The Packing House

I had a random encounter with the owner of The Packing House restaurant ( the other day at one of my favorite restaurants in town: Ward’s House of Prime ( As many of you know, I am a major foodie! I eat out more than 10 times per week and I had never dined at The Packing House. It was never brought to my attention as a place that I must try in the Milwaukee area.

Let me be the first to tell you that you will be doing your taste buds a disservice if you do not try The Packing House as soon as possible! My wife and I had dinner there last night, and the experience was absolutely phenomenal.

We started the meal with the house special crab stuffed mushrooms, which was great. I also had a Caesar salad. I consider myself a Caesar salad expert, and this is one of the best I have ever had. This is an Awesomefat Must Try!

For her entree, my wife had the Salmon with Dill Sauce, which she said was right up there with the best she has had. I had the Grand Steer Filet with their Cognac sauce. The steak itself is a must try, but the sauce was amazing! I also tried their house mustard sauce which was nearly as good.

Call 414-483-5054 for a reservation today, and post here with your experience.


The New iPad

Should you buy the new iPad? The short answer is yes, but the reasons might surprise you. If you do not currently own an iPad and you will do more than just read books then I would recommend that you do get the new iPad. If you only read books, then I would recommend that you get to the Kindle fire.

The Kindle fire is $200, the iPad is $500. The iPad is better than the Kindle fire, but if you’re just a reader, it is not $300 better. Having said that, if you already have an iPad 2, you should get the new iPad for one big reason and a secondary smaller reason only.

The biggest reason to get the new iPad is the new retina display. Every single thing that you do on an iPad will involve the screen, and the new screen is significantly better than the old screen. I can get into the math that actually proves that the new screen is much better than the old screen, but just know that you will be able to instantly tell the difference between the new iPad and the iPad 2.

The secondary reason to consider the new iPad is the voice dictation feature. In fact, I am dictating this blog using my iPhone 4S using voice dictation. This will allow you to easily speak your emails and interface with any other application that used to require typing using your voice.

Without the above two features, I would only recommend the new iPad over the iPad 2 for a very small percentage of the population. The new quad core processor is faster than the previous dual core processor, but that won’t have a big enough impact for most people. The upgraded camera and the 4G LTE compatibility will also only impact a small percent of the population.

The bottom line here is the new iPad is an amazing piece of technology and due to the new screen and to a lesser extent the voice dictation, everyone should consider purchasing this new and exciting product. I look forward to hearing your comments.


Google TV: friend or foe?

I just picked up the new Google TV by Sony. There’re currently two different Google TVs, one is by Logitech and the other is by Sony. The Sony one has a Blu-ray player. Besides some slight hardware differences that is pretty much the only difference. I installed it on one of my televisions last night and so far it is pretty slick. I have had the Apple TV since it first came out several years ago. I absolutely love my Apple TV. My main complaint with Apple TV at this point is that you cannot view your regular television through it. This is something that immediately impressed me about Google TV. I connect my cable box to the Google TV and then I connect the Google TV to my television set.

Google TV comes with a remote control that is similar in feel to an Xbox controller. I am not sure if I like that or not, but it is at least interesting. There is also an iPhone and Android app to control the Google TV. I have also found several other apps not made by Google that will control the Google TV. Some of those apps are even better than the Google app. I have just started playing with the device, but so far I would say I have mixed feelings. The interface is relatively unpolished much like the Android interface. This is not surprising since Google TV is actually running the Android OS. The device has an android marketplace with television specific apps. This is cool in concept, but there are few apps on there. I believe that this will be a huge market moving forward.

I also like being able to search my television channels. Think of Google TV as providing an interface that sits on top of your cable box’s TV Guide and allows you to search or browse through it in a way that is faster and more convenient than the TV Guide was before. It is very cool that you can search or browse top movies and it will show you them on Netflix, Amazon video, and hopefully Hulu in the near future. It also shows you whether they’re playing on TV now or when they will be playing next.

The bottom line is there is tons of potential here, but it still feels unpolished. I do think it enhances your television watching ability already. It is very obvious that Apple is moving in a very similar direction. In fact Steve Jobs biography mentions that Steve said he finally figured out how to do TV correctly. I am excited to see what Apple comes out with. I believe that Apple will probably be the industry leader in this area, but Google will be able to compete strongly. In this case Apple took the first step with their original hobby device the Apple TV, then Apple took the next step with their re-vitalized Apple TV at the $99 price point. Then Google stepped in and said “hey let’s integrate this with your Cable, DirecTV or Dish Network box. I think Apple will follow suit and will likely do a more polished job initially, but consumers will definitely benefit from the direction things are moving and the competition between Apple and Google.

