Random Thoughts – Randocity!

iPad or iPod?

Posted in Apple by commorancy on May 12, 2010

If you’re considering an iPad purchase, you’ll want to contemplate the following before you buy. The iPad has several ergonomic design problems that really prevent it from being truly hand and body friendly. Let’s explore and then compare that with the iPod Touch.

Curved back

All of Apple’s mobile products tend to have a curved back (excluding notebooks). I guess they like this design because they keep producing it. In the iPod, this isn’t so much of an issue. With the iPad, however, the curved back is a problem. If you lay it down, it wobbles and spins. So, if you want to put it on a surface, it will have to be a soft surface (a pillow, rug or other conforming surface). If you place it onto a hard surface, you’ll need to be prepared for the wobble. You will have a similar problem with an iPod, but if you add a case, you can somewhat manage this issue.

Higher power requirements

To operate an iPad, it needs a higher power requirement to charge and use it when plugged in. So, you may find that some notebooks cannot charge the iPad when docked. You may have to plug it into an outlet to adequately charge the iPad. With the iPod, however, it requires a much smaller power footprint, so charging off of a USB port is not a problem.

Weight

The iPad is heavy. It may only weigh in at 1.5 or 1.6 pounds with 3G, but when you’re holding that in your hand for a while, it does start to get heavy. So, don’t expect for this weight to remain comfortable in your hand for long. That means, for a book reading experience where you might want to hold it for several hours, you’re going to have to find a way to prop it up. The iPod touch is a comfortable weight and fits in the hand nicely.

Kickstand (or lack thereof)

It’s quite clear that due to the curvature of the back and the weight of this device, it desperately needs a kickstand to hold it in a proper position and still allow it to be touchable. Without such an accessory, the iPad quickly becomes unwieldy and clumsy (as if it wasn’t clumsy already).

Design

Some people think the design is sleek and simple. I’m not really convinced of that. The thick black border looks dated. The curved back prevents it from sitting flat. The weight of it is too heavy. The battery only lasts 10 hours and requires a higher power charging adapter. So, don’t expect to plug it into your old iPhone or iPod chargers and have it work on the iPad. It might power it, but it’s not going to charge it.

The touch interface is both at once sleek and cumbersome. It works, but in some cases it doesn’t (when wearing gloves). The glossy screen looks slick until you have thousands of smeary fingerprints and oil all over it. Then it’s just gross.

It’s not truly a portable device. The physical size of the device precludes putting it in your pocket. So, you have to carry it around in a case. It may look cool when you take it out to use it, but it’s still clumsy and big. If I’m going to carry around a device of this size, I would prefer to carry around a netbook with a real keyboard and real mouse pad.

Price

The iPad is effectively Apple’s netbook. They didn’t want to do a netbook, so they compromised by producing a large iPod touch (the iPad). This device has a larger screen and bigger touch surface, but that also means it has more chances of breakage if bumped, jarred or dropped. So, if you buy one, you need a case for it.

Overall

The iPad’s design is a bit clumsy. It tries to improve on the iPod touch, but the only thing that is really an improvement is the screen size. If Apple would release a 3G iPod Touch or a paperback book sized iPad with 3G, I might actually consider one. The iPad’s current size is too big and needs to be scaled back. The weight needs to be about a quarter of the iPad (or less). A smaller screen means that it’s probably harder to break. Finally, the price needs to get down to $250 or so. Right now, the price is too high at $629 with 3G for a glorified iPod touch. If it had a full Mac OS X system on it, then it could be worth it.

Apple’s got a lot of work to be done before the next iteration of the iPad. Let’s hope the device actually succeeds. I’m just not so sure of that with past tablet device successes.

Advertisements
Tagged with: , , , ,

iPad: After the dust settles

Posted in Apple, cloud computing, computers, itunes by commorancy on May 3, 2010

We are now a month post iPad launch and where are we? Some news sites are postulating the the use of iPad in the enterprise world. I can’t even fathom a use for it at home, much less putting it into the hands of corporate users. Let’s examine this platform more carefully to understand the reasons for its lack of viability in Enterprise, much less for simple home uses.

