My First 25 Questions About Apple’s iPad

By  |  Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 3:17 pm

In the end, the one thing about Apple product events that’s utterly predictable is this: Some of the rumors will turn out to be true, and some of them will turn out to be false. And until you know which are which, it’s pointless to too many waste brain cells on trying to form any opinion at all.

This morning, we learned enough about the product we now know as iPad to start thinking about it seriously. But it’s not like all has been revealed. In fact, I’m still asking questions rather than coming to conclusions.

After the jump, in rough order of importance, 25 things I’m wondering about.

1. How’s the keyboard? I got a little hands-on time with one after the event, and was pleasantly surprised. It looks a lot like the iPhone keyboard, but its far larger scale makes typing much comfier, and much closer to typing on a physical notebook keyboard. I’m not rendering any final verdicts until I’ve spent more time with it in a variety of orientations–standing up, sitting down, using it in my lap, and using it on a table. But I came away feeling more optimistic about it, and I’m surprised that Jobs and company didn’t do more to tout it during the presentation.

2. Is 250MB really plenty? Steve Jobs said that the lower-priced AT&T 3G plan–fifteen bucks for 250MB of data–will be enough for most users. Depends on how the iPad ends up getting used, I guess, but that seems low. (I use around ten times that with the EVDO account I have with Verizon.) Watching the meter as you use the iPad doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun.

3. Is the $30 plan really unlimited? As in…no limit? (With Verizon EVDO, I’m capped at 5GB a month, which is more than I need.)

4. What will all that extra traffic do to AT&T’s network? Granted, there will probably be fewer iPads out there than iPhones, at least at first.

5. Will people not buy the iPad because it’s on AT&T? Especially since so many people assumed it would be on Verizon for so long? Is it going to depress sales?

6. Will you be able to use it on T-Mobile? We were told today it uses a new sort of SIM card. Maybe T-Mobile should offer it, undercutting AT&T’s prices?

7. When will there be a non-AT&T 3G iPad? For now, the mythical Apple-Verizon relationship remains just that: mythical. I’m guessing the next milestone at which a Verizon deal for the iPad and/or iPhone might be announced is at WWDC, when Apple will talk about its next-generation phone.

8. Is the fact everything runs in full-screen mode a problem? For a couple of decades now, we’ve been used to the idea that real computers run applications. But I dunno: I usually run programs maximized, and one of the few things I dislike about OS X is that it’s hard to make a program occupy all my screen real estate. I think the full-screen thing on the iPad is not a crippling problem at all.

9. Is the lack of multi-tasking for third-party apps an issue? Yes, it is. Especially for any music app that isn’t from Apple.

10. How about the fact it doesn’t have a camera? A device this large could never be a satisfying substitute for a digital camera, but it’s a little surprising it didn’t come with a Webcam and video-enabled iChat.

11. Why iWork? For the most part, iPad seems to be aimed at consumers. But Apple put a lot of work into building versions of its Keynote presentation app, Pages word processor, and Numbers spreadsheet. They really take advantage of the iPad’s interface; they might be the most impressive thing Apple showed off today. But I would have expected the company to roll out the far more consumery iLife in iPad form if it wasn’t for widespread rumors of iWork being part of today’s announcement.

12. What’s the thinking behind the pricing? It’s unusual for Apple, since the base price of the cheapest iPad is hundreds of dollars less than many predictions had it. Apple usually builds fancy machines and prices them accordingly, but in this case it defeatured the iPad somewhat to hit a price point. The $499 starting price puts the iPad in the same price zone a decent netbook; maybe that’s what Apple was going for.

13. How good will the third-party apps be? Ones that are pretty much just an iPhone app at higher resolution may not be all that exciting. Ones that really take advantage of the new form factor will be.

14. How deep will the content be? Apple didn’t have much to say about who it’s signed up to provide e-books and other reading material. I get the sense it’s similar to its early rollout of iTunes video–it’s launching with what it has, and will try to ramp up quickly thereafter.

15. Will Web sites redesign themselves to be iPad-friendly? Many certainly have to work well on the iPhone. And one of today’s neatest demos was of a NYTimes.com that was designed to be highly readable on the iPad. Will other content sites follow suit?

16. What happens to e-readers? The Kindle and Nook and their many competitors aren’t going anywhere immediately. They’re much cheaper than the iPad, they’ll probably have a textual content advantage for quite some time, and their battery life is vastly better. I’m guessing, however, that in a half-decade or so we’ll look back at today as the beginning of the end of the idea of monochrome e-readers.

