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Things About the iPad That Already Annoy Me

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So, here it is, the idiotically named iPad. And it seems that it could annoy me.

First, the design completely misses a huge opportunity, captured beautifully by Lenovo in a forthcoming competing product — namely, the ability to become a notebook computer.

Second, no Flash support. Suddenly, what was a remote nuisance in the iPhone will become a major headache with the iPad. The best device to browse the Web? Nope. That device would support Flash.

Third, no camera. Half the fun of portable devices is having a portable camera in order to enter the social network space with new or weird or funny photographic observations. Well, you’ll have to use your iPhone or Droid to do that. Annoying.

Fourth, no way I’m taking that thing to a beach or bathroom (so it fails 2/3 of the 3B test for portable devices — bed, beach, bathroom). It’s too pretty to use except in my most sedate and sanitary environments. So, give me a fugly Kindle in a baggie for the beach, and I’ll be just fine, thanks.

Fifth, more AT&T tie-in, with no promises of fixing the apparently well-documented iP(hone/ad) reliability issues when it comes to 3G.

Basically, the iPad should have been:

  1. Designed to be detachable from a fully functioning notebook base, to provide ultimate utility
  2. Built to solve the long-standing Flash compatibility issues with these devices, especially since its purpose and dimensions will put these issues front and center
  3. Given a camera, so it would actually be able to contribute to social networking’s charm
  4. Built with a more industrial feel, so I wouldn’t feel so innately protective of it, and therefore less willing to integrate it fully into my life
  5. Allowed to connect to any cell provider, or shipped only once the AT&T connectivity issues were solved

But, instead, we get a lovely device that just magnifies the limitations of the iPhone.

That’s kind of annoying.

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About Kent Anderson

I am the CEO/Publisher of the STRIATUS/JBJS, Inc., the home of the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, JBJS Case Connector, JBJS Reviews, JBJS Essential Surgical Techniques, the JBJS Recertification Course, PRE-val, and SocialCite. Prior to this, I was an executive at the New England Journal of Medicine. I also was Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Discussion

26 thoughts on “Things About the iPad That Already Annoy Me

  1. Some things to considers for each of your points:

    1. The Lenovo device is actually two separate computers. The tablet alone runs on a SnapDragon ARM processor. When plugged into the laptop base, the Linux OS running on the ARM gets turned off and the Intel processor in the base kicks in. The tablet essentially becomes a monitor. It’s cool, I guess, but not likely to be in the same price point. And the one thing that no one will have for a very long time is anything nearly as good as the iPhone OS. (Especially from an App development standpoint.)

    2. You will never see Flash on iPhone OS, period. First, Flash is a resource hog. Second, there are legitimate technical challenges to making Flash work properly on multitouch display. Third, allowing something like Flash would effectively provide an alternate App delivery platform — a way of bypassing the App Store. Doesn’t make business sense for Apple. And finally, there are existing or emerging standards-based ways of doing just about anything you can do with flash. HTML5 already includes support for video on websites without Flash, and this is already supported in a few browsers (including Safari/WebKit). And most Flash-like animations and interactivity are possible using just JavaScript these days, and with technologies like SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics, another standard from Adobe) you even get vector drawing capabilities, managed by JavaScript.

    3. A user-facing camera would be nice, both on the iPhone and iPad. I think this is likely a concession made to the carriers, but they could have at least made it WiFi-only. Hopefully we’ll see this in a future model.

    4. Now that’s just silly. It’s Apple! Put a protective cover on it if you want.

    5. Hm. Steve Jobs said that the iPad is unlocked. They mentioned the plans that AT&T will be offering, and that AT&T would be offering free WiFi at their HotSpots, but you are free to use a different GSM carrier. It does mean no Verizon or Sprint, which are CDMA carriers, but supporting these would mean yet another version of the iPad, with different radios. (Most of the world uses GSM, so it makes sense to prefer GSM to CDMA.)

    I’m sure you’ll be somewhat less annoyed once you get to hold one in your hands :)

    Posted by Kostas | Jan 30, 2010, 6:25 pm
    • And I take back the Lenovo comparison to some degree since the iPad will support a Bluetooth keyboard and will probably have a docking station. By then, the price point will be rising. We’ll be acce$$orizing plenty if this thing takes off.

