What The Fuck Is Wrong With HP (and Everyone Else)

HP is a company I have always loved, whose products are well engineered and who have some of the brightest minds in Silicon Valley. So just what has got into HP and all the other computer makers, except Apple?

The recent news that HP has dropped the TouchPad a month after the US release and four days after the Australian one, the effective dropping of WebOS and the plans to follow IBM into a software and service future by offloading their PC business has amazed so many, me included.

If you believe the commentary going on, part of the blame is that companies like HP have very low profit margins on PC gear, whereas Apple does much better. And this might be the reason, but, if it is, no one has learned the proper lesson from this. I even read an article today saying that the right price for a tablet was US$300. And HP has sold well when dumping the TouchPad at very low prices. Now at this time the cheapest iPad 2 is US$499 and $579 here in Australia, and they seem to be selling all they can make. So something doesn’t add up here.

Historically Apple gear has always been more expensive than the competition. The iPod was more expensive than other MP3 players, the iPhone is more expensive than most other smartphones and the iPad is also more expensive than most tablets, including the HP one. The Macbook Air is likewise not overly cheap, and Macbook Pros, iMacs and PowerMacs are more expensive than superficially equivalent systems. Yet people buy them.

Apple has shown that people will pay more for superb design and excellent functionality. Apple has also shown a willingness to stick it out until products get accepted, as has happened with the Air. It was not always popular.

Yes, there is a very large part of the computer market that is extremely price sensitive, as shown by the run on TouchPads at $100 or so, but Apple’s experience has shown that there is a large segment that is not so price sensitive. Perhaps it would be better to say that there are customers for whom price is at or near the top of their priority list, and other customers for whom price is less critical and other factors count more.

Apple is not very reactive: it creates and makes other companies react to it. And any student of military history knows that you don’t win by giving your enemy the initiative. You must seize the initiative and make them react to you, and keep them doing so.

Oh what you could do with a company like HP and all that engineering experience. Rather than creating iPad wannabees, no matter how well they may be made, and undercutting on price, what about taking the opportunity to ‘Think Differently’ and do something unique, even if it takes several years for it to really catch on? Surely both shareholders and employees of HP should get the opportunity for some real benefit from the $1.2 billion spent all too recently on Palm?

We know that even an overpriced item will, due to Moore’s Law, come down in price as you get economies of scale and improvements in technology. So what about creating a truly drool-worthy tablet, laptop or some new category of device, even if the initial price will be US$1,000? Even if the production yields are quite low to start with it may not matter, as demand will be slow to start with. But as demand grows in line with better yields and lowering prices you have taken the initiative and others now have to react to you.

And beyond HP, what about all the other computer makers, phone makers and consumer electronics companies? All seem happy to innovate in little ways, a tweak here; a new feature there. Who is innovating anymore? Has the computer industry gone the way of Hollywood and will only rework old concepts or crank out more of the same in working franchises?

Apple has shown that you do not have to be the first in an area to win big. Apple didn’t release the first MP3 player or the first tablet. But they did release the best when they did. Let us be honest: the iPod is the best MP3 player, the iPhone is the best smartphone and the iPad is the best tablet, at present. Don’t let the annoyances that everyone feels with some of Apple’s policies and decisions get in the way of that realisation. Apple is the only real player in town and everyone else is following them.

How has Apple done what they have done? Two things. Stunning design for one. Secondly, they have taken all concepts to the extreme. The iPod eliminated almost all the buttons. The iPhone eliminated the keyboard and elevated the app to front and centre. The iPad also eliminated the keyboard completely, something many other tablet makers had tried to hang onto.

Apple has done some other things right too. Controlling both the hardware and software is a huge advantage. Though the gatekeeper role is annoying when apps that you really should be able to get are not approved, the controlled app environment for iPods, iPhones and iPads means that all the fear around malware is gone. And among less tech happy people fear is a BIG factor that holds them back from adopting new technology. I know many people who would never have bought another device, but have gone out and bought an iPhone or iPad and are buying and installing apps happily. Those same people would never have done that with Windows or Android.

It saddens me greatly to see an amazing company like HP walking away from an industry it helped found. Maybe the problem for HP is they have too many engineers and not enough dreamers. Because that is exactly what we need: dreamers in companies with the size and expertise to turn those dreams into reality.


