Apple iPad design - comments from an early tablet user

Apple iPad Design: I know, forty million people are writing about the new Apple iPad tablet device, but how many of those people owned a tablet PC six years ago like I did? Given those walloping credentials :) here's my take on the Apple iPad design.

To me the iPad design is an evolutionary -- not revolutionary -- product, basically a big iPod Touch w/ updated software, less the camera. (Which led to this very funny iPad image.)

That being said, getting a bunch of horsepower and battery life out of something 1/2" thick and 1.5 pounds is pretty amazing, and the new iPad apps look slick. As much as anything, Apple with the current iPad design reminds me of Guy Kawasaki and the early Macintosh days, where Apple once again is trying to convince developers to write software for a new platform.

Apple iPad design - disappointments

In short, here are my iPad design disappointments:

  • No multi-tasking. Not being able to have multiple apps running on the iPhone is already a bummer, and having to go Home to switch to another app is also frustrating. I really thought they'd support real multi-tasking and a better way to switch between apps.
  • Can you have multiple browser tabs in Safari? Please say yes ...
  • No camera? Really?
  • No Verizon package
  • No phone. You're sitting their reading on your iPad, the phone rings, and you have to get up and get your phone. Really?
  • No TV reception
  • No grand plan to save the newspaper/magazine industry. There were huge expectations here about micro-payments and the like.
  • No handwriting or speech recognition.
  • I really thought they have charging technology like a Powermat.
  • I don't understand their USB approach at the moment. It looks like a lot of cables.
  • No use of a remote to control your tv or Apple TV.
  • Where is all the FingerWorks technology?
  • The name. I thought they'd come up with something more clever than iPad. As one writer joked, you'll never know what device people in Boston are referring to, as they already pronounce iPod as "iPad". And the community is already lit up with jokes related to feminine, er, products.

Apple iPad design - what looks good

The iPad expectations were so high it's hard to think of positive surprises, but here's what I have so far:

  • The iPad book UI looks really good, both for ordering and reading (assuming the glare isn't bad); letting the user choose fonts is great
  • The keyboard/dock device looks good (and is an accessory I predicted the need for in my Tablet PC review in 2004).
  • The comments I've heard is that the iPad stays cool, even when playing video games; that's very important. My tablet back in 2004 made me uncomfortably warm.
  • Reporters say the CPU seems very fast.
  • Not requiring a 3G data plan.
  • All of the new iPad software really looks great.
  • As usual, the hardware looks great. Apple's industrial design folks almost always hit a home run.

Again, I can't agree with Apple that this is a revolutionary new product, but it is certainly an evolutionary new product, something of a mix of an iPhone and a MacBook Air.

iPad design, and the Amazon Kindle

The iPad definitely looks like a Kindle-killer. With the Kindle DX priced at $489 and the iPad at $499, I don't even have to think about that choice. At the very least this should drop the Kindle DX price down to the current Kindle price ($289), with the Kindle price dropping to $149 or $199. The question then becomes how much profit there is for Amazon at these prices. Assuming the iPad is successful, this also takes away from Amazon's eBook sales.

iPad design and the iPad operating system (iOS)

Also interesting, Apple had to make a choice between basing the operating system either on (a) Mac OS X or (b) the iPhone OS, and they chose the iPhone OS. I'm curious what OS X developers think of this. It's clear that Apple wants to make this as brain-dead simple device as they can, and for people that don't currently use a Mac, using an iPhone is much easier than learning something new like Mac OS X.

Companion Apple iPad design article

As a follow-up to this article, I just wrote a second article about the initial Apple iPad design, titled Apple iPad design - incomplete, intentionally, where I explore the reasons why it's good business for Apple to ship products with missing features.