Multitasking

I know a lot of media outlets have harped endlessly on the lack of multitasking. Granted, it is a computing device and most computing devices do require some level of multitasking. I know that the iPod and the iPhone had very little internal memory (at least up to 3rd gen editions). So, it could only comfortably run one app. That was primarily a memory limitation. With the latest iPhone and iPod touch, that may have all changed. To be perfectly honest, I don’t keep up with Apple’s hardware spec details. Why? Because it’s not really that much of an interest. I mean, that’s the point. It shouldn’t be. Apple has always touted their devices ‘just work’. So, why should I need to dig inside one of their devices to find out the gritty details? I shouldn’t need to.

This issue is also what bites Apple many times over. They decide to under design the device by putting in not enough resources. So, they have to make concessions in the operating system by removing things like multitasking. Of course, with the iPod touch and the iPhone, we’re talking about very small devices that may not have the physical room to hold the amount of resources necessary to support multitasking.

The iPad’s physical size should no longer hinder their ability to put in the necessary resources to fully support multitasking (and then some). So, there is no reason why the iPad shouldn’t have supported multitasking out of the gate. But, it doesn’t. The iPhone 4.0 OS is supposed to address this issue, but not until the fall of 2010.

Multitasking and how it relates to computing

So, is it required that a PC support multitasking? Good question. It’s also a question not easily answered. In general, though, the answer should be ‘yes’. It should be ‘yes’ because the ability to run multiple apps is necessary to get things done. For example, to copy and paste between two different documents or to share information through application conduits. Even the simple act of embedding one app inside another requires multitasking. Quitting and restarting each app to move between them is cumbersome and time wasting.

In the end, yes, multitasking is required to make the computing experience be what we’ve come to expect. In the iPad, that computing experience isn’t there. So, for this reason, iPad won’t be fully accepted without multitasking. We’ll revisit this topic, however, once multitasking is (re) introduced in iPhone 4.0 OS.

Enterprise computing and the iPad

Is it ready for enterprise? I personally would say no. I’ve owned an iPod touch for several years and since the iPad really has no better selection in enterprise apps than does the iPod touch, the answer to this question is still no. Even though the screen on iPad is larger, it doesn’t offer the necessary productivity apps to fully work in a corporate enterprise. Yes, it does have a mail app. That’s a big part of what makes it work in Enterprise. Unfortunately, that mail app is so locked down and limited, that it may not fully work for the enterprise. That’s not to say that the mail app isn’t good in a pinch or to read a quick current email or two. But, don’t try to go searching for emails buried in your folders, that just doesn’t work well.

For enterprise computing, the current incarnation of the iPad is nowhere near ready.

What uses does the iPad offer?

Good question, once again. It isn’t a media PC, so that’s out. It isn’t good for enterprise level computing, that’s out. It can watch movies and read books, so coffee table literature, ok. Ignoring the touch screen and sleek design (which are just amenities, after all), it has to come down to the apps and features. The apps are limited, at this point, and I don’t really see much of that changing due to Apple’s app lockout situation.

Until Apple opens the platform up for general development, the platform will continue to be tightly controlled and, thus, limiting the applications that are available. Until this situation is resolved, this device may never end up anything more than a novelty.

HP’s slate cancelled

Looking back at history shows us that the tablet has had an extremely rocky past that always leads to failure. I’m not sure that even Apple can overcome this rocky past even with the success of the iPhone. The iPad is really too big and clunky to be truly portable. It’s too closed to allow open development. So, it’s no surprise that HP and other companies who had previously announced their intent to release a tablet are now reconsidering that release. In fact, HP announced the slate on the heels of Apple’s iPad announcement and has now cancelled the slate completely before it was even released.

Some people blame the ‘success’ of the iPad. Well, success is very much subjective. Putting 500,000 of the iPad into circulation is nothing to sneeze at. But, that doesn’t necessarily indicate success. The Newton comes to mind here. It was a hot new item that all but died in about two years. Where is the Newton now? Apple has a past history of deleting products rapidly and the iPad may be one of those items.

Apple’s past failures

If you really want an iPad, then get it now while it’s hot. Don’t wait. The reason I say this is that in 6-12 months, you could find yourself with a doorstop that Apple no longer supports. Apple has a history of killing off failing devices rapidly. So, with this particular device, don’t wait to buy it. If you wait until spring of 2011, you may find that the device is dead and buried. You could be holding a flat doorstop that iTunes no longer supports and with no active development. I can very easily see this device becoming one of Apple’s most recent failures.

