Popping Tablets

It’s no secret that I don’t like Apple; the technology company, not the Beatles’ record label. The restrictions they impose on what device owners can do with the hardware and software for which they have parted with sizeable sums are emphatically anti-consumer, as is their refusal to base their products on open standards, locking the user into inferior, proprietary technology. Apple furthermore stifle community development and continue to demonstrate lamentably poor business ethics, practices that have rightfully garnered Microsoft highly critical press for 20 years. Apple’s customers, on the other hand, display an alarming, sheeplike meekness in their willingness to participate in this shameful subjugation of the consumer.

Beyond the implications that this has for the development of technology as a whole, it has never quantifiably affected me. The reason is that Apple, in my judgement, has rarely, if ever, produced a best-of-breed device in any of the product areas it has entered. The Apple II was not the best home computer of its day, today’s Macs are far from being the best value for money for what they can do, the iPod has some glaring omissions as a portable music player and each new generation of the iPhone has always lagged some way behind competing smartphones in feature set. Apple’s modern product range looks nice, I’ll grant you that, but it’s a victory of style over substance, more fashion accessory than functional.

That all changed with the iPad. For a year or more, I had to admit that the iPad was a much better tablet computer than any of its rivals. The Android community had dropped the ball. Whilst Android is a technically superior operating system to iOS, tablets running Android failed miserably to make the best of it. Most applications didn’t take advantage of the larger screen, for example.

A year is a long time in technology, however. In the meantime, the iPad 2 had been launched, but the Android community hadn’t been grabbing forty winks on the sofa. Android 3.0 is upon us and tablets running this newest release of the operating system have started to appear. Application authors, too, have been adapting their software to make full use of the hardware on which they now find themselves running.

When Motorola launched the Xoom earlier this year, the gap that Apple had opened on rival tablets was effectively closed and arguably even reopened in favour of Android. My path to tabloid ownership was now clear. I no longer had to choose between suffering feelings of guilt and hypocrisy for buying the iPad, or the knowledge that I had wasted money on an inferior device for non-technical reasons.

And so it is that a Motorola Xoom recently found its way into our lives. I primarily wanted a tablet for the children, because much of the educational software is, thanks to the touch-screen interface, so intuitive that very little forced learning is required to derive the full benefit from it. I have regularly watched other people’s children at the Little Gym, playing with their parents’ tablet and wanted to give my children the same opportunity for computer-assisted learning. I had to reconcile that desire with my boycott of Apple, however, which I am now thankfully able to.

I didn’t bother with a data subscription. Instead, I took the duo SIM out of the car and put that in the tablet. My phone’s subscription includes unlimited data, so there’s no way I’m going to pay extra for a second, limited subscription. The unlimited ones have all been withdrawn, because the telcos can’t make enough profit on them.

If you have any recommendations for Android software for young children, do let me know.

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