Apple’s iPad is basically an iPod touch (or iPhone) with a bigger screen, updated software capability to match the larger form factor, but the device is missing a number of must-have-for-the-future features.
What’s in a Name?
Is anyone shocked that the tablet device is called the iPad? My choice was touchPad, but iPad fits in with Apple’s reliance on iEverything. Despite the record amount of mouth frothing predictions over the tablet before its release, this might be the one new Apple product that the good tech pundits got right.
Even my spotty record at prognosticating was improved by the iPad.
Most expected a 10-inch screen, hard shell case, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, microphone, speakers, and multiple storage options. The form factor was easy to determine. Screen size. Weight. Height. Battery life. Even the 3G option is not a surprise, though AT&T’s pricing mechanism is surprisingly aggressive.
Many of us wanted, but did not expect, a few features that Apple actually delivered. I predicted the $499 base model price tag, and two basic configurations; Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi plus 3G. I wanted the separate keyboard and stand up dock, but didn’t expect it. Apple delivered it. Ditto for the digital compass, and accelerometer.
Also something of a surprise is the iPad’s CPU; an Apple design from their new chip division. Some of us who have had abysmal iPhone service with AT&T hoped for a Verizon option. Better luck next year.
The Sweet Spot
Apple was required to hit the sweet spot between iPhone and iPod touch—the Mac in your pocket—and an actual Mac (in the form factor of MacBook or MacBook Pro). It was important that the iPad be a device that iPhone users would purchase, and so would Mac or PC notebook users.
The iPad definitely hit Apple’s intended target. It will not replace an iPhone, and won’t replace an iMac or MacBook Pro model for heavy duty computing, but the iPad does extend the market to a wider spectrum of customers (just as it did with the iPhone and iPod touch).
There are times when I’m mobile and do not take my MacBook Pro with me. My iPhone does the basics. However, I would consider using an iPad for more on-the-go opportunities, and leave the Mac notebook back in the office, or at home.
What’s Missing from the iPad?
By now you’ve had ample opportunity to dig through the specifications and perhaps a video of the iPad on Apple’s web site. What should be apparent is that Apple’s is targeting the affluent masses for the iPad.
It’s just like a device that 75-million customers already know how to use. It looks like an overgrown iPod touch or iPhone.
The sleep-wake button is on the top, as is the headphone jack. One speaker is on the top and one is on the bottom. There’s a physical volume rocker on the side, just like the iPhone, and the iPad can be put in silence mode, too.
Despite the attractive feature list, and the must-have persona, the iPad has a few glaring omissions.
First, there’s no mouse input capability. Not Bluetooth. Not USB. No mouse. Second, the iPad does not play 1080p HD movies. It’s stuck at 720p H.264 max.
Also, there’s no camera on the iPad. And, so far as we can tell, no iChat, either, which means no VoIP telephony capability via Skype et al. At least, for now. The lack of a video camera is not much of a surprise. After all, Apple needs to give us a reason to buy next year’s model. Besides, how much would full on video via Skype or iChat weigh on AT&T’s already sluggish network?
Removable battery buffs will pooh-pooh the lack of, well, removable a battery. That lack does not seem to have harmed sales of the iPhone or iPod, though, so maybe it’s not as important to actual customers.
The iPad’s screen can orient itself to portrait or landscape, just as does the iPhone screen. But, there’s no way to lock the screen into portrait or landscape. Both the Kindle and Nook do that, though, to be fair, some iPad software will lock the screen (similar to certain apps on the iPhone).
Just like the iPhone and iPod touch, there’s no Flash on the iPad. In fact, during Steve’s browse through The New York Times web site, a conspicuous missing plug-in icon popped up in a box where an embedded Flash video would have been. Steve chuckled and moved on. Flash won’t show up on Apple’s new devices for a long, long time.
Already there are grumblings about no multi-tasking on the iPad. To what extent isn’t clear, but assume that it’s the same as the iPhone and iPod touch, where iTunes may play in the background while you surf. Honestly, only the geeks care much about multi-tasking. Most of us can only do one thing at a time anyway. Would multi-tasking provide 10 hours of battery life? Unlikely.
Without a built-in iSight camera, how does an iPad get video in? Obviously, for Mac and PC users, video can be captured and stored into iTunes, then synced with the iPad. There may be an option to load video into the iPad using the USB cable, but that’s unknown at the moment.
Interesting, too, is the 4:3 aspect ratio of the iPad’s screen. Even today’s Macs have a wide aspect ratio. Why 4:3 instead of 16:9? Take the iPad to portrait mode and you’ll see. It would be positively too skinny; almost silly.
Is there true GPS in the iPad? It’s difficult to determine from Apple’s specifications. GPS appears to be in the 3G model, but perhaps not in the WiFi model.
There are no external buttons for adjusting screen brightness. Just as in the iPhone, you need to go into System Preferences. Buttons, though are on the right side of the screen in portrait mode. Video out appears to be handled via the VGA dock cable and is limited to 576p and 480p (similar to basic TV). Finally, for our geeky friends, no mention of the CPU or graphics sub-system, other than to say it’s 1GHz, custom designed, low-power system-on-a-chip.
Also conspicuously missing from the iPad announcement today was any mention of publisher McGraw-Hill, who’s CEO, only yesterday said his company has been working for a long time with Apple. That was then, and this is now.
The iPad Pricing Surprise
Steve Jobs did some theatre tricks when announcing the iPad’s price tag. He pointed out that many expected an Apple tablet to be priced at $999. Then the $499 price tag came crashing down on the presentation screen, which elicited an initial outburst of pleasure and surprise.
Actually, the $499 price tag is for the Wi-Fi only version at 16GB. Compare that to the iPod touch at $199 for the 8GB model. There is no 16GB iPod touch. A 32GB model is $299, which compares to the $599 price tag for the larger iPad. The 64GB iPod touch is $399, compared to the $699 price tag for a similarly equipped iPad. So, it’s $300 more for the high end iPad vs. an iPod touch.
iPad storage is a premium, especially for the 3G model, which starts at $629 for 16GB, and rolls to $829 for the 64GB 3G model, $130 more than a comparable iPad without 3G. Surprising, too, is AT&T’s price for iPad 3G data plans. $30 for unlimited data, and $15 for up to 256MB per month. That includes AT&T’s free Wi-Fi hot spots all over the country.
It remains to be seen how well the iPad is adopted by education. My guess is that adoption will be swift, starting next year. The iPad is much less expensive than a MacBook, and provides a platform made for education—eBooks, multi-media, text books. The used text book market looks to be on thin ice in the future.
Despite a few glaring shortcomings, the iPad looks to be another big hit as Apple provided just the right hardware, matched to just the right software, and leveraged the iTunes Store, the iTunes App Store, and a large and rapidly growing customer base.