Editorial: Apple’s iPad, From Unfair Criticisms to Valid Concerns | iLounge Article


Editorial: Apple’s iPad, From Unfair Criticisms to Valid Concerns

As is always the case when Apple announces a product well before it’s actually available to purchase, last week’s iPad event has already inspired thousands of opinion pieces, analysts’ predictions, and other miscellaneous articles—many more will follow as filler until iPads actually arrive in stores. At the risk of adding one more such item to the pile, we’d like to take a few minutes of your time to offer our personal, early take on the iPad, hopefully including a few insights that you might find useful coming from us, rather than those who rush to attack or defend any new product Apple releases. This editorial serves as a more opinionated companion to our extended, fact-based First Look at the iPad, and the video walkthrough we previously published.

Let’s Get This Out Of The Way First. Despite every attempt that has been made over the past week to trivialize the iPad, we want to be clear: we believe that the iPad will be an important and extremely successful product for Apple. Having attended Apple product launches for years, and actually spent time using the iPad, we are truly, deeply enthusiastic about this device—it is every bit the game-changing innovation that the iPhone was back in 2007, and potentially much, much bigger. Regardless of whether there’s going to be a sixth-generation iPad in 2016 that makes this one look as archaic as the first iPod from 2001, we fundamentally believe that the first iPad represents the future of computing, and that Apple got far more right than wrong with this product.

So why has public opinion been so mixed? It’s worth noting that virtually everyone who’s criticizing the device has never actually used one—the lack of hands-on experience is one of two big reasons some people rushed to attack the iPad, and since they didn’t have anything more than text, pictures and videos to rely upon, they focused their attention on easy targets: its name and specs. But these criticisms were somewhat misplaced. It’s one thing to call the iPad nothing more than a big iPod touch if you haven’t held one in your hands, but once you actually spend some time with it—see a word processor running, flip between multiple keyboards in a spreadsheet, read a book, and try playing games or videos—it’s instantly obvious that the experience is very substantially different from using an iPod touch, and offers a lot more potential.

Potential? What Do You Mean? Well, Apple only partially justified the iPad’s existence during a rollout event where people were expecting a bigger story, and there’s little doubt that the device’s full capabilities have yet to be exploited. There’s precedent for this. Over the past 10 years, Apple may have cultivated a reputation for releasing fully-formed products—ones that “just work” on day one—but problems with releases such as Apple TV and Snow Leopard have demonstrated that Apple has been willing to ship unfinished and somewhat buggy products rather than delaying them until they’re perfect. Software patches and sometimes even follow-up hardware releases have been necessary to make its initially promising offerings live up to users’ needs.

During the iPad testing, there were no obvious issues with the hardware, but there were lots of questions about the current state of its software—iPhone OS 3.2 and the applications it runs. Put aside the numerous bugs we spotted in the apps, including outright crashes, problems reformatting the screen content during orientation flips and keyboard transitions, and so on. (You can see them in the video walkthrough.) We’re sure that these sorts of things are going to be fixed, eventually. The real problem is that Apple, whether for marketing reasons (unlikely) or technical reasons (more likely), didn’t show off several things that the hardware can surely handle, and would have silenced the doubters:

* Multitasking. Being able to switch between three or four programs, and seeing Push-style Notifications (or a new overlay) to alert you of activities taking place in the background, such as instant messaging activity.

* Super Multi-Touch. A practical demonstration of simultaneous multi-finger interaction with the screen. Picture a real estate app where you actually use your fingers to open the door of a 3-D house, or using three-finger gestures to switch between multitasking apps. Gameloft’s new NOVA demonstration contained elements of these things, but they were only shown briefly, and the version of NOVA available for testing did not include the new features.

* Handwriting Recognition. An OS-level tool to convert writing and scribbling into text and shapes. This was a gimme for the company responsible for Newton, and a big missing piece for users.

* A New Wake Screen and Launcher. Apple re-used the iPhone and iPod touch Slide to Unlock screen with only the smallest changes, and then barely modified the application launcher—the latter after two years of users asking for app folders and other changes to improve the navigation experience. Had the device’s two most commonly seen interface elements been a little more novel, rather than just rescaling the iPhone UI, viewers would have been a lot happier; instead, the iPad made a “been there, done that” impression.

