Tag Archive | "ipad"

The State of Android Tablets (2011): A Survey of Thoughts From Carrypad Staff

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At the beginning of the year, if you would have told me that, by the summer, there would be a dozen different Android tablets available for order from reliable, first tier manufacturers, I would have told you to get outta town. We were likely all desensitized to the constant stream of news that seemingly had the same message: “Company X announced the Y Tablet today. It features blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. No information was released on a launch date or pricing.” It had gotten to the point that I immediately went to the bottom of any announcement of a tablet-device, and if it had the standard blurb about no launch date or word on pricing, I did not read the article.

Flash-forward to the present. That standard blurb I mentioned above is something that we are seeing several times a day now. The difference is that with each instance of an announcement, there is a level of confidence that we are actually reading a press statement about a device that will be delivered to the market and will not just become vaporware. A year ago, this was not the case. I regarded almost every announcement of an Android tablet as a veritable Chupacabra that I would never actually see. Now, launch events for tablets and the equally interesting Android OS updates are major media events, commanding the undivided attention of the journalists in attendance, and the readers reading the live-blogs in real time or catching up on the ensuing hands-on later in the day. Keeping up with the state of the tablet market is now almost a hobby in and of itself.

As we head into the closing month of this watershed year in the tablet industry, with still more compelling Android tablets promised to hit retail before we turn the corner into 2012, I have been reflecting on the past year and pondering what is yet to come. I have a few ideas of what the recent past has meant, and what the future might hold. Not convinced that there is any way that I could possibly have all of the answers, I engaged my fellow editors and contributors from Carrypad in a dialogue on the topic. We each took a shot at answering three key questions that we felt were critical things to consider and might very well define the picture of the Android tablet market today. Each writer answered the questions in-the-blind, unaware of the answers from the others. Please join us in this dialogue and post your thoughts on our perspectives, as well as your own original thoughts on this subject in the comments below.

Many pundits talk about the belief that there is no tablet market, there is just an iPad market, and the other manufacturers are just flailing, trying to tread water in a marketplace that does not exist. Are they right? If not, what do Google and its hardware partners need to do in order to compete for consumer dollars and a place as the the second or third screen in users’ personal computing kits?

  • Ben: Apple definitely created an iPad market, not a tablet market. You can see this easily with many of the capacitive-only Windows slates that are trying to pull a “me too” move, but are absolutely failing when it comes to user adoption. Trying to shoe-horn a touch (finger only) keyboardless experience onto a Windows machine is just silly. That’s not to say that there isn’t room for Android, but at the moment, Google has a product for geeks, while Apple has a product for everyone (including geeks). I often look at it this way: iOS and Android are comparable, but Android needs heavy customization out of the box to be brought up to the level of iOS usability. Because of this, the iPad dominates the mainstream (probably more so in the US than other places). There’s also something to be said about app-quality and system stability. The competition between the iPad and Android tablets is absolutely healthy for consumers, and it’s great to see the wide range of computing-styles that are offered by Android devices. If the iPad was the only game in town, they’d stagnate (in some regards they have), but thanks to Android, Apple has to be ever vigilant, and vice-versa.
  • Damian: There has been a tablet market, although small, for many years before the iPad. Many of the readers of Carrypad will have had windows tablets since the old days of Windows XP Tablet Edition, which was officially released in 2001. The tablet market then was mostly a business or enterprise market and you’d have to credit the iPad with launching the mass scale consumer tablet market for an easy to use consumption device. The iPad dominates the consumer consumption market but Android tablets are gaining ground. Both still can’t quite make it as an enterprise device and the first one that cracks that will have an advantage. With rumours of Microsoft Office being developed for the consumer tablet OS’s this might be the tipping point. I think adding a stylus that works well changes the equation considerably and a well implemented, pen driven solution (ideally running Office) that allows users to create, in a common, accessible format, will boost the Android tablet market share.
  • Jerry: I don’t think these guys (the pundits) are right. There are some 6 million plus Android tablet devices in operation, and that constitutes a market to me. It took a long time for Android to gain traction in the smartphone market, with the G1 being just interesting, but things really started taking off with the arrival of the original Droid on Verizon. For Google and its partners to push more adoption, I am not sure if the saturation tactic that was has worked in the smartphone market is going to work for tablets. I think general consumers will be compelled by more content. Android has a great hook with its one-source approach to aggregating access to all content mediums via your single Google account. But they need a better library in Google books, a music source for procuring music (Blast it! I drafted this before the Google Music launch), and further integration with Google TV. It would be a huge plus if I could be watching an episode of a show on my tablet, and then have my stopping place synced with a GoogleTV device to continue watching the content from the same place… and for there to be worthwhile, current TV content.
  • Chippy: In terms of tablets there really is only an iPad market at the moment. Android tablets remain a niche, rather geeky option. The reason has nothing to do with hardware design or OS, it’s to do with the apps. There simply aren’t enough devices out there to justify any serious large-screen/fragments-enabled quality developement work. By my estimate there are between 10 and 15 million Android tablet devices out there. Some 5″, some 7″ and some 10″ devices, some running Android 2.x and some 3.x. The effort required to make a quality app across this fragmented product base is too big for the potential returns. For this to change, the number of fragments-enabled devices out there needs to grow considerably. ICS will help slowly during 2012 but for Android to stimulate major development work, soon, it needs a breakthrough product. The Kindle Fire could have been that product but with its 2.x OS it won’t stimulate the important use of fragments. 2012 looks like another difficult year for Android tablet apps.

The pundits also say that fragmentation of the Android OS is a key detractor from the product category gaining ground, not only in the tablet market but across smartphones as well. How do you define fragmentation, or do you feel it does not really exist? There is also a discussion of ecosystems and its criticality in the mobile market. How do you define a mobile ecosystem, or do you think this factor does not exist, or is not as relevant as some suggest.

