The iPad is one of those Apple products that was so highly anticipated and expected to change the game that many people forgot what we had just a few short years ago. To help us decide in our purchasing decisions we need to visit the past as well as the positives and negatives of the iPad. We are most convinced and think you will be too after some time.
If we take a quick look back at what tablet computing was prior to the iPad or even iPhone we come up with a large, laptop-like device that had a swivel screen that flips around and can be used as a touch interface. While this design worked, it did not work well enough for anyone for it to have staying power except in specific areas of interest. Just recently we had quite a few new designs that are flat touch panels with Android or Windows interfaces customized for touch. We also got a glimps of the Microsoft Courier which is more like a book and has two separate screens with a pen and touch input.
Today we have the iPad, or really in a month or so we have the iPad when it launches on April 3rd, 2010. The iPad was designed from the ground up to be a touch interface and was apparently in the works for many years. In fact some say that the iPhone interface was the original rejected iPad interface. While it is hard to miss the fact that the iPad and iPhone are basically the same, in its early iteration the iPhone lacked quite a bit.
There is no doubt that Apple has so far been the only manufacturer to deliver a phone that very rarely has lag or becomes unresponsive. There are a few out there like the Zune HD and possibly the Nexus one, but overall their touchscreen technology is the best in the industry we have yet to see. From what those who have had their hands on the iPad have said, it is much faster than you might expect and has an incredibly natural and accurate touch screen.
As far as power is concerned, the iPad has a new Apple A4 chipset that combines the CPU and GPU to bring a highly efficient and fluid response to the overall inner workings of the iPad. The A4 has yet to be specified by Apple as to what its exact inner workings are, but they claim it to be custom silicone optimized for a tablet device running at 1Ghz. In the past weeks Ars Technica has stated that the A4 is an optimized ARM Cortex A8 which is similar as to what currently resides in the iPhone 3GS. While this may or may not be true, Apple is claiming an incredible battery life of 10 hours.
The battery of today’s mobile devices is usually the downfall. While many as well as myself get an acceptable day or more out of the iPhone, it is hard to believe that a device that runs an LED back lit screen, processor, memory, etc. can get a solid 10 hours of life before it needs to be replenished again. The new battery technology that the current MacBook lineup employs appears to meet or come close to the claimed 7 to 8 hours of life that Apple has stated. We will have to see if the iPad really lasts a solid 10 hours once we get our hands on it to test.
One of the more questionable or we should say decisions we were hoping Apple would make for the iPad was the use of an OLED as opposed to the LED they decided to go with. Unfortunately the cost of OLED technology is still quite high and won’t be making a splash on the iPad for some years we would assume. The benefit of OLED resides in its low power consumption, but its major crux is the low contrast in bright light making outdoor use particularly out of the question.
The largest issue with the iPad for most, is the fact that it sports a very similar interface as the iPhone. Many say that the iPad is just a big iPod Touch and my general response is that this is a good thing. Three short years ago or so the iPhone interface did not yet exist, but since its release has become the most user friendly and arguably the most intuitive touch interface there is. During the demo on stage of the iPad from Steve Jobs, the desktop was clean and somewhat bare and some found this to be an issue. Sure icons could be a bit larger and it would be nice to see the desktop changed up a bit, but Apple did give us changeable wallpapers. I suppose you could mock that, but why change something that works. There is a new and larger keyboard along with a few different bits for the mail app. There is not a whole lot more that can really differentiate the iPad and iPhone at this point other than size, but the larger screen certainly will help on web pages.
The claim that the iPad is the best web browsing experience ever is a pretty bold statement when the current standards are not included and I think most of you know what I mean. How can Apple not include Flash in the iPad so we can enjoy the likes of Hulu and other video and gaming sites that use it? The simple answer is, this is Apple we are talking about. They do bold and innovate products and do what some would call stupid while others call it genius. Flash is no doubt a part of the daily web experience. Without it we could not enjoy TV and movies on the internet in their current form and we could not tend our farm in popular social games. So what exactly are we to do without Flash on the iPad? We will browse the internet and wait for it change. Yes I basically said Flash will either change to Apple’s liking or it will go away. With HTML5 on just about every browser and coming to Internet Explorer 9, there is no reason to use 100% of our CPU when watching movies with Flash. We can simply use the browsers own capabilities and watch our movies or play games and the shift is coming sooner than most think. There are more and more people designing sites for iPhone and now the iPad who know of the Flash limitations and instead implement HTML5 standards to do the exact same thing as Flash only with more efficiently. In fact, Youtube even has a sample HTML5 page and allows you to watch videos without Flash if you get in their preview program. We won’t see Flash walk out the door and say goodbye this year or even the next, but some day there will be another dominating technology and we hope it to be HTML5 or even 6.
The apps now available for the iPhone and iPod Touch are so great in number that it is somewhat difficult to fathom that it happened in such a short period of one to two years. The first few apps that Apple showed were iWork applications made specifically for the iPad. This hints at not just a consumption device, but a productivity device in a small portable package. The majorty of apps will run as they do on the current touch devices, but can be re-sized on the iPad for large screen viewing. There will be plenty of native apps, but for now we have over 150,000 to consume and use on the iPad.
One of the huge benefits to the iPad is the iBook store. You can read a book on a laptop or the iPhone, or you could grab a nice, flat book-sized device to enjoy your bestsellers on or whatever you might like. The LED screen aside, imagine the pleasure of reading in bed with a nicely back lit iPad in your hands right before you go to bed. This is going to be huge and comparable to Amazon’s Kindle and then some in a very short period of time.
The accessories for the iPad are great and unexpected. Apple showed 3 accessories for the device during the keynote. The first was a simple dock that charges the iPad, but also turns the iPad into a digital photo frame when not in use. My favorite accessory was the keyboard dock that allows charging and typing on a tactile keyboard when you need to get something a bit more lengthy typed out. The third accessory was a case that presents the iPad in a nice leather covering and transforms into a stand to make video viewing more comfortable. Many do not consider the accessories significant, but let me give you a bit of a scenario. You or your teenager is headed to college and are in need of a laptop or something to surf the web and write papers on. In my experience the majority today in the teen age range want a MacBook of something of the sort at the cost of $1000 and up. Instead you could pay$500 for the iPad, buy the keyboard dock and use this for all of your music, movies, web surfing, school books and papers for half the price of the MacBook. You can type the paper and email it to your teacher while at the same time listening to your favorite music. If your teacher wants the paper printed out, you go into the HP app and send it to your printer via your wireless network or you go to the computer lab where you emailed yourself at gmail or put it in docs and then you print it out.
While we have not covered everything about the iPad, we have covered the basics and think that those who love Apple products will probably save up or run out to buy the iPad as soon as they can. It is not perfect with the lack of multi-tasking (other than music), but we definitely think it is good enough to use as a replacement of the MacBook for day to day use unless some video editing or a more intensive work is in need. I am very curious to see what the competitors will bring to compete down the road a year and very interested to see the latest Microsoft offering in action by way of the Courier. I plan to get the iPad on day 1 and will be sure to show you my first impressions of it.
Are you convinced yet or at least going to try one out? Let us know.