Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Great Game Behind Apple/Samsung Verdict: Racism and Eliticism

Spot at least six differences between panels. If you can't, congratulations: you are a US judge!

This is not one of my usual articles. If you are expecting an objective analysis of the Apple/Samsung verdict, please look elsewhere. Objectivity in this case is not required or even welcome. This is a highly personal, opinionated account of my thoughts on the Apple copyright suit, its process and its implications in the long run.

As you know, Apple filed a lawsuit against Samsung, alleging that the latter stole several "patented" design ideas of its products, specifically phones and tablets. They contended that the similarities were enough to cause confusion among consumers, who might pick up a Samsung device thinking it was an Apple device. These patents covered everything from overall design of a device, to the software features, to the design of icons, etc. You can get the details from any tech blog. The summary of the situation is that none of the claimed 'patents' were actually invented by Apple. However they were awarded to them.

The suit was litigated. From the outset Judge Lucy Koh let it be known loud and clear through her remarks that she was not going to be objective or logical. The patents covered 26 devices by Samsung. At the end of arguments, a lengthy form was given to jurors, who were supposed to decide on patent violation by each of the 26 devices individually. It was estimated that it would take weeks for them to fill it out and arrive at a decision.

Surprise, surprise: the jurors were back after two days, holding Samsung guilty of all charges and slapping a penalty of $1.05 billion on them. Naturally, Samsung plans to go into appeal. However, I don't believe for a second that any US court will EVER side with a Korean company against one of their own.

Now, I am the first one to admit that I have always mocked Samsung's TouchWiz interface for its Android devices as 'iOS for kids'. Their icons are similar; but, you know what: Android is completely different to iOS. Therefore the resemblance is entirely superficial, and any consumer can easily distinguish between Samsung and Apple products simply by seeing the logos. It's not the same situation as "NOKLA" replica phones, which are so close to the real thing that it is genuinely possible for anyone to be fooled.

Therefore, to claim that Apple deserves $1 billion from Samsung thanks to lost sales is not only ridiculous, it is shamefully insulting to human intelligence. It is like Rolls Royce claiming patent infringement by BMW for copying its 'design' of a car with four wheels, four doors, two headlights and a steering. Further, according to the verdict, a Rolls Royce customer is capable of walking into a BMW dealership thinking it was a RR dealership, buying the car and going home. Suppose the chap's wife says, "I thought you went to buy a Rolls Royce". The said chap: "D'oh! I didn't see the logos! What a fool I am!"

Are we all that stupid? In the putrid, fetid minds of the Apple-bankrolled judge and jury, we are. I, however, believe that this fiasco is just a tree in a large forest, and we should be able to see the forest. Here it comes.

To me, this decision reinforces a worldwide racist/elitist agenda against third world and non-white races. Yes, you read that right. You see, a win for Apple means that Apple is allowed to slowly strangle other mobile manufacturers out of existence. It also means that competitors have to remove useful features from future devices just because Apple thinks it owns them. Granted, the decision covers the US market only and elsewhere similar suits have been thrown out. But US is a big market and no manufacturer can hope to remain successful in the long run without having a meaningful presence there.

Compare Apple and Samsung. Apple commands an uncompromised mindshare amongst the world's elite: bankers, executives, billionaires, and rich offspring of them. The pricing of Apple products ensures that they sell by the millions, yet do not reach the masses. Apples' application ecosystem is also closed and expensive. You have to be seriously rich if you mean to take full benefit of Apple products. It is like having to pay extra for 'diet' version of your favorite ice cream: you are paying more to get less. This strategy is successful because there is a whole section of general public which cannot be persuaded to invest a little time and effort into their technology. They want things as simple as they want, even if they are missing features. In return, they want a visibly expensive hardware so that they can flaunt it and announce their status. What the device can or cannot do is of absolutely no concern to them.

All credit to Steve Jobs for identifying this segment of the market and nailing the job of tailoring his products to them. An iPhone is simplicity itself: no advanced features, just a sea of icons. Looks wise it is bland and elegant. It has a tiny 3.5 inch screen with super sharp picture. It can make calls. It is updated once a year at a specific time and its operating system also receives an update once a year.

By contrast, there are several dozen Samsung Android phones. Even the most basic one of them can largely match the feature set of an iPhone at 20% the price. But with Android, people have to customize. They have to invest time and effort to mold the device in their own persona. You can never be pleased with your current Android phone because you know that a better one is coming out next week. Android customers talk about internal memory, RAM, processor speed, screen density, while comparing the specs of their phones. Android might be almost as easy to master as iOS, but its perception differs.

