Nvidia makes some pretty sweet processors. One is even named after Superman! They’re cool. Sometimes those chips end up in Android tablets. On much rarer occasions, they end up in Apple tablets. Those occasions are so rare, in fact, that I made that up. It never happens. But it would sure make Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang’s prediction that Android tablets will overtake iPad shipments in about two and a half years a little less self-promoting, wouldn’t it?
Ahhhh, but come on! Let’s give the guy a break. He’s probably right! Right? Right. See, it’s what happened in the smartphone market. As you know, smartphones are generally sold on contracts, with heavy subsidies, and are replaced about as frequently as contracts are renewed in a lot of cases. Whereas tablets are….umm….well. Well, you use money to buy them! That’s one similarity.
Still. The fact that the Android platform is on a wide variety of devices from various manufacturers is likely going to be one huge advantage that Android has over the iPad. The wide variety of form factors has helped the Android market boom. And just take a look at two of the leading Android tablets right now: the Motorola Xoom and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (both running Nvidia chips, naturally). And they offer a wide variety of hardware options: one of them is a large, roughly 10″ slab with a touchscreen and some ports while the other is…umm…..err. That is….
Well, look. The point is that Android won the numbers game in the smartphone space, and it will probably take only just as long for them to win in the tablet space. Probably. I guess.
Or maybe the technology industry is vast and complex, the tablet market hasn’t even really been defined yet, and there’s still plenty of room for experimentation, innovation, and discovery before anything is settled and life is less straightforward than projections on a chart. I guess.
It’s more fun this way, though, right?
When the iPad first arrived on the scene, everyone, including Apple, heralded it as a brand new category of device. Not a smartphone, not a netbook, but something entirely new. Canalys calls shenanigans. In what appears to be a morale-boosting speech to the super-sad iPad that wishes it could play ball as well as the rest of the kids, Canalys says this about the iPad and other tablet devices (which they insist on calling pads, further exacerbating the problem with these jokes):
‘Any argument that a pad is not a PC is simply out of sync,’ said Chiam. ‘With screen sizes of seven inches or above, ample processing power, and a growing number of applications, pads offer a computing experience comparable to netbooks. They compete for the same customers and will happily coexist. As with smart phones, some users will require a physical keyboard, while others will do without.’
Furthermore, since a Prius can accomplish most of the same tasks as a motorcycle (except making you look cool), Toyota and Harley-Davidson will now share sales numbers. They’ve just become the biggest auto-maker in the world! Amazing!
Now, while some have taken issue with the claim that the iPad is a perfect replacement for netbooks, even avid iPad supporters admitting they’re no replacement, attempts to make the iPad more useful for daily work have failed miserably, and more proper netbook/laptop devices have been met with rave reviews often at the expense of the iPad, that’s no reason to think that laptop sales and iPad sales should be kept separate.
The reason to keep them separate is because they’re tablets. Thanks Canalys for ridding us of any valuable metric we could use to see how well the tablet market is doing versus other forms of computing devices. It’s ok. I wasn’t really all that interested anyways. I just wanted to know how Apple is faring against HP and Dell. Because that’s the story everyone’s talking about, right?
First there was the original iPhone. It had a pretty good resolution at the time, but not great. Conveniently, though, if you wrote an app for one iPhone they worked on them all. The resolution on the phone didn’t change for three years. The iPad, rumor has, won’t take nearly that long.
Then Apple released the iPad. For the first time there was a device available to the App Store that did not have a 480×320 resolution. This screen was 1024×768 on a 9.7″ screen. Now, in order to compensate for the lack of tablet-specific apps, and to ensure the device did not launch with no apps at all, Apple introduced a process called “pixel doubling”. Which, if you’ve ever grabbed the corner of Windows Media Player and stretched the window to fill the screen, is not a concept you’re unfamiliar with. It makes apps look bigger. And crappier. Needless to say app developers needed to create new versions of their apps that didn’t look horrible on a tablet, and preferably, made use of all that extra space.
Then, a couple months later, they released the iPhone 4. One of the headlining features? A Retina Display. With a resolution of 960×640, and a pixel density of 326ppi, Apple redefined OCD by blurring the line between pixelated and blurry. Problem: now, we have a third resolution to support, old iPhone apps that have no business on a tablet have to be updated to not look crappy, too. Perhaps most importantly, though, iPad owners are now aware that their crappy screen, with only 132 ppi is crappy.
Note: a 50″ HDTV, with full 1080p picture has a pixel density of roughly 44ppi. Obviously less if you go higher.
Now rumor has it that the iPad 2 will have a display close to that of a Retina Display with 2048×1536 on what we can only assume will still be a 9.7″ screen (clocking in at 263ppi. For reference, the original Droid weighs in at 260ppi).
So, if you’re a developer, here’s a list of the current and/or soon-to-be supported display resolutions:
iPhone 3G S and older: 480×320 (165ppi)
iPhone 4: 960×40 (326ppi)
iPad: 1024×768 (132ppi)
iPad 2: 2048×1536 (263ppi)
Or, put another way:
iPhone 3G S and older: Regular
iPhone 4: Retina Display-Compatible
iPad2: Extra Super HD Extreme To Tha Max
I fully expect all iPad 2 versions of various apps to be appended with the above label. Otherwise, well, I just won’t know what in the world I’m installing, will I?
On a related note, I honestly can’t remember the last time Apple released an iOS device that didn’t require app developers to update their apps to support a new resolution.
I do not have cable. I do not have a DVR. I do not have satellite. I have an internet connection and a computer. I also do not have a remote control. No device I use has an IR sensor. I have a smartphone and WiFi router. I am able to perform all of the basic TV-viewing tasks, such as watch TV shows, pause or mute playback from across the room, and lose my smartphone remote somewhere underneath my butt as I shift around on the couch. It’s a good life.
And one of the things I miss the least from my old, former life-the one where I was stuck with a CRT television, cable, and a dinky plastic remote control-is the horrible hodge podge of buttons and cryptic labels smushed on to an oddly-shaped “ergonomic” remote control. Verizon has thus seen fit to take the old remote I’m not using and shove it into their iPad app.
You see, the beauty of a touchscreen device is that the interface can be programmed to be just about anything. A grid of buttons. A map. An escher drawing. The latter obviously being the inspiration for most remote control designs. And if you’re one of those pervy masochists who loves the pain of taking a ten-week training course to use a remote control, yet hates the idea of holding stuff*, this iPad app is for you.
*- Stuff that isn’t an iPad