If you've been paying any attention to the computer industry at all this year, you're probably aware that Apple just announced (but didn't release) the iPad, a tablet-style computer with multi-touch input and an operating system based on the incredibly popular iPhone. The iPad is intended to compete directly with the netbook/laptop market that's exploding in popularity.
The reality, though, is that in most cases, you're better off getting a Windows-based laptop rather than the iPad. Here are the top 5 reasons why Apple's newest device doesn't measure up.
Reason 1. Less Bang for the Buck
Look at the specs of the lowest-level iPad (the one that probably fits in most consumers' price range, at $499):
- 16GB hard drive. What is that, a joke? That's what my iPhone has. Of course, my iPhone isn't primarily a work machine. I put songs, a few movies, and applications on it, so 16 GB serves me OK. On a nearly 10-inch tablet computer? It's laughable in the extreme. A 16 GB hard drive was acceptable on a computer -- in 2002.
- A 1GHz Apple A4 chip. I don't know anything about this chip, other than it's new. That alone should give some pause, as version 1 chips can be unreliable. In any event, 1GHz is quite slow compared to any comparable Windows laptop.
- No USB or firewire inputs. This is mind-boggling. With such a tiny hard drive, it would be nice to be able to plug in a portable hard drive (also known as "flash" or "thumb" drives). But you can't with the iPad.
Reason 2. No Multi-Tasking
You're kidding, Apple. Right? The iPad operating system (OS) is the iPhone OS. The iPhone OS works well for a mobile device. For a full-size computer? Not so much. No multi-tasking means you need to close each program you're working on to open a new program. Then that program must be closed to use another. No hopping around from program to program -- you know, the way you really use a computer.
It's annoying enough on the iPhone, and numerous other smartphones do allow multi-tasking. For some reason, Apple decided it wasn't necessary for the iPad. Major error.
Reason 3. No Flash Support
No Flash in what is primarily a Web device? Shocking. Steve Jobs, during the announcement, kept talking about what a great Web-surfing product the iPad was. If so, why won't it support Flash, so you can watch videos and other Flash animations? Will the experience be so great when you open a Web page with a great, big empty box in the middle?
Yes, Flash can be a security hole. But using the Internet in any fashion brings certain security risks. To cut out such an important part of Web functionality for the sake of added security, in what is being pitched as a surfboard to the Web, is folly.
Reason 4. The Onscreen Keyboard
This is similar to other objections about building the iPad on top of the iPhone OS. For texting, Tweeting, emailing, etc., the onscreen keyboard works great. For the iPad, it's unacceptable. Do you really want to type in web URLs with the onscreen keyboard? Or write a school paper with it? Do you want to do significant spreadsheet work with it?
There's a reason the mouse and keyboard are standard on almost every computer made in the last 25 years -- they're the best input devices for larger screens. Without them, it's hard to call the iPad a serious work machine. Yes, you can add one (and pay more for the privilege), but then you're not using a "tablet" anymore.
Reason 5. No Still Camera or Video
Again, this is a media-enabled computer, right? It's about "unleasing your inner creativity," "being who you really are", and other marketing pabulum. If that's so, why doesn't the iPad have a webcam or video camera built in? You can take a picture with a digital camera and upload it, but on most Windows laptops made today, cameras are part of the package -- and have been, for some time.
What are the Use Cases?
So, in the end, the iPad is just a 10-inch iPhone -- scratch that. It's a 10-inch iPod Touch, since it doesn't work as a phone. This doesn't mean I'm knocking those mobile devices. Quite the contrary: I've had an iPhone for several years, and consider it the greatest gadget of all time. The input method of multi-touch is perfect for that device, but I don't think the concept of the iPhone/iPod Touch translates well to a much larger form-factor computer that is meant to be more than a smartphone.
I'm still scratching my head, wondering why Apple didn't make its fantastic OS X operating system the brains behind the iPad. I'm wondering when I would use this, and what advantages it would have, in what situations, over a Windows laptop. I'm having trouble coming up with many. When would you use the iPad, and not your laptop/iPhone/smartphone? Let me know.