I'm very much torn with the iPad. I don't know whether to qualify it as a superpowered iPod Touch on growth hormones, or to call it an underdeveloped tablet trying to be the next best thing. In either case, the iPad will change the direction of tablet devices... some good, and some really bad.
Jump through and check the pessimism...
Let's get it out the way first: the Apple iPad is neither revolutionary, nor the first of its kind. Palm, Nokia, Sony, and others have tried... and failed at pushing the intermediary device between smart phones and notebooks. The struggle has always been a matter of size, power, function, and cost. In a lot of ways, the "tablet" is akin to those crossover vehicles that came about during the late Aughts; not quite a fuel efficient coupe, not quite a gas guzzling tank.
As stated before, the Apple tablet is nothing new, but has been the most requested and rumored thing of Apple since cut and paste. After years of waiting, Jobs steps out of his keynote sabbatical to bring us the iPad, and sets it loose with an appealing price point and enough Apple Distortion Field to get a blind person to buy one.
The iPad features a 9.7" "widescreen" multi-touch LED-backlit 1024x768 display with IPS technology (read: awesome viewing angle), 1GHz Apple A4 processor (the first chip to come from their recent acquisition of PA semiconductor), 16, 32, or 64 GB flash storage, Wi-Fi (b/g/n), bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, speaker, mic, 30-pin dock connector, unlocked 3G data available... all starting at a very tempting $499 (topping out at $829 for the 64GB Wi-Fi + 3G model. Oh yea, it's only a half-inch thick.
However, the iPad broke the hearts of many a fanboy. While some were oohing about the speed, size, and price, others were cursing Apple and there was weeping and gnashing of teeth over the iPhone approach, super bezel, and lack of multitasking. I sit in the middle:
- By hinging on the success and familiarity of the iPhone, the iPad OS and SDK will allow a quick transition for developers to create/port apps to the iPad. As it is now, iPhone apps will run in a box in the center of the iPad, or can double their size (with pixelation), giving the iPad access to 140,000+ apps at start.
- It's affordable, sorta. $499 is an excellent price for the 16GB iPad with Wi-Fi.
- No learning curve. As easy as the iPhone is to use, anyone, especially those who are looking for an internet device with e-mail will love the iPad. As Steve Jobs demonstrated in his presentation, the iPad is perfect for an old man lounging on the couch.
- All work and play. Apple rebuilt iWork to run on the iPad. While iWork is not an industry standard by any means, the ability to import Microsoft Office docs will allow for a bit of productivity. For the casual user, iWork is more than enough to handle all your word processing needs. Gaming wise, the 1024x768 pixel resolution is the largest handheld gaming res on the market and developers are ready to bring the biggest and the best games to the iPad. The iPhone has been a very successful gaming platform, the iPad will only continue the trend.
- HTML5. HTML5 is awesome in so many ways, and now that all the major browsers support it (and now the iPad), the web is gonna get more awesome. When Apple was asked why Flash was absent, Jobs mentioned the native video embedding capabilities that Flash provides. YouTube has a Flash-free version up and running with HTML5 tech and a lot of major video providers are offering sans Flash as a feature. Because the iPad is such a major device, the popularity of HTML5 has been vetted and will speed the transition to a world where you can't tell a desktop app from a web app.
Cons (and here's where the can of worms come in)
- All of the things we hate about the iPhone, we hate about the iPad. No multitasking, apps are still locked down by the app store, and...
- AT&T. Only AT&T can provide the 3G band for iPad to play in so it's essentially stuck with the big blue ball and chain. AT&T data plans are $14.99 a month for 250MB or $29.99 for unlimited access. No contract but if you rock an iPhone, you can end up paying $150/month or more when you add in your iPad 3G fees. This is where Apple starts to open the can. The romance is over between AT&T and Apple, but they are trapped in a bad codependent relationship. Apple has the power to change the world, they showed it with the iPhone, but they could have taken the opportunity to change the mobile data rules. When I buy internet for home, I get a data rate that I can attach as many devices I want to. I pay one fee and all my toys bathe in all the wifi bubbles they can handle. When it comes to mobile devices we tend to pay a la carte. The future is going mobile. I already rely on my Droid's data connection more than the wifi at my house. It's great to see new devices show up that take advantage of mobile data, but no one can afford more than one. I know this isn't Apple's fault, but they have the leverage to help change the way carriers make their money off of you. I would have liked to see a bundled data plan for iPhone users. Add ten bucks if you will, but a whole $30 is a lot.
- No camera. I believe Apple intentionally left a camera out of the 1st Gen iPad. They need something to sell the 2nd Gen iPad. No doubt, in 8 months, we'll see a new iPad with a front facing camera, and early adopters will be pissed. This is just what Apple does.
- It's ugly. The exorbitant bezel lends a bit of resting space for the hand, but to style the iPad like a giant iPhone seems lazy. The single button looks fine on an iPhone, but on the iPad it's out of place.
- It's going to break. Nothing Jobs said in the presentation spoke about the iPad's durability. We all expect the aluminum backplate to scar, but that 9 inch screen is going to scuff. iPhone screens love to crack and shatter, and the iPad will no doubt suffer the same issue. Corning developed this awesome new material called Gorilla Glass, and oh my god is it super strong and scratch proof. I found out a couple months ago why my Droid screen was flawless even after a few drops and dings: Gorilla Glass. I even took a key to the Droid to test it. This stuff is gold and was one of the darlings of CES this year... the iPad (and every mobile device with a screen) could have benefited by a little Gorilla Glass.
- iBooks. No, I'm not talking about the lucite-laden powermacs of yesteryear, I'm talking about Apple's launch into the ebook world. Apple essentially branded eBooks, said $13-$15 bucks a pop was reasonable, and added a category to the ever mutating iTunes Store. Apple hasn't done anything different, iBooks are still in ePub format (like Amazon's Kindle), but with that special Apple touch, and a higher price. A Kindle has an 600x800 pixel e-ink screen at a density of 167ppi (pixels per inch), well over the 150dpi baseline for printed material. the iPad is LED backlit 1024x768 LCD screen, and has a pixel density of 132ppi, well under the 150ppi mark. Amazon fought to get eBooks down to $9.99, but now publishers like Macmillan have forced Amazon to sell their books at Apple's agreed price. $3-$5 more per ebook is not worth paying just because a fancy multimedia tablet with an ebook reader app goes on the market. Book publishers have been trying to squeeze more money out of eBooks ever since the Kindle, and Apple gave them a foothold. An eBook should never be more than a paper back, but the iPad made it so. And I'm only going to quietly mention that ebook readers should stay e-ink...
- No Flash. Even though Flash is a huge and bloated beast that can barely run on mobile devices let alone your laptop, it comprises a majority of the multimedia players on the web (read: porn). HTML5 is awesome, but Flash isn't going to die, and neither is Silverlight, a much more efficient and secure method for video playback. Apple and Adobe have been bickering over adding Flash to the iPhone for years, and while Android and the Pre get Flash in 2010, the iPhone and iPad will remain flashless and petulant. Shame, the iPad could have made for the ultimate porn tablet, and this only adds further proof that the iPad is more like a smart phone than a computer.
It's an excellent gaming/internet/multimedia tablet despite a few quirks, but for that true middle of the road device, the iPad isn't. The iPad is a game changer... I'm just afraid the changes aren't for the best.