There’s been a lot of rumor and speculation surrounding the release of a smaller device to fill a niche between the iPod Touch and the iPad. The device is usually referred to as the “iPad Mini”.
However, there is another naming possibility; a name that held a prominent place at Apple; a name that was rumored for the original iPad before the iPad was. That name is “iBook”.
Yes, I know that Apple recycled the “iBook” moniker when it opened the iBook Store, but that was a “software only” use of the name.
The first Apple laptop I owned was the iBook. I still have that machine, running OS X Leopard. Occasionally, I bring it out, dust it off and start it up. Still works fine.
The obvious market for the new device is direct competition with the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and the Asus Nexus 7, i.e., it will compete in a market area generally understood as eReaders. What better name than iBook for the Apple eReader.
Of course, Apple marketing is most likely considering the “halo effect” available if “iPad” is linked with the new offering.
As a low-vision user of iOS devices (iPhone and iPad), I use Accessibility features quite extensively. The two most often used features in this category are VoiceOver and Zoom.
I use VoiceOver most frequently for tasks such as
Reading Mail Message headers
Reading Twitter Timeline messages
Selecting on-screen controls to determine button functions within an app
Reading on-screen text without needing to zoom in
These four workflow items are indispensable to me. The frustration is that VoiceOver function is not consistent from one app to another. For example, in iBooks, I can read the text of a book using VoiceOver, but I can’t perform the same function in the Amazon Kindle app. When I tap the screen in the Kindle app, all I get is a sound effect telling me I tapped the screen. Not much help at all.
The same can be said for other iOS apps. In social networking, the Twitter app supports VoiceOver, but other Twitter client apps do not.
It would be greatly appreciated if VoiceOver worked consistently across the iOS experience instead of the “hit or miss” patchwork that a currently exists. This sketchy support makes it difficult to purchase apps. It would be nice if the app page in iTunes had an Accessibility compliancy section so I could more easily determine if the app supports features such as VoiceOver.
Another shortfall is the on-screen keyboard. With my particular visual difficulties, the on-screen keyboard would be more effective if the key was dark and the lettering light in a look similar to the chic-let keyboards on a MacBook Pro. You can achieve this effect in Accessibility by manipulating the screen contrast, i.e., a reverse video effect. This changes the keyboard, but it also changing the entire screen. I don’t want to change the entire screen; only the keyboard. Come on Apple, you let me change the keyboard layout. Let me change the default color.
Yes, I know Apple, your company is a leader in making the technology experience available to a wider group of people. Apple is eons ahead of Amazon. Apple has added Siri to the iPhone 4s and dictation for the iPad. But, there is still more than can be done.; some which should be relatively simple to accomplish.
On July 25th, I, like many other Mac users, purchased and installed OS X Lion 10.7. July 25th, Christmas in July. I immediately installed the update on my desktop (Mac Pro 2006). A few days later, I installed the update on my 2008 MacBook along with an upgrade to 8 GB ram. This leaves only my 2007 MacBook which is currently off at college.
Both my updates completed without a hitch. The process was amazingly simple.
I had intended to make an installer, either USB or DVD, but I missed my first chance with my desktop when the install package disappeared afar the install completed. This forced me to download the package again for my MacBook. This time, I saved a copy of the install package prior to launching the process. Haven’t made the install disk yet, but it appears to be a simple process.
Now that I’ve been using the new OS for a few days, I can give a few first impressions.
The change in scrolling behavior incorporated into Lion seems to be a huge topic with both supporters and detractors. There is no shortage of “how to’s” to reverse the default “Natural” scrolling. For my part, I like the new scrolling paradigm. The “natural” scroll mimics the direct drive mode in use on iOS devices. Instead of pulling the window up and down over a fixed page, now you push the page up or down. This method of scrolling is certainly natural on the iPad or iPhone, but I can see how it may prove difficult for those equipped with the traditional scroll wheel mouse. For myself, I have been using the Magic TrackPad for quite a while, so the “natural” proved to be natural after a short period of time. I still have to go “unnatural” when at work, but, so far, moving from “natural” to “unnatural” and back has not been so distracting as to reverse the mode on my Macs. I do admit that I sometimes have to think a bit to transition from work to home use.
