I’m an Apple fan and self-admitted power user/rationalizing Apple-aholic, but it took the iPhone development a full two years of maturity (in both hardware and OS design) to make me a buyer. It appears the iPad is taking a similar path. I would expect more innovation in the software on its release, building on nearly 3 years’ knowledge base following the initial release of the iPhone, but even in its current state (an iPod Touch with a larger physical form factor) with little change to the software, the device could prove useful in a number of niche applications.
Perhaps its original target as a high-end “Kindle killer” with multimedia capability holds sufficient promise to launch the product. In this limited view, there is at least an existing e-reader market, though the iPad is far outside the current market in terms of pricing. By comparison, the iPhone was not a BlackBerry killer when it first launched, and Steve Jobs clearly stated it was not trying to compete in this arena (implying–yet). While sorely lacking in basic smartphone (and even some basic plain-phone) utility at the time, the iPhone was revolutionary as a portable gaming and media device. As such, it flew out the door to the tune of millions of units worldwide.
As an oversized iPod Touch, the iPad is actually better suited than its smaller brother for a number of potential uses: ideal car-computer for telematics and entertainment as a center console and back-of-headrest display, interactive home theater/control remote, countless commercial and industrial custom applications, etc. What surprises me most about the specs of the device is the oversight of the hardware/industrial design which compromises the expansion of use as applications follow on its release. This is particularly surprising since Apple usually nails this aspect and is often regarded, even among its critics, as creating beautifully elegant and minimalistic though functional hardware. Maybe Apple excluded its normal set of “out of the box” thinkers when defining interfaces and constraints at its early high-level design meetings on this one.
The profile of the iPad (i.e. hardware interfaces on the side) should resemble something more like a cross between a MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro. By its form factor, it is unusable as a standard handset or hip-holstered device. It certainly could function as a VOIP softphone, but only utilized as a speakerphone or with a Bluetooth headset. Ergo, the quick-flip mute switch and volume buttons are not needed as they are on the iPhone or iPod Touch. Rather, a simple menu-bar-tap could bring up mute or volume controls.
Similarly, the standard 30-pin docking connector with external SD card adapter makes no sense on the iPad. The tablet should follow more of the MacBook Air philosophy, where external cables and hardwired peripherals are judiciously scorned and eliminated from the device. Besides, with only one 30-pin connector, the full-sized physical keyboard accessory may only dock in portrait mode. What if one wants to type in landscape mode? Fortunately, it sounds like Apple will finally support the bluetooth HID profile to allow for a physically non-tethered keyboard and subsequently allow for use in landscape mode.
Hardware interfaces which would be useful yet are not presently incorporated include:
- Mag safe power connector
- Mini Display port (allowing for DVI as well VGA output; why only include analog video outputs, especially for such a pricey toy?)
- SD card slot (which the iPhone/iPod Touch should also include)
- Integrated camera on front surface (for video chat), similar to all MacBooks
Further, a device which may function as a crossover between an iPod Touch and a laptop must have a multi-threaded OS and a minimum of a 128 GB SSD as an option (matching what’s available with the MacBook Air). The device has 7x the area of an iPod Touch and 15% greater thickness, so printed circuit board (PCB) real estate inside the device should not be a limiting factor for doubling the memory capacity of an iPod Touch at present.
This is clearly part of Apple’s long history of planned obsolescence to keep selling new units and support higher ASPs throughout the life cycle of the product. In six months, bump memory at the highest price point to 128 GB (read, install flash devices in currently unpopulated places on the PCB; simple BOM change and no redesign required). In another six months, add a front-facing camera, and consider rolling in the more sensible elements listed above (industrial/mechanical design change required). In a year after that, bump to 256 GB, spin the custom silicon for higher performance and/or a 20% improvement in battery life, and integrate a 4G modem. Maybe by 2012 they will get it right, at least for my money. For now, the utility of my iPhone matches (and exceeds) that of the iPad for all practical purposes, not to mention its portability.
In the meantime, Apple, please add the Week view for the calendar (as pictured in the iPad marketing photos) to iPhone v3.2 as it should have been in v1.0. Thanks!