I think Apple has finally screwed up (err, since 2000)

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wyneken

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I've been sold on LCD readers for years for the simple fact that they allow me to read in the dark. i.e. I can be physically close to my wife and/or son without disturbing their sleep with my reading.
Me too. I also like the idea of being able to quickly open a text and read it anywhere, day or night.

I'm teaching a classical literature course this semester, and we're currently reading the Odyssey (in a sometimes difficult 1891 translation). A question arose in class over the meaning of a particular passage, and it took me literally about two minutes, with an iPod touch, to open the Stanza app, search the Project Gutenberg database, download a different (free) translation of the Odyssey, locate the passage in question, and read it aloud to the class for comparison with the printed text.

This was using an iPod touch, with all its limitations of size and usability (though with the advantage that I just happened to have it in my shirt pocket). This kind of thing should be faster, easier and much more readable -- especially for a hurried teacher with clumsy fingers -- on an iPad. There are, for instance, web-based versions of the text including the highly regarded Samuel Butler translation -- but these are really too much hassle to deal with on a tiny iPod screen.

Sorry for all the annoying detail. But it will be specific uses and specific situations that determine whether people find this to be a useful, or even invaluable, device.
 

astroman33

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Appreciated greatly your classical literature class story. Shows just how useful these devices.

By the way, how did you happen to end up using a difficult translation?!
 

wyneken

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By the way, how did you happen to end up using a difficult translation?!
Budget. I teach at a very small progressive private school -- right now I'm the entire English department -- and I try to find inexpensive editions so that we can let students keep the books, which makes it possible for them to mark up and annotate the texts however they like. This usually means (in the U.S. at least) Dover Thrift Editions, which are often facsimile reprints of older, public-domain works.

Our edition of the Odyssey is an 1891 translation by George Herbert Palmer. It actually is a really good prose translation, but it is very Victorian -- which, for high school students, imposes a second layer of antiquarianness, if you will, upon an ancient text.

My alternative strategy -- which I hope the iPad will also handily manage -- is to find a public-domain text from somewhere like Gutenberg.org, format it in a word-processor to resemble an actual printed book, and run off a bunch of photocopies.

So I was delighted to discover -- by freeze-framing the iPad product-launch video -- that one of the display fonts for the iBook app is Cochin, the same font I use for printing "fake" books. (One of the others is Baskerville, a font I love, which is rather too light for photocopying.) This tells me that the app developers, at a bare minimum, know what an actual printed book is supposed to look like.
 

Buggington

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I for one really like the device. I'll agree that it may be a niche device (only time will tell). BUT, it's still small and light. And yet also gives you a full screen for surfing - roughly the same size as a netbook. (And if you REALLY need a keyboard, use the wireless one they already have via Bluetooth.)

As far as the games are concerned, yes, many of the games will PROBABLY need an enhancement to take advantage of the larger screen. But, maybe not. What if they DO scale up well?

I'll also agree that it is essentially, a Touch with a 10" screen. But why is that bad? Look at all the things a touch can do? Now imagine being able to do all that (and more) with the larger screen.

Failings? I can see one issue. It will still only be single-threaded. That is, it will still only be able to run one app at a time. With the larger screen, it would be nice to have multi-threading going on. Maybe in O/S 4.0?

Imagine this use (someday?). At some point they've added phone capabilities (now it's an iPhone with a large screen). You are sitting reading the NY Times, maybe even doing the crossword puzzle or reading a book and a window pops up saying you have a phone call, maybe even displaying a picture of the person calling. You tap the window to answer the call. You talk with your friend for a minute. He even helps you with one of the words you've been struggling trying to figure out. When the conversation ends, you tap the window again to hang up and continue working on your crossword (or reading he Times or a book) by yourself.

Why is the device now bad? Granted it's not an iPhone, but still, a Touch with a big screen?!?!?! Why is that a bad thing? Seems to me it would be perfect for traveling and surfing on the go.

-G
Isn't the idea of the iPhone/iPod to be uber useful as it's ultra portable? Surely Apple have completely negated the point of the whole concept by doing this.

Also, if it's meant to be an Apple netbook, then isn't the screen going to get scratched to bits? This is why a laptop has a lid.

