What you should really look forward for this Christmas

If you love technology as much as everybody else, then you are totally confused on where to throw your money? Should it be the Microsoft Surface, the Nexus 7, the Kindle HD or the iPad Mini. Why is it that there are so many choices to choose from, why can't we get all of them this Christmas?

Microsoft Surface
From all the video around, it is a brilliant piece of hardware, the construction, the edges, etc are amazing to look. It is quite exciting to finally have a real portable windows platform from Microsoft. This is however cut short with what follows. While the hardware is indeed something to look forward to, the software is a let down. With windows 8 RT being sandboxed and Microsoft disallowing normal windows applications to be loaded on the device, think of it as a new tablet from Microsoft but has no compatibility with anything whatsoever. This also means spending a whole lot of money to get apps to run on this platform. Apps that do not exist at the moment and even if they did like there are for the Windows Mobile Phone 7, they are pretty much useless. So if you think that you can use the new surface with windows RT to replace your desktop or laptop, you are mistaken, it cannot replace anything, it is just a new expensive addition. Had Microsoft priced it at the $199 mark and included MS Office, many of these shortcomings could be overlooked, after all a Microsoft Box is used for MS Office and Browsing only.

Google Nexus 7
Google has been offering developers phones in the past for development, the funniest part was that the development phones were high end where as the consumer devices were usually very low end. Plus despite the number of apps on Google Play, there are very few usable apps. While adding software to Google Play is easier than to the App Store, it is also as much the wild west where you app can be pirated or worse still, you find people buy and ask for a refund, so your inbox is filled with all of that unnecessary junk. So as far as I am concerned, an Android is hardly a device to invest it, either for developing or using. The emulators are not any different either. The large fragmentation and the unreliable market is not lucrative at all. So even if Google does have the best of the hardware, it is still not much in my books.

Kindle HD
Having got a Kindle Fire last year, I can say that it has been charged quite a few times and been used for testing for a client, apart from that it was entire unusable outside of the USA. The other issue was the limitation of applications space to 1GB even while all of the remaining 7GB was free does not allow for installing apps, I do not want to watch movies or listen to any songs on it, I want to test some android apps only. Now that Amazon is releasing the Kindle HD, with a larger screen resolution it should be an improvement in the display quality, but the other issues will still remain and there is a chance that you might be bombarded with advertisements on the device. The Kindle Fire does wake up and do strange things even in Australia like auto updating, etc even when it cannot connect to the the app store or Google Play.

iPad Mini
I think it has the correct name for this, after all there will "Mini Me" in the Austin Powers Movie, so we have the iPad and the iPad Mini. For the same cost as an iPad Mini 16GB WiFi, we can get an iPod Touch 32GB WiFi which is retina graphics and has the same CPU (Dual-Core A5) as the iPad Mini, it is only the screen and that is larger than the iPod (5th Gen) and half the storage capacity.

It would be nice if we could get all of these devices. The only trap is that like the people that purchased an iPad3 (officially called the new iPad) have a new model with lightning port for charging. I am sure if there would be a request for show of hands amongst people on those that have the iPad (1st Generation) and that it still works as good and can still be used for development, there would be many hands. However Apple has knocked that out of the list and wants that people get a new iPad which can be outdated within the year. Funnier still is that while a very small number of developers actually use the device and push it to the limits, many still rely on simulators and not even the XCode one, but the simulators that come with the frameworks that they use for development, sometimes even running on Windows. So, would it really matter if they tested on an actual and latest iPad? not really.

App Stores dangle the Million dollar cheques to developers as something that can be achieved. it reminds me of all those that approached me with tapes and CD's over the years explaining that there were people that made millions out of Amway and network marketing. It goes to say that it is possible, but happens quite seldom. I have two examples that I have seen, Bubble Ball with > 8 million downloads (FREE) and the Lost City cross over a Million sales. For the average developer, that is what everyone of them want to achieve. More often than ever, there will be clones and copies of the app rather then the million downloads/sales and worst case scenario, there will be a game guide for a dollar, for a free app.

Here, on a personal note, I am a bit disappointed with Apple, and it may be true that the products do reflect the leadership or the person at the helm. Apple's move with the new iPhone5 and the iPad Mini is a show of what you can say, if you have a pie, I want a piece of it. They are creating a device of every conceivable shape and size to catch up with the competition. Many adopted Apple devices simply because Apple devices were of good quality and the price was worth when you paid for quality. Now that you have Apple devices with 320x480, 640x960, 640x1136, 768x1024, 1536x2048, it is a bit of an issue trying to create apps that scale for all resolutions. How can you scale an app that runs fine on 640x960 on to a 640x1136, the only real use of that extra space can be to have 640x960 screen space and use the extra 176 pixels for advertising both above and below.

The second personal point is that most of the electronics are now like diapers, disposable, use and throw. The only qualm is that if you have to pay in excess of $500, it is not easy to replace them every 6 months or so. If the manufacturers want adoption of their products, they *must* reduce the prices of their items to a level that people can buy many more of them and use. Microsoft should have learned this lesson too but haven't, they wanted developers to take to the WP7 and develop for it using ONLY their development platform and framework, not many took to it. Even if they do boast of 100,000 apps on the store, majority of these are useless and made by their own interns and employees. Having said that they are developers technically, aren't they? If Microsoft opens up development using C++ instead of C#, there will be many that can support this platform. While some frameworks use the HTML5 with JavaScript route to support Windows8, Microsoft needs to open it up via C++ or this time around they will have a hardware Vista on their hands.

What you should get for Christmas is entirely on your budgets and personal choice, but given that these are the options, none of them seem to really make a compelling choice.

If you are someone that uses a computer very often, the new iMac's are something to drool over, but then that is a personal choice... with Laptop batteries dying out after a certain number of charges and being sealed inside the MacBooks, etc.

Then there are always books on development like my book on Learning Lua for iOS Game Development from Apress ;)


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