A computer for most of us

I am really excited about the Apple iPad that was announced a few days ago. It seems like it would solve a lot of computing issues not just for me, but most every day people who aren’t computer experts. This appears to be the first computer that I would feel absolutely comfortable with my grandmother to use, yet powerful enough for me to use it often.

In the morning before I go to work or in the evening when I am relaxing, there is very few times where I do a lot of typing. During these times, my predominate use of my Macbook is for browsing the web, reading Google Reader, checking Facebook & Twitter, and checking my e-mail. Most of my e-mail replies are a couple sentences long at most.

Some times I do this on my iPhone, which works well at these tasks. For me, the iPhone is great for a quick run through of that list above, but not good if I spend more than 10-15 minutes doing this. The iPhone’s battery drains fast, the screen is too small to do a ton of reading, there is a loss of flexibility many of the dedicated apps for these purposes not having all the functionality I may need.

When I do it on my Macbook, I gain the most functionality, but I lose the simplicity and efficiency of the iPhone approach. I get a bigger screen, the ability to type incredibly fast with keyboard shortcuts, better battery life, the ability to run many applications at the same time. There is a price for this though. I easily get distracted with many applications running at the same time. The applications can be incredibly complex, buggy, and unwieldy at times, some with code bases that date back 20 years or more. I would argue that laptops themselves are bulky (even the traditionally very thin Apple laptops) and can have heat issues that can make using one uncomfortable.

How do I see the iPad solving these issues? By taking the best of both approaches.

The iPad gets the bigger screen but still extremely portable, as thin as many books or a new notepad. I can just hold it with my hands, not resting it on my lap. I gain the huge speed and simplicity benefits of an iPhone like touchscreen interface, yet with the bigger screen the applications can be more complex if needed like their laptop cousins. There isn’t the heat issues, the battery is far better than any laptop (10 hours),  a faster processor than phones that doesn’t have to worry about handling the complex desktop Operating Systems like laptops. There is even accessories so I can do camera imports and manage them on the device.

For those morning and evening browsing sessions that I do nearly every day, the iPad would be perfectly suited for them. Of course there will be tasks that my laptop with a full desktop OS would be better suited for. As beautiful as the new iWork apps are for the iPad, I wouldn’t want to work on a complex spreadsheet on it from scratch. I wouldn’t write this long blog post on an iPad (unless I used the keyboard accessory…hmm). Managing my music and video collections will still need that computer, as they would have a tough time fitting on even a 64GB iPad. Plus I don’t even know if an iPad can sync its library with an iPhone yet.

That is not even getting into the added benefits the iPad gives to common people, like:

  • Security: there hasn’t been one virus or high-profile security breach for iPhones (excluding jailbroken ones). This is despite the iPhone being an obvious target for hackers given its dominance.
  • App Store: one stop shop to finding applications, applications get updates easily, and reviews to know the apps are good or not.
  • No multitasking: What? A feature? For those who get easily confused about multiple apps running, sucking CPU and battery life, this is a feature. It took months for one family member of mine to realize that they should quit applications instead of just closing their windows and leaving them running. My grandparents have a hard time keeping track of one application, never mind 5. Keep it simple. In the end, I bet limited multitasking will be introduced, but not until Apple gets it right.
  • Flexibility: Apps make this device work far longer than any computer would normally last. Those special digital photo frames you can buy? Get an iPad, dock, and it doubles as one when you aren’t using it. Plus higher quality display and more storage.

I predict that the iPad will become the computer of the future for the common people, while being a valuable companion for geeks who really do not need to use a full desktop computer every time they need their Internet fix. I know I will be in line for one, my mother is also wanting one too.

Apple Tablet event predictions

I freely admit that I soak up any Apple related news and I cannot wait to see what is in store tomorrow for what is rumored to be the big Apple tablet unveiling. Here is my predictions:

iPhone OS 3.2 released

Not sure what exactly would be in this update to tell the truth. The iPhone really needs a a revamped notification system. Perhaps with the introduction of the tablet maybe Apple will include an e-book app that automatically syncs with your e-book purchases, like the Kindle iPhone app does for Kindle Store purchases? Only obvious improvement to me worthy of a minor version increase, although I am sure there will be a bunch of small improvements they will throw in.

iLife & iWork ’10 released

Apple seems to do iLife & iWork releases every year or two in January, so this could be one of those years. The big obvious upgrade we have been waiting for is 64-bit support. It would be interesting if they actually made iWork.com useful (meaning editing files too) outside of viewing files you put up there.

