Permanent Secretary of Cabinet Office wants Apple in Government

From the BBC:

Ian Watmore — permanent secretary of the UK’s Cabinet Office, and in charge of a government efficiency drive — is calling for the UK government to end its dependence on Microsoft products, according to the BBC. Microsoft products are currently used by about 90 percent of civil servants in the UK. The government is committed to using more open-source software to save money, says Watmore, although this is being balanced with attention to the threat of hacking.

Watmore notes that he would nevertheless like the UK government to turn to Apple more often. “I personally would like to see people move off Microsoft products onto open source or use Apple technology,”

I wish he’d replaced the letters in bold with the word “other“. Replacing Microsoft with Apple isn’t the goal here. Creating an environment based on open standards and protocols and file formats should be the aim. Shame on him.

iPad 2

I’ve been using the iPad 2 a lot this week – especially because the evening after I synced with my Mac, the Mac decided to develop a disk corruption issue. So Saturday morning was spent backing up my data so that I could do a quick re-install on Monday night (because, stupidly, I left my install disks in the office.) and it took all of Tuesday to restore my data because USB is rubbish protocol to transfer a lot of data. My Mac spent all of the downtime shut down and in a drawer until I could apply the remedies.

So iPad was my main machine from Friday evening until Tuesday evening. Not too long, you might say, but then I’m a heavy computer user.

And pretty much replace my laptop it did. With the HDMI adapter it mirrored flawlessly and allowed me to present at multiple meetings from within Keynote but also from within Pages and other apps. I was able to live demo games like Hungry Monsters to people on a massive projector screen. And it worked easier and quicker than any laptop I have ever used. There’s something to be said for simplicity.

I found myself more focused when writing up a report (with a three hour deadline). I found Keynote on iPad to be an absolute pleasure – even when I had to cut and paste multiple graphics between two different presentations. And it lasted the full day allowing me to wander around town with only the smallest of satchels containing only the iPad and a VGA adapter.

So when I read articles that say the iPad is the Holy Grail of Computing, I find it difficult to disagree. My family have a lot of 1st generation iPads and it is those family members who have the least IT problems. They don’t complain about browser crashes or slow internet. They don’t seem to have email problems and they’re really happy with the number and diversity of apps they have installed. For myself as the tech support guy who supports a family of non-techies, the iPad truly is the holy grail – even more than Mac OS X, which was a revolution in itself. iPad is just light years ahead of “general purpose” computers in terms of ease of use.

iPad is many things but I am becoming convinced it is not an eBook reader. I just don’t really enjoy reading plain ebooks on the iPad. I’ve not really tried Arlene’s Kindle with long form text but I don’t enjoy reading on the iPad – other than the copious amounts of text I consume on t’Internet. But where iPad shines is in the “modern” replacement for the book. Whether it’s the great apps by TouchPress or the amazing Alice for iPad (Youtube link), then there’s a change in what “books” are. And it’s bigger than the difference between hand-scribed books and the introduction of the Gutenberg press.

It’s not all roses of course. The lack of a “file bucket” to save things to can be a pain and it means extra steps to be a bit clever about sharing files. Thankfully, Dropbox provides an extremely compelling solution (and if you sign up using this link, I get extra space…wheee!) which syncs files between my Mac, my Windows installation, my iPad and my iPhone. In truth, I could keep everything in the Dropbox cloud and be extremely happy. But that’s my only criticism of the iPad and even that has a very nice workaround. – and if you use GoodReader (which has download-and-send-to-Dropbox support), then the workaround is complete. If only Apple supported iDisk this well. They could do a lot worse than to dump iDisk and use some of their $50B war chest to just buy Dropbox. Seriously – it’s that good.

Photos in iOS is possibly the most mind-numbing app. You can’t rotate photos. I mean – what? Considering the iPad has trouble orienting screenshots to the correct “gravity”, it seems like a curious and frankly frustrating omission.

Calendar on iOS is also weird in that you can’t swipe sideways between months but have to use a tiny arrow at the bottom. It’s like the developers forgot that they were developing for a touchscreen.

And notifications on iOS still suck as well. It’s the #1 thing I hope to see changed in iOS 5 (which we’ll likely see previewed at WWDC in June). There’s no way iOS should be saddled with modal alerts like we have now. The way they are implemented means that not only do I turn off the Alerts but when they come in, I’m tempted to write them down on paper as I dismiss them to help me remember what they were. That’s a nonsense. Maybe in iOS 5, a two-finder swipe down in Springboard will bring us to a Notifications manager? It could be that simple.

But none of these irritations change the fact that the iPad 2 is the best computer I’ve ever used. It’s ultra-mega-portable and when I combined it with a Bluetooth keyboard, a VGA adapter and a 19″ monitor, it turned into a usable workstation as well. Now that was a revelation.