Friday, January 29, 2010

iPad Uproar!

Wow. Apple seems to have kicked over the beehive this time. Everyone's talking about the iPad, and I thought I would add my small voice to the roar.

My impression, it's a slick device that will be a lot of fun to use for media consumption and light content generation. I don't expect it to replace my laptop. I don't think it will change the world, but I do have an iPad-size hole in my life. Once I can get my hands on one, it will definitely be put to good use.

Interestingly, a lot of the day-after press that I have seen has been very negative. This isn't that surprising. The iPad, like the iPhone before it, is a very closed environment, and that doesn't sit well with some people. Still, some of the reaction seems to be a bit knee-jerk. And I wanted to address some of that criticism here.

It's not really mobile

OK, I'm not sure what people are complaining about. Yes, you can't fit it into your jeans pocket. Big deal. If that's what you want, buy an iPod Touch.

See, I remember the early days of mobile computing. Where you had a 25 lb. box, the keyboard clamped onto the front, and you had to heft it using a luggage-style handle bolted to the top. So maybe I have a different understanding of the word "mobile" than most folks.

Here's the thing. The iPad is smaller than my laptop. The iPad is smaller than a stack of text book. In many cases, I will be able to use it instead, greatly reducing the amount of gear that I need to lug around. To me, that's mobile.


It's just a big iPhone

Well, size has a quantity all its own. The additional screen real estate will allow developers to build applications that just wouldn't work on the iPhone.

But, even if it is just a big iPhone, so what. My iPhone has already replaced a lot of the work I used to do on my laptop. My biggest complaint, the screen is too small. Give me a bigger screen. Make it a little easier to browse the web and do email, and I'll be ecstatic. For me, one of the biggest features will be the ability to read full-page PDFs without having to squint at microscopic type. I print out a lot of research papers because I don't yet have a good alternative. If it's a two-column document I can stick it on my iPhone and zoom in on a single column at a time. That works OK. A bigger iPhone would let me comfortably read even the single-column articles.

And don't even get me started about the gaming opportunities.

So yes, a bigger iPhone would be nice.

A netbook can do everything the iPad does, and do it cheaper

This ignores the whole touch interface, the accelerometers, GPS and a host of other features. I think the touch interface is going to be a big winner here, once people actually get their hands on the device. It's a much more natural way to interact with software than the traditional mouse/keyboard combination, at least judging by the number of fingerprints I keep finding on my laptop's screen.

Being able to reposition the screen between landscape and portrait mode is also very nice. Even nicer, applications can detect this change and respond in interesting, useful ways.

It doesn't support a mouse?

You can buy the keyboard dock or link the iPad with any bluetooth keyboard (which makes Apple's tiny bluetooth keyboard suddenly very attractive). But you cannot link with a bluetooth mouse. This fact has made some peoples head explode.

Here's the thing. The iPhone OS doesn't have a mouse pointer. How would you even use a mouse. And why would you want to, when you can just tap the object directly.

A multi-touch interface allows a considerably wider range of interaction than most mice. Yes, long term mouse users may find the mouse more accurate--but, if you've ever watched a newbie use a mouse, you know that accuracy is a learned skill, not an inherent feature of the interface.

It doesn't support multi-tasking

Why is multitasking such a big deal? To me, multitasking is mostly needed when two or more applications are running on the same screen. The iPad is specifically designed to have each application take up the entire screen. And I think that's the right decision for devices like this.

So, as long as an application saves it state as you use it, restarts wherever you left off, and opens and closes quickly, moving between applications isn't a problem, even without multitasking.

Already, on the iPhone I can be writing an email, close the email-app to look up a word using a dictionary app. Copy the correct spelling, and reopen and paste the word. It's really quite seamless. I've seen bigger delays when switching tasks on multi-tasking machines. And there are definite technical advantages to only doing one thing at a time.

There is, however, one place where multitasking would be useful. Every once in a while, I find myself waiting for an application to download a big file. I would like to switch to a different app until the download was finished. It's not a big deal, but some sort of limited multitasking would be nice.

It doesn't support Flash

OK, this is the one complaint that I agree with. Mind you, I don't like Flash. I think HTML 5.0 is a much more compelling and robust technology. But, I also think it's ridiculous to expect everyone else to rewrite their web pages just because I have a new gadget.

The iPad is supposed to be a premium web-browsing tool. So, its annoying that it cannot be used to access broad swaths of the web.

1 comment:

帳號 said...

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