Bug
 

Buggington

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Sure, it's nice that it can do it, and I admit compared to a netbook at half the cost, it's better, but, let's also face it, for an actual lap top in the price range of the iPad you need to actually be able to take advantage of a bunch of HD videos, you could do it just as well, have your multitasking, and 200 GB of storage with 4GB of RAM and zero sacrifices.
This is true - two years ago I bought a budget entertainment laptop for iPad price, and it's still going strong. Lets face it, the iPad won't be all that much good for doing things on a network (i.e. accessing network drives), printing, charging iPhones. I think proper, fat laptops are still going to win.

Bug
 

Code Monkey

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I think proper, fat laptops are still going to win.
Ultimately, this is the contest Apple has come up with: Steve Jobs' fetishistic fixation on ultra thin, ultra light devices at the, sometimes severe, cost of functionality versus larger, cheaper devices that do more.

I've watched him do it with the nano - advance the processor's efficiency so it could, in theory, be getting much better battery life but, no, let's instead shave a few dozen cubic millimeters off the device's volume by putting a smaller battery in there. Then there's madness like the Mac Book Air, a $1500 laptop with $200 netbook battery life - that its performance IS good belies the conflict of interest in that in order to do more than a few lightweight tasks on the go you are going to need to cart around the wall charger just like the bigger, fatter laptop (that had better battery life, screen, and an arguably better keyboard and peripheral connectors anyhow) - and if all you can get away with is a few hours of lightweight tasks on the go, do you really need a $1500 premium laptop, because once you're back home and plugged in, that 2lbs of weight difference isn't going to matter?

The iPad takes this to a whole new level. We get a sub 1 kilo device with a footprint about that of a hardback book but no thicker than a magazine that does some of what a full computer does for more money with an interface that has yet to prove itself as preferable to good old keyboard and trackpad for portable use. Maybe this is why Jobs reportedly called it, "the most important thing I've ever done", it is his vision of style towering above function taken to an extreme no one would have imagined, so if it succeeds in the marketplace, his oddball belief systems regarding technology will be vindicated in his mind.
 

wyneken

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This is true - two years ago I bought a budget entertainment laptop for iPad price, and it's still going strong. Lets face it, the iPad won't be all that much good for doing things on a network (i.e. accessing network drives), printing, charging iPhones. I think proper, fat laptops are still going to win.
i don't disagree (and, I think, neither does Apple, which has no plans to stop making MacBooks) that laptop computers are far superior to the iPad in many respects. That's why the entry-level iPad is half the price of an entry-level MacBook.

As to specific capabilities -- such as printing documents and accessing network drives -- I'm not sure we know enough yet to make a proper assessment. Apple has apparently told developers that printer support will be forthcoming -- details TBA. And the prominent positioning of the iWord apps -- Pages, Numbers and Keynote -- at the product launch makes more sense if you figure that Apple intends to develop this into a real productivity tool (albeit one that will not have all the advanced capabilities of a conventional computer.

It remains of course to be seen whether Steve Job's vision of a magical "in-between" device that is part laptop and part iPod touch -- superior to both in certain ways -- is any more realistic than John Sculley's vision of a Knowledge Navigator. But still, I don't think you can fairly criticize the iPad for not being something that it's not trying to be, like a superior netbook, or a MacBook Lite.
 

Code Monkey

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i don't disagree (and, I think, neither does Apple, which has no plans to stop making MacBooks) that laptop computers are far superior to the iPad in many respects. That's why the entry-level iPad is half the price of an entry-level MacBook.
Again, and not to beat this horse too much past the point of recognition, who cares? Mac Books, even with their disproportionately high sales compared to the overall Macintosh market share still represent no more than 20% of all laptops sold. You can't look at the price of the iPad and say, "hey, lay off, it's half the cost of a laptop!" because it isn't. It is simply as expensive as a laptop. The overwhelming majority of consumers are not going to be comparing this to a $1000 Mac Book, they're going to be comparing it to the $400 & $500 HP and Acer laptops on display about 10 feet away at Walmart, and they are not going to see your point, at all.

If Apple wants to only appeal to the Macintosh using demographic for the initial adopters, then fine, I guess their feature list and price points make some sense. However, if their plan is to capture consumers outside of that insular "us against the world, price and value be damned!" ~5%-10% of the world, they've created quite a challenge for themselves.
 

wyneken

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The overwhelming majority of consumers are not going to be comparing this to a $1000 Mac Book, they're going to be comparing it to the $400 & $500 HP and Acer laptops on display about 10 feet away at Walmart, and they are not going to see your point, at all.
Excellent point, and I'm sure you're right about this.

