bad peace offering. Eventually, after approximately 1 and 3/4 hours, I made it to the front of the line. The jostling lady and I had become temporary pals by this point, chatting about phones and kids and making other small talk. Just then, I overheard my partners in the purely hopeful line talking about how they had been in that line since 7 a.m. that morning. Oh. My. God.  No phone is worth that kind of commitment.

As I finally meet “Josh”, my personal Apple consultant, I told him that I felt it might be harder to secure an iPhone 4 than a Golden Ticket to the Chocolate Factory. That made him laugh, probably because he lacked sufficient sleep. I could not get over the overwhelming feeling of surreality surrounding such singleminded devotion to what is simply a phone, albeit a smart one.

The process of purchasing and setting up was relatively painless. And soon, I walked out with a new iPhone 4 and an old, deactivated iPhone 3GS.

So, having played with the phone for several days, I am guessing you might be wondering about my thoughts? I am glad to have the new phone, but I question whether it was worth the 2 hours or so of time to get it, let alone the entire day invested by some. It is lovely and quick, sharp of screen and organized of tasks, with its foldering and multitasking. The camera quality is far better, the flash is almost blinding and the front facing cameras removes all the challenge of shooting self-portraits that the old iPhones enjoyed. The HD video is a noticeable improvement in video quality.

The sharp edges are a bit harder to hold in one’s hand. The dual glass sides make the phone feel a bit delicate and breakable. They are unbelievable fingerprint magnets. Sound quality of the phone seems marginally better. 3G reception is slightly less reliable than on the old 3GS. It still drops calls.

Overall, I believe this phone to be a step forward. Not a giant step, mind you, but definitely a step in a positive direction. If you can upgrade with full credit from ATT, then I do recommend it. If you are thinking of buying this out of contract for the full or slightly discounted price, my jury is still out.

What will make this phone are the apps. This has always been the case with the iPhone, which always suffers slightly in the hardware comparison tests. If third party developers can fully leverage the new features of the phone and the OS, then the combination will be a marvel. On my companion blog this week, Mobile App of the Day, I am featuring new iPhone applications or upgraded applications that take advantage of both iPhone 4 hardware and iOS 4 software. I expect more are coming. And I definitely look forward to putting this new phone and applications through their paces and keeping my eyes open for new apps that will fulfill the phone’s professional promise. I do so love powerful, hand-held computing.

Would I do it again? The answer to that question will have to wait for the next evolutionary cycle of the Apple hype machine and what new features and benefits are promised. However, I have learned that I should never to say never.  Pass a milk chocolate Lindt ball, please.