However, thanks to Android, a huge portion of the world's lower middle class can now be connected and become part of the information revolution. With phones for every pocket, anyone from a cornershop owner to a student to a chief executive can afford and enjoy the connectivity and advanced feature set. Technologies like GPS, WiFi, NFC, and video calling can now be enjoyed by people in Asia and Africa for whom iPhone's price is more than their entire years' salary.

The chief beneficiaries of Android are all Far Eastern companies: Sony, Samsung, HTC, LG and a host of Chinese manufacturers. The defining trait of these companies has always been to profit from volumes rather than margins. Therefore they focus on reaching a widest possible audience, as opposed to Apple whose main source of profit is 'Apple Tax', i.e. exorbitant overpricing of its products.

Both approaches have their merits. Apple gets to keep its efforts cleaner and more focused, and considerably more polished overall (though Android 4.0 and 4.1 have beaten Apple in that respect). It means Apple doesn't have to worry about reaching every segment of society yet it can remain the most profitable company on the planet.

The elite class so comprehensively locked, the only alternative left for competitors is to reach for other demographics and income groups. In the process, humanity benefits.

Now coming back to the verdict, one can clearly see that while Apple shows no plans or intentions to extend its product range beyond the very expensive, it nevertheless seeks to root out its competitors. Specifically, the Samsung Galaxy Y is no threat to iPhone, yet it might be wiped out from the face of the planet as a result of Apple's lawsuit. Keep in mind that the US patents mechanism and judiciary is on Apple's side. With world's deepest pockets it is not fanciful to assume that in the long run Apple is in a strong position to 'influence' judiciary worldwide, especially now that there is a 'precedent' in the form of the US verdict.

So once again: Apple retains its stronghold on the elite, while eliminating competitors which cover every segment from lower middle class to the top tier.

What can it mean? To me, it is nothing less than an attempt of placing embargo upon the right to information by the less privileged populace of the world. There is no other explanation for the absurdity of these proceedings. If Apple has its way with the patents, ultimately it will own all the devices that can provide access to internet. The devices that will be affordable by under previleged masses will be crippled, underpowered, and might even block access to certain portions of the internet. So, while information is freely accessible today, in a near future it will once again become a luxury to be enjoyed by the elite.

Yes, it is far fetched. But tell me: why else would Apple be allowed to dictate what its competitors can and cannot sell? Go back to the beginning of this article: what if Rolls Royce decided that it will litigate the Toyotas, Hondas, and Suzukis of this world out of existence due to their 'abuse of patents'? Will Rolls Royce ever cover the market segments thus vacated? Never. So it will only leave a vast population not being able to afford transport whereas previously it could.

This process of concentrating the world's resources in the hands of the precious few is nothing new. It has already occurred in the realms of finances, natural resources and food. I won't be surprised if the same agenda is carried out for information because after all, it is the most precious commodity of all.

I will leave you with an interview of the foreman of the jury, one Mr Hogan. See and judge for yourselves.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What to look for when buying an Android cellphone

Hello All

I am back after a prolonged holiday and some of the experiences during the 5 days provoked me to write this post.

I do a monthly round up of phones recommended to buy, and occasional one on which phones NOT to buy. All this begs a deeper, wider question: when out to get a cellphone, what should you look for? What is the bare minimum one should be able to accept and what are the compromises involved? My years of experience has enabled me to lay down certain criteria. Here goes.

1) Screen size

It's not so simple anymore. I think we can wholeheartedly agree that the iPhone's screen, once a benchmark for touch phones, looks hopelessly tiny today for media and web consumption. That said, iPhone's puny 3.5 inch job has something going for it that other phones have only last year begun to match: PPI, or pitch, or dots per inch. iPhone has a PPI of 325, which means that even on the tiny screen text is clearly visible. That means that you can read much smaller text on an iPhone. In 2010 the flagship screen size for Android phones was 4.3 inches; however, it had a resolution of 800x480 meaning that pixels were stretched far and wide, and the net effect for having a large screen was nullified, especially for text intensive tasks such as reading and web browsing.