Working while traveling

The tablet format has a questionable past anyway. The form factor isn’t pleasing to use. It isn’t easy to carry and, getting past the touch screen, it’s cumbersome to write text into it. So, it’s going to need a dock with a keyboard and mouse. A real keyboard and a real mouse. But, that takes the portability out of it. If you’re sitting on a plane, you’re locked into using the touch surface. Now consider that you can’t lay the device flat and work easily. I mean, you can lay it down, but then it’s not at the correct viewing angle. To get it into the correct viewing angle, you have to hold it in one hand, you have to balance it in your lap in a contorted way or you have to carry along a kickstand when you’re on a plane.

In this instance, a notebook, iphone, itouch or netbook works much better. For a netbook, the top pops open at the correct viewing angle and you have a real keyboard and mouse available. Granted, it’s not a touch surface, but that’s just a novelty anyway. Once the novelty of touch wears off, then you have to determine how to make use of this input method in an actual usable way.

Using an iPod touch or iPhone is also easy. It fits easily in one hand, is light in weight and works without the need for kickstands, contorted positions or clumsy positioning issues. Clearly, not a lot of usability was discussed when the iPad was designed. Usability is one of the things Apple usually prides itself in its designs. In the iPad, usability was clearly an afterthought.

3G iPad

This is the one and only one saving grace of the iPad. Internet everywhere is where we need to be. The supposed $29.95 monthly plan associated with the 3G version of the iPad is a reasonable price. Unfortunately, the iPad itself is marked up by an additional $130. So, instead of $499, it’s $629 (and that’s the smallest iPad). But, the iPad with 3G is the only version that I would personally consider. I already have an iPod touch and its uses are extremely limited unless you have WiFi handy (which isn’t very often). And, even when you do find a place that claims to have WiFi, 8 times out of 10, the connectivity is either slow or limited. So much for free WiFi. While 3G isn’t that fast, it’s at least always on pretty much anywhere you need it.

Form factor is the key to success

The problem with the current iPad is its size. This is the wrong form factor to release. It’s the wrong size and wrong weight. The size that the iPad should have been was about the size of a paperback book. Bigger than an iPod touch, small enough to fit in a pocket. This will take computing to the truly portable level. The screen will be bigger than a Sony PSP (which is a decent size to watch movies), but small enough to still be portable. Combine that with 3G and you have a device that people will want to use. The iPad is not that portable and still requires a case with handles. After all, you don’t really want to drop a $600+ device. But, a device the size of a paperback book at the cost of maybe $399, that’s in a price range that could work.

First Gen iPad

Remember that this is the first generation iPad. You really have to wait until the third gen of an Apple device to get to the features that make it worthwhile. The question remains, will the iPad even make it to a third incarnation? Only time will tell. Apple won’t abandon the iPhone OS on devices for quite some time. But, the form factor of the iPad is likely to change several times before it’s over. Like I said, if you want this thing, buy into it now. Otherwise, if you want to wait a year, you may not be able to get this form factor again and you may find that Apple has backtracked into smaller more portable devices.

Apple’s iPad: 10 inch iPod Touch or iDisaster?

Posted in Apple, ipod, itunes by commorancy on January 28, 2010

Recently, I wrote the article “What is it about tablets?”.  In that article, I discussed what Apple must do to make the newly announced iPad (tablet computer) successful.  Apple needs a paradigm shifting technology embedded in the iPad that would make the usability of such a tablet go leaps ahead of previous tablet attempts.  Unfortunately, that did not happen.

Failure to launch (and type!)

The iPad may look like a pad, but it functions nothing like a pad.  In fact, this device looks and acts like an iPod touch on steroids.  But, Apple failed this device on so many levels.  First, let’s start with the design.  The iPad back is not flat (which is just like the newest thin iPod touch).  The back is curved. So, laying the iPad on a flat surface leads to wobbly typing or surfing.  This forces you to put it on a soft surface or hold it in your hand.  Not an optimal or convenient design.

