Thursday, January 28, 2010

The (Internet) World In Two Hands

David Morgenstern a blogger from ZDNet cuts to the heart of the matter as far as what Apple's newly iPad announced represents, "The iPhone is a device that puts the world into one hand; the iPad, two hands." Read on if you like:;col1

I could not agree more. A consistent behavior I've seen of naysayers is a continual comparison of the newly announced iPad vs. laptops.

Here's one scenario that I don't see any laptop or netbook taking on. Increasingly HDTVs are coming with Ethernet ports to stream content off the Net. But who says they have to act purely as clients? That is, reading information, e.g., movies off Netflix's video servers. Why can't the TV be the server? Albeit a really simple server. Like the kind where instead of relying on infrared signals it abides by a well known command protocol coming through its Ethernet connection.

So before too long the TV industry devises a standard (that would be layer 7 application protocol for all the geeks) for controlling televisions via Ethernet interfaces. Then, before you know it, you'll see a remote control application for the iPad (or its posterity) where every living room device that has a remote will have its buttons represented as a skin overlaid on the iPad's surface. This is one of many scenarios that comes to mind where a laptop or netbook simply does not make the grade and looking at the iPad strictly through such a lens falls short.

Which is why I couldn't agree more with the title of Morgenstern's blog post "Dude, the iPad isn't a notebook - get over it!"

If you have doubts about the enthusiasm the iPad generated, I can tell you empirically that as Steve Jobs unveiled Apple's latest creation, tech sites were being hammered with traffic. I found Engadget and ZDNet to be noticeably slow as the morning of the iPad's unveiling wore on. I was following the announcement through:

I visited other tech sites since I was curious to see the buzz elsewhere - I found them to be very slow.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chrome 4.0 / HTML 5 Video Playback

Google's just released the next major revision of its Chrome browser, version 4.0, to the masses in the last day:

Previously Chrome 4.0 was only available to the initiated (development release). Updating to 4.0 for existing users is simply a matter of clicking on the wrench icon in the rightmost toolbar area and then selecting About Google Chrome.

DownloadSquad featured a variety of Chrome plugins in a November article (only useful at the time to folks with the development release):

With 4.0's release Chrome's extensibility goes up dramatically and thus its utility.


Chrome's addition of extensions overshadow its in HTML 5. Among them, video playback. The ramifications of this while not immediately forthcoming are significant. For quite some time most web designers/developers have assumed their users to have Flash but it turns out Flash has its issues. For starters, Flash's performance under Mac OS X is very poor and something that many Mac fans continually scoff at. The proof is in the pudding:

For a variety of reasons including the fact that the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) originally was focusing on document publication and not rich multimedia experiences, Macromedia (a well known company later acquired by Adobe) entrenched itself with the novel idea of extending browsers with video playback. Before you knew it, its Flash platform became the defacto standard for video playback. The fly in the ointment is that as the Macintosh user base has grown dramatically, they're increasingly a louder voice and unhappy with a second rate video playback platform. Rest assured, the number of Macintosh users is growing faster than Adobe (and Steve Ballmer) would like - Apple's recently announced latest quarterly results were phenomenal.

There are two big issues with Flash. First, Adobe has struggled with lots of security issues with both its Flash plugin and PDF reader. Secondly, as much as I've been a fan of Flash for blazing trails, I hate to say this but I'm liking the idea of not requiring it on my desktop. It turns out performance-wise, by today's standards its architecture poorly leverages my hardware. Despite Flash being pervasive for the better part of a decade Adobe only now has seen it fit to leverage GPUs during video playback. GPU acceleration within Flash is still in beta:

In other words, Flash can be very CPU intensive while your computer' graphics subsystem and its computational prowess goes unused. It turns out decoding video is intrinsically a parallel computation, something GPUs excel at.

I'm willing to bet anyone with a laptop, even a powerful one, knows all too well what happens when you start playing lots of Flash content - the fan starts cranking.

I'll close with pointing out that if you are running Chrome 4.0, you can opt to use HTML 5 video playback by default on YouTube instead of Flash by visiting the following page: