Damn you, Indecision!

The iPad is…

The iPad is…

Apple’s version of a netbook.  Steve Jobs poked fun of netbooks, saying that they’re not better than laptops at anything, that they’re just cheap laptops.  And in a sense, this is true.  The basic, lower-end netbooks are just cheap laptops with smaller screens, keyboards, very little storage space, and slower processors.  There are higher-end netbooks that are actually quite capable machines with faster processors and higher-res screens that some users have replaced their laptops with.  But the main draw of the netbook category was that for most people who only do basic e-mail and web surfing (I would say a pretty big majority of the personal-computer-user population), a lower-specced machine was all they needed.  Many of the Linux-based netbooks have an iPhone-esque kiosk UI where the user is presented with large app icons on the desktop to make operation as easy as possible.

image credit: Wikipedia

They also started out with rather small-capacity SSDs for limited file storage.  Later on, netbook-specific OSes showed up to optimize performance on the lower-specced machines.  Jolicloud and Intel’s Moblin OSes are the first two that come to mind.  Both offer simplified UIs as well:


These OSes also offered the user some kind of centralized app repository that made it easy for the user to download more apps for their netbooks.  These apps were often special versions of Linux apps redone for netbooks.  Does any of this sound familiar? 🙂  The iPad extends the iPhone mode of operation to a device with a larger screen and a little bit more processing power to sort of bridge the gap between the iPhone and the MacBook.  And the iPad’s base price of $499 for a 16GB, Wi-Fi only device is actually pretty comparable to lower- to mid-range netbooks.  I think people considering a netbook will think twice now that you can get the iPad backed by the App Store, iTunes, and the iBookstore.  

Now some people will cry foul and say that netbooks are more capable than the iPad, and yes, I agree.  The ones running Windows, or ones hacked to use a full version of Linux or even hackintosh netbooks will over some users way more functionality and flexibility than the iPad.  But I would tell you that you’re missing the point.  Think about regular netbook users, not uber-geeks.  Think about computer users who aren’t entirely comfortable using computers.  Or think about some more advanced computer users who just want a simple device to get certain tasks done without worrying about cracking open a laptop.  This is the main demographic Apple is reaching out to.

is a great mobile media consumption device.  No, you’re not going to replace your pocketable iPod/iPhone or big-screen HDTV with the iPad, but when you’re on a plane, at a cafe, on a trip, or just couch surfing (again, all place where one could carry a netbook), the iPad has a certain advantage over the iPhone or a laptop when watching videos, browsing photos, reading e-books, or even listening to music.  The large screen is a boon for video and photo browsing.  It would feel more comfortable showing off photos to other people in a room on the iPad than huddling around a laptop.    

is a great mobile media creation device.  Many people, myself included, are able to comfortably and capably blog from their iPhones.  The iPad’s larger screen and keyboard dock (or any other Bluetooth keyboard) would make blogging while out and about even easier.  I could totally see some people using iPads at next year’s tech trade shows like CES.  Maybe not the hardcore bloggers for Engadget and the like, but still.  

If you saw the demonstration of the Brushes app during the iPad announcement, you can imagine how much more useful the iPad would be to those already creating lovely works of art on the iPhone.  And there are tons of music instrument and recording, video recording and editing, and photo-editing apps in the App Store that I can foresee evolving into newer, more capable apps on the iPad hardware.  

One of the accessories for the iPad is a set of dongles that connect to the universal dock so that you can offload photos from your camera, either directly or via an SD card reader.  Would it be too much of a stretch to see photo apps that might allow some basic RAW conversion/editing?  Perhaps so, given the current hardware specs, but who knows?  And BTW, yes, I mentioned video recording, even though this first-gen iPad doesn’t have a camera.  Come on, you don’t think that isn’t one of the next upgrades?  

is potentially a great next-generation e-print reading device.  The iPad’s LCD is about the same size as the Kindle DX’s screen.  So already, the larger real estate can make reading books more enjoyable.  But the color LCD and processing power of the iPad can also allow publishers to make enhanced e-books that have multimedia supplements.  Imagine a book on how to play golf that includes short video clips or animations showing the correct golf swing form, or books on sporting events that actually have highlight clips built-in, or scientific books that have complex color diagrams and videos illustrating the scientific concepts.  

I’m also excited about what e-magazines published for the iPad would look like.  The large screen will allow magazine publishers to keep essentially the same layout as the print version, with all of the color elements — photos, fonts, etc. — intact.  And as I described above, e-magazines could also incorporate more interactive features like video clips, polls that would actually report results back to the magazine’s website, perhaps even a live snippet of related tweets or other social network posts on the subject at hand.  I am sort of a magazine junkie who’s had to let all of my subscriptions expire because I’m tired of all of the paper piling up.  E-magazines would be a great alternative for me.  

