Random Thoughts – Randosity!

Apple’s iPad: 10 inch iPod Touch or iDisaster?

Posted in Apple, ipod, itunes by commorancy on January 28, 2010

Recently, I wrote the article “What is it about tablets?”.  In that article, I discussed what Apple must do to make the newly announced iPad (tablet computer) successful.  Apple needs a paradigm shifting technology embedded in the iPad that would make the usability of such a tablet go leaps ahead of previous tablet attempts.  Unfortunately, that did not happen.

Failure to launch (and type!)

The iPad may look like a pad, but it functions nothing like a pad.  In fact, this device looks and acts like an iPod touch on steroids.  But, Apple failed this device on so many levels.  First, let’s start with the design.  The iPad back is not flat (which is just like the newest thin iPod touch).  The back is curved. So, laying the iPad on a flat surface leads to wobbly typing or surfing.  This forces you to put it on a soft surface or hold it in your hand.  Not an optimal or convenient design.

Typing input

On the touch, however, it was small enough to hold in one hand and type with the other.  In fact, you could hold it with two hands and thumb type.  With a 10 inch sized device, one hand typing isn’t really an option.  But, this whole typing issue just goes back to the fundamental input problem with tablets.  How do you reliably get input into a tablet computer?  The options are voice, handwriting recognition and touch typing.  None of these input styles make for a truly usable computer experience.  So, on this level, Apple has failed.  Funny too, because Apple is usually the leader when it comes to innovative ways to improve user interface experience.

Finger Friendly?

I’d like to point out another possible problem.  On the iPod Touch, the touch screen surface only works with an actual finger touch.  It doesn’t work with gloves on or by using your fingernail.  As a result, this makes the touch surface a problem in the winter or for women with long nails.  I do not presently know that the iPad uses this same touch screen technology, but it’s very probable.  Therefore, this could make the iPad not friendly for glove wearers or women with long nails.

Lack of ports

Most computers today need to support the latest in port technology.  More and more, however, Apple seems to shun standards and try for their own proprietary connectors.  Sometimes it works.  More often than not, it fails.  In this case with this device, it adds to the design failure.  With the iPad, Apple should have added standard ports like HDMI and a Secure Digital slot.  Unfortunately, they didn’t do this and this device suffers as a result.  This is especially bad considering most Netbooks offer most of these ports.  Yes, some Netbooks even offer HDMI ports.

iPod Touch Clone

Unfortunately for the iPad, it appears to be a 10 inch iPod touch.  The interface is, of course, 10 inches.  This means it uses the same interface that’s on the iPhone and iPod touch.  On a small handheld device, that interface works well.  On a 10 inch screen, the oddness of it all is quite apparent.  The resolution is higher on the 10 inch screen and, thus, the iPad scales up most apps to accommodate.  The problem is the scaling.  Some apps look fine scaled.  Some can actually take advantage of the larger screen (mapping softwares).  With low res apps, the iPad scales up the app window to fill the 10 inch screen which looks quite lame.  Granted, all of this can be fixed by developers reworking their apps.  But, for now, it makes this device all the more clumsy.

App Store Tie-In

This is yet another in a series of devices that Apple is requiring the user to use solely with iTunes and the App store.  Inevitably, the iPad will be jailbroken.  Until then, the audience is captive to the Apple store.  So, if you want apps or media, that’s where you must go.  Of course, you can import media into iTunes app and sync that, but you cannot load any apps other than those that come from Apple’s app store until it is jailbroken (probably the day after it gets released).

This also means that tried and tested apps you’ve come to know on Windows or even Mac OS X may never become available on the iPad due to iTunes App Store restrictions.

A must have? No.  Not yet anyway.

Apple has yet to convince me (and many others) of the necessity of this device.  There’s no wow-factor here or anything compelling to make the iPad stand out as must have.  There’s nothing here to say that it is even useful for anything beyond what a Netbook can accomplish for less money.  The iPod touch is still much more useful due to its size.  The iPad is sitting in a cost space near Netbook pricing (the iPad is more costly), but Netbooks still have much more functionality due to a real keyboard and better use of the screen (not to mention, full fledged apps).

At the entry level pricing of $499, which will mean a bare bones model, you’re sure to get as little as possible.   To get all the bells and whistles, you’re likely to pay well over $1000 for the equivalent of a large iPod touch.

In other words, Apple did not provide a paradigm shifting technology necessary to make the iPad absolutely compelling.  In fact, the whole big clumsy nature of this tablet is quite apparent even from the image of Steve Jobs holding it.

