Why I’m Not Super Jazzed about the new Apple iPad

Reporting On A Twitter Feed Live

I passively monitored Apple’s much anticipated announcementyesterday via a TechCrunch live feed.Apple makes a lot of brilliant products, and their announcementshave a big impact, so it’s beneficial for anyone in this industryto keep interested.

The TechCrunch show consisted of a couple of people monitoringthe twitter feed of someone actually invited to the event whileincompetently dealing with technical challenges like “show agraphic” or “don’t abruptly inject a floor audio feedwithout warning”.

One of the hosts demonstrated why so many of us have anautomatic skepticism about the critical reception of new Appleproducts: As the picture of the product came onto their feed –carried down from the mountain by Jobs – her reaction was“Uhhhhh….it’s gorrrrrrrrgeous!

Her observation is only shared by the truly faithful, thoughsurely the rest of the Apple herd will inevitably come around. Youcan be sure that going forward this nondescript rectangle willbecome the new benchmark of product beauty.

Everything that follows will either be ugly in comparison, ordeclared a rip off. I just discovered a digital photo frame besideme which I sadly must report is a rip-off of the pure, blessedgenius of Apple.

Early Prototype
Early Prototype

A Big iPhone

We now know that the iPad is essentially an iPhone with a larger(low resolution, 4:3 ratio) screen, minus voice. Clearly it runs anARM-derived processor, with performance likely very similar to aSnapdragon 1Ghz. Apple is talkinga big game about the A4 system on a chip (saying things like“Intel is looking to do this with their Atom”, ignoringall that came before to pretend that they lead the pack. It’s likecoming in last in the marathon yet talking about how you finishedbefore next year’s winner), so it would be interesting to see itput to the test against, for instance, the Tegra2.

One other feature of the iPad is that you can change thebackground. Apparently that’s a pretty big deal.

The iPad seems to be the continuation of Apple’s platformroyalty play, and may be subsidized in the same way that Microsoftor Sony sell their consoles. With this device Apple is goingupscale, moving beyond the repackaged web pages and novelty watercooler apps that overwhelmingly dominate the app store. Getting acut of magazines and books and even more media will surely padtheir pockets.

To repeat what I said before, Apple andSony would be a perfect union. Their modus operandi isvirtually identical. Aside from the common quest to act as thetroll under the bridge collecting a toll, they share a profoundpropensity for endlessly reinventing things that came before,cluttering their devices with proprietary plugs and connectors andcards and slots.

The iPad puts into focus why Apple has been so vigilant aboutmaintaining their strict ecosystem command and control of theiPlatform. While some points were debatable with the iPhone (andwere cause for much stupidity when otherwise intelligent technicalcommentators made ridiculous excuses for the restrictions andlimitations of the platform, trying to sell some piss water aslemonade), with the iPad it’s clear that it’s for the same reasonthat the console makers lock down their platform, though the lame excuses are already being doled out.

It certainly isn’t to benefit the consumer. We had shades ofthis years back as Microsoft built out the trusted-computingplatform, and one feared possibility at the time was that we’d endup with a dominant platform where software had to pay a fee andpass a gatekeep (“DENIED! Competes with Excel!”).Thankfully the massive chill was unfounded,or the objection was so loud that it discouraged thatinitiative.

Alas, the iPad is real. The faithful are pouring forth to tellus that it’s the end of netbooks. It’s the end of eReaders. It’sthe future of computing! While usually it’s the Mac faithful thatpreach the message, in this case it’s the tech media that ispouring on the unabashed praise with no critical perspective.They’re all afraid of posting something negative, only to be mockedwhen Apple inevitably succeeds. They point nervously at theSlashdot summary of lore.

As Jobs creepily says during his demonstration, “It’s thateasy.” Then again Jobs also told us that it will be the“best browsing experience you’ve ever had”, while showing usthe device rendering websites like the NY Times, sans Flash orother accoutrements, much slower and less usably than it takes forvirtually any PC, including higher resolution, vastly more capable$400 netbooks, to do the same.

Flash is so yesterday! HTML 5 is the future!” you say. Iagree with you, at least if you’re talking through a wormhole fromabout two or three years in the future, and with a vastly morepowerful device. JavaScript and the canvas element can almost yieldusable Flash similes on a PC many magnitudes more powerful thanthis device. Even just for video it’s grossly premature, thoughApple will be overjoyed if you’re restricted to their littleghetto, paying your toll while thanking them for it.

Alas, such is the pure innovation of the sort that only Applecan bring us.

A Blog Exclusive!

As a reader-of-my-blog exclusive, I want to let you all intosome secret iPad specifications I stumbled across.


I knew I couldn’t fool you. That’s actually a tablet PC from 6years ago. It’s a follow-up of tablet and hybrid PCs that existedsince the turn of the century (and of course supermarkets andscience centers have had touch screens, including the reveredmulti-touch, for much longer. Am I the only one who finds thatpeople endless pinching and unpinching on the screen lookpositively ridiculous?)

Of course it was far more expensive than the coming iPad. Itweighed more too, and had a much shorter battery life.

Then again, it was probably faster than the iPad. It wascompletely open and could run hundreds of thousands of veryrich applications (applications not gimped to a smartphone). Italso had lots of standard expansion ports and capabilities.

The market generally didn’t care for it or its ilk because theonly people who really wanted a screen like that are inventorytakers at Home Depot. Most of the demonstrations of it werelaughable.

Despite all of Bill Gates’ prayers before he went to bed, theformat floundered. They’re trying once more to make it stick.

Of course that device used a screen technology that required astylus. Apple is into the capacitive touch screen technology, somaybe that is super new and innovative for a device like this?

No, it isn’t unique. That touchscreen device came outbefore Apple’s very first iPod (you know the one. It wasthe “me too” music player that saved Apple from dying at the handsof a failed computer business — though some gimmickry with the iMackept it on life-support for a while longer — which they’ve sincerebirthed by rebadging PC components, amazingly fooling thefaithful into believing that these somehow came from the premiumbin).

Where is the Innovation?

The iPad isn’t innovative. Everything it does has been done manytimes before. Claiming that its restrictions are a benefit are likesaying North Korea has a more refined sense of freedom.

Executing well is not innovation. Apple executes verywell indeed, and they put incredible care and attention intotheir products. That is hugely laudable and worthwhile, but itisn’t innovative.

As to predictions that the iPad will take over the eReadermarket, while it may come to pass it ignores precedent.

People don’t read books on LCD screens for the simple reasonthat people couldn’t accept that as a substitute for print whenthey wanted print. That led to the creation and adoption ofe-Ink, mirroringhow actual reflective print works. I have no doubt that a lot ofteary-eyed iPad adopters will tell us that it’s the cat’s meow, butwe’ve been down this path many times before. Yes, even with IPSscreens.

That’s Apple innovation for you. If standards change for yourproduct, how can you fail?

Of course, all of this is for naught. Apple has a precedent ofgoing into markets with products that cost more while doing less,and achieving remarkable success. So this is my final cry before Ismile and nod politely as told about how Apple invented IPS displaytechnology, the ARM reference processor, flash memory, and so on.The leader is truly wise and great.