iPad and the erosion of HD

The App Store is fragmented by Moore’s Law, technological advancements, and good ol’ fashioned nonsense. Older iDevices lack Dr. Who’s assortment of GB’s, and new devices have added MHz’s, GHz’s, gyro thingies, and doohickies to Hell only knows where. Even the tamest of games and apps needs to run some sort of disclaimer, proving that it won’t destroy an iPhone 2G. But now, thanks to the iPad, we got something more to contend with: HD – whatever that is.

Firstly, let’s go back a couple of years to the end of the 1990’s when ‘extreme’ was a goldmine. Some marketing genius dropped it at some boring meeting. Some semi-sharp boss picked it up and from there, the future was etched in stone; everything and everyone just had to became extreme.

Extreme has a few real dictionary meanings:

  1. reaching a high or the highest degree; very great
  2. furthest from the center or a given point
  3. either of two abstract things that are as different from each other as possible

In light of those definitions, some extreme advertising makes sense. Most of it, however, wears silly like an Oprah book event. There is nothing extreme about jeeps, nothing extreme about wireless communication, and nothing extreme about poker. Throw in some blood, a civil war and the corroboration of God’s existence, and you might have extreme poker. The same might go for wireless communication, but my internal jury is still out about the jeeps.

HD is just this decade’s extreme. The iPad’s load of new ‘HD’ apps are bogus. The new iDevice has up to 64 gigabytes of space, an untied 3G modem, a speedy A4 processor, better speakers. Most notable, however, is the expansive glass plate, a bit of polished sand that houses the safely nerdy resolution of 768*1024 pixels. The iPad looks great. But, it ain’t HD by any modern definition, and neither is its slew of HD apps.

Until the iPad’s debut, HD referred to TV spec; its roots are in captured motion. It’s a term that’s been misused before and one that’s suffering an evasion of reality now.

It’s supposed to be a standard. There is the issue of pixel spec, a number the iPad doesn’t meet. HD starts with a vertical resolution of 720 pixels – something the iPad has covered. The next bit, the horizontal stripes, however, flummox the iPad. Real HD needs 1280 pixels going the fat way. The iPad doesn’t do that, not by a couple hundred or so blocks.

Like the iPhone 3GS, it can play back HD content. From Apple’s standpoint, it is a HD-capable device – at least as those two letters represent content playback. But after that, things get extremely sticky.

There are two flavours of iPad apps: native, made-for-iPad applications, and the sort that evolved to the new platform from their iPhone precursors and got a nice price upgrade along the way. The former is being shunted as ‘HD’. This is problematic. Firstly, it suckers users into paying twice for the same app just for pixel perfection. Secondly, those pixels do not mean HD.

They do mean fragmentation, however. It is hard for devs to re-develop an app to fit the new screen, especially as most apps work from pixel-perfect templates that derive their ergonomics from the iPhone. You don’t just wish-wash a wand and get quadruple the resolution, but the new ‘HD’ appended app category would make you think so. At the rate these new ‘HD’ apps are hitting the App Store, it sure seems easy.

Currently, the App Store is tied to the most popular smartphone and the most popular tablet computing device. There is no real competition from a single platform anywhere in the world. Both devices drive the market, drive innovation, and force the hands of the competition.

While geeks and Home theatre buffs know that HD is a TV spec, your granny, your next door neighbour, and Oprah, certainly don’t. To them, HD is whatever they are told it is. The rush of ‘HD’ apps, like the rush on the word ‘extreme’ will only distort the HD reality as in the real world, markets are driven on the ignorance of the consumer.

Today HD could be overrun by an ignorant market. Hardware developers could save a lot if their market expects that ‘HD’ and iPad resolution are synonymous. Because Oprah and everyone will get an iPad and believe two-cent marketing, HD is headed for Palmer Eldritch ubiquity. I envision a friendly future of HD dishwasher, hairnets, and jeeps.

But as the masses hallucinate on iPad HD and developer wuffie, what happens to normal ol’ computers? This current Safari 4 window is 1293*871 pixels. Media be damned, it is HD, at least as envisioned by an iPad-stupified audience. Safari 4 HD. Desktop HD. iTunes HD. Stickies HD. The HD list HD goes HD on HD.

Byword-ing of HD may solve in-the-red businesses, but it is poor form.

While I welcome the iPad, I don’t welcome our new clueless HD overlord.

  • NineSwords

    Just pretend apps are delivered via floppy….

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