Apple’s iPad Is What Laptops Should Have Been

Well, Steve Jobs dropped a bombshell on people. The iPad was not what people were expecting. As was expected, some people love it and others hate it. However, the one point of agreement between these people is confusion. What exactly is the iPad revolutionizing?

There was plenty of hype that the Apple tablet device would revolutionize computing as we know it. This is obviously unattainable, even for Steve Jobs. The fact that the iPad is positioned as a device between your iPhone and your main computer is also confusing. We have netbooks right now, but they are really just smaller laptops and only provide some extra mobility. Steve Jobs professed his dislike of netbooks and seemed to be pushing the iPad as their replacement. And this is where all the confusion starts.

So, what were people expecting? First, it had to act like a big iPhone or a big iPod touch, but it can’t be just a big iPod touch. It still needs to have that Apple sexiness, but there has to be some business uses too. Oh, and it has to have a ton of features like facial recognition, speech recognition, a front facing camera, a rear facing camera, 3G access available to other carriers besides ATT and we obviously need it to replace our main laptops. In case you forget, all of the features need to be free or at least really cheap. Obviously, there was no way a device could live up to this kind of hype or features list.

There was also the price question. Rumors had the pricing just under $1000. One of the main features in the ridiculous list above that needed to be included for that price was 3G connectivity. If you look at the price of the 64GB device with 3G, you get $829. That is not bad for an Apple device, and they provide an entry level device without 3G for $499. People have already complained that the $499 device is unusable and is only offered as a public relations stunt.

Part of the problem is that the people covering the event are not the people that Apple is targeting. This device is not for the Silicon Valley crowd. It is not an all purpose device for journalists either. It is not a hard-core gaming device either. You could even say that this device is not really meant for web workers.

The iPad is meant for those people sitting in their homes and want some internet access. This device is purely for the casual computing user. If laptops had not been targeted at the business traveler, this is what laptops should be. Touch capabilities have been the holy grail for years in computing. Part of the problem has been that research has been targeting a much bigger solution with touch-enabled computing. Apple decided to dumb down the problem and give you a few specific gestures to get us started. By putting this in a decent laptop, they have created an intriguing device for the mass consumer.

Techies and tech blogs have been focusing on what is missing, and rightly so. You need to poke holes in a device to see what it is really capable of. However, the things that are missing may not be as important as we think. The Mashable list of items is actually a really good list, but they even overshot expectations. Let’s take a look at the common complaints:

  • No USB or SD slots or File Management: This is an interesting and confusing omission until you see the general plan from Apple. This is not meant as a replacement for your main PC, it is a portable extension of it. You sync your iPad to your iMac and then you can you back to sitting on the couch.
  • No Camera or Webcam: Having a camera on this tablet would probably be a bad idea. I think it would be incredibly awkward trying to point a 10 inch device at something to snap a picture. The missing webcam is surprising as it does limit your capabilities with the iPad, specifically the loss of Skype video chats.
  • Limited disk space: This is highly dependent upon your point of view. If you look at the device as a laptop replacement, then the low end model may be a bit skimpy on the space. However, how many people have more than 32GB of music and pictures? A lot of social media users are probably close to that number, but mass consumers may not be. I refuse to include video storage because most people just stream videos, not store them.
  • No Flash: This is truly annoying mainly because there are several popular sites that use Flash. I do not understand the whole Apple/Flash problem.
  • 3G Is Not Free Like the Kindle: 3G is free on the kindle because transferring text is so damned simple. 3G is not free on the iPad because you will probably be listening to music and watching videos, which you cannot do on the Kindle.
  • No Multitasking: I am just going to assume that multitasking is part of the iPhone OS v4 release. If not, the tablet will fail no matter how pretty it is. If people cannot listen to music while looking at a website, the device is doomed. Some people have already said that they do not miss this on their iPhone, and I say that the iPhone is not the same as this device. The iPad is much closer to a regular laptop and should at least multitask a little bit.
  • No HDMI or 1080p Output: Normal people cannot tell the difference between 720 and 1080, without being shown the difference with a bunch of mostly still images. For a typical action movie or drama, people will not notice the difference. HDMI output is interesting, but if this device is targeted as the consumption device it makes sense. Your PC can be more of a media router for your TV and stereo, and the iPad is definitely not being positioned as a media control center.

This may not be the life-changing event that people were expecting, but it is an interesting innovation for the mass consumer. There is the added benefit that the tablet will run most of your iPhone applications as well. The coming flood of tablets will be interesting to watch as well. The iPad does not spell doom for eReaders either, but if companies price them right, the other tablets could quickly erode the eReader marketshare. I will leave you with an interesting opinion from Robert Scoble where he looks at what this means for the other tablets.

