Well, after countless of rumors, fake news, fake claims, photoshopped pictures, etc etc, Apple finally unveiled the long-awaited tablet, called the iPad. No, it’s not a pot of gold spitting out unicorns, it’s just an extra large iPod Touch, to put it simply. However, because many people were imagining the Apple tablet to be a pot of gold spitting out unicorns, there are currently a lot of negative feedback, especially from the haters (who are ironically frequent visitors of sites that tend to do a lot of Apple coverage, like engadget).
When Jobs announced the iPad, he stated that the function of the device are simply to be used for browsing, email, photos, video, music, games, and eBooks. Well, the iPhone/iPod Touch already do some of those, so, being a larger iPod Touch, the iPad will be more of a better experience in those things thanks to the bigger screen. Let’s stop here for a moment. A lot of people are wanting an actual tablet PC, with a full featured desktop OS, thus the negative feedbacks. Obviously that’s not what Jobs said the iPad would be, and in a way, Apple did the right thing. Tablet PCs are not new, and they never become mainstream. Why? Because they’re mostly just laptops with a touch screen running Windows. Apple approached this in a different way, from a consumer electronic perspective, not a computer. However, that doesn’t mean the iPad is the “Jesus tablet.” We’ll go over on some of the odd choices Apple made later.
Let’s start chronologically with the keynote presentation.
First, we see Steve Jobs demoing Safari on the iPad. It shares the same gestures as Safari on the iPhone/iPod Touch. Jobs made it like it’s a new experience, but it’s not. We’re already tapping and “touching” the web, albeit on a smaller screen. Obviously it will be more pleasant doing it on a larger higher res screen, but not as groundbreaking as when multi-touch was first demoed on the first iPhone. I can see steam coming out from Jobs’ ears, seeing the empty boxes where a Flash animation/ads would’ve been when he demoed the various website. (He quickly zoomed in on a picture on National Geographic website when an empty plug-in box showed up the sides). Yeah, no Adobe Flash support, which imo is a good thing. A lot of the haters want Flash on the iPhone. Considering how lousy Adobe is, and with a lot of security issues with Flash, I’m glad Apple stays on their ground for not supporting Flash. HTML 5 FTW! Still funny though imagining what Steve was thinking when he’s demoing NYT websites with those empty plug-in boxes. LOL.
Next is email. It’s the similar email client as the one on the iPhone, with several UI tweaks when viewing the iPad on portrait or landscape mode. On landscape mode, you have the inbox and the preview pane side by side. Not bad, but then again, nothing too exciting either. No hint whether there will be a unified inbox or not. Considering it’s the same iPhone OS, my guess is not.
Oh, yeah, no multi-tasking, and no new way to switch apps. Just like the iPhone, you have to go back to the home screen to switch to another app. This can get annoying real fast on something like this. My guess is iPhone OS 4.0 is not fully ready yet. Why can’t Apple just buy Palm, and copy the way WebOS switch between apps using the ribbon.
Next, Photos. The photos app looks a lot like iPhoto (and you can guess the next version of iPhoto would share some of the looks). However, no skimming, which would be nice. Instead, you can pinch an album/event to show the pictures inside it. Nice eye candy, but skimming would be more efficient imo. In addition to viewing pictures, you can make slideshows too. Jobs showed the origami transition effect, which is very neat. Here’s the issue though, how do you get your pictures into the iPad? Wait, no camera? WTF? Yeah, no camera. This would be a no-brainer, but no, nada. You can sync your photos via iTunes from PC/Mac, but that is a really clunky way to get your pictures into the iPad. You can also import photos from an SD card/USB storage using the optional USB/SD card to dock connector adapter. I expect a fully functional iPhoto app for the iPad in the near future, as without editing capability, the current photo viewing functionality feels half-baked. Still, a built-in camera seems the more logical way. I’m guessing that will be for the next gen iPad.