  • Ben: “Fragmentation” is not an issue inherent to Adroid, but rather a desire of Android device manufacturers. Apple only markets one line of phones and one line of tablets, and at any given time, there is only one model that is considered the flagship device. For Android, any number of phone/tablet makers may have comparable devices, so how can they ‘differenatiate’ (aka fragment) their devices to appeal to customers over their competitor’s devices? The answer often comes in adding custom skins, pre-baking in selected applications and services (some of which may be unique to a given device). This means that the specific experience between tablets is somewhat different. Depending upon the hardware, you might not be able to see the same applications in the Android Market because not all applications are supported on all Android tablet hardware. If a non-techie user buys an Android tablet and enjoys using a specific application that comes with it, they may be surprised to find that when they get a new tablet, that application is not available for it. The only way to avoid this issue is for the user to understand the way this ecosystem works, but that can’t be expected of non-techie users. When it comes to the iPad, you can expect the latest iPad to be capable of running every iPad app (and iPhone app for that matter) that’s ever been made. Furthermore, because all apps are made with the top-end hardware in mind, you can expect any app available to run well if you have the current generation of iPad or iPhone.
  • Damian: I think fragmentation, which I define as multiple hardware manufacturers making different spec’d devices and different implementations of the same OS, is a major factor in consumer uptake of Android tablets, not smartphones. The Android phones need to act as a phone first, then web consumption device, then app using, game playing devices. They usually don’t tend to be used as a consumer of complex media or producer of enterprise content. The phones have different hardware for sure but the manufacturers seem  to be doing a good job of making sure their hardware works in most scenarios, i.e. plays all the media formats it needs to, opens pdf’s and documents when attached to email, renders different websites, etc. The tablet space is more complex and the fragmentation hurts it more. Some devices have full sized USB, some devices have SD card slots, some devices have docks, some devices play all of the video formats and some don’t. This is where the split of the manufacturers seems to hurt most. It’s frustrating when one video plays well on your android phone but not on your tablet. Aren’t they both Android? A website looks great on your Android tablet but when you send the link to anther Android tablet it breaks. Sure you can download a new browser which is one of Android’s strengths but it’s also a hassle. If you see something on one iPad it will work on another iPad – that’s the advantage of controlling the whole ecosystem, both hardware and software.
  • Jerry: I do not think fragmentation exists in the way that I hear a lot of other journalists discuss it. I do not agree that that skinning Android is a form of fragmentation, and the discussion about any difference from the baseline version of Android being fragmentation seems to be a very conservative view. I do not think these perspectives are so close to the reality, and I do not classify mods like HTC Sense or skins like TouchWiz as examples of fragmentation. Where we were as recent as a year ago, there were many new phones being sold that were already whole baselines behind. In other words, tablets and phones were being released with Android 1.6 when Froyo was already out:  that’s an example of fragmentation. More so when those devices were immediately abandoned and never saw updates to a 2.x version of Android, that was also an example of fragmentation. It is the analog to Windows XP laptops being sold when Windows 7 was already out, and then those laptops not supporting  a path forward to Windows 7.  Android is open source, and variety in deployments should be expected, just the same as we expect it with LINUX. Yes, ecosystems are important.  I define ecosystems as a collection of hardware, connectivity, and services, without which, the hardware as a standalone device would offer very little value.  They are obviously important for smartphones, and they are perhaps even more important for tablets. The tablet by itself represents very little functionality. It is only in combination with its network connection, app store or market, and back-end cloud services (email, contacts management, plug-ins to social networks, content availability, and online profiles) that a tablet becomes useful. Amazon’s Kindle Fire has a better fighting chance of being a viable competitor than the Nook Tablet because it brings a kitchen sink of content availability via  its ecosystem and consolidation of that content in one repository channel. The Nook Tablet will have to be configured with several accounts to have access to the same volume of content, and then the content will be available via a spread across multiple channels.
  • Chippy: Fragmentation is a real issue when it comes to developing apps which, in turn, affect the value of the whole Android product range. ICS is the right step, almost a first step, in removing some of the fragmentation but we must not forget that screen sizes, processing capabilities, and sensors all cost development and testing time and are part of the fragmentation problem. ICS development will remain focused on handsets first until the numbers rise significantly. The screen-size/platform fragmentation will remain in the Android ecosystem so Google has to make it as easy as possible to develop. That means fast, quality dev tools and emulators.

What are your current Android devices of choice (tablets and smartphones)? What is your projected next Android acquisition and why? What are your thoughts on Android Tablets as media consumption devices versus their utility for productivity?

  • Ben: I haven’t yet found an Android smartphone or tablet that has quite cut it for me, but I also feel like I have no need for a tablet at the moment, it is too redundant between my smartphone and laptop. It’s quite possible to get done work on tablets, regardless of the platform, but it really comes down to the applications and how well they run on the hardware.
  • Damian: The Asus Eee Pad Transformer with keyboard dock is my current tablet but I am in the market to pick up for an Asus Eee Pad Slider. I don’t need the extra battery life the keyboard dock gives me and I don’t want the extra weight either but I love having the ability to use a full keyboard. What I’d like is a touch screen with a full keyboard when I need it without having to carry around a dock or external keyboard and this is what the Slider gives me. I’m also relatively happy with the build quality and Android implementation that Asus did. The Slider has a full sized USB port – killer feature on a tablet. If you want to provide a level of productivity capability at any volume and have a chance in the enterprise market, manufacturers need to make tablets with a keyboard and possibly a stylus – there I’ve said it start the flames :). I run a Motorola Atrix 4G for business and personal use and it is the best phone I have had to date. I sold an iPhone for the Nokia N900 and the Nokia for the Atrix and I have never looked back. Fantastic hardware coupled with a great implementation of Android and cool, very functional accessories make this a very productive and useful phone. I have yet to defeat the phone with any media format or file type and I credit Motorola with doing a great job of implementing Android and a fantastic out of the box Android experience.
  • Jerry: My current kit includes an HTC Evo 3D as my primary smartphone and a Samsung Nexus S 4G as my secondary, both on Sprint. My tablet kit consists of the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 16GB, the Acer Iconia Tab A500 16GB, and the Motorola Xoom 3G. The two phones break even as far as the one of choice. I like the stock Android load on the Nexus, and I prefer the display over the one on the Evo 3D. But I like the Evo for its faster processor and speed, and the availability of the 3D camera. Amongst the tablets, while I like them all, my ThinkPad is the device I carry with me every day and I love the utility of digital inking on it over using a capacitive stylus with the Xoom or Iconia. When I originally drafted this, I thought my next acquisition was going to be a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9. I mainly wanted it to replace my iPad, which recently died, with  a smaller form-factor option for increased portability. Instead I grabbed a Kindle Fire. It is a lot easier to grab and carry than some of my 10″ devices. I have access to the right amount of my cloud services and content that it makes sense for me to grab it as I head out the door probably about 50% of the time. My initial hour after waking in the AM is spent using the Kindle Fire to read content, communicate with friends, colleagues, and co-workers, and plan out events for the day.
  • Chippy: 15 minutes before writing this sentence I was given an iPad 2. Let’s see what happens in the following weeks but I’m currently writing this text on the Galaxy Tab 7 and I suspect that my mobile productivity will remain in this 7″ space due to size and ease of thumb-typing. Currently that means an Android-based solution. I don’t use an Android phone because of short battery life and poor cameras. Yes, I was locked-in by a test of a Nokia N8 which I still think is a fantastic cam/phone. I’m currently looking at the Galaxy Tab 7 Plus and Galaxy Tab 7.7 as a future upgrade possibility but I may wait for proven Ice Cream Sandwich products first as, to be honest, the Galaxy Tab 7 is still working well for me as a productivity, media consumption, reading and social networking device, despite still running a 2.x build of Android.