      Posted by Kent Anderson | Jan 30, 2010, 9:12 pm
    • I don’t see how Flash would be any more of a way to bypass the App Store than other web technologies that Mobile Safari already supports, such as HTML5. Native apps can leverage the device hardware and data from other built-in applications, which web apps cannot do. That’s why Flash would not present a new threat.

      Why has Apple not added support for Flash? Who knows. Personally I haven’t found it to be that big of a problem, even though many of my favorite websites are being increasingly reliant on Flash.

      Posted by Kevin Cohn | Jan 30, 2010, 11:07 pm
      • Flash does provide some access to native features, like camera and microphone. And newer versions of Flash Lite provide access to accelerometer and other peripherals. Also, there are already a ton of Flash apps (particularly games) that could be easily repurposed for mobile devices, and millions of Flash developers. The same cannot really be said for HTML5. Nor would it be easy to build a full blown game using just HTML and Javascript.

        But you’re right, you can get quite far using just HTML5 and Javascript, and Google in particular has already done some very nice work in this direction.

        It’s worth mentioning that with Flash CS5 it will soon be possible to create apps in Flash that will run on the iPhone. But rather than running Flash on the iPhone, the Flash application will be translated into native iPhone code prior to being submitted to the App Store. More info here:

        http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/flashcs5/appsfor_iphone/

        Posted by Kostas | Jan 31, 2010, 8:19 am
        • Note also that any current Flash game would need a major overhaul to work with a multitouch interface instead of a mouse and keyboard.

          Posted by David Crotty | Jan 31, 2010, 9:46 am
    • A bit more on the subject of Flash… I did fail to mention that it’s also very unstable on MacOS.

      http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/01/googles-dont-be-evil-mantra-is-bullshit-adobe-is-lazy-apples-steve-jobs/

      Posted by Kostas | Jan 31, 2010, 7:37 am
  2. Hate to say it Kent, but I think you’re missing the point, as I noted in Thursday’s blog entry. Like you, I’m not going to buy one, but that’s not because I’m confusing it for what it’s not.

    Specifically:
    1) If you need a full-functioning laptop, then this is not the right device for you (explained well here). The fact that this is not a laptop is a selling point, not a drawback. It’s meant as an alternative to a laptop, not a replacement, not a new iteration of the same old thing. You and I may not be the target audience here, but this is going to be a huge hit.

    Comparing an announced device with an actual price to a prototype that may cost $1000 more when it maybe comes out in 6 months is pushing it. The Lenovo device looks incredibly clunky, given that half of it runs a Linux OS and half Windows 7. Sounds like it’s really difficult to go in between the two versions. Do you really expect either to work as smoothly as the iPad OS? The slate portion has a 4 hour battery life compared to the iPad’s 10, no headphone jack. Every report on the iPad talks about how beautiful a device it is:
    Daring Fireball:

    The iPad hardware is exactly what you think. It looks great, it feels great. It’s very nice to hold….But: everyone I spoke to in the press room was raving first and foremost about the speed. None of us could shut up about it. It feels impossibly fast.

    Stephen Fry:

    There are many issues you could have with the iPad. No multitasking, still no Flash. No camera, no GPS. They all fall away the minute you use it. I cannot emphasise enough this point: “Hold your judgment until you’ve spent five minutes with it”. No YouTube film, no promotional video, no keynote address, no list of features can even hint at the extraordinary feeling you get from actually using and interacting with one of these magical objects.

    The Lenovo Hybrid?
    PC Magazine:

    The plastic vessel that forms the lid of the laptop and houses the slate looks very fragile. It bends very easily and is literally an accident away from snapping in half.

    Endgadget:

    The on-screen keyboard is big enough for entering a URL here or there, but you’re not going to want to type an email on it. Unfortunately, the screen itself was pretty abysmal, with terrible horizontal and vertical viewing angles — it basically disappeared at 45 degrees off axis. That’s probably not optimal for a hand-held device

    Yeah, that sounds like it’s worth 3 times the price of the iPad.

    2) No Flash is a really good thing. Flash is the number one reason for crashes on the Mac. Apple is trying to build a consumer device here, one that “just works” and removes the need for technical expertise. It seems foolish that they’d want to include another company’s proprietary technology that’s proven over the years to be so faulty. Flash is the only de facto web standard that’s not an open standard and is controlled by one company. Again, why put the success of your device in the hands of a company that has proven so incompetent? Why not use open standards like html5 and H264 to do the same thing. This device, and the iPhone will mark the end of Flash, rather than the other way around.

