This is getting talked about absolutely to death right now, so I’m going to say my bit, hopefully add something, then be done with talking about it.
I think Apple is really onto something here. The form factor looks good, aside from the over-rounded corners. The price is way better than expected. Even the data plans seem reasonable. The potential of this device is almost limitless. It’s ability to completely revolutionize how we use computers is very real. However, unless Apple does some nimble evolution of this device, and fast, it’ll be little more than a giant iPod Touch — not the game changing, revolutionary device it should have been. At this point it’s a great little piece of hardware that’s been fatally handicapped by a handful of terrible choices.
I refuse to call it the iPad. It’s a stupid, stupid name that is too close to “iPod”, sounds stupid coming out of your mouth, and will likely never shake its tampon association. It’d be like naming your kid Adolf and then wondering why he gets made fun of at school. This bone-headed, phallocentric oversight on the part of Apple is major face-palm material and I hope they lose their trademark dispute with Fujitsu and take the opportunity to rename the thing.
I have an iPhone. I don’t need or want a bigger one. This brilliant little device needs an OS that’s as capable as its interface hardware and the iPhone OS just doesn’t cut it. Is the solution full OS-X? Not necessarily, but if there were a Tablet OS that were closer in function and software support to OS-X it would solve most of the major gripes about the device. It’d be able to run Flash, be able to multi-task, it could run dashboard widgets on the home screen, plus any number of other touch-only UI features that would make people drool. Running the tablet verbatim on iPhone 3.2 OS stinks of laziness in my opinion. Instead of investing in a fully-capable touch computer OS, they seem to have spent all their time developing fancier tablet-optimized iPhone apps. Putting seemingly no extra thought into the OS of the device makes the whole interface seem like an afterthought. They’re merely lucky that it’s as good an interface as it is to begin with. Sure, they’ve created better versions of the photo viewer and the iPod functionality, but aside from screen size this device does nothing of interest that my iPhone doesn’t do already. Meanwhile it lacks a whole list of things that my iPhone can do — make phone calls, take photos, know my exact GPS location, fit in my pocket, etc.
It’ll run apps. Super. App Store integration is great…for Apple. The whole thing frankly stinks of profiteering on Apple’s part — like the only reason the Tablet exists is to increase App Store and iTunes sales and further establish Apple as the mobile content and app platform of choice. That doesn’t bother me ethically, but it bothers me because this device could have changed the world of personal computing in ways it simply won’t without a more robust and intentional OS. Think of the apps that could be written if the tablet knew its actual GPS location or could multi-task! It’s obviously expedient and efficient for the iPhone and the tablet to share the same OS, but I say it’s the biggest hinderance to the tablet’s ultimate potential. The interface, which ought to be the most important part of this device, seems like an afterthought. Look no further than the size/proportion of the app icons to the size of the screen. They’re hopelessly spread out and what looks tight and robust on the iPhone is now disjointed and unintentional looking. It looks like it was made by somebody other than Apple, actually, who ripped off the iPhone OS and crammed it into a bigger device.
I’ve never had a major beef with my iPhone’s inability to play flash content. It’s a phone! But on this tablet device, a lack of even basic Flash integration is simply unforgivable. How can Apple claim that this device is now the best way to experience the internet when some of the internet’s richest and most vibrant content is not viewable? What’s so frustrating is that they’re right about the hands-on experience. Being able to navigate the internet with my hands on such a laptastic piece of hardware is a web surfing dream…except for all the stuff I can’t see ’cause it’s in Flash. If big Safari can run Flash, then dammit little Safari should too. The previous hemming and hawing about performance are null and void on this tablet. As much as I’d like to see Flash give way completely to AJAX, that’s not going to happen any time soon and Apple needs to accept that and give me the full internet before they expect five hundred of my dollars.
No GPS hardware
I’m deeply disappointed by the tablet’s lack of a GPS receiver. Putting the Google Maps app on the tablet without location awareness is almost a slap in the face. Here’s this big beautiful map with satellite photos and street view, but if you want to know where you are, too bad? When I saw the maps app being demoed during the keynote, my mind immediately went to my wife and I on a road trip using the tablet to navigate. Geocaching could actually get fun on a device like the tablet. FourSquare, Twitter, Facebook and whatever the next big social media thing turns out to be — they’re all going to be location smart. But think beyond computing for a second. What if you had a docking station for the Apple tablet in your car’s dashboard? It could be your navigation system, your entertainment system, your weather report, all of that and more! But without real GPS location, what’s the point? Why should I take it anywhere? Why should I even own one?
I don’t recall where I read this in the flood of coverage today, but I want to give proper credit that the following is not my but someone else’s brilliant observation. Positioning the Apple tablet as something between your smart phone and your laptop does a huge injustice to the device. This is not a netbook killer. By comparing it to netbooks, all Apple does is highlight what the tablet can’t do. It can’t run more than one app at a time. It can’t display Flash content. It isn’t a proper typing platform (although the keyboard dock is a great way to address that). Instead, Apple should have presented the tablet as the ultimate personal media viewer — which it has legitimate potential for being just that. Basically, they should have aimed the discussion squarely at the Kindle and the Nook and not at netbooks at all. Looking at the Apple tablet in contrast to eReaders highlights all its greatest strengths. It has a full color, beautiful display that’s optimized for shared viewing. It can explore the internet in ways eReaders can’t even begin to touch. It’s fast. It plays video. It has an immersive interface and a world of 3rd party add-on applications. It’s price competitive with the most notable eReader of the same size, the Kindle DX. Compare it to a netbook and it’s a loser. Show it next to the Kindle and it’s a rock star. There are some who argue that it’s not a Kindle killer either, but I say it very well could have been if that’s how they’d chosen to talk about it. Sure, it’s not e-ink, but I read a high-quality LCD display all day long. Crank down the brightness on the tablet, and I’m pretty sure I’d still fall asleep reading long before my eyes got bothered.
These poor decisions on Apple’s part make the tablet disappointingly useless in my digital life. I don’t even own a laptop and I’m really struggling to think of how or where I’d really use this thing. It has the potential to be the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Instead, it’s a giant iPod Touch (a device that I also think is pretty pointless in a world where I can buy an iPhone). Do I really need another way to cart around my media and check my email? With an iPhone in my pocket, no, I don’t. But could I enjoy a more personal way to experience that media both at home and abroad? Sure. But Apple’s going to have to do better than this. When the iPhone came out, I needed it. This? There’s a lot I like about it, but it’s too fatally flawed to get any of my money, and I’m really sad about that. I wanted to want this device, and I just don’t. Here’s hoping that just like the iPhone, the software evolution of this device will bring it into full blossom in short order. Until then, keep trying, Apple. You’re so close.