Minecraft Pocket Edition for iOS Now Available on iPhone and iPad

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Minecraft Pocket Edition was released officially for Android a few weeks back, but Mojang, the company behind the popular indie game, had been ever silent about the iOS version. All we really knew was that they were working on it. Well it seems that Mojang was planning on launching the iOS version at the Minecon event that’s being held today and tomorrow, but they put Minecraft Pocket Edition for iOS up on the App Store ahead of time to ensure that it would be readily available at the time of the announcement. They should have known that their ravenous Minecraft fans would spot it in an instant!

Minecon is an event being held in Las Vegas by Mojang this weekend to celebrate the launch of the desktop version of Minecraft. “Launch?”, I hear you say, “but I thought Minecraft already sold over 4 million copies?” And thus the popularity of Minecraft becomes clear. Mojang has indeed sold in excess of 4 million copies of Minecraft prior to the game’s official launch. The game has been in a beta state for many months, seeing slow and continues updates from Mojang, and now what they’re calling the ‘launch’ version of the game is being released at Minecon, today, in fact.

After numerous knockoffs, copy-cats, and fakes that have reached the App Store, the real Minecraft Pocket Edition for iOS is now available for download. You can download it right here for $6.99 as a universal app that works on the iPad and iPhone. On Android, Minecraft Pocket Edition has a free demo, and I expect to see a similar demo come to iOS in due time.

Both versions of Minecraft Pocket Edition for Android and iOS are still in the beta stage,  much like the desktop version once was. Mojang plans to regularly update these versions until they reach a level that they deem worthy of calling the launch version. At the moment, Minecraft Pocket edition doesn’t support the exact same gameplay, and is certainly harder to control through a touchscreen than with a mouse and keyboard, but the charm certainly remains.

If you haven’t played Minecraft before, I would recommend trying the desktop version of the game first. Minecraft Pocket Edition seems, to me, to be more of a ‘you can play it on the go if you can’t get enough of it’ sort of app, rather than an app that works flawlessly on a touchscreen. Not to say it doesn’t run well, but let’s face it, the game was designed to be played with a mouse and keyboard, and that’s how it plays best.

Limited multiplayer support exists in Minecraft Pocket Edition and is thankfully cross-compatible between iOS and Android, but unfortunately the Pocket Editions won’t work with the desktop version. In order to build and explore in the same world with friends, you must be on the same WiFi network.

Don’t know what Minecraft is? Well, it’s tough to explain because it’s a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For some, it’s like a virtual lego builder. For others, it’s an unlimited and randomly generated world for exploring. If any video could, this one seems to capture it well:

I remember when I first started playing Minecraft. I was thankful that there was no iOS version, because I knew I’d get no work done if I could play Minecraft on my phone. Unfortunately, I’ve no longer got any place to hide.

Powerocks Stone 3 Full-Speed USB Power-Pack for iPad and Galaxy Tab

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The Powerocks Stone 3 portable power pack for iPad and Galaxy Tab solves a problem. It’s all very well having a common interface for charging but when people break the specs it becomes less useful. The iPad and Galaxy Tab charge using very high currents through a USB port that excedes the capability of the USB port you’ll find on nearly all laptops and PCs which means you generally have to carry the mains charger around with you. I found a portable power pack at IFA that supplies the correct current to allow full-speed charing on the go and it works. At least with the Galaxy Tab I tested with it.

There’s no European distributor for the Stone 3 yet so you’ll have to keep your eyes open for availability. Alternatively, wait a while because I’ve got a unit coming from Znex. The Power-Pack IP is said to do the same so i’m looking forward to testing one that’s available right now.

Here’s a video and you’ll find some images below that.

A Look at the Tablet Spectrum with Shanzai.com

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shanzaitabs I like these guys, and not just because they’ve got a load of cool tech to play with! Shanzai.com appear to have some good contacts in the trade and a lot of experience with the market over there in the East. I’m almost in agreement with them on the ideal tablet size too. You may have a different opinion but check their article and video below before you make a decision.

iPad vs Galaxy Tab and Dumb Ratings

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I’ve got a set of 17 criteria that I’m developing for use when I review devices and I thought it would be an interesting exercise to put the iPad and the Galaxy Tab together to see which one wins on this set of criteria.


As you can see, the Galaxy Tab is the winner. End of story.

Or is it?

The totally dumb thing about this result and most other static ‘ratings’ systems is that every user approaches a device from a different angle. No-one wants every feature in equal measure and the simple reason the Tab is (only just) the winner is because it shines in the mobility and phone/video category. Some users just don’t care about that so if you take those ratings away, the iPad is the winner. The winner shown above is with ‘all things equal’ and won’t help anyone choose a device.

