Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why I Won't Get An IPad

As a big Mac-head since the early days of forever ago, I was really interested in the iPad, Apple's next Machine To Change Everything. I don't currently actually own a laptop. I wanted to get my own personal, shiny Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy, take it to coffee shops, and use it to do design work on my games while all the losers looked on in envy and awe.

Because, at that size and price, I expect a computer. And thus, I can't by it. Because of this little chain of logic.

If a computer doesn't have a fully functional web browser, it's not worth buying.

A fully functional web browser needs to support Flash.

The iPad does not support Flash.

Ergo, no.

Now, I don't care whether Flash is good or devilspawn and whether so much stuff (games, Hulu, etc) should be running on it. The fact is that Flash is a big thing, and I want the things it runs.

But I love my new iMac, and it's not even broken, so Apple is still OK by me. It's just that they seem to think bigger iPod Touches are the future of computing, and no, I don't think so. Versatility makes technology complicated, but it also makes it awesome.

60 comments:

  1. I think you underestimate the innovations that we'll see from multitouch gaming on a reasonably sized screen. I'm specifically thinking about RTS but who knows that is possible.

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  2. I absolutely get why you won't buy an iPad (and they're much the same reasons why I probably won't buy one either), but when you're speaking of the "future of computing", you really have to go beyond your own needs and wants, and look at what the world wants. Versatility doesn't only come from endless choice between software that all do mostly the same thing. Getting to choose between a hundred different Linux distributions isn't "versatility". Being able to run every non-finger input designed application on a finger-only device isn't "versatility".

    I see the iPad as a blank slate (which is why I really think they should have called it the iSlate), which you can transform to fit your every need by using apps. It's a simple concept, and in theory, it could be just as complex as you need it to be. That Apple doesn't have Flash on the 1st gen iPad doesn't say a single thing about their vision on the future of computing.

    What I see is a company that wants to re-imagine what a computer is. It doesn't have to have a keyboard, it doesn't have to run a "computer" OS, it doesn't have to do all the things computers can do today (because, let's face it, that you can do something doesn't mean you need to do it). I see this as a first step in a long-term investment. This is just to get people used to the idea of an entirely different way of using a device. If we compare the iPad to the iPhone, we see that Apple isn't deaf to the needs of their users, but they also won't allow their users to decide what the product should be. It's Apple's product, and people can either choose to buy it, or not. Henry Ford said "If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." I think that, along the same line, Apple has the capacity to think of new ways to use computers that the general public simply can't imagine. They've proven this before, and I think they're still trying.

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  3. My wife and I are thinking of getting one. And while it is annoying not having flash, this is not that much a deal breaker.

    The reason we like it is simple -- when we are watching TV, we like to have the Internet handy to enhance our experience. But laptops and netbooks are a pain in the living room. Especially because we consider these private devices and do not share them with one another.

    More and more we find ourselves using our iPhones by the TV. They are convenient and do not take up a lot of space. The iPad is a bigger device that is as easy to use as our iPhones. It would be a communal device shared between everyone that sits nicely on a coffee table.

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  4. Apple really wants this to be a completely new device niche - they even said so in the presentation. I don't think there's a big place for it as a separate device. As a notebook replacement, it could do very well.

    My husband and myself both had the same reaction: no flash = no sale.

    I'd love for my in-laws, who are frustrated by the complexity of their computers, to have a nice touch-screen, big-print, no-viruses-no-hassles web experience. There's no wondering where you photos are stored, and the email interface looks brilliant.

    But it won't play farmville. Or their AARP games. So, no sale.

    Fortunately, Apple has a long history of releasing version 1 with a huge gaping limitation, then removing that limitation in version 2 or 3. Here's hoping.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The question is: Why no Flash?

    1. Power suck
    2. Competition with Apple TV

    No. 1 could be solved with an add-on power pack for the bottom. A little more weight is a nice trade-off for extended use.

    Sadly, the answer is, clearly, number 2. This will equate to fail, unless...