17. Will Apple let other booksellers build apps for the iPad? Wouldn’t Amazon want to make Kindle for the iPad if it could? Can it continue to sell books outside of Apple’s e-commerce world? I know that Barnes & Noble wants to be on the iPad if it can, since its strategy is to sell books everywhere that people read them.

18. Is the battery life going to put a crimp in reading? Not for magazines and papers–ten hours is enough. But will people be less likely to sit down to, say, a novel if they know they’ll need to recharge multiple times before they get to the final syllable?

19. How long until we’re drowning in iPad clones? They’re going to be hard to do well, since so much of the device’s appeal is wrapped up in its proprietary software and services. But it being hard to do something well has never stopped the PC industry from trying. (The JooJoo–nee CrunchPad–gets a pass here, since it looks like it’s thoughtfully done, and it predates the iPad announcement.)

20. What does iPad mean for netbooks? The cheapest one costs about the same as a well-equipped netbook. The screen is more beautiful. Judging from the zippy interface I tried, the performance may be better. In a way, the device is closer to being Apple’s answer to netbooks than I anticipated, but I’m not sure what that means.

21. What does iPad mean for Microsoft’s “Slate PC?” Sure, there are theoretical advantages to buying a Slate PC running full-blown multitaskin’ Windows vs. the more limited iPad. But I already wrote that Microsoft’s seeming disinterest in reimagining Windows’ interface for touch devices was an issue. And that’s more glaringly obvious than ever now. It’s not as bad as the contrast between the first iPhone and Windows Mobile phones, but it’s a major issue for Microsoft if the company thinks that slates are going to matter.

22. What does iPad mean for Google’s Chrome OS? Both are designed to do browsing well. But the whole point of a Chrome OS netbook is going to be that it doesn’t run local apps, and the single most appealing thing about the iPad is going to be that it does run local apps. Vast quantities of them. Plus all the Web stuff that Chrome OS wil do.

23. What does iPad mean for Macs? It’s not Apple’s most powerful computer. But it’s clearly a better realization of what Apple thinks a personal computing device should be in 2010 and beyond than any Mac. What are the chances that the next iMac–or at least the next iMac after that–might resemble an iPad, or even be an iPad? Now that Apple’s proved it can release a computing device containing an Apple-designed CPU–the iPad’s A4–how long until it starts designing its own processors for Macs?

24. How long until some or all of the iPad’s limitations get fixed? For as long as there’s been an Apple, it’s tended to release first-generation products that were cool and highly-refined–but which were missing features that no other company would even consider trying to eliminate. (The Apple II didn’t do floating-point math at first.) The first iPhone was a brilliant piece of software contained in a fairly limited phone; in the two and a half years since it came out, Apple has addressed many (not all) of the first iPhone’s holes. How long until the iPad gets a camera, full multitasking, a more reliable 3G provider, etc., etc., etc.?

25. Will the iPad save the publishing industry? Hope so! Not making any bets just yet, though.

I’m not going to come up with a bottom line on the iPad until I have the opportunity to try one at length in the real world–and even then, it’s a living platform, not a one-off box, so in some ways we won’t truly understand its implications until a year or so has passed.) But I’ll continue to share my impressions and would love to hear yours.

 
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13 Comments For This Post

  1. Millard Says:

    With the proliferation of places where you can get free WiFi, 250Mb/month of “when I want something badly enough not to wait for the next hot spot” might actually work.

  2. andy Says:

    Why no flash? My long help theory was that there was fear of the havoc it would wreak on the 3g data networks and thusly cause the device to be scorned, not the network. Now I’m starting to think it’s a media control issue. Either way; it is the one thing holding me back and making me wait for the second or third generation of the device to come out.

  3. Jimmy Burnett Says:

    If the iPad sells at the right prices I might actually look into buying one of these. I’d pay $500 for a model that supports flash, silverlight and lets me watch Hulu!

  4. Vulpine Says:

    To answer #4, 5, 6 and 7, they clearly stated that the iPad was unlocked, which means it should be able to function on any 3G network. As such, the AT&T-only question would be invalid even though AT&T’s pricing has been announced officially.

    #11. My guess is that the iPad is intended to be more than just a consumer device, but also a creator device. Add the possibility that it could be used in place of a laptop to present ‘Powerpoint’ shows in Keynote and text editing or creation through Pages as well as basic spreadsheet operations in Numbers, and you have an enterprise-capable device as well, in the same price range as most Windows laptops. Simpler interface with easier presentation controls means more efficiently run meetings. It also means that those attending the meetings aren’t hidden by an upright screen from their fellow attendees.

