Despite all the naysayers, Apple’s iPad is certainly poised to revolutionise how we do things. What things these may be is still unclear, but things nonetheless. So here is my little list of these…
Things– to do with an iPad
* Reading magazines
* Reading illustrated books or comics (not so good for regular books methinks)
* Offering a light way to carry university textbooks
* Surfing the (non-Adobe Flash) internet
* Checking out social-network sites
* Make quick emails/instant messages, perhaps while doing other things
* A universal remote for the home (including A/V, curtains and lights)
* Entertainment for travelers (thanks to the long battery life)
* A digital map
* Skyping people (only audio, but possible with a headset)
Meanwhile, in the professional/arts world it could well be used for-
Keeping patient’s charts in hospitals or dentists
The same apps used for diagnostic purposes as now used on an iPod (but with a more useful screen)
Portable productivity (less likely, but it’s lightness helps)
Simple CAD design and Wacom-like uses for artists’ sketching
A remote control for a sound mixing board
In all of this, though it may not be as good as a dedicated device, the fact that it can do so many things without the encumbrance of maintaining or lugging around a computer means it could well catch on. The key point is the app software, which judging by the amount written for the iPod, could well be extensive. There’ll be no boot-up time, it can be used on the lap the way a laptop never really could- if not exactly mobile-sized, it is pretty portable. For now, the size and quality of the touch-screen is unique. People who love using these will feel very comfortable having it on a larger scale. It has unlimited potential.
Right now, though, it is a stiff price for something without a camera and sparse memory, a ‘Hard Sell’, if you like. If you aren’t willing to pony up for the 3G versions, you also lose the GPS functionality. Also, it needs to be said, without a particular reason to get one, many people are wondering, why bother? How that will ultimately translate into sales is anyone’s guess- the fact it can’t keep the tech crowd happy doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to everyone else. The fact it is fun and does the basic necessities for a lot of people may prove to be enough and the unprecedented coverage it’s getting also can’t hurt- apparently, this is the most hyped up device in history.
At the moment, it’s lack of features mean it is still something of a toy, one I may end up getting anyway to do some things, but will wish it did more. As an iPhone user, I’m familiar with the situation- I love the thing and always have, but really wanted copy and paste for a while- then it came. A better, AF camera? It came. Such new devices are a lot of fun, yet as the evolve they also get more useful. This here is Tech Talk, where I’m interested in current and emergent technologies, and whilst part of this is executive toys or digital equivalents of the record player, barbie doll or Pokeball, it all needs to serve a function. So, having seen G.1, it’s high time to speculate about the inevitable G.2 model; which will no doubt give people like me what they were clamouring for and induce a lot of the first Generation users to upgrade. Who knows, I may even get the G1 and then part-exchange for a G2, luckily the price makes it possible. So, without further ado, here are my predictions, some would say speculations…
Predictions for the G.2 iPad
Display- A new 7 inch model for more portability (as seen in the Kindle 2), possibly with another widescreen option for better movie-viewing. This will mean some apps work with bars around them, unless they are specially coded; but in many cases, it won’t make too much difference, just as computer apps can dynamically scale to the screen being used. I suggest 7-inch, as this would be a lot more portable, yet still large enough to have a high resolution screen. If it catches on as an e-reader, it may even be possible to have a hybrid paper/LCD screen at some point, though I expect those to take longer to develop.
In the further future, there may well be solar cells behind the screen, though this is some ways off from now. Another possibility is an AMOLED screen, which may well make it into the
next iPhone (as may many of the features below, they being in the same
product ‘families’), though may still be too expensive to use in larger screens..
Processor- Probably a faster, more energy-efficient model. If the current A4 is really 4-core, as is rumoured, the number of cores may even increase, as a way to increase power without raising the temperature (TDP). This is similar to the design of the Cell processor in the PS3 and very suitable for multi-tasking, or multimedia with various streams to encode/decode simultaneously.
Camera- There will probably be a 5MP AF camera (as rumoured for the G4 iPhone), with LED flash and possibly (or instead), a lower-resolution web-cam on the front. In fact, there is even an unused space for that now, which of course would make this a great video-Skype device. Hopefully, there is the ability to capture 1080p video- which would really make this a compact camera replacement. In the further future, versions may well have 3D stereo cameras like this Samsung model, though I expect the climb to full high-definition in ‘mono’ 2D will come first.
This ‘limitation’, like many other seeming ones, could well be overcome with a bluetooth camera accessory. Though I really want a camera to be featured, that might even work better, as you could position it just right.
Speakers- These will probably stay the same, as it is seen as a device to be docked if engaging in serious audio.
Software- By then, more multi-tasking will be allowed, especially for messaging programs to run in the background. The superior processor will shine with this (though I expect it to come out with OS 4.0, within the next few months, for current devices). In terms of Apps, perhaps the iTouch family’s ‘killer app’ in itself, many of the ones I detailed above will already be available.