    3) Agreed on the camera. Wait for the next iteration, I bet it will have one. Perhaps a cost-cutting measure to get the price down to a consumer level here.

    4) Wait, you’re complaining because it’s too nice? Apple gave you too good of a device and that’s bad? You’d rather spend the same money on a Kindle DX and destroy it but not feel as bad? Sorry, can’t help you there.

    5) AT&T is only the first service provider here. The iPad is not linked to any particular provider, it’s up to the companies to offer service for the device.

    I think this device signifies more than you give it credit for. This is the future of computing, more of an abstraction and more user-friendly than what we’re conditioned to accept. Great article here explaining why tech experts are so angry about the iPad. It’s a vision of the future, and it’s a future in which their services are no longer needed.

    Also, to quote Simon Pegg on Twitter:
    “iPad sounds like a feminine hygene product” is the new “Avatar looks like dancing with smurfs”

    Posted by David Crotty | Jan 30, 2010, 11:14 pm
    • First, the AT&T issue isn’t about AT&T but about the iPhone’s apparent problems holding a 3G signal. So, if that’s not solved with the iPad, carriers don’t matter since the device might be the cause of the troubles. It will still be annoying to have connections drop unexpectedly.

      The keyboard dock looks nice enough for turning the iPad into a desktop iPad, but the use-case shown in videos and photos involves curling up with it on the couch or in a chair. No hardware solution for long-form typing in that use-case. I agree the Lenovo case looks flimsy, and I wasn’t singing the praises about that product’s specifics, just the basic concept. The Lenovo’s deficits are an execution issue. If Apple had taken on the “let the iPad transform into a notebook, too” issue, they certainly would have engineered something better than Lenovo has. To me, it’s a “miss” on the use-case radar.

      To the “no Flash is a good thing,” that’s just unrealistic. Flash is a standard owned by one company, but it’s a great one, and widely used. Because I need Flash to check on this blog, to do other basic online things, and to view some favorite web sites, lack of support for it in March 2010 will be annoying.

      And, yes, I am complaining that it’s too nice. My MacBook Pro has an aluminum unibody that is both beautiful and rugged. I can slap it closed, throw it on the couch, and walk away, feeling fine that it’ll survive the next few minutes without me. I have a feeling I’ll be babying the iPad. As for the beach/bathroom issues, the Kindle was not beautiful in the sense of shiny, smudge-able, and fragile-looking. It seemed sturdy and utilitarian. I saw people slipping it into purses, bags, and backpacks without feeling like they needed to protect it. The iPad is definitely on the “pretty” side of the aesthetic, not the “utilitarian” side. My MacBook seems more utilitarian, and I like that, so Apple clearly can design more rugged devices. I think they could have designed the iPad to seem more utilitarian. To me, that’s still a little annoying.

      You and another commenter are probably right — these annoyances will be overcome by the sheer speed, coolness, basic utility, and coolness of the device. Is it THE future of computing? I doubt it. Computing’s so ubiquitous now that it’s just ANOTHER future of computing, just like it’s just ANOTHER future of publishing.

      We’ll never return to the days when we only had one container to fill with content.

      Posted by Kent Anderson | Jan 31, 2010, 8:18 am
      • On what are you basing the idea that the iPhone itself can’t hold a signal? I’ve seen repeated admissions from AT&T that their network isn’t up to snuff, but other than one flawed report, no evidence that the fault lies with the iPhone (why don’t customers outside of the US have the same problems?).

        If Apple had said, “let the iPad transform into a notebook, too”, then it would be a Netbook, not something new that lives between the iPhone and the laptop. If you need that functionality, buy a MacBook.

        Flash may be widely used, but it’s a security hazard and it causes frequent crashes. Apple wants to control the whole device. Why leave so much functionality in the hands of someone else and why allow such a faulty, dangerous bit of software to run on a consumer appliance? Why not include Internet Explorer 6 as well, as I’m sure there are still some IE-only sites out there. Think of it this way–the iMac left out the floppy disc drive, and I’m sure there were many who complained about this at the time too.

        As for rugged, don’t judge it until you’ve held it. If it is indeed a big iPhone, keep in mind that I stuck my original iPhone sans case into my pocket every day for 2 years, and that included plenty of time spent where the phone was played with by a toddler. At the end of that time, it was still in fine enough shape to sell on eBay for $180 when I bought a 3GS. The iPad may be more sturdy than you think, and like the iPhone, there will be a whole cottage industry in cases, including ruggedized cases for those with your concerns.

