Thursday, 28 January 2010

Game Changer? Really? Come on!

Yes, it's the iPad. It does look sort of nice. I'll give you that. It's just about the right size, offers just about the right storage. It certainly offers pretty much all connectivity options you may want (but no mouse!). Oh, and it is very pricey. But game changing? Give me a break!

It offers nothing really new. Wait. Let me rephrase that. It offers nothing new. At all. Nada. Zilch. Operating system - essentially an
iPhone or iPod Touch, and that also means no multitasking. Form factor - already available from others, and anyway an idea that no other than Apple themselves pioneered (sans St Steve even). Application and book stores - been there, done that.

See? Absolutely nothing new. But I'll give you this does not necessarily mean it's not a game changer. Is it then? Is it really?

I don't think so, and here's why...

The game has changed already. We are already in a world where a device just like iPad is inevitable. To be a game changer iPad would have to make everyone sit up and say: Ah! What a great idea! Why nobody thought of it before? But in iPad's case they have, and it's been done, too. Yes, it may not have been done so well in terms of design or integration into already successful ecosystem (
iTunes, I'm looking at you). But that's not game changing. That's leveraging success, fanatical user base, and the best design department tech world has ever seen.

I'm not even sure that many people need one, really. Especially with that price tag. Reading a newspaper on the sofa? Not one that weighs 700 grams and can't be allowed do slip down on the floor when you doze off (it cost you a fortune!). Reading a book? Yes, we're used to books being weightier. We may also be more engrossed, and the bed is a much safer environment for dropping stuff. Listen to the music on an iPad? Not me. Not with a cable sticking out of the top, distractingly (note to Apple: pocket devices - earphones on top, handhelds - bottom; now repeat after me...).

Oh, and as a handheld text entry device (you do want to reply to your e-mails, don't you?) it is likely not that good. On-screen keyboard is nice and large, but you only have one hand to peck at it. Unless you put your iPad down somewhere, and for that you have to be sitting down (I also wonder if it will rock on that rounded back when you hit the keys on the side). On a smaller handheld you can at least use a thumb of the holding hand, and keys are closer. I think iPad will be quite useless for text entry if not docked (that' more dosh, thank you very much).

Which brings us nicely to the issue of one-handed use. Even if most publicity photos show iPad being held in one hand, try holding a 700 gram slate in one hand for a while. You'd either have to swap hands, or try and support it from the bottom. Lying down or slouching you can rest it on you chest or lap. But there's that 700 grams weighing into you again. A portable, handheld media consumption device has to be comfortable to use being held in one hand for prolonged periods. If it also invites you to type in something every now and then, that has to be comfortable, too. I don't think iPad gives you that.

Another thing iPad does not give you is battery life. Ten hours of average use. Not good enough. I don't care about stand-by time (apparently three weeks - so what). I want tit to last through a day's travelling without letting out a ghost. And I don't even mean long haul. Just a bog standard 2-3 hour flight. Which includes an hour's drive to the airport, at least two hours for check-in and security, the flight itself, waiting for luggage, passport control, and an hour's drive to your destination. Easily 10 hours London to Stockholm, say. And that's without any delays. Now think London-Auckland. And you can't swap the battery either! Come on! Essentially, iPad is a home device (would you brandish such an expensive and desirable piece of kit ion the Tube?). And as such you probably don't need it.

Can it be fixed? Sure. Make the battery replaceable
and make it last at least a full day (that's 24 hours). Make it lighter, well below 450 grams. Make it multitaks. Do something about text entry (hey, I'm not a design guru!). Make it much cheaper. Move the headphones jack to the bottom. That should just about do it. In the meantime, don't give me that "game changing" schtick. Really. Just don't.

PS
No, I'm not getting one, but yes, eventually, I will be getting one - like that. It most likely will not be made by Apple.

PPS
Typed on my
Nokia N900 whilst commuting to work, 25 minutes on the train, 15 minutes on a bus, while chatting, e-mailing, and listening to music. In a word, multitasking. That's doing more than one thing without the need to close one to be able to use the other. Oh, and I used real keyboard, too.

Oh, I know N900 is not competing with an iPad, but for me it does everything iPad can (including reading books), but it's pocketable, can be used with just one hand, battery lasts at least as long and is replaceable.

Did I mention it's also a phone?