Maybe we could cut the iPad a little slack?

Apple iPad

I’ve waited a couple days now to comment on Apple’s latest product, the iPad. I typically don’t like being “that guy”, evangelizing Apple to other people. I know the company isn’t infallible, but really how many companies out there are? The iPad is definitely flawed, but I don’t think it is flawed for many of the reasons people are currently crucifying it for.

The Name
This was the first thing that people seemed to have gone off on. In the last 3 days everyone seems to have made the obvious feminine hygiene product jokes. We laughed. Stupid Apple. But didn’t we say the same thing about the Nintendo Wii? It was stupid. Everyone made all the obvious urination jokes. Boy was the Wii a failure. Oh, wait, no it wasn’t. It’s gone on to sell almost double the amount of units of it’s nearest competitor. So in the end, people will get over an unfortunate name and they won’t even bat an eye when you mention iPad.

It’s just an oversized iPhone
I’ve heard quite a few people complain about how the iPad is running “just” the iPhone OS. The problem with this argument is that it’s more then likely being used by people who have never used a tablet PC. To put it simply, a full operating system like Windows or OS X isn’t meant to be used on a touchscreen. Stuff like scroll bars and tiny interface buttons don’t work or make sense on a touchscreen. This is the reason why most tablet PCs use a stylus, as your fingers are too inaccurate for controlling a touch screen. And more then likely this is a good reason why tablet PCs have never really taken off, as they tried to put a square peg in a round hole by offering a desktop OS on a touchscreen device.

Apple was among the first, if not the first to offer a proper touchscreen experience on a mobile phone. It’s been an obvious success as they essentially revolutionized the phone industry and caused every other manufacturer to take note and create similar touchscreen devices. They’ve already proven the iPhone OS is a winning touchscreen solution, why not have it running on the iPad?

But how will you get any real work done on this thing?
The reality here is that this isn’t even being positioned as a work machine. I think the definition of “real work” for most people would have the requirement of being able to type. If you were expecting to be able to code websites or type the next great novel you were probably barking up the wrong tree in the first place. This device is meant as an entertainment device. The type of thing you can surf the internet on while watching TV. Given the explosion of smartphones we have become a generation of multi-taskers as these devices have enabled us to passively answer emails, send a quick tweet or browse the web from anywhere in the world, including the living room sofa. Nobody complains that they can’t get any real work done on an iPod Touch. It’s simply not the reason why 99% of people bought the device in the first place.

The fact that this device starts at $499 should also tell you this isn’t meant as a workstation. This item is meant to compete with something like the Amazon Kindle DX, which retails for $489 US. People are willing to spend that kind of money on a Kindle, so you can be sure the public would be willing to spend the money on something like an iPad.

It’s too expensive
I’ve heard people complain about the price as well. This is possibly the most ridiculous complaint out of them all. Here’s a chart for the device pricing.
People complaining about the pricing are the types who don’t actually know the true cost of devices like the iPhone and similar smartphone devices. But the iPhone 3G is only $199, this is so much more expensive they might say. The fact is that is the subsidized price offered by cell phone carriers. Without a contract an iPhone costs much more. On eBay a new, unlocked 16GB iPhone 3GS sells for roughly $500 US, and $650 to $700 for the 32GB model. So you can see Apple’s pricing is quite close to being inline with the real market values of similar current generation iPhones.

I already have an iPhone, what’s the point of it?
The iPhone is a great device, but it’s not ideal for all types of browsing. Something I did this morning was fill out an online form to get tickets to an upcoming event that had been promoted through Twitter. I wasn’t quite ready to get out of bed yet, so I filled the form out using my iPhone. As I’m sure anyone whose used an iPhone or iPod Touch for filling out forms you know there just isn’t enough room on the screen to fit the keyboard and see which form box you’re filling in sometimes. This would be a piece of cake using a 10″ screen to browse the page. Another thing I instantly thought of was using an iPad in the kitchen. I like to look up recipes online, but find it a pain to actually use that info in my kitchen. I don’t have a printer(nor really want one), so I either write down the recipe on paper by hand, haul our 15.5″ Toshiba laptop into the kitchen(where it takes up valuable real estate) or I look it up on the iPhone. None of these solutions is ideal. This is exactly where the iPad comes in.

The iPad is far from perfect, but I think it’s a good start. I feel Apple made some boneheaded decisions (no USB, SD, 43 screen resolution among others) but the concept definitely has promise. Looking at devices like the first Eee PC netbook or the first generation Kindle have shown companies don’t always hit a home run with their first attempt, but people will buy into the concept none the less.

