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9 April, 2010
And hello today from Anaheim, where my
daughter Anna and I are
meeting with the Mouse. Well, not on a one-to-one basis, more like
a one-to-one hundred thousand basis.
My iPad eventually arrived on Saturday
afternoon, after I was growing increasingly anxious as to it ever
turning up or not. Since then I spent a concentrated and almost
nonstop 48 hours
playing working with it, and trying to come up with some cohesive thoughts as to if I liked it
or not, what I'd use it for, and if I could recommend it on to you.
I like it - in part. And am massively
frustrated by it in other parts. In some respects it is
brilliantly good, but it is still crippled by the stranglehold that
Apple and its awful iTunes software has on it. So - should you buy one?
Actually, the answer to this question is
almost independent of whether it is good or not, there are other reasons
that make it easy to answer. And the answer is
you should almost certainly
not buy an iPad - well, not unless you have a clear and present need for it
(and in truth I don't think any of the 300,000 of us who bought one on
its first day on sale do indeed have any yet identified definite need
for it at all).
I suggest you not buy an iPad - yet -
not to be elitist or snobbish, but because - well, to find out why,
perhaps you should click over to the two pages of analysis I wrote on
the topic :
This Week's Feature Column :
Should Wait Before Buying an iPad : Flawed diamond or
crown jewel? Whichever it is, the iPad has a lot to like about it,
but as the first of what promises to be a deluge of new tablet devices,
its current benefit of being first to market will soon become a
disadvantage as newer and better devices are released in the next few
One of the things that surprised me the most
about the iPad is how heavy it is. My most hoped for use of the
device was going to be lying in bed, lazily browsing the internet or
reading/sending emails. But it is both heavy and slippery.
Besides which, I don't have enough hands - what's the point of a larger
keyboard if you can only type on it with one hand, while holding the
device with your other hand?
The weight issue truly is a drawback.
Yes, the unit only weighs 1.5 lbs. But try holding this for an
extended period and you too will come to appreciate that it isn't
exactly a feather in your hands. The weight interferes with the
'transparency' of the unit - it becomes uncomfortable and intrudes on
your user experience. Transparency was one of the most touted benefits of
the Kindle eBook reader - you forgot about the device as such and
became drawn into the reading experience. With the iPad, you
can never become unaware of the device itself, and depending on how you
are positioned, it can become tiring and awkward to hold it for any
I realized another thing as I was taking
both my iPhone and my iPad up to bed the other night. How
unfortunate that it can't do double duty as a regular phone, too.
Rather than replacing/upgrading/enhancing other pieces of gear I already
have, it seems the iPad is more an additional gadget to carry with
one. At the most,
it might replace my Kindle, but the iPad is much bigger and much heavier
than the Kindle, so I'm not saving either weight or space in my carryon.
Talking about carryon, a related problem is
how you carry the thing. It is appreciably large in size - the 3/4" or more
bezel around the screen adds to its size (but is necessary so you have
somewhere/something to hold onto - obviously you can't hold it by the
touch screen or else the mere act of holding it would confuse the touch
screen). You surely can't simply put it
in your pocket, like you would a phone. On the other hand, it is
too small to put into a laptop type computer carry bag.
I first confronted this problem the day
after getting the unit - I agreed to meet a friend for lunch and show
them the iPad. Every bag I had was either too big or too small,
but I didn't want to just self-consciously carry it in my hand.
