So, it’s the iPad is it?

So, it’s the iPad is it? Lots of potential. My predictions were at best average, but considering so many people are saying the device is “nothing more than everyone predicted”, I can’t find a commentator who accurately described it beforehand.

I think there are a few problems. Note they show people watching video on it in a strange curled-up seating position with the iPad on their knees, putting it at the right angle for viewing (which a laptop screen does automatically). That’s not great, although the opportunity of dumping it in a stand and having it as a video player or digital photo frame is very cool.

And it’s not e-ink. If you’ve used a Kindle, you’ll know what I mean. That’s comfortable to read and demonstrates perfectly why ink-on-paper is more restful than illuminated screens.

But Apple have got the distribution model cracked, and that’s the key. Newspapers will flock to it, and as the user base increases, magazines will follow in time. Not sure about advertising-funded magazines for a long while though. Against the trend, I predicted the name iBook, which turned out to be half-right (the app is called iBooks and the store the iBookstore), and I took the opportunity to register www.iBookUser.com which I’m going to launch as a book review site.

The iPad will easily take off (especially as, crucially, it’s not at Macbook prices) and it will establish the market for future versions to solve any problems with this one. Compare the iPod Touch to the old clickwheel monochrome text-only screened Mk.I iPod still playing away all day in my kitchen.

Pricing will be interesting too. Nobody’s mentioned contract pricing for the 3G ones, but they could easily be free on £35/month contracts, as the basic unit cost is no different to the iPhone.

Finally, as Mashable says, the iPad is about consuming content, not creating it, which is why there’s no camera, and (although there are two types of text-entry device) why it’s only adequate – not elegant – for entering text. Wait until a newspaper offers you one for free if you buy a two-year subscription to its electronic version. And why wouldn’t you? I pay £312 a year to get The Times every day.

Apple “Tablet” Launch – live blogs and coverage

One of the most irritating things about Apple launches is that you can’t accuse the company of “overhyping” them, because they do nothing of the sort. They just sit back and watch people work themselves up into a sense of excitability precisely because they haven’t hyped up the announcement. One thing I will say though: by doing so, Apple are that rarest of companies in the tech market: one which only tells everyone about a product once it’s ready to launch, or even already shipping.

Anyway, I’ll be as worked up as anyone following the launch this evening (which is when it’ll be, here in the UK). Not least because I’m one of about 6 people in the world who thinks it’ll be called the iBook and I want to see if I’m right. Apple aren’t streaming the event, as far as I know, so we’ll have to follow those news sites which “live blog” the announcement. I’ve no idea which will be best, not least because with the weight of interest, some are bound to be a bit creaky. However, here are some to try. Let me know of any more at @cherryhintonblu

Ars Technica
Guardian (UK)
Macworld
Gearlog
Financial Times Techblog (UK)
MacRumors
The Apple Blog
Gizmodo Liveblog
iSmashPhone
IT Pro (UK)
Computerworld
Slashgear
Maclife
IGN (UK)
CNET

Exclusive: full details of Apple’s forthcoming launch

In a Cherry Hinton Blues exclusive, I can reveal full details of the new Apple “tablet” computer which has completely occupied the tech media for the past few months. To be launched next week at one of those Apple presentations where, halfway through, Steve Jobs pretends to have an afterthought and says “…one more thing…”, the new device will be three things:
1. Very desirable;
2. Rather expensive; and
3. Wildly successful.

So, what’s it going to be like? Here’s the real exclusive, based on total speculation and no inside information whatsoever. But everyone else seems to be having a go, so why can’t I?

If any of these are right, I’m going to be so smug.

First of all, Apple will relaunch iTunes as more of a media management system. Maybe they’ll call it i-something-else, if they can find a single word in the English language which hasn’t had an “i” put in front of it already. iTunes is a bad name now: if you look at its “library” there are six headings, and only “music” and “ringtones” have much to do with tunes. It’s already a misnomer for “movies”, “podcasts”, lectures and apps, and will be even more so if the big new thing in iTunes 10 is sections for books and periodicals, etc.

Then there’ll be the new hardware. This will be called the iBook, a name Apple used until about five years ago for its laptops, which fits the bill perfectly, and which it presumably owns all the relevant trademarks for. Of course it’ll look something like an iPod Touch for giants, because everybody says it will. There’ll be two identical-looking versions, one with 3G connectivity and the other just with wi-fi.