Additional U.S. Carrier(s) for the iPhone (at least T-Mobile in the next few months, Verizon in summer)

Rumors have been going around crazy that AT&T exclusive contract for the iPhone ends in 2010. Some rumors say it even ends tomorrow (1/27/2010). Given that the iPhone is currently only GSM 3G, I think the most obvious new carrier is T-Mobile if any new carriers are announced tomorrow. A long shot is an announcement about Verizon getting the iPhone in the summer, but I don’t think that will be announced this far in advance.

The Apple Tablet (I love the name Apple Canvas, but I am guessing they will go with iPad or iSlate)

  • 10 inch “Tablet” device running a new version (4.0?) of the iPhone OS announced, for sale in March.
  • OLED Screen, incredibly thin
  • Wireless-N connection built-in
  • 3G Wireless that can be used either by subscription or content purchases will include the bandwidth costs. That way impulse book, movie, tv, and song purchases can be made anywhere, subscription or not.
  • Fully functional communication device (e-mail, web browser, apps, etc).
  • Built-in multitasking (iPhone OS 4.0 in action)
  • Tons of e-books, movies/TV content, music, etc.
  • Wireless syncing thanks to Wireless-N, no ports outside of power port, includes MobileMe subscription

Only way to find out: watch tomorrow!

Edit: Expanded on my original predictions.

2010 financial goals

With the new year and new decade, I would like to renew my focuses on my wife and I’s finances. We made significant progress for most of last year with my Subaru Forester car loan, but having to buy a new car in the summer also stopped my accelerated plan to repay the Subaru loan and stopped by debt snowball. This is how we are going to fix that this year.

Financial Goal #1 – Pay off Subaru Forester loan

With my next payment halfway through this month, the Subaru Forester loan will drop below $2,000. Being this close to paying it off, I really want to get this done. Thanks to some job related money coming in sometime in January and my tax return that usually comes in mid-February since I file my taxes as soon as I get the relevant paperwork, I think there is a very good chance I could have it paid off by March. Maybe even sooner.

With that, $225 a month becomes available and is a significant victory in my budget.

Financial Goal #2 – Look into credit unions

Within short walking distance of my work, there is a credit union branch that I am going to look into. Not only are credit unions well-known for their customer service and great rates, but this one also has an awesome feature of letting me scan checks and depositing them online. Combined with many ATM’s in gas stations and stores being free and it is very tempting to switch from Bank of America to them. I am also going to see if there is any chance of refinancing my new car loan with them.

Financial Goal #3 – Saving for a new house

With the Subaru Forester loan being paid off in the next 3-4 months, I plan on doing a debt snowball into a savings account with the idea of selling our condo towards the end of 2010 and moving into a house. We are ready to own a house. Given that houses will probably not be any cheaper than they are now, this is a good time to take advantage of the market.

Financial Goal #4 – Double the emergency fund

Even though the economy is slowly showing signs of turning around, it is clear that we need a better emergency fund as we now have a bare minimum $1000 tucked away. I would like to at least double my current emergency fund, just to give us a little more cushion to work from.

How could I get rid of cable TV?

My earlier post on using Netflix on my cable TV has gotten me thinking. Realistically, how could I realistically ditch my Cable TV bill and use just Internet streaming, over-the-air TV signals, and DVD rentals? A move that could easily save me $60 a month.

After some careful consideration, I think the following would need to happen:

  1. Access to live streaming video of sporting events. There is some moment in this direction with ESPN360.com, MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, NHL GameCenter Live, etc. In fact, outside of NFL Network broadcasts, I do not think any NFL games are available online. In order to cut the cable bill, I would need to be able to access live streaming of my team’s games, no matter where I am located. I am willing to pay for it too.
  2. A well designed and reasonably priced HD device that allows for streaming feeds from multiple providers while also allowing me to use my local content. What I envision is a meld between a Roku player, Boxee, and AppleTV.
  3. Live news feeds when needed. Obviously watching the 24-hour news networks is like asking for your brain to turn to mush, but for live breaking stories or even as general background noise for an hour, they cannot be beat. While some occasionally offer live feeds on their sites, I do not see any permanent live feeds available…yet.

How are we doing so far?

#2 you can argue is pretty close to being accomplished. If Apple were to come out with AppleTV version 4 with “app” support that allowed Netflix, Pandora, MLB.TV, etc. to create apps that run on the AppleTV, that would clinch that part for me.

That would also open the door for #3 to occur and potentially, #1 once a big enough market can be generated for someone (my money is on MLB.TV) to remove blackout restrictions. In fact, MLB appears to be moving in that direction already with deals with the Yankees and Padres to stream in-market games.