Thursday, January 28, 2010

Five Reasons to Wait on the iPad

Like most geeks, I watched with great anticipation as the iPad was unveiled yesterday. In my case, it was from liveblogs monitored on spotty 3G and WiFi access at the Jfokus after-conference event. I'm reasonably impressed with the device, especially the $500 price point on the low end. But after giving it some thought, I have a few good reasons to wait on purchasing one. Here's five I came up with:

  1. Wait for the next generation. Never, ever buy the first generation of a device this new and this complex. Doubly so for anything the Apple hype machine is pimping. First-gen devices are always at least a little bit tweaky, and Apple has proven repeatedly that their first-gen devices are overpriced, underpowered, and replaced by something better in 4-6 months.
  2. Wait for competitors to answer. Sure, there have been other tablets and "slates" announced over the past year, but the iPad has moved the bar. Given the number of competing vendors, the availability of viable tablet options like Windows 7 and Android (or Chrome OS), and the ever-present iControl and iLock-in associated with all things Apple, you can bet there's going to be a bunch of competitive options during 2010.
  3. Wait for everyone else to buy it. Yeah, this one is painful, but think about all the suckers that bought the iPhone right when it came out. You'll spend a couple months as a temporary luddite, ridiculed by your peers. And then you'll get a better device for cheaper and have the last laugh. I mean, isn't half the joy of the iPad in having the bigger iPenis? You can hold off for a while.
  4. Wait for crackers to bust it wide open. Nobody's happy that the iPhone is a closed platform, nor are they happy that the App Store is so sketchy at approving applications. So why not wait and see what the busy iPhone hackers can do with an iPad before diving it? Chances are it will be a far better laptop replacement once they get ahold of it.
  5. Wait because you don't actually need it. It can't replace your phone. It can't replace your laptop. It can't replace your 50" LCD TV. Seriously now...what do you need it for?
Me, I'm on the fence. I can afford it, but then I probably wouldn't be able to afford something else. And I'm a programmer...I want to be able to put my own apps on the device (or give apps to friends) without dealing with the App Store gatekeeper. In my ideal world, it would be Apple's hardware and design sensibility combined with Android's open platform and familiar runtime. Anything even close to that would outshine the iPad for me.

Update: One last bit of anecdotal evidence. Before the iPhone, I had held off buying anything other than the crappiest, cheapest phones, the lowest-end music devices (yep, I had the "pack of gum" Shuffle), the most basic digital cameras, and no PDA. I was waiting for something that would allow me to get rid of all devices at once. iPhone obviously did that, as a music/media player, internet device, PDA, phone, and camera all in one. iPad takes two of those features away (phone and camera) and only adds a larger screen with the potential for large-form apps.

20 comments:

Nick said...

You've nailed it completely. Especially point no 5.

Ben Atkin said...

I agree with Nick - you nailed it. Especially because you just gave reasons, rather than making a universal recommendation. There is one reason I can think of for developers that trump the other reasons: if I'm passionate about it, large-format touch devices might be an important creative medium for me (whether I develop apps for the App Store, or large-format touch web apps). If this is the case, it might not be a good idea to wait for competitors to answer. I haven't decided yet whether this is the case for me, but I've got a couple of months to figure it out (and if I don't start experimenting with what I've got beforehand, I probably shouldn't bother getting it for this reason).

Attila Szegedi said...

Point 5 kind of trumps them all.

I'm quite an Apple enthusiast myself - in my household, we have an iMac G5, two MacBook Pros, an iPhone, an iPod Touch, (as well as two Airport Extremes and one Airport Express).

Since yesterday evening, I've been asking myself: who needs this? And for what? For every use case I could come up, either a TV, or a laptop, or a smartphone, is better suited for.

Watching video in the airport lounge? Maybe, but I'll have my laptop with me there.

Browsing net at home? Both laptop or iPhone work fine.

Watching video at home? Can't trump a HD TV with network connectivity. Especially since we watch lot of stuff as a family, so one big screen we can sit around is preferred.

Reading eBooks? Ok, I'll give you that one, and that one only, but it's hardly a killer app for a $500 device. Kindle on iPhone works for me so far.