The device itself will be centred around the recreational activities we all do on our laptops, which – as it happens – don’t involve much alphanumeric interactivity. That means watching movies, playing games, and – crucially – reading stuff. So there’ll be a usable on-screen keyboard, like the iPhone’s, but you won’t be writing novels on it, just reading them. The best bit about the reader will be the ability to mix up stuff – a cross between an RSS reader and shuffle play, so the things you’ve subscribed to can just be added to the stream coming in. First on your list this morning? A report on last night’s match. Then the next chapter from the serialised book you’ve subscribed to. Then an article from the new issue of What Bushbaby? magazine. Then a new post from Cherry Hinton Blues. All presented in such a gorgeous way that even the ink-on-paper diehards will have to admit: “this is nice”. Next: an article which has jumped the queue because it’s a newsflash. Work the rest out for yourself.

And of course there’ll be apps. Oh, there’ll be millions of them. Because Apple might have some serious design talent, but it’s quite aware that the real money is in niche apps developed by optimistic third parties. By the time of the iBook 2, the whole concept will be quite different. But I’m keeping details of that under wraps for now.

Cambridge University 800th Anniversary Finale Lightshow

The university lit up two of its most famous buildings this weekend – Kings College and The Senate House – with a lightshow created by Ross Ashton themed around scientific research. On the Sunday night there were several thousand people there, and it was a typically civilised Cambridge event. Alex and I loved it.

Here’s the inevitable home movie wot I made:

Cambridge Constituency Boundaries for the 2010 General Election

I may well blog quite a bit about the forthcoming General Election, because we’re actually in a very interesting constituency here in Cambridge, which could go one of three ways. And as an “undecided” voter at the moment, I need to do some homework to crystallise my thoughts, and anything I come up with might interest others amongst you too.

The first thing you need to know about any election is what constituency you’re in. Now, you may be thinking “duh, I can get that far”, but these things do change, and indeed, ours has. Like a lot of people on the south side of Cambridge, we traditionally found ourselves not inside the “Cambridge” constituency, but in a far more rural area called “Cambridgeshire South”, which, as you can see in the map below, extended right into the city to the corner of Parker’s Piece, so that landmarks such as the Catholic Church (not that it votes) were outside the city, in parliamentary terms. The blue line represents the old boundary:

It makes a big difference which constituency you’re in. At the 2005 General Election, Cambridge was a Liberal Democrat gain from Labour, and was rather exciting. And the constituency had returned a Conservative MP as recently as 1987. However, in Cambridgeshire South, you’d be forgiven for thinking your vote won’t make any difference, as the Conservatives traditionally have a huge majority.

However, things have changed. Here’s how the Cambridge constituency looks now:

Although the area known as “Queen Edith’s” and around Addenbrookes remains in Cambridgeshire South, Trumpington and the south-west side of the city have all been brought into the Cambridge constituency. And when you look at Cherry Hinton Road, something rather odd has happened:

The old boundary, in blue, went down the middle of Cherry Hinton Road, but the new boundary, in red, puts the south side of the road, and all the dead-end roads and estates leading off it, into the Cambridge constituency. This is rather important to me, because I live in one of those roads, Carrick Close, so nowadays I find myself a Cambridge voter, unlike my neighbours in Greystoke Road who find themselves still in Cambridgeshire South:

So now we know where we stand, fellow voters of Carrick Close, Bosworth Road and indeed the whole Cambridge parliamentary constituency. Over the next few weeks I’ll be taking a good look at the people who want to be our new member of parliament (because if you didn’t know, the existing one is standing down).

Cherry Hinton Hall Park in the snow with my GH1

Took my Panasonic GH1 and new tripod over to the park yesterday afternoon and shot an hour or so of people in the snow. It was cold. There are a few rather over-long panning shots, for which I apologise, but I wanted to see how smooth the tripod could pan horizontally and – as you’ll see – vertically. It’s not going to win any prizes, but I was quite happy. Everything was shot in Creative Movie mode, on manual, using the little histogram, because I’ll need to use that when doing talking-head shots for work, and I needed the practice.

Below is the view from where the Folk Festival beer tent is, looking towards the main stage. I must take an identical one in July, when there’ll be 5000 people sprawled out on the grass in front of me. And a pint of Festival Ale in my unmittened hand.