Wednesday was a very big day for me. Â Even though I worked late into the morning Tuesday night on a project for work, my wife kindly came in at 9:58 am and woke me so that we could watch the web as Apple announced the long awaited tablet. Â For over a year I’ve “known” approximately what this tablet would be and have impatiently awaited it’s arrival. Â After all the news was out I can’t say that I was blown away, but on the other hand I wasn’t extremely disappointed either. Â It is mostly what I expected it to be. Â I was bummed about several things, but also pleasantly surprised at the price. Â And after a few days of reflection I have a couple of things I want to say about the soon-to-be-in-my-hands iPad. Â So read on for my thoughts about the missing flash, missing camera, weird aspect ratio, the product category and a prediction for release day.
The Transparent Apple Game
I honestly believe Apple execs had the perfect iPad design with all the amazing bells and whistles, sat around a huge conference table about a month ago and said “ok, what critical features can we take out of version 1 and delay until version 2, 3, 4, etc?” Â This is Apple’s MO and it’s completely transparent now. Â The new “One More Thing” has been replaced with “taking out one critical feature”. Â Steve Jobs thinks that if he releases the perfect iPad now there will be no reason to purchase another one next year. Â And he wants us on the hook like a heroin addict coming back each year for a new fix.
I bet the rumors of the front facing camera and the idea of it logging you in by seeing your face are true, but just not for this release. Â By removing the camera in version one, Apple keeps hold of our cahones and guarantees that we’ll come back to buy version two. Â Especially if it has that cool face recognition feature that jobs can impress us with in a presentation.
But the problem is two-fold. Â First is that we now know their game. Â Second is that iPad is in too high a price tag class to pull the game off successfully. Â In order to get the top of the line iPad today it will cost $830 plus $30 a month. Â With tax and accessories thats about a grand on day one. Â But if I KNOW that I’m going to be buying another new iPad in a year (to get the camera), it makes me think that I should only buy the cheapest one now. Â In the long run Apple looses.
It really brings me to this question: What Apple product class does the iPad fit in? Â If you look at Apple’s website and click on “Mac” in the header it will show a sliding list of all Apple’s Mac computers. When the iPad is released will it be in this category, or will it be listed along with the iPhone and iPods? Â I expect Apple to place it with the latter but I actually disagree with this classification. Â The iPad really is about as powerful as my current couch computer, the Hacintosh Dell Mini 9. Â I didn’t explicitly list it in my iWant post a week ago, but I really want the iPad to be something I can carry back and forth to work INSTEAD of my Mac Pro, and at home I want the iPad to replace my Mini 9. Â The missing camera prevents it from completely replacing the home couch computer because we use it to iChat AV with the grandparents.
I expect Apple will migrate the iPad from being an iPod type device to being a mac computer. Â With the iWork apps it’s clear that Jobs knows that he needs it to be functional to justify the price tag. Â And I expect that a year or two from now the My Cloud computing features that I described in myÂ iWant post will become a reality. Â Let’s even call it a prediction for 2011.
The Name, No Flash, and Other Annoyances
I can’t say that I was happy to see the name iPad. Â It’s so laughable and obvious that I don’t even have to say it. Â But only a couple of days later I’m already over it, used to it and I think most everyone else is too. Â It’s sort of like when your 4 year old starts telling poopie jokes. Â It’s funny for about a week and then you don’t want to hear it anymore. Â When you stop laughing they eventually stop joking about it. Â It’s the same here. Â Jokes are funny the first time you hear them, not the 100th. Â The iPad joke can’t last more than about a week or two, and by the time it actually hits the streets it will have been a passing fancy.
The no Flash thing on the other hand is really getting old. Â I don’t know how these guys can say with a straight face that it’s the best way to view the web. Â I had really hoped that the tablet would have Flash. Â But it doesn’t really surprise me that Apple is going to be greedy and prevent us from watching Hulu for free instead of buying TV shows from them. Â Again, Apple is transparent. Â We get it – you want to make money on every aspect of the product.
Still while the missing Flash is a huge annoyance, it is software, and software can always be fixed. Â Someday Apple could change their stance and put flash in mobile safari, or someone could write an app for that, or the web could migrate towards html 5. Â Not to mention that this thing will be hacked in no time.
