Tag Archives: iPad

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.

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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!