Friday, January 29, 2010

What's really wrong with the iPad

Apple has announced their iPad. Besides the stupid name and sophomoric jokes most reviews don't seem to care for the device.

What I don't get is why they don't get what the iPad is. They review it wishing the whole time it was Netbook. They want it both ways and just don't seem to get it.

You can't have the extreme ease of the iPhone and the total flexibility of a general purpose computer.

What the iPad (iPhone, iPod Touch) has going for it is:
  • Full size screen
  • Multi-touch
  • No file management (this is the bane of computer illiterates)
  • Simple application management
  • No booting
  • One piece
  • Multimedia
"Yeah, but a Netbook can do that and so much more!". Well, yeah, but a Desktop can do that and so much more. The argument doesn't hold water.

You don't need the Flash Player to experience the web. I can't believe they even argue this. The next generation browsers will be powerful enough to eliminate the need for the Flash Player in 90% of cases anyways, and mobile Safari is already on track there. It's not that far away. Any complaints along this vain really mean, "I can't watch Netflix or Hulu on the iPad." The XBox, PS3, and Wii don't have the Flash Player (at least not one worth speaking of) but they stream Netflix. If there is a market for it the iPhone/iPad will get it.

You don't need a physical keyboard to browse the web or to read eBooks. The iPhone has shown you don't need one to play games. Leaving out the keyboard keeps the form factor nice. And with multi-touch the virtual keyboard is usable.

You don't have to use eInk to be usable out doors. Besides, how much time do these reviewers really spend in full bright sunlight. You just need to turn up the brightness (more on this later).

You don't need a camera. This isn't a mobile device. It's a cordless, not a cell (phone). Perhaps a future version will have a forward facing web cam but I don't think that will fly with AT&T who seems to want you to pay for that data plan but not to use it.

You don't need a file system. This device is accessible to everyone. Mom won't lose her files because she saved them in Program Files instead of My Documents; She won't be downloading spyware or viruses; She'll always know where all her images are; She'll always know where her music and audiobooks are; She'll get the Mood Ring app and install it and run it and she'll have done it all by herself.

What the iPad missed:

Inter-application data sharing isn't limited to copy/paste. The iPad doesn't need a file system but it does need a way to email attachments from a variety of apps without each app having build out it's own "Email This" functionality. Any mp3 player I install should work with any music I've sync'd. Any ebook reader should be able to find any ebooks from any other ebook reader (among compatible formats). The Palm Pilot managed to do this more than 10 years ago. I think the iPad could swing it.

We want to print. I know the home printer world hasn't quite gone networking yet but, you're Apple, figure it out.

We want to share. I have an iPad, my wife likes her Kindle and the kid has an Android device. Make the ePub ebook format really open and let us read the books on any of our devices. Let iTunes sync with other devices even if it's only in a limited way. As much as you'd like it to be it's not an Apple world.

We need multi-tasking. Even if it's not what multi-tasking is on a Desktop. I need enough RAM (I'm looking at you iPod Touch 1g) and a UI for switching apps without exiting. Even if background apps are suspended. I want to switch between my eBook reader, email, web-browser and contact list without losing my place or waiting for the app to exit and start up again. If we can get it we want to full multitasking where that web page can keep loading while I switch over and finish composing that email.

We need a faster way to change the settings. If I do go out in the sunlight I need to be able to quickly adjust my brightness without exiting my eBook reader and going through 10 menus in the Settings app. Same goes for volume, networking and many of the other settings.

I want a mouse. The iPad supports a keyboard; We want some other peripherals. Let mice, headphones and whatever else work. This would be a boon for games and many other apps. In fact throw a CD/DVD burning device in there. And while we're at it where is the expandable storage. And internal microSD/SD card reader is a must. The Nintendo's Wii manages this and seems to handle piracy okay. You should follow suite.

I can handle the price. What I can't handle is that Amazon managed to get me free internet access for life and you didn't. I don't need another monthly bill. Convince AT&T to share my existing data plan with both my phone and iPad contributing toward my monthly limit. (Having the iPad is like having a separate electricity bill for each appliance in my house.) Give me some small amount for free and let me upgrade to the $20 or $30 plans for higher limits.

I hope the iPad finds it's niche. A lot of computing could go this closed route and I think it would be good for a lot of home users. Power users and businesses are always going to need the more open, powerful, and flexible systems we have today. But mom just can't handle it on her own. She needs an iPad (almost).

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