Yesterday Steve Jobs launched the Apple tablet in San Francisco which he called the iPad. As usual Apple had only leaked a little bit of information about the tablet to keep people guessing about it, causing a huge free viral marketing campaign even before anybody knew for sure what the product would be like. Apple is the only company in the world that manages to do this, and they manage it time and time again.
Of course I was very excited about the upcoming launch, especially when I heard that Steve Jobs thought that this was the most important product that he had ever worked on. If this tablet would have a bigger impact than the iPod or the iPhone it must be something very special. So yesterday I decided to stay up for Lord Jobs’ sermon that started at 2 AM. My wife was actually still working by that time (she works crazy hours, compared to her I feel sort of lazy sometimes!), so it was not that difficult to stay awake.
As usual the Apple Gods had decided that the masses could not watch Steve and his disciples live on a video stream, but we had to rely on tweets and live blogging from the people in the room. There was a Crunchgear livestream, but that only showed commentary not the show itself. But with Engadget and Gizmodo on autorefresh and Tweetdeck with several keywords open it was easy to follow the whole introduction almost as if you were in the room. It was actually a fun experience to use social media in this way, listening to and interacting with other virtual spectators in the middle of the night, but that’s another story.
Steve Jobs did not waste much time and within a few minutes he showed off his shiny new toy, the iPad. My first impression was “wow, what a cool thing” and I looked forward to see all its revolutionary features. And that’s where it went wrong: there had been so much of a hype around the tablet that my expectations were way to high. And not just mine, on Twitter the Apple fan boys (and some girls) were also not that positive about the iPad (who came up with that name…?).
Sure, the product looks great, but it’s just a bigger iPhone in my opinion. It is supposed to be better than a netbook, but it isn’t because it runs on the iPhone operating system. This means that in the current version you can only run one application at the same time. Want to browse the web while having a chat on MSN? Forget about it, only one application can run at the same time. Want to play a flash game? Sorry, but flash does not run on this computer. Connect a mouse or keyboard through USB? Impossible, because the device has no USB port. How about a video call on Skype? Forget it, there is not even a camera built in.
One major selling point was that the device can be used as an ebook reader and that it would replace epaper ebook readers like the Amazon Kindle. I was flabbergasted that almost everyone seemed to buy it. Everybody who has ever used epaper should know what a difference reading from e-ink makes from reading off a flickering LCD screen. I have several ebook readers and although the epaper technology is still in its infancy it is incomparable with reading from a computer screen. I had hoped that Steve had found a way to integrate epaper with an LCD screen (Pixel Qi has developed such a technology), but the iPad has a normal LCD screen. A missed chance. It may even mean that many people will never try real epaper and do not realize what they are missing.
Of course the device has some excellent other functions, the user interface is great, the table looks very sleek and it may evenchange the way we use computers. But in its current form it’s nothing more than a bigger and more powerful iPhone. I am sure Apple will further develop the gadget into something that everybody eventually “needs” to have, but currently I don’t see the need of buying one yet. Maybe I need to work with it first for a few hours before I see the benefits, but this presentation did not impress me.
When I finally shut down my laptop at 3:45 AM I was quite disappointed. For the first time in a long time Steve’s magic did not live up to its hype. Maybe he wanted to put the tablet on the market too quickly because many competitors are entering this niche as well? The fact that we have to wait at least 60-90 days before we can get our hands on one seems to confirm that theory. Normally Apple’s new products are on sale almost immediately. Well, I’ll probably wait until version 2 or 3 before getting one. I am sure eventually Apple will get it right and then this might turn into the product that will change the world. But this iPad fails to delivery on its hyped up promises.