Typing input

On the touch, however, it was small enough to hold in one hand and type with the other.  In fact, you could hold it with two hands and thumb type.  With a 10 inch sized device, one hand typing isn’t really an option.  But, this whole typing issue just goes back to the fundamental input problem with tablets.  How do you reliably get input into a tablet computer?  The options are voice, handwriting recognition and touch typing.  None of these input styles make for a truly usable computer experience.  So, on this level, Apple has failed.  Funny too, because Apple is usually the leader when it comes to innovative ways to improve user interface experience.

Finger Friendly?

I’d like to point out another possible problem.  On the iPod Touch, the touch screen surface only works with an actual finger touch.  It doesn’t work with gloves on or by using your fingernail.  As a result, this makes the touch surface a problem in the winter or for women with long nails.  I do not presently know that the iPad uses this same touch screen technology, but it’s very probable.  Therefore, this could make the iPad not friendly for glove wearers or women with long nails.

Lack of ports

Most computers today need to support the latest in port technology.  More and more, however, Apple seems to shun standards and try for their own proprietary connectors.  Sometimes it works.  More often than not, it fails.  In this case with this device, it adds to the design failure.  With the iPad, Apple should have added standard ports like HDMI and a Secure Digital slot.  Unfortunately, they didn’t do this and this device suffers as a result.  This is especially bad considering most Netbooks offer most of these ports.  Yes, some Netbooks even offer HDMI ports.

iPod Touch Clone

Unfortunately for the iPad, it appears to be a 10 inch iPod touch.  The interface is, of course, 10 inches.  This means it uses the same interface that’s on the iPhone and iPod touch.  On a small handheld device, that interface works well.  On a 10 inch screen, the oddness of it all is quite apparent.  The resolution is higher on the 10 inch screen and, thus, the iPad scales up most apps to accommodate.  The problem is the scaling.  Some apps look fine scaled.  Some can actually take advantage of the larger screen (mapping softwares).  With low res apps, the iPad scales up the app window to fill the 10 inch screen which looks quite lame.  Granted, all of this can be fixed by developers reworking their apps.  But, for now, it makes this device all the more clumsy.

App Store Tie-In

This is yet another in a series of devices that Apple is requiring the user to use solely with iTunes and the App store.  Inevitably, the iPad will be jailbroken.  Until then, the audience is captive to the Apple store.  So, if you want apps or media, that’s where you must go.  Of course, you can import media into iTunes app and sync that, but you cannot load any apps other than those that come from Apple’s app store until it is jailbroken (probably the day after it gets released).

This also means that tried and tested apps you’ve come to know on Windows or even Mac OS X may never become available on the iPad due to iTunes App Store restrictions.

A must have? No.  Not yet anyway.

Apple has yet to convince me (and many others) of the necessity of this device.  There’s no wow-factor here or anything compelling to make the iPad stand out as must have.  There’s nothing here to say that it is even useful for anything beyond what a Netbook can accomplish for less money.  The iPod touch is still much more useful due to its size.  The iPad is sitting in a cost space near Netbook pricing (the iPad is more costly), but Netbooks still have much more functionality due to a real keyboard and better use of the screen (not to mention, full fledged apps).

At the entry level pricing of $499, which will mean a bare bones model, you’re sure to get as little as possible.   To get all the bells and whistles, you’re likely to pay well over $1000 for the equivalent of a large iPod touch.

In other words, Apple did not provide a paradigm shifting technology necessary to make the iPad absolutely compelling.  In fact, the whole big clumsy nature of this tablet is quite apparent even from the image of Steve Jobs holding it.

This is a 1.0 device that feels like a 0.5 device with poorly thought out software.  The iPod/iPhone interface and its apps were designed to be used on handheld small screen devices.  Putting this interface onto a 10 inch sized display and expecting full fledged computing out of portable apps is stretching this device to its limits.  Granted, Apple can generally get the kinks out of new devices.  But, the tablet has such a long history of failure going back to Grid Computers in the early 90s that Apple has a steep bank to climb to get out of this trench they’ve dug themselves into.

Overall, I’m still underwhelmed and I’ve seen nothing yet that screams, must have.  An iPod touch screams that due to its sheer size and portability.  The iPad definitely does not!

%d bloggers like this: