The Studio, a blog closely affiliated with all things shiny and tech-y, has been strangely silent on the impending approach of the allegedly game-changing and eminently touchable new toy from Apple, the iPad.
Maybe you noticed. Or not. Maybe you wondered why. Or not.
Sure enough, it is shiny and cool. It comes from the world’s, number one, tech-toy design company, Apple. I am, admittedly, a fairly well-devoted iPhone fan. So why the silence?
Truth is, I have been silent on the iPad because I have been thinking deeply about it. In order for me to shell out money like that for any type of gadgetry, I have to see a legitimate need that will be filled. Call me a frugal Yankee, but I can’t stomach dismissing hundreds of dollars out of my bank account for no viable reason other than to don an early adopter badge. I also have a fairly rigid rule: no purchasing Version 1.0 of anything – wait until Version 2.0, which hopefully has removed most kinks and installed the next wave of cool features.
As I said, I have been thinking. Wondering, in fact, whether the iPad really fills and important niche between laptop and iPhone for me. Fun is good, but there has to be utility for me to buy. I depend quite heavily on my iPhone and its 3G connection to compute while I am out and about. I also have a capable little netbook that can handle larger typing or more traditional computing tasks and isn’t too hard on my back. Finally, I have a big laptop that sits at home and provides me with a full-on desk-bound experience, sports extra screens, a large mic and a cute little Wacom Bamboo tablet for pen input.
Is there room for the iPad in this set-up? It helps to consider what the iPad is intended to offer. It is meant to serve as a souped-up, content consumption device. Like the iPhone, the iPad will let you access and download apps on the fly. Apps will be designed to take advantage of multi-touch and orientation adjustment, tricks that most eReaders and tablet computers may not be able to fully accommodate. Content, such as photos, eBooks, and documents, promise to show better on the iPad. There is no question that the visuals, particularly on the built-in apps, are vastly improved over the iPad’s diminutive cousin.
The iPad is to include iWork, a productivity suite aimed at encouraging more traditional computing tasks than one might voluntarily undertake on a phone. But the iPad is still hampered by that virtual keyboard, unless you shell out for the accessory. And, like the little guy, there is no multi-tasking, if that feature is important to you. Also, no camera. Do you care? I actually don’t, so much.
Bear in mind, the iPad battery is equally as unremovable as the iPhone battery. That has been a personal problem for me in the past. No GPS means no advanced mapping navigation. While I care some on the first point, I don’t really care much on the second.
And then there is this whole Flash thing. Initially considered a deadly failing, more and more companies are looking for ways around this limitation as the drop date approaches. Big players like the New York Times have switched to iPad-friendly HTML5, employing Brightcove’s platforms, which have been supporting HTML5 since 2008. It won’t take long for the majority of developers to employ means to end-run the Flash limitation. Probably less time than it took to get the App Store up, running and profitable.
But, again, why? Well, what if you stored all of your content in the cloud. Your images, your documents, your music, your videos. What if you could easily access that content via wi-fi or 3G at any time, on demand and from an always on machine with ten hours of battery life and a very readable screen? What if you could quickly pull and notate PDFs and send and receive them with ease? What if the machine was smaller and thinner than a legal pad? Sure it won’t fit in your pocket unless you are a kangaroo, but it definitely could fit a backpack or large purse.
Of course, the iPad’s utility will ultimately depends to a great degree on the premium you personally place on touching your content and viewing it up close and personal. The iPhone’s popularity definitely owes much to the tactile relationship between device and user. I imagine the iPad will take that relationship much further. The iPad promises to be an iPhone +++ relationship.
Perhaps, the iPad will push us all closer to digital content and turbo-boost us further into digital life. Perhaps the iPad is intended to virtually erase the device’s footprint in that equation. Maybe removing the barrier between content and user is what the iPad really is all about. I cannot comment personally on whether the iPad or some other touchscreen, tablet-like device is the one to push this change. But I can definitely see it coming. As an avid reader of content, a device scaled to dramatically improve my access and consumption can muscle a place in my arsenal.
Guess I answered my own question. As long as I depend upon on-line content for my work and enjoyment, the iPad may well fit a niche worth the price. More thoughts on this are certain to follow in the Studio, so stay tuned.
By the way, in a Twitter discussion yesterday, a few of us thought that perhaps iPad-related discussions should have their own hashtag. So we christened our tag #followtheipad. Feel free to use this tag and join the conversation with thoughts of your own on the supposed-game changer and confirmed news magnet!