Monthly Archives: February 2012

If Microsoft Office comes to the iPad, it will be the best of times and the worst of times.

It was but a mere coincidence that after my previous blog article here, entitled,

“If the expression “Give me the child aged seven….” applies to the iPad and Keynote, I’d start to worry if I ran the Microsoft Office marketing department: Lessons from a Las Vegas school”

the blogosphere somewhat choked with the “news” reported by The Daily that they had seen Office ported to the iPad. From there, many sites echoed the report, some saying The Daily had been duped, others pursuing Microsoft for comment only to receive a strange kind of denial, that more would be known in a few weeks.

That didn’t help the rumour mongering, because the time schedule placed it into iPad 3 release rumour territory. “What is possible”, some asked, “that Microsoft would appear at the iPad 3 keynote to demonstrate Office for the iPad?”

And what would they mean for Apple, for Microsoft, for Google Docs, for Android devices, and for humanity in general? OK, it’s not that big a deal, but for many it’s a serious business. After all, Office is responsible for much of those billions Microsoft earns each month, it is the default communication platform in the enterprise and many academic and military settings, and its placement on the iPad is certainly worth contemplating for its meaning.

If memory serves me correctly, the last time Microsoft took to the stage with Apple in the form of Steve Jobs — happy birthday, Steve :-( — it was in the form of Roz Ho, from the MacBU showing a version of Office for the Mac.

These were never really stellar performances, and Office for the Mac was always a step behind the capabilities of its Windows brother. So those of us with long memories will greet any availability of an Office app with a yawn, as long as we are already using iWork equivalents, such as Pages, Keynote and Numbers.

There is one Microsoft Office product in the App store, and that is OneNote. There are other MS apps of course:

Do note, if you’ll pardon the pun, that OneNote is free, but limited to 500 entries. After that, to add more you must upgrade for unlimited notes by an in-app purchase of $14.99. This may hint at the cost of individual Office apps or we may see a bundled suite.

How Microsoft chooses to price and assemble Office will intrigue some for the next few weeks, given Apple showed its hand at the very beginning of the iPad Journey almost two years ago (less a few days).

The reviews for OneNote are not great in general, and indeed it’s competing against many very fine and not very expensive notetaking apps, including the free Evernote, as well as Notify.

It was the best of opportunities

For Microsoft, it must have come as an inevitable acknowledgement of the iPad’s market power to bring Office to it, while still developing its own tablet software with a full Windows 7 installation and a version of Office very close in capabilities to that of the desktop version.

That it will bring a denuded version to the iPad is a no-brainer, much like it has suited Apple and its iWork to do so while the iPad’s CPU and GPU grow in power with each new version.

So while the opportunity exists for Microsoft to add more millions to its coffers on sales of Office for the iPad, it may come at some cost. Some may ask if a Windows 7 tablet is needed if Office can be found on the iPad, and perhaps go without. Farewell potential sales.

But of course, it’s the full completely compatible version of Office on a Windows tablet as compared to a “thin” version on the iPad, so that may be enough to steer those in the enterprise away from the iPad to the Windows powered tablet.

For Apple, this is a further opportunity to move more iPads into the enterprise by giving users their default communication and productivity tools, hopefully equipped with extras such as tracking changes and easy cloud-based updating between iPad and desktop and laptop.

Does Apple care that its own iWork suite may go Missing in Action? I don’t think so. Its addition in the first place we were told by Steve Jobs was more of a “Can we do this” aspiration rather than a dagger plunge to the heart of Microsoft. And while Pages on the iPad has met universal acclaim, the same cannot be said of Keynote. At least we have seen several upgrades for the iPad version while the updated/upgraded desktop Keynote stays locked up, ready for the right moment to pounce.

Always remembering that Apple’s software and services exists to sell hardware, Office on the iPad will do more to sell iPads than iWork ever will, if I am to be totally frank about it.

Despite iWork’s two year head start, the iPad is still on an early adopters’ curve. This means there is still a huge market to penetrate and Office will help enormously. The best of times and opportunities will continue for Apple.

The worst of times and opportunities

But there is one downside to all this merriment, if one believes Office for the iPad is a good thing.

And it is here I write selfishly, although for me it may present opportunities too.

My concern is that once Powerpoint moves onto the iPad, the grace and finesse of Keynote will be a thing of the past, and we will see the continuation of the default Powerpoint style. Even while many in the presentation world are working diligently to rid the speaking domain of its dumbed down and empirically unvalidated knowledge transfer capabilities, Powerpoint on the iPad will set presentations backwards.

