Ok, so pretty much everybody already knew exactly what Apple was going to announce today. The iPad was bestowed upon us mere mortals by his Steveness. If you haven’t seen it, take a gander. Be sure not to stare directly at it for too long.
Maybe I’m just being a Luddite, but it looks like the world’s largest iPod Touch to me. Doesn’t the First Law of Gadgets dictate that sexiness is inversely proportional to the size of said gadget? If that’s the case, then this ranks right up there with grandpa’s stealth hearing aid that looks like a Bluetooth earpiece.
It’s not an altogether horrible device, but considering the amount of secrecy and planning that went into this thing, I am a bit surprised at some of it’s shortcomings:
No multitasking. At least not like a traditional laptop or netbook. Maybe you can run multiple apps concurrently, but there’s definitely a one-app-at-a-time feel to it. Looks like you’d have to pop back to the home screen to launch another app. That’s not a big deal on a phone, but I think people are going to expect richer interactions from a device like this, and I’m afraid they’re going to be disappointed.
Video limitations. There’s no HD video out, so you’re stuck watching your videos on the 4:3 8” screen.
Size issues. It’s too big to slip in your pocket, and yet too small to really consider as a desktop replacement. I have the same gripe about netbooks.
No stylus or physical keyboard. One of the chief benefits of a tablet in my opinion is note taking, and I just don’t see anyone using their finger for writing extended notes. Sure there’s a keyboard, but unlike the iPod Touch, it seems too large to use exclusively with your thumbs. And the thing is so damn curvy and minimalist, I don’t see any way to get a grip on it with one hand while using the other to type.
Remember a few years back, when Microsoft debuted Windows XP Tablet PC Edition? It was going to revolutionize the way we interact with our computers. A few intrepid PC manufacturers even jumped on the bandwagon and released their own slates, and later, convertible laptops. In 2003 I bought a Gateway Tablet, which was actually designed and built by Motion Computing. The thing was a hulking beast by today’s standards (take a look at the picture and these specs):
The Gateway tablet is powered by Intel’s 866MHz mobile Pentium III processor and comes with 256MB of memory and a 40GB hard drive. Priced at a hefty $2,799, it includes built-in 802.11b wireless networking, a portable keyboard, a docking station and external combo drive that can play DVD movies and burn CDs.
It was really a pretty slick device. With Office 2003 and OneNote installed on it, I actually got along quite nicely for about 2 years using it as my main portable device. It was basically a regular PC under the hood, so it ran Adobe Reader and Microsoft’s own Reader software for eBooks. I also kept a big chunk of my music collection synchronized with Windows Media Player, so it effectively doubled as the world’s biggest MP3 player. I didn’t stream a lot of video in those pre-YouTube days, but as stated above, it could play a DVD (albeit with a tethered external drive). And boy howdy, was it ever a conversation starter.
In my opinion, the strength of Windows tablet interface has always been that it’s a superset of Windows. Now that tablet features and touch have been mainstreamed even further, I have to admit that I’d salivate over the prospect of owning another multi-touch tablet running Windows 7. I think that’s the real future of slate computing.
The way the media is hyping this Apple tablet, you’d think Moses himself had brought it down from Mount Sinai. Like it or not, Jobs and Co. are now poised to become a major player in yet another technology arena. While I don’t think this device is going to be a laptop or even a netbook killer, it certainly could spell doom for the Amazon Kindle and other eBook readers, and quite possibly cut into Apple’s own lucrative portable device business.
I mean, who’s going to buy both an iPod and an iPad? I mean, besides those fawning Macheads who have a different color Nano to match every outfit.