Well, it finally happened. After all the hype over the last few months, Apple finally announced the device that has been touted as a game changer; the savior of print; the e-reader to end all e-readers; the iPad. Yeah.
What’s so revolutionary about it? Nothing that I’ve been able to see so far. What I see is an overgrown iPod Touch. It will probably be a good media player. There’s no doubt Apple does those well. But by giving their new tablet the iPhone OS, they’re also giving it all the limitations of that OS, namely the lack of Flash and no multitasking. Adobe has announced it’s working on a version of Flash for the iPad, but will it be full Flash that’s needed for real web surfing, or the very limiting version the iPhone/iPod Touch has that only allows certain files to be played on the device? How about not having any USB ports or SD card slots, both standards in the computer industry? This severely limits what users can put on the device. Most of it will have to come through Apple and it’s Apps store. And the biggest limitation of all? AT&T. With the wireless company already stretched to it’s limits with the iPhone/iPod Touch, can they really handle ANOTHER Apple device? I have my doubts.
Then there’s the e-Reader. Many pundits thought that this tablet was going to be an e-book reader that would revolutionize the industry and give publishing the shot in the arm it so desperately needs to survive. Again, I don’t see anything new here. The only advantage the iPad has over other e-Readers at the moment is a color screen, which you can get with any net book, which is cheaper and much less limited. Of course, there’s also the iBooks store, the iTunes store for books. Apple has made deals with five publishers to have books available, but do you really think those deals are going to be in the user’s interest? Publishers have been griping about the pricing that Amazon has been forcing them into. The only reason to go to Apple is to be able to get more flexible pricing, which will be higher than Amazon. Publishers don’t believe that digital books should be cheaper than the print versions. As long as they keep this attitude they will never truly succeed in the digital world. Publishing needs to learn the lessons the Movie and Music industry learned over the last 10 years. Let go of the old model and embrace the new.
The only good thing to come out of Apple’s announcement is the hype that built up around it got PC makers working on their own tablet devices. CES, which happened 2 weeks before Apple’s event, was filled with tablets and e-Readers. One device that got a lot of attention is Lenovo’s Ideapad U1, which is a netbook whose screen can be popped out to become a tablet. It won the Best in Show award at CES. It has a touch screen, accelerometer, and e-book app. It’s priced higher, at close to $1000, but it’s also two PCs in one. The other device that garnished a lot of attention is the enTourage eDGe. This is a dual screen device, with an e-ink reader on one side, and a LCD color screen on the other. The two sides interact fluidly. Pictures from the e-reader side can be brought over to color, LCD side. It’s priced about the same as the Kindle DX at $480, and yet does so much more. These two devices are much more interesting and innovative than the iPad, which is a re-hash of technology already available, just super-sized. Really, do we need more fart apps, just on a bigger screen?
Why settle for the “same old, same old”, when there are so many more new and exciting things waiting on the horizon? The iPad is the closest compromise that Apple will make for a net book and yet it still doesn’t make it. Don’t settle for compromise where there is real innovation going on from companies with open platforms that aren’t out to restrict and control their users, but actually serve them.