With that in mind I’ve created an interactive tool (hat-tip to  Bryan Cryer for the javascript and Steve Litchfield for the inspiration) that puts your desires first and allows you to ‘weight’ my scores in each category.. If you aren’t interested in gaming, give it a low weighting and the scores will adjust giving you a different result. Try it…it’s fun!

Product chooser – Apple iPad vs Galaxy Tab

For average viewer ratings and a chance to put your own scores in, you can use this version of the tool.

Note: The tool is still being developed and I reserve the right to refine my scores for devices.

I realise that my categorisations aren’t flawless and that my scores could also be in error so for that, I ask for your trust that I’ve refined the categories well and know my stuff when if comes to evaluating a device. If you don’t trust my reviewing skills, don’t use the tool! It would also be impractical and unworkable to break out 20 or 30 categories for each and every feature. Your suggestions during this Alpha phase are welcome though.

Here’s some more detail about the categories.

  • Battery life – Working battery life, standby, always-on. Relative to size and best in class.
  • Connectivity - Hard, radio connectivity. USB, BT, ports, wifi, 3g, removable storage.
  • Screen quality – DPI, brightness, reflectivity, colour considered here.
  • Portability - How light/small is this to carry, hand-hold. pocket.
  • Storage - Based on a combination of speed and size
  • Internet Experience – From WAP to desktop quality. Speed, quality, usability considered. (Connectivity is a separate consideration)
  • Touch User Interface – Quality, speed, flexibility
  • Processing power – Including co-processors. Compared to best of breed (at time of rating.)
  • Text Input – Quality relative to size. Covers keyboard quality, size, engineering, features, flexibility, options
  • Social Networking – Considers the tendency for the device to be getting the best/widest/newest selection of social networking apps
  • Productivity – Includes PIM, sync, remote working and standard office apps.
  • Ruggedness – Suitability for mobile work
  • Application availability – How easy is it to find quality apps? Rates store, freeware, ease of finding and installing
  • A/V/P experience – Combination of video playback, video connectivity, audio components, cam, webcam. A/V/P=audio, video, photo
  • Gaming and entertainment – Considers 3D graphics support, CPU speed, games availability, controls, content availability, flexibility.
  • Phone and Video Comms – Considers GSM voice, SMS, to multi-video video conferencing
  • Location services – GPS hardware, maps, social and navigation software, apps, always on.

The Question Marks That Remain over Q4 Tablets.

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smartdevices Bob Morris, head of the mobile computing division at ARM, is telling us that the Dell Streak is just the first in a line of more tablets that will arrive from various vendors in time for Christmas. I guess if anyone should have the inside info on this it’s Bob so it’s a good sign.

We’re clearly looking at Android as the de-facto Q4/Q1 2011 operating system solution for most of these tablets and although Froyo with Flash 10.1 is a great starting point, there’s still a significant number of big question marks that keep me sceptical. I know Nvidia, ARM and others have talked about waiting for Flash and ‘fall’ but there’s more to it than that.

How about Google Market? This is becoming more secretive than Adsense or Google’s Search algorithm and one wonders just how much money Google are now making from it. The Dell Streak got Market by being a large well-branded company that effectively designed a Android smartphone but what about the others? Every device that didn’t have marketplace/Gmail/contacts/maps so far has been highlighted as an incomplete Android product. Sideloading and 3rd party app stores aren’t the fix either. The second problem is that there needs to be a new suite of >=WVGA, large screen (mdpi-large in Android speak) apps before the first reviews start otherwise the whole Android tablet ecosystem will be tainted with poor early reviews. Bad news never seems to fade from search engine results so Google needs to re-build their app suite for mdpi-large (or even mdpi-maxi as ‘large’ only goes to 5.8” screens.) If Android is to have a chance at getting more productive applications in the store (as Apple have already done) Google also need to give developers a chance to prepare new versions of their apps. That can only happen if Google stimulates the developers by announcing Android 3.0 or a new phase of tablet-focused work. Give us a sign Google. Apple gave some devs a three-month head start before the product was launched. Although this was a restricted program, it was instrumental in creating a good day-1, week-1 buzz.

Link: Overview of tablets available, announced and expected

If I was an Android Tablet OEM right now I’d be considering waiting for even more than the above.

  • Cheaper Cortex A9 platforms and proven Android hardware builds. Cortex A8 is still good enough but to make a serious marketing splash, dual-core A9 is now needed.
  • Clarification on what the hell is going on with Chrome OS (touchscreen support looks likely)
  • Concrete information about Android 3.0 (Apps suite, developer take-up, information about ARM-optimised kernels)
  • IDF (Sept) and MeeGo 1.1 (Oct) (To asses competing product timescales)

Racing to get a product out for Christmas sales could be too risky and the whole ‘smart’ tablet market could suffer if a big name gets it wrong. Like you, I want products NOW but i have the feeling that the iPad will be a year old before we see any serious competitors.

The iPad and My European Family

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IMG_3256 I’ve always imagined the Apple iPad to be one of the easiest purchases a Dad could make. It looks good (no more ugly laptops on the coffee table,) it can be used for multi-player games (something to bring the family together) and it can be used around the house (no more being stuck in the broom-cupboard with the family desktop.) Naturally the price can also be justified (have you seen how expensive those new coffee machines are and a BluRay player, PS3 or Wii isn’t ‘that much’ cheaper. Even smartphones are more expensive over 2 years.) With its relatively large-format text and screen, simple user interface, loungey two-handed usage and access to music, books and films from the device itself,  it’s difficult to imagine the device selling to anywhere else other than the living room. Apart from the tech bloggers, apple fans, the rich, early adopters, journalists, developers,  and businesspeople who also had a reason to get in early of course.

Thanks to TouchMeMobile who kindly did a short-term swap on this iPad for a Viliv S10 we’ve been testing at UMPCPortal. You’ll find the Viliv S10 articles here. (German)

I’ve had the iPad for a little over a week and have been experimenting. I compared it with an Archos 5 to see where it overlaps and testing different usage scenarios. In between, the iPad has been where it is likely to live for most people, in the living space near the TV and remote controls and among what I regard to be an average European family.