2011 came and in November of that month Galaxy Nexus landed, changing the Android landscape for good. Firstly, it had Android 4.0 (now 4.1). Secondly it had a huge 4.7 inch screen in an elegant package, with a resolution of 1280x720, and a PPI of around 310. That means that for the first time, Android phones were beating iPhone at its own game with matching resolution and almost twice the screen size. (Do the math: 4.7 inches vs 3.5 inches is not a simple job of division but squaring that fraction). Web became much easier to process and books and magazines suddenly came to life.

However, even today, that screen size and resolution is not cheap. The cheapest HD screen as of this writing belongs to LG's Nitro HD and that costs 34k. So what are the alternatives?

Go small. Get a phone with 3.5 or 3.7 inch screen; the small screen size will mean that even at 800x480 pixels the PPI will be in the 275-290 region, rendering the text perfectly legible. Sony's Xperia U and Sola fall neatly into that bracket, not to mention HTC Desire S, One V, and Samsung Galaxy Ace and S Plus, to name a few.

You can go lower and cheaper, but then you are not really getting a good experience. At HVGA (480x320) and QVGA (240x320) resolution, there are a lot of options available, such as Samsung Galaxy Y, GIo, Duos and HTC Explorer; but you will have a painful web browsing experience on those thanks to low PPI and resulting pixellated text.

2) Software

It's a tragedy that we are 10 months into the launch of Android 4.0 (ICS) and yet companies have the gall to launch and keep phones on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). Yes, GB is good for most users. It plays especially nice with the stupid custom skins such as Samsung's TouchWiz, and those from Sony  and Motorola. But ICS is in another league in terms of usability and sheer elegance. Anybody not giving ICS on a phone selling in 2012 is short changing their customers.

So go for ICS. HTC's 2012 lineup, with the exception of Explorer, has ICS. Sony's 2012 Xperia lineup has it, or at least has a confirmed upgrade. So what of Samsung, the world's biggest smartphone manufacturer? Why, they have exactly THREE phones running ICS - Galaxy S3, S2 and Note. Note (ahem) the flagship or near-flagship nature of these sets. It's a shame that out of the dozens Galaxy sets being sold by Samsung, only three has ICS.

But wait - there is something even better than ICS. Jelly Bean, Android 4.1, sets a new benchmark in terms of speed and smoothness, and even iPhone cannot match it in those criteria. So far, only two phones, both Nexus devices, are officially running JB; Samsung Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus.

3) Processor and RAM

A big deal is made out of dual- and quad-core processors these days. As per my experience, if the software is right, even a single core phone can fly. What it needs is RAM, not necessarily processor cores or speed.

Truth of the matter is, most Android phones these days ship with 512 MB of RAM. That is too little. Most Sony phones, even in 2012 and running ICS, sport similar RAM and therefore slow down to a crawl after few weeks of usage. At least HTC and Samsung give 768 or 1 GB of RAM to most of their sets. But situation is not idea. I believe in order to ensure a smooth experience, at least 1 GB of RAM is required; phones having that are numerous, such as Motorola Atrix, HTC One S and One X (but not One V), Samsung Galaxy S2, S3, Note and Nexus, LG's Optimus 4X and Nitro HD, Sony's Xperia S and P.

With 1 GB of RAM, you can make do with even 1 GHz single core processor, or dual core tops. Nobody really needs a quad core processor so I would suggest looking at options before paying the price premium.

4) Application Memory

Contrary to my earlier, rather extreme views on the matter, even 16 GB memory is enough for most users. So your phone should either have that built in (many do) or have a card slot. Done? Not exactly.

There is one more thing called 'Application memory' - something that is variously called "user memory" or "user accessible portion of ROM" or such. This is very crucial. Many phones, while having acres of memory, usually assign 320 MB or 512 MB for user's apps. The figure lowers down to 160 MB or even less than 100 for lower-tier phones.

Why does this matter? Android apps. They take a lot of space, and even if you shift them to memory card (a  not exactly easy or seamless process if you have dozens of apps), they leave their 'soul' behind in application memory. Therefore, install a few crucial apps and games, and 320 MBs are gone in no time.

Therefore I would suggest to ALWAYS, ALWAYS go for a phone that has at least 512 MB of application memory. This figure is not easily verifiable so I would suggest either check out, that phone's official web page or, the best option: check the phone out in a shop (don't ever buy a phone without thorough checking), go to Settings>Storage and check the figure there.

So which phones qualify? The best one in this regard is Galaxy Nexus, which doesn't assign any limit at all to app memory, meaning that essentially you have 12 GB of app memory (of course at the expense of other media). Phones like Samsung Galaxy S, Note, Nexus S, and HTC One S and One X, all sport decent space for apps. Sony phones curiously lag behind in this regard.

