The idea died once the curtain lifted [iPad Opinion]

As a rumor, the Apple tablet can be anything to anyone. We’ve all latched on to the idea that it’s a symbol of hope for the struggling print media industry. We’ve also taken the lack of substantiation as free reign to imagine a device capable of the impossible. We can even dream that we’re a part of a history-making event that we’ll one day tell our children about.


Could the Apple tablet change the world as we know it? Absolutely. But nothing will happen overnight, and history tells us that even in the midst of success, naysayers will emerge to attack every perceived flaw.

The anticipation and the lofty expectations surrounding the product launch put the Apple tablet atop a pedestal. Once the curtain lifts, it could take years before it returns to the same level of glory.

The above excerpt comes from an analysis piece I wrote yesterday (before the big iPad reveal) on the idea of the tablet, and how the idea could never live up to the reality. Read that last paragraph in the intro about the pedestal and the curtain, and I think you'll understand what I was trying to say.

This isn't about being right, because it was a safe prediction to make given the ridiculous amount of buzz and hype about the tablet. Still, there's so much truth in this post that I hope you take a few moments to read the whole thing and think about the deeper things that are happening here.

It's not a magic box. It never could be. And yet we all made it so by talking about front-facing cameras, flash, multitasking, and every other dream feature we thought it needed. Now the naysayers are rightfully picking a part the flaws and talking about what's missing. Fair enough. I would argue, however, that Jobs sincerely believes that nothing is missing. It's just his way. He likes to push the envelope. So for every perceived "lack" there is a reason.

The reality is that the iPad cannot be as robust as a MacBook, it is that middle device he promised. There's really no need for HDMI Out, a USB Port, an SD slot, or even flash in my opinion (HTML5 is the future). It will be the entertainment and lifestyle device that Apple envisions, and just as is the case with the iPhone, no competitor will ever come close to emulating the user experience, until Apple bests themselves of course.

In that vein, do keep in mind that touch technology is not created equal. Apple has set the standard on mobile devices. They'll do it again with the iPad.

Still the curtain has lifted and it will take years before the device achieves anywhere near the glory it did in its once unblemished state.

16 responses
Completely agree. I actually think the iPad will be amazing still. And I forgot all about the missing features from the rumors and hype as soon as the $999 rumored price point dropped to $499.

I see the iPad as huge for the publishing industry. I don't subscribe to the NYT or WSJ but I could see myself paying a few dollars a month for each through iTunes and reading them regularly on my iPad.

And there are accessories for the iPad, including I believe a camera. A smart move to keep the price point low for the common consumer.

i completely agree.

btw i dig your posterous layout.

Mike you're right about the print aspect. I now think that the Sports Illustrated tablet mock-up we saw a few months ago is a reality we'll see thanks to the iPad, and I want that. I want my favorite magazines back, but with fresh and interactive content. I would pay for that and I don't think that I'm alone.

As for accessories there's the keyboard dock, a camera connecter, and a case. I imagine though that accessory makers will come out with even more add-ons.

Arianna, thanks for the compliment re:posterous layout. Cory Watilo made it for me custom. He's a rock star. :)

I generally agree, except for the HDMI port - it seems completely natural to walk over to the TV and connect the iPad to watch a movie, listen to music, etc.

I also worry about the control Apple exerts over which apps are allowed to run on the device. There's a huge difference between any of the existing common computing platforms that allow anyone to write and publish anything, and a very tightly controlled device that censors applications based on a fairly opaque set of rules and processes, and forcibly takes a chunk of all sales.

Having said that, I'm confident that Apple has made good decisions on tradeoffs, and the usability, aesthetics, and finesse of what's there will let us forget about all that's missing.

I tend to agree that we have built this thing up in our minds (I know I have :) ), but it does feel like Apple intentionally pulled certain punches (like the camera) so that there was a reason to buy version 2.0.

Front-facing camera that is wishful thinking... no camera at all, that doesn't make a ton of sense. I get the need for entry level price points, but those who are looking at the top tier 3G models would likely have paid more for the camera.

Like you and Mike, I hope this is a big revival for the publishing industry and have been a big believer that all of Time Inc's efforts have been in preparation of this device. My one concern and the one thing that people do not seem to have an answer for is how well the iPad is going to work out in daylight for reading on the go (or better yet at the beach!).

Multitasking is definetively missing, can't think of such a beautiful tool and use one app at a time. I believe they'll add it sooner than later as an OS update :)
Michael ... I too wish that there was a camera, but I don't think it was left out just so that it could be introduced at a later date. There are some hints that camera functionality is supported, and given the dock/case, I would imagine a camera accessory is not a far-fetched idea.

On the device itself, a camera does seem a tad clunky in hindsight (especially a front-facing one... holding it up to talk to someone via video chat, for instance, would get strenuous on your arms). Still for many reasons, I wish it had a camera.

Parand I think the trade off is HTML5, which means anyone can develop a rich web-app that is both mobile-friendly and iPad-friendly.

As much as we've all chided Apple for the seemingly strenuous app store approval process (myself included), you have to admit that are some bonuses to a controlled experience: security and quality being the two most important.

Great observation, Jenn, and so true about how the iPad became everything to everybody. David Pogue had a fair and balanced observation, today, too, in his blog posting at the NYT.
Re: no camera: There's only so much room in this device. How many hours/day do you spend video conferencing compared to using e-mail, iTunes, surfing the web, word processing, etc? I'm sure they would have put a camera in it if it made "cents".
Appreciate the comment and feedback Joe. :)
You're very welcome, Jenn.
I can not agree that the lack of Flash is in any way mitigated by the as yet unrealized promise of HTML 5. Flash is a mature technology with established development tools and a large number of existing sites.

I was specifically looking at this tablet as useful for my 6 and 7 year olds, but without support for Flash it would be useless to them. The sites they visit, like the Nickelodeon site, Webkinz or even the McDonald's world site depend on Flash, today.

No other 'missing' feature is an absolute killer like the lack of Flash. I certainly take issue with the statement that the iPad is the best way to surf the web simply because of this issue.

Steve what I think you're missing is that those experiences will be more than made up for in the application experience, and Nickelodeon (who already has several apps in the app store) will give birth to a rich media experience in application form that will best anything on their website. If they're smart they'll also move away from Flash to HTML5 but that's just wishful thinking. Trust me, your kids will want the apps more than the websites.
Still I'm not alone in thinking that iPad doesn't need Flash to live up to expectations when it comes to the media experience. 

Well said Jennifer. The iPad will be the best content browser and once people get their hands on it in the stores they'll envision themselves browsing a magazine or web page or book on their couch. I agree with the Flash issue, while the geeks want it others just move on. Content providers will want their content on the iPad, and they will figure out how to get their content on the device.
HDMI is a complete non issue, who wants to get up and plug in their device to watch a show...While not elegant, AppleTV should stream content off the iPad over WIFi.. I think we'll see Apple figure out to effectively share our content over all your devices.. Apple needs a cloud partner fast!
In the long run the absence of Flash I think is not huge thing with the introduction of HTML 5. But in the short term, the iPad would be a great way to watch Hulu and netflix streaming, but no luck now with the absence of Flash.
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