For us hacker types, further put offs are that it's just as hacker-unfriendly as an iPhone is.

And still no multitasking.

Anonymous said...

no SD slot and no camera(s) are just retarded design decisions.

Osvaldo Doederlein said...

"no SD slot and no camera(s) are just retarded design decisions." - no, they are business decisions. The Apple/gadget maniacs, developers, and millions of non-power users will line up to buy this anyway; then by next Christmas Apple will offer updated devices that will have SD and camera and perhaps other minor enhancements. E.g., higher-res screen - the 1024x768 resolution was VERY underwhelming IMO, it's just 132ppi compared to the iPhone's/Kindle's 160ppi and Nexus One's 250ppi. Add the low-dpi to the LCD and I think the iPad will not be a comfortable e-reader, so I guess by 2011/2012 they will have new models with next-gen eInk tech (they it's also good enough for games and movies). And so on.

Mark Rendle said...

I'm getting an Asus DR-950. Same screen size, thinner and lighter, no DRM, E-Ink, touchscreen, expandable memory, web browser, and for half the price. As Steve's slide said, I have an iPhone and a MacBook for everything else.

Jan Wedekind said...

I'm certainly impressed what Taiwanese engineers can build these days. But the software innovation mainly seems to be about building walled gardens (AppStore, iTunes, iBooks). Apple is not about selling hardware to customers but it is about selling customers to us the developers.

ChessMess said...

This is the first product that I feel will help me bring my 80 year old father into the digital world.

For me personally I've spent most of my life waiting for whats next because it'll be better then what is current. This Christmas I received my very first iPod, a Touch. I'm a bit tired of always sitting on the sideline and waiting for the 2nd half of the game to play.

The grass is always greener in the next 'version' of a product, and while that may be true, I don't mind sitting in the nice green grass and enjoying it for what it is now. If it gets even greener later, well so much the better.

tmornini@engineyard.com said...

I'm recommending an iPad to 5 people in my life:

1) wife
2) mother
3) brother
4) sister
5) mother in law

Of those, only my sister and brother require 3G. Three of these currently have ancient tech, and I can see 4 of them suffering with their current device, though they're all convinced they're just fine. :-)

What they all have in common is that they can do *everything* they do on a computer on an iPad better than they can do it with their current computer.

And, after watching the video late last night, I'm 100% certain that they'll call me for help a *lot* less if they start using an iPad. :-)

Mike said...

So far the only people I've seen comment about the ipad are computer saavy geeks. The fact of the matter is that this device isn't going to make them happy.

For the majority of computer users the app store is an amazing thing, the closed system is fine because it "just works", and the design is slick. Add on some lite desktop apps (hopefully with more on the way) and this thing is going to go over great with the non-technical crowd.

Sure it needs multitasking and multiuser would be great. A front facing camera would be great. But as you say, Apple will stick these things and more into version 2 and everybody will want to upgrade.

Personally, as a developer, I can't stand lugging my laptop over to the couch or to bed. It's a horrible form factor for use in that situation...for me. Sitting at a desk or a table it's great...using it on my lap? Ugh. This devise is perfect for me because it'll replace my iphone use in those locations. Sure you can read the web and write e-mails on the iphone, but it's very small for those tasks. The larger size of the tablet is going to make those things much more enjoyable. And I can sit or lay or whatever on my couch or bed any way I like and it'll be comfortable.

I understand why us geeks might think this thing doesn't really fit...worse than an iphone and worse than a laptop. But I think it's going to be a big hit with non-techy users.

Mark Nutter said...

Hey now, I was one of those suckers who bought the original iPhone! Two of them, to be exact, one of which my wife still uses to this day. Apple is pretty good about getting it right the first time. More often than not with Apple, the whole "wait for rev B" philosophy is a myth. I have no doubt this thing will be polished and ready for action.

For point 5, I think you're just not trying hard enough. I will admit, that there are a lot of people for whom this device fills no void, and I think that's why Apple held off for so long on making a tablet - because it hasn't even been determined whether people actually want tablet PCs yet.

