Ipad? No thanks

Technology excites me. There’s a part of my brain reserved for technolust, and it’s constantly on the lookout for downright cool geeky goodness. The iPad should be making all sorts of sqeeeeee noises in my mind right now, but it’s barely rated a blip on my personal geekometer. It don’t impress me much, at all.

Yes, the iPad is game-changing. It is game-changing because Apple have done it, not because Apple have done it right.

Tablet PCs have been around for quite a while, and they haven’t yet set the world on fire. Heck, they’ve barely even set a match alight. Now that Apple have entered the game I expect to see a tablet form-factor computer from every major (and quite a lot of minor) manufacturers over the next 24 months. Some will ape the iPad slavishly, though many will (hopefully) correct its deficiencies. Release a multi-tasking tablet with USB ports, an SD card slot and a camera, and I’ll take notice. The next iPad will almost certainly have some or all of those; the current release is defective by design, just so that Apple can sucker the sheep into buying another one 18 months later. You know who you are.

The iPad is constantly described as “a supersized iPhone” which it would be – if it was a phone. What does that make it? An “i”? Give the iPad a camera and Skype and it really would be game-changing in a fundamentally altering the way we use computers way rather than a following like sheep where’er Apple goes way.

As it stands, the iPad is two steps backwards. With no USB ports, lock-in to the dreadful iTunes and not even a SD card slot to its name, this is a computer – sorry, Appliance – you never truly own. Unless you’re willing to jailbreak your iPad all your apps and content are under the near-constant control and scrutiny of Apple. The word “jailbreaking” implies you’re doing something illegal – stealing something you already own. How fucked up is that?

Me, I like my netbook. It does everything the iPad does, and more. It has much the same battery life (I’ve used it for 8 hours easily without a power lead in sight), an excellent screen and even Flash works without that mythical battery drain we’ve heard so much about. I have true multi-tasking, a wide choice of applications and can easily switch between multiple Operating Systems with a reboot – no jailbreaking needed. My apps and data are my own, and I’m free to do whatever the heck I choose on it.

Yes, the iPad looks sleek and sexy out of the box. I’m betting that within 6 months 80% of them will have a coffee ring stain on the screen after they’ve been carelessly left on a table and your spouse/mom/partner/waitress has mistaken it for a shiny tea tray.

My netbook has a camera, USB ports, an SD card slot, a great keyboard and the same form factor (when folded) as an iPad. It’s an iPad++, in every respect. “There’s an app for that” says Apple. Yes, there is – it’s called The Internet. If you own an iPad I’m happy for you. But it’s not for me.

What’s more, my netbook  is red. Beat that, shiny black tea tray.

14 Comments on “Ipad? No thanks”

  1. Amen, my brutha! I have a long relationship with Apple, mostly because my employer uses their stuff and at the top of our IT structure, and riddled throughout it, are many groupies. When the iPad was announced, there was all manner of excitement and sweaty upper lips…because Steve Jobs said it was wonderful and exciting and game changing. Whatever.

    I tip my hat to you, too: you made what I believe is the most insightful simple-sentence statements about how it could have been revolutionary: where’s the Skype and camera? That would have been incredible, as it could have blurred the line between mobile device and phone.

    But, alas, Apple did not. They only hog-called the worshippers to the mountain, where Steve Thulsa Jobs Doom for another ceremonial onveiling of the next big thing.

  2. Pretty much sums up how I feel. There’s a HP tablet that looks lovely and comes with Windows 7. I don’t particularly like HP but the device looks well made and sexy. Having Windows 7 by default is good regardless of what you think about Microsoft. Windows 7 has touch designed in to it. A normal bios and PC archetecture means you can do what you like with it, which is the most important aspect. That openness is what’s going to inspire lots of people to do creative things with it.

    I can’t bring myself to buy anything Apple make at all while things are controlled in this manner.

    And of course, there’s always that Onion MacBook Wheel video which I’ll never be able to shake out of my head!
    .-= Dave Wild´s last blog ..Cycling (2009-2010) =-.

  3. I disagree because tablet != netbook. I think equating the two is part of what’s been holding back the tablet form factor for years.

    There’s been this compulsion to add keyboards, stylus input, misc. ports and all other sorts of laptop-inspired peripherals onto tablets, all of which makes the finished product feel like a clunky, poor man’s netbook.

    I have an Asus netbook. It’s ok for what it is — I can do email on it, I can blog on it, but I wouldn’t want to do either for more than an hour. It’s horrible for reading PDFs, books and consuming media in general.

