So, it turns out that the iPad doesn’t hail a change in design direction for Apple. That’s a shame for 2 reasons:
1) I’d really, really like a clue as to what Apple’s future kit will look like. There have been 3 versions of the iPhone now and they’ve all looked very similar. I’m anticipating a new look for the 4th incarnation, presumably coming out this summer.
2) Other manufacturers have been able to anticipate what the Apple tablet would look like…
Well, the Apple tablet is finally here. Announced yesterday, the new iPad is, according to Apple’s own trumpet, their “most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price”.
The guesses i made yesterday were mostly off1 but, in hindsight, only because i’d convinced myself there’d be 3g operator subsidies affecting the pricing (which there aren’t). Had i gone with my gut instinct, i’d have stuck my neck out and said there’d be a wifi only model at a surprisingly low price. Turns out the iPod touch was a good clue to iPad pricing.
Anyway, the actual device looks great – and is priced very reasonably for an Apple product (i’m assuming $499 works out at something like £349 – no official word yet though). Honestly though, I’m not tempted. Much like when i saw the iPod and iPhone launches – i think it’s cool tech, but not for me. Yet.
A few of my immediate reservations about the iPad…
The iPad will apparently run “almost all” apps currently in the App Store. But those iPhone/iPod-sized apps look awkwardly small on such a large screen – or awkwardly stretched if you make them fullscreen. Sure developers will be fervently scrambling to make iPad compatible versions of their programs but i struggle to see how apps can be designed to work well on both screens. Something like Tweetie looks great on both iPhone and Mac OSX, but you certainly don’t use it in fullscreen on the Mac – why would you want to on the iPad? Also, take Facebook – it works well as an app for the iPhone because it’s more convenient than trying to view the full FB site on an iPhone screen. Yet on the iPad the FB site will look fine. No need for an app. I suspect we’ll end up seeing Apps labelled iPhone-only and iPad-only.
The on-screen keyboard entry requires it to be resting on your knee, a table or whatever surface. This seems a very un-Apple-like solution to me. I had hoped Apple would have something smarter – although the device almost certainly wouldn’t have retailed for $499 if it had.
The iPad’s eBook-reader iBooks is US-only at the moment. Why?! I hope this is just a case of deals not been finalised in Europe in time for the launch announcement. Also, will we see a Mac version of the iBooks? Steve said “everything” sync’d with your Mac… but Books weren’t in the list on screen.
But all this is not to say the device will be a flop. There are already many, many very vocal naysayers… but i just don’t think they get it. The iPad is a casual device. A device to use when you’re vegetating on the sofa. This is a device aimed at those people whose imaginations were grabbed by O2’s Joggler and the like. Sure Apple’s device isn’t photo-frame-small and costs a lot more than £150 …but it’s that same market.
Update: Oh, and regarding my hopes that the tablet announcement might give us some indicator of what hardware and software changes we’ll see on the next iPhone… Gunned down. There’s that chance that the A4 chip (or some other Apple silicon) will make it into the next iPhone, but it’s far simpler to say that Apple gave away nothing yesterday.
Including my assumption that Apple wouldn’t ever reveal internal specs beyond storage capacity. In addition to the storage capacities, they were quite boastful (and continue to be) about the “A4” processor in the iPad, which is of their own design (presumably created by the PA Semi intake). This was very surprising and an interesting revelation. Will we see more Apple-designed chips appearing soon? Perhaps in the iPhone? ↩
In less than 2 hours from now, Apple will reveal their “latest creation”. All rumours point to a tablet-type device and every mac/tech website in the world is carrying their version of what may or may not transpire today. I’m not going to bother guessing the specifics of what Apple will announce, as i’ll surely be proven wrong but i do have a few thoughts on the rumours circulating. Namely…
Will the tablet run the iPhone OS, Mac OSX or some new variant?
I say it has to run the iPhone’s version of OSX, or some new fork of that system. A cynic (hello!) may say that Apple wants to maintain and extend the iPhone’s “app” ecosystem – simply ensuring that they get a cut of all application sales for their platform, unlike the big fat nothing they get on the Mac. However, there’s actually a more obvious and sensible reason that it won’t run full Mac OSX… it won’t be powerful enough. To make a tablet that’s thin enough and light enough to be conveniently held and carried Apple won’t be putting in regular laptop-spec innards – they’ll be going with a beefier version of the iPhone’s workings. (Though of course if i’m right, we’ll never officially be told the internal spec – just like the iPhone. The end-user needn’t know or care what powers it.)
Will there be two versions of the tablet?
The rumours say that, following the iPod touch and iPhone trend, there’ll be wifi and wifi-and-3g versions of the tablet available. I don’t buy it though. The difference between the touch and the iPhone is more than the 3g connectivity – it is the phone functionality. A tablet with 3g isn’t going to have any extra functionality – it’d just mean you had a much better chance of staying “connected”. This might justify a slightly higher price tag for the 3g-enabled model… but then a 3g-enabled model could be flogged by the mobile telcos at a subsidised price, assuming you sign-up for their 3g service. Where does that leave you? Two tablets but the one with less functionality costing more. No chance. I reckon there’s one tablet. One tablet with wifi and 3g connectivity.
How much will the tablet cost?
The rumours say we’ll be looking at $800-1000 (or about £700-800) but obviously less if you get one on contract from a telco. This sounds expensive for a (computationally) low-powered machine when you can pick up any one of a vast number of netbooks and low-end laptops for much, much less money… but remember that an unlocked iPhone 3GS costs at least £450. I think that the rumour-mill has it about right on this occasion. Of course Apple may charge much more for this initial release knowing full-well that plenty of fanboys will pay anything but i actually wouldn’t be very surprised if Apple shocked the world with a (reasonably) low price tag. After-all, the iPhone-without-the-phone-bits (iPod touch) only retails at £239 (for a 32GB model, vs £549 for a 32GB iPhone 3GS).
Of course, while i’m as excited as everyone else to see what Apple produces tonight, it doesn’t actually matter that much to me because i won’t be buying a tablet1. My next Apple purchase will (at long last) be an iPhone – so i’ll be more interested to see what today’s announcements mean for that device. Will it get a price cut? Will tablet interface details point to obvious updates to the iPhone hardware? Will OS4.0 updates by themselves be enough reason to wait for the next iPhone? Fingers-crossed all this and more will be answered in a few short hours.