First a disclaimer. Contrary to popular belief, I am not an Apple hater. In fact, I really like some of their designs. I own a bunch of Apple gadgets and love them to death. On the other hand, I think iTunes is horribly designed and, although I understand the appeal of Mac OS, I feel much more comfortable running a Microsoft OS. So call me “Apple neutral.” Or maybe an “Apple skeptic.”
(Although, if there is something I hate, I hate with a passion is iDouchery.)
I was anxiously awaiting Steve Jobs’ keynote yesterday, as much as any other techie geek in the world, regardless of status as Apple fans. I wanted to see what the promised “iSlate” or “iTablet” would bring. The iPod changed the music business forever, and the iPhone was, arguably, the device that brought the smartphone to the masses. So, we were expecting big things from Jobs this time as well. The result? Undeniably underwhelming. Sure, there is potential, but like every bleeding edge device, I suspect this gadget will basically appeal to the Apple fans. The iPad will probably languish in relative mainstream obscurity, like Apple TV, something some diehard fans will fawn over but the rest of us will “meh” over. At least, in this its first, of probably many, incarnations.
It is undeniable that tablet PC have a future in the market. But, with the iPad (iPad??? Seriously??? [Insert Feminine Hygiene Product Joke Here]), Apple has come below expectations of what a game changing tablet needs to be. First, let’s look at where the iPad comes short:
1. High price
There is no way around it. The damned thing is too expensive. The basic model, the ones that lacks 3G wireless capability and has only 16 gigs of storage, will run you $499. I can get a netbook that runs circles around the iPad for hundreds less. Sure, it won’t be as “sexy,” but your wallet will thank you.
2. No built-in camera
Ok, let me get this straight. The freaking iPod Nano has a video camera, but you couldn’t cram in one into a max-sized iTouch? Built-in cameras have become a staple of almost all gadgets, from Game Boys to cellphones. Consumers expect them. Apple, please, put them in the iPad 2.0
3. No USB ports and no memory card reader
This severely limits the iPads’ functionality. Basically, the only way you can input data, such as photo and music files, is by WiFi. This assumes that the user has a home network set up that runs flawlessly, something that many consumers don’t. One of the beauties of the iPod, and one of the features that has made them ubiquitous, is that any user, no matter how computer illiterate they are, could just plug in their device into their computer and download music from iTunes in a jiffy. Apple should seriously consider adding an USB port or two to the second incarnation of the iPad. It will add a lot of value for the consumer to be able to plug in their gadgets, like their camera, and be able to automatically sync them with their tablet.
4. No multi-tasking
I can understand the lack of multi-tasking on the iPhone, it preserves battery life, but the iPad the same battery life as a netbook. Why limit its functionality this way?
5. No Adobe Flash support
Which means, all your Internet browsing will be crippled. No wasting hours playing silly Flash games, no watching Hulu. Once again, a netbook can do all of this, so why pay more for an iPad?
6. It’s Apple locked-in
Which means you can only use applications that you download through Apple. This makes sense for Apple, they get a nice cut of all app sales, but it cripples the platform as a whole. For a new concept like a tablet to work well in the mainstream, it needs to be flexible. Locking in the platform kills all flexibility. You can’t even run any kind of media you’d like. It only accesses iTunes videos and music.
7. Lacks HDMI port, comes with a 4:3 aspect ratio, not 16:9 widescreen
8. No built-in stylus support
Can you imagine how awesome a tool the iPad would be if an artist could draw directly into it? Or if it would recognize your handwriting and turn your notes into a text document? Now, that would be a great tool to have.
So, even though you have a stack of iTunes media you bought through Apple, you can’t stream it into your TV in its full HD glory. Peachy.
Still, the iPad is not without it’s merits. It’s sexy, will probably come with a huge marketing blitz and has potential to revolutionize the way we use our computers. If Apple manages to fix these omissions in the iPad 2.0, it will have a product to be reckoned with, an essential gadget for the forward looking geek. A game changing product that becomes a paradigm shift in the market, much like the second-generation iPod was.
But, as it stands at launch, what Apple has presented is a product with the same functionality of an iTouch or iPhone but with none of the portability. It’s basically a really expensive gadget to browse media, that’s either already in your computer or that you bought directly from Apple, and browse a crippled Internet. There is a market for that, no doubt, but don’t expect it to be the mega hit the iPhone is.
So, I’ll pass. For now. I’ll keep watching and waiting for the iPad 2.0.
Oh, and I am fully prepared to eat my words if the future proves me wrong.