I guess it is about time for me to weigh in on the recently announced Apple iPad Tablet. I would not be a blogger if I did not, right?
Previously on Worthless Genius, I talked about my misgivings for the then-upcoming Apple presentation, and the impact–or lack thereof–the announcements would make on my life. I used my oracular powers to divine that my life would not be changed in any significant way by the results of this presentation.
Was I correct in this assumption?
Right as Rain
While Apple’s new venture looks like it may be something that those looking for status icons will flock to like it is the second coming, I am clearly on the outside of the target niche.
As I watched the live blog of the event, and I hung on every word being passed along, and was expecting to be dazzled, having low expectations going in. Now, Jobs did not disappoint my expectations, and instead of creating the awe that he was shooting for, I came away from the whole debacle with a less than stellar Apple “innovation”.
The iPad has been covered to death, and writers from all walks of life have torn it to shreds, completely destroying the assumptions that Apple made about the tech community. Sure, the device doesn’t multitask, make calls, have a camera, have any kind of out-of-the-box USB support, etc. But the shortcomings of this device were not the only thing that I took away from the presentation.
Rather than beat the dead horse of iPad suckitude, I am going to take a stab at the idea that though the iPad is not the revolutionary device that Apple claims, but rather a step in the right direction in regards to consumer electronics adoption.
The Coffee Table Computing Paradigm
The market the iPad appears to be aimed at is your average consumer who is looking to have a device which situates itself between the consumer’s smartphone and their desktop computer. Many consumers do have laptops, and a growing number are purchasing netbooks each year, but the iPad professes to be something entirely different.
Rather than relying on the tried-and-true desktop workspace concept, the iPad moves into a different idea altogether. A traditional PC burdens the user with all kinds of meaningless tasks which do not translate well into the physical world, and tend to dampen productivity in a system which should be making work easier, instead of harder.
A PC user must either take the time to troubleshoot myriad issues with their “reliable” device in order to simply complete the work they set out to do. Printer drivers malfunctioning? Internet Explorer 6 not supported by the web service you choose to use? An anti-virus program is out of date?
The iPad appears to be a venture into the world of consumer electronics which looks to revolutionize the way we interact with PCs–while maintaining some of the function of a full-fledged PC device.
Leave the iPad on the coffee table, and pick it up when you want to find something quickly online or read your favorite eBook.
Why This Currently Fails
Thinking in a romantically abstract manner, the iPad seems to be just the right fit for a consumer who wants nothing more than an appliance to pick up and use without much time and effort investment.
The areas that the iPad excels in, interestingly, are also the areas in which it fails. In order to simplify the interface, Apple has chosen to use the iPhone OS on the device, rather than a full Mac OS X version.
This interface has a fundamental lack of usability in its simplicity. These points, to name a few, restrict the iPad from reaching its stated goals:
- The full Internet experience, sans-Flash. The web standardistas of the world rejoice when Flash websites are removed from the proprietary dark side and into the land of HTML standards. But the fact remains that your average coffee table device user most likely has a Facebook account, or at the very least enjoys a YouTube video on occasion–both of which are crippled with the iPad.
- Onscreen keyboard. From a usability standpoint, an onscreen keyboard can be a real pain in the ass. The concept works sufficiently for small devices such as the iPhone or an Android phone, but in reality, if a user has a larger device, they are going to want to use a physical keyboard. At this point, using a 10″ touchscreen as your sole input method is like taking away the steering wheel in a car, and forcing the driver to point in the direction they want to go.
- Multitasking. I said I was not going to beat a dead horse over this, but it has to be said. As someone who often supports devices that people I know purchase, I am completely at a loss for a way to explain to them that their $500+ device cannot use a web browser while they are typing their report book in iWork. The ability to switch between applications is one that we take for granted with our dual and quad core supercomputers, but it is one that has defined the way we currently use our systems.
These are just a few of the issues that I currently have with the iPad, but I also think the road ahead is pretty bright for future versions and, even more likely, devices from other manufacturers.
The WIN the Future Holds
I am optimistic that the future of the coffee table PC market is bright. The ideas that the iPad presents are far from revolutionary, but they come from a powerhouse of positive consumer identity in Apple. The Apple brand has become synonymous in most consumers’ minds with ease of use, stability and innovation.
If Apple wants to stay on top of the game in terms of this new niche, they need to quickly rethink some of the bullets they put into their own foots with the launch of the iPad. As I see it, Apple thinks they have fired a shot into the faces of the opposing forces, when in fact they have simply fired a warning flare, giving their competitors the advantage in the long run.
What am I blabbing on about? Think about it for a second: Apple announces the long-awaited
second-coming iPad to very little positive fanfare in a niche that has yet to become crowded. The logical path to take as a rival company is to see what everyone is saying about the iPad, and release a new device which does it right. If Company X were to jump into the ring after 3 or 4 months of R & D after the iPad launch, they could easily crush the original device from Apple.
I am not certain whether or not Apple has planned for this eventuality. Releasing a device which is so obviously crippled in so many ways leaves the niche ripe for the picking. Company X then only has to release their product ahead of the next hardware refresh (typically around 250 days), and they have themselves a winning product.
Take the ideas the iPad does right, add in a front-facing camera, Flash support, multitasking, USB ports, and all of the other not-so-crazy concepts that are out there, and Company X has won.
Will Apple Step Up Before Being Beaten Down?
I am not so sure. I do not think they have their ear to the ground enough to take advantage of the gigantic backlash from the community and integrate those criticisms into their product line.
What we have here folks is a market ripe for the picking.
I am extremely excited by the awesome devices coming out of the Android camp. I think that the best is yet to come in this quickly growing niche. The next few months are going to be exciting, whether or not Apple is still in the game.
What Do You Think?
Is Apple sitting on a winner, or is the iPad too crippled while being ahead of the competition? Will you be buying an iPad, or recommending it to the less tech-savvy people in your life? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.