On the Topic of Technology… 2

11 04 2011

April 11, 2011

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Roughly a year ago I wrote a blog article that described the process that I went through, wandering around a big chain electronics store in pursuit of an iPad.  I first wandered past the netbooks, and if that had not happened, I probably would have walked out of the store with an iPad rather than a Toshiba netbook.  The netbook still works reasonably well for those times when I need an ultra-portable full featured computer – however, I more than doubled the value of the netbook by installing 2GB of memory, upgrading Windows 7 Starter to Windows 7 Professional, and installing Microsoft Office 2010.

Well, nearly a year later with the launch of the iPad 2 underway, I again went for a walk through another big chain electronics store in search of an interesting electronics gadget.  I found the iPad 2 display and experimented with one of the two units that was on display.  My first reaction was a remark about the snazzy screen effects when opening applications – an impressive feature.  The iPad 2 reminded me a lot of the iPad that I experimented with a year earlier – it is a media consumption device.  Since I still have a Verizon wireless plan for Internet access, with steep overage charges, an Internet media consumption device would still have limited usefulness for me.  Still no Flash support, so that would limit its usefulness of accessing the Flash based sites (such as the Oracle support site) on the iPad 2.

I wandered around the electronics store a bit more and found another tablet tucked away in the corner with a couple of laptops – a Motorola Xoom with 3G wireless.  My first reaction to the less than snazzy screen effects (compared to the iPad 2) was simply – is that all there is?  I experimented with the tablet for a couple of minutes.  Neat satellite view of the store on the little tablet, and wow is it fast updating the screen.  Moderately neat book application.  Sweeping my finger across the screen… that’s kind of neat – I can’t do that on the netbook (the netbook and Xoom have similar screen dimensions and aspect ratio).  Viewing web pages seems to work, even if the websites deliver the mobile versions of the web pages.  Interesting, or as useless as the iPad 2 for what I would do with it?  I left the store empty handed.

I did a bit more research on the Motorola Xoom tablet.  It seems that not only does the Xoom have a 5 megapixel camera on its backside that records 720p video, but it also has a high resolution forward facing camera.  Oh, it supports Flash also, and is apparently the particular tablet model that Google used during devlopment of the new Android 3 (Honeycomb) operating system.  The information that I had found on the Internet suggested that the Xoom was less of a media consumption device than an iPad 2, and more of a content producer device.  Interesting, but can it run Oracle Database?

Considering that flyers and articles about various tablets (iPad, Zoom, BlackBerry, Dell, etc.)  were stacking up on my desk at work, I thought that I would try an experiment:

Zooming in on the center of the above picture, we see that the screen on the Xoom is the My Oracle Support Flash-based site.  As of yet I have not determined how to display the on-screen keyboard on demand, so I can’t yet type into the text entry fields:

Flash works, and I am able to see the non-mobile, non-limited versions of websites.  So, what is the killer application for the Xoom?  Well, it is hard to beat a talking cat for $1.00:

So, the question again, can it run Oracle?  Well, I think that this picture answers that question (click the piture to zoom in on the guy who is waving from the boat):

If it were not for the crashing applications including the Android Apps/Books Market and SpeedView (uses the Xoom’s built-in GPS to display various vehicle speed statistics), the device would be nearly perfect as a  productivity tool that also is able to consume media (the TuneIn Radio application is quite handy, and with an HDMI cable plugged into a 7.1 receiver, it sounds very good).  The QuickOffice application, at $15, is certainly less expensive than Office 2010 that is installed on the netbook; the Power Point document editor in QuickOffice seems to have difficulty with complexly formatted Power Point files, but it works OK as a viewer (as long as there is no animation).  The PDF viewer that is part of QuickOffice works, but it is not great.  No problem, just a couple more dollars for the ezPDF reader and I am able to view various PDF books and the Oracle documentation library.  Attaching a $12 HDMI cable will even allow the screen to be quickly projected onto the TV, while attaching the included USB cable allows organizing the various files loaded onto the Xoom into folders and to easily rename those files.

So, is it worth $600?  If you need a high definition video camera, a 5 mega-pixel camera, a GPS, easy/fast speech recognition, inexpensive applications, the ability to view just about any web page in a light-weight, mobile package, then the Xoom just might be worth $600.  If you have no use for those features, then the Xoom will make an excellent paperweight to keep the tablet flyers and news articles from blowing off the desktop.