* Magazines. The iBooks application only goes half of the way towards establishing the iPad as a credible next-generation alternative to Kindle and other eBook readers, and Apple’s demonstration of a New York Times newspaper application rather than a PDF or app-based publishing framework for magazine and newspaper publishers suggests that it doesn’t have a complete solution in place for offering either color periodicals or their subscriptions through iTunes.

* Tethering. Offering an inexpensive iPhone-based 3G tethering feature for the Wi-Fi iPad would have thrilled millions of iPhone users, and quite possibly reduced the widespread dissatisfaction that AT&T’s customers have been feeling. It’s technically easy to accomplish on Apple’s side, and merely a matter of having the right network partner in place.

What About The iPad Name? There was a lot of fuss over the iPad name after the announcement, and we saw evidence of a gender divide, so we decided to run a reader poll to see who did and didn’t like the name, and whether it would affect purchasing decisions. With over 3,500 votes—far more than enough for a fair sample—exactly 50% of responding readers said they liked the iPad name, and 50% said that they didn’t. There was a gender divide, such that men split 52/48% between “like” and “don’t like,” and women split 34% (like) to 66% (dislike), but more importantly, 62% of respondents said that they’d consider buying the iPad, with more readers of both genders saying that they’d consider a purchase even if they didn’t like the name. In any case, the iPad name is nowhere near as wacky as Nintendo’s choice of “Wii,” and the controversy largely died down after two or three days. People, even Twitterers, will get used to it quickly.

Netbooks Versus iPads. Though Apple encouraged the comparison by specifically attacking netbooks as mediocre versions of old PCs, we consider the Netbook versus iPad “fight” to be essentially irrelevant, and focusing on tech specs to justify one position or the other is foolish. Anyone who has used a netbook knows that there are certain things that these computers can do really well with their small form factors, and other things that they almost universally stink at doing. The same is true with the iPad. Drawing a comparison between these products on anything other than price and the most basic features is a waste of time.

To be clear: the iPad in its current form is going to be a basic computer for users who favor simplicity and convenience over raw power. It is going to appeal a lot to kids and grandparents, but it’s also going to become a second or “around the house” computer for adults, and over time, it or something like it will be what retailers, delivery people, restaurant servers, and all sorts of other people literally rely upon for entering and displaying certain types of information. Netbooks and laptops will continue to have their own advantages, but they’re not going to be as intuitive and simple as the iPad.

Our Remaining Concerns. As enthusiastic as we are about the iPad’s impending release(s), there are a few things that continue to concern us. Here they are, in no particular order.

Software Bugs, Upgrade Fees and Timing. Our belief is that Apple will fix the bugs seen during the iPad demos, but it’s possible that it won’t—the iPhone OS was surprisingly problematic during and after its 1.x debut, and app-related instabilities continued early in version 2.x. How long will it take for the first major update, iPhone OS 4.0, to be released? And how much if anything is Apple going to sell OS upgrades for? The less expensive Apple TV includes free upgrades, and if history predicts the future, those upgrades will be necessary to stabilize and improve the iPad after initial release.

Flash. It’s one thing to compromise your web experience for a mobile phone, and another to do so on a screen as large as a computer’s. We’re not fans of Adobe’s Flash and would gladly see it disappear, but at a time when many sites still use Flash, Apple’s decision to shut it out of the iPad—even if Adobe offered to create a stable, lightweight version—is bad news. If Apple’s going to use its products to bludgeon the world into change, it needs to either offer tools to help Flash developers migrate to HTML5, or a compromise solution that doesn’t hurt prospective users as much during the transition.

Revisions B and C. It’s obvious that Apple will release sequels to the original iPad, and they’ll surely be better in at least three ways than today’s models—they’ll also most likely deliver better value (hopefully, universally integrated 3G) than the 2010 versions. The fact that there will be sequels isn’t necessarily a reason to pass on the first-generation versions. But on the other hand, no one knows quite yet what sorts of defects early iPads will have, or what Apple will charge for AppleCare warranty coverage. This is historically extremely important for first-generation Apple products.

