Last week Apple finally announced the release of a long-rumored tablet, the iPad, and the Internets are all a-twitter. Like, dislike, surprised, disappointed, and underwhelmed are the adjectives floating around, and generally the consensus is a sense of disappointment. With the exception of a couple of enjoyable posts from John Gruber, a thoughtful piece from TUAW’s Erica Sudan, and a humorous, but vulgar post from Gizmodo most of the chatter has been negative. Even Dan Lyons (Fake Steve) gives a scathing review of the iPad, in not a traditionally funny and sarcastic way either.
With all of the hype that has built up for this mythical device over the past several years the iPad has delivered miserably. Such is the way things go when you build them up for so long. Ultimately sales will be the judge, and I’m quite positive that Apple is going to rock the computing world with the iPad. Here are my thoughts on the iPad and why I think it will do well.
First, the hardware
Traditionally, Apple is on the bleeding edge of design. If you haven’t noticed, other computer manufacturers are mimicking Apple’s design for their desktops and notebooks. We’ll see a similar thing happen with the iPad we did with the iPhone; manufacturers will kind of copy the form factor of the hardware, but will do it with less style and aplomb. You’ll see similar items from Dell, ASUS, and others that look decent, and maybe even attractive, but when it comes down to it the hardware will feel cheap. For instance, only two touchscreen phones on the market today use glass like the iPhone: the Blackberry Storm and the Droid. Everyone else uses plastic. I believe that as soon as you pick up the iPad all other products will feel inferior. You’ll judge the others by the way they feel in your hands. The feel is important because it is what you will experience the most.
As far as looks go, the iPad is beautiful. I can’t wait to pick up this thing and feel it in my hands. It’s going to be wonderful. The brushed aluminum back is stunning and something I wish would be brought back with the iPhone. Apple’s aluminum feels good. It feels right, like a piece of my soul is resting. The large glass touchscreen is going to be a joy to use. I’m never going to get anything done on it because I’ll be meticulously cleaning off the slightest smudge.
The A4 Chip
I’m excited about this chip. If you read the tech sites you’ll know that other chip companies are saying this is nothing special, but it is special. If you know Apple you know that they control what hardware goes into their machines. They engineer it for the best performance. They don’t make purchases based on the lowest bidder. They’re not cheap, and that shows. It’s the same thinking with the chip. Maybe it’s nothing special as far as power and performance goes, but it’s special in the sense that it’s made to work with the rest of the hardware. It’s not a mod on a manufacturing line, it’s the only one in production. That squeezes out every last bit of power, and that is special.
Just like Steve mentioned in the keynote, hundreds of millions of people already know how to use it. Thank you, iPod Touch and iPhone.
Now for the software
This is the area that will rule the iPad. Just like the iPhone, we didn’t see much when it was first released, but everyone was amazed. The iPhone revolutionized the cell phone industry, and continues to do so not with hardware, but with software. As the iPad matures we will see new and amazing features. For the most part, everything is the same as the iPhone with the exception of iWork and iBooks. It’s cool to see a full-featured office suite on the iPad, but I really want to focus on the iBook software.
Giving props to Amazon during the keynote, Jobs said the iPad stands on the shoulders of the Kindle. As with anything Apple does the UI looks beautiful and I’m sure is a joy to read with. What I want to know is what features will be available.
I have not made the switch to ebooks yet because I prefer a real page. I enjoy the smell and feel of a book. Are there features of an ebook reader that draw me? Of course, but nothing has had a great enough pull to change my mind. What I want in an ebook reader is the same thing I have in real books–the ability to dog-ear pages, highlight, and write on pages. I enjoy marking up my books with the things that stand out and the things that I want to easily find later. When iBooks has features and functionality that I can turn into practical, everyday use, then not only will I be on my way to purchase an iPad, this little guy will revolutionize books the way the iPod revolutionized music.
If you’re a fan of font design, even moderately like myself, you know that the ultimate purpose of good design (in all things actually) is that the item you’re using becomes invisible. You don’t notice a beautiful font and that’s why helvetica is so enduring, it steps out of the way for you to enjoy what you are reading. You don’t see it, you read it. I believe the same is true of good hardware; when you use it you don’t notice it because it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do.
I don’t notice my MacBook Pro. It flows in and out of my life when I need it. It does exactly what I need, when I need it to do so. I notice my PC at work. I notice it when I wait for it to open a new mail message. I notice it when pages freeze. I really notice it when I wait for an unminimized page to redraw.
You won’t notice the iPad; you’ll use it. You’ll appreciate the iPad. It will become a piece of your technology life. You’ll notice it when you need to use it and don’t have it. You’ll notice it when you use a substitute. That is good design. That is attention to detail. That is how Apple makes its products. To get a real feel for this engineering miracle (as much as you can right now anyway), watch the 7 minute video on Apple’s site. This makes it all come together.