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Swaine Manor: iPonder iPad

Volume Number: 26
Issue Number: 03
Column Tag: Swaine Manor

Swaine Manor: iPonder iPad

Everything that needs to be said about the iPad

by Michael Swaine

In the past month there have appeared a number of blogs and articles-and comments and tweets on those blogs and articles-on the subject of Apple's recently-announced iPad. You may have seen one or two of them.

But I think we can all agree that, despite all the opinions voiced on the tablet's merits or defects, there has not been enough bombastic pontificating about the iPad. I mean, how could there be? I'm sure you love bombastic pontificating as much as I do.

So I hereby present the only complete, comprehensive, and definitive analysis of the iPad you will ever need to read. I cover what Apple says is good about the device, what others say it lacks, and what Apple had darned well better do to the thing if they want to win over what should be their target audience: me.

You're welcome.

What's in the Box, According to Apple

Here's what Apple wants us to know about this device. The iPad gives you:

  • The Internet at your fingertips. And not just at your fingertips, but multitouchable by those fingertips. Think of it.

  • The ability to view and arrange video and photos shot on some other device.

  • The ability to buy things from Apple in still another extremely convenient way.

  • The ability not only to read and reply to your email, but to touch it, a feature you didn't know you were missing until now.

  • A display that always stays oriented with the planet's gravitational field, so that even if you're lying down and trying to read, the text will stay doggedly vertical.

  • One-touch access to absolutely everything on your iPad from your Home Screen, plus Spotlight Search, to find all the things that aren't accessible from your Home Screen.

  • And it's really thin. Not the frame, that's wide. It's huge. What a monster. No, the iPad itself is thin.

  • Um, and you can carry it anywhere. Not in your pocket, of course. No way. This thing's huge. But you can carry it. In your backpack, maybe. Or in a shopping bag. Did we mention that it's thin?

  • Up to 64GB of flash storage. 64 Gigs! No, not Flash, flash storage. Pay attention.

  • Rich connectivity. You can connect this thing to any iPad dock that Apple currently makes (capability subject to change without notice).

  • Accessories. OK, they're not in the box. They cost extra. But you'll need them.

What's Missing, According to the Pundits

You'd think that that would please anybody, but grumblings have been heard in the hinterlands of the punditocracy. Here are the elements that these whiners think Apple should have included in the iPad:

  • Multitasking. Many of the things people say they want multitasking for can be had without full multitasking, like allowing tunes to play while you check your mail. Notifications and persistence address a lot of the other needs. But still, how could Apple leave this out? Wah.

  • A USB port. Like for external storage, printing, general connectivity. It's not that you can't get there from here, but the road runs through Dongleville. OK, they have a point there.

  • Flash support. Apple thinks you'll consider the lack of Flash support a feature. Maybe they're right. We'll see soon enough.

  • Conventional computer file management. See Flash support.

  • A camera. This seems to be the big deal-breaker for a lot of commenters. Yeah, but maybe those people who are freaking out about the lack of a front-facing camera for videoconferencing should check with their friends. They might discover that they're overrating the demand for video of themselves. I'm just sayin'.

  • Phone functionality. Skype support. Tethering to iPhone. Alternatives to AT&T. I think these are real shortcomings, and that the heavy in this drama is exactly who you think it is.

  • A removable battery. Which implies disposable battery, as in you have to recycle the thing. With great power comes great responsibility, Peter.

  • Real GPS. I freely admit that the difference in quality between GPS and Assisted GPS is above my pay grade. Over my head. It's up there somewhere.

  • The App Store approval process and censorship and general arbitrariness and stupidity. Well, yeah.

What Apple Needs to Do, According to Me

OK, the whiners have some valid points. But now let me explain to Apple what they really need to do if they want me to love this thing.

  • Hire people who have experience with tablet devices. I see you hired Michael Tchao back. That's good; he'll understand how to market it. Now hire somebody who has the chops to create a great developer environment. There's this guy Walter Smith who knows all about that. He used to work for you. Hire him back.

  • It has to have handwriting recognition. Get Larry Yaeger to write it for you. I have his email address if you've lost it.

  • You've got the right idea with the black frame around the screen, but you didn't go far enough. Make the whole thing black. No matter what the fashionistas say, no other color is ever the new black. Black is always the coolest color. Black is the new black.

  • And skip the color screen; you'll cut costs and we don't need it. Go with the traditional black text on green screen. They're cheap and they're totally good enough. They're even retro, and how cool is that?

  • Speaking of cutting costs, make the thing smaller. A lot smaller. It needs to fit in a pocket. That small. Trust me, I'd buy a device like that. Check your sales records. You know I would.

  • That name. Change it. You're Apple, think of something related to your brand. Think of those great ads you did with the pictures of great independent thinkers. Name it after one of them. Some mega-genius from the 17th or 18th Century, one associated with an apple.

Do that, Apple, and I may have a chance of finally getting my money's worth out of that Newton Tool Kit you sold me back in 1999.


Michael Swaine is the former editor-in-chief of Dr. Dobb's Journal (http://www.ddj.com) and current editor of PragPub (http:// www.pragprog.com/magazine), the electronic magazine for pragmatic programmers. You can reach him at mike@swaine.com.

 
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