    Would I like to see native USB, a SD card reader, and a camera on the iPad? Maybe. But those are tangential to the way I’d use it (or any tablet). What I really want is something I can use to quickly and comfortably read PDFs (I’m looking at YOU Houses of the Blooded) and browse web sites. I’d like something that has some basic word-processing capabilities so I can load up my adventure notes and such, but it’s nothing that I’d use for my day-to-day content creation needs.

    It’s all about consumption for me, and while that may be a bad word to some folks, I’ve got plenty of other tools to craft new worlds. What I want is something that enables a more casual computing experience — I don’t always need (or even want) to use my laptop to browse the web; many times its overkill.

    A good tablet, however, could be perfect for that. Now I’m not saying that tablet is the iPad — I’m also interested in the HP Slate — but IMHO judging a tablet based on netbook/laptop criteria ignores how many people could/would use the devices.
    .-= Kenneth Newquist´s last blog ..Explore Your Dragonic Side with PHB Races: Dragonborn =-.

  4. I’ve had the same camera phone for four years. I somehow never managed to put any songs on it (maybe cause I don’t know how).

    I JUST got TIVO (or whatever it’s called), and I have to have my wife operate it for me.

    I’ve had my desktop for five years (it came right out of the box). It finally crapped out, so I just got this shiny new spiffy laptop. It does all these cool things and has all this Athlon-GHz-RAMM stuff. I’m sure it’s super cool.

    I have no idea what I would do with electronics at the gaming table, other than a convenient way to read PDFs (and I barely know what pdf stands for, wait – no I don’t).

    The point is, I really have no idea what I would use an Ipad for. Like someone else said… Maybe a coaster?

    .-= Tourq´s last blog ..Clawspawn, a Demon – Steal this Monster =-.

  5. baaa baaa.

    the comparison is secondly false because you assume exclusivity. if i had to choose between the iPad and my macBook, it would be no contest. macBook, every time. i’d have to have pretty low requirements for the iPad to be a viable single device solution.

    that said, its attractive for meeting those low requirements at times when the laptop is absurdly overkill. i’m looking at you, airplane seating.

  6. I think the iPad is a game-changer. It’s revolutionary.

    And it’s not valid to judge revolutionary products on a shopping-list of “features”. Because features are not what it’s about.

    When the iPhone shipped, it did much less, and had fewer features than other devices (such as the Nokia N95.)

    What made the iPhone revolutionary was not what it could or could not do – but how it worked. How people interacted with it directly. There was an army of geeks who derided this lack of features. They still do! Despite Apple now becoming the most profitable handset manufacturer on the planet.

    Every computer every built has this long lineage going back to the dark ages of office machinery. The iPad does not come from that heritage. It’s different. There’s no exposed file-system. No command line. Just a screen – with stuff. You touch the stuff to work it.

    I too own a Netbook running OSX. It does a million things. It has USB ports, and a webcam. And Flash and multitasking and a file-system.

    But the truth is, it is rubbish. To work it you use this tiny trackpad, and when you poke it it moves this dumb-little arrow thing around on the screen. To interact with anything you have to interact THROUGH this little arrow thing. It’s like making love ….. with chopsticks.

    It’s useless for proper work. And worse for media. The scrolling makes web-browsing a chore. And the screen format means only a thin slice of web is visible.

    It was light, but the battery only lasted an hour. So I upgraded the battery and now its heavy.

    So when I go out, I ask myself. Shall I take the netbook. The answer is almost always Nah.

    The nice thing about this sort of discussion is that there is an umpire. A judge. And the judge will decide who is right, and who is wrong. And that judge is time.

    In a year’s time. It will be very clear how successful this device will be. And whether it really has changed the publishing world. And become a major educational computer. And a standard stick-it-in-your-bag travel machine.

    We will see!


  7. @Jeremy The sad thing is that the iPad could have been revolutionary. I’m pretty sure that the next edition of the iPad will have a camera and true multi-tasking, but by then Apple will only be playing catch-up with the rest of the field, all of which will already have them.

    @Mad Brew Yep. That’s one (along with the Slate) which I’m watching very closely indeed.

    @Dave Windows 7 is the best version of the OS that Microsoft have ever released, without a doubt, and they deserve full credit for finally getting it right. It’s funny to think of Microsoft as the “supporter of openness”, but in this case they’re streets ahead of Apple’s closed and dictatorial attitude.

