Apple iPad: first reactions

Four reactions that I agree with (parts of) in response to Apple’s iPad announcement yesterday:

  • Doc Searls places the iPad in the context of vertical integration (apps all the way down to CPUs) and horizontal playing fields and says, “What you have to appreciate, even admire, is how well Apple plays the vertical game. It’s really amazing. What you also have to appreciate is how much we also need the horizontal one. The iPad needs an open alternative, soon.”
  • Dave Weinberger says that the iPad is the “future of the past of books” and says it’s missing interactivity and collaboration as key features.
  • John Gruber says that the iPad user experience feels like it’s all about speed, and says that Apple’s vertical integration play (the aforementioned Apple A4 chip) is responsible, and that “this is Apple’s way of asserting that they’re taking over the penthouse suite as the strongest and best company in the whole ones-and-zeroes racket” ahead of Sony, Nokia, and Samsung.
  • Michael at Cruftbox sums up the reactions of the rest of the world and says, “You’ll bang on about features, data plans, DRM, open source, and a multitude of issues. You’ll storm the message boards, wring your hands, and promise you won’t buy one till ‘Gen 2.’ The din will grow and grow as time passes. And then one day, in a few months, you will actually hold one and use it. And you will say, ‘I want one. Iwant one right now.'”

I think what disappointed me about the launch was not the device but the position it occupies. Jobs sees the iPad as occupying empty space in the consumer world between a PC (laptop) and phone. And there is probably room in that position. But the iPad seems also to be firmly positioned, at least for now, as a companion device. You sync it to another computer over iTunes. There’s no USB port or optical drive. It’s not going to be replacing anyone’s laptop any time soon.

And, frankly, that’s what I was hoping it would do. Because while it looks like it blows away its target use cases (web browsing, mail, calendar, gaming, music, book reading, even office apps), there are some very real use cases it doesn’t handle. And not just being a development platform. Like:

  • Preparing taxes (though Intuit could probably do a tax application for it)
  • Scanning documents (no USB port…)
  • Printing (ditto–though I wonder if it supports network based printing?)
  • Videoconferencing (no camera and no ports)
  • Organizing photos
  • Making a calendar or Christmas card

Additionally, I have question marks about some of the use cases that it seems to handle well otherwise. Like: can I point its version of iTunes at my 500 GB network drive and play music from there? How do the new iWork apps manage their files? (Remember, there is no user visible file system on the iPhone OS, on which the iPad is based.)

But, my quibbles aside, I have to confess that I’ve already talked with my wife about getting one. We’re pretty excited for the brave new iPad future. Because for most of what it does, it does beautifully.

3 comments...What do you think?

  1. Posted by Esta 28th January, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    I like this comment, on how the iPad could/should inspire the evolution of web content: http://snarkmarket.com/2010/5093?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+snarkmarket+(Snarkmarket)

  2. Posted by Dave J 28th January, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Apple did not design the CPU, they designed the A4 chip, which contains an ARM core, almost certainly licensed as a “hard” (already drawn as polygons) or “firm” (circuit/schematic) macro. I suppose they could have done some performance optimization on the CPU itself but it’s hard to imagine why when you can license 1GHz+ hard macros.

    Doing their own SoC, though lets them customize their platform, perhaps save some money, optimize for whatever it is they care about (low power, etc)

    The might have designed some on-chip peripherals to do some particular bits of acceleration, like offloading audio, video, decompression, etc.

    It’s an interesting turn for Apple regardless. Over the last years as the Mac went Intel, the hardware has become increasingly PC-like. This why you can boot Windows on a Mac. Perhaps they are reversing that trend as a way to regain some of the hardware differentiation their platforms have lost.

  3. Posted by Tim Jarrett 28th January, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Dave, thanks for the clarification. Chip design is something I know absolutely nothing about so I wasn’t aware of the distinction you are describing.

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