So the iPad is Almost Here… Now What?
Interesting developments in the land of “tablets” and “netbooks”. It isn’t really my area of primary interest but because I like following Apple’s product direction I follow the news. First, there’s this article from the day after the keynote, in which Andy Ihnatko goes into great detail with his iPad experience. I like that he took the time to actually use the device rather than rushing to get a story out and cutting short his time to experience the device. I’ll note that most of the journalists who stayed and laid hands on it actually had a more positive impression than those that didn’t. That’s surprising (usually expectations meeting reality is a set up for disappointment). And it says something about Apple’s attention to detail. Some of the comments that jumped out from Andy’s review were that it “felt right”. The “rightness” of products is something Apple has really been excelling at in the last few years. Another was his commentary on its speed – that it actually feels like you are moving something – not just gesturing and waiting for the phone to move it – a much more complete experience, if you will. The implications for the iPhone are that Apple may be able to squeeze its A4 (or similar) design into an iPhone and offer this kind of speed in the smaller form factor. I think there’s limited runway for SPEED to differentiate with phones – and we’ll hit those diminishing returns faster than the 20 years or so it took with PCs – but right now there’s a lot of room for improvement over my iPhone 3G, and it sounds like Apple has a chance to do that – and still preserve battery life. That’s impressive. The truly impressive thing Apple did was leverage the App Store to make the iPad instantly relevant instead of making it a platform in search of applications and utility. The Kindle and other single-purposes devices suddenly pale in comparison. Also, regarding the most oft-reported shortcoming (no Flash support):
Months ago, I installed a browser plugin for Safari called “ClickToFlash.” It blocks all Flash content. You’ll see a placeholder image in the webpage and if you want to view the content, give it a click and it’ll load in. I have not noticed any drop in my ability to enjoy the Web. What I have noticed is that my browser is faster and more responsive, and that I can leave a couple of dozen tabs and windows up for weeks without having to force-restart my Mac.
Interestingly, I do this as well, and it doesn’t diminish my experience one bit – in fact it enhances it. Granted, I do like the option of turning on flash for, say, streaming stock quotes. But HTML5 can handle that level of animation and is “more standard” than Flash… I think Apple has done the smart thing here by protecting their platform and brand image, and putting pressure on Adobe to step up and make Flash a better product, or get out of the way and make way for HTML 5. Next, the North Temple blog has an interesting post: On iPads, Grandmas and GameChanging, but I would have called it, so a Grandma, a Technophobe, and a Luddite meet in a bar… The short point here: people he never expected to be interested in a computing device are interested in the iPad. I had a similar experience when my parents told me they were “buying each other iPhones for Christmas.” And then they asked me if they should get the 3G or 3GS… seriously? I was tempted to tell them 3G just so they wouldn’t leap frog me technologically. Then, I find out they’re Netflix subscribers. When my parents start buying something technical – it is going to be big – because they are NOT early adopters anymore by any stretch. But they are influencers. My dad proudly tells of all the guys at the golf club who now have gone out and gotten iPhones to keep up. And hey, they like the big numbers on the phone. On a surprising, but I think intelligent response to the advent of the iPad, Acer says it will not release a competing device per se. I think it is refreshing that Acer is sticking to what it does best. Honestly, I think this is what RIM should do – make the keyboard experience better and better, rather than try to be a touchscreen phone company. Acer understands that if they make a tablet it will lack the advantages of Apple’s iPad, but it will have all the same disadvantages. So they’re punting (for now). Smart move, in my opinion. Many pundits surmise that Apple won’t have a 2 year lead this time… but I think they will have at least 1 year before a competing system (an Android tablet?) will come along that can leverage apps (android apps?) that even come close to putting it in the same league. And Apple is also adding pressure by having what looks to be better performance that will be tricky to match in the short-term. The key points from Lin of Acer:
Lin pointed out that designing an iPad-like device would not pose any technical challenges for Acer, but said such a product does not fit into Acer’s business model. Apple is able to support the iPad through its iTunes ecosystem, while few other makers, including Acer, have comparable experience in operating an online store, Lin noted.
Astute analysis. Now, StevenF argues that the iPad is a signal of the New World, versus the Old World. Gen X being smack in the middle of old world computing, and the New World being targeted at those both older and younger than Gen X. I’m not a big fan of generational themes like Gen X, but he has a point. If computers in the future will “just work” and reduce the expertise required to use them, they become accessible to more people, and become more important to our society. I’m constantly trying to get people (rather, the people who ask me IT questions) to switch to Macs because the number of IT-related issues is so much less (as judged by how often they ask me for help). But an iPhone? I never get questions about how to get some driver installed or printer to work with it… ! I especially enjoyed reading how stevenf railed against the iPhone’s closed system at first -but a month later came back and used it full time. Because it is just a better phone / smartphone experience, and the open/closed argument doesn’t really matter outside of technophiles like me. And even I can see that it shouldn’t matter to 99% of the world’s population. When it is your phone, or your car, you just want it to work. Period. No BSOD. No crashing. To that end, foursquare can you please fix your app? It crashes more than any other 3 apps I use combined. So how are things going elsewhere in smartphone land? Jay Yarrow of the Insider says that the Google Android app store is a joke… You don’t often hear Google described as “sloppy”. The fact that Android developers feel they can make more money on the Apple App Store is not a good sign for Google/Android. And it is an indication that doing this stuff right is harder than many of us assumed. From Skyhook Wireless:
In December, wireless firm Skyhook Wireless produced a report about developer frustration with Android. Skyhook interviewed 30 mobile application developers and concluded, “developers are not generating real revenue via Android apps.” As a result “developers are becoming hesitant to invest more time and effort into apps that do not pay off.”
Ouch. Finally, some would argue that the iPad is a sign of the third revolution… I’m looking forward to laying hands on the iPad. But more than that, I’m looking forward to iPhone 4.0 – I want to see if it is worth upgrading!