I will blog again on this topic as I find new cool things with my Google TV as this is my feeling after less than 24 hours of playing with the device. At about the $200 price point for the Google TV, it is twice the price of the Apple TV. The main things that Google TV brings to the table that Apple TV does not is integration with your current television service and the ability to search for video content across multiple sources like Netflix, Cable, and Amazon. I think that might be worth $100. At this point I would likely call it a tie.

So you are thinking about buying a new Digital Camera. – Part 2: File Size

When we last spoke we demystified the concept of Megapixels in digital cameras.  We talked about how higher megapixels allows you to take pictures that are larger in physical size without sacrificing quality.  Most of us, however, take pictures that are smaller in physical size like a 4″ x 6″, so we don’t need all the megapixels that money can buy.  We also talked about pixel density and what the human eye can see, that is to say 327 dots per inch (DPI).  Today we are going to talk about how much our images weight.  That is to say, how much disk space they take up.  Many of us take our pictures and email them to friends, upload them to Facebook, or digitally transfer them by some other means over the Internet.


There are some limitations of which we need to be aware.  For starters when you “upload” your picture to Facebook or send an email with an attachment, you are using your Internet connection’s upstream.  Learn more about this in next week’s post talking about picking the correct internet connection.  For now, it is sufficient to say that your upload speed will likely be significantly slower than your download speed.  This means that the larger your image in terms of file size, the longer it will take to upload or send the email.  Beyond this, many email providers and online photo albums have a maximum file size that is a fraction of the size of what your brand new digital camera is capable of producing with all the settings maxed out.


When you take a 4″ x 6″ picture at 327DPI you will need 2,566,296 total pixels (little dots of color).  Each of these pixels is represented by a 16bit, 32bit, or 64bit number.  The higher the number of bits, the more unique colors that can be represented at the cost of file size.  A bit is a single 0 or 1, a byte is 8 0′s or 1′s.  Below is a table of the number of unique colors in the various color schemes:

-16bit color scheme: a total of 2^16 (65,536) unique colors where each pixel adds 16bits (or 2 bytes) to the file size

-32bit color scheme: a total of 2^32 (4,294,967,296) unique colors where each pixel adds 32bits (or 4 bytes) to the file size

-64bit color scheme: a total of 2^64 (18,446,744,073,709,600,000) unique colors where each pixel adds 64bits (or 8 bytes) to the file size


So a 4″ x 6″ picture taken at 327 DPI (2,566,296 total pixels) would have the following file sizes at the various color schemes

16 bit - 41,060,736 bits or 4.89MB

32 bit – 82,121,472 bits or 9.79MB

64 bit - 164,242,944 bits or 19.58MB


The punch line is the larger the file size, the more time and potential hardship you will have sharing it with friends.  Now how many bits of color do you really need?  Well that depends, it is believed that the untrained human eye can distinguish 200 unique colors of various intensities for a total of about 30,000 total colors.  The trained artist with significantly higher color sensitivity can detect as many as 100 million unique colors.  So as far as the human eye is concerned, you never need 64bit color until we upgrade our eyes and even 32bit color is mostly overkill.  If you want to ensure that you satisfy your superhuman friends, use 32bit color and they will be set.

Come back next week for a discussion of Internet Connection options!




Dr. Michael Litman, PhD

CEO & President


So you are thinking about buying a new Digital Camera. – Part 1: Megapixels

So you walk into Best Buy wanting to buy a new digital camera. The old days of carrying film with you and being limited on how many pictures you can take is over. Now cameras come with removable storage allowing you to take thousands of pictures. So you walk into the digital camera department and see all of these cool cameras. The “specialist” asks you how many megapixels you want? Now you look like a deer in the headlights and your natural inclination is to want the most megapixels. More is better right?

It depends on what you mean by better. There are all sorts of ways to compare cameras. For example, not all optics are created equal. So understand that there is more to digital cameras than just megapixels, but our focus here is just megapixels. When you take a picture, what will you be using it for? Some people will want to have it printed into a 4″ x 6″ physical photograph. Others might want to just keep it in an online photo album that they can share with other people. So what does all of this mean in terms of megapixels?

