Stories by Author

Stewart Wolpin

writer

Stewart Wolpin has been writing about consumer electronics for more than 30 years and has attended more than 40 CESs (there used to be a summer show in Chicago). He is a judge for the Consumer Electronics Association Hall of Fame and writes the bios of the electees. He also has written on small stakes poker ("The Rules of Neighborhood Poker") and baseball ("Bums No More: The Championship Season of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers").

 
Over these last few gift-consideration weeks, I've gotten numerous queries about and given multiple demonstrations of Apple's iPad mini, both from people interested in giving one and from those interested in getting one. Nearly universally, the response from women I spoke with to the iPad mini is a variation of my wife's "it's so cu-u-u-u-te!" Over the same period of gift-consideration weeks, I've gotten absolutely zero queries about anything related to Windows 8: not about Windows 8 desktop PCs, not about Windows 8 laptops, not about Windows 8 tablets, not about Windows Phone 8 smartphones. And apparently I'm not the only one apathetic about Windows 8.
 
Now that the election is blissfully behind us, maybe it's safe to make grand political pronouncements without seeming to be partisan, such as: We Americans used to build big. From the Erie Canal to the transcontinental railroad, from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Hoover Dam, from the interstate highway system to putting a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth, we love to build big things. But what have we done on this monumental scale lately? Many point with pride to our public project penury as saving future generations a hefty bill. But it seems we also are robbing the future of not only monuments to our collective derring-do, but of necessary infrastructure advancements so the world we leave behind doesn't one day simply crumble from our niggling neglect. In this spirit, I have a suggestion for a grand public project — not a visible monument to our achievements, but an invisible one. A grand project that would make us all safer and secure, and rid our landscape of possibly the ugliest intrusion on our scenery: Cables.
 
An astute friend of mine once satirically defined our age of seemingly instant obsolescence: just buy and thro-o-o-ow it away. At first blush, it's funny because it can't be true — you don't buy something and then just throw it away. But after Apple's iPad press event Tuesday I'm not so sure.
 
In the Chuck Jones cartoon classic, "Hare Tonic," Elmer Fudd is convinced by a certain long-eared leporid that he has contracted a case of the dreaded rabbititis, complete with swirling red-and-yellow spots before his eyes. I'm getting the sense Samsung is suffering from a similar sickness I'm calling Apple-itis. Lately, every marketing move Samsung makes includes some overt or covert reference to products from — or customers of — the Cupertino giant. While perhaps initially clever, Samsung's growing obsession with Apple is becoming wearying. Worse, it's ruining my post-season baseball enjoyment.
 
What happens when you die? No matter what anyone may assert, we don't really know what exists beyond this corporal mortal coil. Some angelic (or overheated sulfuric) afterlife, a ghostly post-existence haunting our former haunts, reincarnation as some animal or famous person, probably the big sleep of nothingness. We do know a bit more about what of our physical possessions we can pass on once we, uh, pass on, such as our record or CD collection. But once you pass away, your iTunes digital music tracks cannot be passed on to another iTunes account holder. I and many folks think there's something fundamentally wrong about this, including Bruce Willis, that has induced in me and likely many others a wave of iTunes buyer's remorse.
 
In the days and weeks following the passing of Steve Jobs nearly a year ago, there was much speculation about how Apple would fare without its visionary-in-chief. Sure, Tim Cook was a wizard at managing Apple's supply chain and complex web of partnerships, and Jony Ive is a masterful designer. But like any game of Jenga, remove one key piece and the whole structure collapses, regardless of its previous integrity. Yes, the iPhone 5 is a wonderful phone, and Apple will sell a gazillion of them. But it's not a peerless phone. And given Apple's recent iOS 6 issues, one has to wonder just how much Jobs's magical eye for detail and anticipating what we want before we knew we wanted it is missed. The clue that Steve Jobs's presence at Apple's helm is missed isn't what's amiss with iPhone and iOS 6, but what's missing.
 
Just as in politics, the vast majority of the smartphone universe is made up of iOSocrats and Androidicans (or, if you will, Androidicrats and iOSicans) with only a small sliver of undecided (or older BlackBerry users deciding to reject the useless protest third party candidate vote, and non-smartphone users finally willing to dive in). Androdicans will buy only Android phones; iOSocrats will stick with whatever candidate Apple annually nominates. So any review of the new iPhone 5, such as this one, will appeal largely to current iPhone owners and the small slice of the feature phone undecided. So the question then is this: should current iPhone owners move up to the iPhone 5? Based on two fun-filled days playing with my new iPhone 5, I'd say this: Are you friggin' kidding me? You will love this new iPhone.
 
A few months after the iPad came out, computer makers who had made convertible laptops started phasing them out, believing the iPad usurped their need. What's old is new again: several computer makers are planning to introduce new Windows 8 convertible laptops soon after Microsoft makes the OS official on October 26. I agree with the assessment that the iPad stymied the need for convertible laptops; if you need a keyboard with the lighter-than-a-convertible iPad, or even an Android tablet, you could buy an auxiliary Bluetooth QWERTY keypad. In fact, your bag would probably be lighter with an iPad and an ultrabook both contained therein, as opposed to a single convertible laptop. But if these new hybrids succeed, we can't keep calling them "convertible laptops" (for one thing, it takes too long to type). So, I'm inventing a new name for these sometimes-a-laptop, sometimes-a-tablet combo computers.

Pages