However, I think of the iPad (or any other equivalent yet to come out) as a digital alternative to my Moleskine notebook. My iPhone's screen is too small to take notes or draw sketches, and my Macbook requires a lap or a surface to use. As good as browsing the web on an iPhone is, I still find it painful because of the screen size. I think the 10" screen for the iPad will make it a great browsing/reading device.

I've been using my iPhone to read programming and web design books, but it leaves much to be desired. I have my doubts about how these types of books would be rendered on the colorless kindle, too. The iPad should serve quite nicely.

If you think of the iPad as a direct competitor to the Kindle, instead of being a replacement for an iPod Touch or Laptop, it immediately becomes extremely compelling. I didn't hear you complaining about Kindle's walled garden when they announced that, did I? ;-P

The tech geeks are up in arms because they want a tablet good enough to replace their main machine. Apple is betting people wouldn't actually end up doing that, so they went for a different niche. That about sums it up.

Kyle said...

All of those reasons make a lot of sense from a frugal consumer point of view.

But from a developer / technologist / entrepreneur point of view, they don't matter much. Rather, what matters is:

* Assess the likelihood of commercial success of the product family over time

* Assess whether you may want to target that product family

* Both seem even mildly likely, buy version 1 regardless of your immediate needs. Get familiar. Use that data to refine your assessments above.

Hervé said...

I agree with Headius remarks, and like him I won't buy the first version of this iPad, but I'm still very interested in it and there's a very good chance that I will buy the second version.

I really think the iPad is making the same kind of breakthrough as the iPhone did:
- I can see me using it to read books on my sofa or in public transport, and kindle is much too limited to my taste
- Same for seeing a movie in the train or plane for example, we have 10 hours of battery life vs not very much for Netbooks
- also I have made the move to digital for games (via Steam), I'm beginning to pay to read newspapers for my iPhone, I think that iPad may be the next move (at least for me).
- having this kind of tablet would be fantastic for work too. It would be so easy to have it anywhere you need, including taking notes of meetings with iWorks.

I'm really waiting to buy the V2.

Shin Guey said...

Totally agree with Headius point. I will wait for other competitor's product b'coz it will be much cheaper and feature complete than Ipad.

Jan Wedekind said...

@nuttersmark You might not have heard it but I did in fact complain about the iKindle (IMHO everything with this much DRM should be prefixed with an 'i') when it came out ;)
Myself I bought a Bookeen Cybook Gen3 which allows me to read my PDF- and text-documents without having a third party interfering with my right to do so. There are plenty of eBook Readers on the market. All of them with a display which you can read in broad daylight and all of them offering you more freedom than the iKindle.
IMO the main reason to buy a touch tablet is to be able to do some digital art. What's the point if you can't install Gimp (or your choice of graphics software) on the device.
This kind of limitations usually appear small at first sight, but on the long term they dictate who we are and what we can become (e.g. an artist).

Hervé said...

@Mark Rendle: Asus DR-950 is a B&W eReader, so it can't compete for:
- watching movies
- browsing the web
- playing games
- using apps

Gerald Boersma said...

Charles:

I agree with your reasoning for myself as a software engineer. I also see no compelling reason to jump on it.

But I am tempted to get it for my wife: she is a technophobe, only really surfs and looks at email and the occasional document, and has to juggle the kids at the same time. And $500 is a cheap price to pay for marital credits ;-) Still, she is not yet convinced herself.

I also think it could be interesting in the corporate setting, especially for meetings. It's friendler for people to look at the iPad rather than peering around a fat laptop. But the iPhone probably has that one covered already.

Cheers,
Gerald

gin said...

Just out of curiosity, people who are interested in tablets, what do you think about Nokia N810, N900?

> And I'm a programmer...I want to be
> able to put my own apps on the device
>(or give apps to friends) without
>dealing with the App Store gatekeeper
From this perspective, Android or even more: Maemo could be the way to go?

But of course this is entirely different from granny's perspective (which some were talking about more above).

Allan said...

You ask what do I need it for? Because I need to carry around a portfolio of my photography work. I can either carry a thousand 8x10s in a stack several feet tall, or use the iPad and wiz through them. Despite what you may thing there ARE valid uses.

free ipad said...

I got an free ipad but i am disappointed! I am thinking to buy the next generation Do you know when it will be?