update: iPad’s cost/benefit bar set high by Hackintosh netbooks

Addendum: 3/30/2011 -as I await the arrival of my iPad 2, I can now look back at this post and chuckle. In the year since this post, netbooks have tanked as over 15million iPads were sold. While hackintoshing is fun for a while, the stress of upgrading the OS is not, and I sold the netbook, sans OSX. The Macbook Air covers the gaps left by iPad, and in fact, it is fairly rare for me to need a laptop when I have internet access via my iPhone or iPad. The iPad2 will be the 3G version on AT&T -I chose it because I want the flexibility of buying a local provider’s SIM card when I’m abroad. The thing is this -I don’t think that Apple will want to launch iPhone 5 this year, even though most contracts for iPhone cycle around the summer. It’s like giving gifts to a girlfriend -the timing has to be right and given too frequently, you beg for contempt.

If you want to know what the iPhone5 will look like, I think you can see it in both the iPad2 and more importantly the iPod Touch 4G. iPhone5 will be similar to both with metal back and thinner. It will also feature a 4 to 4.5 inch screen. If it is to keep it’s battery life while getting skinny, it will have to get wider and taller. iPhone4 won’t be phased out but will become the cheap phone.

FROM LAST YEAR JANUARY -MARCH, 2010

The iPad launch yesterday was not up to the hype -you needed the device to have time travel capabilities for people to be satisfied. That said, the question for this first adopter among first adopters is, “Where does this fit in my man purse?”

I need portable internet access for many reasons -I write a lot and am working on several research projects as well as need to keep in touch with a vascular team -the iPhone (now disconnected from AT&T) still serves as my primary email device because the HTC TouchPro2 that I have from Verizon has a maddeningly inconsistent email app that jumps between HTC’s beautiful interface and the horrible, ugly Windows Mobile 6.5 bones underneath. Despite this, the TP2 has earned a semi-permanent place because of the $30 app called WalkingHotSpot which will turn the TP2 into a Wifi hotspot.

I have a maxed out dataplan and tethering plan through Verizon, so I am just using the data that I have already purchased, just not for a Windows laptop but also for my iPhone which I can now use again for my golf GPS apps.

The middle spot between a big laptop (my 15inch Macbook Pro) and the iphone is the need to have a bigger screen than my iphone especially for iTunes movies and content, but at the same time having a keyboard, with at least 5 hrs of battery life. The netbooks do fill this niche in terms of hardware very nicely, but the software just isn’t there. I have become very used to iLife and iWork -thinks look prettier and works nicer through these than anything in the Windows or Linux environment.

The solution came in the form of Hackintosh. The Dell Mini 10v is a netbook which seems to have been designed solely for Hackintoshing. Hackintosh is a non-Apple computer made to run Mac OS X. This technically is a breach of the software license, but I own the computer and I own the shrink wrapped software license for this Hackintosh.

With this, I have a portable internet solution that goes 5hrs on battery, and more with the additional battery, all for a total of $400 bucks for the hardware. If you choose to go this route, you should buy the OS license.

The instructions are here: link.

This works nicely for now, because Apple didn’t have something that effectively served my needs in this space. Now they have iPad. We won’t be able to get our hands on one for 59 days, 89 if you want the 3G/Wifi version. Maybe my netbook days are numbered.

I’ll tell you why. The trackpad, designed by Dell, is one of the worst pieces of industrial design ever created by humans. Dell, after I ordered the netbook, took my money but didn’t acknowledge I even ordered the netbook until I spent two hours on tech support. It was only through the graces of a very nice lady in India, that I eventually got a netbook 10 days later than promised. The next OS upgrade to 10.6.3 may break the netbook again, requiring another round of hacking, which I used to enjoy, but not so much anymore. The 10inch screen is adequate, but I know, compared to the OLED screen on iPad, it will be like night and day. I see that a lot of people are giving up their netbooks on eBay, and this is most likely because the hardware being, well, not Apple.

So I wait, with my proverbial tent pitched outside our local Apple store.

Windows Mobile 6.5 -too little, too late, but reasonably great

As someone who has suffered from almost a decade of desperately mediocre Window Mobile devices, it was with a specific reason I chose to switch out of iPhone to Verizon’s HTC TouchPro2 last fall. There is a program called Walking Hotspot which turns any WinMo device into a Wifi hotspot and I felt that it would support my iPhone and future devices like the current iPad the best.

The phone turned out to be a load of turd as far as smartphones go, but I blamed it mostly on Microsoft and not HTC. HTC puts a skin called Sense UI on all of its Android devices and a similar skin called TouchFlo on Windows devices, and I turned it off several days ago after finally just being unable to deal with the screen lags and freezes. Lo and behold, underneath all the TouchFlo cosmetics was the outdated and ugly Windows Mobile 6.1, which ran pretty well on this latest and greatest hardware.

So it was a no brainer for me to try the Windows Mobile 6.5 upgrade offered by Verizon. I saw several warnings on blogs that it would slow things terribly, but I sensed that it was the TouchFlo skin and not Windows Mobile. The upgrade went well, and lo and behold, turning off the beautiful TouchFlo skin resulted in a spiffy windows 6.5 smartphone that actually works. The screens snap and the device really does alright with Wifi and Bluetooth, things that it was gasping at before. The browser still sucks compared to Safari on iPhone, but borders on usable to where I no longer use iPhone for email so much.

Which leads me to this conclusion: Microsoft spent a decade missing the opportunity to grab and dominate the smartphone market by creating a horrible interface (6.1 and prior) and then allowing third parties to skin up the phone to copy iPhone without regard to performance or battery life. If 6.5 is any indication, Windows Phone 7 will be a formidable entry to the market, more so than Android which is already confusing because of the plethora of skins, form factors, and OS versions.