12 thoughts on “Apple’s iPad Is What Laptops Should Have Been

  1. You, sir, are out of your damn mind.

    Apple’s iPad should have been a laptop. Or a netbook. Or a *computer of any sort*. But it’s not a computer. It doesn’t run your own programs. It can’t play your own content. The damn web browser can’t even show half the web thanks to the lack of Flash.

    Instead, it’s an oversized iPod Touch.

    It’s perfectly acceptable for an iPod or an iPhone or any kind of *peripheral* device to have these sorts of limitations. Hell, they’re not fully fledged computers, we expect them to be limited in some ways.

    But this thing is competing against fully functional computing devices. It’s supposed to be a standalone device. But instead, one of the primary features touted is that it *syncs to your actual computer*.

    People wanted a revolutionary general purpose computing device. Apple gave them a locked-down portable media player that’s too big to fit into your pocket.


  2. even my wife, a non-technical person was like, “just what does it do?” i shrug and she says, “nothing! it does nothing! i can’t do anything with it that i can’t do with an iphone and i can’t put it in my pocket.”

    peripherals to make it a whole computer? come on. fully functional with $400+ in addons.

    one word would have save this whole debacle – netbook.


  3. You make some great points Rob. I am very bummed about the missing web cam as I was hoping to eventually replace “Oscar” (my laptop) with the iPad. I’m holding out hope the inevitable second generation version will have this and some of the other missing items.

    One point of interest: On the latest iPhone / iPod OS you can listen to your music, surf the web, and run other applications. So I don’t think this will be an issue with the iPad.


  4. Otto

    I understand the issue with the lack of flash, and I agree with it. Not having flash is a major problem with this.

    “People wanted a revolutionary general purpose computing device.”

    I do not think that this is that far from a general purpose computing device. It did not live up to the hype, but people were expecting something that could not possibly be built.


  5. w/otto

    I did mention the missing usb port or at least an SD port. That is definitely unacceptable. The $70 for the keyboard and “dock” are not ridiculous either. What else is really missing to make this a “full computer”?


  6. Brandon

    The webcam is a surprising omission. This and the missing USB/SD stuff make me think there will be a new version next year with the missing hardware.

    I am also assuming that the iPad will run iPhone OS v4 when it is available, thus removing the multitasking issues.


  7. I think that the article bring up some valid points.

    The iPad fits in a purse or backpack just fine. My pockets are already full of cell phone and keys. I don’t need anything else to fit in my pockets. I like managing my ripped movies through iTunes; I need a screen big enough that I’m not squinting at teensy hobbits when I try to watch Lord of the Rings on the train.

    And half the web is Flash? Seriously? Because I have Flash blocking enabled on my browser so that I don’t have to look at idiotic advertising and I see far more than “half” the web.

    My mother uses her netbook primarily to sit on the couch and play Solitaire. Occasionally she reads her childrens’ blogs or checks her email. If she wants to do anything more complicated, she goes upstairs to her desk.

    I think that the iPad will be the Nintendo Wii of the netbook tier. All the snobs who whinged about what the Wii didn’t do this or that wound up spending days in their friend’s living room fake bowling in Wii Sports.

    One question: I listen to music just find when I’m in most applications – like Stanza or my budgeting app – on my iTouch. Are you sure about that multitasking complaint?


  8. blamedorothy,

    You bring up one of the main points I was trying to make. The mass consumer does not use technology in the same way as those people that watched the iPad launch.

    Regarding the multitasking, I am going off of other people’s complaints. My understanding is that the iPad runs iPhone OS 3.2 which does not support multitasking. It could be that the iPod touch is not running the same OS version, but I am not entirely sure.


  9. >>”What else is really missing to make this a “full computer”?”

    What’s missing is the ability to run software of your own choice on it.

    If the thing is restricted to software from the “App Store”, then it is not a general purpose computing device.

    Show me how to run OpenOffice on the thing. Until you can do that, it is not a “full computer”.


  10. > “All the snobs who whinged about what the Wii didn’t do this or that wound up spending days in their friend’s living room fake bowling in Wii Sports.”

    Heh. Everybody I know owned a Wii and loved it for a while.

    I don’t know anybody who still has one.

    So, calling the Wii a “success” strikes me as hilarious.


  11. great post, thank you very much.

    only one point on multitasking issue: actually on iPhone you CAN listen to music while looking at a website. mail, brwoser, iPod and phone native apps works in multitasking. Are always on.


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