Monthly Archives: January 2010

Apple Tablet naysayers: get your heads around the idea it’s not a new form of PC, but another and superior way of interacting with data.

On the eve of the Apple special event, and considerably more information dribbling out from sources that we are looking at a tablet-format device, spare a moment for those naysayers asking why the world “needs” another tablet, when the models before (powered by flavours of Windows) have all but failed to make an impact, except for very highly specialised fields, such as medicine and logistics.

My reading of their assertions, usually anonymously posted in the comments sections of mainstream IT or Apple websites and blogs, has all the echoes of past attributions about previous Apple breakthrough devices, specifically the iPod and the iPhone. (Most of the commenters are too young, judging by the grammar and spelling, to be around when the other breakthrough device, the Macintosh was released in 1984.)

Others of a more erudite nature are asking what solution the tablet is seeking to address, which is a reasonable question to ask of any technology. But they forget the history of technologies in human development, as I usually elaborate upon in my workshops on Technologies and Society. (I am often asked by professional colleagues to address fellow psychologists who wish to be updated on technology trends and how to better incorporate changes into their practices. I always start by giving a potted history of mankind’s relationship with technology).

Technologies like the tablet always bring a curious mixture of hope, doubt, powerlessness, and empowerment to those who spend time considering how a new technology might impact them. Change, not of your own decision-making, is hard. IT departments in large enterprises know that about 50% of IT projects fail in their implementation, either because it was the wrong solution for the estimated problem, there are cost overruns, loss of significant project personnel at a critical time sees the project delayed, there is political interference should a merger take place simultaneously, and finally, the end user – the data entry staff – reject the new technology because it is a poor match for what they do, they are so accustomed to how to do things, or their training has been poorly managed.

But like most things Apple, this new device is not aimed at taking over the enterprise market place. I’m sure Apple is very content to leave that to the likes of Microsoft and Oracle for instance. Big profits, but big headaches too, with Windows Vista being a good example of the latter, and not the former.

In these introductory minutes I spend with workshop groups, I attest to how technologies have been used down the ages: as tools to enable, extend, augment, and connect humans and their innate abilities. The best technologies, those that have the most impact for the most people, do all four. These technologies often leave previous technologies that bear a faint resemblance to their purpose, as archival pieces, to be studied in history class, or to be repurposed.

Those who believe the tablet will be just another computer but in a different, but hitherto unsuccessful  physical form, and thus doomed to failure, are dooming themselves to repeat history: that of misunderstanding how technology progresses, and in particular how Apple conceives of technology and its place in human-computer interaction.

You only need to recall the negativity when rumours of an Apple cell phone began in earnest in 2006: “.. the market is too mature for an outsider like Apple to enter” was the gist of one type of message heard. “What does Apple know about making phones…?” was another, utterly forgetting that Apple is a hardware company as well as a software developer. Given the “maturity” of the cellphone market, meaning the stuff that makes them operate was now so ubiquitous and cheap that the cost of entry to the cellphone market was not the issue – it was how to differentiate oneself from the usual suspects.

And this is where Apple’s design superiority and integration caught the senior citizens of telephony flatfooted, locked as they were into seeing hardware as the differentiator (how many models does Nokia have at any one time – dozens if not scores. Makes choosing just the right one easy, right? Wrong!), rather than software.

Apple saw that universal access to the internet (web, email, file sharing etc) was the next bold step for a portable device to take, and its mobile Safari browser was at the time the best reproduction of a desktop browser available, compared to the poor excuse for internet connectivity of other phones.

As the iPhone went through generational improvements (in Australia we got the 3G version to start us off) it became clear to many users that the phone had much of the functionality of their laptop computer, albeit restricted to the connectivity aspects. But in other respects, the iPhone, via the innovativeness of its ecosystem of developers, exceeded the functions of a laptop. Ask a long term user of the iPhone how often they now feel naked if they leave home without their laptop…

Witness such new endeavours as SquareUp, (left) with its e-commerce abilities, and hardware addons. Or in the medical field, what a company called AirStrip Technologies is doing with the iPhone.

Did Apple envision the iPhone performing these tasks in 2004 or 2005, when Steve Jobs is said to have moved Apple towards a cellphone business? Who knows, but it’s clear Apple does not wait for others to lead the way forward with respect to human-technology interaction. It waits until the hardware components have sufficiently matured (i.e., small enough, reliable enough, cheap enough) to then apply its software and design savvy to new solutions to the same old problems of the big four: “enable, extend, augment, and connect humans and their innate abilities.”

It’s true other technology companies often enter a field earlier than Apple, but too often their technologies are too big, too unreliable and too clumsy to use other than for specialist needs and where there is very limited competition. And thus also too expensive to break out of the enterprise and into the consumer world.

Apple takes the reverse path, designing for the masses (yes, those in the mass who can afford and appreciate well-designed and built equipment). Later, those early adopters bring it (e.g., the iPhone) into the enterprise, where IT staff are made to kick and scream in protest that it’s all too much and their expertise – and importance – is being challenged by those who don’t understand the role of enterprise level IT. Go here to read what I’m sure has to be a tongue in cheek apocalyptic blog entry from an IT specialist).

So, the lesson is that Apple releases groundbreaking devices that change how we both think about and interact with digital technologies, usually in fields already explored but not exploited by other companies, and does it in a compelling fashion not for IT geeks, but for those who want something better than “good enough“.

When the tablet is unveiled, you’ll see a combination of gasps and disappointments. Some will immediately see the road ahead, especially developers who can see how to extend their product line and reach new audiences, and who have learnt from the iPhone’s introduction to look beyond the initial release product and roadmap. And the disappointment will be from those who expected some miracle device in a version 1.0 product without understanding how Apple operates.

They’ll stick as long as they can with their Kindles, looking for reasons why its one pony show is a great solution for that problem; or they’ll stay with a Windows 7 powered tablet so they can exercise their minds with Microsoft Office in a tablet format, as if somehow that’s better than a desktop or netbook or laptop solution.

But for those who gasp, who get what Apple’s doing yet again with familiar but newly thought through technologies, they will be very anxious to change how they conduct their lives on a day to day basis, for the better.

Who will join Steve Jobs on stage next week? A few educated guesses… perhaps Rupert himself?

I was having lunch last Friday with the guys at Connecting Point, a Melbourne Apple reseller with a large customer roll within the educational sector, from primary (elementary) through to college (university). It also makes sales to individuals, and I have referred a number of switchers to them over the last year or so.

I was booked to see Avatar for the second time at the iMax cinema not far from the Connecting Point Friday lunch get together, last week including an Apple engineer, so dropped in to discuss my preparation for Macworld, and of course rumours over the tablet. I jokingly offered that joining Steve Jobs on stage would be none other than Rupert Murdoch, whose parent company News Corp. has multiple media interests ranging from Fox Studios, through to the Wall Street Journal, and publishing houses such as HarperCollins.

Rupert, known in his Aussie homeland and especially the UK as “the dirty digger” for his union busting activities, has been outspoken about how users must eventually pay for quality journalism, even though critics of his publications such as the New York Post and the Fox cable network might question the meaning of “quality” in this context.

