Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Apple iPad: What's missing? More to consider

I have a longer list of things that should be considered before deciding to replace the purchase of a new laptop or netbook with the Apple iPad.
Many will want to have the iPad at any rate, for what it can do, but this way they're prepared for what is missing.
Before making the iPad the main laptop, be prepared for:
1. No multitasking capability (it may come later).
2. No flash (that means no videos from Hulu, JibJab, ESPN, Disney, Netflix, etc.)
3. No webcam
4. No real keyboard for heavier writing tasks although you can get a wireless keyboard (using Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR) -- which has made some think that an all-in-one laptop might be preferable in some cases.
5. No hard drive. The base unit gets 16 gigs of solid state memory for a device advertised as making heavy use of video, so you'd not be storing many videos on it. I think most would want at least the 32-gig option, for $730, and those who could afford that will likely just choose the 64-gig one, for $830.
6. Basic file transfers require the same procedure as the iTunes syncing-transfers of iPod files via computer.
7. No SD slot
8. No ethernet connection (I used this a lot in hotels on a 3 week trip in November.)
9. NO USB port (discussed everywhere, but one person in a CNet forum explained that there is an optional SD and USB adapter for the 30-pin dock connector, which allows USB transfers. Another person said that what's included is "Just a dock to USB cable - meant to synch to other computers"
10. No drag & drop for file transfers then. As with the iPod, the iPad must be sync'd with a main computer as the primary content management system for the device.
11. The back side or bottom is not flat, as there's a hump. When you lay it down to type, it'll move some.
12. Though the ePub format is used for books, the DRM (Digital Rights Management) apparently is not via the usual Adobe method (used by Sony, Barnes & Noble (Nook), and Astak and several other ereader makers) -- it's via Apple's own proprietary method -- meaning, buyers should know that it's, like Amazon's, not compatible with other systems despite the 'ePub' label.
Also, I've seen that many haven't understood that the $499/$500 base version of the iPad does not include cellular wireless access (the type of wireless used for the Amazon Kindle's book downloads). It has only WiFi, usually on home and office networks.

The cellular network type of access will be an additional $130, plus whatever data plan is chosen, and the ones they offer are good.

However, the $15/mo. data plan, for no more than 250M of data per month, would cover mainly email needs and not video ones.
  So it's more likely most would need the $30/mo. option, which is still only half the cost of most netbook contracts with Sprint and Verizon, and the iPad does not require any term contract. What you don't use in a month is pro-rated and credited.

For comparison with the Kindles, which do have (slow) cellular wireless access to the Net (for free, and that access has been its unique feature for the last two years), the prices used should start with the iPad's $630 pricing as the base cost for cellular network access (though you can choose to go without the convenience of that form of wireless).

  Then you add the data plan you choose. That's either $180 or $360 per year, but you don't have to stay on it for a year.

Again, the $499 base price is for only WiFi access - can't use it out on the streets unless you find a hotspot with AT&T WiFi, other free hotspots, or paid access.

Internet reaction to the iPad, due to the reasons above, hasn't been entirely positive, to understate it, but a good number of people I've read on forums (including those with Kindles) do want this for its couch web browsing feature. Most do not plan to use it as an ereader for long-form book reading.

Most people discussing this on forums don't consider the iPad, at this point, an e-reader that should be compared yet with current dedicated e-readers because basic functions haven't been announced or demo'd.
  Also, it's viewed as not on a par with e-paper type displays like e-Ink, as the reading is done on a transmissive LCD display (sending light directly into your eyes) rather than the more eye-friendly reflective e-paper screen (reflecting light it gets back to you). As I've said, there's quite a difference for many, including me.  But, aesthetically speaking, the iBook app's representation of a book is otherwise beautiful.  I may get one, depending on what the coming tablets by other vendors offer. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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  1. I love my Kindle. I am NOT interested in ever reading a novel on an LCD screen. I have a laptop. I have an iPhone. I have a Kindle. They all serve very different purposes and I prefer them as 3 separate devices that do their tasks WELL rather than 1 hyped-up amalgam that does 3 jobs semi-well. I don't want a "jack of all trades, master of none" when it comes to my e-reader!