I think many people have gotten caught up with years of rumour mongering about this mystical Apple tablet that it could do little else but disappoint. They could have announced the iPad came with a free unicorn and the public still would have been letdown by the announcement. People had the perception that this device was going to meet all of their personal computing needs, so when it failed to meet those lofty expectations they have essentially thrown it under the bus instead of looking at what Apple is actually offering.

Sure this device isn’t going to be for everyone, but my guess is that it’ll be another Apple success once people actually have a chance to use it and figure out the value of the device. So lets take a chill pill and wait until April when you’re actually able to go to a store and try one out.

  • vincej

    Well put, James.
    The iPad, as I see it is a communications “appliance”, an interactive communications appliance.
    Like all appliances, it's meant to be used for a limited number of tasks, and it has to do them well.

    A car is an appliance, a fridge is an appliance. We treat these as easy to use, dependable, trouble free devices we require.
    For what it does, at it's price point, it'a a little marvel in itself.

    Will I buy one tomorrow? not sure it fits in for what I need right now, but that's a personal decision.
    As you noted, plenty of people need exactly this type of thing in their hands — and that was Job's genius…. to push the concept that you can have all this in your hands right now, and for only $499……. love it.
    As usual, Apple is ahead of the game, and defines the market. The linkup between the device and online stores and apps is an incredible revenue generator, AND it provides people convenience. Isn't that what any product is designed to do — fulfill a need?

    In a way Apple is to be admired in that they tend to put the Users “experience” ahead of the tech. Lots of gadgets out there that do marvelous things, for few geeky adopters. Few that can speak to the masses like the iPad, though.
    Wish I had bought stock in Apple in those dire days back in the 90's when they were messing up, don't you?

  • modsuperstar

    I wish I could buy one, but I know one it's not in the budget, and two I've learned my lesson buying first generation hardware before. Second gen always makes you feel foolish for being an early adopter.

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  • LittleMiss

    Very informative! Sounds like a great investment further down the road; ie.- when they add USB, better res., price drop, etc.

  • Cool Cases

    These could make for really fun new control devices or interfaces. Could see many neat niche games and software for these devices because of the screen size (maybe music instruments,etc). Abit pricy tho and Apple needs to open up the device abit more. Can't really see this becoming a major consumer product tho

  • Cool Cases

    These could make for really fun new control devices or interfaces. Could see many neat niche games and software for these devices because of the screen size (maybe music instruments,etc). Abit pricy tho and Apple needs to open up the device abit more. Can't really see this becoming a major consumer product tho

  • Mr

    I disagree. I just built an i7 desktop system with 8GB of DDR3 ram, P55 northbridge, and a video card that can handle new games, 1TB hard drive, for $750.

    Don't compare it's prices to other overpriced crap like smartphones, compare it to standardized things like Tablet Notebooks and Laptops. Right now, for the same price, you can get a touch screen tablet pc laptop that is several times the computer and greatly benefits from using a full operating system, ports, etc and it is just as portable.

    What do you mean real operating systems aren't designed for this? win 7, and many versions of Linux have native touch screen support that is more sensitive than apple's software and has more uses in graphic design and drafting. The ipad can't even run most of the important drafting programs you want touch screen for.

    They multitask, have ports, can use peripherals. The rest of the computer world considers is standard.

    The iPad is not even remotely on par with other Tablet Laptops. It brings nothing new, except proprietary limitations and hype. Since it is such an iconic piece, instead of being default upgraded and repriced all the time like Tablet Laptops are, it will be the same crap for the same price even a year after it comes out. Computer technology changes so rapidly that it's totally uncalled for.

    Check this out,

    Just compare the stats and even if those seem like competitive prices, remember that instead of just being limited to proprietary apps, those have full windows on them and can run millions of programs, office suites, printers webcams, factory equipment, keyboards, thumb drives and even dual boot with linux, or overclock. You cna put your movies, your mp3's and there is no software forcing you to use itunes or their software to view it. They have multitasking, gaming, drafting, peripheral support, and more.

    Freedom, vs proprietary hell
    Higher stats vs lower stats
    Fair market price vs Standardized static price.

    I'm an It person and I think there is no reason to buy an ipad, it was obsolete the day it was released. Everyone who owns one is just a fool easily parted with their money.

  • modsuperstar

    Hate on the iPad all you like, its obviously shown that there is a market for this kind of product right off the bat. Comparing a desktop system to an iPad is rather foolish.

    I'm not an Apple zealot and much of what you say is true. The reality is the iPad services a niche that you are quite obviously not apart of. Even though you may be right it doesn't change the fact I quite enjoy my iPad. It's totally an extravagance that I probably never would have bought had I not won one, but it's a pretty slick device either way you slice it.