Suppositions on Angels

Since it is Easter weekend, I got to thinking about angels while making breakfast. Mostly about how many people seem to have a terribly inaccurate view about them. I speak of the common misconception that people become angels when they die.

CherubsThere are many ways to refute this notion, but the foremost in my mind is the sheer lack of diversity. The idea that human and heavenly spirits are basically interchangeable seems to ignore the rampant creativity surrounding us. Is there just one kid of fish in the sea? Or bird in the air? Or creepy looking bug crawling around the walls of your home? The diversity of such things is astounding. And this is before we consider the variations inside smaller groups such as dogs or the absurdity of the platypus. The creator of such vivid richness surely has an inclination toward creating more than one kind of spiritual being.

Religious texts back up this premise. None of descriptions of angels equate them to humans and many texts call out specific differences. For example ‘you have made man a little lower than the angels’ and ‘the sound of the wings of the angel was heard as far as the outer court’. Similarities exist of course, but the same can be said for the gold fish and the tiger shark.

So what is driving this common misconception? I believe it stems from three things. A lack of understanding about heaven in general. A lack of appreciation regarding the true nature of angels. And perhaps a fear of whether our protectors truly care about us.

GuardianAngelWatchingOverThemForemost of these is a lack of knowledge about heaven. Although it’s based mostly on hallmark card imagery, many people envision a heaven with plump little cherubim and endless harp playing. This viewpoint is deftly skewered in Mark Twain’s Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven. While Twain’s portrayal of heaven falls sort of the mark, it is a good deal closer to the reality than many of the people I’ve spoken with about it. I don’t want to digress to far down this path, but suffice to say that heaven is a lot closer to earthly life than most people realize. Bringing these misconceptions back on point: when one believes that heaven is a lot of idle time and harp playing, the idea of being a “guardian angel” starts to sound a lot more appealing.

The nature of angels is the second cause for this common mistake. It’s strange that we oft consider the guardian role of angels and sometimes even them “going to battle” for us, but then envision a figure that seems inspired by Disney. This imagery does lend itself towards the idea that aunt Irene is now watching over the little children (or us), but it neglects the true nature of angels. At the core of their being they are warriors and fearsome ones at that. Which is why angels start messages to mankind with the words: fear not. While the artist rendition below fails to fully capture this, it at least should help improve our mental pictures from a doting aunt to an awe-inspiring presence.

dark-angel-219927

Following this second cause it isn’t without irony that I suggest the final cause as a fear about angels. I don’t claim to know everyone’s hidden fears. However, a fear regarding the purposes and inclinations of angels seems to fit here. Do angels really guards us? Why would such protectors truly care? It is easier for us to reconcile our departed family members looking after us (at least the nicer ones) than some unnamed and unknown spiritual soldier. Clinging doubts about the duties the heavenly host serve – and perhaps more so the one they serve – can make the fairy tale versions so much more appealing.

Just some food for thought…

What Apple Needs In The iPad 3

Rumors are starting to fly furiously as the iPad’s impending launch approaches. With possible launch dates ranging from Feb 29th to March 7th, the wait is almost over.  But this launch is unique from past years as Android has finally produced an actual rival for the tablet space.  While the Amazon Kindle Fire is in many ways not in the same league as the King of the tablets, it did make an appreciable dent in Apple’s holiday sales to the tune of over a Billion dollars.  So what does Apple need to do in the iPad 3 to stay the dominant force in 2012?

  1. Retina Display – The time for a HD display has passed and Samsung is trying to beat Apple to the punch with it’s own retina resolution tablet. I can attest to the eye fatigue induced from too much iPadding and with their latest play for the textbook market this is a no-brainer.
  2. Graphical Power – 4 times the pixels in a retina display demands 4 times the graphical power just to stay in one place.  With ever more demanding games becoming a cash cow, expect this to increase by at least a factor of 8 or more.  A faster CPU is in the works but a modest bump here is all that is needed to keep things snappy with an adequate GPU.
  3. Softer Edges – Literally. The tapered edges that make the iPad 2 seem even thinner dig into one’s hands rather quickly.  Something that couldn’t have been lost on the majority of Apple employees using this product.
  4. Real Office Software – Look Pages, Docs To Go, Quickoffice and the like are merely passable.  While the office software has improved since the original iPad, it is still sorely lacking.  The first company to get this right will not only make a pile of cash in the student and enterprise market but will lock in users to the ecosystem of their choice.  Oh only has to consider the history of Microsoft to see the importance of this issue.  An iOS exclusive would put a boot on the neck of Android while the reverse could quickly break Apple’s near monopoly of the tablet space.

Finally a few things that would be great, but I doubt we’ll see from Cupertino.

  1. Matte Display – I realize the new Apple campus looks like a spaceship, but surely they have fluorescent lights in their current one.  Is anyone else tired of being able to read their own hip T-shirt in the even the slightest of glare?
  2. iPad Specific Keyboard – I realize the standard Apple bluetooth keyboard works with the iPad but many of the OSX function keys at the top don’t.  And really is it so much heresy to want functional arrow keys?  Sometimes you just want to move the cursor a letter or two without playing tap-tap revolution on your screen to get it there.  Seriously, when it’s easier to delete the last two words to just typed than to reposition the cursor to your typo – you have failed on the much vaunted “ease of use” mantra.

Again, I realize I’m tilting at windmills here, but I can’t help it.

Amazon Takes Over Low End Tablet Market

Amazon announced a new family of Kindles this morning, not the least of which was a new entry point of just $79.  But e-readers aside, the real news was the high end Kindle Fire that will all but kill the low end tablet makers.  Premium products at non-premium prices as Jeff Bezos put it.

