Thank goodness Apple can’t patent what it got right…Post’s Permalink
…because now the entire world “gets it” and we’re off to the races. In plenty of time for Christmas 2010, Apple’s iPad will only be one among many successful tablet devices.
Why? Because although no one else saw what to do beforehand, everyone can see what to do now. Now it’s obvious. Apple deserves genius-level credit for showing the way, but has no means for preventing everyone else from following. And follow they will. As many as 40 me-too pads are already in the works. They won’t all acquire critical mass, but many will. And many will dramatically undercut the cost of Apple’s higher-end iPads while offering significant additional features.
Pads, “i” or otherwise, can obviously succeed merely by up-sizing a touch-based smartphone OS — just as Apple did. Today we have Google’s already successful Android OS with deployment in smartphones now exceeding that of the iPhone. And we have the might of Hewlett-Packard to bring Palm’s WebOS to market. Both alternatives are ready-to-scale touch-based operating platforms capable of driving any non-Apple pad. And that’s precisely what they’re going to do.
Apple’s biggest problem is that the iPad was only incredible until the first moment of its existence. This explains why the world was instantly split in its opinion of the device. Yes, it’s spectacular, and also … No, it’s not.
Do I love my two iPads? Absolutely — more than any other gadget I can remember. But that’s only because, today, the iPad is the only pad available. A year from now I may well be more in love with an Android- or WebOS-based pad — because it’s the “Padness” that’s the point. And the likelihood of my disaffection from the iPad is increased dramatically by Apple’s self-defeating decisions, such as its obvious war with Adobe creating serious product deficiencies. Steve Jobs exaggerated when he said the iPad gives us the whole Internet. Without Flash, parts of the Internet everyone else has are offline and out of reach. And, of course, Apple’s famously horrible single-carrier (U.S.) choice of AT&T demonstrates just how much pain, and how high a price, the world is willing to pay to have Apple’s goodness. But that undeniable hubris only succeeds in the absence of alternatives.
There can be no denying that Apple does may things right. But in return for delivering world-class fit and finish Apple extracts a steep price from the consumer. And it’s not just the one-time cost of the device at retail, but the ongoing cost of having an important piece of highly used technology locked up behind the wall of iTunes. This operational model made sense when iTunes only provided DRM (digital rights management, i.e. copy-protection) for iPod music. And it still mostly worked after the iPhone and the App store were added. But for a device that is trying so hard to be a computer, locking up the iPad behind iTunes really starts to chafe.
So for the record, to help all of the me-too pads also get it right, exactly what did Apple get right?
• More than any other single thing, what Apple got right about the iPad is its more than twelve-hour battery life. People feeling the heft of the iPad for the first time are often a bit surprised by its weight. It weighs what it does because the iPad is best described as “a large flat battery with a screen.” If you’ve seen photos of the iPad’s innards you’ll have noticed that the entire interior, except for a small processor board, is filled by two batteries. That all-day-sucker battery life, coupled with cellular connectivity, dramatically increases the device’s value and utility.
• Long-term standby or “Instant On” [I added this 6/1/2010 since I forgot it initially!]
Just the thought of waiting to boot a Windows laptop is enough to squelch quick and casual connection to the Internet. So the importance of the iPad’s “instant on” always-ready-to-go availability cannot be overstated.
• The stunning In-Plane Switching (IPS) LCD display is another of those subtle things that Apple’s engineers got right. The color-faithful wide viewing angle of the iPad’s display lends a great deal to the feeling that this isn’t like other screens.
• And the “central committee” design of the iPad’s user interface delivers a uniquely coherent, highly usable, largely discoverable, and infrequently frustrating user experience. This is very important, and it is where the me-too wanna be pads are most likely to suffer: Android based pads, being inherently open and highly ad-hoc, are likely to be, like the Android phones, sort of a mess.
Regardless, non-Apple pads will be here very soon. They will be much less expensive, much less restrictive, loaded with many more features, and could arguably be called the pads for the rest of us. Until then, I’ll be using and loving my Apple iPads, not because they are from Apple, but because Apple was absolutely right about the previously unappreciated need for a large-screen, long battery life, touch-based Internet-connected appliance. That’s all the iPad is; nothing more, nothing less. Not magic, but a touch of obvious genius that everyone else now sees.