Just a Big iTouch – Questions Mere Days Til iPad D-Day

“Let me know how you like the ipad. It looks like a jumbo iphone to me 🙂 ,” I’ve gotten this question more than a few times in the past few months. And most of us have seen variations of the following Doritos ad, punking the idea that the iPad is just a big iPod/iTouch. Funny AND stupid.

So on April 1st many of the A-List reviewers released their reviews of the iPad. WSJ’s Walt Mosberg mused, Apple iPad Review: Laptop Killer? Pretty Close. NY Times columnist David Pogue doubled downed his review for the geeks and the non-geeks. One of the best video reviews I’ve seen was by Chicago Sun-Times columnist, Andy Ihnatko (see below).

My take? I’m tired of the jumbo iPod/iTouch jokes. I’m tired of the netbook comparisons. This is what I know, everyone complained about netbooks after they came out because they had very slow processors. My own experience with the OLPC was that it was unusable because it was too difficult to do anything more than view one non-flash webpage at a time. And we all remember how many people loved the tiny little unusable keyboards. Yes, the netbooks are cheap, but if it’s unusable than cheap don’t matter. Yes, things have improved, so if that’s what you want, go get one and stop hating on those who aren’t interested in your crippled Windows 7 wannbe. From what I’ve seen, Apple recognizes that slow won’t go and they’ve made sure that the interface is snappy and extremely responsive to user interaction (translation: they put a fast processor in there to get the job done).

Here’s the second thing that I’ve noticed: it’s not about the hardware. As much as the hardware is going to rock, if that’s all you’re focus on, than you are completely missing the boat. Have we not learned the lesson of the Palm Pre? That device was the brain-child of more than a few former Apple-geniuses who put into the Pre all of the elements the Jobs nixed in the iPhone like multi-tasking, slide-out keyboard, etc. So where’s the CES darling of 2009? MIA and quickly heading to DOA, I believe.

Anyway, what the designers of the Pre failed to recognize (and all of the iPhone- and iPad-cloners) is that it’s not enough to do the same thing only a little better. The game-changing factor of the iPad is going to be it’s utter transparency in bringing to the user whatever media experience the user might want whether it’s books, music, TV shows, games, podcasts, or movies. No configurations, no setting up, not even the mere five inches of space between the user and the screen that a keyboard might occupy. And if you want to jot some notes down, or browse the web, or send an email, it’s just a single Home button push away. This is also where the iPad may be most vulnerable: if they don’t get the books, games, movies or TV shows that people want to watch than it’ll be game over. The iPad isn’t about the device. It’s about what the device will invisibly connect you to.

The clones can have memory slots and completely configurable desktops, and every geejaw under the sun, but if the user has to hunt down where to get ones TV shows or install anything to make the videos run, forget it. There will be dozens of devices running some form of the Android OS, or Windows and most definitely Linux and the propeller-heads will make them work (after hours of cruising through user groups and forums looking for drivers, and tips), but that’s not the market or experience that Apple is going for. Pick it up, swipe the screen to turn it on, pick what you want to watch, listen to or create and go about doing that thing. It’s not a big iPod/iTouch any more than a Harley is just a big bicycle. Yes, the bicycle may be better for you and way cheaper but you’re a moron if all you see is a difference in size.

For me I’m really looking forward to writing these blog posts and grading my students’ work on my iPad. It can’t come soon enough (I ordered the 3g model, so I have several more weeks to wait. Damn).

Sources:

Doritos iPad Parody. http://www.fastcompany.com/1580533/doritos-mega-chip-parody-comes-in-apple-flavor?partner=homepage_newsletter retrieved on 4/1/2010

Neofonie announces WePad 11.6-inch Android slate By Joseph L. Flatley. http://www.engadget.com/2010/03/20/neofonie-announces-wepad-11-6-inch-android-slate/ retrieved on 4/1/2010

Youtube video: MacBreak Weekly 188: iPad Revealed! by TWiT. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ty6Hjs0NpDs retrieved on 4/1/2010.