Perceiving myself as a non Apple fanboy, and a tech-loving neutral, I’ve tried to hold off entering into the iPad debate, but much of the venom directed at Apple and its latest incredible device is so ill-conceived that I can’t help weighing in with my point of view. So here are a few thoughts:
1. iPad versus other tablets/slates (or Apple win)
It would be idiotic to suggest that the iPad is the be all and end all of tablet devices. Technology moves on and at some point somebody will develop a better device than the iPad (it may even be Apple themselves). But for now the iPad is hands-down the best tablet device and will stay so for a long time (minimum 18-24 months). Why? Partly the OS, partly Apple’s superb application of multi-touch, and partly Apple’s unerring commitment to user experience over technology for technology’s sake. HP’s slates will be ponderous, heavier, less pleasant to use. Windows 7 is not a multi-touch, tablet OS. The JooJoo is doo-doo. Android/Google Chrome tablets will not come close (in the short term, and possibly ever) to creating a user-experience that will match the iPad, which leads me on to point 2.
2. The point of the iPad is the user experience
Forget technology, forget flash, forget multi-tasking (though with OS 4 that’s now a non-issue pretty much), forget any debates in developer circles. The iPad is a consumer electronic product. It is revolutionary, because it takes the most common use-cases (video, web browsing, creating simple documents, email, gaming, etc) and hides the technology – it just works, and it works beautifully. That’s all the vast majority of consumers are interested in. And so far there’s hasn’t been a device that delivers such experiences in so compelling a manner as the iPad… and thus onto point 3.
3. Screen size and the everything, anywhere revolution
Here’s the biggie. Increasingly we all want to be connected, all the time, wherever we are. We want our media, our files, our social lives delivered to us regardless of our location. The iPad is the perfect device for those who want constant connectivity. The form factor is the reason why. True the Iphone offered a pleasant web browsing experience, but it wasn’t perfect. The screen size is the core reason. And don’t get me started on watching a movie on an Iphone. I’ve done it (many times), but it’s a far from perfect solution. Laptops are too heavy. Netbooks are OK, but see points 1 & 2 for why the iPad wins here. The iPad’s screen size defines its utility. It’s a size we’re comfortable and familiar with – it feels novel like, it gives a close to full field of vision viewing experience. There’s very little I can’t comfortably do within the limitations of it’s screen size. For some reason that hasn’t been the case with netbooks – probably lack of multi-touch and pinch to zoom, etc.
4. The best mobile OS and purpose built tech
This is also vitally important. No other device has had so much love poured into its operating system. Apple has understood that mobile devices create new behaviours and demand new operating systems and new user interfaces. If you’ve ever played with a google phone, watch how that processor drains the battery, see what a leach Flash is, see how multi-tasking is a power vampire, see what a crappy, confusing and inconsistent menu system apps employ. The iPhone and iPad OS on the other hand aim to resolve such problems. Does that come with some compromises, sure (eg can’t import fonts into Keynote application), but once again the over-arching experience is very compelling.
5. The ‘it’s not a real computer’ argument.
Let’s just get over this. A tiny proportion of the population needs all the computing power of a real computer. But if you do want to use the iPad as a real computer, you can. Simply install a VNC app and the Ipad becomes a window onto your home PC or Mac, letting you run applications, open documents, and heaven forbid open a browser and browse flash sites. For more details on how to access your entire computer from an iPad see here.
6. Is it too expensive?
No, but it is expensive. In the same way a BMW is expensive, or a good coffee machine costs that little bit more. But is it value for money? I’d say yes. For now, it’s almost the perfect marriage of form and function. As I said above, at some point it will be superseded, but for a while nothing gets close to the iPad experience – and that’s what commands a price premium.
7. Phone, netbook, laptop, desktop… why do I need a tablet?
This is a tough argument. The only answer is to hold the iPad in your hands, perhaps borrow one from a friend for a weekend (if you can prise it from their fingertips), and see how quickly it becomes your default device. My iPhone now seems puny, my netbook is in the cupboard, my laptop is now just my desktop, and my three year old girl refuses to play with her mother’s iTouch anymore – she simply says, “I want Daddy’s big phone.” Relegating other excellent devices to the sidelines is surely a triumph in this respect.
OK, that’s me almost done. In my view anybody who has a childlike fascination with the way technology is changing our lives, can’t possibly fail to appreciate how amazing the iPad is. It is like a vision of the future, here today. It is a triumph of invention. And most importantly it is a challenge to competitors. If the iPad forces others to make more compelling devices then excellent (I’d love to see Microsoft’s Courier become a reality), we’ll all be the better for it.
Comments as always appreciated, but please let’s try to avoid a flame war.