A technology review from New York

I have spent the last few days in New York for a family celebration. I took my son (aged 8) and we had a great time.

I’ve come back to a different government and seen the ash cloud with my own eyes (I can report it’s a bit underwhelming).

Over in New York, we visited the top of the Empire State Building (86th floor, because the 102nd was closed that day) and a whole host of other tourist activities. We also visited FAO Schwarz of ‘BIG‘ fame where he played the now famous ‘piano’. Once we’d visited FAO, we went to the Apple store which is literally outside the front door.

Inside the Apple store, which was absolutely mobbed – much busier than I’ve seen similar stores in Paris or London – I saw the new iPad. Apparently the device has sold its first million units in 28 days. Staggering, considering it’s [very] heavy, difficult to type (my thumbs couldn’t meet in the middle even in portrait mode) and doesn’t support Flash (so my son’s favourite kids websites didn’t work).

As someone at work described it – it’s a perfect coffee table device that people will pick up, check a couple of webpages and put down. I can’t see it replacing a laptop for email.

On the Sunday it was Mother’s Day in the US and my cousins bought my aunt a Kindle. It’s a pretty smart device. Straight out of the box it picked up a wireless connection quicker than my iPhone in the same apartment (and oddly didn’t need a password).

The text is incredible – much more readable than a laptop or computer flat screen. The usability is what you would expect of Amazon, downloading books easily and quickly (you can start reading the book instantly – before it’s downloaded the rest of the book). Whilst the average non technical user will love a Kindle (until they drop it on the floor in their bedroom, or the swimming pool on holiday), I think technical users would find it frustrating that it’s not as powerful (or as colourful) as an iPad.

I thought it was interesting showing my son the Kindle and telling him that the chances are, in a couple of years time he won’t be carrying books to school – all the books will be on an electronic device like this.

Another interesting observation is that Amazon are keen not to repeat the same mistakes of the Internet’s free content model on their device. All newspapers and books require a paid subscription on the Kindle.

One word of warning if you are going to buy an iPad as a present – by default it comes logged in as the buyer. That means the lucky recipient will open the box, switch the device on… and see the recommendations that Amazon suggests for the buyer. So if you’ve bought anything from Amazon that you’d be normally be embarrassed by, I would suggest you switch the Kindle on and logout, before handing over the [very nice] present.

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