Another blending of iOS and OS X is found in the LaunchPad. Those with iOS devices certainly recognize the home screen with the multiple icons, folders, etc. I didn’t realize I had so many applications installed until I began scrolling through all the pages of apps. Most represented application that I might run once in a blue moon. Thankfully, LaunchPad Control soon came to the rescue. LaunchPad Control is a free Mac application that allows you to customize which apps appear in the LaunchPad. I still have some work to do here, but at least I now have a tool to do it with.
To me, Mission Control is a composite of Exposé and Spaces. I’ve used it a little, It certainly seems to be a much simpler interface for moving apps into different spaces.
Full Page Apps
I have certainly enjoyed the new full screen mode for Apple applications such as Mail, Safari and iTunes. It will be only more and more enjoyable as more vendors push out apps supporting the new full screen capability.
With all the new User Interface (UI) candy, you knew that new gestures had to be included. I did do some tweaking here. On iOS, to move from one app to another, you swipe with four fingers. (At least those of us that could use Xcode to enable the gestures). By default, Lion had this set for three fingers, but allowed a change to four fingers. I appreciate consistency, so I made the change. I also enjoy the new “back and forward” in Safari using two fingers (left or right swipe), but have run into circumstances where the old arrows would be nice.
All in all, the upgrade to Lion from Snow Leopard was certainly more pronounced than the previous leap from Leopard to Snow Leopard. And it is certainly worth the $30 price tag. Right now, the Lion is ROARING!
As the temperature cools down, the news around the release of the long-rumored Apple Tablet heats up.
Sites around the internet are buzzing with tidbits of information that can be arranged in a way to predict the impending release (MacRumors & 9to5Mac lead the way), but i am more interested in what the new Tablet will bring to us functionally rather than when it will arrive or what the name will be.
There has been speculation that the Tablet will be an overgrown iPod Touch or will be targeted to the burgeoning eReader market. I hope that the Tablet provides more than these limited areas of function.
Some of the features I look for, in no particular order of precedence, include:
Most people need the ability to execute multiple programs. Multi-tasking is a must. Hopefully, multi-tasking support will also appear in a later release of the iPhone software as well.
Apple needs to push the RAM toward the 1.0 Gigabyte level.
On board storage needs to be a least 64 GB. Recent enhancements to NAND appears that this should be a lock.
A variant of Mac OS X. More capable than the iPhone OS.
iPhone App support
Support for iPhone Apps either natively or via an embedded emulator.
Platform Software Freedom
The ability to install software by means other than being tethered to iTunes. Treat the Tablet as a Mac, not a phone.
We are now spoiled by the intuitive touch interface provided by the iPhone. This UI is now “required” for the Tablet. We need the “pinch” and “swipe” motions we have become accustomed to.
I need to be able to plug in a USB device and, hopefully, a media card.
802.11n Wi-Fi, full Bluetooth support and a wired RF-45 connection. Provide 3G as a option. Not all of us want to pay for an additional Data Plan.
eReader functionality with support for Text-to-Speech for those of us with low-vision difficulties.
Integration of Mac OS Universal Access capability
These are just a few items. What features would you like to see in the new Apple Tablet?
How often have you or your significant other been in this situation. There you are, staring at a piece of merchandise and wondering “Hmmm…I like this _________, but is this a good price? Perchance the item may be available at a lower cost elsewhere. Methinks I will endeavor to locate the item and profit from the savings.” (Mind you, I don’t really know any people that talk like that)
Well, you scurry around the mall or other shopping outlets on a search for that better deal. You can’t find one, so you go back to the original store where yout journey began only to find that the item is no longer there. Rats! The dreaded “price check” scenario has won again.
Well, fellow iPhone users, do not despair. Check out the RedLaser app at iTunes. This $1.99 app may save you many times that. I downloaded it yesterday for my iPhone 3G and was amazed at the features.
RedLaser works by reading the image of a UPC barcode (actually looking for the associated number). Once the information is obtained, the data is checked. If RedLaser is able to identify the product, a listing is provided with prices for the merchandise listed from online vendors as well as local prices (GPS-enabled iPhones). The app provides an audible tone when the label is scanned. If you are unable to get a good scan, the app allows the user to manually enter the UPC code.
I’ve tried it out on a few recent purchases and most items are located by the app. In fact, I could have saved over $10 yesterday if I had downloaded the app a little earlier ($5 if I had just walked across the street for one of the items).
For more information, visit the RedLaser web site. Here’s to great shopping in the future.