iPad

2010-January-27

I'll admit, this particular post is a bit of a cheat. I wrote it originally as a reply to a thread started today on a forum where I moderate/administrate. The jist of the thread was "iPad: Is it or is it not an epic fail?" Naturally, I think it's not a fail, for a lot of reasons. This is just a fairly small selection of thoughts, and as more happen, they'll either be on my twitter, or in this journal/blog. The post I wrote (with a few additions and edits) follows.

It's not fail at all. I don't know what the rest of you were thinking today would be like, but honestly, there was no reason ever to think that this was going to be anything other than a rather large iPod Touch, with a software keyboard that has been re-adjusted for the fact that this is so much larger than the iPod Touch (and iPhone) is (are.)

The iPad definitely looks great, when you consider what it is and what it is supposed to be. The target market is anybody who wants an inexpensive portable computing device that can do a variety of fairly nice productivity and fun things. It also has a faster processor and more powerful graphics than any of the current iPod/iPhone devices, which means it won't be long before iPad specific games that take advantage of the hardware will show up. This thing could be better than the PSP or the Nintendo DS if the right people begin developing for it.

I know several people I can imagine using an iPad. People who might want something with them on the couch all day, people who don't want to buy a smartphone or are always near wifi and want a good organizer/email client, but don't want to haul around a laptop.

As a specific example, one of my high school teachers would benefit from this thing by replacing her current with it. She has specifically complained about the very short battery life of her laptop, she tends to hunt-and-peck anyway, and mostly what she wants is something ot look at her calendar/email with, or reserach something that's going on on the television, or just browse the web for general interest.

With the iWork apps available for it, she would also be able to write up assignments, enter grades into spreadsheets, and create presentations that she can then show at the school using the g5 tower or an mbp hooked up to the projector.

iPad Keyboard DockPlus, with the keyboard dock, she could make it easier to use either at her desk at home or desk at the school, for even more efficiently typing emails, assignments, calendar events or whatever.

Even-more-additionally, the school district has a Microsoft Exchange setup, so she'd be able to synchronize her contacts and calendar with that system, or with a personal google account if she wanted.

The iPad is also something I can imagine one or more of my parents having, or even my brother. Their use of the computer is essentially single-tasking, and tends to be limited to Internet browsing, e-mail, and spreadsheets for management of personal information (I keep track of my mobile phone bills with Excel, something I could easily re-create in Numbers or MobileNumbers if I had an iPad or a Mac, just as an example of how a consumer might use a spreadsheet in their home.)

In all of those cases, of course, I can not really imagine the iPad being the person's only computer. My photo teacher would need to have it synchronize either with her PC at home or her Mac at the school, and any of the other people I can immediately think of using it (my dad, my brother, my dad's girlfriend's mother, etc) would probably synchronize it with a desktop (or functionally) desktop computer, except in a few cases of people who don't currently have computers or Internet connections I could see using it primarily with the (most likely AT&T) 3g connection. Things like the camera connection kit also make it seem a bit more likely that somebody would be able to use it as their only computer. The biggest worry there is that somebody would have to purchase the largest iPad (which costs almost as much as the lowest end MacBook) in order to store a decent number of photos on it, along with videos/music/whatever-else.

All of that having been said, I can not see iPhone OS ever replacing the current desktop Mac OS for desktop or full-strength mobile computing. What I can see happening is the need for desktop computing diminishing signicifantly. Two or three years ago I would never have thought of saying I could see anyone having a device like this as their only computer. Today, I could indeed see a few specific types of people using this not only as their primary mobile computing device, but as their only computing device. iPod Touch and iPhone/iPad devices are definitely able to live most if not all of their lives separated from a computer, and with the iPad, it becomes easier to see, both with and without 3G.

The other thing is that it's no secret that the current Mac OS is based on NeXTSTEP, and is all the better for it. Mac OS 9 was almost completely unusable in 2003 when I finally switched to Mac OS X from system 8/9, and I imagine I would've been even happier if I'd had a nicer, OS X capable mac earlier. Mac OS X runs a few very advanced applications whose functionality may one-day be enhanced by multitouch, but are unlikely ever to be able to run fully multitouch. Great examples of this, I think, are Aperture and Final Cut Studio, which require fairly good precision, huge amounts of processing power, and work best with the most gargantuan of displays.

As far as "vs. the iPod Touch" -- the iPad has a physical keyboard add-on available, which means that the productivity apps and web sites such as this one where you might enter a large volume of text, are easier and more efficient to use. There are a few other accessories available, and I'll admit I really like most of what I'm seeing about it.

I've personally thought for a few moments about whether or not I will want to get one. I have already started a new wireless contract for a smartphone with VerizonWireless, so one of my thoughts which was "use a dumbphone or cheap featurephone for phone/text and an iPad+3G for data purposes" isn't applicable to myself, but the $30/month unlimited data plan is definitely something I would have considered purchasing with or for the device.

Even if I do get an iPad at some point, without activating an AT&T line on it, what I may do is open a new AT&T account (or reopen my old one, i don't know the mechanics of that) and activate the data on a month by month basis -- which would be incredibly helpful in a situation such as "I'm going on vacation somewhere I know there's cell signal but there won't be wifi" (which has happened to me before.)

One role I've considered recently is that I have what I call a "bedputer." It's a very small, older ultraportable laptop (IBM ThinkPad X24) that hangs out underneath my bed in case I need to check my email over by the bed, or I just want to use a small computer. An iPad would be suitable for this role as I tend to use it while sitting down, primarily for reading or writing short blog posts, tweets, facebook statuses or forum posts, along with watching videos (hulu or podcasts or whatever) and checking on and updating my schedule.

Whether or not it'll be a success in the long run, I don't think there's any question. Who will buy it? Unless we're currently in dire need of something like this, I don't think it'll be people like us, but I do suspect that people like us will help our parents, friends and other acquaintences get into the idea of an iPad, and purchase and configure them.