    #16, 17 and 18. Obviously the iPad is targeting the ebook reader market as well, putting this device in quite direct competition with all the other e-readers price wise when you take everything else into consideration. However, the dedicated e-readers will have the battery-life advantage as long as they continue to use some form of e-ink display. From what I’ve read, though, even if apps do come available for the Kindle, the slow update speed of e-ink displays will make them relatively useless. Even if they do develop color displays, the slow speed will cripple them for anything beyond relatively static content.

    Finally, until other tablet developers fully integrate the OS and the applications, machines like the HP Slate will be ineffective. No tablet to date has been effective without custom-designed software that effectively ignores the OS’s limitations. I’ve read of more than one case where tablets are being used the way you would expect to use them, but in every case it was because the software was specifically designed for tablet use while the underlying OS merely used the touch feature as a mouse/pointer replacement. Apple seems to be the first to bring hardware and OS together as a coherent whole, unlike all the others.

  5. tom b Says:

    I’d say it’s pretty much a “NetBook” killer. Snappy peformance; great interface; many capabilities. Glad it does NOT have Flash, but, until Zynga ports Farmville to a modern runtime environment, this will be a problem!

  6. Andythefiredog Says:

    # 26. Is the iPad’s Mail app built off OS X or iPhone OS? Will it support Exchange Server 2003 like iPhone or only 2007 like Snow Leopard?

    # 27. how are documents transferred and managed from amac/PC to the iPad? Clearly, the iPad has a built-in gallery of your recent projects for each app, but will it all have to basically be managed over email like the iPhone?

  7. Eric Says:

    Why would anyone be glad that there is no Flash? At least one third of the sites I visit rely heavily on Flash (read: video, graphics, games).

    I think Apple can still include Flash 10.1 in their rumored iPhone 4.0 software, as well as support multitasking. A webcam dongle or snap-on is probably not too far off… but the lack of ports (USB 2.0/3.0, HDMI, etc) and lack of 16:9 widescreen, and lack of e-Ink display (like the Pixel Qi), are not easily fixable.

    What really concerns me is my lack of choice when using an iPad — can’t watch Hulu videos, can’t stream Netflix, can’t download MP3s from Amazon.com, can’t read eBooks from Barnes & Noble… A closed system will ultimately keep me away.

    I’m hoping the Notion Ink gets here quickly.

  8. V Says:

    #20 I doubt the performance will come anywhere near to this http://blog.laptopmag.com/asus-eee-pc-1201n and it’s the same $499 price point so I don’t think it’s designed to compete with a netbook – especially the newer netbooks, a 2yr old netbook maybe.

    #23 Can’t see Apple replacing Intel anytime soon as far as processor design goes. They should stick to their bread and butter, chic design with user friendliness for the consumer.
    Remember what happened to PowerPC? – 3 years between new chipsets.

    Still it all adds to the competition in this marketspace which can only be a good thing.

  9. tom b Says:

    “Why would anyone be glad that there is no Flash? At least one third of the sites I visit rely heavily on Flash (read: video, graphics, games). ”

    You are trolling, but I’ll answer anyway: because >90% of the Flash I encounter is in the form of intrusive ads and because Flash is so poorly coded it is the leading cause of browsers hangs and slow downs. HMTL, an open format, will emerge as a better way to go, for most purposes.

  10. Daniel Peiser Says:

    10. How about the fact it doesn’t have a camera?
    Top managers would have needed video iChat, geeks would have loved Augmented Reality games. It’s a big miss here, I really can’t understand.

    16. What happens to e-readers?
    Kindle & c. will have to cut prices drastically, maybe below the $100 mark, and it’s good news for book lovers.

    Top 10 reasons NOT to Buy the Apple iPad
    http://www.bealoud.com/technology/apple-ipad/

  11. RickjeWR Says:

    I still have another question: can i access my home network drives/shares? I have almost all my movies, files and pictures on a home server, and i want to access them. If the iPad can’t do that, i don’t think its for me…

  12. wolf Says:

    Forget the verizon option for the ipad (and the iphone). at&t and t-mobile are the only carriers in the US that operate a GSM network. The WHOLE REST of the world operates on a GSM network. And Apple’s market is the world, and GSM carriers in the US! Why would they develop a version just for a US carrier? That’s not economical in terms of development, production and logistics. For example, right now, there is only one iphone version to cover every market in the world – and it’s a GSM version. They can shuffle iphones around the globe wherever they are needed and withdraw where they are not selling as expected. Apple won’t deal with the pain that comes with proprietary versions of one product. Won’t happen! And in the meantime GSM carriers in the US will grow! That’s it!

  13. wolf Says:

    @RickjeWR – You should check out DROPBOX which just was awarded by Macworld. I use it and it’s fabulous! You can install dropbox on your desktop/imac/laptop and there is an app for it too! I am sure Dropbox will be have an ipad optimized version available!

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