People have been talking about the iPad pretty much since the second it was released. There was a brief period of time when global attention shifted to President Obama’s Stat of the Union address, but as soon as that was over it was right back to the iPad. This shouldn’t be unexpected, but it’s amusing how, with so much hype and leaked info, I keep seeing people annoyed that it’s a hot topic of conversation. Do people not remember the iPhone launch? Sheesh.
Before I get going commenting on it I want to point out that withing seconds of hearing the name I made a joke about hoping there would be a supersized version called the MAXiPad. Millions of other people had the same impression and I can’t believe that a company like Apple that spends so much attention on image would do something like that. Maybe they did it on purpose. People will still just call it a tablet. I’ve called every non-desktop Mac I’ve had a laptop regardless of if it was technically a “PowerBook” or a “MacBook” or an “iBook” – they are all just laptops and this iPad and the inevitable gen 2, and whatever other versions they end up rolling out will all just be tablets. But still…
So, unlike many of the mac faithful I’m delighted with it. I’m not saying it’s perfect and I’ll get to that in a bit, but it’s pretty much what I was hoping for and I’ll tell you why. I have two problems I have that neither my current MacBook Pro or my Lenovo netbook solve, which actually account for a huge percent of the time I spend on a computer and I think the iPad will cover them both easily.
The first is at home, lounging on the couch. I spend a lot of time on my couch interacting with the web. This is done primarily via my iPhone and my laptop. Neither of these are a good form factor for this. With the iPhone I’m forced to hold it close to my face and the screen is super small – this is fine when out riding trains or waiting in line but it’s less than ideal in the comforts of my own home. The result of this is depending on the task at hand I often switch over to my laptop.
Couch + laptop works fine in the short term – sending an e-mail or pulling up some directions, but add a few hours to any of those tasks and my body hates my guts for putting it through that. The biggest problem is there is no good angle for the screen when it’s attached to a keyboard sitting in your lap. I often make it into a V shape with the hinge sitting on my thighs and the edge closest to the trackpad resting on my chest. This at least allows a direct view of the screen, though requires you to basically stare at your lap for hours which is no fun for you neck. Typing is also weird. Now add to that mix any number of slouching and forget it. That just isn’t what a laptop is designed for.
The other problem is traveling. I after realizing that 99% of the work I do on the road can be done in a browser and over wifi I picked up a netbook. This kind of worked. It was great for going through security at airports, I was happy to not have anything crucial on it in case of theft, loss or damage and I could take care of the things I needed to without lugging around tons of crap. The downside is the keyboard is way tiny and takes a few days of regular use to get comfortable with and being a mac guy used to things looking beautiful and working easily, switching to a 10″ screen and linux wasn’t the smoothest. It worked, but I often found myself wishing I had my real laptop.
I’ve often said that I can do most of what I need with iPhone only at this point, but the size is restricting for longer periods of work. So here comes the iPad, which detractors are claiming is just a giant sized iPhone and that just makes it sound awesome to me.
I never thought of an Apple tablet being a replacement for a full computer. I thought of it as a better solution for interacting with the web when you aren’t at your computer. Laptops and netbooks and even the iPhone to some extent have tried to change the perception that the web is this thing that you have to go to a terminal and log into to use, to more of something that is always surrounding us and you just interact with when you need it. They helped with that concept but their form factors were limiting. I’ve thought for a while that a tablet device would do that much better. I can see reaching for the iPad on a regular basis being a much better solution than any of the options I’ve talked about so far.
But as I said I know it’s not perfect. My iPhone has a camera. My laptop has a camera. My netbook has a camera. There’s no reason my tablet shouldn’t have one as well. I say this knowing full well that Apple already knows this, and one doesn’t need to look any further than their usual new product release MO to know there is always some very obvious feature missing from the gen 1 hardware, that people still buy, en mass, and then buy again when they jump in and add it for the gen 2. I’m not annoyed by this, it’s business and it works. We will all go buy the cameraless iPads when they come out, we’ll complain about it, but then jump for joy when they release gen 2 with a camera. We’ll also sell or pass on our gen 1 versions to friends who have been stand offish or kids who couldn’t afford them brand new and Apple gets a double wave of converts. We all know this is how it works so it shouldn’t be a big shock, nor something to act appalled about. It’s not that big of a deal.
I would actually like 2 cameras, one for pictures and one for video chatting, but that is a different issue.
Another thing that has people up in a tizzy is the lack of multitasking. People are acting like it’s the end of the world and no one will be able to use it for anything. Of course there is no multitasking on iPhones and people seem to be able to use those just fine. I’m actually OK with this one two. On my laptop I have spaces running and a browser in one window, e-mail in another, IM in yet another, iTunes, Evernote, a text editor, an FTP client, and photoshop all running in other windows. I’m constantly switching from one to the other in some kind of ADD panic. This is terrible for my productivity on any specific thing but it’s my fault for letting it happen. I don’t have this problem on my iPhone. I do one thing, finish it, move on to the next. Also my iPhone runs much faster and smoother than my laptop because it’s not trying to manage the insane list of tasks I’m throwing at it constantly. Sure you could argue the hardware should be able to handle it, but I can’t so why do I care of my hardware can? I work better without distractions.
But really, think about this, for what this is, what is the problem? If I’m reading a book and think of an e-mail I want to send, what is the difference really between closing the ebook reader and launching the e-mail, sending it, then going back to the ebook reader? How is that worse then the two sharing resources and running in tandem? I just don’t see the problem, and I speculate it will actually work better because of this. Is it a bug or a feature, guess we’ll each have to decide that one on our own. At this point I’m not convinced more is better.
There are other pros and cons of course, but those at the ones that are on the top of my head, and that I know are the reasons I’ll get one. Like I said, it’s really just what I was hoping for.