But Murdoch now owns the Wall Street Journal which in recent years has obtained accurate leaks of forthcoming Apple products, so we can assume that News Corp. and Apple may well have reached a deal, even if Murdoch and Jobs’ politics diverge considerably. Both are huge business risk takers and surround themselves with highly competent and trusted senior executives. Both share a love and passion for how their respective products and services are world-changers, and so there is a business synergy between the two. Whether they would share a stage together to make a compelling announcement is up for grabs, but I fully expect a News Corp (or one of subsidiaries) rep. to be up on stage at some point on January 27. If it is Murdoch or a senior News Corp. exec., it will cause other publishers to sit up and really pay attention to what Apple’s doing in the publishing world. I should also note the long term connection between Murdoch and Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, from the Saudi Royal family, who has major media interests in the Middle East and who is also a long time significant Apple shareholder.

Who else then? (Assuming Steve himself does the heavy lifting for most of the keynote. I wonder if he will show the Amazon Kindle, as he did with the “usual suspects” smartphones in 2007’s iPhone launch, and make a comparison between it, its target market and what the tablet will do?)

No doubt, Phil Schiller will play some role as Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing on stage, demonstrating some Knowledge Navigator-type of function of the tablet. We’ve already seen Jobs and Schiller do something like this when showing new competencies of iWork 09, as well as a three-way conversation when Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007. I don’t expect Phil to do a demo on his own as he has done in the past with desktop Macs (do you remember Photoshop bakeoffs comparing Macs to Dells in previous Macworld keynotes?). If the tablet includes a webcam (perhaps using the screen itself as the camera, based on patents going back several years), then perhaps we will see a video conference with Phil take place.

Scott Forstall, Senior VP of iPhone development will get the stage to himself to demonstrate the next iPhone software, version 4.0, especially if this is also what powers the tablet. If it doesn’t, then Bertrand Serlet, Senior VP of Software Engineering may do the duties. At an outside chance, they may share some time on stage demonstrating how iPhone 4.0 can allow OS X apps like iWork/iLife to be modded to work on the tablet and sync with your Macbook or iMac. And of course speak of the roadmap for iPhone 4.0 developers and when they can expect to get their new software underway.

I don’t predict we will see Jonathan Ive live on stage, but he will be featured in a lengthy promotional video discussing in his passionate way the design philosophy of the tablet, plus the engineering challenges Apple spent years overcoming, which will leave its competitors dumbfounded in their efforts to match the Apple solutions Ive and his design team have developed. In the same video, I would expect to see interviews with other Apple senior engineers, well known within the company but without the fame the others mentioned so far have garnered over the years.

Naturally the same video will also include providers of third party services discussing the impact the tablet will have on their business and how Apple offered them unique solutions no one else had the foresight to conceive. And we’ll say video of famous faces being “amazed” at what the tablet can perform.

Up on stage again, I am fully expecting a New York Times senior staffer or family owner to meet and greet Steve, then discuss how the NYT sees the tablet as the right step forward for its pay-per-download subscription model, something it tried and failed with previously for its elite content, such as Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman’s columns.

From there, it will be time for the select few app. developers to show their wares, including how their current apps can be resized, but also how they’ve developed new apps especially to take advantage of the tablet’s special features. I’d include here comic developers for whom the tablet seems an ideal platform to reach new audiences.

Also expect one or two major gaming production studios to present, then some highly specialised domains to show how they intend to use the tablet. Something medical is a certainty, whether it be a hospital staffer showing new imaging software, Johnson and Johnson once more showing blood pressure or glucose measuring addons, or a less well known but highly innovative specialist company showing how the tablet has a place in the hospital setting, say in radiology.

Who else?

Clearly, those who will team with Apple to place the tablet into its own niche, and own it. Perhaps it will be a 3G cellphone CEO (but which one?), a major recording industry partner, or a rep. from Disney who will demo the downloading on demand of its products using a new version of iTunes, which Jobs himself will give a more full featured demo for when showing how the tablet integrates with other domestic appliances, including AppleTV and perhaps other set top devices.

And then there’s one more thing… I can’t even speculate on this, and frankly don’t want to. Like most others who follow Apple closely, I enjoy being delighted by surprises even after I spend time tracking Apple’s history which allows for the guesswork I’ve made in today’s post.

Like most predictions about Apple, there will be many who will see the tablet as a weak solution to a non-problem, just as many predicted after the iPod’s release in 2001 that it was a brick going nowhere, or that Apple would fail with its iPhone because that technological domain was already mature. What these soothsayers focussed on was the hardware, not the ecosystem that is Apple’s ownership of the entire widget, starting with its ability to harness its software prowess.

With the tablet, Apple will enter into new fields of publishing with new partners, where once again the hardware is a mere conduit to content which is either too expensive or hard to access (I’m thinking here of specialised journals and literature), as well as new twists on familiar domains such as music and video, which a much larger screen with new user interface will leave us entranced. As Jeff Goldblum famously said in the first advertisement for the titanium Powerbook G4 in 2001, “you’re gonna so want one”.

Newsflash: Microsoft announces Powerpoint 2010 will be able to run two videos on the one slide at the same time! (Yawn) Watch this demo I made in 2006 with Keynote 3 running nine (yes, nine) videos simultaneously, without dropping a frame.

The official Powerpoint  2010 blog today made an exciting announcement regarding how Powerpoint will handle video in the future. Here’s a screenshot below (I’ve added the red underline to draw your attention to the money quote, click to enlarge):

Because Powerpoint 2010 will take advantage of hardware acceleration and DirectX9.0, you no longer need to use auxiliary software like Windows Media Player to play videos on a slide. If you’re a Apple Keynote user, you’ll know that since it was released in 2003, seven years ago, it’s had superb video handling capabilities even on old G4 Powerbooks. It’s because Steve Jobs wanted it to have “cinematic” properties, in addition to very fine text rendering.

In 2006, shortly after Keynote 3 was released, and when Powerpoint 2003 was still the current version, I created a Keynote slide for a presentation I was giving to challenge Powerpoint’s dominance of the presentation market place. I was particularly enamoured of Keynote’s video handling abilities while Powerpoint struggled with it, keeping its users from truly becoming creative and keeping them to awfully pixelated images and multi-step complicated management of video placement on slides (as the Powerpoint blog states above).

The video below is one I created today using that old 2006 Keynote 3 slide, playing in Keynote 5 on my MacBook Pro (2008). As I explain, you’ll see nine videos with sound playing simultaneously, all on the one slide, all timed to come in one after the other automatically. The video is a little on the dark side because I’m using a data projector to show the Keynote slide, while simultaneously using the Macbook Pro’s built-in iSight camera to create a Quicktime Pro movie (actually an mp4). So the poor Macbook’s doing double time!

So while the Powerpoint crowd can whoop it up today (and it really is an important change for that crowd and hopefully means we’ll see more creativity emerge from the average user), those in the Keynote community will be looking forward to update announcements for Keynote to be made very soon, truly making it the presentation software of choice for those who value creativity in their presenting.

(Before you watch the video below, keep in mind I created it to be watched in YouTube so I give an introduction first. The money shot starts around 4’20” in after I setup verbally what I’m doing and why!)

