The Apple iPad (hastily) reviewed

Apple have just released their new iPad [pictures here], and since they’ve signed up several publishers with the intention of it being (in part) an e-book reader, I thought I’d better say something about it.

In common with most of the world, I haven’t had my hands on one yet – just seen the pictures, heard a few comments and read the specifications. But that’s enough for me to form an opinion, so here goes.

I’m sure it’ll sell by the million, as Apple stuff usually does, but I don’t intend getting one myself just yet. Or even at all. Maybe I’ll think about it when it gets to version 2 or 3, if they eventually manage to get it right.

They could so easily have made it one of those must-have items that would have had even the likes of me salivating, and queuing up at midnight to get my hands on it. But sadly, that’s not the case, because to my mind there’s an awful lot wrong with it, and after all the hype, that’s come as a massive disappointment.

First, let’s consider it as an e-book reader: a nice idea, but they’ve got it wrong.

It’s good news, of course, that Amazon’s Kindle will have some decent competition at last. But Apple’s iPad appears to have a standard laptop screen -132 dots per inch (dpi). Admittedly it’s nice and shiny, and lovely to look at. But it’s not the paper-like e-ink screen you’ll find on proper e-book readers. If they couldn’t use e-ink they should at least have used a high-density screen with a minimum of 250 dpi. But no. On the positive side, at least it’s colour – unlike the current e-book readers. But very much on the negative side, it’ll be just like trying to reading books on your laptop. And that’s not generally a very pleasant experience. It’ll be pretty much impossible outside on a sunny day – an environment where the Kindle is in its element.

Next, you can watch movies on it. But sadly they’ve got that wrong too, because it isn’t the right shape. Movies are all shot in widescreen these days, and the iPad hasn’t got a wide screen. So you’ll get those annoying black bars across the top and bottom. Or, if you want the picture to fill the whole screen, you’ll lose whatever’s happening on the left and right and only get the middle bit.

You can view photos on it, and even see slideshows of them. But you can’t take your own photos because there’s no camera. I for one would like to know why they left that out. It would have had so many more uses if it had a camera. I refer you to some of the amazing augmented reality things you can do with an iPhone, which would have been even better on an iPad. If it had a camera. Which it doesn’t. I think someone seriously dropped the ball there.

And of course you can use it to surf the web. Sort of. But, as I understand it, it doesn’t support Adobe Flash (nor does the iPhone), so half the websites you visit won’t work properly.

Those are the things that – for me at least – turn it from being an item of infinite lust, and something I’d use every day, to something that would just sit in the corner silently gathering dust.

So, what is it good for? By my reckoning, there is just one thing that it will be exceptional at – and this is why it’ll sell so many millions: video games.

It has a touch screen that can be used both vertically and horizontally, it supports multi-touch, and it’s big enough that 2 people can play at the same time. You’ll be able to stab and poke and flick with abandon. Remember that table-top football game Subbuteo? (Just ‘flick to kick’.) That would be brilliant on an iPad. Things like tennis/squash, pool/snooker, and even good old shove ha’penny would work well too. It could revolutionise gaming in much the same way as the Nintendo Wii has done.

So – what do you think? Is Apple’s iPad going to change the world, and revolutionise book publishing? Will it be one of the best games machines ever, but otherwise useless? Or have I got it hopelessly wrong? Let me know!

Dave Haslett, www.ideas4writers.co.uk

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2 thoughts on “The Apple iPad (hastily) reviewed

  1. Alot of bloggers not too pleased with the new iPad.There was 2 much hoopla about it and alot people got disapointed.You see, I can actually see some of the awesome potential uses of this gadget. Third-party applications for composing tunes, games, newsprints and magazines and FFS books, all sorts of neat stuff, but they just didn’t really sell it right (excluding the books). It looks kinda not finished

  2. Apple have got it wrong before and I guess could have it wrong again. If, as it seems, it is largely based on the iPhone OS then it could be that the development costs have not been huge.

    Whilst the hardware certainly lacks all the things you’d expect on a laptop (hard drive, USB, camera) and some you’d expect on a phone (camera & microphone) perhaps that is because it isn’t a replacement for your laptop and it isn’t a replacement for your phone. Given its size I also think it isn’t a replacement for your digital camera.

    My suspicion is that we look at it as a piece of hardware. My understanding is that Apple are not about simply hardware, they are about stunning design and stunning user interfaces. Stop looking at the iPad as a lump of hardware and start imagining what you’ll be able to do with the software.

    My hunch is that eBooks and eReaders all try to take a book and put it on a PC/Laptop screen and they fail because, guess what, a PC (or laptop) isn’t a book. The Guardian have done quite well in transferring the printed paper edition into the Website and very well (in my opinion) in transferring it to an iPhone. In both cases they have redesigned the presentation of their content for the device and used the features of the device to add value.

    Take your Date-A-Base books (or indeed the Faster Way to Get Ideas). They are designed for print. When one buys the PDF version all you get (by and large) is the print version on a different device. You lose all the power of the print form (e.g. being able to add notes, turn pages corners over to make a position) and gain none of the benefits of the device (e.g. a landscape screen, hyperlinks, sort, and more computing power than needed to land on the moon). Cynically I could say all the benefits are with you the author/seller with none for the user/reader. If you were to do a version for the iPad think it through properly, exploit the capabilities of the device.

    To get the best from technology it has to fit seamlessly with life –and most often it is life that has to change and adapt. Similarly for the book in the new world. A book in print is one thing, the same content on a PC, laptop, iPhone (and all the others) or iPad should be something entirely different.

    Russell

    PS This is just my view, and I am not a great Apple fan. I am, however, passionate about technology challenging the status quo to add value and make life better. I’m not about to rush out to buy an iPad, nor for that matter Kindle (although I am more likely to acquire the former than the latter which, if Apple have got it right, won’t exist in 18 months.)

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