Friday, December 10, 2010

Followup on Thoughts on iPad From a Slightly Disappointed Fanboi

Stephan Kinsella's thoughts on the iPad are completely in line with my own. I would only add that I suspect the difficulty in doing "cut and paste" on the iPad may be a "drawback" that Steve Jobs is in no hurry to get rid of. It plays right into the hands of Jobs' new buddy Rupert Murdoch, and the like, who want to control their content so that they can charge for it. If  cutting and pasting is difficult, and thus not done for iPad readers, people are going to have to go to the original source. This may, or may not, work as a business model, but my bet is that Jobs and Murdoch understand this "drawback" very well.-RW 

By Stephan Kinsella

Earlier in the year, I posted Thoughts on iPad From a Slightly Disappointed Fanboi. Having had most of the year to use it, I’ve got some updated thoughts.

I still like the iPad. But my use of my iPad has declined, for reasons given below. I think it is beautifully designed. As for hardware, I can only think of a few improvements that could be made, none of them essential: reduce weight (maybe by changing from aluminum to come carbon-fiber body) and perhaps thickness; add a front camera for video chat; and increase screen resolution. The iOS is good, and continues to improve over time. The addition of multitasking and app icon folders was an improvement. There are a few snags still in the OS—limitations on handling files, etc., but these should improve over time.

As I noted in my original post, “I was hoping I might be able to use it as a laptop replacement. And I think—probably, it can’t be. The basic reason? It has no (real) keyboard.” This is still the primary limitation of this form factor. At present, the iOS is also a limitation: even if you have a keyboard connected to it, iOS does not let you create content as easily as a real computer does. I do a lot of blogging, document editing in Word, and so on; tons of cut-and-paste, formatting, PowerPoint presentations, things like this. You just can’t do this kind of heavy processing on the iPad. I expect iOS to improve over time so that you’ll be able to do these things more and more easily—so long as a keyboard is attached. When that happens, then even for people who do a lot of editing, blogging, and document manipulation like me, the iPad may be able to start to replace a laptop/notebook. But given the current state of iOS and the iPad’s A4 processor—which is great for current iOS but limited in power on purpose, for battery life and robustness—I don’t see the iPad being able to handle these tasks well for at least a few years.

I have some friends for whom the iPad has almost replaced their laptops/notebooks. One of them uses it almost exclusively in his business. He has it linked in with his company’s computer systems, and he can check status reports, emails, etc., all with his iPad. It’s great for him. For a specialized use like this that does not require a lot of document editing, I can see this replacing a laptop. Another is a lawyer who takes it on business trips and vacations instead of a laptop—he uses it to surf, watch media, check emails, and display/read documents. He never likes to do a lot of heavy document editing on the road, so it does not bug him not to have a laptop. For people who are light computer users—say, my parents—I could see the iPad being their only or main computer too. If you are one of these types of users, where the iPad can replace or mostly replace a laptop, this is great because it’s robust, easy to use, light, small, and has great battery life.

But, for me, it can’t. I need a laptop/notebook too often. And my iPad usage has declined, too. One reason for this is that I got an iPhone 4, whose high resolution and A4 processor make it able to do almost everything the iPad can (the iPhone’s processor even has more RAM than the iPad’s does). And it’s already connected by 3G all the time. The main things the iPhone can’t do as well as the iPad are cases where the iPad’s larger size is an advantage: mainly games, books, and video. But I don’t play games much (though sometimes I do play the board game recreations like Scrabble with family on vacations). And in a pinch, you can read books or watch movies on the iPhone, though the iPad is much better for this—and its battery life is much longer too. The other reason my iPad use has declined is that I purchased the new 11″ MacBook Air. This has become my favorite computer ever. Just over 2 lbs, it’s almost the same weight and size as the iPad, just a bit wider because it’s widescreen format unlike iPad.; so it’s about as portable as the iPad and much more useful for my typical use case. I had been using the iPad a lot on short trips—taking it with me to lunch, etc. If I were a lighter user, and mainly checked email and surfed and consumed media, that would be fine; but as I said, I do a lot of document editing, writing, etc., so I would often be frustrated when I had the iPad. Say, at lunch, I wanted to edit a blogpost, reply at length to an email, and so on—I found myself having to put off tasks until I was at a real computer. Now, where I used to bring the iPad, I will bring the Air, and use my iPhone to tether it. The Air is sufficiently powered for my typical uses, has a full size keyboard, and great battery life. It’s an amazing machine.

Read the rest here.


  1. Bob, thanks for stealing my content. :)

    As much as I dislike these modern media and computer companies controlling content based on copyright law, I'm skeptical of your theory, for a few reasons. First, Apple makes Macs, which of course permit copying and pasting. Second, Occam's Razor: I think there are other, simpler, less conspiratorial explanations for this--it's a new OS and they want it very simple and robust, and to run on a lighter processor for cheapness, size, and energy use/battery life. If and as other tablets, like Android ones, start competing and having more computer-like features and abilities, iPad will die on the vine if it does not keep up. It can lag a bit due to other things Apple has that consumers like (ecosystem, elegant design, etc.) but not too much.

  2. The Paml Pre had cut-n-paste from the get-go and added Flash support in its first update. Honestly, as long as there are fanbois, Apple has very little reason to compete. People don't buy it for functionality; they buy it for cool. If the functionality is sufficient, even better, but fanbois don't really care about function over form.