FastCompany : What HP/Palm Got Right (That Apple Didn’t) : sort of

February 10th, 2011 § 0 comments

While not another top 10 list this slideshow from FastCompany about what HP/Palm Got Right (That Apple Didn’t) ranks pretty high on the link bait scale.

  • Slideshow of somewhat relevant images that would work better as descriptions: check
  • Reference the latest topic that has the tech sphere abuzz : check
  • Put “Apple” in the title : check
  • Declare something to be the next iDevice killer : almost check, you have to read the pitiful amount of content to get that

FastCompany has actually recently made my shortlist of daily hits so it’s a little sad when I see them stoop to such cheap tactics. I know the stalwarts like WSJ and NYTimes do it and HuffPo does little else but rise above!

Since they didn’t devote any time to a reasoned argument or even description of what HP did I’ll do so here. And since the text for their article could fit in a byline I’ll go ahead and quote it verbatim.

1) Small Devices

How big are smartphone screens going to get before we all take up sledding on them? Big screens are nice if you’re never near a computer. But for those of us who are usually in range of a PC, tablet or car nav system, a smaller smartphone would be nice. Palm nailed it with the tiny Veer coming out this spring. They also nailed our prediction that someone would start shrinking smartphones to get the, ahem, sexy back.

Microsoft Kin. kthxbye.1

2) Device Agnostic

Hey, Apple: we’re becoming device agnostic. As consumers store more stuff in the cloud, and use cloud-based phone services like Google Voice, Skype, and Verizon’s rumored VoLTE system, it means we’re no longer chained to a single device for calls, texts, and mobile Internet. Making just one screen size doesn’t make sense; everything between an AppleTV and an iPod Shuffle should run apps and take calls. Palm has smartly offered five different form factors, if you include the Pre 2 and the Pixi Plus; that’s better than the two that Apple makes.

This is an argument we’ve heard from the Android crowd for a while and while it works for some manufacturers the idea that Apple somehow made a mistake by not offering a myriad of sizes and form factors is laughable. Their success is based around simplicity. Easy to use and easy to choose. Deciding which iPhone to buy comes down to one question. Do you have a lot of music and/or video you want to carry around? The other extreme is Nokia and last I checked they were not doing so hot.

3) Multitasking
No one is fooled by iOS multitasking. While Palm lets you shuffle between apps using a “card” metaphor, and allowing you to group together running apps, Apple hangs on to its antiquated credo that “Only one application is visible in the foreground at a time.”

I’ll keep my battery life and you can keep your task manager. It would drive me nuts if I suspected that the last 10 apps I opened were still draining power.

4) Just Type
Using devices together should have some kind of bonus. But there’s no reward for having iPhone and iPad–it’s good that iPad and Apple TV can talk over AirPlay, but iPad and iPhone cant. Other OEMs offer this, though; Samsung allows you to stream video from your Samsung Galaxy Android phone directly to your Samsung TV, for example.

I’m a little baffled by this one. Just Type is a pretty nifty feature that certainly puts iOS “spotlight” to shame. Of course it predates HP but that’s moot. The description that follows this great feature is neither related nor is it coherent. It is, however, quite contradictory.

5) Tap
Palm lets you “tap” one device against another to transfer files and URLs. While we’re not totally comfortable with beating our handhelds together like cymbals, we appreciate the effort to make sharing between devices easier.

Neat idea but hardly a deal breaker. Like Bump I suspect the gee whiz factor will eventually eclipsed by the fact that you rarely use it.

6) Flash
Anyone who uses an iOS device for work will tell you it really sucks that iOS devices can’t display Flash–especially on the iPad, which could otherwise be a complete netbook replacement. HP has wisely included Flash, making it possible to view a lot of “desktop grade” websites and embedded videos that Apple devices can’t. (Sure, Flash is a processor and memory hog. But with a 1.4GHz chip and 512MB of RAM, the new Palm devices have resources to spare.

I can’t believe we are still going over this. Never mind that fact that if it wasn’t for the tongue lashing they took from Steve Jobs Adobe would probably still be “working” on a mobile version of flash. iOS has done more to push websites to adopt modern html techniques than anyone at W3C ever wet dreamed. By excluding flash we are seeing wide spread adoption of open and free standards at the expense of proprietary standards like Flash and Silverlight. Their motives are not altruistic but from my perspective they are taking it on the chin for the benefit of the rest of us. Whether you know anything about CSS3 or not you will benefit from this.

One final note on this issue. More CPU power requires more battery power. Instead of throwing away the gains we have made in mobile efficiency so we can support antiquated technologies lets focus doing newer and better things. Using gobs of battery to play a stunning video game = happy. Gobs of battery juice on YouTube = sad.

7) Tap and Hold
Tap-and-hold should do something on a smartphone. As in Android, tapping and holding items in webOS allows you to drag items too and fro (like Cards, pictured here, during multitasking.) Unfortunately, most iOS apps (including Apple’s) seem to have forgotten that the Macintosh pioneered drag and drop; users rarely have opportunity to drag anything around in iOS. Except those jiggling Home Screen icons.

*snicker* Perhaps I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure the first place I saw “tap and hold” was on an iOS device. Much like the “double tap home” I see this as something of a red-headed stepchild UI element. There is nothing terribly intuitive about it so you have to be taught how to use it. This is fine for tasks that most people don’t care about like moving icons or the task tray but using something like this for basic UI is pretty close to throwing your user under the bus. iMovie has a tap & hold UI element and it drove me nuts. I had to go read a tutorial before I figured out how to accomplish what I was trying to do.

8) Notifications
Palm also knows it’s more polite to notify people of new messages without stopping them dead in their tracks. In webOS, notifications pile up at the bottom of the screen, where you can swipe them away (while still leaving those messages unread). In iOS, every new Push notification or SMS message stops you cold with a pop-up message. This is especially absurd on the iPad, where a tiny little text message can paralyze the whole screen with a pop-up.

While this is true, and the modal popups in iOS can be very frustrating I see this as another “copy/paste”. It’s a bit of a head scratcher as to why Apple hasn’t addressed it but my guess is that they are waiting until they can do it right. Before apple re-invented it copy/paste on mobile phones was an odious task that often involved a scroll ball or a lot of arrow clicks. The notification tray on Android is another UI failure as there is no way a novice can pick up the phone and find it. My step-mom was an SMS pro before she got an android so I was very confused when it took her 3 days to respond to a text I sent her shortly after she got a Droid. Turns out she missed the text and only stumbled upon it when she went into her messages app. Say what you will about them but the modal popups on iOS makes this all but impossible. Combined with the badges and you have to really try to miss a text message. A couple weeks later I showed her the notification tray and she was stunned. I can’t imagine it taking someone that long to find an equivalent feature on iOS.

  1. cheap shot I know but a tiny smartphone just seems absurd to me. []

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