This is a 1.0 device that feels like a 0.5 device with poorly thought out software.  The iPod/iPhone interface and its apps were designed to be used on handheld small screen devices.  Putting this interface onto a 10 inch sized display and expecting full fledged computing out of portable apps is stretching this device to its limits.  Granted, Apple can generally get the kinks out of new devices.  But, the tablet has such a long history of failure going back to Grid Computers in the early 90s that Apple has a steep bank to climb to get out of this trench they’ve dug themselves into.

Overall, I’m still underwhelmed and I’ve seen nothing yet that screams, must have.  An iPod touch screams that due to its sheer size and portability.  The iPad definitely does not!

18 Responses

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  1. commorancy said, on April 30, 2010 at 3:06 am

    Since the release of the iPad and actually having played with this device, I still haven’t found a use for it. I can understand some people buying it as a coffee table device. In that instance, it might be useful. But, for me, even that casual use pattern would be so infrequent, it’s hard to justify $500. For an iPod Touch, I use it every day in the car. So, it gets frequent use and is well worth the money. For a device that I might turn on once a week, that’s way too expensive for this use pattern.

    Considering its size and its lack of having a full fledged version of Mac OS X, it’s limited to a novelty item. Only the test of time will tell us of this device lives or dies in the marketplace. So far, it’s sold reasonably well, but that appears to be primarily to Apple fans. As a general purpose device, I’m still not convinced it has enough yet to justify its cost or a user base big enough to keep it alive. Perhaps the 3G version will be more compelling? After all, having the Internet pretty much anywhere is much more compelling than the device itself.

  2. Rejser til Finland said, on February 8, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    OP: I could be slow (lord knows I have been told lol) but you made totally no sense…

  3. Norstrom@yahoo.com said, on February 7, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    umm… I am not

    • commorancy said, on February 7, 2010 at 5:49 pm

      In the spirit of randomness that is Randosity… um, what?

  4. Martin Westrope said, on February 6, 2010 at 7:12 am

    It can conjointly force Amazon to open up the Kindle API for third party development (or, at least, if theyre sensible).

    • commorancy said, on February 6, 2010 at 1:05 pm

      The only thing that’s likely to shake out of this is higher ebook prices for consumers. Right now, Apple’s arrangement with the book publishers is taking thunder away from Amazon’s kindle. In fact, because Apple is allowing higher pricing for ebooks, the only thing Apple has done for the buying public is ensure high ebook prices. So far, I’m not yet impressed by this tack.

      As far as the iPad becoming a usable ebook reader, I’m reserving that judgement. Backlit displays are hard on the eyes. E-ink uses ambient light which causes less eye strain. So, even though the iPad is being positioned as a ‘better’ ebook reader, I don’t think it will really work all that well for this task. So while the iPhone took the mobile phone world by storm, I do not believe the iPad is a strong enough device to do this in the eBook world. Not to mention, $499 is a bit pricey next the Kindle anyway (even if it does support multiple apps).

  5. car leasing companies said, on February 4, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    I’ve loved Apple products for some time, they produce gadgets that is visually beautiful while working like a champ. That can’t be said about alot of companies, it’s usually one or the other. Tech businesses don’t usually take aesthetics seriously like Apple. With that being said I’ve got to say that I’m very excited about the upcoming iSlate. One thing I question though, is it too soon? I think that this product may be ahead of its time. What do you think?

    • commorancy said, on February 6, 2010 at 1:01 pm

      While I do agree that visual aesthetics are involved in their products, they aren’t the only one doing unique design. Bang and Olufsen has long produced visually stunning audio components.. and yes, at a price. Sharper Image and Brookstone have long sought out visually stunning gadgets. Logitech has also produced some visually stunning designs. So, industrial design aesthetics is not limited to Apple. Apple just gets the spotlight for it most of the time even though they have no monopoly on it. As far as the iPad goes, I believe the device is not demographically targeted well enough. The device currently has no wow factor. The design of it is weak (nothing that ground breaking about it). The iPod touch was (and is) a marvel to behold. The iPad is “just another tablet”. I’m still out on whether running iPhone OS is a boon or a burden. I’m presently leaning more toward burden. A full fledged MacOS X tablet would really be far more useful than an iPhone OS based iPad.