Firstly, I should say that the iPad was exactly what I expected. It looks great but is relatively heavy (especially for a tablet that doesn’t have a stand.) It is built with stylish materials that aren’t ideal for hand-holding and it has a user interface that puts all others to shame. The app-store is exciting and the battery seems to last forever.  It’s clear that the touch user interface provides the main excitement though and this is where the ‘magic’ is. I liken the feeling to using an Air-Hockey game. Fluid, physical and somehow detached from the real world. It really connects the device to the user in a natural way.

IMG_3261 IMG_3266 IMG_3265

The iPad was used around my home for about a week and initially, everyone was keen to use it. The game Godfinger featured heavily as did web browsing which was as fast as almost any 700gm device I’ve tested. It was used for a small amount of ‘twittering’ and email too but in the end, that usage model, and anything else that involved my private data and accounts didn’t work in the family scenario. It turns out that multiple users aren’t really well catered-for on the iPad which really goes against the grain of how I see the iPad being used.

After a few days, in a family that has a number of netbooks lying around, the iPad usage faded away. My daughter, 9, uses the netbook once or twice a week to collect and print images of her favorite Disney stars and to browse videos in Clipfish or catch up on ‘Popstars’ via the TV station’s website – all flash-driven videos.  Clearly, printing and flash websites don’t work on an iPad. We’re not big electronic gamers (the Xbox is only used as a media player and DVD player and we’ve never had to tell our daughter to ‘leave that damn Nintendo alone for a minute’ ) and we don’t read e-books for hours on end (magazines, TV and books still feature heavily in our living room.) Short messaging and emails are generally done on phones (SMS still rules in Europe and there’s that personalisation issue to think about again) so I’m left wondering what the iPad would be used for. After a game of Jenga yesterday (try simulating that on the iPad!) while digital radio played in the background via our basic cable subscription, I realised that this family, despite its tech-journalist father, is just not aligned the way Steve Jobs would like and I’m imagining that the same scenario will occur right across Europe when the iPad launches leaving just the aforementioned early adopters buying.

I see where the ‘magic’ is coming from and I see that the iPad is a beautiful purchase. It’s an exciting experimental platform and connected entertainment device; I’d love to have one lying on the sofa or coffee table. Many will accuse me of not seeing the bigger picture too but, as so many people have written before, the iPad doesn’t have a unique usage case TODAY that can be used to lever a purchase TODAY. I can’t justify it.

You might think that a web site called ‘Carrypad’ is heavily pro-tablet but although we love choice, lightweight computing and sofa-surfing, we’re acutely aware of the issues of size, weight and software keyboards. Many tablets overcome the issues by being flexible in terms of connectivity or by being extremely mobile but the iPad doesn’t even do that so at 700gm / 1.5lb, I have to say that this time, Mr Jobs, you went too far in your quest for form over function and missed the mark for a general use media, web and entertainment tablet. You might have created enough marketing magic for the U.S. market and a number of ‘advanced’ European markets (UK, NL, Italy perhaps) but in the very weak Euro/Pound zone right now, where value and privacy are often concerns and where prices are very high compared to netbooks and where marketing doesn’t work as it does in the U.S, penetration isn’t going to be high.

Drop the size to 7” and the weight to sub 400gm, open up the connectivity so that we don’t have to treat the iPad as a PC accessory and lower the price by 200 Euro, add a docking station and I think a lot more people would be able to justify it but as it is, my EU sales predictions stay as they are. Touching the iPad didn’t really change my mind.

Notes made in first 5 minutes:

  • Beautiful
  • Pre-set up not needed (as this is a loan device that has been pre-configured)
  • Wife’s first comment ‘too big’ followed shortly after switch-on by ‘is that for us? I want one.’
  • First touch reminds me of a pinball machine.
  • Web, fast!
  • Email is nice
  • Weight too heavy
  • Slippery when dry
  • Initial pics taken on camera – SD card placed in netbook

Other thoughts.

  • Enjoyed browsing. At last sub 10-second browsing on an ARM-based device.
  • User interface – a joy.
  • Materials – high quality but not built for use.
  • Notifications system – Well implemented – apps need to catch up
  • Flexibility – Poor. Transferring files. Connectivity. Productivity. Hardly the Swiss Army Knife of tablets
  • Weight – poor.
  • Keyboard – very good technically. Few usage scenarios due to weight, lack of stand.
  • Price – Acceptable for a web/gaming device
  • Most interesting usage scenario – highly interactive musical instruments and musical experimentation.
  • Battery life good

Wife’s final comment: Good for eyes, not for the back. (Followed by joke about ‘eye-pad’)

Apple iPad and Archos 5 Android Tablets. Video Comparison

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IMG_3246 Is it fair to be comparing a $250 5” tablet with a $500 9” one? Yes because a) people have been asking about it b) comparing anything to a device that gets people thinking, talking and experimenting is worthwhile in my book.

Thanks to the German blog, TouchMeMobile I’ve got an iPad this week and although I don’t intend to do a full review, I am taking the chance to learn and compare as much as possible. This video is a detailed look at the differences and the overlap between two home-focused devices. Music, Video, Internet and E-Reading are at the heart of both the iPad and Archos 5 but each one delivers it in a different way. The Archos 5 is the very personal, lightweight 30cm experience with a lot of flexibility. The iPad is a 1-meter experience with a refined user interface but misses out on some connectivity and flexibility. One is easy to hold in one hand; the other needs two. One has an industry-leading application store; the other something rather disappointing. One can ‘play’ the web and 720p video out via HDMI, the other is limited to analogue video.

In the 25-minute (get yourself a cuppa!) video I discuss the form-factors, the weight, the video capabilities, the app store, communications and e-reading. The two devices do ‘internet entertainment’ in very different ways so I hope this video helps you refine your gadget ‘wanted’ list or buying decision. Feel free to feed back on YouTube or below. For the next week I’ll track it closely and try and answer queries ASAP.

