Some thoughts on the iPad

I know, when everyone on planet has already opined on Apple’s latest Jesus-whatever, why on Earth would you want to read the ill-informed gibberish of an irregular blogger with all the insider knowledge of a house cat? Well, you’re here so I guess you are interested.

First up, I am a Mac user. I have been for many years. But that doesn’t mean that I have a small shrine in my house with a hollowed out eMac full of candles and retired iPods. I’m quite happy using Linux, and I can even use a Window’s machine without breaking out in hives. So when I defend some of the things Apple’s done, it’s not out of fan-boy cognitive dissonance.

So no, you can be sure I have no idea what the inside of Steven P. Jobs’ mouth tastes like.

So here goes…

Flash

Flash has its place. It’s place is in a book called Stupid Things We Used to Do on the Internet, What Were We Thinking? Flash allows fancy restaurants to make pretty but buggy as hell sites that stick two fingers up at the user-experience. Okay, as a video player it’s had a good run, but HTML5 is here now, so let’s move on.

I’ve seen Flash done really well. I know some guys in Nottingham who can do some pretty incredible things with it, but in these mobile days, where power and memory usage is crucial, I applaud Apple for assigning Flash to Room 101.

Games you say? Well if you can write a decent game in Flash, I’m sure you can do a Flash-in-a-wrapper iPod/iPad game that will be an infinitely more enjoyable experience.

I know Apple and Adobe can’t abide the sight of each other at the moment, and there is some bitterness in Apple’s decision, but I agree with Jobs: Flash on a mobile device makes no sense now we have HTML5.

Camera

A bit of an odd one. I thought a built-in iSight module was a given. Rumours persist that the shipped model might yet feature a webcam.

I can see Charlie Brooker’s point about Skype calls featuring trembling neck fat and hairy nasal cavities, as most people will use the iPad while chilling on the couch. I hardly ever use my webcam unless I’m travelling, so it’s not a deal-breaker for me. Maybe it is for you.

One of the killer features of the 3G enabled iPad is the $30 all you can eat deal with AT&T. I wonder if part of the compromise was that bandwidth heavy video-chat would be absent in the first generation? Just a thought.

Finally, that $499 price point was important, and every additional component adds cost.

iPhone OS

With the iPhone’s OS across three different machines, it’s probably time for Cupertino to re-badge the operating system. I certainly don’t have a problem with the iPad using a closed system. I don’t want a tablet to geek-out on, I want it for browsing and watching videos.

The iPad would be the perfect computer for the casual user too. My mother, for one, has a brand-new Win7 Toshiba laptop. It’s sweet. 4GB RAM, Core 2 Duo, great screen. She’ll never, ever, use more than 10% of its usefulness. She’ll surf the net, email, watch iPlayer, use Picassa, and might occasionally boot up Skype to chat with the grand-kids. And that’s it.

Why does she want to worry about maintaining her Windows installation? Why on earth does she need all that power, memory and storage? The iPad and keyboard would do everything she needed and more. Also, because it runs the iPhone OS, she’ll find it an absolute breeze to use. The learning curve for the iPhone OS is about a day, compared to Windows 7, which I know she’ll never get the grips with.

Drivers? Security? Updates? Forget about it. It’s all handled for you. The geeks reading this will probably roll their eyes and say something about fascism, but computers shouldn’t be as complicated as they are. Apple understands this. And Microsoft are starting to understand it too.

Connectivity

I expected a built-in SD card reader. It’s annoying that we’ll have to use an adapter to attach cards and USB devices. Even if USB ports are ugly, an SD slot wouldn’t have had any real impact on the form factor.

Apple absorb the component cost of the ports by asking you to pay extra for them. Again, this is probably a nod to the $499 entry-level price.

So…

Okay. While I’ve defended some of Apple’s choices, I’m not going to buy an iPad. Now the iPhone is on Vodafone, I’ll get one after the next revision and that should sort my mobile internet needs. At home I have a netbook and a MacBook Pro, I don’t need another device.

I think eventually tablet devices will be ubiquitous, but I won’t be spend cash I don’t have on a device I certainly don’t need. I fancy a lot of people will feel the same way.

Expect sales of the iPad to be underwhelming. Apple is now a major consumer electronics company. The iPad cannot be a niche product, say like the MacBook Air, it must sell millions of units. So if I’m right, a price-cut may well come sooner than Apple would like.

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2 thoughts on “Some thoughts on the iPad

  1. I first thought that the iPad was a pointless device which sits awkwardly between a phone and a computer and was worse than both – now I’m thinking that this type of device is probably the future of Internet surfing for most people, a coffee table book that gets the Internet.

  2. I think if you’re in the market for a netbook and you don’t anticipate doing a lot of typing and can spring for the additional few hundred quid, the iPad might be the perfect device. Anyways, the external keyboard looks like a great compromise.

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