Next, music. A big meh. Basically it’s like the iTunes store, except that it’s your own music. Jobs stated how nice it is to browse and play all your music collection. Wait, what? ALL your music collection? What’s the capacity of the iPad again, 16GB up to 64GB. WTF? If there’s 128GB model, then it would be fine, but 16GB? Puhlease. Apple better have some streaming functionality from iTunes on your desktop PC to the iPad. If not, this is just a big meh. The iPod app feels like a mini iTunes instead of an iPod. Small fonts galore for track and album titles. Annoying! Hopefully there’s a way to pick a larger font. Also, there better be a shuffle-by-album. If not, then the iPad fails at playing music vs a regular iPod nano/classic. Interesting enough, no coverflow? No HE-AAC support?
iTunes store, meh. Calendar, pretty nice. Heck, it seems better than iCal on OS X itself. Contacts also looks nice, better than the one on OS X. However, there’s no phone functionality on the iPad, something that I would want on this. Hopefully the contacts app can be seamless with VOIP apps. Maps is just an XL version of the Maps app on the iPhone. Still on Google maps, contrary to the rumors. A-GPS only on the 3G model, not the wifi only model. Youtube is nice, but since youtube’s content sucks major ass due to frequent copyright takedowns, I’m not too excited about this. Gimme streaming J-Dorama built-in on the iPad, then I’ll bite. 😛 Videos, well, nothing groundbreaking. The iPad’s screen resolution is only 1024×768, so no true 720p (although it does support 720p video playback), and not widescreen, so it’s not really an ideal movie viewing experience, contrary to what Jobs was trying to portray. Besides, I bet you have to sync movies with iTunes. Overall, Jobs didn’t explore too much details on these, other than trying to make it sound like the experience is new and exciting, while obviously it’s not.
Next, on to the hardware itself. As usual, the first thing Jobs said was how thin the iPad is. The big surprise here is, the fact that the iPad uses Apple’s own A4 chip. Wait, what? Apple made their own chip? Yeah, thanks to PA semi acquisition a while back. Imo this is a BIG HUGE news, that is overlooked by many people. I can see Apple using their own chip throughout their products. The next obvious one would be the iPhone and iPods, depending on how large the chip is. And then Apple TV! I can imagine the next Apple TV will be using Apple’s own chip. To put a further speculation, imagine Apple TV using the iPhone OS, complete with games. Voila, Apple’s gaming console. The possibilities are endless as Apple would be a huge CE company, capable of making a lot more products powered by this Apple chip. My next guess would be Apple making a real TV with this chip and Apple TV built-in.
Okay, enough of the chip. The iPad comes in 3 storage size: 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. MAJOR LAME! Really? Only maxed out at 64GB? 128GB would be more reasonable, considering how Apple is trying to market this as a media device. 16GB is just sad. Heck, I have a 16GB iPod nano, and it’s just for music. I’m guessing Apple decided to scale back of the storage simply to not exceed the $999 price barrier. In short, it’s a marketing strategy, to advertise that their top-of-the-line iPad is still below $1000. Then there are the usual tech specs: Wifi n, Bluetooth, dock connector, speaker, microphone… oh wait. Microphone? This is odd. Why? Well, first, there’s no phone app, even on the models with 3G wireless connectivity. Second, no camera, no front facing camera, so no video conferencing. So, a microphone just for VOIP? My guess is that Apple will put in voice commands on the iPad, although that could contradict the supposedly more “intimate” interaction of multi-touch on the iPad. As for Bluetooth, I hope it’s not the crippled Bluetooth connection just like on the iPhone, meaning only for headsets. I want Bluetooth file transfer, or even better, Bluetooth tethering with an iPhone.
Next, Scott showing some apps, iPhone apps. Since the iPad uses the same iPhone OS, it is obviously compatible with all the current iPhone apps. In addition, the iPad can do pixel doubling so the iPhone app can be run full-screen. Big whoop. He demoed the facebook app. Heck, with the iPad, I can just go to the real facebook site. Games designed for the iPhone would run faster and smoother due to the faster processor, but obviously games designed specifically for the iPad would be better. The SDK with iPad simulator is also released. Imo another reason there’s a 60/90 days delay during this announcement and the scheduled iPad shipping date, is to allow some time for developers to make iPad-specific apps.
