this article has been updated on the 28th of January to correct some errors and clarify a few points
First off: I think the name is a poor choice. The web, especially the twitters seems to agree. I would have loved all the other names that flew around during the last days, like iBook, Canvas, Palette, whatever.
With that out of the way, I am pretty baffled by both the product itself but also the reactions to it.
What can I say. No multitasking feels weird with a device that can run special versions of iWork on it. (Let’s hope they do a lot of state saving and the apps start fast). Apart from that, the whole thing feels like an extremely solid, well designed piece of hardware/software.
Now here’s the real problem: While OS X on my Mac has it’s proprietary edges, the system is mostly open. iPhone and iPad are, by default, pretty much closed devices. And this leaves a lot of questions unanswered. For example, it restricts your music buying to iTunes, which is good for noone but Apple. This is, for example, not the case for iTunes on my Mac, simply because I can drop any piece of music, on CD or as mp3, into iTunes. But there’s a glimpse of hope…there are some changes (yah, NDA fun at work, so I cannot tell anything specific) in the 3.2 SDK that might allow Applications to add files to to other Applications. Maybe. We’ll see.
And now there’s iBooks: Will it restrict Book buying to the iBooks store? We don’t know yet, but at least it is based on a standard (ePub), so it might be possible to add non-DRM books (like my beloved pragprog series) directly to the iBooks app. But what about the DRM format? Will it support the defacto standard Adobe DRM and by that opening your iPad to the hundreds of titles that publishers sell for, e.g. the Sony readers? I somehow doubt that, but we will hopefully get some details on that very soon.
For me, somehow, the closed nature of the iPad is much worse than the closed nature of the iPhone, probably because it’s closer to a “real” computer and I like those to be as open as possible, thankyouverymuch.
Still, I do not agree with many commenters that the iPad is an underwhelming supersized iPhone and nothing else. Or that it cannot compete with netbooks. Or that there are no usecases.
First of all, I think people underestimate the possibilities of a 10" multitouch screen with a very high resolution. A few apps shown in the demos, especially the photos app, show a bit of the magic that will befall you as soon as you can touch this device. Yes, this will be a completely new dimension on top of what’s already possible on the iPhone. No, you probably ain’t seen nothing yet. Yes, you can quote me on that.
Also I think that people underestimate the value of a simple, thin, relatively light and extremely solid device with virtually no moving parts. This WILL be georgeous for reading (I hope that they thought of a way to lock orientation, or otherwise it will be impossible for me to read in the bed), this will be fabulous for watching movies or browsing through your music collection, but in the end, it will open up completely new ways of using a computer, simply because it stops being awkward or unfitting. It is not as clumsy as a larger Notebook (which is usually too heavy to lift it comfortably with one hand), it cannot fall over like my netbook when open, it holds natural (everyone complaining about the huge bezel should also complain about the huge margins usually employed in printed books), and, last but not least, it simply looks great. All in all, it will happily replace a “real” computer in any environment that’s not “computerish” by default. I am relatively sure that I won’t be coding web apps on an iPad anytime soon, but for gaming, reading, watching movies and simple browsing, it will be a much better fit than anything else. And maybe, possibly with the help of the keyboard dock, for some people this will be all the computer they’ll need in their life.
Am I unhappy about the closed nature of all the Shops that Apple has under their control? You bet. Am I unhappy about the missing Multitasking? For sure. Do I think that the iPad will be a success? Yessir, although I am not sure how fast it will take on at first.
One additional word on the multitasking: I don’t actually think that this decision is set in stone. Didn’t it strike you as odd that the SDK version for the iPad is not, as I would have expected, 4.0, but instead it’s just a point release? This should give you a hint that in the summer, when I expect both a new iPhone model AND a new iPhone OS major release (I would not even rule out an iPad 2), there are some major things to come. Not sure that it will feature complete multitasking, but limited background process support (especially for alternative music apps) seems to make sense for me.
Many people also complain about the missing camera and I must say that this strikes me as odd as well – The iPad would otherwise be a kick ass device for video chat. But then again, the initial iPhone didn’t have a camera either. Do you think that Apple didn’t include the camera because they didn’t want to? No, they probably did that because they had enough problems putting the iPhone together as it was, in time, without the camera. And judging from the few images I saw from the iPad, I’d say that the iPad is a comparable engineering masterpiece with little space inside the device and also with every engineering boundary pushed to the limits. Will we see a camera in iteration two of the iPad? I don’t know.
Will I buy the iPad? This largely depends on 1. how the german mobile carrier contracts will look like and 2. how apple will interpret the current dollar to euro conversion rate. But yes, I might buy one, if only to find out if the Appstore coder crowd will finally come up with some descent music apps. (Actually, after the iWork presentation, I was really hoping for a mobile GarageBand version).