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Apple iPad has some battles ahead

January 31st, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

In the realm of technology, I consider Apple to be what BMW is to automobiles.  They both make beautiful and well engineered hardware which induces an experience more evolved than mere driving or computing.  Apple has done it again this week when they announced their new product, the iPad.  Lying somewhere between a tablet computer and an eBook reader, the iPad is another showpiece of Apple engineering and design.   There was only one flaw in the logic when creating this new revolutionary device.  Apple has gone and created the most beautiful piece of hardware, which nobody needs.

Whether you know it or not, the iPad has many battles on it’s road to gaining consumer acceptance. With such a grand build up of publicity, the expectations are that this device will do more.  More than what we already do in an E Book reader, more than what we already do in a tablet computer, and certainly more than we can do in a netbook.

Where the iPad looses the eBook battle.

The Kindle didn’t win over the market for the excellent hardware design.  With awkward buttons conveniently placed where you need to hold onto the device, the Kindle is no challenging threat at all. Putting the iPad next to the Kindle would clearly expose how superior the Apple product is yet again.  Right?

The widespread adoption of the Kindle had little to do with the hardware.  As long as Apple captures everything that the Kindle does within the eReader experience, they should have no problem winning over that market.  First on that list, is it’s ability to be always connected.

It was impressive that Apple was able to get AT&T to setup non-contractual terms for the iPad. Unfortunately, contract or not, nobody wants to deal with AT&T to get, well, anything.  Especially when the agreement for the data connection on the Kindle all happens in the background.  Having an always connected service is far more magical than my ability to pay AT&T more on a monthly basis.  When you can buy a Kindle and get to download content indefinitely, it doesn’t look good to pay $29.99 a month, or $360 for the first year for unlimited data.

The Apple iPad will have a 10 hour battery life, while in use. Certainly they must mean 10 days, right?  Today most eBook readers last a week without charging.  The entire advantage about NOT having a backlit screen is to use the E ink technology to deliver content without using a lot of energy.

Talking about that E ink technology, don’t expect to bring this iPad outside to the beach, where the glaring sun is really going to do a number on a big glossy display screen.  Not too many people curl up to read a book and look for darkness.

Apple may have missed the book reader demographic, but surely this is a revolutionary tablet computer.

Where the iPad looses the Tablet battle.

I am not sure there is a tablet war. You see, this tablet concept is not new at all.  I still have my Honeywell Webpad from 10 years ago.  While they have gotten rid of the pen for the interface, the iPad misses some key elements if it is to revolutionize the tablet platform.

In true Apple fashion, they couldn’t have just stuck a standard SD card slot or even a USB slot into the side of the iPad. That may have actually made it useful to offloading camera pictures, or replacing that electronic picture frame on the mantel, which is even capable of such an easy task.  Luckily it looks like Apple is nice enough to sell an additional adapter at an inflated cost that will allow that SD card hookup and it comes with one adapter for USB.

It may not be a prominent feature, but there has to be a large concern about dropping this thing. It doesn’t come with the case to protect it, which I can pay for, and I suspect there will be a large after market surge of protective cases. How about a lanyard hookup? I know it sounds like a step backwards, but when I spend that much money on a perfect piece of hardware, I would feel more comfortable falling back to a good string to keep it safe.  In Apple world, I would suspect to see an anti-gravity kit selling for $59 in the Apple store.

Where is the camera?  If the iPad survives it’s first year, the next version better have a camera.  As I was thinking of what this thing could bring to the tablet market, I kept returning to videophones and web conferencing.  Using Skype and webcams to communicate has only made it into the homes the past couple years.  Put that in a wireless device I can walk around the house with, and you may have opened a useful feature on the list.  While my old tablet didn’t have this either, it was 10 years old.

Where the iPad looses the Netbook battle.

Apple refuses to acknowledge my ability to buy a completely usable notebook computer for under $400.  It doesn’t dismiss the fact that I can.

A large part of the Apple presentation was to show off how you can buy iWork for the iPad, indicating that you might be ready to type up your next novel or prepare a presentation on this “revolutionary” platform.

As soon as I finish retro-fitting my entire office with bean bag chairs and turning my typing productivity down to a crawl, I might be ready for an iPad.  It would appear my options are to use my lap, brace the device with one hand, or to purchase a kit that allows me to type with a keyboard.  They have those devices already, in the form of laptops and netbooks. While the iPad would look really cool around that college coffee shop, it would frustrate me as a platform to use regularly for work.

Will the iPad win the war?

We have this beautifully engineered piece of hardware, which we hopefully have under-estimate in potential.  With so many strikes against it, before it hits the actual market, Apple has some work to do in order to make it a success.  As we have learned with the iPhone, the majority of the success comes through a viral adoption of the technology.  So now the pressure falls to the reaction of the consumers and the app developers.  The platform will only survive if it becomes more than it was sold for. That will not happen when it reaches the shelves.

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