A megapixel is a measurement of the number of millions of pixels per square inch. A pixel is a single dot of color that when combined with other dots of color make up a picture. Now we have another measurement to consider: DPI (Dots Per Inch). Actually DPI is not the accurate term here, PPI (pixels per inch) is, but I use DPI since it is typically the term used. DPI actually refers to how many dots of color are printed per inch on a physical medium like paper by a printer. PPI refers to how many pixels per inch are stored digitally in a picture. Regardless of those detail, the more pixels of data collected by a camera, the larger picture size you can have without losing quality. Typical DPI values are 72, 150, 300, & 600. The human eye can detect about 327 DPI, so let’s use that as our baseline for this article, as any more that that is a waste unless we upgrade our eyes.

So let’s take our 4″ x 6″ photograph as an example. Let’s say we want the picture to be 327 DPI, the total resolution would be ((4 x 327) x (6 x 327)) or 1308 x 1962 or 2,566,296 total pixels requiring a 2.57 MegaPixel camera (that is 2,566,296 / 1,000,000). So if you plan on either printing or displaying your pictures in 4″ x 6″ format, you do not need more than 3 MegaPixels.

So for some common picture sizes at maximum human eye DPI of 327 DPI, here are some MegaPixel breakdowns:

4″ x 6″ – 2.57 MegaPixel
5″ x 7″ – 3.75 MegaPixel
8″ x 10″ – 8.56 MegaPixel
11″ x 14″ – 16.48 MegaPixel
16″ x 20″ – 34.22 MegaPixel

Now you can go into Best Buy and buy the camera you actually need based on what you will use it for.

Tune in next week when we discuss the file size of these digital images. Even though you purchased a camera that gives you a certain maximum capability, you may choose to often operate it at lower setting to allow you to more easily email images to friends and family.

Dr. Michael Litman, PhD
President & CEO

Why does your company need a mobile application? (A look inside our sales process: Part 1)

I view mobile applications today as being in a very similar place to where websites were in the early days of the Internet.  The big companies had websites, but the rest of the world had not bought into the idea of a website.  Now, your company is not taken seriously unless you have a website.  The purpose of a website typically falls into 1 of 3 models: Promotional, Sales, or Both.  All good websites have a call to action.  A website may promote a person, business, idea, or product and ultimately drive the audience to hire the person or business, believe in an idea, or buy a product.  It is reasonable to say that some websites deliver functionality themselves.  For example, the Amazon website lets you create an account and do your shopping online all through the website.  Other websites promote a business.  For example, the website for a dentist has a goal of educating you about the dentist and ultimately driving you to their office to have your dental work done.


If we look for parallels in the mobile application space what we see is a lot of examples of apps that deliver functionality themselves, but far fewer examples of apps that promote an external business.  A business used to be cool if they had a website, now they are uncool if they don’t have one.  This is where businesses have an opportunity to boost business today.  If your business has a mobile application, and you include verbiage like find us on the app store, or there is an app for that in your promotional material you immediately set yourself apart from your competition that hasn’t bought into the concept of a mobile application.  In 2-3 years you will have to have a mobile application to compete and you will have lost your advantage if you don’t take advantage of this opportunity soon.  All of this is an easy sell in terms of convincing folks that they need and want a mobile application.  To use an analogy, a company may decide that having a private jet is something that would benefit their company and they probably would have one if it made financial sense.  Jets are millions of dollars and cost a lot to operate.  So how much will a mobile app cost you?


The short answer is: “it depends.”  The audience for this blog post is the small business or individual looking to promote themselves or business.  A custom mobile application for this group typically costs between $5000 and $25,000 depending on the complexity of the project and the number of different devices they want to support (iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad, Android, etc…).  Most small businesses are already spending a significant amount of money promoting their business in other ways like radio, tv, mailings, billboards, etc…  A billboard can cost $3000 per month, and radio/tv advertising can cost even more.  A custom mobile application is something you pay for once, and it is there forever.  When our clients consider how much they are already spending just to keep up with the competition a mobile application is an easy sell to set them apart from their competition.  So up to this point the sale of a mobile application for a business for promotional reasons is an easy one.  There is one final hurdle however…


Most small businesses do not just have $5000  to $25,000 sitting in the bank that they can spend on a mobile application regardless of how great of an idea it might be. We combat this problem by working with a financing company that allows our clients to finance our work over as much as 5 years.  While most small businesses can’t afford $5000 to $25,000 up front, they can afford roughly $200 a month to make a mobile application a reality for their business.  I encourage you to contact me today at 262-353-6205 or to talk about a project for your business and how much it will actually cost.  This discussion won’t cost you a dime and you are under no obligation to do anything.  So you literally have nothing to lose.


