20 April 2010
Posted in News - Site
Thanks to ToshNewZealand.com, I got to spend a weekend in the company of an iPad. It seems that taking the time to level any criticism at the iPad is seen by those that like the new item from Apple as tantamount to declaring war. The fact that your views and opinion are different seem to make those in favour of it want to polarise your view. You're either for or against it...with them or opposed. Such an attitude is simply emotive and silly. Please read the following article and appreciate that it isn't born of hatred for the iPad...far from it...it's an amazing product. But it's an amazing product that hasn't seduced me. It's left me wanting more...more of the iPad, and more from an iPad.
Flaw 1 - Printing
This is a big flaw. However it may come to be a bit like the flaw when iMacs first came out without a floppy disk drive....the response from some is almost certainly "there's a workaround" or "get over it".
Taking the iPad around to a friends, I showed him the Notes app and then (I should point out he had no or little knowledge of the device) he said "Great...now how do you print that?". I'd love the iPad to have a USB port to allow me to do this, but suspect it will likely never have such a port. So maybe the option to print wirelessly to a printer? Well no...not even printing to a shared printer is available.
Part of the issue is that it means the iPad would have to have print drivers installed...and it doesn't. And copying things from the iPad to then print on your Mac or PC will also no doubt prove frustrating. Sure, there are probably work arounds or clever apps that will somehow achieve what I want, but that's not the point...the point is that I'd love to have the iPad on my lap, get an email and just say "Great...print that"....without having to do any workaround.
The beauty of this device is its simplicity. Why isn't printing seen as simple?
Actually, one clever person has solved the issue - http://www.engadget.com/2010/04/15/ipad-printing-solved.
Or more seriously, the one glimmer of hope is that this rumour might solve the issue - http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/10/04/06/apple_ipad_iphone_os_4_may_gain_direct_printing_support.html. Another possible long term approach is apparently being explored by Google - http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2010/04/google-outlines-plan-for-platform-agnostic-cloud-printing.ars
Flaw 2 - No incorporated camera
For someone who is photo-phobic, it's ironic that web conferencing plays a major role in my day-to-day work. Sitting in my lounge with the iPad on my lap, I could envisage a day when I'd be sitting there using it and someone would come online via Skype and we could talk. No getting up to go to my Mac...no turning on some other device...just a simple way to web conference.
Rumours circulated shortly after the iPad was announced that they were going to include a camera but had changed their minds. Who knows...we might see one later on. Of course there is the 'camera-looking-straight-up-your-nose' issue of how you position the iPad when video conferencing. But here's a radical thought...you move it a bit when it's clearly showing you at a bad angle. Tough concept to grasp huh?
Or what about a camera that could move? Technically I don't know or care if this is possible, but a thought popped into my head the other day. Instead of an inbuilt camera, what about an external one that clips onto the dock connector (obviously the dock connector would have to be able to carry the video signal and you'd likely work with the iPad up the other way). It would slip on and have a camera that either pointed one way only (but was moveable) or pointed both ways at the same time. If it was just one way, it would pivot in the same way that a Sony Webbie camera can rotate. So it would almost be like a sleeve that slipped down into the dock connector slot with a camera on the top of it. At huge expense...here's an artist's rendition...
Of course, you could possibly consider a clever workaround in the meantime - http://gizmodo.com/5511115/how-to-turn-an-iphone-into-a-wireless-ipad-camera. Either way I think it is something that the iPad is also missing and would make the device more useful.
Flaw 3 - Technology censorship by Apple
Let's be clear...this is about Flash...but it also isn't...it certainly isn't. I own an iPhone and people suggest that I've managed to cope without the use of Flash on the iPhone, so I should be able to cope on an iPad. Well, no I haven't. I don't consider the iPhone to be a device to surf the web on, despite it having a built in Safari browser. Even on a wireless network, it is rare...exceptionally rare, for me to launch the Safari browser to view web pages. As I have mentioned in the past, I'm more likely to use NetNewsWire on the iPhone to check news stories and email these to myself, to then view on a proper screen later on when sitting an iMac (and yes, I know I can do the same thing on an iPad). I never bought the phone for its ability to surf the web.