Augmented books and the Apple tablet: I can hardly wait to create one on Keynote for the tablet

With the extra spare time due to the summer break here in Australia (things get busy again next week), I have been experiencing a “Perfect Storm” of blogging: Intense interest in things electronic via CES 2010 (now history), the headiness of a major Apple product revolution that even has sceptics agreeing something big this way cometh January 27, and of course thinking and preparing for my Macworld trip in a month’s time.

It will be an intense two weeks away, with several days at Macworld for a Presentation Magic Powertools workshop the second week of February, a folk dance camp in Palm Spring immediately after (where TEDActive is also occurring), then a Presentation Magic seminar for the Psych Department at USC, back to San Francisco for a visit to Apple for a presentation the day after, then a three day conference in San Francisco on Smarter Brains and Improving IQ.

I’ll also be leaving on the first anniversary of catastrophic bushfires in my state where 170 people died, and for which a Royal Commission is being held into how the disaster was managed. I was involved as a Personal Team Leader for the Australian Red Cross working in the days and weeks after with victims and survivors of the fires, as well as trying to match reports of missing people with those who had made the reports, to see if there were people still missing. With last night being the hottest on record (36C) there are fires again today in the State.

If I can pull all these activities together into a theme, it’s one of diversity and continuing learning experiences, where I take what I have learnt in the past, and place myself in a position of “not knowing” yet finding ways of applying my knowledge in new situations with new populations.

I remember working in a Red Cross welfare centre 150km from Melbourne not far from the fires where people would gather to seek safety, food, shelter, and clothing, as well as seek out their neighbours, friends and family who had “gone missing”. In addition to comforting them, my task was to supervise other workers to take down details of the people attending and those being reported missing. We were setting up lists that were then faxed to Red Cross headquarters in Melbourne where 24/7 workers sitting in front of PCs would enter the faxed data sheets into a database, so that if people turned up at my or other rescue centres, they could be crossed off the list of being safe, and added to lists of those who might need follow-up for both material and psychological aid.

As I think about it (I’ve been invited to attend a further training session in preparation for anniversary effects) I’m left wondering how a 3G/Wifi Apple tablet could have helped us out, taking pictures of those who attended, using face matching as we can in iPhoto to match up with pictures of those presumed missing, and directly placing survivor details into the database. I’m fairly sure hours went by when PC operators were swamped with faxes.

If I think now about the training I expect to offer at Macworld, the task will be to offer a theory of presenting based on cognitive and affective neuroscience, basic design principles, commonly seen effects for text and visuals in the movies, on television and on the web as models for driving Apple’s Keynote, and of course, exploring Keynote’s functions and operations in order to achieve the best exposition of my theories of presenting.

I’ll also be referring to various texts which I’ll also be giving away as prizes (I think everyone enrolled will probably get one book!). One will look at iWork 09, and give a section by section breakdown of Keynote’s features, while others will offer considerations of design principles including slide makeovers, as well as examples of good presentation technique. For that, I’ll also use my own and TED videos for the good to excellent and downloaded Powerpoints for the bad to really horrible.

If I think abut the books, they are all good in their respective endeavours of enlightening readers. But by necessity, they are static examples of what is really a dynamic human activity. Moreover, as much as reading about, or seeing screenshots of Keynote’s Inspector or font menu is useful, it can’t really compare with watching someone take you step by step through the process of using Keynote’s facilities, then seeing the interim, then end product.

To my knowledge, there is no book yet on the market that really tells you how to use something like Keynote and think about how to use design principles such as Garr Reynold’s new book contains (Garr is giving me some of his books as prizes of course!) Garr’s book like many others tries to be platform-agnostic and thus broaden readership. Powerpoint keeps improving but as long as its major settings for its use are academia, the military and the enterprise, Garr’s book could be included with the next version (due for release in June)  but improvements in presenting with Powerpoint would still happen very slowly. (Previous criticisms of Garr’s approach with respect to scientific data has been addressed, and I certainly give this aspect close attention in all my workshops).

In fact, given the nature of the subject, can a book accomplish these two tasks? Can a book help you choose an animation, or build or transition for your particular subject matter and let you see the various effects possible. I know of this difficulty given each time Steve Jobs presents at an Apple keynote, I (and others) watch very closely for any new Keynote effects and designs. When I spot them, I can’t show a video on my blog for copyright reasons, but I can show screenshots of the builds or transitions in action. Not a very satisfactory method, but it’s the only way to show the new effects until I get my hands on the update and can use it myself.

So if one of the functions of the tablet will be to deliver reading material, as many have suggested will be the case, why not show how to use Keynote’s feature set while describing why one is creating certain effects. I already do a little of this on this blog, uploading screencasts of my Keynote files to YouTube for display here. It’s clumsy however, requiring a fair amount of effort for a few minutes. Not that I’m against that of course, if you’ve been reading this blog, since I know how much effort is required for great presentations. But we’re talking here of cutting down on multiple clicks, a centrepiece of Apple functioning.

I’d like the tablet to enable me to use a tabletised iWork to help me create a book form of my Presentation Magic workshop, Pages for assembling the text and layout and Keynote for demonstration purposes. Hopefully, the tablet will have some way of recording screen activity, much like the iPhone allows for static screenshots.

Then I can assemble my book, with my text in place, my demoes including how I setup each slide, and what the final output will look and sound like. I can include hotlinks to sites like iStockphoto for photos and movies, and other sites for audio files, as well as newspapers and journals for headlines and abstracts I wish to show.

The idea of using videos to demonstrate science journal writing already exists in the Journal of Visualised Experiments which shows viewers how the experimenters performed their tasks, the equipment and questionnaires they used, and the interpretation of the data. Take a look at this publication about using biofeedback in working with anxiety (screenshot below).

I’m going to guess the first of “augmented book” you’ll see, hear and read on the Apple tablet will be Apple’s own tablet manual, guiding you through a hands-on demonstration of its wares, with videod commentary and feedback about how you’re doing. This will be terribly important if the tablet does in fact include something of a learning curve for a new interface.

It kind of reminds me of the first few days I spent with my first Mac, a Mac Plus in 1990. I used the included floppy discs which taught you mouse functions, like clicking and dragging, as well as how to resize windows and use the drop-down menus. I vividly remember having dreams of mousing around with the Mac and then spending hours the next day practising how to manage this new interface, so different was it from my previous experiences, using mainframes, PDP-11s and Tandy TRS-80s.

I’m going to guess it will be the same twenty years later, such will be the change in input method. I can hardly wait this time however to write my own tabletised book complete with Keynote demoes. No more need to include CD or DVD samplers in the backs of books to demo what your chapters are trying to illustrate with words and static pictures.

What if Dragon scaled their free iPhone/Pod Touch Search and Dictate apps for the Apple tablet? Joining the dots…

Over the weekend, I noticed almost a dozen application updates waiting for me in the iTunes App store for my iPhone 3G.

Two of those were from Dragon, firstly its Dragon Search App (below):

and also for its Dictate App. (below):

The two key improvement cited for both were: Support for the iPod Touch, and Enhanced user interface.

