Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This About Sums Up the iPad

A friend sent me this screenshot of his Facebook feed:


6.54 said...

I'm with you: just seems like a low-power, closed computing system to me. If its resolution was higher or if it had some sort of advanced electric ink I might be interested in it as a reader, but ultimately I don't see it edging out the niche that my iphone already has. People seem excited, though, so I guess it wasn't a huge mistake.

Gray said...

I have a similar reaction: I just don't understand the iPad's appeal. I can imagine it's just the thing for a handful of fairly small groups of people, and for the rest of us it's little more than another shiny gee-whiz from Apple.

Then again, I had exactly the same reaction to the iPod until I finally bought one in 2005, so I suspect I'm just missing something. Maybe when rev 4 comes out in a couple of years I'll understand.

But "iPad" absolutely has to go. That has got to be Apple's worst naming blunder since the Lisa.

Gray said...

Quick question for 6.54: 1024 x 768 seems to me like a very respectable resolution for a 9.7" screen. Out of curiosity, what uses were you thinking of that would require a higher resolution? Were you hoping for 1080p?

Joel said...

even i have given up because the browser won't have flash. it would still be a great 500 giant ipod/ereader product, though.

Anonymous said...

Educational use:

PMG said...

Wow my blog just got real geeky.

I guess I could see it as a kindle-style reader, if I were into that sort of thing. In ten years when e-book formats are all standardized and widely available--and assuming I don't have to rebuy the thousands of books I already own--I could possibly go down that route.

What I actually would like it to replace more than just books is all the paper in my life. Like, how cool would it be to have students submit their papers online (which they already do through blackboard) and be able to do easily grade them on the iPad, on the plane or at the coffeeshop or wherever! But that would require much more sophisticated input capability then what it has--like, a stylus, or a real keyboard, or something.

I also could see it as something to watch videos on the plane or something, but since movies and TV shows have to go through iTunes, and you can't do flash video...

PMG said...

Man I'm using the word "like" a lot these days.

ritchey said...

my friend Marcus pointed out: "It's not even a computer. I don't understand why anybody would rather have this than a laptop, except that's it's cheaper. What do I have to do, put this on my lap and then prop my feet up on a table? Why not just ship it with a base that the screen folds down upon so I can watch it without craning my neck down? Oh right, that'd be A LAPTOP."

Gray said...

A week later, I have a somewhat different view of the iPad. I still don't see myself buying one any time soon, but I think I'm starting to understand the device's purpose.

Ritchey's friend is correct: the iPad is not a computer. But I don't think comparing it to a laptop is especially worthwhile because the iPad isn't meant to be used in the same fashion as a laptop.

I think Phil gets pretty close to the mark when he imagines using an iPad to retrieve electronically submitted student papers, mark them up with his finger (one of the strengths of Apple's touchscreen devices is that they don't require a stylus for input), and return them to students in the span of a few minutes. I've also recently seen scattered hints that the iPad could be a big hit in the healthcare industry.

But I think that imagining useful-but-specific scenarios misses the larger purpose of the iPad: it's all about liberating most of the staple internet tasks from the computer. Smart phones already do this, but they're very expensive, especially when mandatory cellular and data contracts are considered. The iPad's price is higher than most smart phones, but the lack of a contract and the $15/month data plan makes the iPad available to a much larger customer base. If I were in the mood to do PR for Apple, I might say that the iPad helps to democratize the internet (though that's overstating it quite a bit).

The idea, I think, is to create an affordable device that can be used pretty much anywhere for email, the web, IM, video streaming, etc., and on a full-size display. Once the internet is seen as something that can be accessed without having to be tethered to a computer (or seen only on a tiny phone display), the stage will be set for all sorts of impressive technology, possibly including wearable computers, wetware, and "smart" devices of all kinds (shoes, parking meters, etc.).

Of course, if this is what Apple's going for, then they're thinking several steps into the future and taking a huge risk. I'm still wary of the iPad, but I'll watch it with curiosity now rather than the skepticism I felt earlier.

Gray said...