Next, some apps. First, Gameloft, with their FPS game. Really? FPS game is bad enough using a gamepad, now using a touch interface? Even worse, requiring some gestures (eg. 3 finger gesture just to open a door?)? Sorry, but keyboard + mouse FTW.
Second, New York Times. Yeah, even though Jobs showed that you can view the full NYT website with Safari, NYT is doing an app (probably because Jobs was not too happy with those empty Flash plug-in boxes, LOL). Some people are saying that the iPad will be the savior of the newspaper industry. NYT app shows some interactivity and even video playback. Pretty neat, and could entice some people to subscribe. However, considering I can get my news via simple RSS feeds… yeah.
Third, Brushes. Basically Paint on the iPad, with fingers. I’m sure this is a big deal for some people, but I’m no artist. The playback feature is really neat though.
4th, EA, with Need for Speed. If you think FPS is bad enough, yeah, trying to fiddle/touch the controls while playing a driving game doesn’t look fun at all. I’m sorry, but there are better game genres to show off the iPad. RTS, Adventure games, RPG, etc, not FPS or driving game. I’m guessing Apple just want to show off the graphics/processing power of the iPad.
5th, MLB. Imo sports apps like this may be one of the killer app as you can add a lot of interactivity while watching a game. Could be an awesome thing for sports fans. I couldn’t care less though. 😛
Steve returned to the stage to show iBooks (not to be confused with iBook, the pre-cursor to the Macbook), another HUGE news that slip by a lot of people. Apple is opening an eBook store, competing head to head with Amazon and the Kindle. iBooks app looks a LOT like Delicious Library. Typical Apple, the app has plenty of eye candy, especially with Steve showing how he’s flipping the book’s “page” partially back-n-forth. The fact that Apple is going to use epub format is also great news. Publishing companies are more archaic than the recording industry, clinging to DRM heavily. Hopefully Apple can change the market like they did with music. On Apple’s site, the iPad apparently has a voice over screen reader, something that the Amazon Kindle has, but got into a big fight with the publishers. Will Apple fare better? Steve surprisingly didn’t say anything about battery life, something that E-Ink-based devices will have a huge advantage. Plus, I don’t know if I can read a book for a prolonged period of time on an LCD screen. Not good for your eyes. The bigger news here is obviously Apple’s entry into the eBook market. I don’t think Amazon should be worried, as they already know something like this would happen, thus the Kindle app for the iPhone.
Next, Phil with iWork for the iPad. I don’t know. There’s a lot of questions here, not about the apps themselves as they look great but about the basic functionality you would expect. For example, printing a document/spreadsheet. There’s no USB port on the iPad. Will it be able to print to a networked printer directly? Via USB host with the USB to dock-connector dongle? If you have to export your work to a desktop first, then it’s super stupid. Then there’s Keynote. The obvious question is, is there video out? Turns out Apple has a dock-connector to VGA dongle for the iPad (which is ironic by itself considering Apple is focusing on mini display port on its computers). There’s an issue with the dongle itself, how do you connect to the AC adapter for long presentations? I’m guessing a dock connector splitter? As for iWork itself, this is the first time Apple unbundles iWork, meaning you purchase Pages, Numbers, and Keynote separately. $10 each. The touch interface seems tedious on Keynote, but maybe a pre-cursor for something larger like Microsoft’s surface (or iMac with multi-touch). The automatic word-wrap around a graphic on Pages look great. Numbers, meh. I haven’t used a word processor extensively out of school, let alone a spreadsheet or a presentation app. Another question would be, how do one export the created files out of the iPad? Syncing via iTunes? Emailing? Again, more reason for Bluetooth file transfer support.
Yes, the iPad syncs via iTunes, just like the iPhone. Sounds like iTunes will become more bloatier than ever.
