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Apple underwhelms after tablet hype-fest: iPad needs to become more than a “big iPhone”

by David Mercer | Jan 28, 2010

Apple cynics seem to have taken the initiative following the announcement of Apple’s iPad internet tablet. I tend to shy away from anything as hyped as this product has been. Surely the most hyped Apple device ever... And for that reason alone I am feeling underwhelmed. Is the iPad really what this was all building up to? Let's think about the applications: Books - ok, I get this. if you want e-books this seems like a reasonable way to carry and read them. A nice way to read newspapers as well – I’m not sure the publishers will make money from it though. Web browsing and applications - I suppose the brower must work well. This is definitely the primary set of apps in my view. Consumers need an easy and fast way to get to websites quickly when they’re at home and don’t want to boot up the laptop. Music - ok, but who would rather listen to their music through a 1.5 pound portable device with (presumably) tinny speakers rather than either a) a small iPhone/Pod plus headphones, or b) plus docking device? Photos - yes of course – iPad could be a very nice digital photo frame. Games - could eventually become a killer app but control and input functions will need to be adapted to a larger screen device and iPhone app developers need to get to work to match the screen's HD resolution. Productivity applications - I'm struggling here. is this really how the iPad is going to get used? The virtual keyboard may be good, although early reports are not promising. But think about how are people going to hold or rest this device: sitting down in a chair - it would have to rest on the flat table, so you are leaning over it to use it properly. Sitting in an armchair - so it's on your lap, but again you have trouble positioning the screen at the right angle; or standing, so you hold it resting in one arm and only have one arm free to touch the screen. Or you use a stand and add-on keyboard, and it becomes... a laptop! OK, maybe the iPad could be used occasionally for productivity applications, but I just don't see this device as a breakthrough for work-based devices. and finally... Video. Video playback is reported as stunning - I can believe this. But where are the extra video content applications or TV deals? The specialised video apps like TV-transfer? No HDMI for TV connection? Apple seems to be struggling more than ever to break into the home video market in a big way. And no multi-tasking… this is crazy. I can't play music while I surf?! Form factor: maybe I was expecting too much from Apple, but really the iPad is hardly a revelation. Have they done what we expected? ie take all previous tablet-type implementations, improved on them and added innovative style and usability and content integration to create a unique package? I don't see this from what I've read and seen. And it's too heavy to be held in one hand, much heavier than some e-readers. Wireless: So the key question - how often would this device be used in truly mobile situations, and of those situations, how often would a user need to have cellular data service? The cellular service can be bought ad hoc - and I think it will be primarily. Not much new recurring revenue for carriers there then... The iPad is surely primarily a “free data” wifi device. It doesn’t need always-on connectivity for messages and voice - I'm always going to carry a phone for those. I can get online for websites and apps via hotspots when needed, and primarily use my home broadband to load it up with content. Having said all this, of course the lower than expected price points mean they will sell millions to Apple fans who won't blink at spending another $500 on the latest Jobs gizmo. (And did anyone at Apple really not investigate the unfortunate connotations of the device name for the female market? - one wonders if Jobs has really lost his touch.) Client Reading: Consumer Imperatives for Digital TV Media Browsers Add to Technorati Favorites
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