Saturday, January 21, 2012

Apple ... I want to like them ...

     Apple released iBooks 2 and iBooks Author the other day, and after my initial "wow" effect wore off, I am left feeling rather disappointed. Not in the capabilities of the software, or even the idea. Far from it. In fact I applaud Apple for trying to skull drag our broken public education system out of a nearly centuries old system that is not only broken but continues to fail most American children every day.

    I will begin with a brief overview of iBooks 2. I use iBooks on my iPhone, and when iBooks 2 was released, I updated to the new iBooks 2. For iPhone and iPod Touch users, there is no change to the application. For iPad users, the store now includes a "Text Books" section which has a few of the first iBooks Text Books. What this means is, to view and use these new text books, I need an iPad.

    Really Apple? The app is not available for osX, that means these new "revolutionary" text books can only be viewed on an iPad. The retina display on the iPhone 4 and 4S are more than capable of viewing these books. In fact, the iPhone 4S (which is the model I have) even has the exact same dual core A5 processor as the iPad. There is no technical reason for this limitation. While the iPhone 4S is limited to a 960x640 screen size compared to the iPad's 1024x768, the difference is really rather small. In fact it's 64x128. Thats it.

    Granted Apple is nearly anal retentive about user experience, but I am sure they can find a way to make this work. Who knows, it may become an option in future releases.

    iBooks Author is also not without fault. Don't get me wrong, the application is brilliant in both form and function. For both the professional and would-be desktop publicist, this application brings a new level of ease and style to what can be a vary tedious project. In capabilities alone, it blows Microsoft Publisher out of the water. In fact I haven't seen anything that can put together entirely interactive books with as much style and professional polish as iBooks Author. I will give credit where it is due, this is a truly amazing piece of software.

   The problem lies in execution, or rather the lack of it. Once again, you are irrevocably tied to the tablet. You can create to your hearts content. When it comes time to preview you better have an iPad handy because you cannot "preview" it on your Mac outside of "editing" mode. The books created can only be view on the iPad or iPad 2. When you publish, you publish only to the iTunes Store, so you can download it via iBooks 2, on your iPad.

    While it is true that there are a few school districts that have taken up the iPad, the fact is most have not. In fact, most school districts continue to find ways (mostly detrimental) to work within ever higher demands and ever decreasing budgets. More students. Less money. Broken system.

    The fact is, America is not losing in education, we have already lost. In fact, our public school system is not even a contender on the world stage. Our children, as a nation, are comparatively stupid. Fact.

    When we take all this into account; the idea is great, the execution is flawed. The only way this will work is for an expensive and massive deployment of iPads to every student in every school in the country. But wait, there are other ways.

    Idea #1: Open the standard to everyone, on any device or computer. Not going to happen, but it is a great idea.

    Idea #2: Release a 7" iPad (the iPad mini?) for $299. This would allow even the most underprivileged schools to consider massive adoption and put more iPads in to the majority of school children. Considering the ever shrinking middle class, it won't be long (if it isn't true already) before the "underprivileged" become the majority.

    Idea #3: Parents actually get involved in their children's education and take charge of it. (American's as a species are generally considered too lazy to get this done and for the most part I agree)

    I hope this "Apple event" at least wakes people up to the problem even though I doubt it will have much of an effect. Most parents will most likely just say "wow thats cool" and move on. They will continue doing nothing but what they have always done; waiting for someone else to fix their kids so they don't have too. They will go back to watching the "show of the week" and complaining about how much the government isn't doing for them. 

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