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On the Apple iPad and its real shortcomings

with 24 comments

After reading most comments on our latest Weekend Open Forum I can’t help but feel that many are taking the wrong approach comparing the iPad directly to a netbook or laptop. Apple is trying to squeeze a new category into the market and has yet to prove why we need it. What I do know is that I don’t *need* a full-fledged computer in this form factor — that’s what my laptop is for.

I’m as disappointed as many of you by its hardware shortcomings — there’s no point in listing them again here — but its locked down nature didn’t surprise me at all. Apple likes to have control over what you’re allowed to run on its devices, supposedly to ensure a relatively bug-free experience, and while the more tech-savvy may despise this strategy, to some extent it has been responsible for the success of the iPhone.

Where I really fear the iPad might falter is in having a clear purpose. We’re told it is the best way to experience the web, e-mail, photos, videos and e-books. But I’m not convinced. Laptop and desktop computers, even netbooks are still better for many of those things, while on others the iPad will have to prove itself. Take browsing, for example. It’s ridiculous to call this device the best way to experience the Web when Flash, one of the most ubiquitous and essential web technologies, is not supported.

apple ipad 3g

I’ll admit that sifting through photos looks very cool on the iPad, but of course that will never be its key selling point — and let’s not forget you can’t even pop in an SD card if you want to view some photos you just took, at least not without buying an adapter. It’s the same with video. For now, the iPad seems like just another place for buying and watching TV shows and movies through the iTunes store.

And, well, I don’t want to write it off as a worthy competitor to the Kindle without so much as having tried either product, but from what I read Amazon’s device has many more things going for it: bigger library, better screen for reading over long periods of time, free worldwide 3G coverage (for buying books only), crazy battery life and a more affordable price tag.

Like Steve Jobs said, the iPad has to be better than the other devices at these kinds of tasks otherwise it has no reason to be. Unfortunately their tablet tries to do so many things that it might end up being best at none. It certainly seems like a cool gadget to have around the house or on short trips, if you don’t mind spending a few hundred bucks on something you will use occasionally, but I don’t see the mass appeal yet.

Maybe Apple saved a few surprises for the device launch; maybe they’ll just learn from their mistakes and deliver a much improved second-generation iPad a year from now. Who knows. However, for all its perceived flaws, the iPad does have one huge advantage that may determine its eventual success: a legion of developers ready to increase its appeal with countless games and apps, both free and paid, that could potentially fill some of the functionality voids Apple has seemingly left out.

Written by Jose Vilches

February 1st, 2010 at 6:14 am

Posted in apple,blog,hardware

24 Comments so far

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  1. useless piece of (costy) crap
    ^line above perfectly describes al features of the device


    1 Feb 10 at 6:56 am

  2. Indeed, what’s the whole deal into “movies, mail and web surfing”.

    First they kill the surfing with the no-flash, what in heavens name were they thinking?

    Second, a 1ghz proccesor to watch movies? Even on my N270 1,6ghz they lag at some point (And no 720 or 1080, don’t even think in getting there).

    The mail… could be used, it can even be read in a US$50 cellphone.

    I think the most part of the comparissons to a full-flegded computer is that there are more of this puppies comming from different PC developers, which will probably let them run Windows and Linux, which opens a lot more possibilities that Mac could have ever thinked about.


    1 Feb 10 at 7:05 am

  3. Good summary of general shortcomings for the iPad! Honestly, the more I see and hear from Apple, it’s like they got this great idea and just ran with it, figuring they could create a market to match their product, not the other way around.

    I think, in the long run, the iPad will find a nice home as a (somewhat) flexible multimedia appliance. Things like video and games will look bigger and better than on the iPod/iPhone. The internet, even without flash, will be at the fingertips of some that might not use it otherwise (easy touch interface is less intimidating to computer challenged users).