  2. Wow, Anonymous, that was fast.

    Similarly, I have a 160-gig iPod, a great netbook WITH the features on that list and more, and a couple of Kindles. I'm set. There's no need for an iPad. But I'm very into photography and would love to use one for browsing photo sites comfortably, etc.

    So, if it ever goes on a big introductory sale, I might get one. :-)

    Your final assessment was "My take" on my first piece yesterday. We are aligned. But I do think it's still possible I may wind up with one, if there is a good intro discount. I'd not get the cellular wireless for it though.

  3. It's also worth noting that in addition to the Apple bookstore using its own proprietary DRM it's also likely to be 30-50% more expensive than Sony/B&N/Amazon/etc. based on Apple's business plan (see the WSJ article a few days ago for details). Which would seem to make it less likely that you'll be able to load the B&N or Kindle reader apps, and might even mean no loading of personal book content at all (*might*. Better to ask now.)

  4. Anonymous (same one?)
    Yes, when a book is $9.99 at Amazon but $14.99 at the Apple store (as shown for one book in a videoclip shown during the iPad intro), it's about 50% more expensive for that book, at the Apple store.

    Amazon made its 4th Qtr report today. The report at a CNet site has this:
    "When I asked Amazon spokesperson Andrew Herdener about a Kindle app for iPad and whether Apple would allow it on the device
    (Apple did say that all current iPhone apps would work on the iPad, so I assume it will allow it), I got a nice, prepared-statement-sounding response.

    "Customers can read and sync their Kindle books on iPhones, iPod touches, PCs, and soon Blackberrys, Macs, and iPads," Herdener emailed me. "Kindle is purpose-built for reading. Weighing in at less than 300g, Kindle fits comfortably in one hand for hours, has an E-ink display that is easy on the eyes even in bright daylight, two weeks of battery life, and 3G wireless with no monthly fees--all at a US$259 price. Kindle editions of New York Times Bestsellers and most New Releases are only US$9.99."

    I think that's pretty much it...

  5. (a different 'anonymous'.)
    sounds like a giant ipod touch. my ipod touch has twice as much memory as the USD 499 ipad.

    to move files, one can use iphone browser, the free app that goodreader requires for adding pdf's to the device. but i don't know which apps can read what is moved in that manner, or whether the iphone browser developers will make an ipad browser.

    we'll see. it will probably sell like crazy; but i have no desire to own one. it's not exactly 'innovative'.

  6. Anonymous of 6:32 AM PST
    Yes, for something doing video, I'd want one with more than 16G. I hope people can easily upgrade this if they chose the $499 one but later feel they need to have more memory without too much expense.

    Tnere's a lot of press interest, which can drive consumer interest too, but it's just obviously looks like a fun thing too, though expectations and pocketbooks have to be managed.
    I had read that people assumed the $499 model had cellular wireless but didn't know that this is a feature for $130 more (the stepped pricing is smart, as some won't need cellphone-like anywhere access) plus data charges and that 256M data per month won't handle regular surfing with many downloads of videos. The fact that flash apps can't be seen is a help there since they're everywhere on the sites these days. Not having the ability to see HULU is a stopper for some who had wanted this for that type of web video watching.

  7. My initial reaction when I saw the Apple iPad was confusion. What functionality does this device offer over and above the Apple iPhone? And what market is Apple aiming this device at?

  8. Bruce,
    That's a tough one, but what they did do was make an attractive gizmo. Then comes the marketing that tells you that you 'need' this to be happy. And sometimes it's something that people WILL enjoy.

    But if you have an iphone or some other smart phone and a netbook already, this is just a nice but expensive toy and the netbook can do a lot more though not with as good a screen with saturated colors that don't fade when you are off to the side or above.

    Definitely fun - but even people who know how to gauge gadgets, normally, have come to believe that the $500 model does cellular wireless.

    The stepped pricing was good.

  9. Don't worry Bruce, may be Apple would come out with a better version soon.


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