I almost have to love the iPad

iPadvsScribblerLack of active pen input keeps me from getting too excited about the iPad, but the design has me feeling nostalgic. Roughly 10″ screen, 4:3 aspect ratio, (allegedly) all-day battery life, pure slate. Five years ago, I was lured into tablet computing by a Tablet PC with these very traits.

Behold, the Electrovaya Scribbler SC-500. Five years ago, this four pound brick was my introduction to the Tablet PC. Bought refurbished from Electrovaya via eBay, I put it to the mobile test not long after purchasing on a trip to Japan, starting me on the path to ink blogging. Running Windows XP on its 833MHz Intel P3 processor with 512MB memory sounds ridiculous by today’s standards, but I found it quite speedy at the time.

On the surface, the iPad has much in common with my Scribbler. Both have roughly the same footprint and screen size. Display resolution for both is 1024×768, 4:3 aspect. In terms of working surface, it’s practically identical. I loved it then, so I can’t very well turn around and hate it now.

The notable physical differences are the weight and thickness. At 0.5″ and 1.5 pounds, the iPad is less than half the thickness and weight of my Scribbler. Can’t express how much a thinner, lighter slate would have improved my tablet experience. Despite that, it still clocks in with comparable (promised) battery life with only 25 Whrs vs. the 140 Whrs in my Scribbler, showing the energy efficiency of the A4 processor.

Factor in the other tech improvements and its tailored interface, and the iPad shapes up to be a sleeker, faster version of my Scribbler. Lack of active pen input keeps me from embracing it for myself, but design-wise, I can’t not love it.

Comments

  1. GoodThings2Life says

    Sumocat, sorry, but I have to go into rant mode on this one.

    I’m not gonna disagree that you make a good argument… my 2005 Toshiba R10 had a 4:3 ratio, was a brick to carry, and had lousy battery life, and even caused me some grief at times. In spite of that, I loved my experience with it, and it’s what got me into tablets in the first place, and I can’t imagine giving up a tablet for my primary productivity system.

    But here’s the problem with comparing the iPad to the Electrovaya’s and Toshiba’s of the past… we shouldn’t be admiring the new tech we have today because it’s LIKE the old tech we had 5+ years ago. This is 2010 now, and this is Apple we’re talking about. If they’re going to call it their “most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price” then they had best be the most advanced technology. This is what ultimately infuriates me about Apple as a company. They ridicule other businesses for having the same practices and ideas that they have and yet people buy into it as if they’re truly magical.

    The world is moving to HD, cheaper content and cheaper devices, and Apple should know be the trendsetter not the throwback. Why are we still treating 1GHz as if it’s some magical speed for mobile devices? Why give me a tablet and take away my ability to create? It’s like asking cavemen not to chisel on stone! Why are we still buying products that are made to the wishes of one CEO instead of the consumers? I know the only reason for these limits is that it’s Generation 1 and they need ideas for G2 and G3 so they can keep the sales train moving next year. Here’s an idea, create the best, most revolutionary device this year and then come out next year with something genuinely better rather than fixing your mistakes and calling it new?

    Meanwhile, we’ve all been criticizing Microsoft, HP, Lenovo, Fujitsu, etc etc etc of the same practices for years now. I could do a quick search on at least a dozen different articles written by everyone from Rob to Xavier to Warner and even you about how we expect better. And we *should* expect better! We should have smaller, lighter form factors, and we should have all-day battery life!

    Enough of the smoke and mirrors in an effort to justify a device’s existence. Dozens of devices just like the iPad were failures, and this one– while I love the fact that it’s going to end up popularizing tablets– should absolutely fail for the same reasons. It’s NOT the product the people wanted, and it’s time that people hold Apple to the same standards they hold others.

    Or maybe I’m just a technological holdout of a dying era… maybe I should just be like everybody else and just accept whatever the giant fruit dishes out like a good little drone. Maybe if I’m lucky the first iBook release will be 1984…

  2. GoodThings2Life says

    PS, it’s not just the HD factor that bothers me. They call Google’s philosophy “bulls**t” and they call Adobe “lazy” and yet they release a half-***ed device like the iPad… let’s think about this with what’s missing…

    –HD Display — This one just doesn’t make sense, and I can’t find a justification for it being missing.

    –Pen/Ink Support — This one makes sense given the iPhone and iPod, but come on, you claim to be the more creative platform, show some initiative!

    –Flash/Java Support — I hate ‘em too but I hate QuickTime just as much! Don’t call HTML5 a savior when you’re still pushing your own buggy proprietary junk and calling it the most complete experience on the web.

    Now you and I know Jobs’ comments are just rhetoric remarks to stir up competition. But we didn’t like it when Microsoft said they’d crush Netscape, we shouldn’t like it now, because history teaches us that it can happen.

  3. CLC says

    @GoodThings2Life: Although I like ink because I like to write and also because I like to draw and would love a lovely display to do art on, that is not to say that the majority of consumers or even a large chunk of it wants ink… However, I can see the attraction and gorgeous simplicity of a touch-based UI. I love those, myself. If I also didn’t require ink and didn’t like my nice free and open Windows programs and built in SD slots and some other issues, I’d be far more tempted by the iPad (aside from its hideous name). (However, I do prefer clamshells and would love a separate screen to put the tools of a drawing program on to get them out of the way. So I’m hoping the Courier becomes real.)

    There’s lots of people this thing might appeal to once they get their hands on it, namely the elderly and non-tech people. (I, myself, hate having to update virus software and search through the Control Panel and crap to get my computer to work properly.)