Let’s connect some dots. Imagining the the Apple tablet runs a version of the iPod OS (4.0 or a modified version), what’s to say that Dragon’s highly rated and free apps can’t be scaled for use in a tablet form factor. So along with a revolutionary user interface (I am listening to Steve Jobs in my head using the same words he employed at the iPhone release three years ago), might there be an optional voice-controlled dictation and search function from Dragon?

And extend it a little further, and have Dragon’s software also control operating the tablet (“Open Mail; new entry…”) something I can already do with MacSpeech Dictate for my Macbook Pro, along with a bluetooth headset which does double time linked to MacSpeech, and my iPhone currently (but not simultaneously). Macspeech is based on Dragon’s Naturally Speaking engine, well established in the Windows world. I’ve been using it with the Plantronics Bluetooth headset and it’s very accurate out of the box.

The question would be whether a built-in microphone would be up to the job, or if you’d have to don a headset to perform all the functions. But if the iPhone’s built-in microphone can do the job well enough (the Dragon iPhone/iPod software gets very high ratings) then perhaps that problem has already been solved.

Also remember that Apple has a dedicated speech recognition and synthesis research lab which has had input into Macs for a decade as well as the iPhone since its release, and you have a few more dots to connect.

It doesn’t have t be necessarily an either/or case for the tablet. Why not have both forms of input, touch and voice) as you can now for any Mac. Speech recognition will have huge benefits for certain professions, such as the health sciences, for those who cannot use keyboards or complicated finger-based controls, the commercial aviation industry who could bring up all their Jeppeson maps, and of course students from late elementary school through to graduate school (where texts and lectures will already be carried on the tablet).

Keeps getting more interesting, isn’t it…?

Will an Apple tablet with iWork help bring on the end of Windows for the average user?

You know those often quoted statistics that Windows powers 90% of the world’s computers, or that 30,000,000 Powerpoints are given each day?

Do you ever wonder where these numbers come from?

Me too. The latter appears to come from Microsoft itself. Given my own made up statistic that 95% of them disobey most evidence-based rules for conveying engaging memorable messages, I have a lot of work ahead of me to offer up alternatives!

But what of the percentage of computers figures?

It depends on which computers and who’s using them.

It’s perhaps an apocryphal story of the Microsoft spokeswoman addressing a group of professional moviemakers touting certain wares. Allegedly she said in passing, “Of course, Windows operates on 95% of computers”. To which one wag replied, “Not in this room, lady”.

What then should we do with the figures we see quoted the last few Steve Jobs keynotes that 50% of Apple store purchasers of Macs are switchers, presumably from Windows. Not new computer users, nor Apple users updating, but switchers.

What will be the impact of an Apple tablet on potential switchers, I wonder?

If an Apple tablet is a glorified Kindle, the answer is nothing.

But what if Apple has developed a new device, one much more attuned to the needs of a public who is not concerned with operating systems, Tuesday patches, malware, spyware, trojans and viruses? What if the vast number of general public users just want to work with email, surf the net, chat and social network, watch movies and listen to music?

Leave it to the vast bulk of that purported 95% to run Windows on a desktop machine: airlines, banks, enterprise, universities and various research institutes. But what of Mom and Pop, their kids, the self-employed, SMEs?

What if the tablet was actually more than a reader but a worker? An iWorker, able to use a form of the iWork productivity suite now available for Macs? I’ve hinted at this in other blog entries, but a recent New York Times report seems to suggest something really is going in with iWork and the tablet:

Source: The New York Times, January 8, 2007 “A Deluge of Devices for Reading and Surfing” by Brad Stone and Nick Bilton,

Let’s also imagine that’s it’s a device that runs iPhone 4.0, to take advantage of some of the 120,000 apps. Apple has in its iTunes Store. Some of those will be reader apps, but I’m betting Steve Jobs will do to publishing what he’s done with music and movies: allow his hardware and software to be portals for purchasing. I don’t buy the idea that all publications will have their own apps. And I’m betting that with Pages we’ll all be able to engage in self-publishing, and I am breathless with what will happen with Apple’s presentation software, Keynote.

If it turns out this way, we’ll have a device which will surprise and delight Windows users who will no longer have to fear opening their email, wonder if they have the latest drivers, or wonder which tech support system to ring – the hardware make, the graphics chip maker, Microsoft, the application creator, like Adobe, or the printer manufacturer.

What will happen to the world of computing when the operating system is of no great consequence?

We no longer call it computing, that’s what.

We no longer think of buying a PC.

Computers will be those large mainframes spitting out airline timetables and tickets, crunching large databases, just like it was before the personal computer came along. Talk about back to the future!

The rest of us will be making the transfer from laptops and desktops, learning a new way of interacting with our information, and wondering how we ever were so short-sighted as to think personal computing was all about the operating system.

Steve Jobs to Steve Ballmer: So you think you can do a Keynote? About a tablet? Here, read this book I’ve written just for you.

Did you catch the CES keynote delivered by Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer during the week?

In the last few years, Microsoft has been the kick-off keynote at CES, with many looking forward to see what it has to offer for the year to come. Bill Gates of course did several of them, and the world’s richest man was always a drawcard. He was not a great speaker, and his slides were not what you could call inspired, as I have described on a blog entry from a few years ago. (At TED recently, he has obviously been coached in terms of slide design and presentation skill).

When Steve Ballmer took the reins as CEO, he too became the first keynoter at CES, showcasing Microsoft’s wares in terms of software and hardware, usually giving time and space to OEM partners like Hewlett-Packard.

This year was no different, and rumours that Ballmer might show a much-rumoured tablet called “Courier” raised temperatures a little, even if they didn’t reach the fever-pitch Apple’s alleged tablet created.

When Apple makes it known that it will be holding a “special event”, speculation begins and builds huge expectations. There are many reasons to wait in anticipation of an Apple keynote:

1. Will Steve Jobs be the primary speaker (and how will his health appear)?

2. What new products will be shown?

3. Will these products be updates to existing ones, or will Apple introduce a new genre, taking something familiar and turning it on its head? And when will they become available?

4. Will Steve Jobs perform his keynote using an updated version of Apple’s presentation software, Keynote?

5. Will it be confirmed, yet again, that he is one of the world’s great presenters and speakers, worthy of emulation?

Steve Jobs regularly makes lists of admired presenters, with many attempting to emulate his style, often not successfully. Probably the worst attempt to “channel” Jobs was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s 2007 F8 performance.

His performance was contrived and stilted, leaving those who had been comparing him to Steve Jobs at the same age a little embarrassed. He’s a smart cookie, but somewhat shy which shows in his presentations and interviews. Search YouTube for his many interviews.

One person who has taken more than a passing glance at Jobs’ presentation style as one to emulate is California-based Carmine Gallo, who maintains a BusinessWeek blog here.

Last year, he wrote a very popular column which then became a best selling book deconstructing Jobs’ presentation skills.

First, you can see him present his ideas here:

Click here to see the video in action

Here’s the book cover for Carmine’s publication, which he has kindly allowed me to offer as a prize during my Presentation Magic workshop at Macworld next month.

While many including myself have discussed Jobs’ presentations, Carmine’s is the first in book form, and which allows him to personalise, through Jobs, his own long-considered thoughts on how CEOs in particular ought to present ideas, concepts, services and products.

