Monthly Archives: February 2010

8 Things that Suck About the iPad

A lot of people are psyched about the iPad. It has some absolutely backbreaking failures that will make buying one the last thing.

Big, Ugly Bezel

Have you seen the bezel on this thing?! It’s huge! I know you don’t want to accidentally input a command when your thumb is holding it, but come on.

No Multitasking

This is a backbreaker. If this is supposed to be a replacement for netbooks, how can it possibly not have multitasking? Are you saying I can’t listen to Pandora while writing a document? I can’t have my Twitter app open at the same time as my browser? I can’t have AIM open at the same time as my email? Are you kidding me? This alone guarantees that I will not buy this product.

No Cameras

No front facing camera is one thing. But no back facing camera either? Why the hell not? I can’t imagine what the downside was for including at least one camera. Could this thing not handle video iChat?

Touch Keyboard

So much for Apple revolutionizing tablet inputs; this is the same big, ugly touchscreen keyboard we’ve seen on other tablets, and unless you’re lying on the couch with your knees propping it up, it’ll be awkward to use.

No HDMI Out

Want to watch those nice HD videos you downloaded from iTunes on your TV? Too damned bad! If you were truly loyal, you’d just buy an AppleTV already.

The Name iPad

Get ready for Maxi pad jokes.

No Flash

No Flash is annoying but not a dealbreaker on the iPhone and iPod Touch. On something that’s supposed to be closer to a netbook or laptop? It will leave huge, gaping holes in websites. I hope you don’t care about streaming video! God knows not many casual internet users do. Oh wait, nevermind, they all do.

Adapters, Adapters, Adapters

So much for those smooth lines. If you want to plug anything into this, such as a digital camera, you need all sorts of ugly adapters. You need an adapter for USB for god’s sake.

Update: Why stop at 8? Here are more things we are discovering that suck about the iPad.

It’s Not Widescreen

Widescreen movies look lousy on this thing thanks to its 4:3 screen, according to Blam, who checked out some of Star Trek on one. It’s like owning a 4:3 TV all over again!

Doesn’t Support T-Mobile 3G

Sure, it’s “unlocked.” But it won’t work on T-Mobile, and it uses microSIMs that literally no one else uses.

A Closed App Ecosystem

The iPad only runs apps from the App Store. The same App Store that is notorious for banning apps for no real reason, such as Google Voice. Sure, netbooks might not have touchscreens, but you can install whatever software you’d like on them. Want to run a different browser on your iPad? Too bad!

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Apple iPad Backlash Begins

Apple’s iPad took years to design and build. Tearing it down has taken only a few hours.

That’s perhaps to be expected when Apple CEO uses terms like “magical” and “revolutionary” to describe his company’s latest hardware. Contrarians aren’t hard to find online.

There is a short list of “absolutely backbreaking failures” for this “inessential product”. These alleged failures include the name “iPad,” the aesthetic failure of the iPad’s bezel, its inability to run multiple applications at the same time, the absence of a camera, the multi-touch keyboard, lack of an HD video port, lack of support for Adobe Flash, and the need for adapters to connect cameras.

A lengthier thread on Reddit muses that the iPad is half of a great laptop. One wag laments, “All you’re getting with the iPad is a neutered computer and you’re saving a half pound of weight”.

Such judgments may be fair if the point of comparison is a computer. The iPad is not a very good computer when compared to a MacBook or MacBook Pro.

The iPad is like living with your parents — there’s a lot you can’t do, but there are undeniable advantages.

The iPad is a managed device. It comes with fresh supply of “No.”

No, you can’t run Flash. But you also don’t have to worry about patching Flash every month or two.

No, you can’t choose to use a Web browser other than Safari or install software not approved by Apple. You will not be blocking online ads or running browser plug-ins. But many citizens live in China, a country with strong laws governing content, and do so without angering the authorities. Visitors to Disneyland, for the most part, enjoy the regulated experience.

Likewise, there will be iPad users who just want to pay and play, unburdened by technological politics.

Let’s not forget that the iPod touch and iPhone offer a very similar experience, albeit on a smaller scale, and have done so quite successfully.

For travel, both business and personal, there’s a lot to be said for the lightness of the device. The iPad’s limited local storage mitigates the chance of a data breach should the device be lost or stolen. Far better to have a $500 iPad disappear then a $3000 MacBook Pro filled with sensitive files.

For households with one or two computers that might need one or two more Web-capable devices for the kids, an iPad’s limitations look a lot like strengths.

The iPad is a thin client, more or less, both literally and figuratively, and it has a place.

Rather than reflexively trashing the iPad, it would be more useful to consider how it will fare against a device with similar genre-busting aspirations: the Google Chrome OS netbook. These too will be less than full-fledged computers when they debut during the 2010 holiday season. They’re likely to be far more open to customization, but perhaps not so much that they can’t fit into a managed ecosystem.

Google Docs, Sites Dropping IE 6 Support

Web developers have been urging Internet users to abandon Internet Explorer 6 for years. Now Google has decided to join the cause.

The company on Friday warned users of Google Apps and Google Sites that it will begin phasing out support for older browsers in about one month.

“Many other companies have already stopped supporting older browsers like Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 as well as browsers that are not supported by their own manufacturers,” explained Google Apps senior product manager in a blog post. “We’re also going to begin phasing out our support, starting with Google Docs and Google Sites on March 1st.”