      If Apple were to leverage this device as a thin client designed for cloud computing, THAT would be ground breaking. It would be the first device truly aimed at cloud computing. Better, Apple could easily position iTunes and MobileMe to take advantage of the Apple infrastructure to support cloud computing. This would beat Google to the punch by a few years. Google’s own GoogleOS notebook is supposed to be designed for cloud computing in Google’s space. Apple beating Google to the punch in this race could land Apple in sweet spot.

      Where the iPad sits today is questionable. Moving the iPad to iCloud is much better for this device’s longevity. Cloud computing is coming rapidly and thin client computing is just around the corner. Apple might as well get an early start on it. Of course, Apple still needs a Google Docs suite to make it all work.

  6. Jaime Bverger said, on February 2, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Who do you think is going to win this years superbowl? And what do you think the spread will be?

    • commorancy said, on February 3, 2010 at 1:07 am

      First, I’d like to say that this isn’t really on topic for this article. That said, in the spirit of randomness, I’ll entertain the question.

      The Superbowl for 2010 is between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. As far as the winner, I’m picking the Colts only because their offense is stronger than the Saints’ defense. Personally, I don’t keep up with either of these teams regularly. As far as the spread goes, some people are picking the Colts as favorites with a 4 point spread and the final score around 56. Others are picking them with a 1 point spread. I don’t personally do sports betting, so for me the spread isn’t that important.

      Good luck if you choose to wager.

  7. Jolny Wolner said, on January 31, 2010 at 9:40 pm

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  8. Pete Clokque said, on January 30, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    The thing is just something I would buy my grandma. Cmon, lets face it, this one does not really do flash. I anybody really getting a gadget like this?

    • commorancy said, on February 2, 2010 at 5:14 pm

      As far as gift items go, it would be a great gift. But, there’s still a learning curve here regardless. If I were going to get someone a gift, I’d rather get them an iPhone or iPod touch. They’re portable and fit comfortably in pockets. The smaller devices are infinitely more useful. Carrying the iPad around is klunky and big. You can’t fit it in a pocket, so you must carry it in a case of some kind. Considering its size and the size of the screen, it’s going to be even more fragile than most screens. So, dropping this one is likely to shatter it into pieces. For the price tag, they better offer accident insurance protection.

      The best hope for this device is as a coffee table centerpiece. You aren’t going to want to carry it around constantly. This device has lots of design problems, the least of which is its size.

      As far as the web access… yes, its software shortcomings will be even more apparent now than ever. Apple must resolve the flash issue in this device or it is doomed. The iPad isn’t a widescreen format, though, so I wouldn’t expect to use it as any kind of a media center device. Without flash or silverlight, it’s not going to be much for those applications.

      Thanks for the comments.

  9. Lester Sealy said, on January 29, 2010 at 7:30 am

    Alot of bloggers aren’t too happy with the new iPad.There was just too much hoopla about it and lots of people got turned off.You see, I actually see some of the awesome potential of this device. Third-party applications for doing tunes, games, newsprints and magazine and FFS books, all kinds of neat stuff, but IMHO they just didn’t really sell it properly (excluding the books). It feels kinda undercooked

    • commorancy said, on February 2, 2010 at 5:04 pm

      The problem with the iPad isn’t that it doesn’t have some merit or that it isn’t functional. On the contrary, I have no reason to believe it won’t be a capable device. The trouble is, it’s pricey and there are plenty of devices that can do the exact same thing for far cheaper. I look at it this way… when you go buy a washing machine, you look for certain bells and whistles that make it stand out. All washing machines are designed to wash clothes. What makes each different are the bells and whistles. With the iPad, it is not new or innovative in any way. That’s the trouble. Apple is renowned for producing groundbreaking devices and features. Unfortunately, the iPad isn’t groundbreaking, new or different.

      We’ve seen tablets before. We’ve seen the iPod Touch/iPhone before. We’ve seen apps before. We’ve seen smaller computers before. We’ve seen touchscreen devices before. We’ve also seen a computer before. There’s nothing in the iPad that is new or innovative.

      About its only claim to fame at this point is in being a reasonable replacement for the Kindle in some cases. The backlit screen will be hard on the eyes. The 12 hour battery life is far too limited to be convenient for long excursions without access to power. So, really, what’s left over to make it popular are the fan boys and those people who must have every new thing out here. As far as the iPad being something everyone needs, I don’t see it…. yet.

  10. The Best Articles said, on January 28, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Yes USLESS :S

    Bye

  11. […] more here: Apple's iPad: 10 inch iPod Touch or iDisaster? « Random Thoughts … Share and […]

  12. Thanasis said, on January 28, 2010 at 5:58 am

    A useless device


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