Now that the dust has had some time to settle, we’re curious, readers: have your opinions changed at all since the initial iPad unveiling last week? Are you open to the possibility that the 2010 models could find a place in your home or office? Or are you holding off? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below! Numerous other questions on the iPad have been answered in our Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Apple’s iPad and 21 answers to iPad reader questions articles, as well as our latest Ask iLounge column.

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I too believe that, like the iPhone, the iPad is a revolutionary product that will need some modifications and input from real users to become a mainstream success.  I also agree completely with your statement on Apple’s decision to leave Flash out of the iPad.  As much as it may annoy them or cause their products to crash, many popular sites run on and rely on Flash.  Not supporting it (at least initially) will frustrate many users expecting seamless web surfing experience compared to their laptop or desktop.

Posted by S Biad in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 1:35 PM (CST)


Anyone who thinks the iPad is a mediocre devise that has no market, or limited market is short sighted, void of vision of the future ... any device that can replace 60 pounds of books on any school kids back, and can hold the Library of Congress in it, is the Future!

It isn’t an office toy

Posted by Randy in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 1:36 PM (CST)


As a professor of educational technology, I can’t wait to get these devices into the hands of my students (as well as my own!) - while the iPad won’t completely replace a full-fledged laptop, I can already see wonderful uses for technology integration.

Plus, I would love to see this tool (as well as the countless others that will inevitably follow) revolutionize the way we deal with instructional content (read: textbooks).  Instead of static content that is dated nearly instantly, what about a more dynamic model that takes advantage of rich media?

Posted by Damon in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 1:42 PM (CST)


If it had the ability to multitask (and maybe a fix for notifications) I would be 100% sold on the device. Without that though, it is getting a pass. Simple things like using Pandora or AIM while browsing the internet become an absolute chore without multitasking. Like the lack of flash, this feature is somewhat forgivable in a cell phone, but not on a larger device IMO.

I guess I am not as negative about it when it was first announced, but it is still a failure in my eyes without it.

Posted by Jon Cox in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 1:43 PM (CST)


What bugs me most is the lack of a webcam for video chat. I hesitate to commit to the 1st gen iPad when it looks like the camera should have been a given and will be included soon.

Posted by JS in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 1:52 PM (CST)


Excellent article.  Most of the commentaries online proclaiming success or failure of this product are simply premature.  It really could go either way.

I believe that showing the device with OS3.2 rather than 4.0 was an unfortunate reality that Apple couldn’t avoid, and that they have more impressive demos running on iPad with alpha or beta builds of OS4.0.  But they couldn’t show them because they don’t show unannounced products, *period*, and OS4.0 isn’t announced yet.  So they were “stuck” showing the world their new baby with a lame launcher and no multitasking, despite the fact that it’s coming (IMO) but they couldn’t say anything.  A uniquely “Apple” dilemma.

The success or failure (and I suspect that even “failure” will make them plenty of money) of the iPad will ultimately be defined by 2 things:
a) The new Apps that are written for it
b) How well people can figure out what role this will have vs. their other computing devices.  They will only buy in large numbers if they have some idea of this.

Both will be interesting to see how they pan out. The aspect of the first that I’m most curious about is tied to the second as well: co-existence of full OS apps and equivalent iPad apps.  Do I have to buy a separate version for OSX and iPad (true for iWork, it seems).  What if some apps are available for one but not the other?  Will I have to decide which device to sit down with depending on which apps I have on which?  That’ll be confusing. Fortunately, I expect early adopters (of which there will be plenty) to blog endlessly about their experiences, which will over time bring this all into focus.

I don’t think Apple could have done this before now.  Only with the massive user and developer base of the iPhone/iPod Touch do they have the critical mass to try to get this off the ground.  They may still not succeed, but they have a fighting chance.  It will be very interesting to watch.

Posted by Neilw in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 2:00 PM (CST)


I fully agree this will be bigger than the iPhone, and perhaps even bigger than the iPod. I have never hear my parents (who are in their 70’s) say about a computer: “now there’s something I really want”.