Still, I'd venture a couple of quibbles. First off, I'd ask what purchasers of portable computers are really looking for. If they want a computer, i.e. a full-functional data processing device, then obviously they'll be happier with a real laptop, even if it isn't particularly well designed or fun to work with. But if they already have a computer at home, and what they want is some kind of portable device to schlep around, to perform various discrete tasks during the course of the day, then they might very well find the iPad hard to resist.

Secondly, I'd contemplate for a moment this "10 feet away at Walmart" thought. And I'd say I don't think this particular market or this group of potential buyers will be crucially relevant for first year or two. I don't guess that anyone, including Apple, expects a that a groundbreaking new device (whatever it is, and no matter how aggressively it is priced) will instantly become a mass-market unit-shifter in the way the iPod is today. Early buyers will be technophiles like ourselves, followed by a second wave of consumers drawn mostly, I expect, from among the tens of millions of current iPod and iPhone owners who have already gotten past the step of asking themselves, in effect, "Will I get more for my money from an iPod or a Zune?" They've already voted with real money in favor of the Apple product, and I'm not aware of any evidence suggesting that many of them are now suffering from buyer's remorse.

This provides a substantial basis for the iPad to jump into an immediate lead in the tablet computer market -- not just in terms of raw sales but in the less tangible commodity of "mindshare." When people think about this kind of device -- something between a full-blown portable computer and a smart telephone or PDA -- the iPad will be the elephant in the room. And experience with the iPod and the iPhone suggests that once Apple establishes itself in this position, it is awfully hard to dislodge.

So this translates, in the course of time -- i.e. the next 2-3 years or so -- into a situation where tablet computers ARE commonly on the shelves at places like Walmart. Not as competitors with laptop computers but as commodities in their own right.

The iPod wasn't an overnight sensation. Initial reactions were decidedly mixed, and I remember a joke going around the internet that the product acronym stood for "Idiot-Price Our Devices." Yet we live in a world now where hardly anyone uses the phrase "mp3 player" anymore. They just say, "Do you have this on your iPod?" And we've gotten there despite the fact that there was never a time when you couldn't get more for your money in raw product-spec terms from some competing model on the shelf at Walmart.

Which suggest to me that that things like cost and capability are not ultimately decisive. What is decisive, I think, is user experience. A whole generation of kids -- and later their parents and teachers and neighbors and everyone else -- decided for some reason or other that owning an iPod was more fun than owning a Product X mp3 player. They almost certainly didn't make this decision by standing in front of product displays in Walmart or anywhere else. They just decided "in the field," so to speak -- in school hallways or friends' bedrooms or wherever -- that an iPod was what they wanted.

Is there any reason to think this won't happen with the iPad? I mean, is there a plausible scenario in which people will actually decide they prefer, say, an HP Slate or a Sony Whatever 5 to a real iPad? Because in the long term that is the question -- not whether a tablet computer is better than a netbook. They are different devices aimed at fulfilling different needs and desires.
 

crash613

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i don't disagree (and, I think, neither does Apple, which has no plans to stop making MacBooks) that laptop computers are far superior to the iPad in many respects. That's why the entry-level iPad is half the price of an entry-level MacBook.
spoken like a true fanboy. Problem is, back in the real world you can get a lap top for NOT double the price, but the SAME price as the ipad.


The iPod wasn't an overnight sensation. Initial reactions were decidedly mixed, and I remember a joke going around the internet that the product acronym stood for "Idiot-Price Our Devices." Yet we live in a world now where hardly anyone uses the phrase "mp3 player" anymore. They just say, "Do you have this on your iPod?" And we've gotten there despite the fact that there was never a time when you couldn't get more for your money in raw product-spec terms from some competing model on the shelf at Walmart.
i'll give you that. I am by no means an apple fan-boy and i can tell you that i resisted getting one for a long time. I had my eye on them as soon as they came out but thought ipod did, indeed, stand for Idiot-Price Our Devices.

My moment of clarity came in late 2005 on vacation in AZ. We borrowed a friends car to drive to the Grand Canyon. Along with the car, he told us to take his 3rd Gen ipod with FM Transmitter.

