My thoughts about iPad

By Ninh Nguyen · February 1, 2010

Apple iPad

The most common formula for a successful product now seems to be a great gadget with high quality "content" that fit together perfectly. It's easy to make some examples such as Apple iPod, Apple iPhone or Amazon Kindle.

  • iPod is a portable music player designed with big storage and high usability. It can play low-cost and high-quality songs distributed via iTunes easily. In other words, iPod has changed the way people buy and listen to music.
  • iPhone, a smart phone with technologies ahead of its time such as multi-touch screen, accelerometer (or at least these technologies had not gone mass before). But one of the main reasons make it a successful product is that it's not only a phone, it's also a great platform for developers to make beautiful and functional applications distributed via App Store. What I can say is iPhone has made a style all around the world.
  • Amazon Kindle is not only a great E-book reader but also a platform dedicated for digital media consumption. With electronic paper technology, Kindle beats many other kinds of e-book reader that have been released before. With tons of low-cost e-books which can be downloaded easily via Amazon Store, now Kindle is the number 1 e-book reader device although it's hard to say about other kinds of digital media in the future.

So what about the iPad which Apple just announced a few days ago? It seems to be a different story. iPad has a special concept when Steve Jobs positions it between Laptop and Smart Phone. This makes it have to fight with both.

In term of device, iPad is not really as great as iPod or iPhone at the time they were released. Beside of lacking specifications comparing with Laptop and Smart Phone (no keyboard, no camera, no standard ports, no GSM calling,...), hardly we can see real innovations from Apple here. Yes, I know why Apple only chooses "just enough" for their products (it's biz product design, not tech) but technologies and innovations of iPad are not enough to make people "wow" a lot during the presentation of Jobs. An incredible speed with low price due to A4 chip? Not enough even with normal users who already had an iPhone or a Macbook. Comparing with other tablet devices, iPad is also not really strong in competition.

So what about "content"? Content of iPad is mixed of iPod's, iPhone's and Kindle's but it's also not really great. iPad uses iPhone OS so all iPhone applications can run on it. But how these applications can beat powerful Windows and Linux applications? I know that many Apple fanbois still install Microsoft Office on their Mac although iWork already installed. And even Android applications are not less beautiful and functional than iPhone's. iBooks is also not strong enough to compare with Amazon both in quantity and quality.

In a conclusion, I can not say iPad will be a successful product or not but in my opinion, if it has any success, the success will not be as big as iPod's and iPhone's.

PS: I am thinking of a great device dedicated for information consumption especially user-generated content and focused on people's social graphs' updates. What do you think?

Lessons from Street Photography

By Ninh Nguyen · November 4, 2009

I love Street Photography, I love taking photos on streets though I am only an amateur. In fact, street photography does not require too much knowledge about this kind of art and you also don't need to care much on arrangement or light. The most important thing in street photography is Emotions. With any kind of camera, even point-and-shoot camera, you just go out and capture emotions on the street as they're in natural state.

Hong Kong Back Street

At first, I thought that I have to capture people's faces because it's where emotions are expressed most clearly. But, you know, it's not easy to come closely without making people to lose their natural emotions especially in Asian countries like Vietnam. Although taking photos at close range is best in street photography because you can capture every single tiny emotions, I still realized that emotions are expressed through every parts of body, not only face. Even a person turning back to you, you can still capture his emotions through their movements, gait,... And not only human, even a tree can also reflect emotions around. Once I went out and took photos in bad weather, I noticed that not only people out there were in hurry through the head wind to come back home as soon as possible but also trees were oscillating to follow the wind for surviving. It's really incredible!

So the first lesson here is to capture others' emotions, to understand others' feel, you must have precise eyes which can grasp every single tiny behaviors from every parts, every sides, even what you usually think they don't have any emotion at all.

Go working

When I started street photographing, I usually went out and tried to find moments of emotions. Once, I kept walking until I was too tired and decided to take a rest in a small park. It's amazing that I took more photos there than all photos I had took before combined while walking on the streets. I realized that when walking and paying too much attention, I missed more great moments than I thought. Just choose a good place, a crowed corner, a park, a school gates, will see emotions are everywhere and easily to notice. I think it's serene state helps me to "see" others' feel around rather than walking everywhere and seeking them.

The second lesson I can say is emotions are everywhere around you, you don't need to seek for them, just a little bit sensitive to notice moments of changes and you will see a life full of emotions.

Workers in Hong Kong

One thing I realized when sitting in a park and taking photos of people around is I had done this before but I didn't understand it. When I was sad, I usually went out to find a place where I could look people around then try to guess what they are thinking, what made them smile, what made them cry,...I thought I did that just to forget my sadness but it's more than that. I saw many great moments of emotions but I also failed to capture it. It's exactly the same as you fail to take a big chance although you know it's there.

The third lesson is you must keep your your sense working all the time and make it become your natural intuition if you want to capture great moments of emotions.

If you can do these three lessons well, undoubtedly you will be successful, successful not only in street photography but also in life.

Which box do you pick?

By Ninh Nguyen · October 19, 2009

I just read an interesting article on Hacker News: Rich vs. King in the Real World: Why I sold my company.

To summarize, the article is to explain why the author sold his company. There are two main points in his opinions:

  • People always consider to be "rich" or "king" (to have a lot of money to never have to work again or to build a lifestyle and personal identity).
  • When the amount of money crosses a critical line, it changes your lifestyle a lot!

Here is his graph which reflects his second point: Alt text

I admit that all the points are so true in real life. People want to be free to do whatever they want to make them happy. But somehow it's only right with regular people. He used an example of Box Game to illustrate how amount of money affects your choice:

Imagine I have two opaque boxes. Box A contains $10. Box B has a 50% chance of containing $20, and a 50% chance of containing nothing at all. You pick either box and take whatever's inside. Which box do you pick?

and the difference when:

Now box A holds $5,000,000. Box B either holds $10,000,000 or nothing, 50/50 chance. Which do you pick?

Sure, most of us will choose box A. But like a comment on Hacker News, this only makes people like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates so extraordinary! They don't really care about "rich" or "king" (or look like that). They aim to change the world. In other word, they choose neither box A nor box B, they're looking for box X, Y or Z.

This story reminds me of an article of Paul Bucheit.

Every system has two sets of rules: The rules as they are intended or commonly perceived, and the actual rules ("reality"). In most complex systems, the gap between these two sets of rules is huge.

Sometimes we catch a glimpse of the truth, and discover the actual rules of a system. Once the actual rules are known, it may be possible to perform "miracles" -- things which violate the perceived rules.

Not everyone has the hacker mindset (society requires a variety of personalities), but wherever and whenever there were people, there was someone staring into the system, searching for the truth. Some of those people were content to simply find a truth, but others used their discoveries to hack the system, to transform the world.

Yes, there are always such persons have the hacker mindset like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg hacking systems, transforming the world and creating the future.

And you, you just follow the common rules or try to discover the actual rules? Which box do you pick?