    Killer app. Will it be gamers or the medical community or salesmen or some other group? Who will need the killer app? Who will develop it?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Actually, the reason for no Flash is probably the fact that Apple doesn't like it... TUAW had a good article about this just today:
    http://www.tuaw.com/2010/01/28/adobe-speaks-up-about-flash-on-the-ipad/

    ReplyDelete
  7. @Nathaniel: " you really have to go beyond your own needs and wants, and look at what the world wants."

    The idea that only super-nerds want their computers to be versatile objects you have the freedom to muck about with is truly hilarious to me. My parents are as techphobic senior citizens as you can imagine, but a computing device does them no good without the ability to do genealogy and text editing, take the resulting files, and fling them about.

    Just about everyone who uses a computer will web browse, send and read e-mail, and do some weird little thing. If the machine is not set up to comfortably do that some little thing, it is not The Future (tm).

    - Jeff Vogel

    ReplyDelete
  8. Does it make me a bad person if the first thing that popped in my head when I heard 'iPad' was feminine hygiene products? lol!

    I'm a dinosaur. I don't own an iPod or an iPhone. I don't know that I ever will. I don't like small stuff. My dream laptop is like 2 ft. wide! Something like the iPad might peak my interest a little more than Apple's previous gadgets, but I still just see no personal need for it. Again, maybe I'm just a dinosaur. I'm not even 30 though! :D

    Although... I've always been under the impression that Tablets are where good companies go to die. C'est la vie. I hope they fair better. iPods and iPhones have been improvements on existing, popular technologies (CD players and smart-phones respectively), but there's no popular tablet to 'just do better'. This time out, they're gonna have to INVENT the marketplace for their product, not just dominate a pre-existing one.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I think it would be a fun toy. It's not a computer substitute, and it's not supposed to be. For what it's meant to do, it does it well (except for the whole no-flash thing).

    I remember some old speculation on what the Mac Tablet was going to be. Not this. Keyword: Mac. I wanted a tablet computer to substitute a laptop.

    While I would rather have this than an iPod touch (since I already have a working iPod), it's not worth $600+

    ReplyDelete
  10. My theory is that Apple will bring out an iPen and iArtist app pretty soon for use with the iTablet (iPad is just going to get confusing in a country with strong accents).
    The iTablet's of a size where you could actually do proper design or art work, if it had a decent stylus pen to do it with. Imagine something along the lines of WaCom's Cintiq. And yes, I know, the iPhone was specifically designed for you to use your fingers, but that's because it's a phone. I don't write on a notepad with my pinky.

    ReplyDelete
  11. For me, as an ebook reader, TV substitute, and something to casually browse the web with, it's already worth $500. This is the same price as a Kindle DX, which is a mediocre unitasker in comparison.

    But the iPad is going to be able to do a *ton* of weird little things, just as the iPhone can, but with many more possibilities thanks to the 10" screen and faster processor. My first idea: a Tenori-on (tablet device for live music performance) costs $1000. The iPad is going to have apps which cost $10-20 and do much more.

    ReplyDelete
  12. You're not even taking the entire App Store lock in to account? It's gotta be a pain to write code in an environment that you can't test or compile it in, and have just a text editor.

    ReplyDelete
  13. There will presumably be an iPad simulator just like there's an iPhone simulator. So you'll be able to test it just fine. Multitouch testing would be a pain, but it's also not tough to compile onto the iPhone every time and presumably the iPad would be the same.

    And XCode is more than a text editor. Primarily, it's a text editor with autocomplete, and since stringByAppendingString is the name of a function in Objective C, and is far from the longest function name, that's the most important feature of all.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm with you on not being too excited about this thing, but I don't think we're the target market for it, either.

    Really, the target market is that segment of the population who down't want ot browse to Kongregate to play afree game, but wants to pay for a touch-optimized version of that game.

    Likewise with the crowd who don't want to browse to Hulu to wtach shows fullscreen, but want to pay to download shows/movies and watch with a huge black border.

    Also, according to Steve Jobs, Adobe is Lazy and Google is Evil. So no luck with Flash -- HTML5 or bust. Buy a MacBook! You can run XCode on it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. People are going to go online more with their mobile devices and less with their desktop/laptop machines. All of the major mobile browsers support Webkit and as long as at least one major mobile browser doesn't support Flash, that will be enough to drive Flash's penetration down to where it doesn't make sense to develop Flash-only experiences.