    That said, I don’t really hear too much excitement/any opinion at all about this thing outside of the tech world. So I’m wondering if it will fail anyway.

  4. GoodThings2Life says

    I suppose part of the problem is that I don’t understand the point of netbooks either, but obviously they’re successful (even though I never see them in public).

    The iPad is clearly not a “productivity” device… but even as a couch-potato device, there’s better solutions in existing eReaders, netbooks, and even the iPhone and iPod. A device of this form factor screams “use me” for something, anything, other than what it’s being targeted for… and you just can’t, which is why I think it’s getting such a luke-warm reception from the tech world and practically non-existent reception with the rest of the world.

  5. Sumocat says

    GT2L: I would point out that I am holding Apple to the exact same standard as I do everyone else. I’ve been calling for customized tablet interfaces and better app support for years. I’ve been lamenting the decline of the slate form factor. We’ve all said vendors need to get tablets into people’s hands. What I’m not doing is holding them to a higher standard, which is all you’re arguing.

    Just about the only thing I don’t like about the iPad is the lack of real inking, but this isn’t something that appeals to the masses. Yes, I would love it if Apple acknowledged us existing Tablet PC users, but our form factor hasn’t exactly caught on. I am hopeful that pen input on eReaders will become a standard feature and force Apple and others to follow suit, but we’re not there yet.

    As for creation, Brushes, a painting app was demoed at the iPad keynote. No, I would not paint with a capacitive digitizer and stylus, but they’ve hardly taken away the chisel. I’d actually compare their system to chisel on stone, as opposed to the pen on paper we want. On the other hand, the iPad has multi-touch and more advanced gestures than the iPhone. The direction is quite similar to what I described in a multi-touch version of Outlook.

    Bottom line: I agree the iPad is not the magical, revolutionary device that Apple wants us to believe, but it delivers on so much that I’ve called for, its design is almost identical to one I already like, and it could finally bring tablet computing to the masses. I wish it was more, but it would be absurd for me to hate it for that.

    For the record, I didn’t care that Microsoft said they’d crush Netscape (Netscape pretty much crushed themselves with version 6); I’m not convinced trying to own all our data isn’t evil; and I’ve never accused Adobe of working too hard.

  6. FlyingShawn says

    I’ve gotta agree with GT2L, I just can’t come up with a viable usage scenario for the iPad. The lack of a camera of any sort just seems sloppy on Apple’s part. The backlit-LCD display kills it as a serious ebook compeitor. The lack of Flash/Java kill it for the “surfing the web on the couch while watching tv” concept, because of how much of the web is missing. And finally, I think the lack of multitasking is a critical failure that cripples it for much of anything else. To sum up, it’s really just a big-screen iPod Touch with some interface tweaks. That all being said, those are the issues receiving all the press right now, but I think there’s a bigger problem… input.

    Yes, multitouch is great, I’ve been saying that it’s the next big thing since the first concept videos were posted all those years ago (was that here, or back in the old TabletPCBuzz days?), but it’s only a partial solution.

    Pen/Ink is great also (that’s why both of my portable computers are tablets, a trusty old Toshiba Tecra M4 and a Fujitsu P1610 I bought from Rob about a year ago), but the iPad doesn’t have it, so no help there.

    Here’s the thing I don’t get: how on earth does Apple expect us to input text on the iPad? Sure, it’s got that multitouch onscreen keyboard, but when you’re using one hand to hold the thing, how much help is multitouch when you’ve only got one free hand to hunt-and-peck with??

    I honestly can’t come up with a single situation in which you’d be able to use the onscreen keyboard two-handed (on your lap, on the couch with your legs propping it up, laying flat on a table in a coffee shop, etc) where you wouldn’t be better suited with a netbook.

    That’s why I think ink is so important for slate-type devices: it’s the only effective way to input text when you’ve only got one free hand.

    I have to admit, I’m completely bewildered by this: I think the lack of a decent input method is the single biggest shortfall of the iPad (bigger even than multitasking) and yet it’s getting almost no press (even here, where ink reigns supreme, it seems to be only considered a wished-for feature and not a critical failure).

  7. Grant Tedaldi says

    It’s a shame to see everyone on here bickering over what is … just another device to me.

    I’m an Artist- and a tablet PC user for that reason.
    I have an x60 Multitouch, and I’d love to try my hands on an x200 multitouch.

    Lenovo always seems to quietly create a much nicer product than Apple has, at a similar mind-blowing price point, but of course it’s never well picked up.

    Maybe this will end up like another Apple Newton, or maybe for some reason people will be in on it. Either way I wiSh people wouldn’t be making such a big deal about technology that’s been out there for ages.

  8. tatej says

    Personally, I like the iPad and I plan on buying one. I can think of a couple of uses for it at home and at work.

    But I did a straw poll of my non tech friends and everyone of them says the same thing, what do I do with it? I think the iPad will be a case of not knowing what you can do with it, until you have one in your hands.

    In 1996, most of my friends thought I was an utter goof because I got rid of my day planner and bought a 128K Palm Pilot. Everybody had a another way of doing everything the Palm Pilot could do. Within a year, they all had Palm Pilots. I predict the same will be true for the iPad. And just like the Palm Pilot, iPad’s capabilities will increase. People will start seeing and playing with them and finding uses for them.

    I want one, but I’m gonna wait. Apple’s track record with 1st generation devices makes me cautious. But I’ll a 2nd generation iPad

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