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So there’s a new ipad coming out soon, http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/mar/07/ipad-apple, not apparently ipad3 but just ‘the new ipad’.   So next year when there is the next version what do we have?, the new ‘new ipad’ and the old ‘new ipad’, it seems a bit confusing, I wonder why not just ipad3 or ipad 2S if they really had to.

Another things that strikes me about the ipad is the figures they showed at the launch about the sales.  These showed that Apple shipped 15m ipads which was more than the number of HP PCs that were sold.  That seems to suggest to me that Apple see the ipad as being a mass-market tablet device.  But isn’t the price a bit of a barrier?  At that price I can see the Apple fans buying a new version each year, but if you’ve already got an ipad or ipad2 are you really going to be buying a new one quickly?   If Apple are looking at the PC market then the likely PC replacement cycle must be around 3-5 years I would have thought.  Will Apple really be able to encourage people to spend the price of a decent spec-laptop every couple of years?  I would wonder.

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Copper and fibre-optic cables
There have been a few news reports recently about increasing numbers of thefts of copper wire (see this report from the BBC for example).  The trigger seems to be that the price of copper has increased substantially over recent years.  Although this chart from Metalprices suggests that they went down in 2007/08 and then back up substantially. But what struck me about it was that much of our domestic voice and data network is presumably based around miles and miles of copper cable.  So if there’s that much value in copper cabling that thieves are ripping up chunks of it for the scrap metal value then wouldn’t rolling out fibre optic cables to the home and taking up the copper cables pay for itself?  Just a thought.  I’m sure there are all sorts of reasons why not, ranging from the cost of the fibre optic cables, to the cost of doing the new cabling, and the new infrastructure that would be needed.  But how high would the cost of copper have to go before there is more value in the cables in the ground than it would cost to replace them all with fibre?

Small screens/large screens
I was at a presentation during the week listening to a talk about the University’s work on optimising the virtual learning environment and other websites and systems for mobile learners. [Liveblogged here by Doug Clow].  Much of the effort is around getting the various websites to work in an optimal fashion on small screen devices.  The growth of use of these devices is phenomenal and accelerating with traffic levels this year three times that seen last year.  That’s something that we are very aware of and although our new drupal website is already mobile-friendly we have been working on a new version of our mobile library website that should be out soon.

What interested me particularly is that a couple of years ago there was very little traffic from tablet devices but now there is significant amounts of traffic from them (slightly obscured by iOS traffic for both iphones and ipads being lumped in together in many of the statistics).  One of the comments that was made was that tablet users expect to get a near ‘desktop’ experience but many websites still treat them as if they were a touchscreen phone, so many functions won’t actually work.  Yet the experience of the two devices is quite different and the expectation of users also seems to me to be different.  We’re certainly starting to look at what our websites look like to a variety of tablet users on android and iOS, as well as the usual list of different phones that we now routinely test.

And then yesterday morning listening to the radio there was an advert for a Smart TV with built-in internet access.  Which made me think that actually the range of devices you’ve got to be designing for goes from the smallest of mobile phone handsets, through tablets, to netbooks, laptops and desktops, right up to large screen domestic TVs.  But the user experience and expectations are surely going to be completely different on those different levels of device.  Are you likely to be wanting to do exactly the same on each device?  We’ve already taken the view that mobile phone users probably want different things (based on a research report from one of my colleagues) so are building cut-down versions of the main library website.  But if you’ve got a much larger screen display does the opposite apply?  Will Smart TV users want a different version of your website, with more interactivity, more multimedia?  Mmm  must get my order in for a big new Smart TV then, for website testing purposes you understand.

The process
Having read some of the problems that people have been having with their upgrades to iOS 5, it was with a bit of trepidation that I upgraded the ipad yesterday.  Particularly as I’d had a few problems when upgrading to iOS 4.3.5.   I fully expected it to take several hours with all manner of problems.  But actually it was pretty painless given the size of the upgrade.

After plugging the ipad into the laptop and running up itunes it needed an upgrade of itunes on the laptop to the latest version first, so that took a little bit of time.  And I hadn’t sync’d the ipad to the laptop recently so it had to do that, but once I got into the upgrade process the backup process seemed to take more time than doing the actually upgrade.  It seemed to take no more than an hour.  It may have been less but I’d got so used to the ipad restarting, going blank and doing it’s own thing that I didn’t realise that you had to finish the process off on the ipad.  The ipad went blank and nothing appeared on the laptop so it took me a while to work out that I needed to press the button on the ipad and then through several screens to finish the setup.  But the process seemed to run pretty smoothly for me on the whole.

The only problem I had in common with many people was the iCloud setup, but afterwards I was able to go back into it and configure that, although I’ve not yet had time to use it to backup the device.  There’s not much on the ipad so it’s within the free 5gb limit but I think I might wait to think about whether I want everything copied there.