Baby Sees the iPad Magic

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Thanks to TouchMeMobile, a German website that is covering the same beat as us here at Carrypad, I’ve got an iPad to test for a week. Before I start though I had to do this. This is possibly the youngest person ever to test an iPad. 35-day old Nicklas took one look and was speechless.

Baby Sees The iPad Magic

More from me in due course.

WePad Live Demos Analysed. Ubuntu Spotted.

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wepad_homescreen Sascha Pallenberg, MeetMobility podcaster and editor-in-chief at Netbooknews attended a recent WePad live demo and has posted his videos. They’re in German but I’ve been through them and pulled out some of the important points here. (Luckily I also speak German.)

The most important take-away is that this is not an Android-based Linux build as first thought. It’s a heavily modified Ubuntu distro with overlay software. The Android aspect is likely to coming from Canonicals Dalvik runtime which will provide some Android application support but don’t expect the Google Marketplace or Google Apps such as Maps, Mail or Sky to be running on this.

Below you can find the notes I made as I went through the video. Some of the notes are my own thoughts and conclusions and not information taken direct from the video.

More information on the WePad is available in our WePad information page.

Read the full story

WePad Press Conference Starts in a Few Hours – Sascha Is There.

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Update: All press conference info in a blog post here.

The mysteries of the Neofonie WePad tablet [information, article] will be revealed in just a short while. Android, X86, Marketplace, AIR, battery life, etc, etc, etc. All those questions will be answered later today by Meet:Mobility partner in crime, Sascha over at Netbooknews. I’ll be staying in touch with him monitoring his German and English content and summarizing here later. Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis Journalist, author, Android-interested) is also there and as someone who sent back his iPad, I’m interested to see what he thinks

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Chance of a ‘Wow’ this afternoon: About 30% if you ask me!

Press conference starts at 1630 GMT+2 (2.5hrs from this post)

iPad. Euro-zone Price and Week 1 Sales Estimate.

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It’s more than just a little annoying that the only thing known about an iPad in Europe is that it is due to launch in ‘late April’ for an ‘unbelievable price.’ That’s the stable Euro/$ for you!

One can assume that a 1:1 dollar to Euro conversion is going to be in the right ball-park though and I’ve even found one retailer already taking pre-orders. 3GStore.de (info via Blogeee) appears to be a big site with a solid history and it’s offering the base iPad for 549 Euro. The high-end model clocks in at 879 Euro. I’m guessing that they’ve thrown 50 Euros onto the estimated retail price and are simply taking a risk by being first. SEO value + increased margin = Smart move!

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At 499 Euro inclusive 19% local taxes (543 dollars before tax) it’s not cheap -the same cost as an unlocked HTC Desire. How will this fit with the easy-going EU public?

As we mentioned on the Meet:Mobility podcast this week, we don’t see the penetration being anything like what it is in the U.S. Based on my experience with resellers and affiliate schemes, EU conversions run way way below that what you’ll see in the U.S. I’m estimating about 20% of the penetration seen in the U.S. Assuming Apple sold 500,000 in one week among a population of 300 million in the U.S., I wouldn’t expect anything more than 100,000 sales in the first week across the Euro-zone which has a similar population.

If you’re in the EU, how are you feeling about a 500 Euro price tag?

Meet:Mobility Podcast 47 – ‘Pad’ies Day

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Meet:Mobility Podcast 47 is now available. Recorded on 9th April 2010.

Chippy, JKK and Sascha cover news about the iPad, the JooJoo, ICD Gemini, Hanvon Tablet, HP Slate and other consumer and mobile internet devices.

Full show notes, playback and download info at Meet:Mobility.

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You can also find the podcast on iTunes (Please rate the show on iTunes.) You can also subscribe via RSS.

iPad: What’s Bubbling To The Top?

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Baby makes a good tablet holder.When you’ve got a new born baby and an Archos Android Tablet at hand (see image) you have a lot of time to read and that’s what I’ve been doing non-stop this weekend as I check-out all the news about the iPad. 24hrs into the game we’re starting to see some well-balance posts about usage models of all types and even though I don’t have an iPad myself (Ben has just started his coverage. His iPad turned up today.), I’m starting to get a feel for how it’s going for people and what usage scenarios are bubbling up as the most important and most interesting.

First off, there don’t seem to be any major surprises or let-downs and you really have to pay the Apple marketing teams some respect for working within sensible bounds and not going crazy with their marketing. Battery life is as good as expected (more on that below,) the screen is crisp with a wide viewing angle, the web experience is very fast and UI is as smooth as you’d expect it to be. Apart from some quibbles about USB charging I haven’t seen anyone that has hit any sort of roadblock. On the other side of the coin however, we’re not seeing any killer usage models rising the surface. Yet.

Tablets have always been a difficult product to position. In the 4 years that I’ve been covering the smaller tabletPCs, the Origami and UMPC area I have learned a lot about target audiences, usage models and niches. The iPad isn’t any different although it definitely plays to a more lounge-focused audience rather than to the portable PC fans of the UMPC world.  The issues are the same though so here’s a list of the key ones from the tablet world. How is the iPad shaping up?

Related: Thing to Consider when Buying or Designing a Tablet-Style Device.

Note: We’re tracking and updating iPad news links, videos and info in the iPad information page.

Web experience.

There’s the full internet experience and then there’s the consumer internet experience. One needs to be 100% accurate, extendable and tailorable through plugins, multitasking and extensions and the other simply needs to be good enough to serve customers with 95% of their pages in a slick fasion. In the laid-back world of sofa-surfing the iPad seems to really hit the mark. Reports are coming in that Safari is fast and fun. Faster than the fastest phone (widely agreed to be the Google Nexus One at the time of writing) and without any worries of zooming or panning. Easy-to-read and fun to use and for some people, worth the $500 just for this!

Battery life.

Top marks to Apple here. They’ve produced a device that runs over 10 hours. It’s a full day and enough for nearly everyone. There are some interesting stats that can be gleaned from the battery size though because the 24wh battery means it’s running in a 2.5w profile – About 3 times what a smartphone would take under load and it’s all to do with backlight. In fact, I estimate 80% of the battery drain to be coming from screen backlight, Wifi and components other than the CPU.