Back to hardware, looks like Apple will have 2 versions of the iPad lineup. One with Wifi only, one with Wifi and 3G wireless. Looks like Apple realize that people would be furious if they have to pay more monthly bills and under contract, so the 3G data plan for the iPad will be prepaid (yay!), AND 3G iPads are unlocked out of the box (YAY!). There are 2 data plan, $15 for 250MB per month, or $30 for “unlimited.” My guess is unlimited means 5GB, since Apple is doing this with AT&T. The best part of this is of course, prepaid, meaning that you can just buy the 3G data plan when you actually need it, not having to pay for it continuously. Oh yeah, no Verizon, as Apple wants this to be an international model, thus GSM/HSDPA, not CDMA. Yeah, take that Verizon fanboys.
Now, the pricing. Jobs made a reference how people were speculating that the price will be $999, and dropped the bomb that the price of the iPad will be just $499. The crowd cheered. Wait, really? $499? Well, typical Apple, that is the lowest end model, the one that you don’t want. 16GB and wifi only. Add $100 for each bump in capacity (32GB for $599, 64GB for $699). That $499 doesn’t look that cheap anymore now does it. 😛 Having 3G connectivity and GPS adds $130 on top of those prices. So, the real price of the tablet that you will want is actually $829, for the 64GB model with wifi and 3G. Still lower than $999 (which is why we don’t see a 128GB model as Apple probably wants to stay below $999), but definitely not $499. It’s the typical Apple upselling/marketing strategy.
The wifi only models will ship in 60 days, and the wifi + 3G models will ship in 90 days. Why? In addition for regulatory issues, obviously this lag is to allow developers to have their apps ready when the iPad is shipping. As for accessories, I’m sure there are a lot of people drooling for the keyboard dock.
Lastly, a complementary making videos, a trend started with the unibody aluminum Macbooks. Oh, and a new tagling, “You just… DO!” LOL. Kinda lame. Apple is trying to portray how amazing and magical the iPad is. Yeah, that would work if we didn’t have the iPhone. Problem is, all this multi-touch stuff is not new anymore, so the newness of touching stuff is, well, getting stale. People already see Microsoft’s surface, and the various multi-touch capable PCs.
In the end, the bigger news here is not really the iPad, although that is the focus of most bloggers and tech journalists since it’s the unicorn. The big news are:
1. Apple having their own fast and low-powered chip ready for mass production.
2. Apple going into the eBook market.
So, is the iPad “magical” and “revolutionary”? Nope. Like I said, a lot of the fanciness is kinda stale due to the fact we already have multi-touch for a couple of years. The iPad seems to lack a lot of things, like a camera, front facing camera for video conferencing, a phone app (or at least an SMS app), multi-tasking, etc. It’s obvious the OS is not fully optimized for the iPad (small icons, sparse screen). A live widget like weather would be nice, like on Android phones. Should you get one? Well, I don’t think there’s a need for a tablet or iPad in the first place, outside specific industries. However, knowing Apple, I’m guessing we can see the price being pushed lower by the end of the year or so, so people would buy the iPad just because, and then contents and apps will follow suit.
Regardless whether you find a use for the iPad or not, it’s another new and shiny toy from Apple. Heck, the lure of prepaid 3G data is very tempting for a backup internet (since AT&T doesn’t seem to offer tethering for iPhone in the US, ever). Personally, I was hoping for unlocked iPhones instead of this, but obviously that is not happening. Hopefully we will see more information and specifics on features (eg. Bluetooth file transfer, Bluetooth tethering, VOIP, etc) as time goes, and maybe we will see the OS itself being optimized (or the iPad itself shipping with OS 4.0 instead). Nonetheless, I at least expect iLife, or at least iPhoto for the iPad in the near future.
As for future rumors, let’s get started before the analysts. 😛
1. Price drop of the iPad before 2010 holidays. Maybe together with the regular September/October event.
2. Next gen iPad would have a camera, or at least a front facing camera for video chat. Also iChat app will be released. It will have a larger screen while retaining the same size (less bezel).
3. iLife 2010 would share some UI looks as the iPad photo app.
4. iCal and Contacts on the next OS X would share the same look as the iPad version.
5. iPhone OS 4.0 will cost iPod Touch users yet another $10
Well, there you go, a long and winded overview of the most hyped product announcement event ever. Heck, imo the iPad release overshadow President Obama’s State of Union Address! LOL.