Yes, I know many will say “but it’s the user, not the tool“, yada yada. But if this is the case, why do 95% of the Powerpoints I witness bore me and most of their audiences silly, breach so many of the guidelines research-based multimedia learning informs us of, and even have end-users complaining when tasked to draw up a new presentation, something I don’t hear of with Keynote users?

So, yes, the best of times for Apple perhaps, and the worst of times ahead for audiences if Powerpoint on the iPad becomes the default presentation tool.

Let’s hope if Office is coming to the iPad, that Apple has lent some UI engineering effort to the MS development team, so we at least get apps that can stand up to scrutiny, look and feel more Apple-like than Microsoft, and “just work”.

I fear it’s all too much to ask however. Reflecting on my previous blog entry, the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. ‘Nuff said.

 

 

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If the expression “Give me the child aged seven….” applies to the iPad and Keynote, I’d start to worry if I ran the Microsoft Office marketing department: Lessons from a Las Vegas school

My Google alert for Keynote, which by the way is far more useful for tracking Keynote mentions than the Twitter #keynote tag, this morning shows a story from the Las Vegas Sun newspaper’s online site:

(I have purposely blurred the advertisement for a Mac product I am heartily sick of seeing).

The story, available at the link here, is a lengthy piece by Paul Takahashi about an  elementary school in the eastern Las Vegas Valley called Explore Knowledge Academy (EKA), whose motto is:

Creating Leaders: One Project at a Time.

The story looks at how the school is employing iPads to live up to that motto, using something you will hear lots more about when it comes to shifting away from traditiuonal teaching methods: project-based learning.

The article states project-based learning is one:

….where students create projects — presentations, plays, dances and dioramas — to demonstrate their knowledge. Last school year, EKA began a pilot program with 25 iPads to help students research and craft more interactive projects, such as digital slideshows, movies and songs.

“The world has changed; the expectations in the workforce have changed,” said Abbe Mattson, EKA’s executive director. “You can’t even work at a McDonald’s without using a touch screen. … If we don’t change how we teach, it’s a disservice to our kids.”

Quite.

In fact, following my presentations at Macworld a few weeks ago, where many teachers were present, I’ve received enquiries from teaching staff in the USA about holding in-service training for teachers on using Keynote, both the mechanics but more importantly the theory underlying learning via presentation software.

But it’s the opening few paragraphs of the Las Vegas newspaper article which sets my imagination on fire this morning. At 2011′s Macworld where I presented for the first time on Keynote for the iPad, I described the iPad as an enterprise Trojan Horse, bringing Apple products into a world formerly closed to it and one where Apple has shown distinct disinterest. (You can see the blog entry and video here).

The real, long term Trojan Horse exists in schools like EKA. Remember when Steve Ballmer laughed upon the introduction of the iPhone in 2007? (So did the guys at Palm with their Treo). And when others dissed the iPad in 2010 as just a big iPod Touch (and by extension, near useless)?

Imagine if you are the Microsoft Marketing VP for Office  (which is really MS’s cashcow) and you read the following opening from the Las Vegas Sun newspaper’s story, and you’ve been railing at Steve Ballmer and other Senior VPs to get Office for the iPad out there:

A dozen Las Vegas second-graders were given a common English assignment one recent morning: Write a story using new vocabulary words.

But instead of picking up a pencil and paper, these students launched the Pages word processing application on their iPads and started tapping.

One precocious youngster in the back of the room raised his hand.

“Mrs. Gilbert, can we go on Keynote to do this?” the second-grader asked. (Keynote is Apple’s version of Microsoft PowerPoint.)

Katie Gilbert smiled and said, “Sure.”

What was it the Jesuits said: Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man?

Now apply it to school-based hardware and software. Do you feel the planets aligning yet?

With the hype over the next iPad growing, there’s going to be a lot of disappointed pundits, Wall Street Analysts and fantasists when they don’t get what they want when they want it.

A few days ago, my head swirling with rumours and pictures of alleged iPad 3 retinal displays, I posted this on my Twitter account (@lesposen):

For those of you with iPad 2s, the iPad 3 may be no big deal at all. Certainly, many of the blog posts and comments I’m seeing in my travels are asking if it will be worthwhile updating, perhaps uncertain of how much their iPad 2 will get on eBay.