Again, naysayers would claim that e-magazines already exist as magazine’s websites.  Sure, I agree to a point.  But sitting down with a print magazine is not the same experience as reading the same articles online.  Wired Magazine posts all of their magazine articles online, but their online layout is stripped-down compared to the print version and looks like a website.  E-magazines on an iPad (and any other e-book reader with a large color screen, no matter what the display technology) could recreate a print magazine feel, just like the iBooks app recreates the feel of reading a paper book.  To some people, that doesn’t matter, but to others like me, it does.

Other naysayers are out there claiming that the iPad is no Kindle killer because the e-ink display is better both for readability and battery life.  Again, I agree to a point.  First of all, I hate the term, “x killer”.  There’s no reason why multiple devices in a certain consumer electronic category can’t co-exist.  Secondly, there’s no doubt that many people will prefer the Kindle/Nook/other e-ink readers over the iPad because an e-ink display is easier on the eyes and can last so much longer on a charge than the iPad.  However, for many people like me who have been reading e-books long before the Sony Reader or the Amazon Kindle ever came on the scene, reading on a backlit screen isn’t a bother.  I personally prefer it because I often read at night, in bed, in either very dim lighting or no light.  And I am not a big fan of having to rely on a reading light, because sometimes I just won’t have access to one.  And when you compare the price of the base model iPad to the Kindle DX — USD$ 499.99 vs. $489.99, respectively — the iPad looks to have more bang for the buck because of all of the other features it has over the Kindle DX.

I am a little concerned about how much Apple is going to back their iBookstore, just because we’ve all heard Steve Jobs claim that “no one reads anymore”.  However, I think that the iPad is also going to become very important in the field of education, with a lot of school kids potentially using the iPad as a laptop replacement (maybe even textbook replacement??).  So in that case, I think Apple may just be in the e-book business for the long haul, now that they’ve produced a device that they think is a worthy e-book reader.  

is still at version 1.0.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be, but I continue to be amazed by how many people come out of the woodwork around Apple announcement time and demonstrate how ignorant they are of Apple’s modus operandi.  Seriously, people, get over it.  When has Apple ever released a first-generation product that had every possible feature or hardware component crammed into it?  The iPad is following the iPhone’s path.  Remember, the first-gen iPhone didn’t even have apps!  No 3G, even though tons of people bellyached about that, and no GPS.  The reasoning behind it, whether you believe it was marketing hoo-hah, or just how they planned it all along, was to make the iPhone more stable of a platform than the other smartphone platforms.  Opening up the iPhone to apps would affect stability, and using 3G when coverage and hardware optimization wasn’t quite up to par would’ve drained the iPhone’s battery quite handily.  A lot of people, including me, held off buying the first iPhone because it didn’t fit their needs, but that sure didn’t make the iPhone flop.  I seriously doubt that the first-gen iPad will be a flop, either.  It may not sell quite as well as the iPhone, but your guess is as good as mine.  

The pricing for the iPad is rather astonishing, given Apple’s usual penchant for overpricing their products because they can.  And I fully believe that this is meant to be a shot across the bow for similar products like netbooks, the new smartbook category, and the other slate computer devices that cropped up at CES.  A base price of $499 is very attractive to many buyers (I said many, not all).  I think it was job one for the iPad to have this surprising pricing scheme, so of course things like a front-facing or rear-facing camera needed to stay out in order to keep the costs down and the profits up.  Once Apple has gotten a fair amount of ROI on the first-gen iPad, and they’ve secured ridiculously good deals on mobile camera units, then they’ll release the next version with a camera or two and maybe a built-in SD slot and maybe a USB slot or two if we’re really good.  

Another huge thing that people are in a tizzy about is the lack of multitasking.  That’s a common complaint for the iPhone, so much so that marketing for other smartphones like the Palm Pre and Droid like to needle the iPhone for it.  I agree that given a lot of the apps that are out there now, it would be nice to leave them running in the background, and having push notifications, while useful, is not the best solution, especially for things like streaming audio apps.  But I think people have conveniently forgotten that iPhone 4.0 is coming.  And there have been strong rumors that a major feature of 4.0 is “a kind of” multitasking.  I wouldn’t be surprised if iPhone 4.0 is announced before the iPad is released, and that the main reason why it wasn’t announced at the iPad event was to keep the focus on the iPad.  I can also imagine that work on the iPad went down to the wire and there was no time to fully integrate and test iPhone 4.0 before the iPad announcement deadline.  Similarly, Apple could just be planning to release the iPad as-is and put in iPhone 4.0 as an update, post-release.  Furthermore, I think that while there are a lot of “no multitasking” complaints online, a lot of regular iPhone users really don’t care about multitasking because this is their first smartphone and they don’t know any better.  And other iPhone users like myself have gotten used to the lack of multitasking, and don’t consider it a dealbreaker.   However, I fully expect multitasking to come sooner rather than later thanks to the Android and Palm smartphones out there now.  Apple is very good at holding back the goods so that they come from a position of strength.  They knew that releasing the iPad without some key features wouldn’t hamper initial sales, and would give them something for version 2.0.  Sneaky buggers.

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