or How Apple gave us everything we wanted, but we’re still bitching.
By: Thomas E. Gill
To begin with, I will say that I am an Apple user, and have been exclusively Mac since 2002, at least in my personal life. That being said, I have mixed emotions about the iPad. While it is true that it is for the most part what most people wanted, an Apple version of a PADD from Star Trek, but I still expected, and wanted, more.
The iPad is impressive in its marriage of form and function. The design seems to come directly out of the lab of Herman Zimmerman or Doug Drexler, but via Cupertino and Jonathan Ive. The screen looks vibrant and crisp, and the bezel appears to be just the right size to allow one to hold onto the device without activating the touch screen. The ability to use the device at any angle certainly makes it a bit more versatile than its smaller siblings, neither of which allows you to use the screen in the upside-down mode.
I however am not all that impressed with the OS. I was expecting something closer to full-blown OS X, not the iPhone OS. I had visions of playing SimCity 4: Deluxe on the tablet, or shooting Borg in Elite Forces, or maybe finally completing a raid in World of Warcraft. None of which is possible on this tablet. On the other hand, I have learned firsthand that desktop metaphor operating systems to no translate well to fingers, styluses, or gestures. The Tablet versions of Windows have been complete and total disasters and Windows Mobile has shown other companies how not to build a mobile operating system. While the iPhone OS is a somewhat logical choice, I feel that it hampers some of the power the iPad has, at least for the time being.
Other people will scream and yell because the iPad doesn’t support multi-tasking, I however will take a more rational stance. Yes, there is no multi-tasking as of now, unless you include the ability for alarms to appear in any app, the ability to listen to and control music in any app, the ability to receive e-mail regardless of what you are doing, the ability for push notifications to function, and the ability to stream music via Safari or any app that supports CoreAudio. So what people are really complaining about is the inability for them to kill the battery life of a primarily battery powered device, by running multiple applications at the same time that cannot easily be monitored through conventional means. I don’t find the lack of multi-tasking to be a deal breaker, because after almost 3 years with an iPhone EDGE, I have yet to see any need for it, aside from those functions listed above, all of which the iPad supports.
Still more people will cry because there is no Flash support. I would venture to guess that the most likely reason for that is that Apple chose not to share the iPad with most people until their announcement, mainly because when they have done it in the past, it is leaked out onto the Internet. Heck, they were very secretive this time around, and it was still everywhere. I would suspect that with the changes Apple had made in the SDK, most of which now allow for emulation or the execution of pre-compiled code (which is required for JAVA and Flash, and the change was made to allow a licensed Commadore64 Emulator onto the App Store), allows the door to be opened for Flash, and to a lesser extent JAVA. However, I don’ really see a need for Flash support. At present, there are few legitimate uses for Flash. One of which is video websites, most of which have or are planning Apps. Others are moving to HTML 5 which builds Flash-like video support into the building blocks of the browser, and will likely be included in the next revision of Safari. The next is games, and at present, there are very few Flash games that don’t have iPhone versions, and those that don’t can simply be exported via Flash Composer into an Apple Approved iPhone App. The other two real uses of Flash are for website design and advertising. Websites that rely on Flash are far behind the times. Any developer worth their salt abandoned Flash based designs years ago. Today most websites rely on CSS, and those that don’t are in the process of changing. Advertising that relies on Flash, bog down computers and are rarely of any value. I for one am glad that I don’t have to be subjected to them while browsing the Web. I don’t feel that the lack of Flash support is the stumbling block that many have painted it to be.
Considering the current trend of Apple putting a camera in the bezel of their computers, I was really surprised to not see one on the iPad. However, considering that the iPad could be used from any angle, it would make the placement of such a camera weird. I’m not all the concerned though, as some resourceful developer will create an attachment that will give you a camera for video chat, that you can place anywhere. Some people also make comments about an outward facing camera, and I have to ask, “Why?” Why would you use a device the size of a book to take a picture, when you likely have a camera or camera phone with better quality?
There is also some confusion regarding the relationship between the iPad and at&t. Experts and consumers alike continue to say that “The iPad is locked to at&t”. This is a bald-faced lie. There are two models of iPad… One is Wi-Fi only the other has GSM 3G (UTMS/HSPA) and Wi-Fi. The former has no contract, and if you own an iPhone, Blackberry, live in urban Wi-Fi Zones, or plan to use it at home, in the office, or coffee shop, then that is all you need. The latter, is an unlocked device, in which at&t made a special deal for data. There is no contract to use the data plan, and you are not required to even have it. If T-Mobile decides they want to support the microSIM that the iPad uses (which it likely will due to T-Mobile Germany likely supporting it like the iPhone), then you are fine. The only drawback is that because T-Mobile USA is the only GSM provider in the world who uses the 1700Mhz frequency for their 3G, you would be stuck on EDGE (the opposite is true of the Nexus One GSM, which while unlocked, won’t work on at&t’s 3G network). Now people will bitch because they can’t use the iPad on Verizon Wireless or Sprint, but in reality it is the fault of those companies for using the non-standard and inferior CDMA/EV-DO network. Apple does not want to have multiple versions of the same product that are not virtually interchangeable, so supporting a network that is basically in the US and Canada only doesn’t make much business sense. Perhaps when Verizon Wireless launches their LTE network (GSM 4G) then we will see iPhones and iPads available on that network, but definitely not before.
In all honesty, the real problem I have with the iPad is the form factor. I was expecting something a little longer, something closer to 16:9 or 16:10 instead of the 4:3 we got. I also think the resolution could be higher, that way it could support the viewing of 1080p content. I would have liked to see the iPad have Stereo Speakers and multiple headphone jacks, for easy sharing or for more comfortable placement. I would have been nice to have USB or an SDHC/SDXC slot on the iPad, but because the new SDK opens the dock connector for developers use, I don’t think it will be much of a problem. I would also hope that since the iPad had Bluetooth, and I have a Bluetooth keyboard that I would be able to use the two together at some point instead of having to purchase an iPad Dock/Keyboard combination.
All-in-all, I think the iPad is a step in the right direction. It has most of the features I would want in such a device, and if I had the money, I would likely invest in the Wi-Fi version, but right now I can’t justify the purchase. Perhaps as the OS matures and more applications are built that take advantage of the design, then I could justify it. For now, I’ll be happy with playing with it at the Apple Store, or wherever it becomes a ubiquitous product, and I’ll continue to hope that someone will design a LCARS interface for it so I can live the dream of being Geordi LaForge.