A few weeks ago, Apple announced it was releasing a tablet known as the iPad. The iPad ended up being a giant iPod Touch, but with enhanced applications that make use of the bigger screen of the iPad, as well as having a version of iWorks. The only other difference is that it’s running an entire new hardware (using Apple’s own silicon which probably destroys the chance of someone running Linux on it). It runs an enhanced version of the iPhone OS, which means you get no multitasking capability. So, there goes the ability to listen to Pandora while writing up a Word document (or Pages document, in this case).
People range from blasé to downright angry to completely enthusiastic about the iPad.Engadget actually closed down their commenting for a good day because people were engaging in rather immature conversation about the iPad. Everyone has an opinion about it, and there are not a lot of people in the middle – people think that it’s either the greatest thing since sliced bread, or they think it’s the death of the computer.
For me, I was rather underwhelmed. I was underwhelmed because I wanted something that was even more minimalistic in design, like an edge-to-edge screen. I wanted something I could multitask with. I wanted something with a better name, for Christ’s sake! There’s no Flash, and the only reason for that is that Steve Jobs is extremely pissy and stubborn. Yes, Mr. Jobs. That one Mac that the Megaphone editors use that always break? Yeah, that thing freezes up whenever Safari is open to any page, Flash or not.
However, as time passed, I realized that Apple is simply an opportunist, a scavenger of sorts. During the presentation of the iPad, Jobs announced that Apple was trying to make something in between an iPhone/iPod Touch and the MacBook. However, believe it or not, the Apple tablet is not by a long shot the first tablet. In fact, tablet computing was spearheaded by Microsoft way back in 2001.
One thing that Apple excels at is taking an existing, dying industry and rejuvinating them. For some reason, the presence of Apple in a marketplace calls attention to not only Microsoft, but also the attention of open source enthusiasts. There were MP3 players before the iPod. There were all-in-ones before the iMac. And there were definitely phones before the iPhone. In the iPod/iPhone case, it was definitely a software issue. The software of MP3 players and smart phones before the iPhone was clunky, confusing and even worse, downright user-unfriendly. Apple, which is a god when it comes to user design, comes along, make things better, which brings about other competition. Competition is a good thing, especially in the computer business – it brings about innovation. In fact, if it wasn’t for the iPhone, smart phones would still only be used by corporate businessmen and not whizkid college students. If it wasn’t for the iPod, MP3 players would still be confusing little sticks that only offered 256 MB of storage and relied on a 16-character black and white LCD screen.
Once again, with the iPad, Apple is rejuvenating the barely alive tablet industry. Here’s the problem however – now they are competing directly with PC manufacturers hardware wise (Dell, HP, Lenovo and Fujitsu mainly), and Microsoft on the software-wise. They are also competing against Amazon and Barnes & Noble for some reason. Who in their right minds would read a book on an LCD screen anyways? Screw the fact that the iBook app is pretty. It’s still a pain to spend a long period of time reading on an LCD screen. That’s why electronic text books have not been as popular as they should be!
Here’s the biggest thing – for the cost of today’s tablet or convertible laptop (i.e. a laptop that can easily turn into a tablet), you get the tablet, an operating system that mostly everyone knows how to use and is comfortable with, a camera, the ability to multitask AND a DVD drive (or even a Blu-Ray drive!). You also get Flash support! Because it’s (usually) Windows, you can run much more the number of applications in the Apple App Store. Of course, not half of them are fart machine applications. You do, however, have to do some research to make sure you’re not downloading malware, though.
The biggest thing is multitasking. As of iPhone OS 3.5.3, there is no multitasking (the ability to run more than one program at once) or backgrounding ( the ability to run more than one program at once, but they are not displayed to you) are not present, and any attempt to circumvent this will result in your app being banned in Apple’s App Store. Only Apple apps can have backgrounding, and they do it in varying ways. Having a single-tasking operating system on a phone or an MP3 player is okay – it is not okay in something that is trying to be full fledged computer.
This wouldn’t normally be a problem. It’s okay to write the iPad off as “baby’s first computer.” However, there are people are trying to replace their work PC or laptop with the iPad. Here’s the problems with this – your Mac or PC will not have all the applications available on a iPad. Second of all, your computer is surprisingly upgradeable. You can change out the battery on laptops or change the RAM. On desktops, you can pretty much swap out the internals of one system to another. Anyone can work on a laptop or a desktop. My guess that if your iPad breaks somehow, you’ll have to send in to Apple. Which is bad for you, as you’ll probably have to pay somewhat. Computers, including existing Macs, you can at least teach yourself to fix, at a much lower cost than Geek Squad will be happy to bill you.
There is no reason at all for a consumer to replace their laptop with an iPad or even buy an iPad to supplement their computer fleet. There’s a reason to have a phone, a reason to have an MP3 player and even a reason to have a computer. There’s no reason to have an overpriced product with such a limited feature set.
My current laptop is an Asus EeePC 1005PEB that I bought at Best Buy for $320. It has 10 hours of battery life. I run all the programs I need on it – Microsoft Office, Google Chrome, Visual Studio 2008 and even SimTower! I can even run Windows Movie Maker, Skype, and a bevy of other applications. I can even go to websites that serve Flash content and even websites that have Silverlight content. Oh, and I can even read books, thanks to Kindle for PC. Sure, I may not always be connected onto the Internet, but I usually use my laptop where WiFi is present anyways. Do I really need to be on the internet when I’m on a country farm? Or out in the middle of nature?
Even then, the cheapest iPad is $499, and just like me, you’re only on the internet if you get a WiFi connection. And guess what? You’re paying $180 extra for a slower processor and an inferior (no multitasking, no camera support, less applications) OS. Good consumer choice. The only thing that will make it better is if Apple comes out to release an updated iPhone OS with multitasking capability – then maybe, just maybe, it’ll be a wise choice.
To be honest though, the iPad will be successful, because it has Apple’s name on it. However, I do believe that one market that the iPad will succeed in is in the education market. Schools were waiting for something like this to come along. Something that students can carry around instead of an expensive book bag, take notes, and if they really wanted to, sneak a game of Bejeweled in. But still, my point remains: There is no point for a real consumer to buy this, unless they want to show how much money they make. Let the schools buy it, save your own damn money, for heaven’s sake.