Contemplating the iPad

Feb 2 10

Contemplating the iPad

Paul Weinstein

Now that the dust has settled a bit and
everyone else has either praised or condemned Apple’s latest hardware
offering let us take a look at a few interesting points…

The Beginning of the End Or The End
of the Beginning?

A number of people see the end of open,
multipurpose computing devices should the iPad find significant
traction, such as Jim Stogdill. While comparing the iPad to an Toyota
1 he lets known his fear that the closed hardware platform coupled with the
high barrier to entry (pay for software developer kit (SDK), wait for
approval) will significantly detour the next generation of
programmers from playing around and innovating.

Yes, I am of the generation that
learned programming, first hand on Apple IIe. It is part of the reason
why Apple holds quite a hold on my attention. As a kid I playing with
the machine for hours at a time, learning what it could do thanks in
part to the built-in BASIC programming language. Heck even as an
adult I’ve found that old computing platform useful.

However, I can’t stop thinking, just
because transistor radios can’t be easily fiddled with, didn’t mean
people stopped fiddling about with electronics. Sure, there might be
a bit more ignorance about electronics in the general population than
my liking, but that’s easy to take care of. I mean, I didn’t take
auto maintenance in high school to become an auto mechanic. I took to
in part to prevent that high barrier to entry as a road block from getting the most out of my vehicle2.

Moreover, the conditions that exists
today are by no means the end-all-be-all. When the Mac first came out
the SDK was priced quite high. Now a days it’s free, anyone can start
playing around on a Mac by simply using the second DVD included with
OS X to install Xcode. Nor did the high entry point stop innovation,
I mean just look at Adobe.

Which of course brings me to the
overall point about the iPad, it might contain the DNA of what could be – being able to access content at anytime, from anywhere no
matter if that spreadsheet resides on your iPad, on your computer or
on a cloud – but that doesn’t mean what it is
limited to now will also be true later.

In fact, I would suggest that, as time
goes on Apple with open up the iPod/iPhone/iPad platform more
and more as new opportunities arise. That goes double for the iTunes

To take just one example, personally,
when I see my iPhone 3G pause for a handful of seconds just after it
receives new email in the background I’m glad Apple hasn’t allowed
multitasking applications. From my vantage point the hardware is just
barely able to support one or two apps running at the same time, let
alone dozens.

About That Hardware

After all that additional computing
power comes with a tradeoff, responsiveness and battery life.

The two most power hungry elements of a
laptop are the LCD display and the CPU. A 10-inch screen requires
quite a bit of power just to keep the screen backlit and readable.
Require more computing power for something like multitasking and down
goes the battery life drastically.

So I’m not sure why people are
surprised that Apple has yet to enable multitasking given that the
iPad is reported to get 10 hours of battery-life. Plus, everyone who
has had time with the iPad thus far has commented on it being wicked
. Again no doubt in part because of the lack of overhead required
for managing a dozen apps at once.

Apple has obviously made some key
decisions about what to focus on for the here and now. 

Of course not a lot
is publicity known about the custom processor, but I’m sure Apple
will be using variations of the chipset in devices to come and has an
overall roadmap for the next few generations, leading us back to the
conclusion that it is probably only a matter of time until more
complex features such as multitasking make their way onto this
growing mobile platform.

What About the MacBook Air?

Speaking about Apple’s growing mobile
platform, has the iPad killed the MacBook Air? I mean I haven’t heard
much from “the experts” about how the MacBook Air now fits into
Apple’s overall strategy.

Sure some people are proclaiming the
death of computing as we know it
which should make one wonder,
where does the MacBook Air fit these days?

While I don’t know for sure, it doesn’t seem hard in hindsight to see the MacBook Air as an evolutionary branch of Apple’s
long running development of tablet. Or for that matter as an
experiment: Are people looking for slim, fast, lightweight laptops,
such as what the Air represents or something different?

Given that Apple last quarter sold
millions of iPhones and that while iPod sales are decreasing, iPod
touch sales were up 55 percent it isn’t hard to spot the trend line of
where the market seems to be leading.

So given that Apple now has the
lightweight go anywhere category covered from the pocket-size mobile
device (iPod touch), a smartphone (iPhone) to the tablet (iPad) at
various price points as well as the more traditional laptops with the
MacBook and MacBook Pro, one has to wonder, what’s going to happen to
the MacBook Air?

1 I
have no idea why tech people love car analogies, but it seems to be
the case. However can someone help me understand if the iPhone is
the Hummer
of smartphones how is an iPad a Prius?

2 Ack, more stupid car analogies…