It’s hard to put a value on how much these presentations add to the acceptance at first blush of Apple’s product announcements, but it should be added that not all Apple Keynotes showing new products see Apple’s share price rise.

Quite often they fall, due to the extraordinary hype and expectations leading up to the keynote, and the disappointment sometimes experienced by financial commentators.

This past week, this fall occurred to both Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard after Steve Ballmer took the CES stage and showed an H-P tablet powered by Windows 7.

In the months prior to CES, the rumour mill had struck up a conversation about the “Courier” tablet. Take a look at this supposed leak reported by Gizmodo here.

Long time observers of Microsoft have become very aware of its capacity to hype “vapourware”, but there had been high hopes that Steve Ballmer would discuss Courier, what with an Apple tablet seemingly on its way. When a regular H-P tablet running Windows 7 was displayed, the disappointment was palpable, and widely reported in mainstream media and unforgiving blogs.

But there is more to it than the product. There is something about how Ballmer presented at CES that draws a comparison to Jobs, for those interested in presentation skills.

You can watch the official Microsoft stream of CES 2010 here, but for now watch this audience-generated YouTube version below (be aware of cuts between views of the stage and projector-based close-ups):

There are also numerous CES 2009 Microsoft keynotes with Ballmer you can view on YouTube so that you don’t think 2010 is the exception, because it’s not.

But if we keep ourselves to the keynote just past, there are a number of contrasts with Steve Jobs to offer, some of which might help readers with their own presentations.

1. Despite his avuncular appearance, Ballmer is more Phil Schiller than Steve Jobs. Which means his overt cudliness doesn’t translate into emotional warmth. As with Schiller, (I have attended a Schiller and a Jobs Macworld Expo keynote, but not a Ballmer one) I feel like he’s talking, even shouting, at me. Despite what has been written about his interpersonal style one-on-one, Jobs’ on stage persona exudes warmth, approachability, and yes, friendliness. You feel he’s holding a conversation with you, even when he’s in front of a 5,000-strong audience.

2. On stage, Ballmer reminds us that “once a salesman, always a salesman”. Both Jobs and Ballmer talk up their companies’ financial success in the year just gone, but Jobs chooses to illustrate his review, while Ballmer just tells me. But more conspicuously while both overuse hyperbole  – “it’s perfect vs. we couldn’t be happy” – I never lose sight I’m in the presence of a salesman with Ballmer. That’s fine for some audiences, especially inhouse, but when you’re being broadcast to millions around the world, you need more than being a “Mad Man”, you need to convey a vision for the future, where these products will take me.

Perhaps because the tablets and devices (other than gaming) he was showing were made by others, powered by MS software, there was limited ownership of what the product was going to do for me. With Jobs, whose Apple owns the whole widget, you get the feeling the company has thought through a vision for their technologies and how they will be used. These aren’t Ballmer faults per se, but for a CES keynote you want more than just a few warmed over products (as they have been described) to excite the masses.

3. Ballmer tells no stories, just sales pitches. It’s the proverbial solution in search of a problem. As Gallo points out, when Jobs introduced the iPhone, when many had said Apple should stick to computers and not enter “a mature” technology domain of mobile telephony, Jobs set up the usual suspects (Nokia, Sony, Motorola etc) as antagonists, then brought in the iPhone as a hero who would save us from complicated, incomplete and limited solution devices. He offered a solution to a problem we didn’t know we had, a mantra for Apple if ever I heard one.

4. Probably the least happy part of the CES 2010 keynote (apart from the very lame Seth Myers videos) was how Ballmer demoed the HP tablet. If he didn’t already know that there would be widespread disappointment that the Courier would not be discussed and the H-P would be a poor substitute, he showed an 18 second demo from H-P which told me nothing. See it below:

Yawn-worthy, and the tech mags have paid out heaps on Ballmer for this…

But then he picks it up, holds it in front of his tummy so he has to bend his bald pate down to see what he’s doing upside down, and fumbles the demo. How hard would it be to hold it out in space, let us see its form factor (remember how Jobs demoed the MacBook Air?) and operate it away from his body in its own space? Or move himself to a lounge chair and simulate how an end user might work with it (it’d look warm too), while a camera on stage offered close ups. This was a big mistake, and suggests a combination of lack of rehearsal and feedback from others.

5. There are some awkward moments on stage when Ballmer is joined by a colleague doing another demo. Ballmer hangs about on stage, hands on hips watching close up, or looking around (below). What’s with that?

Then he invites his colleague to walk across the stage for another demo, which invokes the classic comedy routine, “Walk this way“, (below).

Watch how Jobs works with colleagues and guests on stage. He greets them with a handshake, hands them the clicker, and leaves the stage! He doesn’t crowd them, nor have them hanging around looking limp, but either gets out of their way, or interacts with them, as in his comical interactions with Schiller. In other words, he is generous on stage, helping his colleagues look good (even when they may know they can’t compete with his presentation skills). Take a look at this Apple Keynote video compilation where Jobs is working with the CEO of Sony Japan who is almost incomprehensible on stage and see for yourself. (Advance to 1’15”)

6. Finally, within a few minutes of opening his Keynote, Ballmer disempowers himself by giving centre stage to the previously-mentioned Seth Meyers clips (left) which are unfunny and don’t lend itself to a visionary experience to come.

When Jobs shows clips they usually feature his own team and how they came to conceive and build an Apple product or service, professionally delivered and not playing for cheap laughs. They excite us about the product, showing us what exists below the simple, shiny surface demonstrating the amount of thought which has gone into the product.

You can bet we will see this when Apple unveils its tablet. Rather than a few stingy minutes spent in a poorly conceived demo, we will be left with a sense of awe and desire for the tablet. That feeling may pass in the hours and days that will pass, only to be invoked once more when we pick up the object of our desires in our own hands.

Is there a way out for Ballmer, so that we don’t see a re-occurrence of these presentation foibles at future CES conventions?

Yes. I’ve just been sent a book by Steve Jobs himself, inspired by what Carmine Gallo wrote about him. It’s a one of only two so far produced (the other one was sent direct to Redmond). Let’s hope that a PDF of it is created, as well as Powerpoint slides given away free embedded in Office 2010 when it’s released in June.

Am I jumping late into the Apple tablet cheer squad? I don’t think so, nor would Cringely think it either…

Now that Steve Ballmer has undressed the HP “back to the future” tablet PC at CES last night, supposedly calling it a “slate” type device in an attempt to steal Apple’s forthcoming thunder, we can take a break from Apple tablet killer prognostications and review a little history. (PC World called the HP tablet “underwhelming”; The respected Tom’s hardware rated Ballmer’s keynote a “complete fizzle”.)

I strongly recall Steve Jobs showing an Indiana Jones “Raiders of the Lost Ark” film clip a few years ago in a keynote showing a new iPod which disappointed the punditry because it did not feature video. This was the October 26, 2004 “special music event” which saw the release of the U2 iPod, as well as the colour iPodPhoto. The clip itself was an Indiana Jones movie and featured Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones) and John Rhys-Davies (Sallah) looking at each other in close-up. Steve Jobs used it to say why Apple was introducing a photo-based iPod and not a video-based iPod as many had been hoping for… and had already been released in a rather clunky form-factor by Apple’s competitors.