Memory- This is a no-brainer. The quantities will be 32/64/128 Gig, which will be enough for a serious stand-alone device, perhaps even a laptop replacement for some (at least for traveling).
3G/GPS- Now standard in all models. By then it may even extend to 4G, if viable networks exist. That said, not too many will want to pay for this service as well as their phone’s data plan, though there may be some way of sharing it (one providing Wi-fi access to the other).
Connections- I’m thinking micro-USB, micro-HDMI, even micro-Displayport. I’d hope for them, but it is quite possible that iPod-style docks will be all that comes, so hopefully they go beyond the pathetic VGA-adapter and expensive ‘camera kit’ nonsense. Bluetooth, though not so fast, could also be used for some of this, especially the upcoming Bluetooth 3.0+ HD. When it comes to the bewildering sparseness in this department, I wonder if connections were avoided for fear of spoiling the simplicity, the clean lines of the device (as on the Macbook Air, or the iPod), the ‘coolness’, the ‘hipness’. Sometimes, I suppose, less is more… especially in the consumer world Apple is aiming for, where this is a real possibility.
So, why ‘a big iPod’ could succeed,
despite anything anyone might say
In all of this, let’s remember that this is aimed at Apple’s market- the iPod crowd, making things accessible to ordinary people. Despite crying out for all these feature aboes, it’s really the iTunes integration and app store that is driving Apple’s sales- along with the terrific functionality they offer. Simply adding more features for the sake of it isn’t going to help them, as people don’t like ones that they don’t know how to use; they tend to crowd devices so that the layman doesn’t even know what goes where. They introduce the very worst thing for the consumer, the thing that has put so many off computers, let alone smart phones, for so many years- confusion of purpose.
Giving credit where it’s due, Apple are masters of avoiding this predicament, by developing form and function in harmony so that everything has an easy to use place. Just seeing my DSLR’s menus made a manual-camera using friend say he could never use it. Of course, these features can all be turned off or even ignored- but they can be intimidating if too obvious, as you are left thinking you ought to know, or will need to spend time studying up on it. By contrast, ‘It just works’ is Apple’s catch-phrase, one that brings people from all walks of life into their stores and using their products. Confusion- any kind of confusion, can spoil that pristine experience of simply doing what you wanted to do. If this means flying in the face of accepted logic and open standards, then Apple, like other companies, is more than willing to do that, with the hope of setting new standards themselves. I’m not sure I agree with this approach, as it makes for a minefield of choices for the consumer, but at least within the Apple ‘walled garden’ it kind of makes sense, as you know what’s what.
Keeping things simple has also opened up the world of Apple technology to many females. Both my girlfriend and mother have and love their iPhones, in a way that they couldn’t love their computers (well, newer laptops are better in this, but only used in certain ways). I think the touchy-feely way of doing things appeals to them, rather than needing to adapt to the ‘male world’ of hard drives and USB ports to plug into. I confess, I’m also an Apple fan, even though I decry their limitations. I love my Macbook and iPhone, treasuring them, whilst my former desktop and hi-tech Sharp phone (from 2006, with a 5mp, 3x optical zoom camera and VGA screen no less) were way harder to use- crashes, the phone needed multiple clicks to do anything, just not as much fun (though these days PCs are a lot better). Perhaps for some Mac fans, just one button can be enough!
Not everyone using technology is a technophile; something many tech-critics are prone to forget. Look at the success of the Wii, which does hardly anything, as evidence of this. The same with the DS, which also offers a new and ‘natural’ interface that anyone can enjoy. Back in the world of computers, the reduced capabilities of a Netbook have been no barrier to their adoption (price is no doubt a factor, but ease of use is certainly another one). Yet, the problems with a Netbook show what happens when you try to shrink the desktop interface too much- cramped keyboards, tiny text and awful, tiny touchpads. It’s almost as if such hand-held devices are destined to have touch interfaces.
So here comes the iPad- a way to do what you can with the surprisingly highly evolved iTouch (iPod/iPhone) devices- yet more, better and faster, too. Devices like it are the future, in a way that laptops can’t be- as the latter are over-evolved word-processors, designed for desk use. Just look at the imagery from films like Avatar – slate-like devices are everywhere. Because the keyboard, taking up half the space of a device, is a waste of space if it isn’t used- and most people can touch something quicker than scroll around for it. So let’s not underestimate it- even if we are waiting for just the right model before we make the leap. Smart phones took years before they reached the level of the iPhone 3GS, or Google’s new Nexus One (which technologically could eat the iPhone for breakfast, but doesn’t have the software to match, I’m afraid). Slates could well catch on even faster and I’m willing to bet the coming iPad is far from the last word on them.