Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Because the business my partner and I started targets companies that don't know about the type of service we are offering, and haven't been actively (or correctly) marketed to, we ran into difficulty explaining the specifics of what we can do for them. Our elevator speech needed to be adjusted depending on the business of the person we were talking to, and even then, it wasn't always clear to the potential customer exactly what we were talking about.

We thought about the problem for a bit, and decided that this might be the only legitimate use for the iPad. We can get a 3G model, VPN into our network, and show them some interactive sample data without having to ask for internet access or commandeer their workstation.

For that reason and one other, my business partner and I bought two iPads. Both 32 gigs, one wifi+3G, one wifi only. We have yet to try out the 3G service, but for how shitty AT&T's voice network is, their data network has been fast and solid for both of us.

My derisive complaints remain; no card reader, no standard media storage, no flash player, proprietary everything, limited (and often buggy) applications, and a simplified, locked-down, lowest common denominator OS. I laughed at the early adopters because I knew that Apple was going to wait 6-12 months, and release a new iPad with one of those features added. Then 6-12 months later? One more feature. I never would have bought one personally, considering the above issues and the excessive cost.

But now that I have one...

The Good
The interface is flawless, as is par for Apple. You could give it to a chimp, and an hour later, he'd be setting up an RSS reader for his favorite blogs, and playing Words with Friends with another chimp in Florida. The ad says "You already know how to use it." and they aren't lying.

The display is brilliant. The color reproduction and contrast are fucking beautiful. The brightness effectively blends every fingerprint smudge away. No color weirding when viewing at any angle. Perfection.

The battery life is very good. Use it for hours, and watch it drop to 99%. It's not measured in days like a lower-tech e-reader, and it might be worse for movies on Netflix or something, but for casual use for a variety of purposes, I think they've found a great balance. No complaints here.

The reading of websites and blogs is quite optimized. The text rendering is sharp and clean, and the horizontal lock feature is very useful. I think they wanted to be very sure to get this right.

The Bad
I hate to sound like nutnfancy, but it's just barely too heavy. This is a tiny problem, but it's noticeable when you hold it in certain positions for more than a minute. It also affects unsupported one handed holding. Again, not a big issue.

Playing videos is hobbled due to Apple's "No video format exists except Quicktime" mentality. I have yet to find a working WMV player, and the one system that is supposed to play MPEGs and other formats requires they be streamed through a separate local server. Youtube plays, and is technically integrated with the browser, but there seems to be some intangible clunkiness there. I guess they've got to keep you buying movies from iTunes.

No multitasking. I know this was done intentionally to keep things simple, but I think we're ready to listen to Pandora while we browse the internet. Our heads won't explode, Steve. We've been multitasking since Windows 3.1, so this refusal is starting to wear thin. I suspect we'll have to wait two more iPad revisions before they provide the software to add this functionality, and it almost certainly will not work on previously released hardware.

The keyboard is debatably bad, but I've heard reports of people with enough practice using it easily. It's too easy to drop the blade of your hand or an errant finger onto the keyboard, and inadvertently add a few letters to your word. So try it out for yourself to see if you can work with it. But the fact that the F and J keys are rendered with the touch tab on them should tell you everything you need to know :]

File transferring is cumbersome without using iTunes (tough if you run linux). Fortunately DropBox is free and effective at getting files from your computer to your iPad, but that doesn't change the fact that Apple wants you to use iTunes instead of your tool of choice to transfer files... Or maybe they just want to be able to add the card reader in the next version. Either way, it's a dick move.

So it's too physically heavy, too software complicated, and too expensive to be a good e-reader; and it's too software incompatible, too unfamiliar in form, and too simple to be a netbook laptop. But I guess that's what Apple was going for. It's not either of those things, it's just an iPad. Nothing more or less. But the question is, was there a market for an in-between device? Apple has created new markets before, but fucking over loyal early adopters can overshadow popularity and cult following.

I don't think I'd buy one with my own money. I might wait for the inevitable 3rd or 4th generation, when it has more of the features we would expect to get standard from any other company, and is at a price we would merely scoff at from any other company.

All that said, good on Apple for recognizing how to squeeze money out of its followers, and exploiting it for the largest profits it can get from the market. Also, Apple's management of their market demand is nothing short of brilliant. From a technical standpoint, I think their offerings are sub-par, but from a business standpoint? Their ability to create markets where there were none, and drain every available cent out of them is stupefying.

So far, I've been enjoying Dominion in the time my wife isn't glued to the awesome that is Words With Friends. Dropbox is an easy way to do file transferring, and is free. Private Media Folders is also free $3.99 and worth it, and provides a password protected area in which to store your files.

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