The lines from Indiana Jones are (from

[the old man reveals writing on the back of the medallion, which states that part of the staff must be removed]
Indiana: Balloq’s medallion only had writing on one side? You sure about that?
Sallah: Positive!
Indiana: Balloq’s staff is too long.
IndianaSallah: They’re digging in the wrong place!

By this, Jobs publicly offered that the world was not ready for a video-based iPod because taking and sharing photos was what the world wanted, and there was no suitable content for the iPod video. Not all agreed with him. What we later learnt was the subtext to this was that Apple was not yet ready to release such an iPod because the right deals with media producers (Hollywood film producers, as well as television series makers) hadn’t been concluded. Unlike Apple’s competitors who provided the means to (slowly) rip your own media onto a portable player (sourced from DVDs and VCR recordings – this was 2004, remember), Apple’s way was to do deals with the industries who made and controlled the distribution of quality video content. Your viewing of video on the iPod would be high quality commercial content done legally, not YouTube quality backyard wrestling, cats getting stuck in tissues boxes, or illegally ripped content.

Then  year later, deals in place and iTunes updated, the 5G video-enabled iPod was released.

Fast-forward a couple of years to Macworld 2008 for Jobs’ next misdirecting statement that clues us in, his famous “People don’t read books anymore” when discussing the release of the Amazon Kindle. Here’s how the New York Times’ Randall Stross wrote about it, January 27, 2008:

The Stross article went on to dismantle some of Jobs’ comments, but in a few weeks time we will once more discover how misdirecting Steve can be. Why? Because we are probably reading and writing more than ever before, if we include email and web-based work. In other words, there’s reading and then there’s reading. And Steve knows this.

What you will hear in the next few weeks, while those who had hoped for the Holy Grail of tablets to emerge from CES bear their disappointment, will be much “Apple didn’t invent it” invective. As if that should dismiss any entitlements Apple might have to develop something revolutionary.  As Jobs showed with the iPhone introduction three years ago, you introduce a new Apple product by taking the usual suspects lauded to be the best, fillet them by showing their weaknesses, and then not just close the gap, but leap passed it – even with your first attempt. And rather than put everything you’ve got into the initial product, bring it to market when it’s ready to do its job but not before. In the iPhone’s case, it started off fairly knobbled compared to the current 3GS version. But back then, AT&T certainly didn’t have the 3G bandwidth Jobs knew would be necessary to realise the iPhone’s full potential with the mobile Safari browser, and Apple was still to put in place its road map for independent developers of applications, now downloaded in the billions, and perhaps apart from its UI, the iPhone’s key advantage.

The same process has been applied, and will continue to be with the tablet. When detractors see it, many will feel underwhelmed by it given that it now rivals Moses’ tablets brought down from Mt. Sinai (as you can see below, originally containing 15 commandments on three tablets, but Moses was a bit of a klutz…) in comparison to the Jesus’ phone (odd public descriptions given Jobs’ Buddhist leanings… I imagine Britt Hume doesn’t buy Apple products).

So when Jobs speaks about “nobody reads books”, don’t confuse it with “reading”, because this is one thing the tablet will excel at it. Not just the hardware to aid your reading, but the source and content deals he has already stitched up, which we will see demonstrated and discussed by various media representatives on stage. If anything, the tablet will likely increase reading rates around the world by making it fun, with multimedia, instant access, and value-added. Encyclopaedic works will come alive, updated on a regular (no doubt subscription) basis in a way Microsoft’s Encarta tried but failed to do, ultimately thwarted by Google. More egg splattered.

Just imagine a child is reading a book on his tablet, comes across a word he doesn’t understand, and then through a series of clicks or swipes on the word, causes a balloon to pop up on screen. There, either a video recording of a person or perhaps just the words appear, giving the word’s meaning, origin, synonyms and pronunciation. (I use he because boys have more reading difficulties than girls). Reading becomes fun again for kids and their ability to spell enhanced. If the child grows tired, who’s to say another couple of swipes and the book is read to them. Just think of what occurred to Garageband at its last update when world-famous musicians and their tutorials were added to the application. Who’s to say if Apple has not done deals with the likes of or other audiobook publishers, or even updated its speech synthesis capabilities to be more “natural” and less robotic, as with the iPod Shuffle 3rd gen.

I know that for some I may seem to be jumping late onto the bandwagon of cheering for a tablet, but you’d be very wrong. Let me refer you to a blog entry I wrote five years ago in December 2004. First some screen shots so you can see it for yourself, and a link here for the full article.

As it turns out, the name “iScribe” is used by a physician eprescription service for PDAs. And because of his dissing of reading books, I can’t see John Gruber’s suggestion Apple resurrects the iBook nomenclature coming true. Let’s wait and see.

Please Mr. Jobs: Suck in the publishers with your tablet’s promises of saving their sorry backsides, then grab them where it hurts, don’t let go, and change the way science moves forward

I was born in the same year as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Turning 21 in 1976 was a special event according to Malcolm Gladwell in his most recent book, Outliers.

In the same year, 1976, Sun Microsystem founders Scott McNeally and Bill Joy were also 21, turning 22. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen was already 23. These five men have had a huge collective impact on how we work and spend our leisure time, even if at the time they began their enterprises, they didn’t know what was ahead of them.

Gladwell’s hypothesis is that their youth and backgrounds came together with the technological zeitgeist to allow them to do what they did in their early twenties, while companies led by men and women in their forties and fifties couldn’t grasp what was to come.

I mention this because so many of my professional colleagues still have not grasped the relevance and importance of the technologies these men developed, describing to me how they’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into using technologies for the professional lives. Last year and in 2008, I ran courses for my colleagues on how to make their professional lives a little easier using technology and the level of “Oh my gosh – you can do that!” was palpable.

It felt the same way when I visited Boston in November for the “Learning and the Brain” conference (I’m heading to a follow-up after Macworld next month in San Francisco), and attended a session by a class teacher who now offers workshops for teachers working with children of the digital age, so-called Millenials.

Her breathless “Gee-whiz, look at what Facebook’s doing” was incredibly annoying and I had to bite my tongue on several occasions. But I have to acknowledge that perhaps I am an exception, if I compare myself with others my age. My partner’s children who are in their early twenties think she and I are so cool, because we got them both to take up the Mac platform, to take on iPhones, and we do their tech. support for both. Usually it’s the other way around in families.

My first direct contact with a computer was a mainframe at university in second year when I had to learn to program in Fortran and use punchcards. My first contact with SPSS, a major science statistical package, also used punchcards. I recall doing my Masters in 1980 when visiting the library to perform a literature search meant speaking the with librarian, spending time finding the right keywords to search with, then waiting a week for the printout search results to became available.

After, I headed into the journal stacks to start locating the articles and photocopying them. Later, I learnt how to use Current Contents and Psychology Abstracts to better guide my quest, but it was all so slow and tedious.

After joining Compuserve around 1990 and getting my own email address ( or something similar) I used its very expensive service (I had to call overseas @ $2/min in 1990 dollars) to track down articles and publications.

