iPad: After the dust settles
We are now a month post iPad launch and where are we? Some news sites are postulating the the use of iPad in the enterprise world. I can’t even fathom a use for it at home, much less putting it into the hands of corporate users. Let’s examine this platform more carefully to understand the reasons for its lack of viability in Enterprise, much less for simple home uses.
I know a lot of media outlets have harped endlessly on the lack of multitasking. Granted, it is a computing device and most computing devices do require some level of multitasking. I know that the iPod and the iPhone had very little internal memory (at least up to 3rd gen editions). So, it could only comfortably run one app. That was primarily a memory limitation. With the latest iPhone and iPod touch, that may have all changed. To be perfectly honest, I don’t keep up with Apple’s hardware spec details. Why? Because it’s not really that much of an interest. I mean, that’s the point. It shouldn’t be. Apple has always touted their devices ‘just work’. So, why should I need to dig inside one of their devices to find out the gritty details? I shouldn’t need to.
This issue is also what bites Apple many times over. They decide to under design the device by putting in not enough resources. So, they have to make concessions in the operating system by removing things like multitasking. Of course, with the iPod touch and the iPhone, we’re talking about very small devices that may not have the physical room to hold the amount of resources necessary to support multitasking.
The iPad’s physical size should no longer hinder their ability to put in the necessary resources to fully support multitasking (and then some). So, there is no reason why the iPad shouldn’t have supported multitasking out of the gate. But, it doesn’t. The iPhone 4.0 OS is supposed to address this issue, but not until the fall of 2010.
Multitasking and how it relates to computing
So, is it required that a PC support multitasking? Good question. It’s also a question not easily answered. In general, though, the answer should be ‘yes’. It should be ‘yes’ because the ability to run multiple apps is necessary to get things done. For example, to copy and paste between two different documents or to share information through application conduits. Even the simple act of embedding one app inside another requires multitasking. Quitting and restarting each app to move between them is cumbersome and time wasting.
In the end, yes, multitasking is required to make the computing experience be what we’ve come to expect. In the iPad, that computing experience isn’t there. So, for this reason, iPad won’t be fully accepted without multitasking. We’ll revisit this topic, however, once multitasking is (re) introduced in iPhone 4.0 OS.
Enterprise computing and the iPad
Is it ready for enterprise? I personally would say no. I’ve owned an iPod touch for several years and since the iPad really has no better selection in enterprise apps than does the iPod touch, the answer to this question is still no. Even though the screen on iPad is larger, it doesn’t offer the necessary productivity apps to fully work in a corporate enterprise. Yes, it does have a mail app. That’s a big part of what makes it work in Enterprise. Unfortunately, that mail app is so locked down and limited, that it may not fully work for the enterprise. That’s not to say that the mail app isn’t good in a pinch or to read a quick current email or two. But, don’t try to go searching for emails buried in your folders, that just doesn’t work well.
For enterprise computing, the current incarnation of the iPad is nowhere near ready.
What uses does the iPad offer?
Good question, once again. It isn’t a media PC, so that’s out. It isn’t good for enterprise level computing, that’s out. It can watch movies and read books, so coffee table literature, ok. Ignoring the touch screen and sleek design (which are just amenities, after all), it has to come down to the apps and features. The apps are limited, at this point, and I don’t really see much of that changing due to Apple’s app lockout situation.
Until Apple opens the platform up for general development, the platform will continue to be tightly controlled and, thus, limiting the applications that are available. Until this situation is resolved, this device may never end up anything more than a novelty.
HP’s slate cancelled
Looking back at history shows us that the tablet has had an extremely rocky past that always leads to failure. I’m not sure that even Apple can overcome this rocky past even with the success of the iPhone. The iPad is really too big and clunky to be truly portable. It’s too closed to allow open development. So, it’s no surprise that HP and other companies who had previously announced their intent to release a tablet are now reconsidering that release. In fact, HP announced the slate on the heels of Apple’s iPad announcement and has now cancelled the slate completely before it was even released.