Stay tuned next week for when I discuss custom mobile application in the workplace to enhance productivity and to keep your clients coming back.  This is really an exciting time, and while this blog post was intended as a sales pitch to get you to contact us, I sincerely hope you have been educated.  This series will also delve into social media, custom websites, and turn-key complete solutions for businesses of all sizes.  We will also continue our consumer awareness series along side this effort.




Dr. Michael Litman, PhD

President & CEO



iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) vs Android: (Part 3: The Cellular Carriers)

Now that you know about the differences between iOS and Android the next thing to consider is your cell carrier.  My advice is to always to get the best smartphone that you can on the carrier that will give you good service.  If you have the best smart phone in the world on a network with terrible service in your area, you will not be a happy camper.  Android based smart phones are available for all carriers, while iOS based smart phones (iPhone) is only currently available on Verizon and AT&T.  So let’s compare the cellular providers and give some recommendations.
There are two things (besides price) to consider when selecting a cellular carrier: Voice service quality and Data service quality.  Is it more important to you to have the fastest data speeds or to have the most reliable voice service?  Obviously we all wish we could get both, but currently that is not the case.  As far as cellular carriers go, there are two technologies in use today.  One is called CDMA, the other is GSM.  As far as the big three in the United States: Verizon and Sprint are currently CDMA based networks, while AT&T is a GSM based network.  There are a lot of buzz words out there like 3g and 4g.  I’m going to put 4g aside for a moment and talk about 3g.  You watch commercials from Sprint and see them claim they are America’s FAVORITE 3g network.  Verizon says they are America’s LARGEST 3g network.  AT&T says they are America’s FASTEST 3g network.  The punchline here is that all 3g networks are not created the same.  Verizon and Sprint have a 3g network based on the CDMA technology.  AT&T has a 3g network based on GSM.
The real story here is in the history.  Verizon and Sprint were industry leaders in cellular data in the United States.  With this in mind they adopted the only viable technology option at the time which was CDMA.  Over time, CDMA has continued to increase in speed until a few years ago when it hit a wall around a theoretical max speed of 3.2 Mbps (around 1 Mbps in practice).  AT&T on the other hand had very little to offer data wise for a long time since GSM technologies lacked in the data department.  Eventually, however, this limitation was overcome and AT&T caught up with and surpassed Verizon and Sprint in speed.  AT&T commonly operates at 3.2 Mbps (with a speed of 3.2 Mbps in practice).  There are also several areas that support 7.2 Mbps cellular data over GSM.  So conservatively speaking, AT&T’s 3g is 3 to 6 times faster than 3g from Verizon or Sprint.  This is a fact, but there is also a catch.  There are many parts of the country where AT&T does not have 3g coverage, but Verizon and/or Sprint do.  In these cases, AT&T’s slower Edge network is about 5 times slower than 3g from Verizon or Sprint.  Which cellular provider is best for you mostly has to do with where you live and what services are available from each provider in that area.
