After years of speculation, Apple finally announced their latest creation. a 9.7” tablet called the iPad.  The rumour mill was in overdrive for weeks if not months leading up to the January 27 announcement and I’ve stayed pretty close to much of it.  At this point I should outline my position so you can determine my bias.  Anyone who listens to the TDL mobile podcast will know my love of the iPhone knows no bounds.  Simply put, I believe it to be the best delivery of a smartphone  bar none.  It has set the standard in the sector and, whilst others are close and may even surpass this year, for me it still leads the way.  I also use a Macbook, although not for reasons you might expect.  I see cloud technology as the future and wanted to move away from Windows to see if I could become OS agnostic, that is able to access my information regardless of platform.  I felt I needed to at least remain semi productive in this transition and so a move to Linux (of any kind) was deemed a leap too far!  I run Windows 7 alongside Mac OS X and can be using either quite comfortably (although my preference is Windows 7).  I also have an Apple TV and, despite my best efforts to replace it with a 7MC in the front room, still use it as my main movies box as the family united voice outweighed mine.

So I’m in the main pro-Apple and do like many of the products they produce.  However I would also like to think I am one step away from Fanboi, I certainly don’t think Apple always get it right.

So onto the iPad.  Having had 24 hours to reflect on it (you can catch my immediate reactions along with TDL Mobile colleagues Jose and Jon on the TDL Mobile podcast 024), here are where I see the wins and losses:

Gold Medals

  1. Great Screen
  2. Superfast in operation and to start up
  3. Great and Intuitive UI
  4. Transferrable apps from the iPhone
  5. Fills the gap between smartphone and laptop in a very unique way – no other device can do what it does anywhere nearly as well (more on that later)

Wooden spoons

  1. No multitasking
  2. No Flash Support
  3. No option to synchronise over the air (only via USB)
  4. No Camera
  5. Talk of DRM on the ePub format making content useless on non Apple devices (I can live with this, but it just seems such an unnecessary step and will disappear in a year or 2, when we’ll need to replace with non DRM versions)
  6. No USB Support

So overall, my impression is that this is a nice device with tremendous potential.  In many ways it lived up to my hopes but I can’t help but be a little disappointed.  This could have been a SPECTACULAR device.  To be honest, if multitasking and flash support were in there I think it would be.  If OTA sync’ing (a-la Apple TV) and a camera were in place for video calling, I think this would take it’s place at the top of my gadget tree. 

A New Category? Content versus contribution?

I’ve talked previously (and seen many other posts on the subject including this one) about consumption versus contribution and I think this is key.  For me, the iPad is a consumption device through and through, no question.  All the talk of iWorks on the iPad and the keyboard dock is all but irrelevant.  Given the lack of USB connectivity and the requirement to still sync the iPad with a PC or Mac, I don’t really think you can see this device as a replacement, it clearly sits in the middle of the smartphone and the laptop / PC.  Sure, being able to compose spreadsheets, presentations or documents may be a nice to have if you don’t have access to another device, but I’m still not convinced the re-design of iWorks to make use of the touchscreen makes these tasks any better.  Unlike Mr Jobs, I’m not so down on netbooks.  I think they also sit in the space between smartphones and laptops /PC’s and to me their role is about contribution.  Give me a Windows 7 netbook to write a blog post or a word document over an iPad with iWorks on any day.  Even email is debatable.  If I’m catching up on email, the iPad looks super good.  If I’m going to be spending time replying and typing, I’d still take the netbook.  But if I’m watching a movie, playing a game, reading a book or looking at photos’, now that’s when I want the iPad.

If your house in anything like mine, you’ll recognise this scenario.  The TV on, the family is in the living room.  One of us wants to look something up on the web, book cinema tickets, or maybe even watch something different as the TV show on view isn’t totally to your taste (but you want to still be with the family).  At the moment, I reach for the iPhone or possible even my laptop.  Neither offers the perfect experience.  The iPhone is a little small, although is very quick to get started.  The laptop takes more effort to start up, and is more restrictive to use.  Enter the iPad.  Perfect for the sofa for all the family!  And when it’s not in use, we simply dock it and use it as a picture frame.  The whole family can share around the iPad, view photo’s, effortlessly surf the web and view videos with ease.

Add to that scenario the use of the iPad to read books on the train, to read newspapers, and you start to see the power of the device and I can see this being unrivalled around the home, on journeys or on hotel stop overs. 

To sum up, I believe there are 2 spaces between smartphones and laptops: One focused on Consumption and one on contribution.  For me netbooks are perfect for the latter, but the iPad is potentially unrivalled in the consumption department.  Or could be if it weren’t for the lack of flash support and multitasking.  Which is what disappoints me the most.  It could have been spectacular!  And, as Jose mentioned on the TDL Mobile podcast, it’s potential in home automation is huge, enough for a whole discussion in itself. 

Do I want one? Yes, despite its floors I feel it potentially offers something unique.  Is it revolutionary? Potentially, although not in its current form.  Does it disappoint? Definitely.

For me, I think a new space will open up with this device.  I hope this is just the start, that the issues get resolved one way or another (either by Apple or someone else showing them how it should be done).  Either way, to my mind Apple just kick started something new and I’m looking already to iPad 2.0, now that thing could just kill! 

Posted by SheldonW

3 thoughts on “The iPad: So Close”
  1. You say it fills the gaps between a smartphone and a laptop, err what gap, as far as I can see there isn’t one, why do I need another device to carry around, its all about convergence to me.

    I think Apple are trying to create a gap where there isn’t one, having said that though I wouldn’t bet against them doing it but the iPad needs a lot more features for it to become a hit.

  2. Thanks to Ians link to engaget I think the MS Courier is the killer product in this new space between smart phone and net book. I have been waiting for a product like this and it does what the ipad etc should ie inking in a small form factor and hopefully great price. Windows tablets have been too expensive to have as an extra PC to my main lap top and I don’t like having a laptop open in a meeting. This gives me the full filofax /time management capability in a nice package. It looks like MS will do an apple on apple this time and hit the sweet spot after others have created the new product class. Go for it MS. When can I have one for a review.

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