I will readily admit to being an Apple Fanboy. In this space I've extolled the virtues of the Jesusphone/bestphoneevar. I own two mac laptops, have never owned a PC, don't run windows on any machine, and sorta kinda laughed when Mead's Xbox 360 crapped out for the second time. I love Apple products. I used to have subscriptions to 2 different Macintosh based magazines. Fanboy. Love it.
And like most of the tech world, I waited with great anticipation for Apple to WOW me today. Presenting the iPad. Sorta like a bigger iPhone. Only without the phone part. So sorta like a big iPod Touch, only with optional 3G (on ATT). Yeah.
See the thing is, Apple is a real innovator in the industry. When they come out with something NEW, all other companies sorta shit themselves hoping they'll be able to catch up. When Apple decided to enter the phone business, they wanted to do it BETTER than any company could (see Motorola: RoKr). So the iPhone was not just a phone, and not just a smartphone (email+calendar+syncing) which had been around for a while. Nor was it an internet-enabled phone presenting "mobi-web 2.0" or some other Verizon bullshit. No it was the real internet. And that was the star of the device. Sure, it does syncing, email, calendars and calling (not in NYC) beautifully, but being able to really use the internet was great. Then came the App store and all of a sudden it was like carrying a computer in your pocket. Literally hundreds of thousands of apps were there for you to take advantage of and push your machine to the limit, and build it to your specs. GREAT. Much like the iPod, which wasn't the first mp3 player on the market, the iPhone came to a saturated market, and did it BETTER. Better integration. Better apps. Better. Stylishier.
So enter the iPad, possibly the most confusing product to come out of Cupertino since the Apple TV. Still waiting on that one to make sense. Anyways, as I sat there watching the liveblog of Steve Jobs's keynote, I kept wondering, "what's the HOOK?" My friends with whom I was chatting and texting were wondering the same thing. What's the "oh, and just ONE more thing"? What is the ONE thing that this machine will do better than ANYTHING else out there and make me NEED it.
The speech came and went. And I've got nothing. I guess it's ebooks? I mean, they created a whole ebook store for em, so maybe it's that? Or maybe it's surfing the internet without flash? Maybe it's using iPhone apps at double resolution? It's not the camera. Cuz there is none. It's not the keyboard, because early reports peg at as awkward on a table (since the back is not flat), and really only suited to in the lap typing. It's not the inter-connectivity, because you need a myriad of cables to hook it into other things. So what is the hook? WHY would I want this thing?
Apple thinks it's because I'll want to watch movies on it. The screen looks great. Unfortunately, it's basically a 4:3 aspect ratio, meaning high-def gets BIG BLACK LETTERBOXING.
Apple thinks it's because I'll want to read books on it. The little faux-book animations are cute. The text resizing and font changing options are great. And the "ibook" store (which may account for why Apple dropped the "ibook" in favor of "macbook" in their product line) may indeed be the iTunes store for books, and be an Amazon killer. But $500 bucks to start just for the opportunity to buy some 12 dollar ebooks?
Apple thinks it's because I'll want to play games on it. And sure, once the games aren't merely just ported but are actually designed to for the iPad, I'm sure they will be cool. But they'll still be sorta awkward, since there's no real joystick control. So the accelerometer-based games will still be fun, but the first-person shooters will still be a little buggy...
Apple thinks it's because I can run all of my iPhone/iPod apps on it. And sure, that's neat. Although blowing them up twice as big will look ugly.
Apple thinks it's because I will be able to word-process on it. But according to early reports, the thing has a curved back (like the iPhone 3G and 3GS, unlike the original iPhone), meaning it doesn't lay flat on a table. So if I were to type on it, I'd have to be sitting with it on my lap. Or laying in bed. Which is fine. But not exactly ergonomic.
Apple thinks it's because I'll want to hold the internet in my hands. See: iPhone. Because the browser is THE SAME as on my iPhone, it still suffers the same short-comings. Read: NO FLASH SUPPORT. While HTML-5 and h.264 video might replace the need for flash, the fact remains that most of the video I want to watch and ALL of the online games that I want to play are built in FLASH. So on a device that literally would be AWESOME for streaming video, there's no support. Unless someone develops a native application. Which hasn't happened yet for iPhone, so why would it for the iPad?
Apple thinks this is the bridge device that will finally solve the hole between smartphones and laptops. The trouble is, there's no phone functionality. There MAY be VOIP functionality at some point over the 3G, but as yet, you'll have to settle for Skype on Wifi. There's no real OS X present, so the kinds of apps you're allowed to use are limited to the App Store variety. And the way you use the iPad is limited too. File storage, and file-types supported, etc. And the fact that the thing doesn't have a USB port unless you buy a connector. Interesting approach.
I guess what I'm saying is, no matter how much Apple pushes this thing as a game-changer, it's really just something we've seen already. And while the iPhone really did change EVERYTHING, what we have here is basically just a bigger iPhone. With less functionality. I mean, really the only thing this thing does differently is it has a built in app to buy books. And it's got a faster processor/long battery life. As my friend, oh, let's call him Matt Marks said to me, "Didn't you always want an iPhone that was bigger and clunkier?" The thing is, no... I didn't.
The screen may look great. The reviews may come back and say, "It's amazing". But I have to be honest. My gut tells me that I don't need this. And that doesn't happen very much to me when I see a new piece of tech. Especially from Apple Computing, Inc. It just doesn't DO anything special that my iPhone doesn't already do. Shit, I can read e-books on my phone already. They may look BETTER on the iPad... but like, 500 bucks better? I'll buy the paperback.