Thoughts on the iPad

When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad yesterday, my first thoughts were “Ooooh! Shiny! I want one!”

Then I read the orgy of criticism that washed over the blogosphere last night about all the device’s perceived failings and, on mature and considered reflection…

I still want one.

(Maybe two, so I don’t have to fight with my wife over it.)

iPad

What really strikes me about the iPad is how “Apple” it is… in the sense of Apple’s product introduction strategy for the last several years. Define a minimum feature set to delight a particular constituency, sweat all the details to serve their immediate needs, ruthlessly leave out features near and dear to the twitterati, and leave plenty of room for upgrades later.

(I mean, look at your iPhone. Do you remember how many limitations the very first iPhone had, less than three years ago? Heck, I didn’t buy one until the App Store came online… do you remember that wasn’t until a year after launch? And global search and cut-and-paste, to name just two features I use daily, didn’t arrive until version 3.0 of the OS.)

This is iPad 1.0. We’ll see a lot of changes over the next couple of years. (And, yeah, I’ll feel like a chump for being an early adopter, but c’est la vie.)

That being said, my thoughts on a few specific perceived deficiencies:

  1. No stylus. I predicted this last week. Give him credit for consistency… Steve Jobs has clearly decided that multi-touch and on-screen keyboards are the future, and he’s sticking to his guns. I happen to disagree, and wish there had been a stylus option, but he’s the CEO, not me. I’m going to optimistically treat this as a third-party opportunity, and wait for someone to bundle a capacitive stylus with an app similar to OneNote.
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  3. No camera. I have to admit, this one surprised me. I was really expecting a front-facing camera for video iChat. I can think of a couple of reasons why it didn’t happen. The prosaic one would be that AT&T told Jobs that their wireless network would keel over and die if millions of people started using videoconferencing in 2Q10… but, if that were the case, it could have been limited to Wi-Fi only.

    I’m going to take a more Jobsian view. Whatever device you have with a front-facing camera—be it a MacBook, or one of the Nokias, or an Android device—you never quite make eye contact with the other party. And this is the sort of detail that drives Jobs mad.

    Check out this Apple patent. Conventional wisdom is that the iPad will get a video camera in a future hardware iteration. I’m claiming otherwise. I now believe that you won’t see a version of iPad with a separate front-facing camera… we’ll have to wait until the technology matures enough that you can look straight into the screen.

    At which point, we won’t be able to imagine doing it any other way. Very Apple.

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  5. Connectivity. I think Apple did exactly the right thing by offering a Wi-Fi only version and a 3G-plus-WiFi version… and the price points aren’t bad. People in the U.S. can complain about being limited to the AT&T network all they want, but we have no idea how much money AT&T put on the table to maintain exclusivity!

    For me, since I already have an iPhone with 3G, I’m hoping for some sort of tethering between them. If not… I think you could make a compelling argument for buying the WiFi-only version and a Verizon MiFi. I think that’s what I’m going to do.

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  7. Charging. Sigh. This was just wishful thinking on my part. I thoroughly understand Apple’s need to control the proprietary 30-pin dock for synching and docking and hardware accessories. But I was hoping that they’d have put in a mini-USB jack with only the power pins connected… so, if you’re out somewhere and your battery is dying, you can use a standard charger to get some juice. Mini-USB chargers and cables are ubiquitous, because they’re used in Blackberrys, and cameras, and Bluetooth headsets, and even my Harmony remote control. This would have been nice, but I didn’t really expect it.
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  9. Micro-SIM. This was my only real “WTF” moment of the announcement. So you create an unlocked 3G device, which will clearly ship globally sometime this year, and instead of the bog-standard SIM card that’s been around since rocks were soft, you go with some funky new “standard” that no one else has adopted yet? You can’t tell me there’s not room for a standard SIM card in a device this size! I don’t get it. Apple is all about driving adoption of next-generation standards—from 3.5 inch floppy drives to FireWire to USB—but this just strikes me as dumb. Somebody please explain?
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    Anyhow, those are some of my initial reactions to the criticism. (Which I think will eventually look a lot like “No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.“)

    I already read a lot of books on my iPhone, and this will clearly be a better solution for that… meaning I was right not to jump into the Kindle/Nook fray.