And now, just to continue spamming a dead comment thread, a Gizmodo piece that follows similar lines to those of my last comment.

PMG said...

I do see your point Gray, and the Gizmodo article makes good points. The one problem I see is file management--if the iPad is like the iPhone, it is not easy to keep lots of documents arranged. Basically, I want my iPad to have a proper Finder, not the the current dumbed down interface. I'm sure apps can fill in the gap, but that's not ideal. I'm optimistic that this could happen in the future, as long as Stevie doesn't get too power hungry about controlling our interactions! I say this as a fiercely partisan Mac user since about 1985 who mostly does whatever Mother Apple tells me to. It's just now with the iPad that I start to have some reservations.

Also, since 6.54 might not check back in here, I thought of one reason he might want higher resolution--he's a professional photographer, and I could imagine that an iPad has potential for in-the-field editing and whatnot.

(I also am part of the small minority that would like a stylus available--not because I want to navigate with it, but because scrawling comments and marking issues is still my preferred way of grading papers.)

Gray said...

Thanks for your response! I hear you on wanting Finder. Actually, I really hoped that the iPad would run OS X, but I'm starting to understand why they didn't go that route. Though you're right; it would be really nice to have total access to files. On the other hand, there's this article from Apple Insider, which argues that the iPad's document system makes Finder and similar organization strategies obsolete. I'm not totally convinced, but it's an interesting read.

Thanks for hazarding a guess about the screen resolution. I'm no kind of photographer, so I don't know what sort of resolution might be preferred for professional photo things (and you're right: there's multitouch-based image editing on the iPad). 1024x768 still seems really good for a 9.7" screen (and I sort of can't imagine a higher resolution looking noticeably different on a screen of this size), but see above about my ignorance.

And, to be honest, I'm on your side for marking up papers; it would be very weird to try to write comments with the tip of my index finger. Luckily, there's this stylus for iPhone and iPad screens. When/if I get an iPhone I think I'll pick one up.

Your point about Jobs's penchant for impinging on user agency is a great one, and probably the biggest concern about the iPad I have that hasn't been at least partially mitigated in the last week. I really don't like that Apple keeps locking things down. Then again, maintaining rigid control of the user experience is what makes Apple so good at what it does. Still, I'd like to see a lot more flexibility in the device (and, since I appear to be carrying Apple's water here, I should reiterate that I won't be buying an iPad in the near future).

For whatever reason, though, I've been thinking a lot more about the iPad since I dismissed it as not worthy of my interest. I suspect Apple's onto something big. Then again, my prognostications are usually way off, so maybe this is just the next Lisa/Newton/G4 Cube.

KG said...

After playing with my iPod Touch for about 2 weeks, I can see the appeal of the iPad. I love that I have the internet most places I go (WiFi is incredibly ubiquitous in Waterville, Maine), and I love even more that many of the interfaces for the iPod/iPhone make more sense than what we see on standard web browsers. And yes, the small interface for my Kindle App makes me yearn for something more lifelike, but this? I'm still more ambivalent than I should be. (I say this as a Mac partisan since 1984!)
It makes me yearn for more simplicity and wonder why there's been a non-stop need for more processing power just to view web content. But what I really can't handle is being told that certain files are only the domain of certain programs. Right now we can view PDFs in Acrobat or Preview. And we can open .docs in TextEdit, Pages, or Microsoft Word (or even OpenOffice, if that's your thing). There's no file pluralism on the iPad, and certainly no freedom. I can't stand this, and it makes me want to go running to the nearest netbook and install Xubuntu just to have more control over my computer. It's rash, I know, but I think it's a natural reaction to Steve Jobs taking away our ability to open files of our own volition. I've been feeling this way ever since iTunes slowly tried to take over all of my media consumption. Not cool! I think Apple has a vision of itself as a utopia of computer/mobile electronics innovations. The thing about utopias is that they can be really scary.
I say this just 3 days after saying aloud, "I could see myself using the iPad at home when I want nothing to do with work." ::sigh:: But the iPad wasn't created for us.