By the end of the Vacation, i bought my daughter a Mini, and early 2006 I got my first shiny new 4th Gen Ipod.

The rest, as they say, is history.

So i see your point. But the difference was that the ipod was just *that much better* than the rest.

Is there any reason to think this won't happen with the iPad? I mean, is there a plausible scenario in which people will actually decide they prefer, say, an HP Slate or a Sony Whatever 5 to a real iPad? Because in the long term that is the question -- not whether a tablet computer is better than a netbook. They are different devices aimed at fulfilling different needs and desires.
The reason, I see, is that as HP and the rest start to flood the market with similar form-factor devices that ARE actually full computers, the ipad will seem quaint in comparison.
the "it's just that much better" mindset won't be there when you can buy an HP that does it all instead of an itouch on steroids.
 
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Mochan

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Screwed up? I'm not sure about that...

But the issue here, in my mind at least, is simple.

This product is:

1. Half-baked.
Apple seems to be trailing behind in the way they are designing their interfaces etc. The iPhone's current design paradigms were never created for a screen of the iPad's size. They were designed for the iPhone. They work on a palm-based device. But the fact is that building apps that run in "small or 2x mode" is pathetic. These apps should be full screen, or nothing. And that home screen? Er... what the heck happened there? It looks horrible. They scaled the iPhone's screen up and are now using a tonne of space for very little.

2. This product is simply not ergonomic.
Physically, this product is not designed with a human in mind. The computer interface as we have it (screen in front, keyboard below) is designed with hands in the correct ergonomic position, and with face directly forward. This device seems to be just a recipe for a sore neck, or sore hands.

Apple should have been a bit more careful in certain areas of the device. They should have designed a new home screen, not rebaked (and burned) an old idea. There are plenty of better ideas out there. Hopefully they are coming in iPhone OS 4.0. Its just like this is tacked on, and that's not how Apple usually work. It saddens me.
This sums it up nicely.

The iPad is not designed for typing. Whoever thought this would be good for typing, was a fool. How many people are going to touch type on this thing? With their necks craned down, or their fingers bunched up in an unnatural angle. I can't believe this got through testing.

I envision that the iPad will be used by couch junkies for nothing but reading stuff/light surfing, with very minimal input other than touching the screen to move to the next page or click a link. In which case it becomes nothing but an overpriced Kindle... and Kindles are already overpriced as it stands IMO.
 

Mochan

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Now we have the iPad... Actually, we will have it here in two months. I don't think Apple messed with the physical design. It is definitely far from being big and bulky. The whole unit fits within the same dimensions as the 10" panel housing for an Eee PC 1005HA netbook. That means that the iPad is about 1/4 the size of an already thin and sleek netbook. I also don't know of a "simple" netbook that can playback 720p videos without issues. The generic Atom N270/N280/N450 and Intel GMA 950/3xxx can technically handle 720p playback but it won't be smooth and battery life will definitely be in the 3 hour range.
I've been watching 720p video on a netbook for the past year. And no I'm not on an Ion processor. With CoreAVC it is a reality. Battery life... you got me there I guess. I am usually plugged in when watching.



I think people would be singing a different tune if Apple didn't say that the iPad was a magical and revolutionary device. Apple should have put more emphasis on the ebook capabilities by saying that the iPad is going directly after the Kindle, nook, craptacular Sony e-readers, etc. Then said "oh, and ours can browse the internet, access the full iTunes Store, watch HD videos, play games, and we are making a special version of iWork." A Kindle with a 9.7" screen is the same price as a 16GB iPad. I think Apple's biggest mistake is the price and not including 3G in every model. Then they could have worked out a deal with at&t that allows people to freely use 3G to download ebooks only. Customers could then have the option to pay a monthly fee to access everything else through 3G.
My initial reaction was indeed that the iPad was going after the Kindle. The thing is, I already felt the Kindle was overpriced (I felt the iTouch did the same things and then some, for less... only con was the small screen). Well the iPad does everything the Kindle does and then some.... and has a big screen! I thought it was good, but the price point is too much for what it is, and oh yeah it doesn't fit in my pocket like the iTouch.

All in all, though, if the iPad becomes workable for typing, then I wouldn't have any real complaints with it. My biggest issue with the iPad aside from price is that I just can't imagine typing with it to be a joy. I'm already seeing it to be torture, actually. But I won't knock it until I've tried it.
 
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