Some people blame the ‘success’ of the iPad. Well, success is very much subjective. Putting 500,000 of the iPad into circulation is nothing to sneeze at. But, that doesn’t necessarily indicate success. The Newton comes to mind here. It was a hot new item that all but died in about two years. Where is the Newton now? Apple has a past history of deleting products rapidly and the iPad may be one of those items.
Apple’s past failures
If you really want an iPad, then get it now while it’s hot. Don’t wait. The reason I say this is that in 6-12 months, you could find yourself with a doorstop that Apple no longer supports. Apple has a history of killing off failing devices rapidly. So, with this particular device, don’t wait to buy it. If you wait until spring of 2011, you may find that the device is dead and buried. You could be holding a flat doorstop that iTunes no longer supports and with no active development. I can very easily see this device becoming one of Apple’s most recent failures.
Working while traveling
The tablet format has a questionable past anyway. The form factor isn’t pleasing to use. It isn’t easy to carry and, getting past the touch screen, it’s cumbersome to write text into it. So, it’s going to need a dock with a keyboard and mouse. A real keyboard and a real mouse. But, that takes the portability out of it. If you’re sitting on a plane, you’re locked into using the touch surface. Now consider that you can’t lay the device flat and work easily. I mean, you can lay it down, but then it’s not at the correct viewing angle. To get it into the correct viewing angle, you have to hold it in one hand, you have to balance it in your lap in a contorted way or you have to carry along a kickstand when you’re on a plane.
In this instance, a notebook, iphone, itouch or netbook works much better. For a netbook, the top pops open at the correct viewing angle and you have a real keyboard and mouse available. Granted, it’s not a touch surface, but that’s just a novelty anyway. Once the novelty of touch wears off, then you have to determine how to make use of this input method in an actual usable way.
Using an iPod touch or iPhone is also easy. It fits easily in one hand, is light in weight and works without the need for kickstands, contorted positions or clumsy positioning issues. Clearly, not a lot of usability was discussed when the iPad was designed. Usability is one of the things Apple usually prides itself in its designs. In the iPad, usability was clearly an afterthought.
This is the one and only one saving grace of the iPad. Internet everywhere is where we need to be. The supposed $29.95 monthly plan associated with the 3G version of the iPad is a reasonable price. Unfortunately, the iPad itself is marked up by an additional $130. So, instead of $499, it’s $629 (and that’s the smallest iPad). But, the iPad with 3G is the only version that I would personally consider. I already have an iPod touch and its uses are extremely limited unless you have WiFi handy (which isn’t very often). And, even when you do find a place that claims to have WiFi, 8 times out of 10, the connectivity is either slow or limited. So much for free WiFi. While 3G isn’t that fast, it’s at least always on pretty much anywhere you need it.
Form factor is the key to success
The problem with the current iPad is its size. This is the wrong form factor to release. It’s the wrong size and wrong weight. The size that the iPad should have been was about the size of a paperback book. Bigger than an iPod touch, small enough to fit in a pocket. This will take computing to the truly portable level. The screen will be bigger than a Sony PSP (which is a decent size to watch movies), but small enough to still be portable. Combine that with 3G and you have a device that people will want to use. The iPad is not that portable and still requires a case with handles. After all, you don’t really want to drop a $600+ device. But, a device the size of a paperback book at the cost of maybe $399, that’s in a price range that could work.
First Gen iPad
Remember that this is the first generation iPad. You really have to wait until the third gen of an Apple device to get to the features that make it worthwhile. The question remains, will the iPad even make it to a third incarnation? Only time will tell. Apple won’t abandon the iPhone OS on devices for quite some time. But, the form factor of the iPad is likely to change several times before it’s over. Like I said, if you want this thing, buy into it now. Otherwise, if you want to wait a year, you may not be able to get this form factor again and you may find that Apple has backtracked into smaller more portable devices.