I’m on the road a fair amount for my job, and I’m a dedicated laptop power user during those trips. For example, the last half of this week I was in San Antonio, chairing a conference. Delaney didn’t have school today, so she took a couple of tests early, skipped school on Thursday and went with me. Between checking my email, reviewing documents, visiting Webkinz, and looking in vain for a late night Avatar showing, we were constantly on my laptop. In fact, this afternoon we pulled over on I-10, plugged in my wireless broadband card and found information on a for-sale farm in Flatonia, Texas I wanted to look at.
I use an Hp tx2525 tablet PC when I’m traveling. It’s a good choice, but it could be better. So I watched with great interest Steve Jobs’ iPad unveiling on Wednesday. My Apple philosophy is very simple: I think the iPhone is probably the greatest technological advance of the past decade, and I think Macs are hard to use, software challenged and overpriced. I have been waiting to see if the iPad was going to be a lite Mac or a supercharged iPhone.
In sum, it looks like it will be a little of both.
Could the iPad be Apple’s Alamo?
Since watching the unveiling, which was certainly impressive in a religion-of-Apple sort of way, the thing I continue to lament is the absence of a camera. Religion or not, I cannot comprehend how you can release any manner of handheld device in 2010 and not include a camera. I find the absence of native USB and SD card slots to be almost as annoying, but I could probably convince myself to live without those. But no camera?
I’m not in the market for an addition to my mobile toolbox. I’m in the market for the ultimate mobile toolbox. For me to take the iPad plunge, I’ll have to conclude that it can replace my laptop. That may sound like a tall, perhaps unfair, order, but it’s not. Most laptops have way more features and horsepower than I need. I’m looking for an elegant device that doesn’t have a bunch of features I don’t need, but that has the ones I do.
So will I buy an iPad? At first I thought so. For sure. The more I think about it, I’m not so sure. I need to be convinced of a few things.
First, I need to know that I can use an iPad view and edit Word documents. I tried really hard to dump Microsoft Office, but it wasn’t possible for a document-intensive user like me. Google Docs sucks, horribly. Open Office will do in a pinch. But the hard, cold fact is that corporate America operates via Word, and so far there are no legitimate alternatives. I don’t know squat about iWork, but I doubt the Word experience within iWork is seamless. Is it acceptable? I don’t know, but it will have to be to get me to dump my laptop for an iPad. I suspect this will be the deal-stopper for me. But I can hope, and I do. Desperately.
In that regard, let me make one ancillary point. If Apple truly designed the iPad as an intermediate device to fill the microscopic space between a Mac and a smart phone, it will fail miserably. Netbooks never took off, and everybody uses PCs. The market for a Mac netbook is about on par with the market for teal ketchup.
Second, I need to get comfortable that I can use Safari for real web browsing. Candidly, I find surfing the net on an iPhone about as fun as going to the Opera. So I rarely do it, and when I do, the experience is so agonizing that I don’t even notice the browser. As long as Outlook web access, Gmail and Google Reader look and work well in Safari, I can probably get past this.
Third, I need the virtual keyboard to work really well. Better than that train wreck I tried to use and quickly abandoned on my tablet PC. It needs to approximate the normal keyboard experience. The virtual keyboard on the iPhone is infinitely better than any Blackberry keyboard, so there is hope here.
Fourth, my annoyance level over the lack of Flash on these products continues to rise. Flash is, for better or worse, the de facto standard on the internet. It is arrogant and customer-unfriendly for Apple not to capitulate to this. I’ll somehow have to conclude that this gaping hole in the specs won’t be the problem I think it will be.
Fifth, I’ll have to get over the fact that it is not widescreen. A 4:3 aspect ratio is a gigantic leap backwards (see the next paragraph).
Finally and most importantly, I’ll have conclude that, contrary to the way it seems, this device was not hurried to market in an unfinished state, only to be obsoleted in a few months by a device that plugs some of these giant holes. This is the thing that really weighs on my mind. I already have a Kindle 1. I don’t want to collect obsolete and under-performing hardware.
I’m holding out hope. But if I had to put money on this race today, I’d bet against the first generation iPad.
Now the iPad 2.0. . . that’s a horse of a different color.