Thursday 28 January 2010

More on why I'm disappointed with the iPad

I've been thinking some more about my reaction to this morning's iPad announcement. I'd said to myself beforehand, "Even if it's just a larger iPod Touch, that will still be cool." But - it's just a larger iPod Touch, and it's not that cool. Why not?

I think Apple are victims of their own hype machine (not all of which they control - Apple fans, I'm looking at you). What I was really expecting was that it would not be just a larger iPod Touch, that Apple would come up with something transformational that nobody had ever thought of before. And they didn't. Every element of this device - the e-reader, the touch interface, the slate form factor, the positioning "between a smartphone and a laptop" - all of it already exists. Not in one device, maybe, and if in one device, not in a device this well-designed, but still - it's evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Hence, underwhelm.

And that positioning itself - do I actually want something "between a smartphone and a laptop"? No. I want something that combines the convenience of a smartphone and the functionality of a laptop, rather than having a bit more of one and a bit less of the other.

I have no doubt that the iPad will be an extremely cool device, and I still want one, but I don't plan to be an early adopter. For now I'll be sticking with the iPod Touch for convenience and the laptop for functionality, and putting up with the small form factor (and difficulty of reading/web browsing) on the one, and the bulkiness and lack of a touch interface of the other.

Damn, now I put it that way I'm leaning towards the iPad again. But only a bit.

Apple iPad: Lower price and fewer features than I'd hoped

I've just been catching up on the coverage of the big Apple iPad launch. I've been eagerly awaiting this, because I have an iPod Touch, which is the coolest device I've ever owned, but is too small to browse the Web or do anything with documents. (It's easy to use, with the touch interface; it gives me instant-on internet, although, as I say, web pages are a bit of a pain to read; and I can carry it everywhere.)

The iPad is basically a very large iPod Touch or iPhone (it'll come in two versions, both of which connect to wifi networks, one of which also connects via 3G wireless). Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be a whole lot more than that. Don't get me wrong, an iPod Touch that's four times the size (twice as wide, twice as high) is actually very useful, and I had already decided that I would (eventually) get one even if that was all it was. And the pricing is better than I expected: entry pricing (16GB, wifi only) is $499 USD, and the most expensive version (64GB, with 3G) is $829, or about $1200 NZD. Based on what happened with the iPhone, that will also come down. But those are attractive prices already.

It's got a supposedly pretty good onscreen keyboard that you can use with both hands, and they've already announced a keyboard dock (or you can use Bluetooth keyboards). The iPod Touch keyboard, because it's tiny, is hard to type on. This should be better, so that you can actually use it as a laptop. They're making a version of the Apple Office equivalent (iWork) for it, and pricing the apps very reasonably, though I would probably use Google Docs in any case and have my documents automatically in the cloud where I can get at them from any web-connected computer.

I can see myself possibly using it in my hypnotherapy practice instead of writing on a clipboard as I do now (the advantage of a virtual keyboard is that there's no typing sound, unless you want there to be), assuming that someone builds an app that can be a front-end for a database. (If not, I can always build one myself on my website, appropriately secured.)

The problem is, I'd like to use it also to record the sessions and - here's the key area where it falls down - write them to CD. There's no provision for connecting to standard USB devices - external hard drives, memory sticks, CD writers, and my good-quality USB microphone, for example. I could record using the built-in microphone or the lapel mic I currently use to record on my laptop, but I'd then have to synch across to my laptop before I could write the session to CD for my client to take away, which kind of takes away some of the convenience.

The other thing it's missing which would have been cool (though it's not, for me, a killer app) is a built-in video camera so that you could sit on the couch, or in bed, and have video calls with someone on the other side of the world. (People are screaming "You can't make phone calls from it!", but of course you can. Skype is in the App Store already.) Maybe they'll do this for iPad 2.0. Of course, if they supported USB, I could just plug in my existing webcam...