    @Kenneth I agree. Tablets aren’t netbooks. They’re a very different beast altogether, specifically designed for content consumption rather than content creation. I don’t expect we’ll see many works of literature or works of art created on an iPad or clone. Some, I’m sure, but it’s not what they’re designed for. That’s why I don’t particularly mind that the iPad lacks an included proper keyboard or fine-grain pointer device – though I’d love to see a touch pen version of an iPad complete with Photoshop. Again, we can but dream :D

    The thing it though that everything an iPad can do, my netbook can do too for half the price, and it can be used to create content too. To make the iPad remotely approach the functionality of my netbook I would have to buy additional peripherals (camera adapter, keyboard stand, etc), the cost of which would come to pretty much the same price as the netbook itself! So to match a small, cheap netbook (I love you, Packard Bell dotS) in Apple’s terms, I have to pay three times the price and have to lug a load of extra doodads around too. No thanks.

    @Tourq I ban computers at the game table entirely. They’re far too much of a distraction :D

    @drow Ah, you got me. In an aeroplane, the iPad will win every time. Assuming you can convince the TSA to let you on with it, of course!

    @Carniphage Sorry, but “Because features are not what it’s about.” is rubbish. Of course it’s about features! Ask not what you can do for the iPad, but what it can do for you. That’s the kind of marketing rhetoric that makes my blood boil.

    Sounds like you’ve had a bad experience with your netbook (possibly due to running OSX on it – I dunno). My own experience is very different. Being able to carry a tiny laptop around without arm strain, knowing it will wake from sleep in under 5 seconds, be able to work for hours and run the applications I need – that’s a godsend.

    Apple could have created their own netbook for $500, despite their claims otherwise. What they have done instead is gutted half the components, stuffed what’s left in a shiny case and will sell you the rest of the kit (ports, keyboard, etc) for even more cash.

    I’ve got to give it to them. It’s genius. Thank god no one is stupid enough to fall for it, eh?

    Oh, wait………

  8. I think the HP Slate’s closer to what you might want; check out the preview at Wired.com. Microsoft’s Courier also looks interesting.

    I agree with Carniphage regarding features (or the lack there of). IMHO the key here isn’t how many features you can pack in there, but how useable what’s included is. If the HP Slate is running Windows 7 out of the box, with no accommodations for a tablet environment (which, based on the video, isn’t the case) it is going to bomb, as most of the other tablets have.

    As far as using this thing at the gaming table, well, I love using the iPod touch to control iTunes playlists, and the Dicenomicon to roll starship combat damage in Star Wars, and I look forward to doing more of the same. Having my notes AND important PDFs accessible without losing a lot of real estate to a laptop would also be handy.
    .-= Kenneth Newquist´s last blog ..Explore Your Dragonic Side with PHB Races: Dragonborn =-.

  9. Greywulf’s boiling blood:
    “@Carniphage Sorry, but “Because features are not what it’s about.” is rubbish. Of course it’s about features! Ask not what you can do for the iPad, but what it can do for you. That’s the kind of marketing rhetoric that makes my blood boil.

    Nokia thought the same way. They felt secure because their handsets offered more *features*. On paper this was true.

    What they didn’t really grasp was that some features are more important than others.

    The iPhone for instance does “scrolling”. It does scrolling really *really* well. It’s a feature utterly fundamental to rapidly browsing content on any device. And yet it does not get mentioned in feature lists.

    In comparison, the N95 scrolls badly at about 5 frames per second. (My netbook also makes scrolling a chore.)

    It turns out that to consumers, good scrolling is a thousand times more important than a swiss-army knife full of more arcane features. Because scrolling happens all the time.

    Consumers respond to great usability, they respond to immediate and transparent user interfaces.

    They vote with their cash, not because they are stupid. What is stupid, is putting up with devices that make frequent tasks difficult or obscure.

    Like I say, time will resolve this.


  10. @Carniphage You’re right: you’ve got to get the basics working well before adding features, and scrolling is a pretty fundamental thing to get right.

    Apple made a similar mistake with the original iPhone when they missed out the ability to copy-and-paste. Hopefully, lessons were learned over that omission.

    My own netbook has full multi-touch capability, including a little scroll-wheel edge on the right. Which is nice.

  11. You’re definitely right, tablet PCs have indeed been around for a long time, but have never caught on. Apple decided that something wasn’t working, decided to be bold and change stuff, and came up with the iPad. For what it’s worth, I’m glad they tried to do something to kick things off. I think it’s good for the future of technology.

    That and it reminds me of the Newton. For those that don’t know, it was essentially a Palm Pilot complete with handwriting recognition…in 1993. Way ahead of its time.

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