[Howdy, all, and–wow–it has been a long time since I have posted! I had full intention of “blogging the conference” but it was so wonderfully full that I was exhausted by the time I got to my room each evening. (I still do plan to make some comments here, though.) But, as the dust settles (of course, the dust never settles), I hope to get back to posting more frequently. Today, though, I offer a compromise: A guest post. This one is from our previous iPad “previewer” (see “A Follow Up iPad Non-Rant”). It is a very good review, methinks, and reading it has resulted in my referring to my iPhone as an “iPad Nano” at times. (Note: After all the reviews I’ve read, I still prefer my iPad Nano to the iPad, but the connection is a good one. As far as I’m concerned an iPad Nano still beats an iPhone Giganto, but to each his own!)
Before cutting you loose to read the review, I should also mention that the reviewer’s comments are two weeks old (been sitting in my Inbox for a while!), so some of the news is already out-of-date. As a result, I have added his later follow up at the article’s end. Enjoy! — WGS]
Since I bothered to opine a while ago about the recently released iPad, I thought I would take a moment to bore you with some further thoughts now that I have actually held one in my hands.
Short answer: I’m more convinced than ever that the iPad really does represent the future of mobile computing.
Shorter corollary: The future isn’t quite here yet.
After playing with an iPad, I can very much appreciate that for 99% of potential computer users (including a huge number of people who today would never “use a computer” but who would benefit from and enjoy using an iPad), the iPad it is all the “computer” they might ever need. The iPad makes “computing” accessible to a huge segment of the population who would never consider working with what we today think of as a “computer ” (i.e. keyboard, mouse, monitor and CPU box).
Of course, content creators will still use more or less traditional desktop machines, which facilitate the completion of certain tasks for which the iPad simply isn’t suited. But, just as very few people make television shows, while many more people watch TV, the number of iPad-friendly content consumers will vastly outnumber the desktop-computer-friendly content creators.
However, while the iPad is clearly an excellent first attempt at filling a once-empty niche, I suspect a few small-but-significant details may slow its acceptance (at least until version 2 and beyond).
For example, I was surprised by the iPad’s weight. The current iPad weighs about 24 ounces — more than twice the weight of Amazon’s Kindle, and about 5 ounces more than the slightly larger Kindle DX. As a result, unlike the Kindle, the iPad doesn’t become “invisible” in your hands and leave you focusing wholly on content. I suspect Apple will be looking further into lightweight impact-resistant plastics for version 2.0 of the iPad.
Remarkably, though, the iPad’s slightly bulky feel almost disappeared when I would cradle it at a slight angle in one hand, while using my other hand on the touchscreen — much as I might use a pad of paper. This got me thinking about a potential “killer app” for the iPad. What if a developer were to release a “mind mapping” application that could let the writer sketch his mind maps on the iPad surface, using handwriting recognition to make text legible, as well as to give order and shape to scrawled circles, squares, triangles and ovals? Imagine that the text in the mind-maps would be searchable. Empowered by the right software, the iPad might be able to do for mind mapping what the computer and keyboard have done for word processing.
Apple Inc. is both praised and mocked for the obsessive attention it pays to the way users will interact with their computers. Having played with an iPad for a while, I would have to call it a near-perfect ergonomic fit for the task of scribbling text and graphics onto a page by hand. Yet the current iPad OS does not even support handwriting recognition! This makes me wonder whether Apple might have developed the iPad with handwriting recognition in mind, but that for some reason (either a technical obstacle, a marketing decision, or a Steve Jobs temper tantrum?) this “killer” feature could not be present in version 1.0 of the device.
Meanwhile, with the announcement of iPhone/iBookstore compatibility, I am starting to think of my current device not as an iPhone, but rather as an iPad nano. Except that my iPad nano has a camera and works well as a pocketable phone, unlike its big brother.
Now if only Apple would release a new MacBook Air with two screens and no keyboard (or, rather, a software-based haptic keyboard) — sort of a larger version of Microsoft’s prototype “Courier” dual-screen tablet with a few flourishes. I would buy one of those in an instant!
I notice that in the two weeks since I wrote it, several small-but-significant developments have occurred. Microsoft has killed its “Courier” development, and HP has at least delayed its tablet computer, pending its acquisition of Palm. So, Apple will be operating without some potentially serious competition in the iPad niche for at least a little while longer. This may encourage some on-the-fence consumers to go ahead and make the most of the first-generation iPad — which ironically might end up helping Microsoft and HP in the long run, if Apple is able to legitimize and grow the niche into which Microsoft and HP may later expand.
Meanwhile, the apparent specs of the leaked/lost/stolen iPhone 4G prototype lead me to think that the 1024×768 resolution of the first iPads may seem woefully weak before too long. Will the second-generation iPads increase their resolution to support HD (1920×1080) or at least motion JPEG (1280×720) resolution? If the iPhone reaches a rumored 960×640 this June, how long can it be before the iPad will take a leap far beyond?