For another population of iPad owners, those like me who have the original iPad, it’s really a no-brainer. After almost two years of ownership as a first adopter, I for one am truly ready to make a leap to iPad 3 territory.* This will be on speed and screen alone, much less anything else that so many rumour sites are either positing will happen, or are expressing in fantasyland wishlists, e.g special keyboards, USB connectivity, Siri (I will be very pleasantly surprised if Siri is included), etc………… (fill in the blanks with your fantasy).

Which leads me to think there is going to be an awful lot of disappointed people claiming FAIL! when Apple doesn’t deliver the goods. Which it won’t for a lot of people. Including those who should know better like tech pundits, and Wall Street analysts.

I’m predicting another “woe is me, Apple dropped the ball” post-release crying game when the iPad 3 is officially announced, possibly early March. We’ve seen this before of course with the iPhone 4S, when so many were of the belief – no, certainty – the iPhone 5 was next in line.

Of course, the rest is history. Despite all the lamentations, the iPhone 4S has proved to be a massive hit in the months after its release, and it’s still going gangbusters.

There’s a lesson here, and it’s an old, familiar one, which can be said in at least three ways:

1. Santayana’s famous quote:

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

2. Newton’s First Law of Motion:

Every body persists in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by force impressed.

3. A fundamental premise of psychology I use in my work:

The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour

While phrase 3 may have had its origins in forensic psychology predicting criminal recidivism, it also has its place in self-harm assessment too.

You know, it would serve right all those fantasists ready to put the hate on Apple for not delivering what they wanted when they wanted for Apple to name it the iPad 2S (for screen), just for fun while it laughs all the way to the bank.

On a more serious note however, I will apply those three guidelines above, and suggest we will see better battery life, a retinal screen, and similar price points to current iPads. Meaning there is a likelihood the iPad 2 will remain a current model but not in 64GB unless the iPad 3 (or 2S ;-) comes in 128GB size, something no one has suggested with any strong evidence or conviction.

A 32GB wifi only model for schools (16GB would be just too small for textbook iBooks coming to market) priced under $300 – ideally, $249 – would hurt a lot of tablet wannabees powered by flavours of Android.

We’re a few weeks away from the much-predicted special announcement. The hype machine will ratchet up, the fantasies will be blogged about, the disappointment safety net will go unchecked in all the hoopla, and the Apple executives in the know will casually grin like Cheshire cats as they pass each other in the Cupertino hallways.

To paraphrase Mel Brooks: “It’s good to be the King!”

* I did a rough calculation of cost of ownership. Purchased July 1, 2010 or close enough, and say I update to iPad 2S on March 7, that represents 615 days of ownership.

The unit cost around AUD $1000 at purchase including an accessory or two. In that time, I’m estimating I’ve spent another $1500 on apps, books, and Telstra and AT&T 3G connectivity.

Doing the math, I’ve spent roughly AUD$4.00 (about USD$4.28 at current exchange) per day owning the iPad – about that of a coffee. I’ve achieved much more than $4 worth of satisfaction of ownership.

OS X Mountain Lion said to deliver full desktop mirroring over Airplay: Excellent news for presenters

Just a quick note, while I’m working on a longer blog post about my Macworld 2012 adventures, of the news breaking in the Mac environs of Mountain Lion, the next iteration of OS X.

I first saw it mentioned in a dramatic blog entry of John Gruber here (http://daringfireball.net/2012/02/mountain_lion).

At first I thought he was pulling his readership’s leg by the one on one nature of the preview he received with Phil Schiller and other senior Apple officials.

Then I saw the GigaOM blog entry here (http://daringfireball.net/2012/02/mountain_lion) supporting it.

What intrigued me was a hoped-for inclusion, beefing up Airplay, one of my favourite Apple developments especially for users of AppleTV.

Here’s the part I’m referring to:

For presenters with access to a data projector with an HDMI input, it means now also bringing along your AppleTV to your presentations, and not having to have your Macbook tethered by VGA or DVI to the “guest” cable in the lecture room or equivalent, which are invariably too short. And it takes care of sound cable too, given HDMI carries audio and video.

It also means you have your iPad or iPhone as a backup or ancillary device, able to quickly switch to show a movie or slide and thus move away from the linearity that plagues so many contemporary presentations.

It remains to be seen how Airplay and the AppleTV will work with Keynote in its Presenter modality (the presenter sees on his or her Mac both current slide and the next build or slide), but I can’t imagine Apple has not thought this important feature through in order to maximise this Mountain Lion feature.

Long anticipated and finally here it seems.