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  • iPad – Give it Time

    Posted on January 29th, 2010 Mike 1 comment

    Apple iPad

    Apple has always been one of the most interesting of technology companies, especially when it comes to new product introductions. They have proven themselves to be so innovative and original that when they don’t hit stratospheric heights right out of the box, it’s a major disappointment. They have also been so responsive to vastly different market segments (consumers, high end professional media folks, and everyone in between) that it’s sometimes difficult to see them as they actually are – which, to me, is a very successful consumer electronics company that also does some products for specialized market segments. And it is from that perspective that I look at their latest product, the iPad.

    The iPad is not a desktop computer. And it is not a laptop, which in itself has become a physically smaller and more portable version of a desktop computer. It is, for lack of a better description, primarily an Internet portal, plain and simple. Connectivity is its primary purpose in life. And that connectivity is provided in a physically small package with a not so physically small screen. Since there is no keyboard or pointing device (it uses a virtual keyboard, like the iPhone, but it can attach to an external keyboard as well), it is a single piece that does essentially all of its user interaction via a touch screen. For many, it seems that the iPad is nothing more than a much bigger iPod Touch. And to some degree, this is true. It even uses the same operating system and runs the same applications. But to judge what the iPad is by its first incarnation is to overlook the history of Apple as a company, and how it both introduces and evolves its products.

    The iPad introduced at the January event is essentially the Mark I iPad. There will be a Mark II, and a Mark III, and beyond. If one looks at Apple product development over the last few years, it is clear that they often introduce a “primitive” version of a new product, and within a reasonable time frame, offer a significantly upgraded version that incorporates not only features that were sometimes expected on the first version, but additional features that go beyond the original expectations. This happened with the original iPod (the disk capacity and battery life grew very quickly, then the disk itself was eliminated, the package got smaller, video was added, etc.), it happened with all of the desktop and laptop computers, and it happened with the iPhone. The original iPhone lacked memory, it lacked speed, it lacked 3G connectivity, and it lacked an SDK to allow third parties to develop applications for it. All of these things were added in the second generation product, as well as other things that made the product what most observers were hoping it would eventually be. And now we have the iPad.

    The first generation iPad lacks a camera, a more evolved operating system, an open file system, portable or removable storage, or the ability to run common Mac applications. It does not allow multitasking, does not support Flash, and does not play media files encoded with any codec other than H.264. But what it does have is the beginnings of all of those things and more. And any long term Apple watcher must look at their products for what they will become as much as for what they are, because Apple’s history is steeped with innovation and evolution. If all of those features were included in the original product, it would likely limit the impact of a Mark II product that does have at least some of them, and it would almost definitely prevent Apple from selling the first product at a price point under $500 (the basic iPad, with WiFi but without a cellular connection, is priced at $499). Some of the future enhancements will come in the form of software, which will likely work on the existing models. Some will come in hardware, which will, of course, necessitate buying a new version of the device. This is to be expected. Hardware itself becomes cheaper to manufacture once certain volumes are attained, and that is the case with the iPad. Second and third generation iPads will benefit from the inevitable march of technology and its ability to deliver cheaper memory, cheaper display technology, and faster processing. What Apple likely sees as possible at a particular price point will undoubtedly be more evolved as time goes on. So what the iPad is and what it will likely be are two different things. At its introduction, it provides a very compact and slick way of interacting with “the cloud,” and since so many things are now possible in that environment, the only enhancements necessary at the beginning will be those that will allow the version of Safari on the iPad to perform cloud computing tasks. If one is using, say, Google Docs, it doesn’t really matter whether one has Word and Excel available locally, provided the browser can properly support Docs’ widgets. Many of the limitations people are seeing in the product are more a matter of a changing paradigm than a real productivity limitation. For my own purposes, as someone who still has a Power Book G3 Titanium laptop, the iPad might be something I want. I tend to use my laptop primarily when traveling, for things like email, Internet connectivity, and occasional document creation. What I don’t use it for is things like Photoshop work and video editing, even though it’s capable of both. With the iPad, I get what I need, in an affordable package, with a better display than any laptop I know of, good connectivity, a simple and fast interface, and a very portable form factor. If I need a full fledged laptop, I’ll buy one. ¬†But for $500, I can have a lot of what I use a laptop for in an easier to see and more fun package with the iPad. And it’s cheap enough that even if it gets replaced in a year by a more capable version, it’s not a particularly big deal.

    So will I buy one? Maybe. I’m reserving ¬†judgement until I can pick one up and play around with it, and that won’t be for about 2 months. In the meantime, I still have my almost 8 year old laptop. Which, by the way, runs the Leopard version of OS X and still works. Slowly.


    1 responses to “iPad – Give it Time” RSS icon

    • I think for video pros, we await some innovative firm to adapt the iPad as a field/viewing monitor! maybe a great part of a tele prompting system??
      should be fun….
      Stu Aull

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