    As an e-book reader, though, there are too many platforms that do it better and more efficiently. That said, though, I think there may be a huge saving grace, if it becomes mainstream – digital magazine formats. That lovely color touch interface (and the similar competitive products coming out) could be a perfect platform to be reading your periodicals, and might make it more of a “must have”


    1 Feb 10 at 8:52 am

  4. As I said in the TS comments, the iPad lacks far too much to be considered.
    In my eyes, it’s nothing more than the bigger cousin of the iPhone 3GS, however a far less useful one: no 3G from the get-go (the option costs an extra $130?!), still no native flash, no GPS and no camera.

    Considering the news regarding the $200+ profit Apple makes with the entry one, I think it’s pretty clear that it’s overpriced and overhypped.

    If I were to place this than I would place it somewhere between an UMPC and a PDA/Smartphone.
    In others words: “Jack of all trades, master of none.”


    1 Feb 10 at 9:34 am

  5. I read a nice overview of the iPad’s shortcomings at tabletportal:
    In short: experts are underwhelmed. But the key is that consumers will love it. Same with the iPhone. My guess is that the iPad offers exactly what consumers want: simplicity!


    1 Feb 10 at 11:27 am

  6. Three areas where the iPad is better than a netbook:

    Photos: Say your parents drop in and you want to quickly show them the latest photos of your kids. On the iPad, swipe to unlock, touch the photo app icon, spread the correct stack of photos, and there you are. Pass it around, turn it for landscape vs portrait oriented photos. Hard to turn a netbook to portait mode due to the unneed keyboard.

    From all the “hands on” reviews, they all say the iPad is extremely fast. I think you’d be looking at photos on the iPad way before your netbook had even awoken from sleep, much less launched your photo app. The iPad appears to launch almost instantly.

    e-Books: It’s impossible to hold a netbook in portait mode to read books comfortably. The iPad is 1/2 the weight and 1/2 the thickness of a netbook. If the 10 hour battery life is true, this is way more than any netbook.

    Games: I doubt many play games on their netbooks and netbooks don’t have touch. The large screen size of the iPad opens up so much potential for games. Even non-action games like Scrabble or chess, which I play on the iPhone, would be great on the iPad.

    When evaluating the iPad, you can’t look at prcessor GHz and storage GB. You have to imagine what you can do with it.


    1 Feb 10 at 11:49 am

  7. Thing is, there are more impressive products in this category coming up this year. One is the Notion Ink tablet, with its Pixel Qi display, 48 hour battery life, and about the same specs as the iPad. Another is the ASUS DR-570 e-book reader, just 200 grams, 122 hours battery, and like the iPad it will have support for web (probably with Flash) and video.

    That’s why I feel the iPad is underwhelming. It’s not that it’s a bad product. It’s high profile because it’s Apple, so has a chance to succeed, but anyone taking a good look at this kind of product should realise that there are better products (at least hardware-wise) coming.

    Willy, 10 hours is quite normal for current gen netbooks. The recently announced Intel Atom CPU’s allow that and more without much problem. It’s really one of the more disappointing aspects of the iPad, IMO. I would have expected more.


    1 Feb 10 at 1:14 pm

  8. if this is not supposed to be ” a full fledged computer” why do they charge the price of one?? a 229$ acer netbook does more….


    1 Feb 10 at 1:35 pm

  9. As I said in another posting, the IPAD purports to be the solution to a problem (or gap) that doesn’t really exist. Any notebook, netbook or even most smartphones can do what this thing does. In many cases, all of the above can do quite a bit more.

    The IPOD and IPHONE were genuinely innovative products. There really isn’t anything new in this thing (only extremely limiting). There’s nothing revolutionary here and honestly there’s nothing even evolutionary in this thing.

    If anything, it’s a step backward because you’re spending a lot of money for a device whose list of what it can’t do is longer than what it can!


