Answering my own questions since 2001

If the iPad is a Hammer, Where Are My Nails?

The trouser-rubbing hordes of Macolytes are all in a lather about Apple’s newest device: the oddly-named iPad (insert menstrual humour here). If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the introductory video. It features the usual legion of starry-eyed, breathless Apple senior staff speaking reverently about their newest saint.

It’s a big, thin iPod. And it’s dead sexy. And surprisingly cheap, with prices starting at US $499.

It looks like a cool toy, but which of my computing, communications or entertainment problems does this device actually solve? It’s a sexier Kindle (with, no doubt, the same level of vendor lock-in)–a cool-looking reading device, for newspapers, books and the Web. I’ve been pretty ambivalent about the Kindle and other ebook readers up to now. I’ll probably buy one eventually, but I find I have an affection for the analog reading experience of dead tree books and New Yorker magazines.

And I don’t sit down to ‘read the Internet’. My ‘web surfing’ experience, if you will, is this mix of reading, blogging, tweeting, sending emails and chatting online, and all of that is usually intermingled with my doing actual work. The iPad looks to be great for reading the web, but worse than a laptop for each of these other functions.

I do watch TV and, rarely, feature-length movies on my laptop. I’m usually either on a plane or in bed. In either case, I appreciate the fact that my laptop can sit all on its own, without me holding it up. I know there will be docks and sundry other, uh, mounts for the iPad, but I’m not sure how else it would be superior to my MacBook Air.

In short, it’s a great-looking device, but I’m not sure it’s right for me. What are your initial impressions?

21 Responses to “If the iPad is a Hammer, Where Are My Nails?”

  1. Jen

    I’m with you. The iPad doesn’t seem to solve any problems I have at the moment.

    I think it’s nice to see the convergence of so many devices trying to make a whole that’s greater than the sum of the parts, and I think eventually someone (likely Apple) will come out with the game-changer, but so far I still see just a lot of parts, none of which are super compelling to me.

  2. Sean

    “It’s a sexier Kindle…”

    Only problem is, the iPad is a back-lit LCD screen… not easy on the eyes for reading for hours at a time. This is one area that e-ink based readers have the better vantage.

    A commenter on Boing Boing brought up some good points:

    1. No apps that have not been approved by Apple. By which I mean, you can’t download your favorite apps off some web site somewhere. You are strictly limited to the app store.

    2. No camera.

    3. Microphone, but apparently… no voice calls.

    4. eBook reader only through iBookstore. No word about loading your own books/PDFs.

    5. Network is GSM-based. That rules out Verizon for your choices.

    6. No multitasking. This isn’t OSX. It’s not a laptop. Or a mini-laptop. Or even, apparently, a netbook. It’s the stripped-down iPhone OS.

    7. 16 GB for $500. 64 GB for $700. Some are complaining about the price because of the limited functionality.

    8. No video out? Does that docking station allow video out, or is it just for the keyboard?

  3. Todd Sieling

    I despise sitting on the couch with my laptop, using my laptop to discuss a design across a cafe table, and doing extended reading on my iphone. I’m not sure I’ll go for version 1, but this is something I’ve been wanting for a while now.

    It’s worth noting that the tablet has already shifted the ground substantially in favour of authors, where the Kindle was driving them into commodity and sweatshop pricing: until last week, Amazon was taking 65% of each Kindle title sale, and switched to match the iTunes model of 70% for authors. The changes in technology pale in comparison to what the product has already done in mobile data rates and ebook title rates for authors. I think that’s substantial.

  4. Travis

    I think it’s going to end up being a Kindle killer.

    Which is kind of like making a “mosquito swatter” instead of a general purpose fly swatter. Or in fact, using a rolled up newspaper. Which is why the newspaper business is screwed — people buying swatters instead of newspapers.

    darren Reply:

    Easy there, Grandpa Simpson.

  5. Todd Sieling

    Sean I think this is a bunch of FUD:

    > 1. No apps that have not been approved by Apple. By which I mean, you can’t download your favorite apps off some web site somewhere. You are strictly limited to the app store.

    Yes, that’s really hurt the app store so far, except for the less than 1% of apps rejected for poor reasons.

    > 2. No camera.

    I was surprised by that, but wouldn’t be surprised if it was taken out to help keep the price down or if it didn’t get into a version 2.

    3. Microphone, but apparently… no voice calls.

    Apple should cannibalize sales of the iPhone? Why is that?

    4. eBook reader only through iBookstore. No word about loading your own books/PDFs.

    There are umpteen pdf reader apps, including Mail, that already work on the device. What is the problem here exactly?

    5. Network is GSM-based. That rules out Verizon for your choices.

    I’m Canadian, so meh, but point taken. GSM = most of the world anyway, no?

    6. No multitasking. This isn’t OSX. It’s not a laptop. Or a mini-laptop. Or even, apparently, a netbook. It’s the stripped-down iPhone OS.

    Stripped down to what it needs to really succeed, or to meet the expectations of yesterday’s geek? I’d ask what’s the difference in experience between true multitasking and apps that retain state and launch quickly, when you already have a push service working in the background? I really have to hear a good use case for multitasking to believe its anything other than a battery-draining stability-damaging red herring.

    7. 16 GB for $500. 64 GB for $700. Some are complaining about the price because of the limited functionality.

    “Some” would complain if it were $3.