As far as voice quality goes, the word on the street is that AT&T sucks and Verizon or Sprint are far superior.  I have to agree with this, but there is logic behind this that helps explain the data speeds as well.  It is a widely held belief that Verizon has more towers than AT&T because Verizon’s network seems to cover a much larger portion of the United States than AT&T.  The reality is that Verizon and AT&T have a similar number of total towers.  The real difference is in the technologies themselves.  The CDMA technology allows towers to be much more spread out since each tower can service a much larger area than GSM towers.  GSM towers have to be placed much closer together to accomplish the same coverage.  It is widely experienced that AT&T has faster data in areas they support 3g data coverage, but AT&T is also well known for being the king of dropped calls.  The reason for this has to do with the GSM technology itself.  Since GSM towers need to be placed much closer to each other, a phone call needs to be passed from tower to tower to maintain a call.  This produces more points of failure and results in more dropped calls in situations where a call could not be passed from one tower to another.  This can be due to glitchy software or GSM towers being slightly too far away from each other to pass a call.  As an example, in the Milwaukee area I can make phone calls on AT&T north of Glendale and south of Glendale, but there is a zone right around Glendale where there is poor AT&T coverage.  This produces a high likelihood of a dropped call when heading north to south or south to north.  Verizon and Sprint  allow for much more overlap between towers due to their CDMA technology.
The bottom line is that GSM is better as long as their is enough tower density to avoid dropped calls.  Unfortunately, this is often not the case, but it soon will be.  That latest craze is 4G. You have likely seen commercials from all the providers about their 4G.  Again, this is a pretty similar argument to 3G where not all 4G are created equally.  Without getting into speed details there is a very interesting thing that is occurring right now.  Verizon’s 4G network is a GSM based network just like AT&T’s 4G network is and 3G network was.  So Verizon is switching from CDMA to GSM.  What does this mean for the consumer?  Well it means that the LARGEST network and the FASTEST network are now using the SAME network technology.  The hope would be that this produces the LARGEST and FASTEST 4G network.  Time will tell, but it certainly seems to be heading that way.  Sprint is dabbling in this other 4G technology called WiMax which is CDMA based.
As far as advice goes, at the software level I recommend iOS based devices like iPhone over Android based devices every time if all other things are equal.  For example, if you are in an area with great AT&T coverage, you would be an idiot if you chose and Android based device over iPhone on AT&T.  Now that iPhone is available on Verizon that same could be said for someone is a great Verizon area.  Where Sprint currently shines is in pricing.  Many people like Sprint because they are cheaper and offer unlimited everything.  If this financially makes the most sense for you, then you are stuck with an Android device so now you need to pick a device that runs the Android operating system the best to give you the best possible end user experience.  To clarify, Android is NOT crap.  It is just less polished than iPhone.  Read my previous 2 blog posts for details.  My prediction moving forward is that Sprint may find it increasingly difficult to remain profitable.  As Verizon and AT&T team up to create the biggest and fastest network, Sprint will have a very tough time holding onto customers.  In the end there will be only Verizon and AT&T left to dominate the cellular market in the United States.  All of this will happen over the next 2 years.  As far as this exact moment, 3G is the base reality with 4G only available in a few cities.  So the recommendation would be as follows:
- If you live in an AT&T 3G serviced area, get the iPhone on AT&T
- if you live in a Verizon 3G serviced area and can afford Verizon, get the iPhone on Verizon
- if you live in a Sprint 3G serviced area or choose sprint for its value get the highest rated Android device at the time.
- Otherwise you should move :)
Dr. Michael Litman, PhD
President & CEO

iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) vs Android: (Part 2: The App Stores)

The big deal with smart phones these days is the concept of an App.  An app is a computer program written specifically to run on a mobile operating system like iOS or Android.  An app has the goal of giving an end-user an experience that is custom designed for the smaller screen size and form factor of a mobile device.  As a starting point, one might consider a website like  If you visit using a mobile web browser that site will look very nice, but will be extremely difficult to read as all the text will be tiny.  Mobile web browsers like Mobile Safari and Mobile Chrome have the ability to “pinch to zoom” so a user can zoom in and read the site easily.  This is extra work on the user’s part and it still will not deliver a polished end-user experience for Etrade.  In light of this, Etrade has an app available that takes their online banking and investment products and delivers them to the mobile screen in a well thought out way specifically designed for a device of that size.  Beyond this the mobile application space has gotten the creative juices of software developers flowing and new types of software utilities have been invented as a result of these mobile devices and their app stores.
The app store model is a mystery to most.  This is how it works.  A software developer who does not work for Apple or Google writes a mobile application.  They then have to choose how to distribute this application.  Apple started the App Store craze 3 years ago by allowing developers to submit their applications to Apple’s App Store.  Apple would handle all of the credit card processing and delivery of the application to the mobile devices and simply send a check to the developer each month.  In return, Apple takes 30% of each sale leaving the developer with 70%.  So if I have a 99 cent app, I get 70 cents each time one sells.  When you consider the cost of processing credit cards, delivering software electronically, and all the other technical details that go into this process it is really a great deal for developers.  At the same time, it is a great deal for Apple as they already had the infrastructure in place for sales with their itunes music store.  Now Apple can take existing resources and have developers fill up the App Store with thousands of applications for consumers to choose from.  Apple also lets a developer release free apps in which Apple takes 30% of nothing, which is nothing.  There is a price to pay for a developer to play on the App Store.  Apple charges $99 per year which gives the developer the right to release as many apps as they would like on the App Store.  This fee also comes with a few technical support credits as an added bonus in case a developer has any problems they need help solving.  About 1.5 years later, Google followed suit with their own app store call the Android Marketplace which follows the same 70/30 model Apple uses for developers.
So which app store is better?  Well that is a tricky question.  Generally speaking Apple tends to be consumer oriented while Google tends to be developer oriented.  Both have their pros and cons.  Apple has a strict app approval process that takes about a week from the time the developer submits an application to the time it is potentially visible on the App Store.  During this process an app is reviewed for content, crashes, and anything else Apple deems to be bad for them or their customers.  Only after this process is an app allowed on the store.  I have never personally had a problem with any of my apps getting approved, but it is well documented that some developers have spent countless hours creating amazing apps only to have Apple reject them for various reasons.  These reasons could be as specific as the app having content that Apple does not want on their store, or that it directly competes with an Apple product, but it could also be ambiguous as Apple reserves the right to reject an app for whatever reason they want.  To play on Apple’s App Store as a developer, you have to play by their rules.  This benefits the consumer by reducing the number of low quality, malicious, and bug laden apps that make it onto the App Store.
Google on the other hand has no review process.  A developer can submit an app and within 5 minutes it is on the Android Marketplace.  These apps can be malicious in nature, low quality, or may be high quality applications deserving of this treatment.  This model benefits the developer, but potentially hurts the consumer.  Let me flip the problem upside down now by sharing an experience I had.  I once released an app on Apple’s App Store and the app had a serious bug that Apple did not find during their review process.  This bug basically made the app unusable by the end-user if they were doing a specific thing.  A user brought the bug to my attention, I promptly fixed it, and uploaded the updated app for Apple’s review.  A week later the update went live.  My users had to wait a week for a simple bug fix to be released.  I had a similar experience on the Android Marketplace where a user brought a bug to my attention.  I was able to fix the bug and immediately release the update which was immediately available to the end user.  They were very satisfied with the quick turn around time.  While I’m sure my Apple App Store end users were less amused by the bug during the week they had to wait.
So which app store is better?  I guess I believe some hybrid of the two would be ideal.  As a developer who has no intent on releasing malicious or low quality applications I prefer the Android Marketplace model.  As a consumer who uses many application on my mobile devices, I prefer Apple’s App Store model which gives me more confidence in the apps I download.  I personally wish that Apple had a trust program in place where a developer can agree to terms of not writing malicious code etc… at the penalty of having their rights on the app store removed and earned revenue returned.  This would be in exchange for the right to immediately publish apps to the App Store.  Similarly, I think Google should crack down on what they allow onto their Android Marketplace.
Performance indicates that Apple’s App Store is the winner, but I think both models need some work.  Stay tuned for next week’s blog about the fragmentation in the Android Marketplace that causes additional concerns for the end user.
Dr. Michael Litman, PhD
President & CEO

iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) vs Android: (Part 1: The Operating Systems)

Apple iPhone Android

As always, let’s start off with some facts.  First off, many people refer to Android (aka the Droid) as if it is a single device.  In actuality, Android is the software operating system written by Google and freely licensed to hardware manufacturers for use on their mobile devices.  So when you buy a smart phone running Android, you are buying a device created by a company like Samsung, HTC, etc… running software written by Google.  Similarly, iOS is the software operating system written by Apple and only running on Apple’s hardware devices like iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.


Having said that, there is an old saying that “History Repeats Itself.”  25 years ago when Apple and Microsoft were fighting over the desktop computer market a similar comparison could have been made.  Apple had their Mac Operating System that only ran on Apple computers while Microsoft had their Windows Operating System that ran on thousands of computers from different manufacturers.  To this day, I tend to defend Microsoft when people complain about Microsoft’s software being buggy etc…  Microsoft chose to solve a much harder problem than Apple.  Microsoft wrote an operating system that had to work on many different computers, which is a much harder problem to solve than Apple having an operating system that just runs on their own computers.  So Apple controlled the software and the hardware.  Microsoft was also the first to strike in this business so they had the upper hand from the get go.  The resulting outcome was Microsoft being one of the most financially successful companies in history while still having a reputation for buggy software.


