27 January 2010

Apple iPad Impressions

You must really like me or respect my opinion in tech if you're reading this in addition to or instead of the dozens of tech/gadget blogs.  So... thanks for reading!

What kind of device was I expecting today?  Based on the plethora of rumors, the device in my head was a 10" touchscreen Macbook.  A device running an OSX kernel with a modified interface modeled after iPhone OS.  The purpose?  A handheld extension of your desktop environment.  Priced around $999.

The iPad is not that device.

Revealed today was a larger iPod Touch.  A device for casual Internet surfing and media consumption.  Great for travel.  Great for e-mail.  Great for entertainment outside of the home environment.  And that's where the device gets into trouble.

Steve Jobs made it painstakingly clear that the iPad fulfills a role between that of the smartphone and the desktop/laptop environment.  It should fulfill it's role better than the efforts of the iPhone to be a computer and the laptop to be mobile.

In my best sarcastic and cynical voice, it sure does a great job of not being a smartphone or a computer.

I am positively struggling to identify the demographic for this new device.  Who is iPad for?  The only person I can think of who it really fits is the consumer without a smartphone AND a laptop.  Owning one or the other distracts from the feature gain.  Particularly the 3G if you own a smartphone; it's completely redundant to pay for 3G service twice.  Why can't I tether my iPhone's 3G connection to an iPad over Bluetooth?  What a great reason to own both devices that Apple is missing out on.

No multitasking.  I.e. no simultaneous chat apps or Pandora while you surf or read.
No USB port for your own keyboard or flash drive access.
No camera for video conferencing.
No wireless extension of your desktop.  Media must be dumped to the device via cable + iTunes.  In this regard, ORB might make a kick-ass way to access your desktop media.
Book pricing looks more expensive than Kindle books.

Negatives aside, why *is* the iPad still an attractive device?  Compared to netbooks and e-readers in the price range, it has a lot of desirable functionality and a package without being too much more expensive.  Less than 2x the price of Kindle, 100x the functionality.  Less than 2x the price of netbooks, better mobility.  There's enough here to be attracted to, for sure.  I just don't know who's buying.

iPad has more interest to me in terms of what it means for the future.  Steve Jobs' vision for the device is not just another platform for the same old media, but a new way to present media.  Newspapers with instant delivery and context-rich data association, like related videos and stories.  Books with links to inspired art, music, poetry, movie adaptations.  Games designed with a multi-touch interface in mind.  The bottom line is that iPad is poised to be the device that ushers in a new paradigm in media interaction.  For that reason alone, I'm happy iPad is here.

I'm definitely up for discussing implications and impressions of the iPad.  Leave a link in the comments to your blog or email me at theryanburke(at)gmail.com.


  1. OK, I wasn't really done yet. It looks uncomfortable to hold and use at the same time. More uncomfortable to engage in two-hand typing when it rests in the lap. Steve had his feet up ON A DESK in order to get a decent position.

    AnandTech made a good point too: "The only containers supported are .m4v, .mp4 and .mov.

    This is horribly unfortunate and it means that anyone with existing content not in a friendly format will have to convert it before it’ll play on the iPad."

    That sucks, though a solution like ORB would get around this problem, but only when wifi and 3G reachback to your desktop is an option.

  2. Good question: http://www.techcrunch.com/2010/01/27/the-ipad-vs-the-kindle-how-should-amazon-respond/