Before the announcement, my mental picture of what Apple’s iPad would be was a big iPod Touch. This did make me wonder why the iPad would be preferable to my Touch. Sure, the bigger screen would be better for viewing videos and playing games but does that alone justify a new product? That said, I assumed Apple would be doing more to the iPad than simply super-sizing an iPod Touch and I looked forward to being surprised.
So, come 6pm (UK time) on the 27th January, I was to be found hunched over my laptop, tea in hand and phone off the hook waiting for the gadget sites to reveal the news live, one line at a time. Never has it been such agony waiting for web pages to auto refresh. The day after, the first thing I did was to watch the video of the whole event which, it has to be said, gave me a rather different impression of the audiences reaction to the one I had from reading the live blogs.
So, it was to be called the iPad – seems a decent name to me. Both generic enough to allow the device to be used for anything and similar to ‘iPod’ to have that family connection. Yeah, there are some obvious jokes but we soon got used to the ‘Wii’, right?
“What this device does, is extraordinary”.
Ok, Steve, what does it do?
To demonstrate this extraordinaryness, Jobs took to a comfy chair for a fairly lengthy play with his new toy. First, browsing the web. Here’s where I started to question this thing. Steve said it’s like having the whole web in your hand – (apart from the lack of Flash, of course) but can’t I do the same thing with my Touch?
What is the iPad offering that’s new exactly? Next, he showed email. Again, I can do that easily with my Touch – what’s new on the iPad? Same with viewing Photos, Music, iTunes Store, Contacts, Maps and Video. I can do all that on my Touch. Ok, the apps have been rewritten to work a little differently and make use of the bigger screen (even the occasional new feature such as albums in Photos) but really, not so different from my present iPod Touch experience.
The calendar was the one native app that seemed different enough to count as new and not be easily replicated on the iPhone or Touch. But then again, the native calendar app on the iPhone is so poor, it’s difficult not to improve on it and I already use a much better alternative (Pocket Informant).
While I watched the video of the event, it struck me how few times there was applause during Steve’s demo and it seemed to me that he was expecting more. I thought it telling when, at the end of the demo, in response to the lack of applause (or so it seemed to me) Steve said:
“I have to say, though, watching it is nothing like getting one in your hands and feeling all of that just, right, right in your hands, and right underneath your fingertips.”
I had the feeling the live audience was, like me, waiting for something new and ‘extraordinary’ that they couldn’t already see and do on their iPhones.
Next, was a section showing that the iPad could run (“nearly”) all iPhone apps. By definition, I can already do that on my Touch (well, except for the iPhone specific ones). So, no advantage for me there.
My one prediction/hope for the iPad was some form of pressure sensitivity making it better to paint and draw on. This was dashed during the demo of a new version of ‘Brushes’. I do still hold out hopes that pseudo pressure sensitivity could be added in a firmware update (by taking the contact patch of your finger into account) or via a Wacom style pen accessory.
The game demos didn’t display anything that wouldn’t be possible on the iPhone. The bigger screen arguably allows space for more controls but when you’re adding them simply because there’s room, you have to wonder if they’re necessarily an improvement.
eBooks are already available on the iPhone but this is an area the iPad may genuinely be better suited for. The bigger screen may well be the factor that makes it preferable to the smaller device. I’ve yet to be won over to eBooks rather than the paper variety but I’d happily be converted once I get to try them on the iPad.
When I saw the Apple iWork suite had been ported over to the iPad, it was the first time in the presentation I thought that the iPad could offer something substantial the iPhone doesn’t. I can imagine using the iPad to write on a journey using Pages whereas I wouldn’t seriously consider it using my Touch with one of the ‘Office’ suites available.
I’m very aware that I’ve not been able to play with an iPad at this point. I’ve heard at least two people (including Stephen Fry) echo Steve Jobs’ comment that you have to try it to really ‘get’ it. I’m more than happy to admit playing with one might convert me but right now, I’ve only the presentation and the information on Apples website to base my opinion on.
The impression I’m left with is that, contrary to what Steve said, what this device does, is not extraordinary. It’s largely possible now, today on my iPod Touch. And I can imagine, in an alternative universe where the iPad came out first, Jobs now making the claim that the brand new iPhone/Touch was the more extraordinary device as they’d now managed to shrink all that functionality down into a pocket sized device as opposed to the old, unwieldy ten inch iPad.
There are two reasons to buy a gadget:
- because you need it, or
- because you want it.
At this point I certainly don’t feel I need it as it doesn’t do anything I can’t already do either with my Touch or laptop. The only circumstance I can imagine the iPad being my preferred choice is when I’m away from home and get the urge to sketch or paint something (especially if they get around to adding some kind of pressure sensitivity).
Do I want one?
Erm… not sure. I certainly want to have a go with one and if I was given one I’d be extremely happy (I’m a confirmed gadget fan after all) but as for buying it… for me, for now, no.
[We have a few more thoughts on the iPad coming along shortly. I’m also in the “Erm…” camp at the moment! – Matt]