    1 Feb 10 at 1:41 pm

  10. ET3D: You mention other tablet form factors, but I was comparing the iPad to netbooks. Yes, it will be interesting to see what other tablet products are introduced, but to compete with the iPad, they must have color, multi-touch, a very fast processor, and most importantly, have the CONTENT (similar to iTunes for music and video, AppStore, iBookstore).

    hoover: Maybe you missed my post a few up from yours. The Acer may have better specs on paper, but the iPad form factor and speed has definite advantages, as I outlined for photo viewing, reading, and games. Maybe you could address how a netbook is better than a tablet (doesn’t have to be the iPad) for doing these three things.

    DarkCobra: I found this article interesting

    To quote the last paragraph:

    The iPad as a particular device is not necessarily the future of computing. But as an ideology, I think it just might be. In hindsight, I think arguments over “why would I buy this if I already have a phone and a laptop?” are going to seem as silly as “why would I buy an iPod if it has less space than a Nomad?”


    1 Feb 10 at 2:42 pm

  11. To me the whole reason for e-books was to use less paper, which to me would imply that the cost of books would therefore be cheaper. I have a serious problem when Apple’s agreement with Macmillan increased the prices of their books across the board thereby forcing other e-book retailers to have to follow suit and charge more. Why would I spend $300-$600(depending on the device) on a device to read books only to have to pay the same amount if I went to the store and bought a hard copy. If thats going to happen, then there better be one killer app that tells me I need said electronic device.


    1 Feb 10 at 5:09 pm

  12. this is one huge cluster fuck i would say. shit with a screen that size, you’re gonna need a video clip that’s like hi-def if you don’t want those shitty blocks in the image. 64gig? you’ve gotta be kidding me. the features are so lame.. not one appealing point other than it has some room to grow in the future. people who buy this now will be the testers.. way to go apple. you got another herd of idiots drooling over your iCrap


    1 Feb 10 at 10:50 pm

  13. @Willy . . . the last part of the article you quoted really makes a specious argument at best. The IPAD most definitely will not represent the future of computing or anything else for that matter. Suggesting anything along those lines is laughable. Even from an ideology perspective.

    It’s simply too limiting of a device and I’ll say it again . . . it’s trying too hard to resolve a problem or fill a gap that just doesn’t exist. It’s an interesting device but there’s simply no real “NEED” for it (especially at that price point).


    2 Feb 10 at 12:48 am

  14. I see the iPad as the device I might want for reading newspapers and magazines (and possibly computer manuals). Laptops and desktops are just unsuitable for this – you can’t use them conveniently without a desk or table and the screens are the wrong shape. I subscribe to a couple of electronic magazines and I hardly look at them, it is just too awkward. Questions are – is the iPad big enough, does it have enough resolution, is the navigation sufficiently natural, will it handle the formats of my documents, is it practical to do dictation on it, will it fit in with my other computer equipment and am I will to pay for it?

    Robert Davies

    2 Feb 10 at 1:34 am

  15. I currently use a 32 GB iPod touch as a PDA, and I’m quite happy with it. I don’t see any need to get an iPad.

    I would like to get a eReader some day. It remains to be seen which eReader wins out. I’m debating between the Kindle, iPad, or one of the new eReader platforms coming out. Whichever platform can provide the content I’m looking for (mostly non-fiction), will get my business.


    2 Feb 10 at 7:28 am

  16. No FLASH, no CASH.

    Apple would be wise to add Flash video support and Flash card reader. If Apple had added these 2 basic features, I would have considered buying an iPad.


    2 Feb 10 at 7:37 am

  17. Willy: “they must have color, multi-touch, a very fast processor”

    They will have colour. As for demanding multi-touch, that’s no different that demanding full preemptive multitasking for the iPad, i.e., it’s a nice feature that’s not a must. Multi-touch is completely unneeded for the majority of uses (reading books, watching videos, …).