Later, when the intertubes became available (I was firstly as well as (don’t worry, it already gets so much unchecked spam) a whole new world of communicating with peers and researchers opened up. Whereas before I had used snail-mail to write to researchers for paper copies of their original research – the turn-around time would be around three weeks if they responded promptly – I could now email the senior author and often overnight a response would come together with a PDF or link to a website, with the bonus of a email-based dialogue commencing.

Let’s fast-forward to January, 2010. I still email authors, but more and more I am using Google to track down original research publications, often on researchers’ own websites, or free in certain journals. Or I’m using software such as DevonAgent or Papers to both search and archive research papers. (I highly recommend these Mac applications for researchers.)

When one gets used to free, it becomes hard to bring oneself to pay. Even when one knows it’s the “right” thing to do in terms of copyright and rewarding creativity. Millenials especially seem incapable of understanding the idea of paying when they have spent their lives knowing how to obtain their music or videos for free.

Every so often, despite my assiduous efforts to track down free publications, I am refused entry and referred to payment pages for journal articles. I get the abstract for free, then a link to download a PDF or MS Word file takes me to a virtual payment checkout. I’m talking here of peer-reviewed research, the sort of thing I’m meant to read to keep myself current by law. With hundreds of journals publishing relevant research, I cannot afford to subscribe to each one for the occasional relevant article. Nor do any of my alma maters offer a service where as a graduate I can access their electronic libraries as do enrolled students and faculty.

So like many independent practitioners, I have to rely on my wits to get what I want. I join discussion lists where others have access to material they can distribute and of course I continue to email directly.

It’s an OK system, but it can be improved upon. Others have also recognised the almost prohibitive cost encountered with paper-based science publications, and together with concerns about the peer-review process, have begun online, copyleft-type clearing houses of information. One such community is PLoS, the Public Library of Science.

PLoS is

“… a nonprofit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world’s scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. All our activities are guided by our core principles.

Open Access: Everything we publish is freely available online for you to read, download, copy, distribute, and use (with attribution) any way you wish. Watch 1-minute videos from a teacherfunderpatient advocatephysician scientistlibrarian, and a student about why Open Access matters to them.”

You can also send your original research to PLoS and have it peer-reviewed.

Now, you might want to know the views of those in the mainstream journal domain and if they feel their money stream to be challenged by PLoS. So I Googled to find out and one of the first results came from one of the premier science journals, Nature:

Ah, the irony! To read what Nature has to say about a free peer-reviewed journal system, I have to pay for it!

What was it Reagan said to Gorbachev? “Mr. President, tear down these walls!”

Well, I’m saying the same thing to Steve Jobs: “Steve, mate, help science along by luring the publishing world in with a tablet as a lifeline to a dying industry, then grab them by the short and curlies like you did with the music industry!”

You see, if I could get a hold of a journal article for my tablet for 99c, I’d grab it in a heartbeat. But how much do publishers want now for a single article?

Take a look below at a screenshot of an article I wished to buy today, from a lead sent to me by a fellow twitterer:

This is a 9-page article published by the APA, one of the USA’s premier associations for psychologists and a major publisher of peer-reviewed research.

I would spend $11.95 on a book, but not an article unless I was heading to a deadline and my article was incomplete without referencing this publication. And you can bet I’d claim a tax deduction for “Professional Library“.

Occasionally, journals will offer one or two free articles in a special journal devoted to a particular topic, but more often than not I am asked to pay exhorbitant rates to download pdf files.

Now, let’s have a look at another system, this time from the National Academies Press. In 2007, I read a review of a great and recommended book on the so-called Information Overload problem, authored by Alex Wright called: Glut – Mastering Information through the Ages.

This is a book you ought to read if you believe information overload is a problem of modern times, and Wright, with his library studies background, does a great job offering up a history of humankind’s making sense of the world. It’s nothing new, to give you the three word synopsis.

After I had read the review (Google <Alex Wright> to find a video of him speaking at Google) I was satisfied it was a book I wanted on my bookshelf.

A brief search lead me to the NAP site, where to my delight I discovered a number of ways I could access the book.

Firstly, I could order the book delivered to my postal address, and pay online for a discount. Fine. Or, I could for a little extra, order the book AND a PDF of the book too. Which meant several things… I could keep a copy on the bookshelf and on my Macbook Pro for reference and for cutting and pasting text into my Keynote presentations; I could access the illustrations for fair use without having to resort to photocopying and scanning to put it on a slide; I could copy and paste sections within fair use into an email to send to friends to interest them in the book and open discussion.

Or, I could preview each chapter, and order one as I went along, eventually owning the whole book in PDF format. So, if after reading the first chapter, or perhaps reading a chapter of interest, I could leave it there. It’s a little like sampling music on iTunes. I can hear some of the tracks, I can buy the album, or I can buy the individual tracks.

Take a look at the NAP website screensite below to see the options:

Here you can see the options offered. Notice, will you, the price per chapter: $1.70

That’s a far cry from $12 for a journal article. Now you might ask how many pages per chapter.

So if you click on the website, you get to see how to download each chapter for the same $1.70 no matter how many pages (sound familiar?)

Take a look below….

Isn’t this the iTunes music model, but already existing for publications?

Buy the whole thing (even in hardcopy) or the whole PDF which will download as soon as you pay (its 63MB will take under a minute on ADSL) or buy both and wait until the hardcopy arrives in the mail. Apply the same to journals. Even now, only a few articles in each journal I receive as part of my professional membership registration interest me. The rest is a waste of paper.

Mr. Jobs, please let me do this now with publications. I’ll still try and get what I can for free by writing to authors and opening up a dialogue, just like some musicians give away their music, but let them earn a buck and let me gain easy, ready access to articles I can read on my tablet. Just make it affordable and within a click or two’s reach. The irony is that researchers get nothing when their work is published in peer-reviewed journals. But it’s imperative they publish, not just to advance science, but to satisfy their institution’s employments policies (“publish or perish”), obtain tenure, make a name for themselves to get a book contract, or  publish research sponsored by well-heeled corporates especially the pharmaceutical industry, then do the lecture circuit.

And do a deal with PLoS so they can earn some money for their efforts and offer even easier access to their wares. Using the expected multimedia capabilities of the tablet, let me see the authors discuss their experiments, show me any experimental equipment they perhaps used or questionnaires they employed I too can access via the tablet, and let’s move science forward rather than hold it back via paywalls. You know information wants to be free, right?

(UPDATE January 12, 2010: Searching through various twitter conversations showed up the Journal of Visualised ExperimentsJoVE – which is a visualised journal for the biological sciences. This is the sort of peer-reviewed research which would find an easy home on the tablet).

Despite what I said at the very beginning of this entry about my colleagues’ lack of technological-savvy, an easy to use tablet with a no-brainer yet compelling user interface and inexpensive access to the world’s knowledge storehouse on-the-run (3G or Wifi or both) will sell in the scores of thousands to scientists alone in the first year.

Pair that up with the ability of students to carry all their now-inexpensive textbooks with them, and you’ll have the next “Mastering Information down the Ages” revolution to further cement your place in history.

(Oh, and let it do Keynote presentations too, please?)