This thing is not for us geeks. It’s for the billions of ‘normal’ people out there.

This is the first computer, where we ‘IT guys’ are the illiterates. We should shut up and leave the commenting to the addressed demographic.

Posted by Exrabies in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 2:02 PM (CST)


Like many, I was relatively unimpressed at first. The more I thought about it, though, and the more I examined how I used my iPhone, the more I warmed to the idea.
I spend all most all of my time on the computer at home, and my iPhone works as a peripheral. It runs the iTunes remote most of the time while giving me Facebook updates through push notification. The bigger screen of an iPad would work even better for this.
Also, I had hoped that there would be some sort of support for graphic novels and art books on the iPad, but many apps all ready have those covered. I can use Panelfly or Comics at the 2x resolution.
Still not sure if I’ll get an iPad, but the idea becomes more appealing the more I learn. If I find that I can use the non-DRM’d ePub books that I all ready have, that just might push me over the edge.

Posted by Miranda Kali in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 2:17 PM (CST)


I’m almost certainly going to get one. The one thing that remains to be seen is how it handles eBooks. Once we see a more in depth description of iBooks and how it works, I will know if this is the product for me. I know this is a lot more than an eReader, but a good eReader is the next gadget on my “to buy” list. If the iPad can’t handle that, I’ll have to think twice about it.  And I agree about magazines being an area of potential that we haven’t seen yet. Originally I was sold on Kindle’s e-Ink, but after reading several books on my iPod Touch, I became convinced that you could have a decent LCD reader that would have the advantage of also displaying magazines, comics, and image-heavy books. If the iPad does a good job with eBooks, I can wait and hope for a magazine/comic solution, but if it doesn’t handle plain, text-heavy books as well as the Kindle, I’ll have to wait and see.

Posted by Rob E. in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 2:35 PM (CST)


My opinion has changed since the reveal. I initially wrote it off as an iPod Touch on steroids, especially since it’s lacking handwriting recognition (as far as we know). However, the more I read about the iPad, the more I realize that most of the iPad’s initial shortcomings will be solved by third-party apps or software updates. The hardware is there, its capabilities just need to be exploited. There are still some hardware additions I’d like to see (camera, SD card, etc) but like the iPhone, I don’t see any significant hardware updates coming soon.

I believe I will pick one up as soon as third-party apps fill in the gaps for my uses.

Posted by Tom Jenson in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 2:55 PM (CST)


The “been there done that crowd” of which I am a part all own iPhones.  I think the chap who said this is for the rest of us - the non geeks is right.  I know my child would love to use one of these given what she does with my iPhone and how she could use the new iWork apps.  I have no doubt it will be successful and that Apple will add all the bells and whistles to attract the geeks as well, maybe sooner than we think.

Lack of Flash amazes me too on a device this size.  Let’s hope they can make come up with a solution soon.  It bothers me that my iPhone can’t handle Flash even in a limited way.

Posted by PK Steffen in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 3:14 PM (CST)


There is actually no argument in the article why the iPad is NOT just a bigger iPod Touch. Of course every app will look and feel better on a bigger screen. But besides this there is not one innovative thing about it.

Yes, I am sure at some point in the future all computers will be like tablets (see Star Trek TNG). And maybe the iPad will be seen as a kind of starting point. BUT we are far away from this point. As long as you still need a “real computer” to connect/use the iPad, this is NOT the first one of a new generation of computers. Currently we are still in the “notebooks replace desktop computer” phase. It will need at least 10-15 years to go to the “tablets replace notebooks/all computers” phase.

Posted by gewappnet in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 3:21 PM (CST)


I am sold on the iPad as something that I will use in my home, my classroom (as a teacher and grad student), and on the road. It will replace my Kindle and laptop, serving as my #1 device of choice for most of my computing needs.

The 4.0 OS will solve the multitasking problem, but I think Flash is a red line that old Steve-O will not cross. Say what you will, but Apple - ULTIMATELY - is doing the entire world a favor by eliminating flash on what will be the two most used computing devices in the world - the iPhone and iPad.

