Contemplating the iPad

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Now that the dust has settled a bit and everyone else has either praised or condemned Apple's latest hardware offering let us take a look at a few interesting points...

The Beginning of the End Or The End of the Beginning?
A number of people see the end of open, multipurpose computing devices should the iPad find significant traction, such as Jim Stogdill. While comparing the iPad to an Toyota Prius1 he lets known his fear that the closed hardware platform coupled with the high barrier to entry (pay for software developer kit (SDK), wait for approval) will significantly detour the next generation of programmers from playing around and innovating.

Yes, I am of the generation that learned programming, first hand on Apple IIe. It is part of the reason why Apple holds quite a hold on my attention. As a kid I playing with the machine for hours at a time, learning what it could do thanks in part to the built-in BASIC programming language. Heck even as an adult I've found that old computing platform useful.

However, I can't stop thinking, just because transistor radios can't be easily fiddled with, didn't mean people stopped fiddling about with electronics. Sure, there might be a bit more ignorance about electronics in the general population than my liking, but that's easy to take care of. I mean, I didn't take auto maintenance in high school to become an auto mechanic. I took to in part to prevent that high barrier to entry as a road block from getting the most out of my vehicle2.

Moreover, the conditions that exists today are by no means the end-all-be-all. When the Mac first came out the SDK was priced quite high. Now a days it's free, anyone can start playing around on a Mac by simply using the second DVD included with OS X to install Xcode. Nor did the high entry point stop innovation, I mean just look at Adobe.

Which of course brings me to the overall point about the iPad, it might contain the DNA of what could be - being able to access content at anytime, from anywhere no matter if that spreadsheet resides on your iPad, on your computer or on a cloud - but that doesn't mean what it is limited to now will also be true later.

In fact, I would suggest that, as time goes on Apple with open up the iPod/iPhone/iPad platform more and more as new opportunities arise. That goes double for the iTunes store.

To take just one example, personally, when I see my iPhone 3G pause for a handful of seconds just after it receives new email in the background I'm glad Apple hasn't allowed multitasking applications. From my vantage point the hardware is just barely able to support one or two apps running at the same time, let alone dozens.

About That Hardware
After all that additional computing power comes with a tradeoff, responsiveness and battery life.

The two most power hungry elements of a laptop are the LCD display and the CPU. A 10-inch screen requires quite a bit of power just to keep the screen backlit and readable. Require more computing power for something like multitasking and down goes the battery life drastically.

So I'm not sure why people are surprised that Apple has yet to enable multitasking given that the iPad is reported to get 10 hours of battery-life. Plus, everyone who has had time with the iPad thus far has commented on it being wicked fast. Again no doubt in part because of the lack of overhead required for managing a dozen apps at once.

Apple has obviously made some key decisions about what to focus on for the here and now. 

Of course not a lot is publicity known about the custom processor, but I'm sure Apple will be using variations of the chipset in devices to come and has an overall roadmap for the next few generations, leading us back to the conclusion that it is probably only a matter of time until more complex features such as multitasking make their way onto this growing mobile platform.

What About the MacBook Air?
Speaking about Apple's growing mobile platform, has the iPad killed the MacBook Air? I mean I haven't heard much from "the experts" about how the MacBook Air now fits into Apple's overall strategy.

Sure some people are proclaiming the death of computing as we know it which should make one wonder, where does the MacBook Air fit these days?

While I don't know for sure, it doesn't seem hard in hindsight to see the MacBook Air as an evolutionary branch of Apple's long running development of tablet. Or for that matter as an experiment: Are people looking for slim, fast, lightweight laptops, such as what the Air represents or something different?

Given that Apple last quarter sold millions of iPhones and that while iPod sales are decreasing, iPod touch sales were up 55 percent it isn't hard to spot the trend line of where the market seems to be leading.

So given that Apple now has the lightweight go anywhere category covered from the pocket-size mobile device (iPod touch), a smartphone (iPhone) to the tablet (iPad) at various price points as well as the more traditional laptops with the MacBook and MacBook Pro, one has to wonder, what's going to happen to the MacBook Air?

1 I have no idea why tech people love car analogies, but it seems to be the case. However can someone help me understand if the iPhone is the Hummer of smartphones how is an iPad a Prius?

2 Ack, more stupid car analogies...

1 Comment

The Apple iPad today, is a killing word -- more than a product -- it's a brand new idea, and potentially a mover in the electronics world. Before iPad today it was called the Apple Tablet, the Slate, Canvas, and a handful of other guesses -- but what was little more speculation for nearly ten years is now very much a reality. Announced on January 27th to a middling response, Apple h for what could be the most significant product launch in its historyfor the Ipad Today world; the making (or breaking) of an entirely new class of computer for the company. The iPad is something in between its monumental iPhone and wildly successful MacBook line -- a usurper to the netbook throne, and possibly a sign of things to come for the entire personal computer market... if Apple delivers on its promises. And those are some big promises; the company has been tossing around words like "magical" and "revolutionary" to describe what many have dismissed as nothing more than a larger version of its iPod touch. But is that all there is to this device? Is the hope that Apple promises for this new computing experience nothing more than marketing fluff and strategic hyperbole? Or is this a different beast altogether -- a true sign that change has come to the world of the PC? We have the definitive answers to those questions (and many more) right here, so read on for our full review of the Apple iPad!

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About the Author

Paul is a technologist and all around nice guy for technology oriented organizations and parties. Besides maintaining this blog and website you can follow Paul's particular pontifications on the Life Universe and Everything on Twitter.


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