5) Camera

Truth is, if you are obsessed about cameras on your phone, you have come to the wrong place. I have long professed that if you pay a premium for the camera on your phone in order to have a 12 MP snapper, it is far, far cheaper to nab a point and shoot from Canon or Nikon at less than one third the price for infinitely superior photography. Phone cameras are destined to be just another convenience, not a defining feature. The basic criteria here is not megapixels but immediacy. For example, the Galaxy Nexus, my phone of choice, sports a rather poor 5 MP camera. But, it has zero shutter lag, meaning that the picture is snapped as soon as the button is touched. That, in my opinion, compensates for the less than ideal low light performance.

So forget about the camera. You just want good stills and HD video, and virtually any phone will give you that.

6) Battery

No matter what you do, you'd be lucky if your Android phone lasts one day on a single charge. In 2012, battery technology still belongs to 2008. So no need to fret about it - it's a lose-lose situation!

By the time you finish reading this (I hope), you must have realized that it's not easy to buy an Android phone. That is because of the sheer choice available. However, I have listed what I think are the criteria that REALLY matter, and if you are able to meet MOST (not all) of them I believe you will have a relatively trouble-free experience.

Of course, the one single phone that meets all of the above criteria is my beloved Galaxy Nexus. Go figure :-).

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Only Review of Ainol Novo7 Aurora II Tablet on the Web!

Hello all, and Greetings

As promised, I am back with my review of the tablet I recently purchased. Why do I see fit to label this as the only review? Simple: I Googled it and I did stumble across one or two reviews that were more like detailed product descriptions, but no actual, critical review.


So, let's start with the specs. The tablet boasts a 7 inch IPS display of 1024x600 resolution, dual core 1.5 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of built in memory, a card slot, USB host function and HDMI out. For Rs15,000 this is a cracker piece of hardware, in fact far better value for money than any tablet or phone on the market. GPU is Mali 400 which is again quite respectable and better than many mid-to-high range phones. Add to that the fact that it is running Android 4.0.3 straight out of the box and Aurora becomes nearly unbeatable.


So is there a negative aspect to this device? Plenty. First it doesn't have a SIM slot and therefore no phone functionality whatsoever. Personally I don't mind since I never intend to make a phone call with a tablet, but several people I showed this to differed, so it seemed that SIM slot is a pretty big deal. Secondly, and perhaps expectedly, the performance doesn't match the hardware. Given the fact that this thing is running virtually pure Android with little or no embellishments or modifications, the speed and smoothness of operation seemed just a little bit off. But then, maybe it's just me since I am comparing it to my Jelly Bean-powered Galaxy Nexus and my perception of how fast and smooth an Android device can run have changed  permanently.

The final negative strike is battery life. This thing eats battery despite being not a phone. With Wifi connected it gives me around 2-3 hours of screen time. Perhaps it will take some time to settle down, or perhaps I am not using the proper charger. In any case this might POTENTIALLY be a deal breaker if you intend to use it to complement your work PC.


The list of positives is quite long. Google Play Store compatibility is there and apps download and install all right. Built in apps are nothing to speak of, literally, as they are all in Chinese. I had trouble running YouTube; some Googling revealed that problem was with the YouTube app and not the Tablet, and an earlier version of the app ran just fine.

Web browsing is almost PC-quality, the only drawback being that the screen resolution doesn't cut it anymore and you have to zoom in to read the text properly.

Games requiring good 3D hardware run just fine. The IPS LCD is quite good in terms of viewing angles and surprisingly bright. The UI may stutter as mentioned above, but it is no big deal. Wifi connectivity works well. The device is a little heavy which means it can become uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time, but that drawback is shared by all tablets.


This being a Chinese product, there are a lot of accessories available with local  vendors and there is also a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt. You can get a USB host cable, and even a keyboard dock-cum-flip case. However, these accessories are not available with all retailers. Further, the keyboard dock, while quite functional and pleasant to use, is a generic piece meaning it is not specific to Aurora II, and is quite ungainly in terms of looks and handling. But in the end, the accessories that you might require for this tablet to function properly are all there and can be obtained quite cheaply.


In conclusion, I will say this: you can't find better value for money in the phone/tablet market than Ainol Novo7 Aurora II. It does everything a top-end Android device is supposed to do, while costing one third or even one fourth. For anyone considering an Android phone, Aurora II is a necessary diversion. For many consumers, who do not require a very powerful device with them at all times in their pocket, the combination of this tablet plus a cheapo call-and-text phone becomes almost unbeatable.