A month ago when Amazon tablet was firmly ensconced in the mists of the future, several vendors were working hard to carve out a niche with low end Android tablets that were far enough below the iPad’s $500 floor to not illicit too many comparisons.

While many tablets competed in this space two leaders had emerged: Archos and B&N.  Archos made “personal video players” before tablets were cool, thus they were well positioned to simply add apps and ship a decent product (Apple complicated things by creating scarcity for tablet components but that had passed).  The other winner was the dark horse Nook Color.  While comparable in pricing and specs to many competitors, the backing of Barnes & Noble meant it would last – which made it a favorite for hackers.  Grab a Nook Color and use it as is or “jailbreak it” and enjoy a slightly subsidized android tablet.

All of the rest of the entrants on the low end have been noise or are still “coming soon” (at least in the US) except for two.  The original galaxy tab (7 incher) from Samsung is now old enough to be relatively cheap and who can forget the suddenly “limited edition” $99 HP tablet.  The latter served as a wake up call to the industry when they discovered people would buy a discontinued and unsupported tablet if the price was right – proving there was real potential below iPad levels.

With the state of the market it mind, we can examine the newly announced Kindle Fire and see why it will be killer – not of the iPad, but just about everything else:

  • Amazon is subsidizing the hardware cost so if you just want a cheap but solid android tablet hackers should deliver that option by Christmas.  Without content profits, most companies can sell their tablet for less than it costs to make.
  • Amazon has created a much simpler user interface than the standard android. They didn’t just add some widgets or whatnot they created a new one top to bottom.  This approached helped B&N grab market share and Amazon has done it even better.
  • Amazon’s content base is one of the few to rival Apple: books, music, movies, and more.  Content consumption is what tablets do best and most low end producers don’t have such a pipeline.  (B&N’s Nook Color will be the sole survive of the coming bloodbath for just this reason)
  • Specifically Amazon’s app store offers what Apple like protection and quality far beyond the general Google Marketplace and with thousands more apps than competing private app stores.
  • It remains to be seen just how good the Amazon Silk engine is at improving the mobile browsing experience but this another area where other companies can’t compete as they don’t happen to also own one of the biggest data centers in the country.

So at the end of the day, B&N has to drop the Nook Color by at least $50 to compete (and launch the Nook Color 2), and companies like Archos, well they would need to create a huge content selling service in the next oh – 6 weeks…

Yeah, good luck with that.

 

AMD A-Series Macbook Air?

As the ultraportable crowd impatiently awaits the latest Apple refresh of the svelt Macbook, an interesting new rumor has popped up. Could the next Air be powered by an AMD A-Series APU and not the expected Intel iCore?

While it flies in the face of most of the industry scuttlebutt, it actually makes a lot of sense. Consider the following: Apple has been slow to move the Air away from the Core 2 Duo chips to the newer Intel chips when it often grabs the first of such silicon off the line. Cupertino also snubbed Nvidia for AMD in its latest graphic card refresh.

Assuming AMD’s A-Series APU claims are correct it would present the perfect balance of processing, graphics, and battery power for an ultralight laptop. The conventional wisdom has been that Apple is moving from the Core 2 Duo + GeForce 320M to an iCore chip with Intel’s graphics for better processing power and battery life. However that logic never sat right with me, since even the 11″ Air included discrete graphics. A move I feel proves that Apple wants above “adequate” graphics even in its tiniest laptop.

I think the iCore upgrade belief has been largely based largely on “what else would they do?” assumptions. While an iCore + GPU is the obvious solution for maximum computing power in a typical laptop, in a form factor like the Air the drain on battery life and physical size become much more important. Could the company that ripped the SSD out of its standard enclosure for form factor, really pass up the chance to offer true GPU performance without adding a second chip?

UPDATE: We have heard back from our source that Apple is considering a next generation APU (with lower TDP) for a future (significant) MBA revision not the pending one.  That will be the new iCore chips.

Why Twitter Suddenly Matters

Yes I realize that Twitter has over 150 million users – I myself have been on it since 2009. However much of this mad rush to join has been spurred mostly by two groups: people addicted to status updates and businesses chasing after social marketing. The honest truth is that a few billion tweats later, most people have said very little with their 140 characters and most businesses couldn’t even tell you if their followers have impacted their bottom lines. Sure a small share of tech savy businesses have leverage twitter well but we’re not talking about the outliers here. No, up to this point the biggest winners have been the celebrities. Sadly, more people care about Colin Farrell’s lunch selection update than your new product launch tweet. But twitter is evolving. Rapidly.

Recently some significant things have happened with twitter that will make it matter to more than the attention starved and fan boys and girls of the world. Here’s what happened:

  1. Ubiquity Critical Mass – This was bound to happen with the size of the social bandwagon as lately every phone, tablet, TV, watch, and electric razer has integrated twitter, facebook and netflix into it. The ubiquity finally paid off after some people used it to report the news before the news crews. The shift from twitter as the endless echo chamber to first on the scene is significant to its long term success.
  2. Photo Sharing – The new twitter now includes photo sharing leaving it poised to become the top such service overnight. More importantly it gives twitter a second, independent reason to exist.
  3. Steve Jobs’ Blessing – The inclusion of twitter into the bowels of iOS 5 is less of a boon to its userbase than it is a protection of its future. As it essentially moves one the big players that could threaten it’s supremacy over to its side.
  4. Feature Integration – Much of twitter’s success is due to its simplicity of setup and use. Adding features such as automatic link shortening further simplifies tweeting for the masses.Alas, none of this solves the average business owner’s problem of leveraging twitter for their own use. However for those on the fence about twitter, it may have just gotten too powerful to ignore.