There is now a small device from Apple that is suitability sized to view web pages and surf the net. That's the iPad. But Apple have made a decision in what technologies will work on the iPad when surfing the web, to the point that I feel I am being censored...and I don't like it. This isn't about Flash movies (many sites are moving to other options) or even Flash games. It's about the fact that Apple are limiting my web surfing options on a device that I firmly believe is very very suitable for web surfing.
I don't like the fact that sites I go to or technologies that are available for viewing (or even creating) on the Mac, are not available on the iPad. I can't bring myself to currently accept that limitation. For many, many people, it won't be an issue.
I've been using Flash for over 10 years. You'll note that I don't call myself a Flash Developer there, as that would be insulting those people with the amazing Flash skills I'll never have. My personal website has been Flash driven for almost 10 years also....and I've used Flash on a Mac all that time. I love it...and until recently I've never had any of the issues people often talk about...but I have been having performance issues with Flash 10.
Less than 12 months ago I was appointed an Adobe Education Leader (AEL). But here's the thing...that has nothing to do with Flash video or development. I was appointed because of my use of a web conferencing system that I brought into the University. It is Flash based...but it's not used for Flash development. And what did becoming an AEL get me? Money? No. A trip to the States? No. Work paid for that. Free software? Yep...but it's software I already have for work and continue to use. So I've been using and creating things with Flash for over 10 years. I've been an AEL for less than a year. The reason I'm upset with Flash missing on the iPad isn't because I'm an AEL. It's because something that I have been doing for years on a Mac...something that I have been using to produce on a Mac, now won't play on a device that is absolutely suited to playing that sort of content and running those types of apps...including the web conferencing software.
Apple hasn't been a company that I thought would restrict our freedom so much. Maybe I am naive to think that? And keep in mind, this isn't just about Flash...there are other technologies like Silverlight and Java that are also excluded. I know that the iPad, like the iPhone, is a closed system. But to me, surfing the web was meant for the iPad and the iPad was meant for surfing the web....but I can't bring myself to do that on Apple's terms.
Some might see the page that Apple has set up on their site, promoting iPad friendly websites (http://www.apple.com/ipad/ready-for-ipad/) as a sign of the influence of Apple. I don't. I see it as something that is wrong. As at typing this sentence, 20 sites are listed....20. I know there are lots more out there, but should Apple be proudly promoting their latest product works on 20 major sites...or should they be promoting that their products works with every site.
The internet on an iPad. Can't they achieve that?
Well yes...but it's Apple's iPad version of the internet...and that saddens me immensely.
Fault 4 - Synching and creating
I didn't get to try out the iWorks apps, but I have reads a lot about them and listened to people's frustrations. I also found the lack of any file management system awkward. Whilst some simple apps (such as the Notes app) are well suited to not having a system for storing Notes as simple files to retrieve later, other apps certainly need to provide some sort of way to store these things. I really expected some form of "my documents" folder that would be on the iPad and also on your Mac/PC desktop when the iPad is nearby.
John Gruber nails the issues currently faced (http://daringfireball.net/2010/04/the_ipad) - "There is, however, a severe shortcoming inherent to the iWork suite of iPad apps: document syncing between Mac and iPad. It's a convoluted mess. In short, the only way to edit a document on your iPad that was created on your Mac, or vice versa, is to go through a convoluted multi-step process of exporting, copying, syncing or downloading, and importing."
However, one app that I do have on my Mac is now also iPad friendly might provide a possible workaround - http://www.macworld.com/article/150657/2010/04/phoneview.html, as well as an iPad app that you can buy called SugarSync. You can also see - http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4094 and http://arstechnica.com/apple/reviews/2010/04/ipad-review.ars/4 for more on getting files onto the iPad
But the reality is simple...for an Apple product, it shouldn't be that hard.
Gruber also points to a superb article by Ted Landau and the flawed iWorks apps (http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/file_sharing_with_an_ipad_ugh/)- "The iWork apps are a weathervane for predicting the future direction of the iPad. Many analysts are predicting that the iPad is destined to replace traditional laptop computers over time. If so, the iPad will almost certainly need better content creation capabilities than it now has."
Ars Technica aren't entirely happy either - "Work for the iPad wouldn't be of much use if you could create documents only to have them constrained to the device. Fortunately, Apple has included import and export functionality; unfortunately, that import and export functionality isn't very good."