        It is the “future” of computing not so much for the form factor, but instead for the increased abstraction and removal between the user and the underlying file system. John Gruber compares it to a change to automatic transmission after we’ve been driving stick all these years. Fraser Spiers puts it this way:

        Ask yourself this: in what other walk of life do grown adults depend on other people to help them buy something…I’m often saddened by the infantilising effect of high technology on adults….The tech industry will be in paroxysms of future shock for some time to come. Many will cling to their January-26th notions of what it takes to get “real work” done; cling to the idea that the computer-based part of it is the “real work”.

        It’s not. The Real Work is not formatting the margins, installing the printer driver, uploading the document, finishing the PowerPoint slides, running the software update or reinstalling the OS.

        The Real Work is teaching the child, healing the patient, selling the house, logging the road defects, fixing the car at the roadside, capturing the table’s order, designing the house and organising the party.

        Posted by David Crotty | Jan 31, 2010, 10:09 am
        • People have been looking for the cause of dropped calls on the iPhone for years. AT&T is the fall guy, but problems in the iPhone have been suspected as well. It’s hard to track it down, because reporting is a problem. Is the NYC problem worse than elsewhere? Or did awareness spike reporting and throw a spotlight on it? I can have calls drop when standing still with full bars. That’s weird.

          The point of my post was a quick list of things I’ll probably find annoying at first. I do think I’ll get annoyed having a great iPad but being unable to type comments like this on it. I’ll have to shift devices to do that, and it will be annoying.

          Flash is widely used and practical. A device in the margins won’t change that, and the iPad will be in the margins, especially for real work — probably for a long time. Most systems won’t change because the iPad exists. In the healthcare IT space, they haven’t even moved on Windows98 in many cases, for instance. Change at the infrastructure level happens slowly.

          Yep, we’ll see if it’s rugged. The iPhone is small enough to have a good ratio of face to depth. With a larger face, the iPad looks like it has about 6x the chances of taking a hit, even from a loving toddler.

          The abstraction issue is worth tracking. I will love it when computers become appliances, and I don’t have to worry about how they work and can just use them. Cell phones have already crossed that line, I think, and PCs are coming close. But the transmission analogy doesn’t extend to the UI and complex human:computer interactions. Those are harder to solve, and it takes a full cockpit analogy to get to those issues. The iPad doesn’t solve the cockpit issues — camera, keyboard, and Flash are all parts of a full computer cockpit these days.

          Posted by Kent Anderson | Jan 31, 2010, 10:40 am
  3. A user facing camera for video conferencing would have been nice, and will probably show up on a future model, but it’s far too large to use as a camera for photographs. Imagine trying to hold it steady with one hand while you poked the shutter button with the other.

    Lack of Flash is not ideal, but the apps do run video. For CNN, NY Times, and the magazines that are coming, the app version will be a much better user experience than the web site, and will allow video.

    I don’t even take my iPhone to the beach. Sometimes a paperback or magazine really is the best medium for the location.

    As for AT&T, hopefully they will get better. Not a problem in Philly, but on business trips to San Francisco I have experienced the rather random connectivity.

    Posted by David Myers | Jan 30, 2010, 11:18 pm
  4. For what it’s worth, Robert Scoble weighs in on Flash with two separate opinions:
    Flash is dead
    and
    Google will save Flash

    Gruber comments here.

    Posted by David Crotty | Jan 31, 2010, 11:05 am
  5. Andy Inhatko on iPad durability:

    This is no cheap hunk of netbook plastic. It’s glass and aluminum, fitted together very precisely, with a solid feel … just like a premium MacBook. It’s neither obtrusively thick nor what you might call Delightfully Thin. I feel as though I could be rather bold in slinging this in a bag (whereas I always make sure that my Kindle is backed with something a lot sturdier than the ebook reader is).

    Posted by David Crotty | Jan 31, 2010, 3:53 pm
  6. Steve Jobs on why no Flash on the iPhone/iPad:

    They are lazy, Jobs says. They have all this potential to do interesting things but they just refuse to do it. They don’t do anything with the approaches that Apple is taking, like Carbon. Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy, he says. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it’s because of Flash. No one will be using Flash, he says. The world is moving to HTML5.