    A lot of my evening Internet consumption will fit nicely on my iPad, and I can always walk across the room to my laptop if I need to compose an email of more than a couple of lines.

    I’m actively looking forward to walking into presentations with this and a VGA cable (although someone sorely needs to make a thinner VGA cable, or it will be bulkier than the iPad!).

    I’m not going to give up my laptop or my iPhone, but I think there’s room in between. In two months, we’ll see if anyone agrees with me.

Comments

  1. I agree with you in a lot of ways.. particularly in that I was disappointed of the announcement overall but will still probably buy one anyways. The biggest “wow” to me was the $29 3G plan. I’ve always wanted laptop 3G (or 4G) but the contracts and $60/month plans with $150+ early termination fees was just too much. Finally I’ll have Internet at Tech Square Starbucks and St Charles Deli!

    Another “wow” for me was the 4th accessory that was for some reason not mentioned during the Stevenote: a SD card attachment to load photos. http://gizmodo.com/5458376/apple-ipads-myriad-optional-dongles-usb-sd-ac-bbq This is great for a few scenarios including but not limited to a) traveling with your camera and just the iPad and being able to off-load pictures to it (then again 32GB SDHC cards are pretty cheap these days so this is a rather moot point) and b) if you’re at a photoshoot and want to load up the picture you just took and zoom in and see if it is blurry, etc. I also think the picture frame capability with the charging dock was underrated.. that will be neat!

    Now my only other concern is that my favorite music sites ditch Flash and start using HTML5 audio embeds so I can listen on the iPad. Also, I haven’t looked too closely but I hope changing tabs in the browser is easier than it is in the iPhone, as I see myself likewise doing a bit of evening/couch Internet consumption with this.

  2. Wei Yang says:

    I don’t usually get pissed at Apple’s forward thinking but I too was annoyed at the MicroSIM and lack of USB. They’re just as bad as Sony with their proprietary stuff.



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  5. Alan says:

    I thought the micro-sim was to keep people from dropping their cell-phone sim card into the slot, thus “sharing” one 3G account amongst the two devices.

    That is certainly what I would try to do if I could!

  6. Jeff Harrell says:

    Sorry to chime in so late, but I just got here.

    I think you’re on the right track with the non-camera-camera, but … something still doesn’t feel right about me. What’s the user experience like for a pad-style device with a camera-screen-thing? Are you supposed to hold the device at arm’s length at a right angle to your beautiful face for the duration of your conversation or video blog or whatever? Are you supposed to prop it up on a stand that you’re assumed to have lying around? Are you intended to keep the device in one of those promisingly but possibly awkward convertible cases?

    The challenge with video communication and such is the fact that you have to stick a honking great camera in front of your face. If you’re sitting at a table with a traditional computer in front of you, okay, that can work. (If we assume the eye-contact problem is solved.) With a laptop it’s more of a challenge; how many of us have fired off an iChat session only to discover that because of our posture the person on the other end has a perfect view up our noses, or some other least-flattering perspective?

    Making somebody look GOOD on video is an art all by itself. But short of that, merely making somebody look LIKE HIMSELF is also a heck of a challenge. The cliché is that the camera adds ten pounds, and there’s some truth to it. Cameras flatten and distort even under the best of circumstances. Change the angle of the camera just slightly and suddenly you look awful, or at least not at all like what you think you really look like.

    I’m unconvinced either way. It’s possible that we just haven’t cracked the problems inherent in easy, user-friendly video communication yet. On the other hand, I think it’s also possible that video communication, like personal jetpacks and food pills, are one of those predictions that 20th-century science fiction just plain flubbed. When I reflect on the recent trend for interpersonal communication to become more and more terse and asynchronous — email, text messages, IM, twitter, whatever — I become even more convinced that this might be the case.

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