February 8, 2010
Hey, everyone else is writing a review without actually seeing one, so why can't I?
I was disappointed by the demo. Not angry; I can't see getting angry about guessing wrong. But Apple had a big chance here, and I think they might have blown it. Now, I could be wrong. Maybe it's not for me. But they zigged just about every place I thought they should have zagged, and I don't think it's going to be the hot stuff Jobs thinks it will be.
First, an opinion/axiom: If it's too big to fit in your pocket or a holster on your belt, it's a computer. Call it a netbook, or a laptop or whatever. But it's a computer, not a PDA or a smartphone or an MP3 player.
Stemming from that, it needs to be a computer, and have a computer's CPU. If I understand right, in addition to the iPhone OS the iPad will use a smartphone-class CPU with the limitations it implies. Likewise, it needs storage. 64 gigs at the top end is a quarter of what it should be.
Basically, I want a little MacBook, Jobs is offering a big iPod.
Now that I've said that, I think integration with the App Store would have been a good thing. But I also think that it would be a good thing for OSX in general. Go ahead and put a compatibility layer in 10.7; I'll upgrade. Let me pay a buck to play some silly little game on my laptop. Why not?
Falling out of that first axiom is the lack of extensibility. It's a big iPod, so of course it can't connect to a printer, or an external drive (it's supposed to be an external drive itself) or do any other computer-y things.
Second item that I found puzzling: The sole reliance on finger-touch use. A friend of mine is under the impression that iWhatevers use conductivity to know when someone's jabbing a finger into the screen; as far as I know every "real" tablet in the world uses pressure -- it's how dedicated drawing tablets like Cintiqs make the paintbrush in Photoshop thicker and thinner the harder you press. Given that Windows-based tablet PCs have been using styluses exclusively, an LCD must be compatible with the pressure-sensor model. Why not include it?
Again, a caveat. iUsers are used to things like multi-touch and pinch-zoom and other things that you need fingers for and don't work well (if at all) with a stylus. Given that a stylus is about 3x3 pixels and a finger is more like 30x30, I'm guessing it shouldn't be too hard to figure out how a person's interacting with the device. Passing that on to the applications could be a chore though.
But those two things are what made me look at the preview with the same head-cocked, double-blink look the dog gives me whenever I say something other than "sit", "stay" or "get off the goddamn couch". The only advantage this thing has over an iPod is the eBook reader, and for the size differential I'm more likely to get a Nook if I ever want one.
So basically, the iPad is nothing I would have wanted and everything I wouldn't have. Yeah, not buying one.
But who knows, maybe in a couple years Jobs will show off a Mac netbook with dual finger/stylus pointing and a pressure-sensitive screen, running OSX 10.7 with App Store application support and maybe an eBook reader. Call it the iTab, to avoid confusion, and sign me up for two.
In the meantime I'm keeping my eye out for HP's new tablet, which may provide most of what I'd be looking for. There'd be no online application store (and no way in hell Apple would ever port theirs to Windows) and no eBook reader, but it sounds like everything else would be covered.
And given that Windows 7 seems to have gotten the nasty taste of Vista out of everybody's mouths, it might be worth a look the next time I have a grand burning a hole in my pocket. Probably some time around 2013.