January 28, 2010

What it isn’t

From what I’ve seen and read, the iPad is beautiful and quite capable. I would give up my iPod touch in a heartbeat to get an iPad. I’d be content to carry the iPad in a small bag or pack. (Already, I always carry a Tamrac Digital 6 camera bag with my Canon PowerShot S5 IS, spare charged batteries and SD cards, iPod touch, LG enV2 phone, and wallet stuff. I wonder if we’ll see a new class of bags now.)

But I’ve been thinking about what the iPad is not.

It’s not a videophone. It so easily could be, and this feels like a criminal waste of potential. If Apple had included an iSight camera, like on the MacBooks, then the iPad truly would be “magical.”

It would be the Internet device for, say, grandparents. It’s already a market-killing (or, at least, marketwide-price-reducing) digital picture frame. With the camera/SD card adapter (why no SD slot?), you can load photos directly from your camera. Add the keyboard dock and it’s a perfect email station. Add video chat and it would be everything you need to stay connected to your family online.

So why no camera? Did AT&T refuse to offer an unlimited data plan (or any data plan at all) if the iPad included a video chat function? There are already mobile broadband adapters for laptops, of course, but I’m guessing that using those for video chat is still a niche application, whereas integrating video chat into the iPad—with an icon right on the home screen, and Apple’s characteristic ease-of-use—would have the same effect as building Safari into the iPhone: an immense increase in data usage. People would use it all the time.

Still, I cannot see a future in which Apple doesn’t add iSight to the iPad. It’s the single most glaring omission. There must be a business reason for its absence—but Apple has a fine history of breaking down “business reasons” over time. It’ll come. I mean, videophone. It is the future. And, dear heavens, I will buy it.

It’s not just a bigger iPod touch. Some critics say it is; I must assume that they were not paying attention to the keynote. The extra screen real-estate enables greater functionality by an order of magnitude. Watch the demo of email, photos, and especially iWork. That’s not an iPod touch—it is a new category of device. It’s the device I wish I had instead of an iPod touch.

It’s not a graphics tablet. Yeah, I had this pipe dream of the iPad having built-in Cintiq-style pen support, but the iPad isn’t meant to be a primary tool for artists and designers. Serious graphic work requires the power of a desktop machine, for now. And the added hardware support would greatly increase the price. Still…sigh. It was a pretty dream.

It’s not a GPS. Shucks. Well, give it time. Update: Actually, the 3G model does have GPS.

It’s not a keyboard-less laptop. You want multitasking? You want a desktop OS? You want an open application ecosystem? You want Flash? Get a laptop. You’re not the intended market for the iPad. You should know better.


  1. What it could also be is a powerful ereader for textbooks. I mean – wasn’t that the CEO of McGraw Hill who spilled the beans the night before launch? Don’t they mainly make textbooks? Rent textbooks to college students through the iPad and save a ton of paper, have them be always up to date, and save the backs of college students everywhere from lugging around those heavy books.

    It seems perfectly suited for it to me.

  2. Absolutely. And textbooks can be media-rich and Web-connected.

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