I hunted through Amazon the next day and
ordered what seemed like a good solution, an 'Urban Explorer Canvas
Shoulder Bag' (with an eye to traveling internationally, I prefer to use discreet low-cost looking products rather than gaudy expensive items
that shout 'I'm a wealthy American tourist, steal my bag' to the local
lowlife). It only cost about $16, but yet again, I learned my
lesson - you get what you pay for. Although it had a suitably sized main
compartment, it had no other compartments, and if I was going to use
it for a travel bag, I'd want separators to protect the iPad, my Kindle
(hmmm - will I really travel with both - I'll have to think about that,
especially now that I have a Kindle app and all my Kindle books on the
iPad), noise cancelling headphones, iPod (another question mark - do I
need an iPod too because the iPad has an iPod built in to it), a camera,
wallet, travel documents, a book or
two (travel guides or whatever), a bar of chocolate (!) and whatever
I might have found a good solution, but
it is not yet available. There is of course a desperate rush to
market by many accessory providers, and for sure, suppliers of
protective cases and carry bags are no exception. By happy chance,
one of the better bag suppliers is actually based here in Seattle, and
amazingly, they make at least some of their products locally rather than
shipping them in from Asia. The company is Tom Bihn, and I've
commented favorably on their products before. They have what seems
to be an
excellent iPad bag; alas, it won't be available until mid June.
I'd almost forgotten what it feels like to buy American (the iPad is
made in China).
But you're not going to rush out and buy an
iPad today, are you? Not after reading this week's feature
I'd promised last week to release a
comprehensive review of how to share an internet connection between
multiple devices, particularly when you're in a hotel that wants to
charge you for each and every different device you have.
Many of us travel with at least one laptop
and one cell phone, each wanting access to the internet, and at present
I count a ridiculous five devices around me in my Anaheim hotel (laptop,
netbook, iPad, iPhone and Blackberry).
My comprehensive review has, as you might
expect, become exactly that. Indeed, it spans four pages and 5500
words, but is worth reading if you too sometimes find yourself
share a single internet feed among multiple devices.
This year's Christmas Cruise is
almost ready to present to you. It will be (drumroll please) on a
different part of Europe's river system. After I think six years
in a row cruising along the Danube between Budapest and Nuremberg, this year
we'll go somewhere different - we'll cruise between Amsterdam and Basel,
through Germany and France, primarily along the Rhine river.
There'll be Christmas markets aplenty, and I hope to have some
interesting pre and/or post tour extensions to enrichen the experience
First, I have a question for you.
This tour can either start with us leaving the US on Thursday 25
November - ie, Thanksgiving Day, or could have us leaving a few days
after Thanksgiving. Which would you prefer? If it makes a
difference to you one way or the other (either on the plus side -
leaving on Thanksgiving Day might make it easier to get time off work
and the cruise is $100 cheaper, or on
the minus side - you don't want to miss your traditional family
me know your preferences.
So, please keep in mind that the week
or two immediately after Thanksgiving is when the cruise/tour will take place;
I'll get firm dates and more details for you next week.
Dinosaur watching : In a surprise
move, Spirit Airlines has now started charging for carry-on bags (other
than small bags less than 16" x 14" x 12") as well as still charging for
checked bags. The fee for a carry-on bag will be $30, or $45 if
you try and sneak it on the plane, unpaid, and they catch you. And
even though you're now paying good money, Spirit say that you can only
pay to bring one bag onto the plane.
Spirit says the reason for this is
to make more money to encourage passengers to check their bags
(paying checked bag fees so they make more money) so
that planes will be loaded and unloaded faster so that Spirit can turn
them around with less time on the ground and make more money.
Spirit said that at the same time it also
reduced its lowest fares by an average of $40, so that would offset the
extra cost of a $60 roundtrip carry-on bag fee. So they're not
actually making any more money at all.
But you'll note they said they reduced their
lowest fares. They didn't say they reduced all their fares.
I've no problem with airlines making money, but why are the airlines
themselves so bashful at admitting that is why they add fees?
on their website.
Talking about trying to make more money, the latest
involves former wanna-be pals, United and US Airways, who are apparently
keen to try again where they've previously failed.
But would a merged airline be any more profitable? Quite likely
no. In this part of my not yet complete series on the death of
airline competition - an article appropriately titled 'Bigger
Airlines are Not Better', I plot airline operating costs against airline
size. The bigger the airline, the higher their operating costs -
quite the opposite of the vague 'economy of scale' rationalization of
airline mergers that we're treated to.