    8. No video out? Does that docking station allow video out, or is it just for the keyboard?

    If it uses the same docking port as the iphone, which it looks like it might, then the a/v out cable should work fine. No dock required to do so, though I’m unsure if Apple is limiting that or just not talking about it.

  6. Donna

    I agree with Sean — the reason I love my kindle is because it so closely duplicates the experience of reading an actual book. No standard glossy, backlit screen is ever going to do that, and will kill my eyes if I read it the way I read books.

    Moreso, the lack of multitasking kills it for me, though. I’ve got my super cheap little acer netbook for non-book-reading activities, and I’ll be sticking with that. You’re telling me I can’t watch a movie and chat with someone on MSN at the same time? Or go look something up while I’m watching a show? No thanks. That’s the whole POINT of my netbook for me.

  7. Stewart

    I’ve played with a Kindle and the Sony Reader and although I preferred the former to the latter, both were a huge disappointing. This is different.

    With a couple of exceptions, I love the idea of an iPad in the living room. A classy coffee table book. Newspapers, books, magazines – the internet and control of iTunes. Sharing/viewing photos looks like fun.

    I’m not entirely sure what iWork has to do with all this though.

  8. Ryan Cousineau

    I’ll keep this short (weird, I know!)

    -video out via a dock-port cable, and a Camera Connection kit for reading SD cards or connecting cameras via USB in.

    -I hesitate to predict this device’s future, partly because i have nothing riding on it.

    -you could do worse than read John Gruber’s first take. For one thing, he’s now tried it. I think he’s the smartest Apple pundit there is:

    http://daringfireball.net/2010/01/ipad_big_picture

  9. Brendon J. Wilson

    I think the device is meant to solve one problem: surfing the web while watching TV. Admit it, you all probably sit with a laptop on your lap while you watch TV these days – you don’t really need the keyboard or the horsepower of that device for that task.

    That’s it. That’s the customer problem it solves: hot laps while watching TV.

  10. Darren James Harkness

    I think the iPad will also start taking over for netbooks at conferences, especially academic conferences, as it’s a perfect, light tool for taking notes while watching a talk.

  11. Derek K. Miller

    I immediately thought of how I might come to buy one: right now my primary computer is my 2006 MacBook laptop. Until yesterday I would have planned to replace it with another laptop.

    However, you can get a lot more power and a bigger screen in an iMac for the same or less money than a MacBook Pro.

    I’d now consider getting an iMac (or even maybe a Mac Mini) as a primary computer, and using an iPad as a living room/kitchen/bedtime/on the road companion device. In the roughly-$2000 price range you could get a 15-inch MacBook Pro, or a 21-inch iMac, PLUS an iPad. I can see a lot of power users and tech heads going that route.

  12. susie gardner

    darren, i think the iPad is actually the perfect travel device. all of the fun stuff, none of the work apps — download, store and view your photos, keep up with email, read books, watch movies — it sounds like a vacation computer to me, the one you take when you go to hawaii for two weeks and don’t have to work.

    or maybe it’s just right for retirees.

    the real problem may be that it’s not really targeted at the tech community, and they (ok, we) are obviously the ones jumping on the criticism bandwagon right at the moment. i think my mom would love an iPad, though.

    susie.

  13. Derek K. Miller

    One thing that’s problematic about uploading photos from a camera: with today’s cameras, lots of people fill up 4 GB or 8 GB memory cards several times during a trip. An iPad with 16 GB of internal storage is going to be a problem there, and even 64 GB could be pushing it if you want to have much other stuff on it.

    Ryan Cousineau Reply:

    Totally right, Derek. The one thing this device will NOT be is a field-download system for photographers.

  14. Scott

    Bang on analysis Darren. I have an Ipod Touch now, which I use everyday and I love, and this is just a bigger iPod Touch. The problem is the form factor of the iTouch allows me to take it everywhere, which adds value for me, but the IPad? Why not just bring a laptop?

  15. Derek K. Miller

    I think Steven from Panic Software has a good take on what the iPad (and the iPhone and iPod Touch before it) are trying to be:

    “…those people being born today, post-iPhone and post-iPad, will never know (and probably not care) about how things used to work. Just as nobody today cares about floppies, and nobody has to care about manual transmissions if they don’t want to.”

    [...]

    “[To these people] what do you think is more important? An easy-to-use, crash-proof device? Or a massively complex tangle of toolbars, menus, and windows because that’s what props up an entrenched software oligarchy?”

  16. Boris Mann

    Agree with Derek, Steven from Panic’s take is one of the best I’ve read. We’re sitting in this weirdo kit computer land where we do crazy things like tinker with the file system, or actually having to think about which files to backup (oh, wait, Time Machine kind of fixed that, too).

    The iPad is for me. Increasingly, I leave my laptop at work and check on critical email on my terrible Nokia N95. But that works for me. I’ve resisted the iPhone lure, and now I can go get some ridiculously small phone that does nothing but make phone calls, and get an iPad as my portable computing device.

    The iWork suite on there is a trojan horse. How many custom mobile devices could Numbers + some templates replace (or even better, imagine a Filemaker-like product). Custom forms and workflows, right on this paper pad sized thing.

  17. Mike

    Personally … and I hope all else … will use ANY machine that continues to make me MONEY. Why is that decision determined what fits us personally rather than what fits our customers and the business we support. Demand that I use an iPad, and I’ll be the first to fight in line.

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