    Many of your current favorite Flash-on-the-web experiences will soon either migrate to other web technologies that work in Webkit browsers without plugins (HTML5 and CSS3 are catching up) and/or to native applications on the iPhone OS. The rest will wither and die.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I knew I wasn't alone!!

    http://i92.photobucket.com/albums/l1/stonemartin/ipad.jpg

    ReplyDelete
  17. Nathaniel: Your post is full of weasel words; I bet the Weasel Lord would be jealous of being out-weaseled by you.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm a dedicated long time PC fan, and I'm having a very hard time resisting buying one..

    ReplyDelete
  19. I always thought that the iPad was meant to be another Kindle-esque e-book reader. I didn't even expect it to support flash. However, now that you mention it, coupled with its hefty price, the lack of flash support is a bit saddening. I'm not sure what it's current abilities are, but the lack of flash does close off quite a bit of possibilities with it.

    However, Jeff, If they did patch in Flash support in some later firmware, do you think that would be enough to coax you into purchasing it? Or is the lack of Flash just the biggest issue on top of a general lack of interest in what the product already does offer?

    ReplyDelete
  20. Couldn't an Acer notebook be used for everything the iPad does? Don't they only cost like 400$ at the most with Flash support and with more computing function? I don't understand the popularity of a 350$ device (Kindle, Sony Reader, etc.) either. You can get text files for a 60$ Gameboy Advance.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I'm going to be getting one. Part of my contract work is developing iPhone applications for other companies and the iPad is already generating interest in these folks.

    That said, the whole "doesn't support Flash" thing has nothing to do with technical limitations and everything to do with the App Store making Apple millions. Once I can get my simple "point, click, & drag" games online for free, why would I pay $2 for it in the App Store. Hell, most the profitable offerings in the App Store would very easily be implemented in Flash...

    Apple will only allow Flash on their devices when they have no say in the matter. Right now, their platform is profitable and the grumblings about their occasionally excessive lock-down policies are quickly forgotten in the mainstream media. Should the FCC or alternate anti-competition investigation start to cause them problems, perhaps Flash will be the bone they throw to keep the device locked down elsewhere. I wouldn't hold my breath though.

    ReplyDelete
  22. There's only one real reason I wouldn't consider it. I'm not paying $500.

    Flash is an interesting thing to point out, but I only ever use it for YouTube and that appears to be working with the iPad.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Jeff, it's great that you being an apple fan (not meant to sound derogatory) can see the ipad for what it really is:

    A means to push iTunes and make more revenue.

    All apple to do was make better software for the iPad and all this dissappointment could have been excitment.

    I agree, I want a computer at that size and at that price point; something Apple could have done easily.

    2d

    ReplyDelete
  24. The lack of Flash support is one symptom of why I won't buy the iPad. The basic issue is that it seems to be positioning itself in the market space that netbooks currently dominate (mid-sized portable internet appliance/computer thingy), but it's a lot more expensive, has less storage, and has significant limitations that a real computer (even a wimpy one like a netbook) doesn't. It's mostly just a scaled up iPod Touch. And there are some advantages to that, certainly, but a significant part of what makes my Palm Pre useful to me (and by extension, what would be useful to me about an iPod Touch or an iPhone, if I had such things) is that they fit in my pocket and can go with me anywhere with ease. This is not true of the iPad. And it can't replace my Kindle, because it doesn't have the battery life or the eInk screen or the free 3G wireless internet.

    So, in short, it's a very expensive novelty. Still, I expect it will survive long enough that one generation or another will make itself useful.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Handwriting Recognition (HWR) and note taking abilities are the holy grail of tablet PCs, which is why I'm baffled that Apple omitted it altogether. Even more baffling is the fact that their Newton had one of the best HWR around 10 years ago.

    I think the iPad would have benefited from implementing the Newton HWR. As it stands, the iPad is just an expensive toy.

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