    Regarding a fast processor, it’s not the processor that matters, but the performance. If the UI is snappy, browsing the web is at an acceptable speed and videos don’t drop frames, then that’s what matters. Far as I know, the iPad’s processor isn’t “very fast”. Certainly not compared to desktop Intel CPU’s.


    3 Feb 10 at 12:23 am

  18. Summary for Ipad: It’s suck.


    3 Feb 10 at 1:16 am

  19. “It’s simply too limiting of a device and I’ll say it again . . . it’s trying too hard to resolve a problem or fill a gap that just doesn’t exist.”

    The “Old World/New World” article I linked above discusses the current trend away from do-it-all, fully configurable computers to devices that hide the complexity and perform certain tasks very easily. For probably 90% of people, 90% of their computer activity consists of the basic activities of email, web, photo viewing, e-reading, and games. People who read and respond to this type of blog, you and me, are in the minority. I can understand why the iPad is not for you, but the question here is will this be something that many regular folks would want to buy? I am constantly amazed by the number of non-technical people, who I would never have thought would buy a smartphone, that love their iPhones because it is so easy to use and does so much.

    So how well does the iPad (or other tablet form factor, for that matter) perform the above 5 activities? Well, as I discussed in my original post, an iPad is BETTER than a netbook/laptop for viewing photos. You get to your photos quicker, you can pass it around, you can turn it to either portrait or landscape, it’s an nice looking digital picture frame on it’s charging stand. That’s hard to do with a laptop form factor. Same for reading, hard to curl up with a netbook in portrait mode, plus the iPad is 1/2 the weight and thickness. Games? The added screen size has great potential, if you saw the presentation video. But even now, it’s better than a netbook for board games like Scrabble, chess, or Monopoly. Players can pass it back and forth, you touch and slide pieces instead of clicking and dragging–just so much more natural than a netbook form factor. As for email and web the advantage over a netbook is not so great, but I find touching links, double clicking to expand text and photos to the exact width of the screen, pinching and zooming make web navigating easier on my iPhone than scrolling and clicking on a small netbook touchpad. Plus, the small form factor of a tablet is more mobile. Sure you can sit back on the sofa with a netbook, but it starts to become more awkward. The shape of a tablet plus 1/2 the thickness and weight would be so much more natural to use. Many reviewers said that you have to have one in your hand to really appreciate its appeal.

    So, what limitations? Flash? I agree with that, but honestly I rarely come across a Flash video or website on my iPhone that I just simply MUST see. My surfing habits may be different than yours and I don’t play Flash games, but I’ll concede that point. I do think, however, if the iPad is a success, HTML5 use will accelerate. Speed? If you have the time to see Job’s presentation, you’ll see the iPad is certainly zippy enough. Almost all hands-on reviewers note how fast it is. Again, we’re aimed at that 90% of folks, we’re not decoding video or using Photoshop here. Memory? Sure it doesn’t have 250 GB, but it’s not designed to be your primary computer. I think 90% of folk’s music, photos and video would fit in 32 or 64 GB.

    I think that web, email, photos, reading, and games are the exclusive computer activities of the vast majority of people. If that’s the case and the iPad is BETTER in many ways at doing all these basic task, there is a market for the product–the “gap”. People want simpler, easier to use computers. That’s the paradigm shift discussed in the linked article.

    Before the iPhone, we couldn’t imagine what a cellphone could be capable of doing. It may be the same with the iPad. I believe in the creativity and ingenuity of app developers. So, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see the sales numbers.


    3 Feb 10 at 10:17 am

  20. Better than a device that does a few tasks and does them easily is a device that does the same and offers opportunities for customization and expansion. My netbook with overclocking software offers either the power of a laptop or the portability and battery life of a netbook, while performing any task I need it to.

    Browsing: My experience blows iPad’s away. I have no ads (thanks, Adblock Plus), fast response, and compatibility with every webpage.

    Photos: My netbook is just as passable as any iPad, if not as pretty. Navigating from photo to photo is easy with the innovative Arrow Keys(TM). The best part is, I can plug my camera’s SD card right into the computer.

