Friday, January 29, 2010

iPad Thoughts

I have a MacBook Pro and an iPhone. Both are great, but—for me—I don’t feel as though there’s a gaping hole in the middle. It would probably be useful, though not essential, to have a digital reading device for light Web browsing, PDFs, and perhaps FogBugz. I’m less sure that the screen will tempt me from paper books.

I don’t want to speculate too much, since I haven’t used an iPad and it’s harder to judge something when you’re not really the target market. Nevertheless, I think the iPad is going to be a success and a big deal. For some people, devices like the iPad will make computing more accessible and traditional-style computers unnecessary. For techies, it signals that the “wild west” era of open, tinkerable computers for the masses may be on its way out.

Alex Payne:

The iPad was pitched by Steve Jobs yesterday as a response to netbooks. It is not a mobile device, per se. Rather, the iPad is competing with full-fledged (if small and ugly) computers capable of running arbitrary programs and operating systems. Play all the category games you want, but the iPad is a personal computer. Apple has decided that openness is not a quality that’s necessary in a personal computer. That’s disturbing.

John Gruber:

A car with an automatic transmission still shifts gears; the driver just doesn’t need to know about it. A computer running iPhone OS still has a hierarchical file system; the user just never sees it.


What I found interesting is that I’m very familiar with this resolution — for years I used PowerBooks and iBooks with 1024 × 768 displays running Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X. 1024 × 768 somehow seems very different on the iPad than on Mac OS — physically smaller but conceptually bigger. The full-screen concept, without Mac-style overlapping draggable windows, leaves the iPad free to use as many pixels as possible for display content rather than UI chrome.

Kevin Hoctor:

I’m a geek. I love this stuff. I even know all the keyboard shortcuts for switching apps and spaces and windows. I am a software developer with an engineer’s brain. I am not the person Apple was thinking about when they built the iPad.

William Van Hecke:

It’s easy to miss what the big deal is, especially if you’re the sort of person who already has an iPhone and a Mac and you are perfectly happy with the way they fit into your life. @benaar said that they should have just called it iPod Big, and on the face of it, he’s right. It is just a fricken huge iPod touch. But something subtly momentous happens when an iPod touch gets fricken huge.

Steven Frank:

Apple is calling the iPad a “third category” between phones and laptops. I am increasingly convinced that this is just to make it palatable to you while everything shifts to New World ideology over the next 10-20 years.

Fraser Speirs:

The people whose backs have been broken under the weight of technological complexity and failure immediately understand what’s happening here. Those of us who patiently, day after day, explain to a child or colleague that the reason there’s no Print item in the File menu is because, although the Pages document is filling the screen, Finder is actually the frontmost application and it doesn’t have any windows open, understand what’s happening here.

Right now, various constraints have kept software for the iPhone OS simple. There’s less to get in the way because it does less. It will be interesting to see what happens as devices like the iPad become more powerful, developers have more time to iterate their products, and users expect them to do more. Will things stay simple? Or will we slowly reinvent most of the features and problems that we currently see on the desktop?

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"For techies, it signals that the “wild west” era of open, tinkerable computers for the masses may be on its way out."

Ah, I had that sentiment when Snow Leopard came out. I was wondering if we had an EOL'ed OS on our hands. But I've gotten more optimistic about this topic since seeing the iPad.

All the iPhone OS devices still presuppose a Mac OS device as the "digital hub".

That may start to change for some casual users over time, but the market for a Xerox PARC interface devices will remain huge even as the market for touch interface devices explodes.

Lots of folks are going to want to manage their own hub, and for the foreseeable future, keyboard/mouse is going to be more efficient for those folks than touch.

(But, of course, I'm one of that minority who has a stick shift car and a TiVo, so what do I know?)


If I were in your shoes, Michael, I'd race to market with a kickass EagleFiler client (a reader, essentially) for the iPad that syncs with OS X libraries. Beyond the sales it would generate on its own merit, it would also generate a nice publicity "halo effect" for EagleFiler and your other products if you were first into the space, ahead of BareBones and any newcomers.

"For techies, it signals that the “wild west” era of open, tinkerable computers for the masses may be on its way out."

I have to disagree with that. Apple is making the iPod/iPhone/iPad as consumer products, not personal computers. The target audience doesn't want to tinker. There is no value for most people in tinkering with a computer. Needing to tinker is seen as a negative not a positive. So, it is likely that the masses don't need "tinkerable" computers.

But there will always be a need for general purpose computers to use as personal workstations. Software developers are a major market. So is scientific computing. Hobbyists aren't going away either. There are plenty of other niches as well. Even if Apple gets out of the general purpose computer market, which I doubt they will, there will still be other companies selling them and open source operating systems like Linux to run on them.

I can't see the market being reduced much though I can see growth in the PC market stalling because of the desires for consumer internet appliances instead.

James: Actually, it sounds to me like we pretty much agree. If this works, traditional PCs will still be around, and there will be a lot of niches for them, but for a many people they will eventually not be the default choice. And, I would add, remember that this is just the equivalent of the Mac 128K.

[…] goes back to what I was saying when the iPad was first released. It’s simpler because there’s no filesystem, but they […]

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