Hey Internet. Sorry to disturb you, but it's been quite a while, hasn't it. Sorry I haven't written, but there's been a lot keeping me busy.
How about a recap by way of quick reviews of a few of the gadgets I've acquired since last we spoke?
HTC EVO: Pretty nice Android phone, but too darn big for my tastes. The 4.3-inch display made for a device that was just too cumbersome to use as a phone, but not quite large enough to be a tablet. If you have big pockets, it's a nice choice.
Samsung Galaxy S Captivate: really nice hardware, but it's a shame that Samsung screwed up the software so badly. Android 2.3 is just about out and Samsung still hasn't managed to release Android 2.2 for it yet. (It's a good thing some nice Samsung engineer leaked an early build of 2.2 about 3 months ago, or I'd be having serious 'behind-the-curve' withdrawals.) The 4.0-inch screen is a much nicer size than the HTC EVO's, making for a much more comfortable pocket phone, and easily my favorite of the various phone form factors I've used.
Sony Blu-ray GoogleTV box: really nice hardware, but it's a shame that Sony screwed up the software so badly. The Blu-ray player application feels like it was made by a completely different team than the rest of the system, which makes sense, since Google didn't make that part. The one area that this device shines, incidentally, is actually the one everyone made fun of when it was first released: the remote control. People laughed, but I can honestly say it's the single greates remote control I've ever used. I really miss it after returning the whole package to the Sony store. If you don't care about Blu-ray, I say save $100 and get the Logitech.
Logitech GoogleTV box: hardware's cheaper than the Sony, but some of the software is better. The built in Harmony universal remote system is really slick, and being $100 cheaper than the sony is a nice perk. The bundled Bluetooth keyboard is way too big to make for a comfortable control device, but as we've been using a vintage SGI Indy keyboard on our various computer-television-hybrid devices for a number of years (have you ever seen then length of the cord on those SGI Indy keyboards?? Not sure why SGI thought they needed that long of a cord, but I for one am glad they made that decision.) it is a step up. GoogleTV has some pretty neat potential, but it's a real shame Google hasn't released the SDK for it yet, or, at the very least, just allowed access to the existing wealth of Android apps in the Android Market. Apps will be where the platform shines, so it seems kind of crazy that they're trying to sell them prior to that. I guess it has Twitter, so what more could people really want, right? Also, it's a shame all the TV networks have blocked the damn thing.
Samsung Galaxy Tab: really nice hardware, but it's a shame that US carriers have the phone functionality disabled. (The one I've been using is unlocked and has full phone functionality, which is awesome. However, being a prototype, it's also got a really rickety housing that feels very fragile.) Darn fine device; great form factor. Goes great in my cargo pants, and after using it for a few minutes, using an iPad now feels like driving a boat. I'm not, however, completely sold on Android as a tablet OS just yet. This hasn't stopped me from using it all the damn time, I'm suspect that a web-based platform might make for a better experience.
ChromeOS: nice hardware but -- wait. I haven't actually seen hardware yet. But I've been running ChromeOS on one of my netbooks for a few months and really, really like it. I tend to use web-based services unless I absolutely have to use a native application, so a web-based OS is a natural fit for me. Combine that with yesterday's Chrome Webstore launch, and it's now an attractive platform for people who are far, far less nerdy than me. If you're having trouble imagining a web-based OS, take a look at the Chrome Webstore and install a few apps. Then imagine your computer is faster with longer battery life and not encumbered by nonsense like virus checkers and printer drivers; now you can start to imagine what ChromeOS is like.
Apple 13" Macbook Pro: really nice hardware, but it's a shame Apple screwed up the software. OS bitching aside, the Macbook Pro is easily the finest piece of computer hardware I've ever owned, and nearly a year of living with Windows 7 made making the switch to OSX far less painful than it would have been going straight from Linux. I'm not completely sold on OSX, but for my usage, it's pretty shocking how much more productive I am than I was on Windows. Having a real UNIX system under all that shiny bounciness is something I didn't realize I missed until I had it back. I think I may write a post about my (most recent) Mac switch instead of going into detail here, as this quick little post has gotten kind of out of hand.
Hopefully it won't be several months before we speak again. Don't be a stranger.
Google I/O was amazing, and I'd like to share the most important things I took away from it. Well, except for the free Motorola Droid and Sprint EVO 4G that I took away from it -- I'm not sharing those. :)
The big news was Android 2.2, which in addition to amazing stuff like wirelessly streaming your iTunes library, also leverages a clever bit of behind the scenes magick that enables a 3x-5X speed increase on the same hardware running 2.1. They demoed this a few times with very dramatic results. It is way, way faster. This huge performance gain shatters one of the main reasons I've been maintaining that Flash on Android is simply not going to be usable; in fact, much to my chagrin, I have to report that Flash works very, very well on Android.
Speaking of Flash, there was a demo of what I believe to be the fabled "Flash killer" everyone has been hoping will come along to eventually put us out of our miseries. Many have tried (and failed) to come up with a Flash killer, but this time they have -- in my opinion -- actually done it. The surprising thing to me isn't that someone has managed to do it, but, rather, that it's Adobe themselves that are responsible. Adobe demoed the new integration between Illustrator and their new CSS-editing powerhouse version of Dreamweaver, effectively creating a very "Flash-like" experience of animating and interacting with elements using entirely open HTML5 and CSS based technology. In a couple minutes they created some remarkably interactive animated stuff with just a few clicks in Illustrator and Dreamweaver, outputting web content that will work in any modern browser without any annoying plugins/runtimes. Adobe has seen the benefit of making open tech take the place of proprietary black boxes, and are embracing it head on rather than fighting it off. Kudos, Adobe.
All that nerd stuff aside, the big exciting thing is GoogleTV. Many have tried to merge the web and television in the past, with downright comical results, so any additional attempts to achieve it are going to have to really 'wow' people. Google has now taken up the challenge, and I think they're really onto something.
Without going into too much detail, here's what they've done: searchable television. No more annoying guides showing you what's on right now; with GoogleTV, you can search for stuff to watch just like you search the Internet. You get a search bar, you type something into it, and you get results. Those results could be things that are on right now, they could be things that your DVR recorded for you, they could be things that are on in the future (and clicking them will make your DVR record them for you) or they could be things that are available to stream right now via Netflix, Hulu, YouTube or any site that you can stream from in your computer's desktop browser. Because GoogleTV is a browser, complete with the Flash plugin required to view most of that streaming content today. In addition to watching television content like this, GoogleTV has access to the Android Market, giving you access to the same thousands of applications you can run on your Android phone -- on your TV.
There are a lot of other cool things that GoogleTV can do, but the main selling point is that you no longer have to care where your television comes from. It could be live TV, something from your DVR, something from Hulu -- it really doesn't matter, and you don't have to think about it. You just know you want to watch 30 Rock, so you simply type "30 Rock" into your fancy GoogleTV remote and get a list of episodes to watch.
There were many other exciting things, but many of them may still be too nerdy to be interesting to most people, so I'm just hitting the points I think people will care about. Android is now really, really fast and can deliver a fantastic Flash experience (if that sort of thing is your bag), which could be a viable alternative for those who want an iPhone/iPad but complain that they can't view Flash. GoogleTV may well change the way television is watched -- and maybe down the road be able to help shake up the control cable/satellite providers have over bundling content we don't want with the content we do.