Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why the Kindle Fire Will Defeat its Android Counterparts, but not Kill the iPad

When Steve Jobs took the stage earlier this year to unveil the iPad 2, he made a claim that this would be the year of the copy cats.  While that has claim has been materialized in devices like the Motorola Xoom,  RIM's Playbook, and even Barnes and Noble's Nook Color to a certain extent, there is a new challenger in town: the Amazon Kindle Fire.

While I would argue that it's not really "correct" to compare the iPad 2 with the Kindle Fire, it's bound to happen, and as consumers are shopping for a tablet device this holiday season, the question is going to come up.

Although it's too early to come up with final judgements, as the product won't even be released until November, we can at least make some early speculation as to how this will affect other tablets on the market, and whether or not we may have an iPad "killer" on our hands.

First, this is why the Kindle Fire will defeat, and most likely destroy its Android counterparts:
Its focus is narrow, and its goals are specific
Unlike the majority of Android tablets on the market today, the Kindle has a very specific purpose -- above all else, it is an e-reader.  Sure, it's also a media consumption device, but when it comes down to it, users will want a great reading experience.  When you pick up a Xoom, or a Playbook there's not as much direction or purpose -- it's simply there for you to guess what you should be doing.

It has more and greater content available
The Kindle Fire will have the Amazon Appstore for Android and while it's not as comprehensive as the general Android Market, there is a great selection of apps.  (PS -- it was a very smart move to establish that Appstore in the world of Android before the release of the Kindle Fire).  Where the Kindle Fire truly shines is in the media available: Movies, TV Shows, Music, Magazines and of course, books.  Obviously you can download the equivalent Android apps for some of these things on other devices, but the experience will be nowhere near what you find on the Kindle Fire.  Couple that with the seemingly incredibly fast web browsing, and a casual user has everything they need.

It's priced right
If I was the maker of an Android tablet right now, I would be afraid.  Very, very afraid.  Barnes and Noble (which took a hit to their stock value after today's announcement) has to be especially concerned.  At a price point of $199 (which is currently $50 less than what the NOOK Color costs, which is significantly less than other Android tablets) it makes for a very attractive package -- I mean, we all saw what happened with the $99 TouchPad, right?

Second, this is why the Kindle Fire cannot, and will not, kill the iPad:
It has a different target market
These positive points are all well and good, but does it add up to an iPad killer?  I think not.  From what I've seen of the presentation made today, there was a little jab at syncing a device using a wire, but it didn't seem focused on what the Kindle Fire could do that the iPad can't (like Flash, for example, which other companies have tried to make a major selling point).  Instead, it focused simply on what the Kindle Fire does well.  And while it does many things very well, there was no mention of certain things the iPad excels at -- like content creation, for example.  Not to mention the hardware differences that equip the iPad to be a useful tool in more situations (thinking of GPS, cameras and a microphone specifically).

The Kindle Fire is no laptop replacement
Along those same lines, the ways the iPad and Kindle Fire have been presented are different.  Steve Jobs considers the days we live in to be the "Post-PC era" and that the iPad is the new personal computer.  In many cases, an iPad can easily be considered a laptop replacement, and has the specs and apps to back that claim up.  The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, is presented more as an entertainment device.  While its hardware specs are nothing to balk at, it's lacking in some key areas (screen size not being the least of these).  Likewise, I've never heard of anyone buying an iPad for the sole purpose of reading books.

Content is still king
It's great that Kindle Fire users will have access to the Amazon Appstore for Android, and to the TV and movies available through their video services (including cloud syncing services) -- but the content available via those venues pales in comparison to what iPad users have at their disposal in iTunes.  Not only that, but the issue of few apps designed and developed specifically for tablet use still plagues the Android Market at large.  Until this changes, it'll be hard to sway users toward Android tablets.

So where does this leave us?  Will/Should consumers own both devices?  I find this highly unlikely and unnecessary.  Instead, I think consumers will fall in one camp or the other for the reasons mentioned above.  Sure, some households may contain both devices, as each person's needs and preferences are different, but at the end of the day I think it can be settled by answering the following question: do you need a low-cost, focused but potentially lacking tablet (but stellar e-reader), or do you need a premium laptop replacement with less limitations?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

XenApp 6.0: Printers Fail to Autocreate on a Mac

I got a call from one of our users that has a Mac at home and connects to our Citrix XenApp farm through our Access Gateway.  Apparently, everything was working fine, except that the printers locally attached to his Mac would not auto-create in his Citrix session.

While I enjoy using my Macbook at home, we have no Apple gear here in our office, so I was unable to do any tests in our lab environment.  That's when I decided to call on the power of Google for help, and stumbled across the following Citrix article: Printers Defined on a Mac Client Fail to Auto-Create when Connecting to XenApp 5.0 on Windows 2008

Basically, the issue was that a printer driver (the HP Color Laserjet 4500 PS for XenApp 5, or the HP Color Laser Jet 2800 Series PS for XenApp 6) was no longer installed on our XenApp servers.  Early on, before we learned about the pains of printing in Citrix, we freely installed drivers for printers.  After finding out that was a very bad idea, I went on a driver purging spree, only allowing battle-tested drivers that were absolutely necessary to be installed on our farm.  I must have deleted the required driver in this process, as it is apparently installed by XenApp automatically.

For those curious, the reason why you need these HP drivers in the first place is because, for the time being, the driver that Citrix uses for their Universal Print Driver is not compatible with Macs.  So -- if you find that your Mac printers are not auto-creating, double check to make sure the required driver is installed!