My last little complaint is that there’s only one mono speaker. Â I suppose the reason they did this is that the device can be used in any of the 4 orientations and so stereo speakers wouldn’t be oriented correctly 3 out of the 4 ways. Â Do you place the speakers for a portrait or landscape orientation. Â The correct answer by the way is landscape for movies. Â But other than movies and maybe games it will probably mostly be used in a portrait orientation, as the docks hold it upright, not sideways. Â Also, this can be fixed with the right 3rd party speaker dock or carry case.
The Odd Aspect Ratio
One of the things that really bothered me at first was the really weird 4:3 aspect ratio. Â Seeing movies play on it just looked odd. Â Since watching movies was one of my main desired uses, at first it seemed to me that it should have been closer to a 16:9 screen aspect ratio. Â But now I believe that Apple was correct in their choice of screen size and ratio. Â Here’s why:
Above is the Apple iPad playing one of my favorite movies, “Muppets From Space.” Â The movie is roughly 16:9 and when played on an iPod you orient the device landscape and can either play it with black letterbox bars at the top and bottom, OR you can zoom in to the center and fill the screen with it (seen below).
In this movie and many others, zooming in doesn’t work because you’ll miss much of the action on the left and right of the screen. Â Here we can barely see Rizzo. Â However, if we were playing an older tv show or movie that has a 4:3 aspect ratio it would take up the whole screen. Â So what if Apple had made the screen aspect ratio 16:9, what would that look like and what would it do to the iPad? Â Let’s take a look:
Above is the iPad shrunken down to fit the aspect of 16:9 movie. Â But now what would happen if I played a movie on this modified iPad that has an even wider screen aspect ratio, like Iron Man? Â It would still have bars at the top and bottom. Â What if I played a old episode of Remington Steel with it’s 4:3 aspect ratio? Â Now I’d have pillar bars on the left and right. Â The problem is that there are at least 3 different popular aspect ratios for movies and tv. Â So which aspect is the right choice for a device like this?
Here’s the reality: If apple shrunk down the iPad to the above 16:9 widescreen, you’d just have a smaller device with less screen real estate. Â You’d be getting less screen for your money. Â And the main purpose of the iPad isn’t to be tiny – that’s the job of the iPhone and iPod Touch. Â What’s the difference between shrinking down the iPad and just showing letterbox bars? Â Either way you’re getting the same size picture on a 16:9 movie. Â But shrunken down you’d get a smaller everything else, including much smaller 4:3 shows. Â And check out what happens when you reorient that shrunken down iPad to portrait:
Compare the image above to all the shots in the Apple iPad Gallery (the second page of them). Â You wouldn’t want to read an ebook or surf the web on that narrow of a screen. Â And it would totally kill the cool double column-ness of the mail app. The 16:9 iPad would be too narrow for everything except 16:9 movies. Â And there’s much more to this thing than movies.
A Final Prediction
There’s probably a lot more to be said, but I gots to get some sleep. Â I will end with a final prediction about release day. Â Sometime between now and 60 days from now when the iPad is released, probably on the day Steve announces it’s release, I expect some new feature will be added. Â Excitement has been building towards this for several years but over the next two or three months it will level off. Â Jobs will do something else to pump everyone up right before it hits the street.
Now that Adobe has come out swinging we know it won’t be flash. I also don’t expect it to be the camera, since Apple let people play with these last Wednesday. Â Although, it’s possible that the 3G version could have the camera since no one has seen it yet. Â (still I doubt that.)
If I had one guess it would be price. Â It’s highly possible that Apple will announce a $399 base price on release day instead of the $499 tag. Â That would really shake things up and get everyone frothing at the mouth.
Overall I’ve still very excited about the iPad. Â I’ve come to understand and agree Apple’s choice on the screen aspect ratio. Â Most everything that is missing can be fixed in software and therefore added at any time. Â I am bummed about flash missing but it wasn’t a surprise. Â The only hard feature missing is the camera, and while I believe that Apple will add this in version 2 I’m not going to wait another year to pick one up. Â Maybe someone will release it as a peripheral, which would be an ok solution for the times when I need it. Â So I will buy oneÂ (or several) the day it comes out and upgrade later if I need to. Â I’m an early adopter and always have been. Â I was the first person in my circle to buy a TiVo, and I had an iPhone from the first day and have loved it ever since. I think the only time I’ve been burned by early adopting was HD DVD. Â So I’m not that worried about the iPad. Â The only question now is which model do I get and do I need GSP and 3G.