Thoughts on Apple's iPad

I wasn’t intending to blog about the iPad, but in a coupel of days I’ve had a few in depth voice and email conversations and so I thought I might as well put most of what I’ve said in one place. (This text was also used in various forms as replies to the following blogs before I got around to posting it here: Tony, Simes, Jon.) Who’s says I don’t repeat myself?

There was no doubting that the first iPhone wasn’t a great. The thing that made it special was the touch screen; or more importantly the fact that you didn’t need a keyboard because the onscreen one was good enough for basic typing.

Other manufactures /have/ learnt from this, but at the same time Apple has learnt from everyone else and added things to the iPhone that were missing (MMS, copy and paste).

With the iPad, what Apple is really doing is making computing for the masses simple, in the same way that they did with MP3 players. Before the iPod came along there were plenty of MP3 players, but there was no integration. Now when Joe Blogs buys one, he can install iTunes and just has to feed his CDs in (or buy music online). Even today the music software you get with other portable players (and phones) is put to shame by iTunes. It’s not the best music software (I also use WinAmp), but it’s the best for the general public.

The iPad is much the same thing. Many have tried with a tablet, but all the models have been too difficult to use for the normal person who just wants to press a button and see a web page. The main problem has been Windows, which is far too complicated for what is needed.

Most people just want to browse the web, check emails via MSN and look at cool things they’re friends have sent them on Facebook or Youtube. The iPad does this (barring Youtube at the moment) and it does it with (more or less) instant on and a simple interface. They don’t want to run a major graphics package, write a novel, or edit a movie. They want to check cinema times and read the newspaper.

This doesn’t escape the fact that the iPad is not as good as it could be. A front facing camera would have been cool; but then how many people make video calls? A couple of rear facing ones would have been fun; but who plays with augmented reality at the moment? Loads more storage is needed; but only for those of us with massive music and movie collections.

The iPad is much like your average fridge or a washing machine: it does what the majority want to do the majority of the time. I’d like to think it’ll kick Sony et al up the behind, but sadly, unless Apple license their OS or someone does something really good with a version of Linux, everything else that is released will be a pale imitation that’s too complicated.

I suspect a lot of people will buy the iPad and in a year Apple will bring out a new, and improved version.

From a personal perspective my current phone (Nokia E71) is never off and effectively does everything I want from a computer (except play MMOGs) but the screen isn’t ideal for reading books, web pages and newspapers (nor is the one of the iPhone for that matter) and while I can write blogs and stories on the word processor and QWERTY keypad it’s not the perfect experience. Something I can use while on a train or in an airport lounge that’s bigger but just as easy to carry around would be great (and I don’t mind paying the extra for a real keyboard). Plus at $499 (not much more than a Kindle) it’s a good price.