Sorry, I don’t want this to become an all-tablet-all-the-time space.; but how often do we get a new computer form factor? Anyhow, yesterday I got my hands on an iPad, and suddenly I find myself disagreeing with the world about what’s important.
The problem is that the iPad combines a whole bunch of new things and it’s not obvious off the top which of them matter.
Speed Is A Feature · For a 1Ghz device with limited memory, the iPad is unreasonably fast. I suspect this accounts for a whole bunch of the “Wow!” reaction the iPad obviously provokes.
Since there’s no free lunch, I think it’s really important that we understand what they sacrificed to get that performance. My bet would be on some combination of windowing and virtual memory. I tend to work on lots of things at once, but in fact I look at things in rapid succession, my eyes can really only focus on one thing at one time. Given sufficiently fast switching, maybe we all ought to be getting less WIMPy.
Touching · When touch works, it works great. I think there are going to be a bunch of apps that just turn out to run way better with a well-considered touch interface. But this is orthogonal to tablet-ness; after fifteen minutes with an iPad, I want a touch-screen on my laptop. Such things already exist; Werner Vogels of Amazon has one right now.
Unexciting · The performance and the touch interface totally dominated my appreciation of the iPad. Here’s a run through the rest.
Yeah, the screen’s nice, but the pixel density is lower than on my Nexus One — I could see font jaggies on the pages of the Time Magazine app. I’ll say one thing, though: Anyone with exposure to Android or Apple phones, and now tablets, is going to be increasingly unsatisfied with today’s laptop screens.
The form factor is OK but not thrilling; my exposure was on an airplane and the iPad was not dramatically easier to use than my 13" MacBook.
The on-screen keyboard is surprisingly good, but for serious motor-finger touch-typists like me, I’m still pretty skeptical. For example, on the same plane trip I wrote and revised that Memory Matters piece. Apple itself sets a pretty high bar with the current MacBook keyboards; I’m unconvinced that anything much less capable could have supported that writing task.
The iPad has provoked an outburst of publishing-business-model lunacy. $5 for Time? $17.99 for the WSJ? Give me a $#@%! break. The Marvel app is exquisite, but the two things you do with comics are read them and trade them; no longer. Earth to publishing-biz management: Check in again when you sober up.
The attempt to do away with folders, and hierarchical storage, is bold, but it’s not clearly a winner. I’m not hostile to the idea — after all, almost all my own files are in YYYY/MM/DD hierarchies. But I have a sneaking suspicion that this notion that hierarchical folders are part of the problem, that “ordinary people” can’t understand them, is simply wrong. We’ll see.
Take-Away · New form factor, no attached keyboard, touch-screen, window-free UI, folder-free storage; there’s a whole lot of stuff here. There’s no tablet, stone or otherwise, on which it says that this particular bag of features all have to go together.