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Apple iPad, mobile device ruminations

:: Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 @ 1:16:13 pm

:: Tags: , , ,

The Apple iPad, announced today

I just finished following various live blogs of the Apple iPad unveiling event at Yerba Buena (which is almost literally across the street from me). Regardless of your level of Apple fandom, the iPad is a groundbreaking product. There have been quite a few attempts at tablet devices in the past, but no one has ever put so much thought into usability and infrastructure.

I am a mobile device junkie, and have been long juggling Blackberry, iPhone, Droid, Kindle, Mifi and satellite phone in an attempt to find a solution that works best for me. I realize that I am not a typical user; I am always online, but I spend about half of each year out of the country in areas with poor connectivity. This instantly makes any device without an optimized, compressed wireless network nearly useless when I’m in the field (e.g. iPhone, Droid). Even if wireless networks were up to speed, the cost of international use would be outrageous. I took my iPhone to India a couple of years ago and chewed through my 50MB of allocated monthly data in a matter of days. A friend on a trip to Mexico last week went through his 50MB in 7 days — and that was with light usage during the day, plus a WiFi connection at night. So I stick with my Blackberry Tour and its fixed-cost, unlimited international data plan. It is the best of both worlds: Verizon CDMA in San Francisco (the only working network here) and CDMA / GSM / EDGE / 3G when I’m out of the country. Unfortunately, the Tour has a slow processor, which means > 5 minute hard reset times and frequent multi-second lockups, but there are no other options and I remain productive while using it. The trusty little Tour downloads 200 messages in a minute on EDGE while I drift by small Indonesia villages. Meanwhile, the iPhone can barely finish negotiating an IMAP connection, and the Droid is hopeless because it’s on CDMA.

In a protest against AT&T’s crappy network, I sold my iPhone and switched to Droid on Verizon. I like the potential of Android, but I’m finding that I only use the Droid as a fancy video player and alarm clock when I’m on the road. Because I don’t have time to watch TV or movies when I’m at home, most of my reading and video consumption happens from the comfort of tiny cabins on dive vessels. I read books on the Kindle because there is no Kindle app on the Droid and because I only need to charge the thing once a month. The Kindle app is the one thing I miss the most about the iPhone.

I think the iPad will change things, though. Its display is large enough for comfortable book reading and video viewing. It can be held easily while on the airplane and in situations where a notebook computer would be unwieldy. It will have more light-weight apps than one could ever hope for, is compatible with the iPhone apps I already own, and can beautifully display my photography and video portfolio.

I’m thinking that it will replace the iPhone / Android device in my lineup, as well as the Kindle. I’ll finally have one phone, one notebook computer, and an “in-between” device: Blackberry, iPad and MacBook Pro (plus MiFi). Now if I could only coax my Blackberry into creating a WiFi cloud…

| San Francisco, CA | link | trackback | Jan 27, 2010 13:16:13
  • http://www.astromanager.net Scot

    Hi Eric,

    I think the iPad is an interesting, although hardly ground-breaking product. I agree they packaged many common types of applications for this sort of product in a nice coherent way, which is what Apple does best- but look what they left out – no front camera, well no camera at all? For many people on the go that would be interested in a device like this, not having the ability to do skype-like video conferencing is a major downer. And no multi-tasking? You mean we can’t listen to music and read a book, or browse the web, or review a report, or make a VOIP call? Who single-tasks any more (for better or worse, I agree)? No multi-tasking is so 1970′s, it’s ridiculous not to include this capability in a device with this kind of potential.

    I also find the fact that most of the blogs even fail to mention the lack of a user-replaceable battery as a sad acceptance of the lack of such a valuable feature for ultimate usability.

    It’s sexy in that Apple way, but offers really nothing new that can’t be done on traditional notebooks, netbooks etc. It does some of what they can do in a better way, none of other things they can do. An interesting product, yes, but ground-breaking? No. Give me multi-tasking, a front-facing camera, video conferencing, a card reader or usb port and then we’ll be closer.


  • http://echeng.com echeng

    Scot – good points, but I predict that in a year or two, you’ll see iPads everywhere. “Groundbreaking” for me means that they will have brought the tablet form factor into the mainstream.

  • tanthalas

    It really just looks like they took the iPhone and put it on a bigger piece of hardware. It’s more or less the iPhone OS we’re seeing, which explains the “no multitasking” part. As for groundbreaking tablets into the mainstream… it seems that at this point Apple can shit bricks and you’ll see everyone holding an iBrick everywhere. (Full disclaimer: I am far from an Apple hater, since I personally wouldn’t buy/use any laptop other than a MBP as of today.)

  • Chester

    I think it’s cool and would use one if someone gave it to me, but I don’t see it as compelling.

    For folks who have been using an iPhone happily to do web stuff, even in their living rooms with full laptops accessible, it’ll be great device to have.

    And for those who use e-book readers, it looks like an awesome option, so long as you can recharge every couple days. With that screen and the ability to use iPhone apps, it’s a pretty cool device.

