Sunday, February 28, 2010

Four Reasons Apple iPad Can't Miss

February 8, 2010

Here are four reasons why the Apple iPad is a guaranteed success.

1. The stores. The stores are Apple's main weapon. Anyone else can make a tablet for Web surfing, book reading, movie viewing, whatever: Dell, H-P, Acer, Google, Amazon, Microsoft or Lenovo. But none of those companies have the stores. There are two reasons why this is important.

First, this is the kind of product that people need to see and feel in person, in order to decide whether to take the plunge -- it's a new category of product, after all.

Second, Apple has already paid for the stores, and they can easily fit several more products, which means that it is almost a guarantee that any product Apple launches will become an incremental financial success for Apple. People who walk into the Apple stores may or may not buy an iPad right away, but those who don't buy an iPad may walk out with something else under their arm -- a MacBook or iPod Touch, for example.

2. iTunes. Nevermind that iTunes works on a PC of any kind -- including tablet PCs from companies such as Dell and Lenovo or that it synchronizes with every BlackBerry. The public associates iTunes with Apple, and every new product building on the iTunes ecosystem has an automatic head start against the competition.

3. The AT&T deal. Apple did three very smart things with its choice of wireless options:

A) An unlimited plan for $30. This is extremely significant, because wireless carriers such as Verizon Wireless have recently been viewed as unlikely to offer any more unlimited-anything plans. In fact, this may have just been the reason why Verizon didn't get the iPad deal.

B) Pay-as-you-go service. No subscription needed. You buy a month of unlimited service for $30 when you think you need it. The lack of yet another two-year commitment is a very consumer-friendly option.

C) Oh, by the way, if you choose to save $130 by buying the WiFi-only version of the iPad, you can get it with service from Verizon or Sprint/Clearwire. Huh? Yes, by buying a device such as the Novatel MiFi or the Sierra Wireless Overdrive 3G/4G cellular-to-WiFi converters, you can use your iPad (plus four other devices simultaneously) on Verizon or Sprint/Clearwire. You pay $60 per month, but amortized over as many as five devices you could argue that it's only $12 per month per device.

4. The iPad puts Apple on offense in the race to a completely new interface for much of our PC experience. For the last 15 or more years, the PC experience has not changed dramatically interface-wise.

One could certainly conceive that just like the PC market changed dramatically from 1984 to 1995, it is about to change yet again. In this context, it seems smart for Apple to take a chance with the iPad.

Is the iPad perfect? Of course not. Some complaints have to do with things such as the screen and the resulting battery life. A bright color screen yielding 10 hours just isn't the same product as a monochrome screen worth of ePaper yielding hundreds of hours. But that's a design choice, where Apple's choice to make a broad-based Internet-connected device seems like the obvious one. What's not a design choice as such is the lack of multitasking and Adobe Flash, but those things can be fixed.

The bottom line on the iPad: It will be a financial success for Apple, driving traffic to the Apple stores and putting the rest of the industry on the defensive.

Netgear RangeMax WNDR3700 Review

United States of America, October 2009

If you’re in the market for the most technologically advanced large four-door sedan car, and price is not an object, you buy the Lexus LS600h, which costs around $115,000 but is architecturally similar to a Toyota Hybrid. If you’re in the market for the most technologically advanced WiFi home router, the equivalent of the Lexus LS600h is the Netgear RangeMax WNDR3700, or Netgear 3700 for short.

The Netgear 3700 incorporates Netgear’s new industrial design for many of its home products. It’s a great design where the LEDs are easily visible from multiple angles, and the device can stand vertically for optimal RF performance. At its core, the Netgear 3700 has a 680 MHz processor and allows for the highest performance using two SSIDs each on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz alike.

The multiple SSID setup is critical. It allows for having two separate guest networks – one on 2.4 GHz and another on 5 GHz. This router also gives priority to video traffic on 5 GHz. Speaking of video traffic, you can plug in a storage source into the USB and share it on the network, thanks to DLNA.

The performance is astounding. Gigabit Ethernet in combination with the 680 MHz processor and the latest 802.11n radio technology from Atheros means that your system’s performance bottleneck will most likely not be the Netgear 3700. Ultimately, the only weakness in the performance will be experienced as a result of range – whether in free space or through walls. Range, however, appears better than any other WiFi router I have tested. I was getting coverage close to 100 yards down the road, with the router inside my home. With WiFi this powerful, it makes you wonder why service operators aren’t going with this technology to build proper operator networks.

The only weakness of the device that I found, is that you can’t plug in your WiMax USB modem as your Internet source. With Clearwire now available in 28 markets nationwide, and some 100 markets targeted for the end 2010, this will soon become the primary Internet source for millions of Americans. They would all benefit from a combination of the Netgear 3700 and Clearwire’s low-latency, high-bandwidth, access network. Hopefully this will be addressed in a software upgrade to the Netgear 3700 soon.

I have been on the Netgear case since June 1999 and I have tested numerous WiFi products over the years. While the Netgear 3700 obviously can’t compete with the Sierra Wireless Overdrive 3G/4G for what it accomplishes in a mobile environment, for a home or business WiFi router, nothing on the market right now matches the Netgear 3700 either in terms or features or in terms of performance.

The price of the Netgear 3700 is anywhere from $150 and $190 depending on where you buy it. While you can save 70% of that kind of price by buying a cheaper home WiFi router, I believe the Netgear 3700 is well worth the one-time premium payment. I give it my second highest recommendation (a 9 out of a 10), with the one caveat that adding WiMax support would make it completely unbeatable. All products like these need to ensure compatibility with Clearwire, and WiMax in general.