Saturday, April 3, 2010

iPad Reality

They're out. Selling well, but you should be able to find one if you want one. I've got the money set aside for a new tablet device, but am nearly convinced even Apple won't be able to overcome the natural inefficiencies a touch tablet entails. Sure, developers will come up with some amazing apps for the iPad. Several of your friends will have one or want one. The media is already blazing away about this new Apple Magic.

I had a chance to play with one today at my local BestBuy. I had the cash in my pocket to pay for one, and went in the store fully expecting to. Here's why I'm not yet a believer:

Most of us use a mouse with our PCs. A small flick of the mouse gives us access to any part of our large screens with very little movement. The iPhone OS was designed for cell phones and can be controlled with one thumb. Most people can both hold and control an iPhone in one hand. With the iPad Apple took the iPhone OS and simply stretched it out. You now have to hold up the 1.5lb device with one hand while traversing across it's 9.7 inch screen with the other. This is far from efficient. Other tablet manufacturers realize this, and are looking at User Interfaces (UIs) that require much less movement to use. Arranging the most-used icons along the right side of the screen for right-handed users, for example. One manufacturer has a small touch-pad on the back of the device, right where one's fingers normally rest. My archos 9 tablet provides an optical thumb-mouse on the right front bezel. Apple should and could have considered such alternatives rather than simply scaling up their ideal touch UI for cell phones. Even the Android UI will work with a mouse if you can connect to one (bluetooth works great).

The web cloud of first day iPad reviews seems universally glowing in praise of the iPad, but a closer look reveals the common "No one needs an iPad". You probably want one though, thanks to all the hype. My advice? Go ahead and get one if you can afford it. Please save your receipt.



  1. You mean the other tablets that are running an OS that has bare minimum touch features? Running software on top of that on hardware that can barely handle it. Oh boy can't wait.

    There were punch cards, then keyboards, then mice, now touch screens. Is the iPad's implementation perfect? Not yet, but if you can't see the intuitiveness of removing the mouse then you need to step back from the computer because you are stuck thinking in the desktop paradigm.

  2. Please read the post again. I've got more than 20 handheld devices setting near me. Half are touchscreens. Maybe do a search of my blog for more background. Apple took a shortcut with it's iPad and simply stretched the iPhone UI to make it. The iPhone UI is fantastic on a phone. Most can hold and control it in one hand. In case you haven't noticed, the iPad has a 9.7" 1024 x 768 screen. What Apple failed to do was really study the ergonomic consequences of stretching a one-handed UI to a two-handed (or two hands and a lap) device. Android may bump into the same problem when it appears on larger tablets. Windows 7 at least gives you several options for how you want to interact with the screen. Far from ideal though. The whole tablet market still needs work, iPad included.