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Scott's Column
Tablets, Laptops & Spare Parts

March 2, 2011
By Scott Lewis

Introductory paragraph goes here.

Current Topics:

Tablets & Laptops

I am patiently waiting to see what the laptop and tablet market does. Last month I talked about tablets in general and what I thought it would take to beat Apple with its iPad.

In a nutshell, nothing will beat the Apple iPad. Everyone else is playing catch up, while Apple is so far ahead and not resting on its laurels. Today Apple announced the iPad 2... with dual core processor & thinner design. Yes, it now has front and rear facing cameras. To me, what you get is a faster and thinner tablet with the SAME battery life. Not bad. I assume next year we will get some more improvements. The competition might as well go home now.

Motorola's Xoom is more expensive than the iPad 2 and the iPad 1, which is a direct violation to what I said last month... you have to be better AND cheaper than the iPad to beat it. The Xoom is $800 without a contract for 32 GB. Granted, it included 3G even if you don't use it. So it directly compares with the iPad at $729. But if you don't want the 3G you have the option to save $130 and get a WiFi only model from Apple. No such option exists for the Xoom. Oops!

Apple has sold over 15 million iPads. I will bet that over 98% of those customers will never switch brands of tablet. Why should they. The hardware will get better and better over the years (as we have seen today), and Apple's products already have a built in upgrade path... iTunes. Just sync all your music, video, books, games & apps to a new iPad and your done. No extra work to switch to a newer tablet... since it would be completely compatible with the previous Apple iPad.

Changing brands will always require more effort on the customer's part. Even if another tablet manufacturer created a computer program that could completely and seamlessly migrate all your content from iTunes to their own syncing software... there are still the apps, which are platform specific. Plus the others don't have an ecosystem to maintain it all.

For Android tablets to beat Apple they will need to expand the Android Marketplace to including buying music, as well as renting and buying video content. This will not likely happen fast enough to prevent more and more Apple sales. Why? Because you have too many companies to worry about. Google makes the Android OS. HP, Samsung, Motorola, HTC, Etc. makes the hardware. Which company is going to invest in building a market solution that can compete with iTunes for music, movies, TV shows, books, podcasts and apps? And how long will it take? How many more iPads will have been sold by that time?

So... Apple already won the tablet space. I would call it the Tablet War... but that would imply there was a war. There is no war. Apple took the market by storm... and will never loose it.

What about laptops. Apple recently revamped the entire MacBook Pro line... 13", 15" & 17" all got upgrades... on the inside. Hardware is updated, but nothing special was added. Yea, Intel's Sandy Bridge for integrated graphics... big deal. That is not enough to get me to buy a laptop. Plus plenty of Windows laptops will start having those same Intel chips. It seems to me that the Apple laptops are just cruising along right now... not setting any real trends to justify the high price for hardware over other brands.

Why didn't they put the 1440x900 display from the MacBook Air on the 13" MacBook Pro? This is the biggest reason to NOT buy a MacBook Pro 13. The 15" MacBook Pro gets the 1440x900, but at least can be optioned with 1680x1050.

What about the instant on feature of the MacBook Air? Why didn't that make it into any of the MacBook Pros?

As far as I am concerned the laptop of choice for me is still the MacBook Air.

It is my opinion that Apple's iPad will rule forever in the tablet market, and for me the MacBook Air is still the standard to compare all laptops. I will be waiting and saving over the next few months. Let's see what others come up with. As it is my own choice is looking like do I get a MacBook Air or an iPad.

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Spare Parts

I am still trying to decide what to do with my spare parts. To recap I have a Core i5 processor, a motherboard, 4 GB memory, a 1 TB hard drive and a power supply. I was thinking about building a Home Theater PC (HTPC). I would need a fast video card to do this right. If I really put a PC in my living room I would want to game on it.

I recently bought an XBox 360 (used) so my sons could bring their games over and play. I am thinking my gaming in the living room should be covered. I already use my Blu-Ray player to play videos over my network. In fact... I just recently updated all my downloads of the Hubblecast and put them in place to watch on my 46" Plasma. I watch plenty of content stored on my server as it is.

So now I am thinking about using the spare parts to build a new server. I am not in the mood to revisit the computing ecosystem from last year (scott201004.html#ecosystem). That was based on where to put files for redundancy based on getting a Drobo. Unfortunately, the Drobo is just too expensive for me to afford right now, and external hard drives get bigger and bigger and cheaper and cheaper.

My plan for this new server would be to use all the pieces above and get a super cheap video card. After all, the only time I will be using the server after setup is through Remote Desktop. I would use my existing case to save money, and just put the modern power supply into it.

I am tempted to just pull the 320 GB drive from my current server and use it as the boot drive for the new server. This has one major advantage... instance setup. I would have to update all the drivers for the new hardware, but I should be able to get the server up and running in very little time. Plus I won't have to spend time figuring out how to configure my web server... it would just work.

The down side is simple... the hard drive is 4 years old.

I will use the new server the same as the old... a web server to host this site and a file server for all my files. Since this motherboard has USB 3.0 I would like to move the external hard drive on my PC to the server. Since the server would be connected to my PC with Gigabit Ethernet the performance difference would be negligible. I do keep all my iTunes and Zune files on that external drive, so they would have to move to the internal drive of my server, but other than that it would be an easy move.

This would allow my server to have the following storage:

1) 1 TB internal hard drive
2) 1 TB external USB 3.0 hard drive
3) 1.5 TB external USB 2.0 hard drive

I would configure the drives so that my media would be on the two fast 1 TB drives... and I would use the older USB 2.0 drive for backups of all critical files. I love redundancy. My next purchase would probably be one of those 3 TB drives. I saw one at Best Buy over the weekend for $150. That would bring the total storage to 5.5 TB. Wow!

There is one kink in this plan. A friend offered to buy the parts to build a media server of their own. When I did my income taxes I ended up owing over $5000. I failed to adjust my deduction status when I moved out. So I was hurting for money and offered up the parts. I managed to get my taxes taken care of without the need to sell the parts. At the same time I don't want to disappoint my friend either. So if asked... I will probably still sell them. After all once I changes my deduction status I imposed a pay cut of $460/month.

So we will see if I still have the parts in a month or so. If I do I will be playing around for a weekend building a new server.

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Conclusion

Wait until next month and see what happens to the spare parts. I have a couple of ideas I left off this month's article. I have to have something to write about next month, don't I.

Until then...

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