Keyboard.

I’m not hearing anyone calling the keyboard total rubbish but we’re hearing a lot of ‘you won’t want to write a book on it’ type comments which is exactly what people say when they know it’s not going to cover every usage model.  Flat-usage on a table in landscape mode is sub-optimal (neck pain) and resting the device on bent knees is also uncomfortable over time. The device is too heavy for extended one-handed use and trust me, carrying a bluetooth keyboard and batteries around ends up being akward. Let’s wait for a while on this because I’m guessing the excitement over blogging and emailing using the iPad will wear off after a while. As always, the phone is always close-by and the laptop is always more productive.

Size/Weight.

I’m seeing a lot of people talking about the hefty weight of the iPad and I think this is going to be a problem. Apple have chosen to use an aluminum body for strength but it’s added a lot to the weight. The 120gm battery pack is also adding a huge amount of weight. It’s a difficult design decision that plagues tablets all the time and Apple have probably made the right choices but it still doesn’t make it right. For the ultimate in usage flexibility and to cover mobile usage scenarios better, a few hundred grams needs to be taken off the weight.

Frame controls.

If you’ve never spent a lot of time with a device that has frame controls for things like scrolling, selecting, backlight adjustment and radio, you’ll never notice that these are missing from the iPad and as one would expect, this shortfall isn’t getting much coverage. We’re talking form over function here but surely there’s something that could have been done with all the frame space?

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Applications.

It’s here where the big discussion takes place and although I’m personally not a long-term iPod Touch or iPhone user, I can see that users are enjoying the large-scale applications. iPhone apps using pixel doubling (4 ipad pixels for each iPhone aplication pixel) are a different matter though and I’m seeing an almost universal disappointment with this. The landscape will change quickly though and you’ll see iPad apps flowing through very quickly now. Games are bubbling up as an exciting feature although I doubt anyone was expecting the best gaming experience; the device just isn’t built for it. You’re unlikely too see too many iPad owners being disappointed with the gaming. Finally, the iWork apps seem to be impressing most people although as with the keyboard issue above, many are also saying that it won’t quite replace a laptop which also means it probably won’t ever replace the laptop.

Price.

No-one is moaning about the price. What owner would! For comments on pricing you need to ask people that didn’t buy the iPad. Is it too expensive?

Also-mentioned.

USB charging problems, no GPS on Wifi models, no memory card slot or USB host port.

Not mentioned.

It doesn’t surprise me that the lack of Flash isn’t mentioned much in reports. Of course it’s mentioned but there aren’t many users getting upset about it. Flash is a serious component of the serious web but when you’re lying in bed, it’s not such a showstopper. Also not mentioned with significant weight is multitasking. I wonder if the iPad is so fun and intriguing that switching between apps is actually fun!

Summary.

In summary I’m seeing a ‘reader’ and an entertainment device bubbling up as the key usage models right now but you have to look between the lines to find it out because as most of the bloggers out there are scrambling to make money out of it first! As many of them invested $500 in it, there’s also a level of vested interest too!

It seems that Apple hasn’t solved the basic physical issues with large-format tablet devices and if you really were expecting them to, you probably need to spend some time with a tablet device to find out that it’s almost impossible. What Apple appear to have done is created a huge wave of interest and sales that will ensure enough momentum to make this iPad a success. Customers are happy and are likely to stay that way and that’s enough for a few million sales. If Apple don’t reach their targets or the momentum runs out, they’ll will still have learned enough and made enough cash to try again and make a better product next time. The iPad is a great device but you really need to be aware that it’s not going to solve any major issues for you; it’s simply a well-designed luxury viewing frame.

Recommended reading / Sources.

At the time of writing we have a list of about 16 ‘latest newslinks’ to important articles about the iPad from across the net. Stay tuned to it as we continue to update it. Information in this article was gleaned from the articles in the list.

You’ll see that we’ve turned off the normal comments on this post. Instead we’ve embedded the comments from the product page which you are invited to add to so that others can benefit on the future. Anything you add here, will appear on the iPad product page and will serve as a long-term reference.


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Our iPad Decided to Show up Today – Brief Unboxing

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IMG_4130 I was about two minutes away from hitting the publish button, on a post about how I was frustrated that the iPad wouldn’t be delivered today, when I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. It was the UPS driver, he asked me to meet him outside to grab a package. I was told by not only Apple, but also several sources from UPS that iPad’s would not be delivered, here in Hawaii, until Monday because UPS didn’t do Saturday delivery in my area. This was frustrating because we of course wanted to bring our readers coverage of the device from day one (and who isn’t excited to get a new gadget!) but it was starting to look like we wouldn’t be able to do that. Despite the email from Apple and several confirmations from within UPS, the iPad got here on April 3rd, as promised, and the box had a nice big “Saturday” sticker on it. Well played UPS — thanks for getting it here on time even if there was some sort of miscommunication!

Apple iPad Product Page (specs, news, links, and more)

So we’ve got our iPad and we’re ready to start checking it out. I’ll spare you are lengthy unboxing as the whole thing is relatively simple, and has been covered to death by the rest of the world by now. I’ll just drop a few pictures and a very short video, and that’ll be that for the unboxing and we’ll quickly move on to the more exciting stuff!

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Praise to the Pads of the Past (UPDATED)

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Updated (18 Jan 2010) with the Intel iPad that I had never heard of until I read about it today. Shame on me!

I’ve been writing about ‘pads’ , tablets and other consumer and mobile internet devices for over 4 years now. Carrypad started through a desire for a new category of devices and under various names it focused on a sector that most people simply dismissed. ‘There’s no room for a device between a smartphone and a laptop’ they said; conveniently forgetting their digital camera, navigation device, book, gaming device and the growing need to surf while on the crapper.

Today, the iPad landed and has turned the tech-media world from nay-sayers to yay-sayers. Everyone loves the iPad and the coverage has sky-rocketed. Unfortunately, it’s not really happening here because I’m in Europe and sales haven’t started here yet. Can you imagine how frustrating it is for me?

