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

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)

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4 Responses to “Do I want an iPad? (Yes). Do I need one? (no)”

  1. I agree with your title and many of your points (that Panasonic G1 would be great). I would however like to add a few points though. There is currently no killer use for this. Quite a few people have smart phones/ netbooks/ laptop which performs all the functions this can, perhaps not as pretty but also prob doesn’t warrant buying another device. However if Apple can get it’s act together and get on board the newspapers, magazines, comics and periodicals then I think there will be a lot more people interested, not everyone, but enough for folk to give it a second glance.
    The second point is that just because it’s not necessary doesn’t mean it’s not worth buying. There was a time when I didn’t have a microwave and, hey, my food still got cooked, and if mine broke tomorrow I would get by, but it sure is useful. Ditto with the dishwasher. Sure, if I wanted to check something on line I could fire up the laptop and check it but wouldn’t it be handy to have an always ready coffee table device to use. An all in one travel entertainment device for the kids but, hey it could also check email, webpages, be minimal productive for the adults, as well as possible GPS.
    At this price point, I am seriously considering buying one for my mum, she complains I never send her photos of the kids and contact her. Getting her a computer and explaining windows/mac os x would be a nightmare. This, however, is a possibility, at worst it’s an excellent digital photo frame, but I could easily email her or even venture Facebook with this device, heck with PAYG 3G she doesn’t even need broadband! £500 not cheap but she’s much more likely to use it than a laptop / netbook / smart phone. No doubt with time she will discover other apps. I think this device (not a computer but a device) is ripe for this market as well.
    Sorry if this is an overlong reply. I will get one, perhaps not yet, perhaps I might hold out for the second gen, but I will get one……. 🙂

    • I never said that something wasn’t worth getting just because it wasn’t essential. I have lots of luxuries 🙂 It’s a question of balancing the price vs features/convenience and additionally comparing with what else you might get instead. As I said, it’s cool, and I would love one. If someone gave me one as a present I wouldn’t complain. However, first thing is when it comes here it won’t be a direct currency conversion of the US price. We always get shafted so it will be about 10-20% more. That makes it pretty pricey especially if you want the 3G version, and if you don’t get that you are limited to use in the house, unless you hang around airports and McDonalds/Starbucks. So how much are you willing to pay for a snazzier way to do the same things you already can do? And what would you rather spend the money on?

      As I said in a tweet I might consider one if it was a direct price conversion i.e. about £400. However it’s still a bit much for me at that price. £300 I probably would get one and anything less would be a certainty.

    • PS I am willing to bet that if your dishwasher broke you would get it fixed or replace it within a month, not “get by” 🙂

  2. […] on with the iPad A while back, I blogged my initial thoughts on the unveiling of the iPad. I thought it was a neat piece of kit, but I couldn’t really see […]

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