The ostensible reason for doing so is that older browsers like Internet Explorer 6 can’t render modern HTML elements properly, a problem that can hinder the functioning of modern Web applications.

In place of Internet Explorer 6, Google suggests using Microsoft Internet Explorer 7+, Mozilla Firefox 3+, Apple Safari 3+, or Google Chrome 4+.

Another problem with older browsers is that they tend to be less secure. When cybercriminals in China attacked Google and some 33 other companies last month, they relied on a vulnerability in Internet Explorer 6 to compromise computers.

A Google spokesperson insists that the two events are unrelated and that Google had planned to discontinue Internet Explorer 6 support before the attacks were detected. “It’s really is being done so we can continue using the latest Web technologies to bring new features to our users,” he said.

Even so, the exploitation of an Internet Explorer 6 vulnerability in the attack on Google prompted the governments of France, Germany, and Australia to urge their Internet using citizens to consider an alternate Web browser. Those warnings have led hundreds of thousands of Internet Explorer 6 users to download Firefox.

According to NetApplications, Internet Explorer 6 is still the most popular browser in the world, with a global market share last month of 20.99%. But Internet Explorer 8 is close behind, with 20.85% global market share in December. In third place, Firefox 3.5 had market share of 16.32%, less than a percentage point more than Internet Explorer 7.

Why the iPad will kill the netbook

Apple has just fired a death shot at the netbook. The new iPad could easily displace the netbook category, and I believe it will. Cheap laptops are at risk of extinction as well.

Why the iPad is a threat to netbooks

But Apple has also made iPad versions of its iWork suite for word processing, spreadsheet editing, and presentation creation — for just $10 each, and they work with the Mac OS X versions, which can read and write Microsoft Office formats. The iPad versions also can read the Microsoft Office formats, but in a bone-headed move cannot save to them. How much do you want to bet that Apple will change that stupidity soon?

Plus, there’s a paint tool for graphics creation and a photo galley app that lets you display a set of photos as a slideshow.

The 9.7-inch screen and support for desktop-style UI elements such as panels and menus mean developers can create desktop-like apps for specific business needs, including sales management and order-taking. And they will.

Then there’s the pricing: $499 for a 16GB model without 3G connectivity and $629 for one with. There are also 32GB and 64GB models, with the 3G 64GB model priced at $829. That’s not much costlier than a netebook, and it does a helluva lot more, and it weighs considerably lot less (1.5 pounds). There’s a keyboard dock option for serious typing and data synchronization locally through iTunes and no doubt through the cloud.

And wireless connectivity — the iPad will use the much-hated AT&T 3G network, but at very tempting prices: $15 per month for 250MB of usage and $30 per month for unlimited usage, as well as the ability to use AT&T’s Wi-Fi hotspots. Compared to the $60-per-month plans for typical netbook and laptop 3G data access, the $100 to $200 savings of a netbook suddenly makes no sense — you recoup that cost in the 3G savings in three to six months.

Why netbooks can’t win

So why do you need a netbook? You get all the media goodness of an iPhone with the tools you need to do your day-to-day work in a box. Now it makes terrific sense why Apple has avoided netbooks and cheap laptops — not only do they earn little money for manufacturers, Apple was already planning to render them obsolete.

Some people will argue that, as a stripped-down computer that runs standard Windows apps and has a hard disk, the iPad can’t touch a netbook. Of course it can. Sure, an iPad assumes you have a “real” computer to store your main data — but the netbook is also predicated on the assumption that it’s your “on the go” device. The iPad is personally compelling, but a netbook is not. Plus, you can easily get around the small storage of the iPad by using an Internet-accessible hard drive with a device such as the Pogoplug.

And some will argue that the fact that the iPhone OS is not a multitasking OS means the iPad can’t do anything serious. Well, I do wish my iPod Touch allowed multitasking so I could run multiple apps at once, though I have to admit my netbook’s support for multitasking doesn’t change the fact it can barely run just one app at a time. But I think this issue will be moot soon. The iPhone OS for the iPad is version 3.2 will bring multitasking to the iPad. After all, Apple bought PA Semiconductor, which uses the ARM chip design, two years ago so it could get a low-power, high-performance chip for its mobile efforts.

By the way, I fully expect that IT will hate the iPad because it will mean pressure for allowing in a non-PC platform. After all, most IT shops have resisted the Mac for decades and the iPhone for several years, so I expect iPad resistance to be their initial response as well. But individuals and small business won’t have IT groups with that power of denial, and I fully expect them to jump on the iPad. Maybe IT should try that approach for a change. IT might give netbooks a temporary safe haven, but that haven will be a ghetto that users will struggle to escape.

Google’s Chrome OS now looks sad

And I believe the iPad means Google’s planned Internet appliance based on the Chrome OS is already irrelevant. The Chrome OS vision is that you need a disk-less netbook to run apps via a browser in the cloud. The iPad vision is that you run apps locally and in the cloud; in addition, you can do all sorts of other cool things.

Google has shown little understanding of human needs outside of search algorithms, as its Nexus One debacle exemplifies. A stripped-down, Internet-required netebook is Google’s vision — that’s taking “boring” and “compromised” to another level. The first indications of the iPad point to a device that’s anything but boring, and the compromises it no doubt has made will not be top of mind.

The iPad doesn’t feel like a stripped-down netbook, which in turn feels like a stripped-down computer. Instead, the iPad comes across as exciting and useful, and the price is right. Bye-bye netbooks!