    But if you’re bringing it on trips as a third device, along with your Macbook and Blackberry, then it’s certainly no groundbreaker. If you could only bring two of those devices, you’d still bring the Macbook and Blackberry, right?

    I would. It cannot replace the need for a laptop or netbook while on a trip. All it does is replace an e-book reader and do much more than its predecessor did.

  • http://echeng.com echeng

    Do not underestimate the impact this device will have when showing media. I often find myself in a situation where someone wants to see my photos or video. I used to use the iPhone for this, but this will be MUCH better. It’s still easy to pull out something like a tablet in situations where pulling out a notebook computer is not reasonable.

    It is quite compelling for me and does a lot that can’t easily be done on a traditional notebook computer (and I wasn’t suggesting that it would replace a computer, although for many it probably will).

  • Ross

    So I have spent a bunch of time thinking about this today.

    As much as I am sad some of the features I was hoping for did not show up, the iPad is the television of our era. Simple, easy, flip it on and there is entertainment. This is the item you will turn to when your are bored watching TV with your wife. Check your email, browse, play with apps. It is the bridge between mobile (iPhone) and the home computer (iMac, MacBook).

    Like most apple products, there is nothing revolutionary tech-wise. The interface is the key here. It just makes being lazy simple.

    Sadly, all power-users will be frustrated with being locked into the iPhone app platform. That being said, if I were a student on a budget, I would probably buy this. I can live my “cloud” based life (facebook, email, web, twitter) and not have to spend too much.

    … I just wish I could have a Hulu app…

  • http://www.astromanager.net Scot

    Yes- in that sense, you are certainly right. This will bring a host of competition (they left room for it, indeed) and we will be left with choices of items that do more, but aren’t as refined. I hope, and expect, that the multi-tasking problem will be fixed with a future software update. s

  • http://www.sterlingzumbrunn.com Sterling Zumbrunn

    Hey Eric,

    Nice analysis from a traveler’s perspective. I agree with you – this is going to be huge. One thing the iPhone really shook up is how we access our data. The UI for iPhone apps is often much more pleasing than their Web site companions. Take Facebook for example – I would much rather use the iPhone app than the site – it’s so much more efficient at getting to the content that interests me, and filtering out the noise. There are a lot of other examples. I think the iPad really has the potential to make casual computing so much more pleasurable. And as visual artists, I completely agree, this is going to offer a fantastic platform for presenting our work. The secret sauce here is multi-touch. Apple has nailed it better than anyone else, and it’s a big part of the iPhone juggernaut, and will really help the iPad user experience as well.

    I had a Kindle and liked it, but it just didn’t do enough for me. I always had my iPhone nearby to check e-mail or Twitter. And the screen was not readable in dim lighting conditions – a big problem when traveling. I actually preferred the UI and speed of the Kindle for iPhone app, and used that more than my Kindle. Based on early testing done with the Kindle DX, I think for education, the iPad has the potential to be a monstrous hit.

    I am left with a lot of questions following the presentation, especially with regard to distribution of other published content besides books, but I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these. I think it’s really exciting that I’ll be able to leverage my app addiction on another platform :~)

  • Amy

    Sweet! It has IPS display. Wondering if I can use this puppy for image retouching?

  • Chester

    I think there exist many situations in which the iPad will be most apropos, but my point is simply that, aside from maybe being the coolest and most feature-laden e-book reader around, it strikes me as being very niche-y. But I’m also the type of person who cannot imagine ever using a tablet in a situation where I’d have a laptop at hand. And, when traveling, I don’t picture myself bringing a laptop and an iPad sort of device [1] and definitely cannot imagine bringing an iPad device instead of a laptop.

    But you know me…I’m verbose. And being verbose with a virtual keyboard is painful. So I’m just not into tablet computing in general…

    I can totally imagine this being a really cool thing for you to have in your bag, but I think it’s fair to say that your needs are extremely unique. It’s going to be interesting to see how popular the iPad ends up being. For some years now, it’s been a sucker’s play to bet against Apple’s knack for fulfilling consumers’ desires…but, this time, they’ve unveiled a product that strikes me as being very far from a home run.

    This all reminds me of Macheads and the section in which the old-school Mac aficionados bemoan the shift of Apple toward consumer electronics, feeling that less attention/resources are paid toward the core computer products (if they are, anymore). I imagine these folks are not super-enthused at the introduction of a giant iPod Touch instead of a firm ETA for Core i5/i7 Macbooks.

    [1] But I’m also not someone for whom e-book readers are compelling.

  • tanthalas

    @Chester – to be fair, one thing the iPad will have that your laptop does not is a 3G connection.

  • Chester

    Not sure I’m understanding you, Tanthalas: are there not laptops that have embedded 3G and 4G connectivity…and can’t any laptop add this with a USB device?

    Meanwhile…the iPad is tethered to AT&T, right?

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