First off, let me say that I am an apple fanboy to the highest degree. Prior to today, there has been only one Apple device since 2001 that I have not really wanted in its original form, that product is the Apple TV. Today, there are two. In the rest of this post I’d like to explore why I feel this way.
There are bound to be many, many people who will find a tablet like the on Apple described yesterday to be wonderful. I am coming from a slightly different place, as I have a MacBook Pro, an iPhone, and a Kindle. What I was looking for was something innovative enough to replace all three, and the tablet isn’t it.
Looking at my needs for a portable computer, we can eliminate the tablet right off. It can’t run GCC, it can’t run clisp, PHP, etc… So for me as a developer it isn’t practical, as a writer, it is. Between iWork’s pages and the keyboard attachment, it will make a fantastic transportable word processing device. The biggest problem with this is that I can’t run openoffice or word. Not that I would necessarily want to, but if all of my files are in word format, and Pages mangles them, then this is a non-starter. Also, without the ability to move files easily onto and off of the device, I’m sure there will be a mobile me tie-in here, it just isn’t as flexible as my laptop, ahem… netbook.
On the smartphone front, this device is way too big to put into my pocket, doesn’t have a camera, and doesn’t support standard cellular voice. Of course I could use skype, etc… but sometimes, for as much as we complain about AT&T, it is nice to just make a regular voice call and have it not be complicated. On top of that, since it doesn’t tether to my iPhone, something that I should be able to do just in general. Instead, I have to, on top of the data plan that I already pay for for my iPhone, pay an additional $29 per month to use the internet. The 250 MB plan is a joke, as soon as I watch a few Hi-Def youtube feeds, I will have gone through it. This doesn’t replace my smartphone, iPhone. It doesn’t even really work together with my iPhone.
While the iPad, even with its unfortunate name, has a really beautiful ebook reader application. The books are way more expensive than the Kindle, and the screen is still a backlit LCD. I can read my Kindle just fine in the high-noon sun, which I do a lot. I can read my kindle with no problem at the playground with my kids. I can’t even see what is on my laptop in the sun, perhaps the iPad will be better, but it doesn’t even come close to the readability of the Kindle. It is great that the battery life on the iPad is 10 hours, I can’t look at the screen reading text for that long. So it doesn’t really replace the Kindle in its current form.
Overall, it is awesome at some things, but it doesn’t really replace what I have, is it better at browsing the web than my laptop with a 3G card? No, not really, I can use Verizon or Sprint 3G, I’m not stuck with AT&T, I have the choice to use Firefox or Google Chrome, I’m not stuck with Safari. I like Safari, but Chrome and Firefox have better features. Is it better at media, since I tend to consume a lot of audio podcasts, no it isn’t. For users like me the iPad is just what I hoped it wouldn’t be, its a big iPod touch. I already have an iPod touch and an iPhone and a laptop. There is nothing that the iPad does that would make me replace any of them, not even the iPod touch, since I can actually put that in my pocket and take it with me. There is also the neck pain that comes from looking down into your lap for 4 hours that we have all felt from playing games on the iPhone.
I don’t intend to buy the iPad, at least in its current form. I was really hoping that Apple would come in and do something super cool with gestures or something to make that form factor work, what they have done is smart in that they aren’t really challenging the other markets, they are trying to make a niche that is there own. I think the super wealthy digerati will buy this, and some people who don’t already have an iPod Touch or a Kindle, or even some people who don’t have a laptop, but most people will still spring for the $300 netbook over the iPad.
It has dawned on me though that the iPad is a megaton bomb on Google’s Chrome OS hopes. iPad Safari will be able to run all of the google apps in the same fashion that Chrome OS likely will, from an icon on screen, so to the majority of users they will be the same. Google does have one advantage, and that is its openness. Google is talking about allowing NSAPI plugins that run native code on the platform, Apple can claim that one could just write a native application, but it doesn’t allow augmenting the web browser to provide additional functionality to web applications. The lack of openness could end up biting Apple as we transition all of our desktop environment to the web.