I Think People Are Wrong About Apple's iPad

January 27, 2010

After reading the internet's large negative response to Apple's new iPad, I can only remember the same comments about the iPod and iPhone.

In my view, people are reacting to what it isn't, instead of what it is, and what it portends.

The iPod was criticized for being bulky, expensive, and closed; yet the real point was the iTunes Music Store integration. It killed off virtually all competitors (last quarter Apple sold 21 million iPods) and eventually morphed over time into an amazing set of devices.

The iPhone was criticized for being large, expensive, tied to one distributor, and lacking in features; the real point was the fully customizable user interface. Eventually Apple exported the SDK and the App Store then wiped out most of the competition, or at least kept them low. The fullscreen glass interface made it possible for the phone to be a platform that could be modified to do almost anything.

Now I read the same kind of shortsighted criticisms for the iPad, some of which are pretty brutal (check Reddit and Digg). I don't believe things will turn out differently this time. It will be a success, the apps people will write will be amazing, and everyone will forget what they said.

It's not that I am blind or anything, but I like to look beyond the immediate and try to see the future direction of things. Having a wireless glass interfaced device with an almost 10" bright screen with 10 hours of full use time is going to be incredibly useful in the near and distant future, no matter what limitations you might see (or think you see) in the first model.

The iPad is not a computer. At least not in the way we view computers today, as general purpose contraptions that haven't fundamentally changed since I bought my first Apple II+ in 1979. The iPad is an entire blank slate onto which almost anything can be put for people to work with and have no clue how to use a computer at all. Its a generic interface device where the face hides what's inside. That's the future; it won't eliminate desktops computers and laptops, but its not trying to. But all of us are so into the computer-like device mentality that it's hard to imagine something else.

The initial model (and that's all it is) does have many lacking features. The OS is only 3.2, not 3.0. There are only a few new features in the OS; I believe that some features they have in 4.0 simply weren't ready when Steve said go so they went with plan 3.2. One of those was probably some form of multitasking; however you could argue that the "computer" version of general multitasking might be less important if what you are building is not exactly a computer. Having stuff update in background is useful even for this type of GID, but its never going to be generating massive 3D models.

The A4 might be variant of an ARM processor or something different, I don't know yet. There is a massive advantage to being able to control the operation of every chip in a device you design and build. We only know what little Apple has told us so far. We also only know what we see today.

I always thought a device needed to exist that mirrored the pad from Star Trek:Next Generation. It was again a generic interface device which could operate both as a terminal or standalone and seemed to identify the user automatically. I think that is the model of what Steve is getting at, despite the crack at netbooks; the iPad is a whole new thing, and as yet we don't see everything it will do and become.

In other words, I am going to get one, and write software for it, despite my earnest disgust with the App Store. iPad therefore iCode.