Snow Day Thoughts on the iPad: The Perfect “Wait and See” Device

iPad v. A RockA snowstorm that wasn’t supposed to hit our area that hard, hit us harder than expected. With the unusually cold weather in our area it created quite a bit of havoc.  We had to cancel two performances of The Buddy Holly Story at Wayside Theatre today.  After dealing with disgruntled customers and getting our response organized, I find myself with some time to continue my musing about this week’s other storm, the iPad announcement. Below are some random thoughts on things that I’m continuing to read about in my own discovery.

Buy it or no. This device isn’t even fully revealed yet (just watch, we’ll see two important new pieces of information this coming week) and already we have a “love it or leave it” atmosphere brewing that gets translated to “I’m buying” or “I’m not buying.” Quite honestly, I’m not sure I’d listen to either camp at this point as there is still quite a bit left to learn. Am I buying? Probably just so I can do my job here and keep up with what is going on. But I’m not typical. Like it or not, the iPad will change things, and like the iPhone before it, I’m guessing the next generation is going to be the most important, if not the third generation. Heck, the iPad changed things before it was even an official product.

Multi-Tasking. A lot is being said about the lack of multi-tasking. I’m disappointed in the fact that it apparently isn’t a part of the deal, but when I look at my iPhone usage, I’m so sure it would affect me negatively. I don’t fall into the camp that many who are loudly complaining about this seem to, (not being able to run Pandora when doing something else.) That’s just me. Others obviously feel differently. I’m still not sure what Apple is trying to do here on the iPad and the iPhone by not allowing multi-tasking and it is puzzling that a dark age concept is hanging on with a “revolutionary product.”

To 3G or Not To 3G. I still think the $130 price differential between 3G equipped iPads and non 3G equipped is a way to keep people off AT&T’s network. After stating that earlier I’ve heard from several sources that 3G usually adds around $100 to the cost of a device. OK, fine. $130 just seems steep to me and I think it is purposefully so and I don’t think that means any kind of reverse subsidy. On the other side of that coin I think the maxim “WiFi is everywhere” can now be retired. Sure it is everywhere, you can pick up WiFi signals on most Interstates easier than you can hold an AT&T 3G signal. But they are all locked down. Might as well be another star in the sky. This isn’t a Hamlet-like paradox for me, thanks to the Sprint MiFi card. It’s as limited as any other unlimited offering (5GB) and works well. It also tricks some of those Apps that only work on WiFi into working. I’m sure many will be thinking hard over this issue though.

The Unlimited 3G Lie. This is going to be a bit of a cruel rant. Steve Jobs should have to give back his donated liver for standing on stage and promoting unlimited 3G given that there isn’t a carrier in the US that offers anything close to what the word unlimited means. I’m tired of the deceptive practices and wish someone who had the time and the money would smack all of the idiots who continue to perpetuate this lie with a class action suit that wouldn’t go away. The hypocrisy on this is unimaginably becoming accepted, and I think anyone who willingly accepts it by calling a 5GB cap “unlimited” is doing everyone a huge disservice, including their own credibility. John Edwards is in great company here. I think when I send in my next AT&T payment I’m going to just write “unlimited” in the amount and then tell them it means $1.00. /stop rant.

The Micro-SIM chip. Lots of back and forth on this issue, but I’m coming down with the camp that believes this is a way for AT&T to make sure their iPhone customers can’t use their existing iPhone SIMs in the device. A new form of lock down as “unlocked” continues to join “unlimited” as words that mean nothing.

Advertisement

eBook Wars. This is beginning to play out about like I expected and it is only going to get uglier. Consumers and authors will get caught in the middle (you don’t really think the authors are going to see increased royalties from increased prices do you?) The content owners are fighting back and the iPad is their first big weapon. The other big front on this issue is going to be over DRM. Those who use the Amazon Kindle platform have some portability of their content now that I don’t think they will give up. But if iBooks are tied to the iPad/iPhone platform in the way music used to be (and sometimes still is) Amazon will have a selling point to trumpet.

Digital Note Taking. No, the iPad isn’t intended to be a digital note taking device. That said, there have been iPhone apps that try to offer an Inking experience. I’ve tried quite a few and they all come up lacking compared to what you can get on a real Tablet PC. (The same can be said of the experience on most touch devices, even those that earn the title of Tablet PCs.) Face it the pen/stylus/Inking concept is a niche within a niche, and I’ve written reams about that. But back to those Inking apps. I’m wondering if any of them will find a better solution on the larger iPad screen with the use of something like a Pogo Stylus? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see that as ever approaching the Digital Inking goodness of a Tablet PC, but for quick note taking in my rehearsal/meeting environment, it is conceivable to me that it might be enough. I have my doubts, but it is conceivable. Although I don’t expect to see any of these apps on a demo unit in an Apple Store, you can bet that when I make the journey to try out an iPad, I’ll have a Pogo Stylus with me just in case. Apple might just be wise to load one of these apps up on those demo units.