    Movies: Movies play smoothly, and don’t take up space because they stay on SD cards. If you watch DVD rips on your computer, good luck fitting them on the iPad.

    Games: My netbook, with overclocking, can play WoW, Half-Life, Civilization, and other classic games without issue. Casual games of the kind in which the iPhone specializes are perfect for the iPhone, which is a darn good device for its size. For the iPad’s form factor, I expect a bit more.

    E-mail: What can’t do e-mail? My flip phone did e-mail 4 years ago. Moving on.

    E-books: If I am ever possessed with an urge to read e-books, I’ll look at a Kindle, which is a more comfortable and useful book emulator than an iPad could ever be. Until then, I prefer nice, real books. They’re portable, never run out of power, and get my nose out of a screen for a couple hours.


    3 Feb 10 at 11:01 am

  21. What do you guys think about the alternative tablets coming out?

    Where as Apple has taken the approach of expanding a smartphone OS up to tablet size, HP’s Slate takes a desktop OS and shrinks it down to fit. Two different approaches from opposite ends.

    At this time, purely conjecturing, I would give the edge to Apple. They’ve made some interesting advancements to the multi-touch interface for their iWork apps (equivalent to MS Word, Excel, and Powerpoint). Please, no criticism until you have seen how the OS works on the iPad. Go to the 59:10 minute mark in the iPad presentation, it’s 10 minutes long: Again, the emphasis is on simplicity, ease of learning and use (90% of folks), not on the needs of power users (the other 10% like yourselves.) 75 million people know how to use the iPhone and iPod touch interface already.

    From the videos of the HP Slate, it looks like they run WIndows 7 and replaced the mouse with your finger. I don’t think tiny pull down menus would work well with fingers, but maybe MS has tweaked the interface and made some advancements to multi-touch themselves. I would guess that trying to shrink a desktop OS to work in a tablet would have higher hardware requirements, in terms of memory usage and processor efficiency, than the opposite way that Apple has chosen. I wonder how Apple’s custom chip will compare to other ARM chips. Battery life will be interesting to compare. But maybe MS has also further streamlined Windows 7 code. It will, of course, multitask, have Flash and have all sorts of ports. We’ll see if consumers value this over simplicity.

    I find all these developments very exciting.


    3 Feb 10 at 10:52 pm

  22. The alternatives keep on coming. Just read about the iTablet, which is said to be TWICE the iPad (in size and weight that is!).


    5 Feb 10 at 11:43 am

  23. I don’t have anything against Adobe’s software, but it is very wise not to support flash on these devices ( iPhone, Touch, ipad ).

    Flash has been strong and key to the web just like the basic idea behind java applets… they were good tools for creating more useful sites. The big problem with flash is their memory leaks, I bet you’d be interested looking at flash sites. However, I’m very convinced that you wouldn’t be interested to sacrifice most of your device’s response time due to the leakish flash supporting software.

    In other news.. Adobe is so desperate to be involved in iPhone and other products from Apple.. that it was announced that they are currently building software for translating flash programs into iphone programs. Imagine that!

    Andres Robalino

    7 Mar 10 at 1:14 am

  24. From an artist’s point of view: Wow. The IPad costs roughly the same as the best Bamboo pads, which require a PC or laptop in order to work as a drawing and writing device. The write-on-the-screen-itself Wacom devices are waaaaay more expensive. If serious painting and graphic arts applications are written for the IPad, it will be an incredibly good deal for artists. I wouldn’t invest in this first generation; I’d like to see it mature a bit, see whether Corel and Adobe write decent art software for it. I want a stylus too, so that I can take handwritten notes directly into the device along with sketches and diagrams. I just bought a Wacom Intuos. When it’s time to replace it, I bet the third generation IPad will be out, and it will be beyond awesome.


    13 Mar 10 at 12:15 pm

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