Wayne Cosshall Photography and Digital Imaging app for IPad Now Out


The first volume in the Digital ImageMaker Interactive Portfolio series, Wayne J. Cosshall Photography and Digital Imaging, is now available as an app for iPad from the App Store. It sells for US$9.99 or AUD$12.99.
Wayne Cosshall Photography and Digital Imaging - TechnoMagickal Pty Ltd ITF Sci-Art Trust
“The iPad is such a wonderful platform to bring the depth of photographers’ and digital artists’ work to a wider audience that we decided to start this series”, said Wayne Cosshall, Publisher of the series and subject of the first volume. “With something like this we needed an example to show people the power of the platform, and so decided who better than myself for the first one”.

Active preparation of the next two are underway and discussions are being held with leading photographers, digital artists and galleries to bring out other volumes. They are published on a royalty share basis, so everyone benefits.

The DIMi Interactive Portfolio Series provides the way to publish monographs that cover either the historical work or one series of the work of leading photographers and digital artists and to lift this beyond the printed image to include video and audio commentaries and interviews, demonstrations and to allow the reader to be with the artist/photographer in the field or studio. This makes them a much more immersive learning experience for the individual reader and the volumes of greater use in classroom and lecture presentation in arts education environments.

Upcoming volumes will focus on individual digital artists and photographers, as well as groups and specific project volumes.

Wayne Cosshall is a leading photography writer and educator, as well as exhibitor of his photography and digital art. This volume primarily shows recent photography work by Wayne, covering a range of styles and subject matter, from his signature infrared work to his latest multiple exposure series.

The work is presented in six main galleries, a Latest Work gallery which is automatically updated whenever the app runs and an Internet connection is available and a special panorama section that allows the panoramas to be explored by zooming and panning. Audio commentaries are provided for each gallery and a techniques section includes videos of Wayne in the field and on the computer showing how he works.

Wayne Cosshall Photography and Digital Imaging for iPad is a product of TechnoMagical Pty Ltd.

You can find it on the App Store at http://itunes.com/apps/WayneCosshallPhotographyandDigitalImaging

The support site is http://www.technomagickal.com/iphone-and-ipad-development-and-applications/dimi-interactive-portfolio-series/cosshall-photography-and-digital-imaging-interactive-portfolio/cosshall-photography-support/

New Wacom Bamboo Stylus for iPad

Following on from talking about brushes for the iPad, Wacom has just announced a Bamboo Stylus for use with the iPad. It has a 6mm diameter tip, 25% smaller than the 8mm used on some other stylus designs. This should make for a more precise use. It weighs 20 grams and is claimed to be finely balanced. It will be available in May for US$29.99.

Painting On The iPad Is Easier With A Brush

The iPad is an obvious device for painters to try to use, though it does lack the pressure sensitivity of things like a Wacom tablet. But a finger is just not the same as a brush.

A number of companies are now offering brushes for the iPad that you just might find easier to use.

Joystickers offer the Flow, a paintbrush that your iPad can work with.

Nomad Brush have the Nomad Brush, another paintbrush that works on the iPad. This is a longer haired brush for more flowing action.

PenGo don’t have a brush but do have a pen stylus that could also be a good option for painters.

I know people who are loving painting on their iPads. While it is not my cup of tea personally, they are producing amazing work and if it rocks your boat then go for it.

Using an iPad to Work With Photoshop on Your Computer

Adobe has release a software development kit to aid developers in producing apps for the iPad that interact with Photoshop. The SDK is supposed to work with other tablets running Android and Blackberry OS’ but the first apps are for the iPad.

To work this requires an update to Photoshop to 12.0.4 level, which is coming shortly and is available to developers at this time. Adobe has announced three apps for the iPad that will use the SDK to interact with a computer running Photoshop provided they are running on the same wireless network.

This looks to be a huge but obvious development for Photoshop and one can only assume will also roll out for their other applications as well, Premier being an obvious one.

At the very least this lets you get some of your palettes off your computer screen and onto the iPad or be more efficient in your tool use. But the potential is so much greater. One of Adobe’s three apps, which should be available in early May from Apple’s App Store is a colour mixer that will work so much like a real painter’s palette.

One day all our computer screens will be touch. For now this is a great step in that direction.

Great article on using tablets as design tools

I came across this great article on Smashing Magazine on using tablets as a design tool, for sketching ideas and working with clients. It includes a great review of the pens available to use with the iPad. It could be quite relevant to photographers as well. After all, we have ideas too sometimes, don’t we? Good article, worth a read.

2010 Considered

2010 was a mixed back year for me.

Personally there were a lot of distractions associated with caring for my mother-in-law who sadly died on New Year’s Eve at 11:05pm. Her cancer caused much pain and other issues that often made life difficult for everyone in the house, and since I work from home it also affected my business life. But there were also great times and great laughter in caring for her and she was a wonderful woman who I loved dearly.

