Archive for January, 2010

Do I want an iPad? (Yes). Do I need one? (no)

Posted in technology with tags , on January 28, 2010 by bytor

Ok, the hype has passed, the keynote is done, Steve has spoken (enthusiastically) and we are suitably wowed (especially by the low entry level price point). But, also we are underwhelmed (it’s just a big iPhone dammit), and “best browsing experience ever”? – with no flash support? You must jest.

After some reflection here are my thoughts on the iPad.

It’s certainly a thing of beauty. Even without holding it in your hand, you can tell that from the dodgy streaming videos from the Yerba Buena Center, from the numerous photos swirling round the net, and from @stephenfry’s report on his blog. But that is what you expect from Apple and  Jonathan Ive. You would be gutted if Apple ever released an ugly device. It’s taken as granted, a new Apple device will be an objet d’art.

It looks fast, and the interface is pure iPhone OS so looks and works great. But what can I do with it? And especially what can I do with it that I can’t currently do, or need to do better? It looks like a nice eBook reader. Colour, so certainly nicer looking the the monochrome eInk Kindle-a-like devices that are becoming commonplace. But I still don’t like the fact that it’s a locked in device. And do I want to read books and magazines on a electronic tablet? I don’t commute long train/plane journeys so am I going to eRead in my own home? What’s the benefit? I would still rather have a collection of physical books on a real shelf, than a virtual equivalent. Maybe it would be nice to have the facility when going on holiday but that is infrequent, and I could do it on my iPhone (albeit not quite as nice because of the smaller form factor) or, hey I could just BUY A PAPERBACK at the airport.

Am I going to take this device out and about with me? Well aside from the fact that I am an antisocial recluse who rarely ventures into the open, probably not. I don’t carry a big man bag and I don’t want to start, just to lug around the iPad. I would be worried about breaking it or getting mugged or stabbed for it. I don’t often find myself on a 3 hour train journey desparate to make a Keynote presentation.

So, if this device (assuming I bought one), is mainly staying in my house, what can I do on it better than on a traditional laptop or other device? Surf the web? Sure it looks great. You can swish pages around pinch and swipe and see all the specially formatted NYT pages. Great. It looks nice, and feels cool to do. But is it a leap ahead from my laptop with Firefox or Chrome? No. And, there’s still no flash support. Like it or not, Apple, a lot of cool web pages are still built on flash and by not supporting it you do not have the best overall web browsing experience.

Games? I’m not a massive gamer, but I have a Wii and a DS Lite, and I like playing a few games on my iPhone if I am caught somewhere with a little time to kill. But I can’t see the iPad being such a killer device that I need to have it to play some touch screen or tilt sensitive games. It’s not a must-do, not for me anyway.

Office productivity? You must be joking. That iWorks stuff looked nice and had a good intuitive interface but really I don’t often do that stuff, and if I want to make a presentation or work on some spreadsheets, I already have a laptop and MS Office which works fine, thanks. It’s cool for those who must have an iPad that it can also do that stuff, but it’s not going to make me buy one.

Showing your photos to friends and family. OK, this is one use which it does really nicely. I would concede that the iPad is a “best of breed” device for this application. But…. it’s not a killer enough app that will make me buy it. I don’t need to show my photos often enough that it matters crucially to me if it is beaufully done on an iPad or just reasonably done on the TV screen or on my laptop.

One place to keep all your calendars, email and contacts. I already have that. It works quite well and is called the iPhone.

So, you see the iPad is beautiful, desirable and undeniably cool. I would like one, it would be a great toy and nice to show off with. But I don’t really need one. I almost wish the price was higher, then I would have a real easy time rationalising why I don’t need one. The lower the price the more difficult that becomes. But I can still think of several other luxury items that I would probably buy with a spare £500-600 or so before an iPad.

An iPhone 3G S for starters. Or maybe an iPhone 4 whenever that might appear. Or even a Nexus?? Certainly a nice D-SLR camera (or similar like a Panasonic Lumix G1 Micro Four Thirds camera). I’d probably go for a PS3 or maybe even a swanky PVR of some sort like a Freesat PVR/Blu-Ray combo. Or just a nice big flat telly. Yes, I’d definitely like one of those…

(I reserve the right to eat my words at a later date)