The Apple iPad: Predictions and Impressions

There comes a time in technology when it doesn't pay to wait to ship any longer. There were a lot of things to get right with the iPad, hence the delay, but it also holds so much more promise for the future. The low introductory price takes the sting out of that dilemma.

First, I want to take a look at my predictions from September 25.

iPad predictions-2

What's of interest is that the iPad is apparently an even lower power device that I had anticipated. Unless Apple's stated battery life is somehow severely fudged, the iPad is generating 2.5 watts in normal use with a smallish 25 W-h battery to give a 10 hour life. That's amazing.

I was also surprised by the screen format of about 1.36:1 rather than 1.78:1 (HDTV). I would have assumed that the onboard processor would handle 1080p videos natively on a 1.78:1 display. Instead, it looks like everything gets scaled to 720p - and maybe letterboxed at that.

In terms of storage, I was hoping for a replaceable, upgradable SSD. That way one could go from 64 or 128 GB to 256 GB. Instead, likely due to power constraints, the iPad uses NAND Flash, like the iPhone. What this means is that, despite the low introductory price, one will be wise to buy the high capacity 64 GB unit if heavy use is expected. Good-bye $499, unless it's for a youngster in the family.

So much for predictions. On to some observations.

I was disappointed to see that only one iPhone app could run at a time. We've all been expecting multitasking, but again, ease of use and power limitations may have made that difficult.

For all those people who wondered about standing and typing, now we know. Just watch Steve Jobs with the iPad couched on his legs and typing with both hands. And then there's the dock with its keyboard. There wasn't as much invention there as we had hoped.

One has to wonder if Apple's enhanced apps for the iPad will eventually become available for Mac OS X. Perhaps Apple intends to differentiate the products with the divergence. Time will tell.

iWork for the iPad has to be one of those "Say What?" moments. I don't think the meaning of this will become clear for awhile. Clearly the iPad is a content consumption device while a Mac OS X-based Mac is a content creation device. So what's the deal with content creation via iWork when one doesn't have access to all the other neat utilities and tools we use for content creation on a Mac? I think that situation will change in time as developers re-cast their classic Mac OS X apps into the iPad environment. As with the iPhone and native apps, this process is going to take about a year.

I suspect that Verizon wouldn't deal with Apple on the low cost data plan. I suspect that AT&T's network is going to become slammed, even more than before. I suspect that Verizon will eventually become a 3G data option.

Now we have three major platforms, not counting the Apple TV. There's the Mac OS X-based machines and then the iPhone OS-based iPad and iPhone. That's two out of three systems that are subject to Apple's iTunes store and approval process. Is this Apple's vision of the future? Some thought that Cocoa and Carbon would co-exist together forever. Some may be worrying now about the fate of the legacy Mac OS X-based computer. But that's a decision that's years away. It all depends on the sales numbers for the iPad.

My biggest question is, for the average Apple customer, "Do I have to have one of these?" I think if the price were the normal premium Apple price, one might be tempted to say: "No way." However, the entry level price makes buying a low end model a no brainer for many who want to get in on the ground floor. One can grow with the technology and not commit huge funds. After all, the TCO for an iPhone 3GS with monthly payments is just under $3,000. The iPad is a good device to experiment with until later versions with more complete software and better hardware come out. The iPad line is a computer to grow with for the next ten years, moving up with subsequent models.  It'll be a lot of fun.

Finally, where's that darn forward-facing iSight camera for video conferencing?