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March 2010

Eagerly awaiting...

There are some very exciting upgrades and releases lingering on the horizon - the already infamous iPad, rumoured 6-core Mac Pros and quad core MacBook Pros, OS X 10.6.3, iPhone OS 4...  

There's another big release I've been watching for news of as well, which is Adobes fifth installment of their Creative Suite series, CS5.  Rumours were appeased this week as Adobe announced a launch date of Monday, April 12, 2010.  CS5 promises to take advantage of 64 bit processing, which will provide an enormous boost to the speed of many operations, and help open the door to what must be a ridiculously resource intensive tool in development: "Content Aware Fill":


Adobe is not boasting this as a feature of CS5 (yet), but it appears to be nearing the end of development, so one can hope.  If you're thinking "early April Fool's joke" like I did initially, the same video has been posted on Adobe's blog as well:

Thanks to my brother Luke for bringing this to my attention!

iPads and what's to come

There are two camps of iPad speculators that have been vocal lately.  Camp "love" believe this device will be a game changer in ways similar to the iPhone.  Camp "scoff" say it's nothing special, just more Apple hype, and it will flop.  I'm firmly in camp "love", but not for the reasons most others are.

The important thing to remember is how our interaction with digital audio and visual content is evolving. More and more tasks are absorbed every day into the digital realm, with our laptops and desktops being the most efficient (not necessarily convenient) methods of interacting with this media.  Apple is on the forefront of this "wave" if you will, via the App store, iTunes music and video sales, and very soon, digital reading material - books, magazines and newspapers.  With the iPad and iPhone OSs being closed systems (all vanilla software running on them, or "apps", are approved by Apple, and sold only in Apple's App store), Apple is creating a closed market of content, much of which is only going to be accessible on it's own devices.  The motivation for this philosophy is of course control - over the devices, the content, and of course, the profit.  I never like being locked to one provider or manufacturer, but it is a fantastic business model, given both the devices and media remain high quality and relatively accessible.  

Apple's control over all aspects of its products is essentially what sets it apart from Microsoft, who has always worked from the opposite perspective, expecting 3rd party software and hardware manufacturers to address compatibility issues.  This is one of the biggest reasons why Apple products are so much more stable than Windows machines, and also the reason why Apple operating systems cost $20 when Windows cost several hundred.  

Back to the subject at hand, one of the most exciting possibilities lies in the interactivity that can be added to educational media.  There is a surprising lack of good educational apps for children, something which surprises me.  My two year old doesn't know what "TV" does (yet), but she can navigate an iPod touch. The big difference to me (and the reason she has been sheltered from TV and similar commercial video) is the speed of delivery of the content.  Children's TV programs are traditionally lacking interactivity and very very quickly paced.  A scene change per second or more sure will keep a kid's attention while mom or dad cooks dinner, but this type of forced high-speed consumption has been proven to be detrimental to developing brains over the long run.  Now imagine for a second what might be done with a traditional children's book if it were ported to a device like the iPad.  I came across this video the other day that illustrates this point beautifully, from Penguin Books:


Now imagine sitting on your couch which your child on your lap, reading an "eBook" on a laptop, or better yet, a desktop.  I'm not a proponent of "digital babysitters" - my children's time with such devices will remain limited as long as I'm able, include me as much as possible, and our bookshelves will always be full.  I am however very excited to see what is to come.  

The iPad itself will not be revolutionary simply as a device, but rather in it's ability to allow us to interact with new media in a much more involved and participatory manner, and the liberation users will experience from our currently accepted restriction of when, where, and how we experience the media.

- Jake