UPDATE (January 8, 2010): This post prompted me to go back and look at the PDF of Glut. Looked high and low, on my several back up drives, and couldn’t find it. So I emailed the publisher from whom I’d made the Book+PDF purchase, with the date of purchase and credit card number retrieved from my iBank finance application, and emailed the customer-support section. Within a few hours, I received an email reply from Zina Jones, National Academies Press’ Customer Service/Order Processing Manager who had retrieved my information from NAP files, and offered me another free download, which I duly complied with!

Think about this: How many books have you left behind on planes, at coffee shops, in hotel rooms, or lent to friends, never to be recovered. It’s not so bad if it’s a work of fiction, but what of a $120 textbook? You can’t just ring about Laurence Erlbaum and Associates and plead “I left my book in my hotel room!” and expect them to FedEx you another copy.

But as NAP has demonstrated (and as iTunes very occasionally allows for “lost” music files), you can recover your missing book and very quickly too, if you have kept track of your purchases. (It’s also why I never delete those receipts from the iTunes music store).

UPDATE – January 15, 2010: I located a very scholarly blog entry entitled:

Why Hasn’t Scientific Publishing Been Disrupted Already?

by Michael Clark (January 4, 2010)

Highly recommended reading

Forget an Apple tablet’s form factor – yeah, it’ll be stunning – it’s the apps that will be its ultimate success. Especially the ones that let you self-publish: 70% for you, 30% for Apple

Three years ago, speculation was rife that Apple would release a mobile phone at Macworld 2007. Apple kept shtum, admitting nothing publicly but as history now show, a chosen few got their hands on the iPhone ahead of its release under NDAs.

I wrote about it then on my now-orphaned Cyberpsych blog, not ready to accept it was actually coming, but predicting if it did arrive, it would contain all the hallmarks of Apple product design we’ve become familiar with over the years, especially since Jobs returned in 1997.

During December especially, with Macworld 2007 being the first week of the new year, the rumours and “confirmations” mounted daily, and now in 2010, in feels like deja vu all over again.

Another landmark product, which as Jobs showed with the iPhone gives Apple a further opportunity to introduce the next interface (r)evolution to the masses, is my prediction, despite commentaries asking why we need another tablet (Joe Wilcox, don’t hold Apple to Microsoft’s product standards and marketing).

If you’ve been watching Apple for the last decade or so, or at least kept up your observation at a distance of how Jobs operates, you’ll know his design mantra centres on bringing complex engineering feats within the reach of ordinary users who don’r need degrees in rocket science to manage. This kind of exactness of execution and attention to detail can’t be achieved at the cut throat prices Apple’s apparent competitors sell their wares for. I say apparent because Apple and say Dell or HP sell computers with much the same internals. Where they differ is:

1. Design

2. Packaging

3. Marketing

4. Operating System software

5. Point of sale experience, Price and After purchase experience.

For some people, price is all that counts, which is how Microsoft’s most recent advertising using “real” buyers pitched its cause, even acknowledging the coolness of Apple’s products. The coolness factor is meaningless for many, perhaps even a turn off, and as long as the specs. appear much the same, the experience ought to be as well, no?

Er, no. It’s like saying because two presenters use slideware their presentations will be equally satisfying or effective. As if.

So when it comes to an Apple tablet don’t expect just another interface that we’ve already experienced. It’s not the Jobs’ way. Whether it brings with it a new tactile feedback device for both keyboard and object manipulation – such as application “windows” , flicking pinballs in various games, underlining or highlighting words on a page, and turning that page or chapter with the flick of a finger or two which feels like a flick – it will likely exceed what we’ve seen in the iPhone. It gave us visual and auditory feedback, rather than haptic as has been mooted for the tablet.

But if history is to repeat itself – yes, early adopters will pay a special Apple tax – it won’t be the design alone that will win hearts and minds, and have competitors scratching their heads dreaming of counterattacks (apart from suing Apple for alleged patent infringement). As we saw with the iPhone, it’ll be the software. Not just the operating system software, perhaps iPhone OS 4.0, but what the software will allow in terms of Apps. I fully expect a chosen few app. developers will demonstrate their special versions of existing iPhone apps. as well as new ones specifically designed for the tablet. And I further expect companies fully immersed in the enterprise setting in a very big way to show both hardware and software developments which could only be constructed for the tablet. I’m thinking here of medical applications, already utilising tablet configurations for data storage, but which will really come of age with the Apple tablet’s OS and feature set.

I have no insider information, but I will not be surprised if Apple released its own homebrew set of apps for the creative set, in particular versions of iLife and iWork which will enable users to create endproducts which will somehow be compatible with desktop versions of iLife/iWork.

Let’s think of Pages for a moment, with its dual functions as word processing and desktop publisher. What if Apple provided you with all the necessary tools to create your own book, upload it to the new version of iTunes which will be released the same day as the tablet, and be a saleable item – yep, Apple takes 30%, you get 70%.

Talk about cutting out the middle man, the publishers of expensive textbooks, magazines, and novels! There may be a new industry of for-hire editors to help shape it up, deals with sites like iStockphoto to enable you to fill your book with royalty-paid illustrations (or perhaps help you find specialist illustrators who can also show their wares on a new iTunes store), and even the opportunity to add music to your publication from the iTunes store. Apple will take of royalties for the music publisher in one easy and attractive arrangement.

With respect to Pages’ older brother, Keynote, I have some time back (May, 2007) written of what might happen if your Keynotes could be uploaded to the iTunes store.

Again, a place to show your wares, but it seems iTunes U has to some extent executed this vision by using Quicktime movies exported from Keynote rather than raw Keynote files to provide the educational material. Given the possibility that the next version of Keynote may well be Snow Leopard-only, it’s hard to see how a tablet could create Keynote files to be imported into the desktop version.

That’s not to say a tablet couldn’t be integrated with the management of regular Keynote files, much like the iPhone can in a rudimentary fashion. But rather than just control the slides forward and back, why not call up each slide at will while they’re laid out in order on the tablet, big enough to identify. Stacks of slides that go together, which can be organised in Keynote now, would take care of huge numbers of slides in a stack. And going beyond that, as I have suggested elsewhere on this blog, why not use the tablet to live annotate your Keynotes, even monitoring Twitter feedback during your presentation which is becoming a popular conference activity. This already occurs with tablet-based Powerpoint for Windows.

So, to all those focussed on the hardware aspects of the tablet, don’t forget how after the excitement of the iPhone form factor, it was the app store that provides for its clear lead over its competitors (who will ever catch up with 100,000+ apps?).

I have no doubt that while we swoon over a tablet’s form factor in late January, it will be its software, interface and ability to disintermediate the current publishing houses that will be its permanent “of course, why didn’t I see it coming” factors. It won’t happen first, because for the tablet to succeed it will provide for the same publication houses to sell their wares. But as the music recording industry discovered when they allowed iTunes for the Mac to come to market, in a few years, self-publishing via the tablet will have them asking if they made a deal with the devil, which is where the details will be.

Oh, and one more thing… just as with the iPod and the iPhone, watch the detractors leap on it, disappointed the tablet doesn’t also make toast. The usual suspects will also emerge without the wit or elan to actually commend Apple on shifting the digital world forward incrementally. Don’t worry, that’s their job… someone’s got to do it.