Ipad: The Dream of the Netbook Realized

Dawn and I are ubiquitous computer users: our laptops are always sitting along the periphery of our lives.  They come out too look up a quick reference, or to read the days news.  We download our baby pictures on them and share those pictures with family through them.  We do our work on them and we relax on them.  They come into the kitchen with us when we need a quick recipe reference.  It goes without saying that we watch video and listen to music on them as well.

The problem, and honestly this wasn’t much of a problem until now, is that they are rather bulky.

The netbook was supposed to be the solution to the bulkiness of a “full sized” laptop.  Early adds for the EEE series of laptops featured a rather unrealistic image of a woman sitting on a beach, computing her heart out on the toy-like EEE.  But as we’ve seen the netbook evolve from a tiny keyboard, tiny screen computer to a more or less full sized but underpowered laptop.  This evolution speaks to the problem of netbooks:  A tiny form factor and tiny screen don’t mean much if the way you use them is the same as on a full sized computer.  The squinting and key-hunting become more a burden quickly.

The potential of the iPad is that it takes the small-form factor and makes it true.  This is a device you will take to the beach, into the kitchen and undoubtedly into the bathroom.  Gestures and quick magnification will make using it second nature, and unlike Microsoft’s ultimately failed Tablet PC, the fact that the machine’s operating system was built from the ground up with this form factor in mind will mean that this time it will work.  The stripped down feature set and relatively powerful processor mean that not only can we watch high quality video but we’ll likely be able to edit it to some degree as well.  The same goes for music.

The funny thing is that I thought that all of this was what made the iPhone special, but it was not enough to take the laptop out of the equation, and the reason was that the iPhone is simply too small.

Low impact lifestyle computing is what the Netbook promised; its what the iPad will actually deliver.

Apple’s Tablet Letdown

Yeah, iPad is a bad name.  I thought Canvas had a nice ring to it.

As a gaming device, it is simply nothing special, as by all accounts it is a giant iPod Touch, the only thing you get as a gamer is a larger screen and in most cases, blown up graphics rather than improved graphics.  The problem of iPod gaming is there is no tactile interface beyond holding the device and sliding your fingers across the screen, the iPad does nothing to resolve it.  This isn’t to say gaming on it won’t be fun, but at $500 minimum you’re better off staying with an iPod touch, or your other sub-$200 portable gaming device.

Beyond gaming, a bigger screen is nice for reading, but not as good as e-ink.  Nice for movies and television and podcasts, but not widescreen?  Functionally, there are almost no differentiating features between it and Apple’s iPad-nanos.  Where are the rumored two camera’s for video chat?  Where is the facial recognition for passing the device around the room?  No mention of medical use when that is the only functional market for tablet computing?

Granted, this is a first generation Apple device and one need only look at the iPhone to see what can happen in a single software (or hardware) generation, but the iPad has a long way to go.

Jamie’s got some excellent points (especially regarding how it is a closed platform) here.