    Posted by David Crotty | Jan 31, 2010, 4:10 pm
    • He has some nerve. Why would Adobe design Flash for a small percentage OS? At the same time, iTunes on the PC is slow and not nearly as smooth as it is on the Mac. Is that because Apple is lazy?

      Posted by Kent Anderson | Jan 31, 2010, 6:30 pm
  7. I like what SNL said: “This week, Apple released a new thing that does the same things everything else they make also does.”

    Posted by Kent Anderson | Jan 31, 2010, 6:31 pm
  8. Readers of this post may find the following two iPad commentaries particularly relevant:

    1. TechCruch on iPad vs Rock:
    http://www.techcrunch.com/2010/01/30/ipad-v-a-rock/

    2. Hitler’s take:

    Posted by Michael Clarke | Jan 31, 2010, 7:12 pm
    • Man, that Hitler sure seems to have an opinion about everything! With all his blatant self-promotion, he’s a bit over-exposed these days. Besides, I prefer to stick with tech originators, and see what they think. This guy built an awfully sweet robot.
      Pee-wee Gets An iPad! from Pee-wee Herman

      Posted by David Crotty | Jan 31, 2010, 8:56 pm
  9. So you know a device is a game changer when everybody is wading in with their opinion about what works and what doesn’t and what version 2 will bring etc etc.

    A couple of things… It has bluetooth right? and the OS allows for apps etc to use a video camera. So um, what’s to stop someone putting together a bluetooth accessory for the iPad? Bluetooth webcams already exist. I’m guessing here that this is actually about battery life and the management thereof. I’m assuming the Hardware has some rather fancy tricks up it’s sleeve in order to get the battery life that Jobs is quoting (140hrs continuous music playback).

    How are Apple going to reconfigure itunes (which now badly needs a namechange) to deal with the multiple versions of hardware in order to prevent the user downloading Apps that will not function correctly?

    What about user accounts for the device? Not an issue with an iPhone, but it is different is it not when talking about a more family based device? And see above for iTunes again.

    ePub – Apple stated their opposition to DRM for music files and now you can buy DRM free from iTunes… Is it the same story with their ePub implementation? can you port and use DRM free ePubs in iBook? (not sure if we are getting iBook in the UK at the moment – it’s missing on the UK page). You can rip your own CDs in iTunes, why should books be different?

    Are there any fellow commentors/bloggers who can advise on the OS issues here? It seems to me we are getting into some very interesting territory when it comes to Browser developments, The Android OS, The Google Chrome OS and now the Apple iPhone OS. They are developing in some very interesting directions indeed.

    Posted by David Smith | Feb 1, 2010, 7:43 am
    • Good point on the bluetooth video camera. In some ways, that would make more sense. How would you keep an embedded camera focused on your face if you’re holding the iPad in your lap and typing on the screen? An internal camera would only work if it was propped up in a keyboard dock, so a more flexible camera, either used via bluetooth or connected via the dock might work better.

      No details have emerged yet on iBook DRM. Given the big 6 publishers’ insistence on DRM elsewhere, it’s likely we’ll see it here as well. If you can’t bring other ePub files into Apple’s iBook program, odds are you’ll be able to read them just fine through a different App.

      Here’s an article you might find interesting, about the collision course between the iPad and Google’s Chrome OS. John Gruber comments on the benefits the iPad has from integration with the iPhone, which Chrome lacks as far as Android phones.

      Posted by David Crotty | Feb 1, 2010, 11:33 am
  10. Good article here on Flash and the iPad:

    The bulk of humanity doesn’t want a computing experience it can tinker with; it wants a computing experience that works.

    Posted by David Crotty | Feb 1, 2010, 6:30 pm
  11. wrt durability – as someone who just replaced the glass and digitizer on her iphone – if that’s so rare, then why are there hundreds of videos on YouTube and tens of vendors selling new glass? Met 2 people at Science Online who had broken screens – but chose not to fix them because in Europe it would be 200 euros. I can’t imagine this big piece of glass will be any tougher than any other big piece of glass.

    Also, in the Balto-DC area, we really don’t have any problems with our iPhones staying on 3G.

    Posted by Christina Pikas | Feb 2, 2010, 8:03 am
  12. Amazon’s next step–building their own iPad, via a tech company they just bought.

    Posted by David Crotty | Feb 3, 2010, 8:47 pm

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