I believe we are witnessing a revolution in consumer electronics. With the flood of Chinese tablets and introduction of Google's own Nexus 7 tablet, the pricing paradigm of these devices has changed. In case of Aurora II, you get a tablet that can do 90% of what Android tablets costing 3 times more can do.

All this can only benefit the consumer, and I foresee much, much exciting time ahead for us all. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Google, Not Apple, Is the True Tech Pioneer of Our Times

There is no shortage of 'analysts' on the internet which portray Apple as Father Christmas, relentlessly innovating, and supposedly delivery product after product of highest quality. The positive features of Apple products are touted as if they are the Second Coming, while the negatives or shortcomings are brushed aside as 'design quirks'.

The intention of this post is NOT to take away from the contributions Apple has made to electronics. Like Microsoft and Google, Apple has been, on numerous occasions, transforming the technological landscape. It remains a pioneer in product design and polish, and no other company can match it in terms of profitability and marketing ability.

That said, these days Apple is a greedy company which is afraid of competition and is trying to litigate its way to world dominance, relying on dubiously awarded patents for things it did not pioneer.

For average Joes like myself, who cannot afford most of the Apple products, there is another company which over a course of its existence, has completely transformed the information landscape. Its well known products like Google Search, Gmail, and Android, have delivered such towering value to common man that efforts from other companies dwarf in comparison. Here is a list of contributions that Google has made to my PERSONAL life.

1) Google Search. Never before has information been so easily available. Google Search, for me, transformed the Internet. It was not the first search engine, but it was revolutionary. Its speed and accuracy remain unparalleled. A coupe of days ago Google added 'Knowledge Graph' to search results, meaning that for most of your queries an exact answer is now available along with traditional search results. Try typing 'mass of moon in kg' or 'no. of medals won by China in Olympics' in a Google Search box right now and you will see that once again, quietly, Google has elevated the search game. It keeps giving.

Google Search has also been responsible for transforming other platforms. Remember when you had to search for a file in initial release of Windows XP? Remember that dog which wagged its tail for interminable minutes before results of your queries started appearing in spurts? It is common knowledge that Bill Gates made his team question the fact that how come Google's internet search was faster than Windows' offline search. Following that MS released Desktop Search, and subsequently baked the new super-fast search technology right into the Start Menu of Windows Vista and 7. Another several million lives transformed.

2) Gmail. Inexplicably, Gmail is STILL not the biggest web mail service. So what makes Gmail the webmail pioneer? Consider this: before Gmail, the only options with any credibility were Hotmail and Yahoo. Both had cumbersome web pages taking hours to load on the (slow) internet connections of the day. Lots of useless chrome, and the biggest crime of all: the main page of your mailbox did NOT show your mail, rather a jumble of highlights from your inbox mashed with other stuff. Also, there used to be mailbox size limits measured in MBs, not to mention attachment size limits.

Gmail changed all that. The UI was (and still is) lightweight, with unparalleled search and filtering features. It offered GBs of mailbox space, since copied by everyone else. The ads are there but they are lightweight and unobtrusive. And most importantly, it remains the ONLY web mail service that opens right on your inbox rather than useless mumbo jumbo.

Then there is Google Talk, chat client that was integrated right into the mailbox. Add to that seamless integration with Google Docs (now Google Drive) and continuous stream of new features, and it is pretty hard to beat Gmail.

3) Android. Need I say anything? Suffice it to say that Android is the name of an operating system that put desktop-like power into the hands of hundreds of millions of people worldwide, becoming their portal to the world. Android is responsible for revival of companies like Motorola and Sony in the mobile space, as well as transformation of Samsung from a humble also-ran three years ago to the biggest manufacturer of mobile phones in the world today. Not only that, countless other companies from China are manufacturing Android based phones and tablets, threatening to change the tech landscape in terms of pricing and specs. More than a million Android devices are being sold every day. It is all good for the consumer giving them choice, freedom, affordability and flexibility.

And as a bonus, it is the exact anti-thesis of everything that Apple stands for.

4) Google Translate. This is a comparatively lesser-known service that translates any web page for the user in real time. While it may not seem much, just a few years ago this would have seemed like science fiction. What's more, in typical Google way, the option just appears when you load a non-English web page; no menus to get into, no buttons to push.

