iPad fails to live up to the iPod/iPhone legacy

Apple iPadStevie Jobs yesterday announced the much-anticipated iPad, a tablet device that he says fills the gap between smartphones and laptops.  There have been a flurry of articles since then for and against the iPad, mainly focusing on what features it has or is missing, but I’d like to look at it from a higher level, looking at the product positioning and the problems it is trying to solve.

In introducing the iPad, Steve asserts that it is “better (than smartphones and laptops) at these tasks”: browsing, email, photos, video, music, games, eBooks.  But the product he then demonstrated didn’t seem to be better at any of those tasks.

  • Browsing and email: these will always be easier on a laptop that has a physical, full-size (or close to full-size) keyboard with a mouse/touchpad/pointing device. The iPad’s touchscreen does not make web-browsing or email easier, nor does its small size.  The iPad will be adequate for short email or browsing sessions, but for many of us our smartphone is already good enough for that.
  • Photos, video and music: it’s a nice photo browser, but to watch movies you’ll need some sort of stand.  The hard drive (64GB max) is too small to be good at storing any of these – it would fill up with 10 DVDs, and I know many people whose music collections alone are larger than 64GB.  To upload pictures from your camera to the iPad, you’ll need to stock up on dongles because it only has one 30-pin port for connectors (no USB).  This device (being based on iPod/iPhone software) is clearly intended to complement a laptop or PC with larger storage capacity, not replace it.
  • eBooks: this is the one application in which the iPad outshines smartphones and laptops.  And it could be argued that the addition of color (neato!) makes it better than the Kindle, but for people who read for long stretches the Kindle’s e-ink screen will still make it the better option, assuming they aren’t reading magazines or textbooks that rely on color.

Apple lost sight of the fact that tech devices must simplify our lives.  The iPod made it easy to listen to music (and later, watch movies) on the go.  The iPhone gave us a world of applications with a slick interface in our pockets.  It let us take pictures without a camera and navigate without a dedicated GPS, and it let us do a myriad of light computing tasks without a laptop.  The iPod and iPhone both revolutionized their markets and changed the way we live, but the iPad fails in this regard.

The iPad is too big to be truly mobile, and it’s too small and limited to replace a laptop.  Rather than simplifying my life, the iPad is making it more complicated – it’s a third device I have to maintain, load media onto, and buy dongles for.  And all this starts at $499?  No thank you, Apple.

Even Hitler doesn’t want one.

For more details, here’s a sampling of the extensive coverage out there:



  1. Interesting to hear your thoughts, Joel. Great point about Apple missing the mark on creating a tech device that will simplify our lives. Apple has given birth to something that is not quite there yet but I think that we will see some interesting things come of this. Awesome video!! haha

  2. I completely disagree with you. The iPad is allowing me to simplify my life in ways that my friends who rely on their iPhones and kindles and laptops could never replicate. The iPad is just as mobile for me as my cell phone ( but I am a female with a purse to carry it around in). Due to the larger screen size I get more usefulness from some of the apps than I ever could from an iPhone or iPod touch. Some of these apps are enabling me to replace paper and laptop study materials and have those materials on the go. The point for me is that now instead of carrying around a smart phone ( with the expensive two year contract) and an ereader and still needing a laptop for many purposes, I can now for the most part just use my iPad (and use a pay as I go phone to simply talk when I need to) and I can take that iPad everywhere. And my iPad does most things better than those other devices. I think people who are already hooked into an expensive smart phone data plan and/ or an ereader (and who don’t have purses to carry the iPad around in) are going to have a hard time understanding why this is a big step forward in tools that can simplify one’s life. It’s in some ways similar to how the previous generation did not understand personal computing. Being tethered to smart phones etc is a mental block to being able to visualize the possibilities of an iPad vs prior device (and associated software) offerings.

  3. You sound like a lot of my techie friends. That’s not a bad thing ;) Those who have most or all new devices and who are into technology for technology’s sake usually view it as one more device. I only buy technology when I see enough of a benefit. Therefore I never bought a smart phone even with all the great apps. Too much money with not enough benefit. Add in the ability to ditch books and get ebooks, plus give me a decent screen to browse the Internet on, watch movies on while on a trip, get gps when I need it, and don’t require a contract for the data plan? That’s a good value. And now I have one iPad instead of an iPhone , kindle, and portable DVD player.

  4. Thanks for the feedback, Jennifer. I can see how having a purse may improve the portability, and I’m afraid I am purse-impaired in that regard. As for smartphones being “too much money with not enough benefit”, I’m afraid I’ll have to go ahead and disagree with you there…I wasn’t convinced either until I owned a smartphone, and now I can never go back. As someone who doesn’t carry a purse, it’s invaluable to me to be able to check email, browse the web, and have access to a ton of apps in a device that fits in my pocket.

    And I can see how the iPad makes it so you don’t have to carry your laptop around – that makes sense to me, but you still own a laptop of some other form of PC at home, right? I mean, that iPad has to synch up to iTunes on something, right? My point was that you still have to own a laptop or some more versatile computing device to synch the iPad up to, even if you don’t carry that device around with you.

    We actually have an iPad at my office, and I took it home for a while to play with it, but I ended up just leaving it at the office…I found myself looking for reasons to use it, and spending a lot of time transferring media to it just for the sake of it. If I was travelling frequently, I think it’d be useful, but for most of us, I just don’t see it. It surely is not as revolutionary as the iPod and iPhone were when they were first released.