Apple announced their tablet computing device yesterday, and the general consensus around the web seems to be “meh.” A coworker of mine said (paraphrasing here) “why would I buy this if I already have an iPhone and a laptop?” I agree. If you’re already a laptop toting iPhone wielding Apple fanboy, then this has to be a bit of a letdown. There doesn’t appear to be anything vastly innovative or different about the iPad. The iPad appears to be little more than a bigger, faster, iPod Touch. People wanted more. More innovation. More pizazz. Apple didn’t want to shake the boat too much though, and went with what has worked for them in the past.
But for me? I am intrigued. Not blown away. Just intrigued. We have one computer in our house. It’s a somewhat aging desktop, and it’s located in our basement. I don’t have smart phone. I don’t have a Kindle or other e-reader. I do have an iPod Nano. Kate doesn’t understand the appeal of a device like the iPad. Here’s what I see.
- Portable Web Browsing: Not mobile web browsing, because I’m not willing to front the extra $130 up front and $30/mo that the 3G versions of these devices require. But portable web browsing I can get behind. Need to send a recipe to your friend, but don’t want to trek down to the basement? iPad. Want to check the directions to your event that night but don’t want to trek down to the basement? iPad. Want to check your fantasy football score while watching the game? Ipad. Send a quick email, update twitter, or check facebook? iPad, iPad, iPad.
Yes, there is a certain laziness implied in the above paragraph. It IS only a flight of stairs, after all. Let me put this another way. Want to do any of the above but can’t because your spouse/kids/dog/cat/gerbil is using the computer? iPad.
- Portable Video: Watch an episode of Chuck in the comfort of my own bed before I go to sleep? Or on an airplane ride? Or on the beach? Or on my way to New York while the kids sleep and Kate drives? Heck yeah!
Oh who am I kidding? I never let Kate drive.
- Calendar, Contacts, Notes, etc. The functions and form of the iPad point towards it making a pretty decent PDA, especially if it syncs nicely with Google Calendar and Google Contacts. This is something that I always thought would be nice about having an iPhone. The successfulness (or lack thereof) of the on-screen keyboard will likely affect the iPad’s usefulness in this category.
- Photo Sharing: If I’m toting this back and forth from work every day (see the previous bullet), which I would, you’re darn right I’m going to use it to show off my kids. Heck, I’d prop it in my cube when it’s not actively in use and it’ll be a digital picture frame. Because my coworkers don’t get enough pictures of my kids already.
- Light Gaming: I’m kidding everybody if I don’t include gaming. I (and yes, probably the kids) will play a few games on this device. Not like I would on a gaming console or a full blown PC, but I bet there will be a couple of ways to waste some time with this bad boy.
- Digital Books, Magazines, and Newspapers: As much as I hate to admit it, digital magazines, newspapers, and yes, books are the wave of the future. I don’t think I’ll ever give up on reading a hardcopy book, but magazines and newspapers make pretty good sense for a device like this. It remains to be seen if the technology is to a point where I can read on a device like this without getting a headache, but I’m willing to give it a shot.
So while it might not make sense for others, this device might make sense for me. Does it have shortcomings? Absolutely. Might I wait a while for the price to drop and for the next version to come out in a year or two? I might. But this device definitely fits a hole in my electronics devices arsenal. Is it a hole that I absolutely have to fill? Ask me in March.
It hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, but the iPad versions of iWork software (Keynote, Pages, and Numbers) for $10 bucks each is a steal! You could legitimately get some work done with that.
I am friends with 3 Apple employes who were responsible for various components of Mac OS X. I am friends with several registered Apple developers who were responsible for Twitteriffic and TweetDeck. (Hi, Hockenberry!) I am friends with two former Apple employees who were responsible for Apple hardware, namely the PowerMac 6300 and the Apple Newton (Hi, Ken! Hi, Keith!). I have developed for the Mac since 1989 on the 68K processor of the Mac SE, writing in assembly, Pascal, and HyperCard. I have owned more than a handful of Macs over the years and more than several handfuls of the Apple iPod/iPhone/etc. With all this in mind, I think that I am well-versed in Apple methodology and culture.
Steve Jobs was directly responsible for the death of the Apple Newton/MessagePad. The Newton/MessagePad was the result of an extremely innovative few that became a massive team and project at Apple. Upon Job’s return to Apple, the Newton died in 1992. Jobs had made several comments over the years that he was not enamored with the Newton.
The iPad was never going to be the second coming of the Apple Newton despite the fevered dreams of Mac zealots and gadget geeks alike. As much as I wanted the iPad to be a PowerBook Air sans Keyboard, Jobs would never gut his own product line to produce a true OSX tablet. Nor would a true OSX tablet do well, since the last 20 years of the Fujitsu Stylistic, PenPad, HP TabletPC, and others have never made the tablet market emerge from anything more than a niche market.
The iPod was revolutionary. The iPhone was revolutionary. The iPad was “meh” because people expected a powerhouse tablet to act as a PC replacement and got an oversized iPod Touch or iPhone. What people fail to recognize is that they truly got an netbook replacement. Rather than spending $300-$600 on a netbook running a flaky, inconsistent distro of Ubuntu or Windows, they can spend that same about of money on a iPad running iPhoneOS 3.x or 4.x…
Which brings me to the OS. iPhoneOS 1.0-3.2 is a wonderful OS for a handheld device with a small screen to act as a phone, media player, or handheld web device. I am not sure if it is the same OS we should have running on a larger form-factor device with more than double the processor specs, memory, and storage. Of course, people are also running “Ubuntu Netbook Remix” or “Windows XP Tablet Edition” on their netbooks. People seem to prefer a dumbed down, minimal OS as their OS for handhelds and not a bloated, resource-intensive OS best fitted for power-hungry laptops and desktops.
I think people don’t give Jobs enough credit. The iPad is a more elegant netbook. iPhoneOS 4.0 might not allow third-party multitasking on an iPad outside of the Core Services already allowed by iPhoneOS 3.x, but then do you really want your 1GHz iPad dogging because of some shittily-written app with a memory leak or a runaway process. Apple has higher standards for thread control and process management than Microsoft does.
I’ll most likely buy an iPad come March. I’ll also be looking for a new home for my then-defunct Fujitsu Lifebook U820, which was a powerful beast for what it does but an ill-fitting form factor for what I wanted (and needed it to do), which was to be a great netbook.
The real question becomes: do you expect your netbook to a power-hungry small laptop, or do you expect your netbook to be a great web device? If it’s the latter, then maybe the iPad truly is better than your existing netbook.