5) YouTube. It is not a Google innovation, rather it was bought by Google. Since then, YouTube has become one of the premier content services on the web where you can check out missed TV shows, trailers, original material, as well as videos prepared by traditionally text based organizations like Car and Driver. Everything is free and available all the time. Again, stuff of science fiction come to life.

6) Maps/Earth. Again, the stuff of science fiction. Your city, your country, your world, mapped out and on your PC or mobile. You can locate specific addresses and routes to get there. You can check out traffic density. You can see how a place looks without moving from your desk. Yes, navigation services existed before Google Maps, but none of them were and are, as rich as Maps, not to mention completely free.

These were just SIX of the innovations that Google has made that have had a transforming effect on not only the tech landscape, but landscape, period. Take a look, consider how often you use these services and tell me your life doesn't depend on at least one.

Google, like any other company, is out to make money. It has all your personal data. The difference is that Google isn't afraid to experiment, and it mostly gives away stuff for free. Google has had a far more profound effect on the world than Apple with its fancy design can ever lay claim to. Sorry, that's the truth as I see it!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Tablets: Do you really need them?

Last week, I purchased an Android tablet. My detailed review of it will follow, but before that, there's a fundamental question which many people have been asking me: should I buy a tablet? 

There are several possible answers to this. First is, if you need to ask, you probably don't need it. I believe that covers 90% of the cases where that big touchscreen is invoking the lust for gadgets (read toys) inside males of all ages, yours truly included. If you consider the prices for iPad and some Android tablets from manufacturers like Samsung, Acer and Motorola, you can easily conclude that a laptop is a far, far better investment and cheaper too. 

It's not that simple, though. We all know that Apple has the market cornered with iPad. Some analysts go even as far as stating that while there's a market for iPads, the existence of a market for tablets is questionable. The numbers bear them out. However, to really know how a tablet can add to our lives, we need to see how tablet owners use their tablets. 

A typical iPad user is also a typical Apple customer. That means several things:
1) They are not in it for productivity or really adding value to their lives
2) They just have to have anything with an Apple logo on it
3) They use their gadgets to appear as part of some sort of elite club

There are exceptions, however. I know several executives who use an iPad for emails and browsing. 'Sent from my iPad' is becoming an increasingly common PS to emails and social media posts. One does realize, though, that emails and internet are CONSUMPTION of media rather than CREATION. That is where the dividing line lies. 

Tablets are great for consumption. Browse the web, read emails, check on status updates, read books, view videos, play games etc. For all the stuff that doesn't require too much input from users, tablets are unparalleled. Their touchscreens make navigation a joy, and generally their screens have very high quality (new iPad leads in this regard). 

Trouble arises when you need to DO something. Write a report, prepare a presentation, manipulate a photo, edit a video, run queries on a database. You can ONLY do all this on a PC. That PC needs to run  Windows, needs to have a robust chipset and dedicated graphics support. It also needs to have a physical keyboard and mouse. Without all these, good luck preparing even a single slide of a PowerPoint presentation.

As far as media consumption is concerned, Windows in general has fallen behind. Things are more seamless and direct on a phone or a tablet. Case in point: what do you do when you have to email a picture? On a PC, you open a web browser, load up your email service, click Compose, click Attach a File, click on Browse, navigate the folder in the window that appears, click on the picture, click Attach/Open, then add email address in the address field, and click Send. On an Android phone or tablet, you open picture gallery, tap on it, click on the 'share' icon that appears on top, select 'Gmail' or 'Email' from the drop down list and click. You only have to add email address and click send. However, Windows 8 UI might change all that. 

That said, for browsing and videos etc, laptops are generally as good as tablets if not better. 

You cannot carry a tablet around in your pocket. You have to carry it in a separate pouch or case. So, if you do have to carry something extra, why not carry a laptop? It is quite clear that if you have a laptop and a good smartphone, there's really no need for a tablet in your life. However, if you choose to purchase a dirt-cheap phone for calls and texts, you can easily afford a tablet which will offer a much better experience at the expense of portability. Really, think about it: there is no real need for calls and texting to be integrated on a single device with email, Skype etc. 

So we have found an answer. Or rather, a bunch of them

1) If you have a PC and a good smartphone, you don't need a tablet
2) If you have neither, buying a laptop is a better idea
3) If you have a personal laptop, you don't really need a tablet
4) If you don't care about productivity and have too much money, you're not reading this blog so go away :-)