Flash: I’m in the kill off Flash camp and hope Apple succeeds in leading that charge. Do I miss it when I hit a site on my iPhone and can’t pull up content? Yes. But that happens rarely. Lots of talk using Hulu as an example of why Flash is important. C’mon people, do you think Apple (and its possible media partners) want Hulu on the iPad? No way.

Camera. This one is a real puzzler to me. We’re seeing reports now that those who are looking at the SDK are finding references to a camera but there is not a camera available. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think this rules out a myriad of applications (at least with the first gen iPad) that seem like naturals for the iPad. These include not only the photo apps, but augmented reality apps as well. Motion Computing is probably laughing at all of the talk about the iPad having a future in the medical vertical market as their research has proven that cameras play an integral part in the acceptance and use of their C5 Tablets. All of that said, this is a real puzzler to me still.

Stall Surfing. Steve Jobs’ protestations to the contrary, I think he’s created the perfect Stall Surfing device. No one wants to sell it that way or talk about it in public that much, but they could have just as easily had a toilet seat on that stage as a couch.

Battery Life and Processor. I need to learn more here. Apple is using its own version of an ARM processor called the A4, that I believe is made by Samsung. You know that they obsessed about battery life, and as Steve Jobs says, the screen is what makes the difference there. (Just ask the folks at Pixel Qi.) But those claims of 10 hours and then 140 of continual music playback baffle me. If nothing else this is one of the chief reasons why I think the iPad is a “wait and see device.”

Open vs. Closed. There’s been lots of talk about this and I think the jury has already reported. Apple sees the future not only in its own way of doing things, but is moving to more and more of a closed system. I don’t have an objection to that as long as everyone understands the game. That’s to Apple’s benefit. Most don’t pay attention until it’s too late. Bottom line is it’s Apple’s game and you get to choose between playing that game, or playing someone else’s. Bemoaning the fact isn’t Apple’s issue, it’s yours.

Photo via Techcrunch and the guy who created it, Phil Santoro

Comments

  1. kah says

    Good article. This new tablet seems to assume you are going to have an iPhone and MacBook already, hence the lack of features on the device. It would have been great to have something like this that plugged into the PC as the screen – oh I seem to remember one at CES being anounced. Except for the size of the screen it is an iTouch – end of story.

    I wonder how the iPand name will be sorted out – will Fujitsu win that argument?

  2. Gary says

    Great article Warner. I’m in a similar situation as you as a Mifi owner. So, I must ask: is the 3G iPad option tempting to you from a GPS/mapping standpoint? I’m having a hard time with this one. Thoughts?

  3. Warner Crocker says

    @Gary,

    Good question that I hadn’t pondered to you asked it. At the moment I’m guessing I’m not viewing this as a device I need GPS on. I think I can find my way to my stall surfing location without it. :)

  4. Xavier says

    I’m glad there will be fewer people clogging the AT&T network because of the $130 up sell. I think it’s accurate to say that 3G adds $100 to the price of a device in lot of cases, but I don’t think it actually costs nearly that much.Whatever the reason for the $130 fee, it’s going to keep a lot of people w/ the WiFi only model.

    btw- do you really need another stall surfing device? I though you were all set?

  5. Gary says

    I’ve got pretty good stall coverage myself. I guess I’m just wondering if I should “future-proof” it by springing for the extra $130 (Xavier – thoughts?). I’m just trying to think what might pop up that I may regret not having gotten 3G built in. Again, I do have a Mifi. Then again – I like the thought of 60, instead of 90 days on avail.

  6. Mike says

    Why don’t you guys do a comparison of the ipad and something similar like the archos 9?
    I don’t think there is any big mystery to the missing camera and multitasking and lack of 1080 class video out, etc.
    It is just apple getting away with they think they can.
    Version two will come out with those few options and another big run will ensue.
    I could not agree with you more on the “unlimited = 5GB” BS.
    I don’t see why everyone suddenly thinks and lcd is great for reading. It just isn’t.
    I think if something really interesting hits with some of that new screen tech (mirasol or pixel qi or whatever (sp?))for a decent price then apple is going to be set back on its heels.

  7. Warner Crocker says

    @Mike,

    I would hope we’d be able to do just that with Archos and other Tablets as they come available.

    @Xavier,
    Yep, I do have quite a few stall surfing devices. But can one have too many?

  8. double-o-don says

    I am a bit confused as to why everyone is still calling the iPad a “tablet”.

    I thought that in the last decade the term “tablet” has come to mean a device that accepts pen input.
    These pen input devices have been marketed in 2 forms, slates and convertibles.

    The iPad is a slate form computer, but not a tablet in the modern sense of the word.