Creatively, 2010 was a good year. I started my new series Time & Space and really feel like these images form a good, strong direction for me moving forward into 2011. I picked up a couple of minor awards, which was nice.

I also published two books, an iPhone app and an iPad app in 2010, which is not too shabby.

So now let’s look forward to 2011. I have more books coming out in print, eBook and app form. DIMi is coming out as a print and iPad magazine. I have the direction to take the Time & Space image series in and am highly excited by the possibilities. And I have several other publishing efforts underway, including an iPhone app in the music area, as well as considering several others in partnership with other people.

Personally 2011 is looking exciting too. Our daughter starts high school and there will be a house move sometime in the year.


Ansel Adams for the iPad App Review

The app is a collaboration between Little, Brown and Company, the publisher and the Ansel Adams Trust. It sells for US$13.99 in the US App Store and does not seem to be available in international App Stores, at least at present.

The app brings together 40 images excerpted from Andrea Stillman’s Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs along with video and a collection of letters. Specific contents include:

  • A slideshow of 40 Ansel Adams photographs, with optional audio narration, written commentary, or synchronized music
  • Option to run the slideshow with any musical selection from your iTunes library
  • Embedded video excerpts from documentary films about Adams, including the Ric Burns/Sierra Club Emmy Award-winning film for PBS, spanning Adams’ career
  • A rich selection of letters between Adams and leading figures in the worlds of art, photography, and politics, including Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Weston, Garry Trudeau, and Jimmy Carter, with many original letters shown in facsimile
  • Delightful and amusing vintage postcards that Adams sent to his closest friends, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, while on the road photographing America’s wild places, with original postal stamps and cancellations, doodles, and hand-written notes, with flip-to-read functionality
  • Send-an-e-card feature, allowing the user to create an e-postcard with one of Ansel’s images, enter a message, and email to friends directly out of the app
  • Facsimile reproduction of the Ansel Adams Playboy interview, the most substantial print interview he ever gave
  • A chronology of key moments in Adams’ life and career and a complete bibliography
  • Links to websites of interest to Ansel Adams fans

As a resource for Ansel Adams fans this is a useful step in bringing content to iPad users. The images do look stunning on the iPad and do compare favourably with originals I have seen. The audio commentary on the images is limited to just a reading of the accompanying text, and so I did feel that it missed an opportunity to go further. Personally I would have loved these audio commentaries to be provided by a selection of people who would have discussed each work from technical, compositional, historical and artistic perspectives, making it a great educational tool for photographers. The video content is useful, but all too short.

This is a really good app and will serve well. For the price it is an inexpensive and effective coverage. But I was left wanting so much more. This is certainly not the definitive Adams app, but then we are all experimenting with just what to do with the amazing potential of tablets. I do highly recommend this app but it will leave you wanting more, which perhaps is a good thing.

The Ebook Ebook – Book Review

The Ebook Ebook

By Michael Booth

ISBN: 9788461440054

An eBook about eBooks seems an oxymoron, but isn’t, at least in this case. For this is an eBook about the whys and wherefores of producing eBooks, and given the rate at which things are changing in this field an eBook makes more sense as it is much easier to update. In fact eBooks like this should really have a version number, like software.

Anyway, to the eBook. Mike is a great bloke (guy, for those who don’t read Australian) and very knowledgeable, and both come across well in this book. In a field where I though I  knew a fair bit, I learned things from this book.

The Ebook Ebook is a well written, intelligent and deep coverage of what an eBook is, why you might want to publish one and how to go about doing it. I did disagree slightly with the organisation of a few places, but this is caused by Mike’s conversational style causing him to get ahead of himself in a couple of places. Organisation in a book is highly personal and it obviously works for Mike. It does not distract from the book in any way.

Organised in eleven chapters, the book covers:

  • What an ebook is
  • The advantages it offers for writers, publishers and readers
  • Preparation of an ebook
  • Editing
  • History of the ebook
  • Formats and DRM
  • Marketing of ebooks
  • Business
  • E-readers
  • Future

The content is up to date, accurate and intelligently presented. I do disagree with Mike about the suitability of the iPad for book reading. Perhaps because I am not one for sitting in the sun anyway (think pasty, overweight nerd 🙂 I find the iPad perfect for all sorts of reading and now choose to take all my magazines and books for the iPad when available for it. It does help to turn the screen brightness down sometimes for comfort.

I can happily recommend this book as an effective and pretty damn well complete eBook on the production of eBooks. I do hope Mike does a 2.0 version as things continue to change, though his supporting websites do a great job of extending the book. Very highly recommended.

Amazon US The Ebook Ebook

Amazon UK The Ebook Ebook