Being English though I’m biting my lip and trying to positive and focusing on the iPad coverage that starts here on Monday when Ben, our Senior Editor, gets his iPad out in Honolulu. It’s a shame that there’s no Saturday delivery service but we’ll let the Engadgets of this world deal with the Day 1 craziness and take some time to read the first reports over the weekend.

pepperpad1 Another slightly frustrating  element of iPad day one is thinking back on all the iPad-like devices that tried so hard to get it right before so while we’re waiting for the iPad, I think we should raise a few of the Pads of the Past up onto the pedestal and say ‘thank you.’

My first hat-tip goes out to Pepperpad who in 2005 produced a 9” touchscreen device running on an ARM core and running a heavily tailored finger-friendly user-interface. The specifications list and focal point of the device sounds like a true winner but Pepper Computer were simply too early.  The initial price was high, the performance was terrible and the battery life wasn’t that thrilling. Personally I loved the device (I bought a PepperPad 3, the 7” version) although it wasn’t exactly pretty! Unfortunately Pepper went under before they could realize their ideas with better technology.

My second shout-out in the consumer internet device category goes to Nokia who took a big risk and released the 770 Internet tablet in late 2005. It was aimed at people wanting media, a good web browser and was the first in a range of four devices that used a community-supported Linux build called Maemo. Maemo is now an important part of a long-term strategy for Intel and Nokia in their MeeGo product and is for me the most interesting ecosystems for building consumer internet devices.

The third and final shout goes to Archos who for many years have been combining media playback with Internet connectivity in an easy-to-use consumer-focused package. I still have (and use) my 605Wifi and it taught me that while the 605 was very slow to access web pages, I had more patience for slow websites when I was sitting in a comfy chair. Archos are now at the stage where they have a family of consumer internet devices from 5” to 9” and are planning to launch even more this summer.

Update: All the devices above date back to 2005 when I was starting to get very interested in the idea of a companion device but there are plenty of devices that pre-date these. The Intel IPAD, for example, is the most amazing story. Intel used ARM CPUs (they has an ARM license and Xscale, ARM architecture CPUs) in a product that, internally, was called the IPAD. It allowed you to surf ‘up to 150 feet’ from your PC. It almost reached the market but got stopped by another initiative in Intel. Read the story of the Intel IPAD here.

So to everyone that was part of Origami, the UMPC world, all the Tablet PC fans and bloggers and the thousands and thousand of people that have discussed the idea of mobile and handheld computing with me over the years – I raise my glass.

Why The CIDs Will Suffer.

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Written, 29th-31st March.

When the iPhone launched, it entered a pre-existing smartphone market. It was a great event for consumers because manufacturers in that market were forced to play catch-up which meant great options and deals for customers. In the Consumer Internet Device space of the iPad, the landscape is different. This time round Apple have stepped into a relatively new market and set up shop alone. There they sit with their complete product offering (at a great price) and wait for competitors. They’re likely to be waiting a long time because the iPad outshines anything we’ve seen in prototype form from anyone else by a huge margin and it would be safe to assume that every financial director responsible for a consumer handheld product has put the brakes on their own products. It means that instead of manufacturers increasing their efforts to put new devices out there, many of the new products will get held up, or even canned. For the smaller companies like ICD, Fusion Garage and Notion Ink, this could be catastrophic as investors re-asses the opportunity. If they are lucky, some of the prototype products will end up going back to the drawing board where the system integrators will be pondering long and strong over their app-stores and content offerings. The big problem here though is that there isn’t an OS or application ecosystem out there that can compete. I can’t think of any worthy alternative to the iPhone /iPad OS right now.

Forget any unknown (outside geek circles) Linux distributions because they lack a reputable app-store or focused developer community. Forget Maemo, Moblin or MeeGo because they won’t be ready until much later in the year. Forget any new unknown proprietary OS because the customer won’t trust it and the developers won’t be interested. Forget Windows 7 because it’s a big fat heavy blob that can’t keep up with finger-driven social, photo and location-aware applications. Even Android isn’t good enough and it’s worth discussing why.

I use Android on a daily basis and enjoy it a lot. The Archos 5 is a fantastic internet device but it highlights why Android is useless. Android doesn’t have a marketplace. The Android you’re thinking of is ‘Google’  Android and it makes a huge difference to the product.

The Marketplace and other closed-source, approval-required Google apps is what makes Android tick and any Android tablet that tries to enter the marketplace without it is committing suicide. The disappointment experienced by people when they can’t sync their mail or even populate their contacts application, access Google Maps, Buzz and other key apps will kill any momentum a device ever had. The problem is, these manufacturers are finding it difficult to get the marketplace and add it into Android. Google don’t appear to be  ready to expand outside the smartphone arena.  Maybe they’re scared of splintering Android. More splintering of the platform could upset developers and cause more application incompatibility problems and that would be an even bigger problem.

Mobinnova Beam, Archos 7 Home Tablet, Compaq AirLife 100 and other devices that I can’t talk about here are all going to hit a brick wall if they don’t get that app-store sorted out.

Right now, there isn’t an easy solution unless you’re a huge company with influence. Someone like Dell can make an oversize phone called the Dell Mini 5 and invest in the carrier deals, licensing, firmware support and certification processes that make Marketplace possible. That’s one product out of, what, 50 or so tablets, MIDs and smartbooks that we’ve seen at Computex, CES, CeBIT, MWC, CTIA and other shows. Even HP Compaq haven’t been able to achieve it with the AirLife.

If I was building a tablet I’d be praying for Google to free-up that marketplace and app-suite and I would be praying that my investors didn’t pull out during the waiting period. That waiting period is unknown right now and investors really don’t like broken critical paths without a fix date.

The iPad has already conquered this new market and consumers looking for an alternative handheld device will have to wait and pray that Google, Nokia and Intel; with their Marketplace, OVI and AppUp stores, accelerate their work and get a solution to the integrators before time runs out.  Palm’s WebOS could be an option to look at too.

Watch out for Archos in the summer because their PMP, MID and tablet strategy hinges 100% on Android. If it comes with Marketplace, we can all  breath again. If not, we might as well all buy an iPad and have some fun while we wait for 2011.

CID = Consumer Internet Device.