It seems that due to the
nature of the airline business, there are few opportunities for economy
of scale - it costs about as much to fly a plane between Los Angeles and
Chicago, whether you have only one plane and one flight a day, or a
fleet of 1,000 planes and 50 flights between LAX and ORD each day.
The only way a bigger merged airline would save money would be if it
would stop operating (say) 20 737s on a medium haul route and replace it
with 7 A380s. But due to airlines seeking to have the maximum
number of flights, this is never likely to happen - the trend has been
towards smaller planes flying more frequently.
The best way for an airline to make money is to become more internally
efficient. To reduce wasteful practices, and to have fewer staff
working harder, and for less money. An example of an airline that
appreciates this is Japan Airlines. First they refused offers to
have Delta or American Airlines buy into their company. And now
they are slashing their staff, with a plan to lay off one third of its
workforce during the next twelve months. Wow. They're also
cutting unprofitable routes and selling off old planes.
Sorry - there's not a lot of airline news
featured this week. It would be
amusing if it weren't also frustrating, but notwithstanding offering you
four pages of information this week all about connecting to the internet
in hotels, I'm, ahem, having internet problems at the Anaheim hotel I'm staying
Unfortunately, the material offered to you is primarily
predicated on having a reliable hotel internet connection to start with,
and that's the challenge I'm having (it has been down three times in the
last hour, and with it taking 30 minutes to 'restart the mesh' (whatever
that means) it is all getting a bit much for me. I plan to be
happily back at home next week and normally productive.
This Week's Security Horror Story : The crotch bomber managed to
smuggle his bomb onto the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit at Christmas
last year because he wasn't on any watch lists. In response, the
US Government said that all people from a bunch of countries would be
given secondary inspection prior to being allowed on flights to the US.
That revised policy would have increased the odds of the crotch bomber
being caught because he'd have had a follow up search when going through
The policy has now been revised again. The new improved revision
of the improved revision to the earlier flawed policy? Ummm - only
people on the watch list will be given secondary inspection once more.
Which means, is this 'new' system had been in place back in December,
the crotch bomber would have again been waved through security with no
So how have we learned our lesson and become safer?
Perhaps this is one part of our President's
renaming the war on terror. I'm not quite sure what it is to be
called now (perhaps 'the slight disagreement with well intentioned
activists'), but the phrase 'Islamic radicalism' and others like it is
no longer to be used, presumably for fear of upsetting radical Islamics.
Meanwhile, one of the more radical Islamics
out there, Iran's President Ahmadinejad, pours scorn on Obama as an
'amateur', while continuing his nuclear weapons development completely
unimpeded. Are you feeling safer yet?
Here's a great soundbite. More air
marshals have been themselves arrested than they have themselves
arrested people. The Federal Air Marshal service is costing
the country $200 million per person they arrest - and as far as I can
ascertain, they have never 'saved' a plane or battled with a terrorist
on board a flight or even arrested a terrorist.
Good value for money? Do we even need
them at all - why not just arm all pilots, and allow the flight
attendants to take the martial arts classes they're so keen to take.
There was a recent threat by a passenger to
crash a Qantas flight en route from Sydney to Singapore which didn't
require federal air marshals. On-board flight attendants were able
to control the man with no problems, and restrained him to his seat with
both his arms and legs tied to the seat for the rest of the flight.
But would this have prevented the passenger
from carrying out his threat? You see, he threatened to crash the
plane using nothing more than the power of his mind.
The plane landed safely.
We've all fallen asleep on a plane from time
to time, and maybe even slept through its landing. But how is it
possible to remain asleep as the plane empties, and to stay asleep,
undisturbed, when the plane is then towed away from the gate?
That's what happened to
this gentleman, who woke to find the plane in a hangar, some 90
minutes after landing. Ooops.
Until next week, please enjoy safe travels