As you know I am an Apple fanboy. I own a Macbook Pro since July, I love it for it does everything I wanted it to – just better – and a massive amount of stuff that makes life convenient and using computers fun. I do run a hackintosh as well. I do have my second iPod, of which I think it’s the definitive portable music player. And I do have the iPhone 3G (although it came to me more by accident) which is a nice gadget to have with great usability and it introduced this huge trend of multitouch screens along with an accessible UI and a platform for apps that today suits every imaginable need. There is – imho – still no serious competitor on the market, with the Android phones probably being rather close but not there yet.
Now, yesterday Apple presented a product called the iPad, a portable computer with a multitouch display and – at least by what you see from the outside – pretty much nothing else. Since this product has been rumored for years, many people during the last 24 hours already laid hand on it, reviewed it and there is as much information on the internet now that after much reading and watching videos I feel as informed as if I had touched one myself. 😀
Still I feel a bit disapointed by it and here’s why:
In my understanding a Pad-like computer is every geeks dream since Star Trek TNG (I think there were similar devices in TOS but they rather looked like Etch-a-Sketches), where every crew member ran around the Enterprise with devices commonly known as PADDs (Personal Access Display Device).They came in several shapes and could obviously used for anything from accessing ship data to writing your personal journal.
They were easily exchanged, it seemed like nobody actually owned his PADD or was technically bound to it. Obviously they could easily be replicated as they were lying around anywhere. Note that they were not only used by humans but also by the other races although their design differed.
There has been work on real PADDs for some time now actually, notice the Apple Newton or Palm PDAs. Of course there also has been much improvement over the years. So, in this regard the iPad is a logical next step and the expected answer to the Amazon Kindle, which was made to be the ultimate digital reading device.
If you look at the features and specifications of the iPad you see it’s a quite impressive list for a device of its size. But then again – as many blogs noticed – the iPad looks like an oversized iPhone. And the worrying thing it isn’t even that. Although it comes in a WiFi and 3G version, you won’t have the native ability to phone with it, although you easily could connect a headset via cable or bluetooth. It has no camera (not on the back, not on the front, no photo, no video). And it runs iPhone apps of which there are plenty of but it will probably take some time until there are worthy apps tailored to the specific device.
It’s advertised with about 10 hours of battery life which seems good enough if it lives up to that. What I wonder about is why they promote stand-by time. While it makes sense with phones where you can still be reached because of long stand-by battery life I don’t really see the benefit of not using a device for a month so it still has power.
Then there is the storage: 16, 32 and 64 GB flash memory are the options to choose from which is the same as you can get in iPod touches at the moment. As you can software-wise use the iPad to have full iPod functionality (which means storing music, video, gaming and podcasts), you can put your photos on it, use the internet (download?) and even have newly designed iWork apps on the device along with the new Bookstore (+ebooks) and of course other apps I doubt that 64 GB is anywhere near the amount of space necessary. It took me mere weeks to fill the 160 GB of my Macbook. I can’t really take my whole media library with me on the iPhone right now.
Also I wonder what writing really common – which means intensely text-based – documents on the on-screen keyboard feels like. Note that during the demos nobody really did that during the presentation. It might be really nice for emails but how good does it perform when writing, let’s say, on a master thesis? You probably need to buy that keyboard accessory.
And then this the question occurred to me: If all I can do on the iPad is basically iPhone or iPod touch functionality (book reading on the big screen being the only exception i see), well, why not buy an iPhone or an iPod touch, which you can actually take with you? I doubt realy cineast will watch movies on it, jsut like real audiophils probably won’t hear their music with it (you need to connect it to good speakers, so it’s no longer wireless).
I simply feel that – apart from this being a cool, thoughtfully designed product – either the iPad is – yes, I dare saying it – redundant to a notable degree or it is aimed at a rather small group of customers for which it fills a gap between iPod and book reader that I don’t really see yet. At 499$ in the smallest incarnation and about 800$ for the all-in-variant it seems just not as useful as the other products in the line up. I may be wrong here.
Now, what’s great is that the iPad uses and elaborates on the great keyboard-&-mouse-less user interface ideas used on the other Apple touch devices. I do believe many people will love to use it because of that especially if they have shied away from using any laptops or computers up to now. It might be perfect for my mum! But me, myself and I will probably stick with a real computer (which of course could be married with the multi-touch display at some point) for now. Note also that Apple not really markets the iPad as an ebook reader but as a missing link between smartphone and laptop. However to me it can not really replace either of them easily. Therefore it would need custom browsers like Firefox, Wireless syncing, more storage, more connectivity. It is a small step forward but no huge leap in my opinion. Of course that might be a by-product of the hype that has wildly gone crazy during recent weeks. Still I’m excited to see this product evolve.
Update: I finally saw the Keynote and to a large degree, I believe it proved my point. They tried to set first foot into a niche that does not necessarily exist naturally but probably grows now that the iPad is there.
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