    Passively allowing Apple to devolve the concept of a tablet is, to me, the first step in surrendering leadership in this space to Apple. Rob’s recently predicted future is well on its way.

    Can the makers of (real) tablets and pundits in the (real) tablet space push back at Apple’s usurpation of the term tablet?
    Could that challenge be used to capture some of the Apple created media buzzin order to push awareness of our more fully evolved tablets?

  9. Gary says

    Here’s a thought on 3G I just had. Wonder if Apple will roll out a “Find My iPad” service into MobileMe. This is of course, one of the most compelling reasons, and why I keep renewing MobileMe. If that were the case, an “always on” 3G connection would be essential for that service…

  10. Warner Crocker says

    @double-o-don. Believe me we’ve tried to push back as most Tablet PC folk agree with your definition. It doesn’t and won’t do much good unfortunately.

  11. Mike Reilly says

    So what do I do, Warner? Buy a last generation Fujitsu p1630, since Fujitsu didn’t pony up to the plate with a new replacement?

    I need something I take notes on at meetings, and take notes and photos on the go at construction sites without my hand growing numb from the weight. Plus, I’d like a cad program on it, if feasible. I tried the HP 2730p, but it was too heavy.

    Is there going to be anything in the new generation that will work? HP Slate maybe?

  12. Achim says

    They will be using FairPlay as DRM for E-Books, so I guess the books will be restricted to a limited number of devices.

  13. Patrick says

    One feature not mentioned elsewhere to the best of my knowledge that definitely makes the iPad very much more attractive is its instant on.

    Most non-geeks I know view boot times as a PC thing (including waiting for the PS3 to load). Instant on is what your TV does so puts this device into idiot proof consumer land.

    I don’t need it but have to admit the ease of switching on instantly against resuming my W7 Tablet PC from Sleep is possibly the difference on a rushed day whether I’ll scan news on the web over breakfast or not.

  14. Gary says

    @Patrick – seen it mentioned one other time, but you’re right. That is huge to have the instant-on ability of a Smartphone…again, depending on how someone is to use it

  15. Reuben Mezrich says

    I think those obsessing about the hardware features are missing the point. It is the software that will determine whether the iPad is a success or not. The hardware is only important in how much it limits the ability to create “killer apps”. The iPhone succeeds not because it is a better device than the Palm or the Blackberry or the Droid. It succeeds because it has more and better apps (and a better way to get more). The Blackberry exists because email is still easier to do with a keyboard. For those who need to type to do they job (or hobby or whatever) the iPad is not useful. But for those who don’t type or don’t read books (looking at magazines is not at all the same as reading books) the iPad will be perfect!

  16. Dave-in-Mi says

    The new incarnation of TV’s “Battlestar Galactica” had the recurring line, “This has all happened before and will all happen again.” Deja Vu anyone? When the first consumer tablet PCs came out 20+ years ago, Apple tried to jump on the bandwagon with the Newton. That devolved into the PDA craze of the 90′s. Now we’re on to the 3rd? generation of tablets (1st gen = slates, 2nd = convertibles, 3rd = touch) and Apple is once again jumping in. Over the next couple of years, I think these media driven slates will give rise to a new category of device, PMM’s (Personal Media Managers).

  17. Antimatter says

    “Face it the pen/stylus/Inking concept is a niche within a niche”

    Yeah, but it’s a niche which includes every student in America. There are 76.6 million students currently studying here, from K-12 + Higher Ed.

    The problem is no one is marketing to them. To be successful at a university a tablet would have to be extremely well integrated into the University’s technology infrastructure, from projectors to blackboard to support and sales from the university’s computer store.

    If you can manage this, and provide customization on a per university basis, you have a built in market which doesn’t have to ask “What’s the point”.

  18. coffeegeek says

    Great thoughts, but your final point fails apart if it’s intended to be grounded on sound reasoning. I can’t understand if this is just the American way of thinking that I am not used to or if you didn’t think out your comment.

    “Bottom line is it’s Apple’s game and you get to choose between playing that game, or playing someone else’s. Bemoaning the fact isn’t Apple’s issue, it’s yours.”

    You make it sound like an adult luring a child into a car with some tasty candy is fine, and the police are the ones with the problem if they’re disturbed by it.

    People who have an awareness that something is wrong in a situation are not the problem. That’s ridiculous reasoning. People who don’t get involved in a situation about which they have an awareness that something is wrong are actually being very rational, not problematic. If the government discovers the a medication you’re taking has terrible side effects, are you going to boast about how the malfunctioning medication is not the drug company’s problem or the patient’s problem but rather the government are the one’s with the problem?

    For fun, you can swap out “Apple” in the quoted passage above for all kinds of world dictators and civil rights issues if you want to come to terms with how odd it can sound.

  19. kah says

    Warner, any thought as to the integration of the projected keyboard displayed at CES being integrated as a solution for slate/tablet keyboards??

    kah

Leave a Reply