As a proud owner of one of the first iPads in the
UK (I had mine shipped over from the US a
couple of days after release) I’m convinced this
is a device that will change the landscape or
portable computing forever. No, I’m not just
some mindless Apple fan-boy. We develop
Windows software and have done for 15 years. A
lot of Apple stuff is truly great - some truly bad.
I’ve used this daily for close on 2 months now,
and this is what I think is great, and not so great
about the iPad.
What’s crap about the iPad:
No Flash. Apple’s opinion on the subject is bullshit and it’s pathetic to see
companies such as Adobe and Apple not able to get along. Apple’s opinion
about Flash being inefficient is not just wrong (the Flash graphics engine is
one of the most efficient graphics rendering engines that exists. We know a
little bit about this - we produce the world’s fastest vector graphics engine),
but to hear this from Apple, the developers of one of the most bloated, poorly
designed, most unreliable pieces of software to exist (iTunes) is just so
Safari. This is a poor, crippled web browser. Specifically the killer problem is
the little reported absence of support for a feature called ‘content editable’
which is used by all web-based editors, Google Docs, Gmail, Hotmail, and all
rich-text editors. None of them work. Yep, there’s no way to edit Google Docs
or use any decent web-based editor. Appalling. Inexcusable.
No USB and no memory-card reader. The iPad should be an awesome
companion for a digital camera. The screen is large and bright, photo viewing
and manipulation is awesome fast. Apple realised its mistake and made an
overpriced, bodgy ‘dongle’ available. Apple will not let third parties produce
Poor wireless reception. Others have reported it, and it’s true. The all-
aluminium back makes it feel really strong, but it’s stops any decent radio
reception. So the WiFi antenna is hidden behind the small plastic Apple logo
on the back. The result is, not surprisingly, that it requires a strong WiFi
signal to work.
It crashes. Ironic given Apple’s complaint about Flash. Here it’s Apple’s
Safari that crashes, regularly, multiple times a day, and even on Apple
websites. It’s mostly where there’s embedded video e.g. YouTube. Luckily a
crash is very quick and easy to recover from (one second and one tap to go
back to where you were you were).
No clock or alarm app. Worse, third parties can’t create one either. Dumb,
dumb, dumb. More...
Reflective Screen. Why the hell do people accept this? It’s just cheap on
Apple’s part. Reflective screens are not just a pain in the eye, but give people
headaches. It was known in the 70s and 80s that reflective screens were bad
for you (it's not just distracting to see reflections, but causes eye-strain have
two images and superimposed, at different focus points, right in front of
you). I'm really surprised the health and safety zealots haven't got onto this.
Checkout this example taken with my iPhone, and this was playing a movie at
full brightness (propped up against the toaster - that’s another problem). It’s
a great, and typically very bright, screen, but the reflectivity makes it almost
unusable outside (even in the shade). This example was inside.
Only 256Mbytes of RAM. Not really limiting yet, but it will be when people
start creating really useful productivity apps.
Apple’s ‘big brother’ attitude to developers of ‘we know best what customers
want’. No, sorry Apple you DO NOT know what customers want. I want to be
able to run Firefox browser, to be able to run software that uses the USB port,
to be able to use, or develop, software that has pinch to zoom effects, to be
able to be able view websites that require Flash, and a ton of other things that
Apple deem unsuitable for me. And the bad publicity this brings Apple is so,
so damaging that I’m staggered they can’t see sense.
What’s great about the iPad:
The form factor. It really is a slim, super-portable, fast, very easy to use
computer. Great for browsing, and a great e-book reader.
It’s a Kindle killer for sure, and I even use Amazon’s Kindle book reader app
(a great, but unusual, example of Apple allowing competition with their own
iBook app). The Kindle iPad application allows all Kindle books to be
purchased and downloaded and offers a much wider range of books than
Apple’s iBook. app. You’d have to be mad to buy a Kindle e-book reader now.
Typing. This may surprise you but I can actually type faster on the iPad than I
can on a traditional keyboard. This is largely due to the auto-correct and
other software features of their screen keyboard. For example double tap the
space bar and it puts in a full-stop (period) and starts the next sentence with
a capital letter.
Battery life. I get 10 hours continuous use, doing almost anything.
Speed. In particular Apple’s obvious obsession with high performance,
interactive details such as pinch-zooming, scrolling etc. The fluidity with
which you can scroll and zoom in apps such as the Maps viewer and Safari are
better than anything I’ve seen.
The whole UI. My view is that most people don’t appreciate just how
revolutionary this UI is. The whole user experience, from the single
hardware 'home' button, to the ultra-smooth touch interface and the much,
much simpler UI than any previous computer, is the real revolution here.
A completely new approach to software purchase, download and installation
(the App Store), and the new pricing model for software. Yes apps are more
expensive than the iPhone, but whereas $29 to $49 was regarded as 'cheap
software' in the Windows world, this is regarded as insanely expensive for the
iPhone or iPad. Apple's $10 versions of 'serious' apps, such as Pages and
Numbers, lead the way here.
Value for money. Perhaps uniquely for Apple, the price is really pretty good.
In the UK the base model is £429 (it should be £360 on current exchange
rate, another really offensive Apple business practice). But £499 US price is
really very good.
I decided to see if I could use the iPad instead of my laptop on a short trip to Rome.
Thanks to the Iceland Volcano, that trip turned into more than a week. I was saved
by one piece of software called LogMeIn which allows remote access an control of
my main PC, which is cheating of course. I was even managing my 48 inches of
dual-screen 3800 pixel wide desktop from my iPad in another country. That is
The lack of support for web-based services such as Google Docs is the key thing
preventing me using this as a desktop replacement.
The iPhone UI has already been copied by all major phone manufacturers,
particularly Google’s Android, and I can absolutely guarantee there will be dozens
of attempts to re-create iPad-like devices.
There are few companies that can copy Apple’s software (or hardware) designs
really well, but thanks to the above mentioned flaws, Apple have made themselves
really open to some serious competition, if the competitors can get their act
together. Google stands perhaps the best chance, because of Android, but
Microsoft could, and perhaps HP could thanks to the purchase of Palm (er,
notwithstanding the fact the main guy behind the GUI of the Palm Pre has just left
to work for Google as head of Android UX).
Verdict: Awesome, but seriously flawed.
Should I get one?
It’s a great device, and when I’ve shown friends, typically those that are not very
computer literate, they are blown away with it, quite often saying ‘I’ll have to get
one’. They love the form factor, and ease of use and simplicity of the whole thing.
But within this year they’ll be competition from the likes of Android-based tablets.
It’s taken Android nearly 3 years to get up to the level approaching the iPhone (see
my 6 month old prediction on how Android OS will beat Apple - all of which is
coming to pass.)
The trouble is that Google simply are not as good designers or developers as Apple,
so when the clones do come they will likely be equally flawed.
If you can live with the flaws mentioned above, sure, get one now. Or wait six
months and see what the competition comes up with. Wait a year and they’ll be
serious competition, but then also iPad 2 from Apple.
Addendum: More than a year later and sure enough the first competitive clones
are now being released (April 2011). I’ve have an iPad2 and a Motorola Xoom, with
its brand new, radically changed, Android Operating System. It’s a big
improvement on previous Android efforts, but my point above remains the same.
Google are not as good software developers as Apple, and so my conclusion remains
the same. The iPad is still better than the best Android tablet.
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