Who ate all the iPies?
Apple's mid-life crisis in tablet form
Comment So, a portlier iPhone has emerged from Cupertino with typical fanfare and panache, but even the hardcore fans seem disappointed by what is essentially an iPhone with a mid-life crisis.
The waistband has expanded, but in every other respect the iPad remains almost identical to its original form with all the omissions in place - no multitasking, no Flash compatibility, not even widescreen video playback to enjoy on the media device that won't even play FarmVille. Apple's new baby has the look of a middle-aged man searching for meaning as the dreams of his youth are curtailed by life's responsibilities.
Not that the iPhone isn't where it wanted to be at this point - sales are stratospheric, and it's fair to say that Apple has redefined what users expect from a telephone, not to mention shaking up the whole industry and its value chain. But that's in the past, and yesterday fans were expecting something radical - what they got was an ageing guy in a new shirt sporting a different haircut.
Not that it's all Apple's fault - the company has responsibilities too. Responsibilities to developers who don't want to rewrite their applications, responsibilities to shareholders who want to maintain the customer lock-in that iTunes represents (which is why Flash can't be allowed). Apple wanted to reinvent the iPhone, but wasn't prepared to walk away from the responsibilities it had established; it's been obliged to play it safe, be grown-up.
So the iPhone gets a bit fatter and pulls up in a red sports car, but it's still an iPhone and does little an iPhone can't do. Just as when your boss suddenly changes haircut and starts dressing casually, he might look a bit different but inside the same weight of responsibility prevents him making any real changes. ®
Not fan friendly?
Fine by me.
I liked the Apple IIe and the new iMac all-in-ones look lovely but other than that I haven't been won over by any of their computers.
Until the iPod touch.
Which is great; genuinely easy to use and convenient - switches on and connects quicker than my phone, good enough email support, very good browser, some good news apps, social networking, a few games, streams media - all in all a near-perfect household gadget.
But a bit small.
So rigid brand loyalists might be disappointed but I'm delighted and I'd guess Apple won't actually *lose* any zealots with this product so they'll be pleased to pick up a few people who see this as something they'll actually use.
It's The Interface, Stupid.
A bigger screen offers much more space for UI elements and interaction. Macolytes have been screaming for a "Mac Tablet". Well, they've been carrying one around in their pocket since 2007. Now they've got a bigger one. Strange how *not one so-called "IT reporter"* managed to pick up on this. All those iPhones and iPod Touches? Guess which OS they're running.
That's right: OS X. A full-fat UNIX-based operating system. Right there, in your pocket, running your apps.
What were you expecting? A simple, dumb port of the 1960s-era desktop metaphor still used on Apple's Mac range? Why the hell do you think the Tablet PC hasn't caught on?
Here's a hint: Windows' GUI wasn't designed *from the gorund up* for touch-screen interaction; they just nailed something onto a completely unsuitable WIMP interface and hoped they'd get away with this half-arsed approach. And they got rightly burned for it.
*Of course* any tablet Mac would end up with a different GUI than a traditional Mac. The traditional WIMP metaphor hasn't been fit for purpose in years. The mouse moves a virtual finger around a screen. You don't need that interface design kludge on a proper, touch-screen interface. Take a look at how they've changed their iWorks apps to run on this new device.
Watch that entire Phill Schiller section *again* until it finally sinks in, because, believe it or not, that iWork for iPad demo is far more important than you (or any of your peers) seem to have realised: THIS is the beginning of the end of the laptop as we know it. For the vast majority of computer users, there's no need to have a keyboard and trackpad permanently welded onto a touch-enabled screen. Include support for virtual keyboards—again, look at that Numbers for iPad presentation—and produce an optional, physical keyboard accessory as Apple have done, and you're golden. (The iPad also has Bluetooth, so there's ample scope for alternatives to the Apple-designed Keyboard Dock.)
A physical keyboard is overkill for the consumption-focused market Apple are aiming at. It may be a requirement for *you*, but you're a *content creator*, not just a consumer.
The only thing left is to nail the ergonomics of the two physical devices. Jonathan Ive's team has clearly thought hard about this, hence the iPad's case accessory and the keyboard dock, but it remains to be seen whether they've got it all right first time. (The Keyboard Dock looks a little inflexible ergonomically, but I've only seen the same static photos everyone else has.) Apple already produce a Bluetooth keyboard, so it'll be interesting to learn if that's also supported.
As for this tiresome "no multi-tasking" bullshit: Have you *seen* how most people use their consumer electronics and computers? Give it a rest already. Task-switching will be just fine for most of the target market.
Flash can't be allowed because, while a few people have done cool things with it (Everybody loves the Homestar Runner!), it is very often used badly and it sucks up processor power. I like 2D Portal, but I can only cope with my 2GHz C2D MacBook being in leafblower mode for so long. Even if there was a good implementation, I've seen enough bad Flash-y websites that it's almost not worth the flash RAM.