iPad 4 vs iPad mini screen

After using an iPad mini for a week or so, I just received my iPad “4”, and I’m a bit… disappointed. Oh, it’s a great machine; the performance is impressive, and the screen is wonderful. But after using the mini, the full-size iPad just feels big and clunky — clumsy, even. It’s like going from a 13″ MacBook Air to a 17″ MacBook Pro.

Many folks are saying that the lack of Retina screen is regrettable. I agree, but the truth is, the screen on the mini is good enough, and the nicer form factor and more elegant design more than make up for it, in my opinion.

Here’s a photo I took (with my iPhone 5) of the mini and 4 screens size-by-side. Forgive the quality; I’m no photographer. This photo is entirely untouched; I took it on my phone and put it on Flickr. At full size, the difference is striking, though in actual use it doesn’t seem that bad, unless you really put the thing 3 inches from your face.

iPad4-vs-mini

I need to have a Retina iPad for development, and my plan had been to use the mini as my “around the house” iPad, while the 4 was going to be my main daily use iPad that I use most of the time, and drag around with me everywhere. Now after using both, I’m seriously considering making the mini my main iPad.

Sparrow’s not a Canary

All the cool kids are talking about Sparrow’s acquisition by Google. People far smarter than I have chimed in about every aspect of the situation. But this caught my attention today: David Barnard, AppCubby:

…Sparrow is the proverbial canary in the coal mine. The age of selling software to users at a fixed, one-time price is coming to an end. It’s just not sustainable at the absurdly low prices users have come to expect. Sure, independent developers may scrap it out one app at a time, and some may even do quite well and be the exception to the rule, but I don’t think Sparrow would have sold-out if the team — and their investors — believed they could build a substantially profitable company on their own. The gold rush is well and truly over.

It’s true that the App Store has reset people’s expectations with regard to the value of software, and I do believe that the race to the bottom is ultimately detrimental to indie developers. It is pretty apparent, based on what we know, that the Sparrow team didn’t believe they could sustain a profitable business. But, how did we make the jump from “Sparrow could not sustain a profitable business building software” to “It’s not possible to sustain a profitable business building software”? I don’t see how Sparrow’s failure to build a sustainable business means that it’s impossible to do so. Remember how 60% of developers don’t break even? Sparrow had a 5 person development team, and was selling a $3 app. Read that again, because it’s kind of important. If you have a 5 person dev team, and you’re selling a $3 app, you probably plan on selling a whole lot of apps. Between Macs and iOS devices, there are over 200 million potential devices that can run Sparrow. And every single one of them ships with a very good email client. Are you seeing the problem yet? I believe Sparrow’s failure to build a sustainable business can be attributed to: 1. Overestimating the market for email client software. 2. Underestimating the value of their software to it’s actual target market.

I consider myself a nerd. I have a full-time job as a software developer, and I’ve got my own indie dev business going on the side. I have six (count ’em) active email accounts, and regularly send and receive many dozens of emails per day. But I don’t own Sparrow. Why? Apple’s Mail is good enough for me. Sparrow solves a problem I don’t have. I don’t think I’m alone. Mail is actually a pretty good app. I don’t think it even occurs to most people to go looking for a better email app, just as it doesn’t occur to most people to go looking for a better web browser.

The Twittersphere exploded in a shitstorm of angry sentiment from butt-hurt Sparrow users lamenting the ultimate demise of their software. Clearly, this was a very important piece of software for those that did buy it. I’m willing to bet that most of the people that paid $3 (or $10) for Sparrow would gladly have paid much more.

Brent Simmons knew this, years ago:

I’ve been joking for years that I’m going to write an email client and charge $500 for it — an email client that actually meets the needs of developers and professionals who rely on email, folks who type for a living.

I read somewhere that this may have been the genesis of the idea for Sparrow. I hope not, because if it was, they clearly didn’t read the next paragraph:

But I’m not going to, and I don’t know anybody who is. The economics of it make it kind of tough, given that Apple ships a good email client with OS X.

Sparrow was a premium product, sold at a commodity price. If BMW started selling their cars for $15,000, I don’t think it would surprise anyone when they lost buckets of money, and I don’t think anyone would declare that it’s not possible to sustain a profitable business selling cars.

Marco Arment nailed it:

Don’t blame Sparrow. Blame the terrible market for email clients.

Just because most apps are $0.99, doesn’t mean yours has to be. What is your software worth to your customers?

Seth Godin said,

“The problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win…”

If you want to follow me, I’m @zpasternack on Twitter and on app.net.

The rest of us need to be smarter

This made me simultaneously amused and angered. There’s probably nothing more to be said that hasn’t already been so in comments there and on Reddit. Still, I can’t help but put my $0.02 in.

I don’t know anything about construction, except that it’s hard. To build a house, you need to pour concrete, nail boards together, put up drywall, and a bunch of other things. That’s all hard. If only I had a robot that could do all those things for me… I still couldn’t build a house. Why? Because I also don’t know anything about architecture or structural engineering, or plumbing, or electrical engineering. I’d be lucky to build something that didn’t fall down, and it almost certainly wouldn’t be fit for habitation.

When people say “programming”, they think of the mechanical act of typing stuff into a computer. But that’s really only a tiny fraction of what a programmer does. If you don’t have a reasonable understanding of the innerworkings of computers; if you don’t have the capacity to break a large problem down into ever smaller problems; if you don’t have the ability to visualize every minute detail of a solution; no programming language will enable you to write decent software. That’s all there is to it.

Do you guys remember HyperCard? AppleScript? Prograph CPX? Dare I say it, Visual BASIC? All attempts to make a programming language for non-programmers. And every time one of these hot new “languages for the rest of us” come out, I polish up my résumé. Because once everyone realizes that’s programming is still hard, I get a bunch of new job offers. Best case, all it means is we’re momentarily awash in software written by people who have no business doing so.

That’s not me being elitist. I want to live in a world where everyone has the capacity to create great software, I truly do. I just don’t see it happening in my lifetime.

those who know it have little interest in simplifying it as it devalues their own knowledge.

Bitch, please. The guy that’s able to engineer a programming language which enables non-programmers to create great software will instantly become ludicrously rich, not to mention ushering in a golden era of information technology. If you believe for one second that some of the smartest people on the planet aren’t working on this right now – haven’t been working on this for decades – you are sorely mistaken.

Do you have any musician friends? Go up to one and tell him you tried to play guitar today, and it was hard. Why don’t they make instruments that are easier to play? Let me know how that works out for you.

Any four-year-old of even average intellect has sufficient command of their native language to successfully convey any idea of which they conceive. That no four-year-old has ever won the Pulitzer Prize is proof of the failure of the English language. Clearly what is needed is an easier to use spoken language.

If you want to follow me, I’m @zpasternack on Twitter and on app.net.