We will be ordering one 64GB wifi for me and one 16GB one for my wife and daughter to share. I can’t wait!

Posted by Roderic Rinehart in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 3:56 PM (CST)


“There is actually no argument in the article why the iPad is NOT just a bigger iPod Touch.”

I think it is and it isn’t. This is an evolutionary step.  We (geeks) all wanted a full tablet computing experience but what Apple has done here is open up the iPhone OS experience to a wider audience and made it more beautiful and even more functional.

You hit the nail on the head when you say that it’ll take 10-15 years to bridge the gap between tablets and laptops.  There is so much UI and software that needs to be rethought. For now this covers many of the bases that an average user needs, and as usual, Apple will keep adding to it in bits and bobs until we all want one.

Posted by PK Steffen in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 4:41 PM (CST)


I have no use for a tablet device regardless of who is branding it, acceptance of a tablet is the first hurdle.  Categorizing a Netbook as an inferior tool was inflammatory on the part of Job’s and 35 million users would disagree.  How many I-Pad will be sold, what the users experience will be as how they will be used, remains to be seen.  I know people who bought smart cars and they still believe they made the right choice.

Posted by Geek in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 4:45 PM (CST)


#12: A car is nothing more than a bigger motorcycle. A motorcycle is nothing more than a faster horse. Right?

Obviously not. Focusing on the size rather than the functionality it enables is a mistake. The iPad is, in fact, a physically larger iPod touch. But to ignore the considerably expanded collection of applications it enables, the benefits of multi-finger touchscreen use, and the experiences that a larger screen can provide is just ignorant. Apple doesn’t need to add a projector or a solar panel to the iPad in order for the device to be impressive or innovative; it just needs the right software and accessories.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 5:11 PM (CST)


I was pretty impressed with the ebook features, battery life and initially, the price.

It’s a great concept but if I’m going to carry something that big it needs to have full laptop functionality.

It would make a great tool to have around the house when you need to hop online quickly to check email and such, without having to squint through the proverbial peephole of a smartphone screen.

Unfortunately, it’s a little too limited for the selling price.

Posted by Paul in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 5:17 PM (CST)


LOL at all of this. He said in the article that most of the criticism comes from people who haven’t actually held one. Then in the comments there is criticism from a bunch of people who STILL haven’t held one!

Can’t wait til they notify us when it goes on sale so I can order one.

Posted by Dick Bacon in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 6:59 PM (CST)


I love ilounge and have great respect for its editors, but I am deeply underwhelmed by this editorial.  The main point of the editorial seems to be “we believe that the iPad will be an important and extremely successful product for Apple” and “we are truly, deeply enthusiastic about this device—it is every bit the game-changing innovation that the iPhone was back in 2007.” 

But the editors never explain why the iPad will be such a game-changer.  Instead, they say the iPad will be a second “around the house” computer that will appeal a lot to kids and grandparents.  They say that, someday in the future, the iPad or a device very much like it will become used more commonly in business.  They say the experience of holding one and using one is more than just using an extra-large iPod touch.  Saying “you gotta see this thing!” doesn’t convince me that it’ll be a game changer. 

Most of this article is devoted to explaining what concerns the iLounge editors have about the iPad, what issues need to be fixed in future versions of it, and why it’s a waste of time to compare the iPad to a netbook. 

I hope the editors will revise this editorial to better explain why they think the iPad is such a remarkable device.

Posted by Ron in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 7:24 PM (CST)


I think the iPad is going to be another big hit for Apple, but while the size permits amazing things, it also limits portability.

The iPad is simply too big for a pocket or purse so it’s going to get left home more often than it otherwise would. Apple hopes you’ll buy both an iPhone and an iPad, but pigs will fly before I do that.

Maybe next year the touch will get a 6” or 7” wide screen big brother. It wouldn’t need the thumb sized bezel because it would fit in most hands. It would be a perfect device for consuming iTunes video on the go and far superior to the existing touch and iPhone for web content. The current game of pinching and scrolling is insane and most mobile websites have only a tiny subset of the content of their full size versions.

Posted by Bregalad in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 2, 2010 at 7:57 PM (CST)

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