The next question I have to ask is how does a consumer measure success?  As a consumer, do we care which company is solving the harder problem or which has more money?  The answer is a resounding NO!  We care about what technology can do for us.  This stance is exaggerated in the mobile computing space we are playing in today.  In the Microsoft vs Apple days, the computers were tethered to the power outlet on the wall which took the delicate balance between performance and battery life off the table.  Today, we are walking around with powerful mobile computing devices in our pockets that we demand last us the entire day while still giving us an amazing end user experience.


Today, Apple is solving the Apple problem of old and Google is solving the Microsoft problem of old.  Apple writes their iOS specifically for their own devices which gives them total control over the end user experience.  This is evident in some decisions Apple has made.  For example, when iOS 4.0 was released, Apple announced that it would not be compatible with the first generation iPhone or iPod Touch.  Users of these devices complained without considering that Apple did this because the end user experience on those older devices running a newer operating system was not acceptable by Apple standards.  Similarly, the older devices that iOS 4.0 is compatible with have certain features disabled to guarantee an acceptable end-user experience.


Google, on the other hand writes their software independent of the hardware it will be running on.  Google Android runs on mobile devices with a wide range of processing speeds, screen sizes, screen resolutions, features like still frame cameras, front or rear facing video cameras, battery size, physical keyboard, touch screen keyboard, both kinds of keyboards, etc…  This is a really hard problem to solve and the end user suffers because of it.  Google, like Microsoft, has done an amazingly great job of solving this incredibly hard problem.  Consumers, however, care about what is in it for them.


Consumers are being manipulated by marketing campaigns into thinking that Android is better, more powerful, etc…  Uninformed consumers respond to phrases like “Multi-tasking” with amazement and shunned Apple for being late to the game with this feature.  For the record, Multi-tasking refers to the ability of a device to be able to run multiple programs simultaneously.  This is something we have become accustomed to on our desktop computers, but again in the mobile space we need to be concerned with battery life.  The fact is that Android supports a traditional multi-tasking model where programs that are running in the background are using system resources like the processor, memory, graphics subsystem, and battery.  Android users out there are well aware of watching their battery life drain in short periods of time.  After talking to a buddy they might be introduced to an Android app that kills off background apps to keep them from using system resources.  To state this simply, Android supports multi-tasking that kills your battery life and the solution is a program that undoes the multi-tasking feature so that only the program you are using is utilizing system resources.  Ironic isn’t it?


iOS on the other hand implemented a multi-tasking model that broke down the various things people might want to multi-task (listening to music in the background, etc…) into parts so that each application could take advantage of some or none of those things.  The result of this is background applications using the minimum amount of system resources necessary to do what they need to do.  iOS provides significantly better battery life than Android per device size.  There are reports out there that state otherwise, but these reports don’t disclose that the Android device tested is 2 -3 times thicker than the iPhone and thus having a much larger battery.  I could make an Android device last a week if I strapped a car battery to my back and tethered it to the device.  Consumers just need to ensure they are comparing all aspects of a device for comparison.


Long story short, if you want the best end user experience today in a mobile device you want an iPhone (pocket size phone & computer), iPod Touch (pocket size computer), or iPad (tablet size computer).  There are going to be arguments that Android allows the technical user to modify the device in interesting ways allowing you to do some specialized things.  This is true, but the average user wants a device that just works and does everything they need it to do without hassle.  My stance is that iOS is #1 in the mobile operating system market and Google Android is a weak #2.  Having said this, if there is a company that can compete with Apple in the mobile space, it is Google.  While I predict that Apple will remain the industry leader in the mobile space moving forward, I also predict that Google will become a much stronger #2 and will greatly improve their end-user experience over the next year to the point that we will need to revisit this discussion and re-evaluate our findings.



Dr. Michael Litman

President & CEO



So you are thinking about buying a new computer? Part 4: Mac vs PC

Ok, so you made it this far and now you are staring at the price tags.  A Mac is frankly much more expensive than an equivalently powered PC.  The conversation does not, however, stop there.  Macs and PCs  are both using the same CPU, Memory, and Hard Drives.  So we are not really talking about an internal hardware difference.  The question then comes to mind: If its the same, why is the Mac more expensive?  I’ll get to that shortly, but for now I’m going to keep you hanging so that you read on.