But overall the upgrade went really smoothly, and pretty much all my downloaded apps worked fine afterwards.  This time I did the update on a faster network and from the laptop I’d originally setup the ipad from.  So maybe that was the difference.

iOS 5

ipad iOS 5 screenshot Having  completed the upgrade there are quite a few changes that are evident on the ipad.  Most obvious amongst them are the appearance of several new icons on the home page: Messages, Reminders and Newsstand, while the ipod icon has changed to a Music one.  [If you want to look through the iOS 5 features then they are detailed on the Apple site here]

Behind the scenes there are quite a few changes that I’ve noticed already.  So the Music section now defaults to displaying your music in albums.  I wondered idly whether that said something about the age of whoever decided that the album view would be the default.  If you’re used to buying music track-by-track then the album view probably isn’t the way you think of music.  It sounds a bit old-school, physical-format centric maybe?

Safari now has tabs which is great (and not before time to be honest) but there still seems to be a limit of 9 tabs, even though you still get the + sign it doesn’t seem to open any more tabs (for me anyway).  You can also tweet links from the browser as well as email them.

The Message feature I find a bit strange.  iOS 5 Messages iconIt lets you message iPhones, iPod touch and iPads, but nothing else.  Presumably because it links in with the Apple account.  At the same time as the iOS 5 integrates twitter support more completely (although the twitter app still doesn’t take advantage of the larger screen of the ipad), it isn’t all that obvious why Apple would introduce a new messaging feature in what is already a pretty crowded marketplace (with SMS, twitter and Google+ providing multiplatform support).  Making it available through iTunes might have been a good idea maybe?  I noticed also that even if you turn it off from the Settings then the icon still remains on the home page.

I gather that there are 200 new features in iOS 5 so it’s going to take a while to find them all out.   Amongst the General > Network settings is a VPN feature that I don’t remember before that looks like it could do with checking out to see whether it can be connected to the VPN.  It suggests to me a bit of thinking about the ipad as a device for business and what would be useful to make it easier to use for business.  Well, easier network browsing as an integral part of the ipad would be good to see in the longer term and some multiuser capability.

Overall, I’m pretty happy that the upgrade went OK, and there’s a host of new features to play with.  As a final thought, actually, that’s a new operating system version as a free upgrade, so that’s pretty good.

Well, I’ve had my Kindle for about six months now and the use of an ipad for slightly less. So, time for a bit of reflection on how I’m using them, pros and cons and likes and dislikes, and whether it has changed my behaviour.

Kindle
I’ve bought about a dozen books for the Kindle.  I’m still buying print books, but actually I think I’m buying less print books from Amazon, although I still buy books in the high street, driven by the ubiquitous 3 for 2 or half price hardbacks.  I do try to see which is cheapest as the Kindle version isn’t always the cheapest option.  I like the fact that if you do buy books on the Kindle they appear really quickly, so maybe that is why I’m not ordering print books online and waiting for delivery?

Although I’ve got the 3G version of the Kindle I find I rarely use the browser.  It’s OK if you’ve no option but not a great user experience as navigation is clumsy and speed slow.  I’m tending to use the Kindle on the bus, or if I’m going somewhere out of reach of wifi.  Then I might use the browser for something like www.kintweet.com  But the keyboard is really too small and clumsy to use with having to use the SYM for anything that isn’t a letter of the alphabet.  Now I’m using an ipad I find I’m rarely using the Kindle at home as I’m tending to use the ipad.

I’m glad I got the 3G version though as it does mean that books you are reading sync to the latest point if you’ve been reading them on another device.  I’ve got the Kindle software loaded on the ipad and PC to sync all the books in my collection so I can read them wherever I am and whatever device is to hand.   So I’ve settled down to largely use the ebook reader to read ebooks, hmm.. no great surprise then, but I think my use is affected by having access to an ipad.

ipad
I’m using an ipad provided through work.  It’s the first Apple device I’ve used for any length of time and I’m pretty impressed with it as a day to day tool.  Whereas I used to take my laptop around with me at work I now tend to take the ipad.  There are some limitations and frustrations, mainly to do with not being able to get into our main document mangement system on the ipad (although theorectically it might be possible to browse the folders with one of the network apps you can get).  Not being able to edit MS Office documents is a bit limiting.  I find I generally end up putting documents into dropbox and taking notes in the notes feature and then emailing them.

I find that the ipad connects to wifi networks at both work and home fine.  The speed the device starts up is impressive and the ease of setting up email account access make it an easier tool to access email.  Much quicker then Outlook Web Access.

It’s obviously a good web browser platform although not sure why it seems to have a limit of 9 browser “tabs”.  I don’t much like the itunes and apps store lists of apps tools they seem to have a really poor user interface which seems designed to make if difficult to find anything in a logical way.  Typing on the device itself isn’t the best experience but is OK.   Using the ipad for web browsing does point out quite how many sites either don’t work well on this type of tablet or force you to go to a mobile version of the site with limited functionality or rely heavily on flash.

Would I buy an ipad myself?  Probably not at the current price.  If I’d bought an original ipad I’m not sure I’d want to buy an ipad2.   But a tablet that could edit MS Office documents without having to go through converting them with different packages, that was multiuser, multitasking and could access networks would be a pretty useful tool.

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