Stevie 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:
- Defective by Design’s Protest of Apple’s DRM
- Mashable’s “Comprehensive Guide” to the iPad
- Engadget’s Live Blog from the iPad Launch Event
- Gizmodo’s 8 Things that Suck about the iPad
- Lifehacker on The Problem with the iPad