The analogy I often use is that a Mac and a PC are like cars.  A Mac is a Cadillac (or insert you favorite luxury car) and a PC is a Chevy Sedan.  Both of these vehicles likely have a lot of the same internal parts.  The main difference is likely a few “bells and whistles” and a fancy paint job, but both cars will easily get you to work.  So why do some people buy expensive luxury cars and others buy their less expensive counterparts?  This almost certainly comes down to status and nothing more.  Driving up in a Cadillac at least gives the impression that you are more successful than someone who drives up in a Chevy Malibu.  This obviously isn’t necessarily true, but I digress.


Pulling this back to the Mac vs PC argument, do people who buy Macs do so to show they are more successful than those who buy PCs?  There are certainly going to be those people, just as there will be those people who buy a PC because they simply can not afford a Mac.  The argument between Mac and PC does, however, go deeper than just status.  If we compare a MacBook Pro (Apple Computer’s laptop line of computers) against a similarly powered HP laptop and ignore the price difference, you will see that the MacBook is made from a two piece design that is essentially a carved out solid piece of aluminum while the HP is made from plastic.  The analogy I use is that if you were going to use a laptop as a weapon the HP laptop would likely break into several pieces upon beating the crap out of someone with it, while the MacBook might dent or bend, but it will likely stay in one piece.  Let’s just simplify this argument as say that the MacBook is frankly made better than the HP.


Now I know most you do not buy a laptop with the intention of using it in a Ninja style fight to the death.  Rather, you accessorize your laptop with a nice cushy carrying case that protects it.  So what else is there?  The next argument is the real selling point I use for my students.  When you head off to college you don’t know what software you are going to need to run, but assuming it is in the budget you know you will need a computer.  Buying a Mac is like buying a PC and a Mac in one computer.  If we strip everything else away, the real argument comes down to the Operating Systems that Macs and PCs run.  A PC is typically running some flavor of Microsoft Windows.  A new PC is likely running Windows 7.  A new Mac will come with the Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard operating system installed.  Let’s summarize the difference in just a sentence or two.  Microsoft gets a bad rap!  Many people would say that the Mac OS is superior in terms of usability, stability, and overall design.  I would 100% agree with this.  I still say Microsoft gets a bad rap because they choose to solve a much more difficult problem than Apple does with the Mac OS.  Windows is written to run on thousands of different computers.  The Mac OS is designed to run on a handful of computers and since Apple makes the hardware on which their software runs, they have complete quality control.  Microsoft Windows really functions amazingly well considering the problem it is trying to solve.


Alas, we are consumers and are not impressed with Microsoft for trying to solve a harder problem at the cost of our end user experience.  The bottom line is a Mac can run both the Mac OS and Microsoft Windows natively.  This means you can install Microsoft Windows on your Mac and when your Mac boots up you can choose to boot into Snow Leopard (soon to be Lion) or Windows 7.  A PC does not have this option (without some technical modifications that will likely leave you with an unstable computer).  So a Mac is like 2 computers in one, and no matter what software a course will require you to run, your Mac will handle it well.  This argument applies to all of you who are not hard core video game players.


If you are a hard core video game player on your computer you need to look at things a bit differently.  Gamers are always on the lookout for the latest and greatest graphics card for their computer to play their games at the highest quality.  If this is you, and your goal is the top video game experience on a computer, get a desktop PC.  Laptops are not readily upgradable anyway, so it won’t matter there, but as far as desktops go, Apple makes one machine (the Mac Pro) that is upgradable as far as the graphics card.  This is by far Apple’s most expensive machine, and in my opinion only worth it for the user who is doing heavy graphics or movie rendering.  The bottom line is, if you need a Mac Pro you will likely know why.  If you don’t know you need it, you will likely just be wasting money.  Even given this, the off the shelf graphics cards from Best Buy do not work in a Mac Pro, you need to wait for Apple to release a Mac specific version of a card which does not happen very often.  So again, hard core gamers should get a desktop PC where they have all the options available for upgrading.


If you only need to run Microsoft Windows for work, either get a cheaper PC, or spend the extra money and get a decked out PC for the same money you could get a lesser Mac.  If you want to have the best designed computer, capable of running any operating system and software, and have the money….get a Mac.  I strongly believe Apple makes the best computer products in the world, but this does come at a price and might not be worth it for everyone.




Dr. Michael Litman, PhD

President & CEO