The much-hyped launch of Apple’s new tablet-style computer yesterday has done little to change my belief that it’s a solution looking for a problem.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs, in trademark black turtle-neck sweater, said, “iPad creates and defines an entirely new category of devices that will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before.”
Creating a new category in the fast-moving electronics industry is no mean feat. Let’s not forget that despite its numerous successes, even Apple has not always been able to do that. There were portable music players before the iPod, and smartphones before the iPhone. There weren’t many square computers before its G4 Cube, but then that product bombed anyway.
Is the iPad really a brand new category of device?
I fail to see that it is. As we’ve established, tablet computers have been around for many years. What makes the iPad drastically different? It runs a different operating system (most others run Windows or Linux) and because it’s from Apple, integrates well with the likes of Apple’s iTunes and its online iBookstore, and can run all the apps than run on the iPhone. That’s about the long and short of it.
Apple’s says the iPad is a “magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price”. But who really needs it? iPhone users already have access to the thousands of apps in the Apple App Store (not to mention an existing subscription to a telecoms operator). Anyone with a laptop, notebook or netbook has large-screen portable computing nailed, with the advantage of a folding keyboard that protects the screen from scratches and knocks and is more familiar and faster than the iPad’s on-screen touch keyboard.
Much has been made of the argument that it will revolutionise publishing because you can download thousands of books, or read newspapers on it in glorious full colour. Sure, for a few hours. While Apple claims “up to 10 hours” of battery life you’re unlikely to see that in real-world situations, especially once you have a number of battery-hungry apps running from the App Store and are using Wi-Fi or 3G connectivity in anger.
Compare battery life to the e-reader competition: the Kindle from Amazon claims the battery will last 7 days from a single charge, while Sony’s eReader measures battery life as up to 7,500 continuous page turns. So it’s not a direct e-reader competitor, if all you want to do is read digital books on the move.
Anyway here are the top 10 iPad disappointments.
1. The name. iPod may have been cool, but iPad just seems lazy. And it sounds like a sanitary towel.
2. Battery life. “Up to 10 hours” is unlikely to be more than a claim in real-world situations. Turn on wi-fi or 3G and expect to need to charge it twice a day.
3. No keyboard. OK, I know that’s sort of the point, but how many people want big-screen portable computing without a real keyboard? Keyboards on notebooks protect the screen, too.
4. No USB ports, and you need to buy a Camera Connection Kit to plug in an SD card to transfer your digital photos from a camera.
5. No camera. That means no video chat or Skype video calling. Some people use such things a lot, I’m reliably informed.
6. The price. The base model without 3G (and hence rather limited on the move) is $499 which will probably actually convert to just under £500 for the UK market. iPods cost more on a like-for-like basis in Europe than the US, and the top spec iPads, at around $850, are going to be pretty expensive compared to the competition if that’s the case here.
7. No Adobe Flash support. The supposedly best browsing experience doesn’t let you use one of the most popular formats for animation and video on the web.
8. Iffy GPS. There’s something called Assisted GPS which relies on Wi-Fi or 3G but there’s no built-in GPS receiver.
9. No applications multi-tasking apart from for a few apps that come with the device.
10. The name, again. Oh, and limited operator coverage (currently only on AT&T in the US, no word on UK carriers yet). And the closed application ecosystem. And the likely fragility of the thing. And the potential for the screen to get smeary when you keep touching it. And the fact you will become a target for thieves as early iPod users were. And no high definition video output. And the aspect ratio isn’t widescreen. And bright screens are a strain on the eye compared to the digital ink technology of rival e-readers…
I’m sorry, but I still don’t quite get it. I clearly don’t believe in magic. As I’ve also said before, people will buy this thing. That’s the cult of Mac.