Needless to say, you’ve all heard about Apple’s iPad by now. I’m certain Steve Jobs’s unveiling speech yesterday was more popular than Obama’s State of the Union address, judging simply from the crazy high TPM (tweets per minute) related to the new gadget’s drop. (Disclosure: I contributed to said traffic with 9 tweets and around 10-12 replies and retweets. Glad to have done my part.)
As a technologist and tech blogger who attends conferences regularly, I am in the market for a new portable computer that is a little lighter and faster than the existing Dell Inspiron. Size, shape, bezel and “form factor” are meaningless to me. Following is what my portable computer has to DO, along with what the iPad does (green) and doesn’t (red) offer as a solution:
* Word-processing program for rapid note-taking, with machine on lap or standing at booths with very little counter space. $70 keyboard dock. The awkward iPad-keyboard size ratio and keyboard’s tilt make it seem unlikely the setup will stay put on a lap.
* WordPress post creation and editing in full visual editor. The WordPress 2.1 app or WordPress in Safari should work pretty well for this (images may have to be resized and repositioned later, especially on photojournalism blogs).
* Occasional code testing in Python or from a terminal window An impenetrable Terminal app exists, but other than that, I haven’t tried any such thing on my iPhone. Anyone?
* Upload photos to Flickr directly from device OR quickly connect camera/device to computer, crop/adjust/saturate and upload to Flickr or to blog post. No built-in camera. $29 Camera Connection Kit with two dongles that plug into the keyboard dock connector; one for USB and one for SD cards.
* TweetDeck. Check.
* eReader sans DRM. iBooks is right out because it cannot read Project Gutenberg plain texts or anything other than the EPUB format. Not supporting that crap. The Stanza App will continue to read all formats, but will lack “form factor” of iBooks.
* Standalone GoogleChat. IM+ App or m.google.com
* All of these programs running simultaneously. NOPE!
* Ability to view videos and HTML5 content. YouTube app for video. No Flash (no Hulu for you!) or HTML5.
* iTunes which accesses my 8GB iPod or my 20+GB iTunes music library. HAHAHAAAA! Dream on!
* Not having to deal with AT&T. What are my options here?
When I mentioned some of these points to a colleague who is seriously considering buying an iPad, he said, “I really don’t think it is meant to be a note taking device or for other uses you mentioned. Those are called laptops.” This person is also going to get the $500 base model (16GB; WiFi only, no 3G) for “casual use at home, looking at the internets, watching videos, reading books, pictures, etc.” Another friend is going to buy it as a second home computer, while yet another will purchase it as an eBook reader with internet access.
In no way will the iPad replace your phone, MP3 player, camera and a laptop/desktop, which you will still need to make calls, listen to much of your music, capture photos and video and do any substantial work. Moreover, as the HotHardware review says, “If we’re going to carry around something that requires a separate bag, we want it to have a real desktop and real multitasking capabilities.” It is, however, a cool toy with which to block the television while seated on the couch, read at the cafe or restaurant during those oh-so-frequent breaks or fall asleep with. A large-font eReader that surfs the internet and runs apps without having to run a giant OS.
Therefore, let’s not kid ourselves about the iPad as Disrupting Gamechanger That Forever Changes The Face Of Computing. That day is not yet here.
In my 2009 VizWorld tech wrap-up, I wrote, “There are many more people out there who simply want access to maps, books, music, data and that is the real imperative upon revolutionary, disruptive technologies. We cannot swallow the eReader marketing pill because it’s handed to us and, in our obsolescence-inducing plenty, unwittingly set data standards for the rest of the world. Consumers going into the second decade of the 21st century must focus on content and delivery – useful content in an accessible and understandable format on a relatively fast and ubiquitous machine – as their technology drivers. Open data, better communication and scrutinizing intent in this day and age of Twitter and other social media will make this happen. But, so will awareness, responsibility and active participation. In 2010, I ask us to be mindless consumers less and nurturing communities more.”