And..."So while iWork is usable on Apple's new 'magical' device, it probably won't cut it for serious users. If you need to make an on-the-fly change to a document or presentation, you might lose some formatting or suffer some other unexpected quirks. What Apple calls file sharing, I call a pain, and the inability to print just magnifies things."
The thing is that I expected these things to all be handled in a unified way....some sort of documents folder on the iPad that was easy to access on a Mac or PC...not one that required iTunes synching. And synching seems to be part of the issue, causing the confusion and frustration of multiple versions of a document. I'm not suggesting the iPad needed a messy documents folder full of everything...but a centralised storage system, where apps only got access to the type of files they should have access to, to me would have made the device more appealing.
Is it a computer or a computer's wing mirror?
I have no doubt that the iPad is a new revolutionary device....but it's not quite what people are trying to make it at times. In fact, listen or read about those who suggest it can be a replacement for your laptop or desktop (for example) and they seem to ultimately contradict their own arguments.
Andy Ihnatko, Chicago Sun Times columnist and absolute Mac geek, had the privilege of using an iPad for 10 days before its release. But what surprises me in his posts is his fervour for calling the iPad a computer. Heck, he even has a column called "Sure, the iPad is cool – but is it a real computer?" and in a second article states "Add to the list the iPad. It isn't the first tablet computer. But it's the first one to make the convincing argument that a tablet can be a perfect computer for real people with things to do, as opposed to a niche alternative for gadget freaks."
I get what he is saying...but real computer? Maybe he means "real accompaniment to a computer"? Why? Take a look at these other snippets from the article...
"But then it's time to open the office and work for a living. So I'm now planted in front of a real desktop computer. Does the iPad get switched off? Nope. It goes on a stand, where I use it all afternoon as a sort of a 'sidecar' computer."
"But the iPad seeped into my working rhythm - serving as a sort of digital side mirror. As with the side mirror on a car, it's something that I take occasional glances at because it offers an alternative view to my desktop screen."
How can something he so honestly sets aside at times, be something that you would also suggest is the perfect replacement for a computer? Walt Mossberg says - "My verdict is that, while it has compromises and drawbacks, the iPad can indeed replace a laptop for most data communication, content consumption and even limited content creation, a lot of the time. But it all depends on how you use your computer."
Back to Ihnatko again and on a more recent MacBreak Weekly, he commented that taking an iPad with you on a trip is like saying "Pack me a lunch". No need to take the whole kitchen, but just take what you need for that trip, and I completely agree. He also commented "You do need to have it tethered to a desktop for a couple of key features"...which again shows that this device isn't a replacement for a computer, it's a perfect companion to it.
The comments in that MBW session really showed how this isn't a content creation device as much as one to use content on. Sure you can create content with the iWorks apps, but I would agree with the people in the podcast that suggest that the presence of these apps is to placate the education market. And oh boy, the iPad is such a perfect device for the education sector.
I was also surprised to learn from what Ihnatko said, that the external keyboard might connect to the iPad, but the keyboard shortcuts you are used to when using a keyboard then don't work with the iPad. Command-C, V and yes, it's been covered, Command-P have no effect. For cut and paste, you still have to move up to the iPad interface and touch the screen. I'm sure these issues might be resolved in the future.
So you're thinking I wasn't impressed, right?
See, I knew you hadn't read what I had written! ;-)
I'm very impressed. It's hard not to be. But I'm also disappointed..very disappointed...even for a version 1 device, given what came before it from Apple. I'm disappointed that the iPad doesn't meet my needs. Note **MY** needs...not others.
For many people the iPad is going to be their perfect device. I can accept that quite easily. What I can't accept is people who seem to think that we all must feel the same way about a device like this. That's ludicrous.
The comments above are what struck me (as someone using the iPad for 2 days) that I felt was missing for me. What it was that left me wanting more. What it was that made me not understand how some had said it was a replacement for their desktop, but then said how they still needed their Mac or PC.
That's not to suggest that the iPad isn't a game changer. It's to suggest that it is finding its place in the scheme of things more as time goes on.
Finally, to finish off, I just wanted to point out this excellent article I read...http://al3x.net/2010/04/05/ipad-openness-moderates.html
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