Larry and I had a chance to listen to Engadget’s radio stream yesterday. It will come as no surprise that it was all iPad, all the time. It was an interesting discussion because it captured the debate that’s going on in the blogosphere right now with regard to Apple’s newest creation. What was most amusing was that it nearly mirrored the debates that Larry and I have been having over it, when very often one of us would say something and seconds later one of the people on the stream would then say as well. There’s no question that there’s a lot to be critical of with the iPad. Currently it doesn’t run flash, it doesn’t multitask, and more. At the same time, the hardware is gorgeous. It’s all but impossible to deny that fact unless you’re in the camp of bashing the larger black bezel — but that does was there for a reason. If it weren’t there when you pick up the device you would be triggering the touchscreen. There’s no question to my mind that it was a trade-off decision which allows the device to be more functional even while it is a little bit less attractive. In addition, the device’s screen just looks great. According to all reports the screen is more like looking at a TV and a computer monitor — and that is a positive.
Yes, there are things to criticize about the device but I have a message to all of the iPad detractors — iChillOut and get a little bit of iPatience.
Seriously, one of the biggest issues with our economy, with our country and with the tech world in general is that we tend to look at things short-term. The stock market responds to today’s news far too often. And we as a nation tend to react to the news of the day and then move on to the next news of the day. Steve Jobs doesn’t have this problem. He clearly is a long-term thinker. Why else would he rejected numerous prototypes for this device and wait until he felt it was “just right” before releasing it. We can’t just look at the device as it stands at this moment. (Or, more accurately, as we think it stands at this moment since numerous questions remain open). Rather, we need to look a little bit more long term. We’ve been here before, and we need to be here again.
First point – iPhone “Classic” VS iPhone 3GS
Think back — when the iPhone was first announced it was an amazing device. It was truly revolutionary. But it was totally limited. It didn’t run applications. It didn’t have 3G or a GPS chip. You weren’t able to type in landscape or cut and paste text. The Bluetooth was crippled. And yes, it lacked flash. And there was much more. Just a few short years later, and many of the initial issues have been resolved — and resolved well in fact. Sure, but I still doesn’t run applications in the background, but the push notification system actually works rather well for me. And sure, it still doesn’t run flash, but I’ve learned to live with it. Based on iPhone adoption rates many of us have. And in light of the fact that my computer slows down significantly when I’m doing something that’s built in flash, I can’t argue too much with the decision not to have it (at least as it stands now) on the device. The point is this — the iPhone was released with some significant limitations, but within a few short years the device has been transformed into something far more powerful and useful than many of us ever imagined. I have no doubt the same will happen with the iPad. We need to think about the device as it currently stands, AND as it will likely be in six months to a year.
Second point — NYTimes Yes, but where was everyone else?
There was a lot missing the other day and I don’t think that was by design. We heard a tremendous number of rumors about special magazines and television show deals. None of those were shown off. I have very little doubt that Steve Jobs wanted to be able to announce tremendous content deals as part of the reveal, but could not bring them to fruition in time. That’s the problem when you announce an event and are locked into it weeks before it actually takes place. My guess is that until the 11th hour they were working to try to seal those deals, but they didn’t come through in time to be presented on Wednesday. My other guess — before the device actually ships they will be in place.
Third point — 4.0 Where Art Though?
Many of us thought that the event would include both the new device and news about the iPhone update. What we got was an event that focused only on the iPad. That’s okay, but it leaves open the window for Jobs to hold another media event, during which he reveals iPhone OS 4.0 and, hopefully, new hardware. At the event this past Wednesday the iPad was running version 3.2 of the operating system. Were it to be running version 4.0 of the operating system (which I have no doubt is getting ready to be released), it would’ve stolen the thunder from the next media event. Steve Jobs doesn’t do that. Yes, he announced that the device would ship with version 3.2 of the operating system. It may have it, but I have no doubt that within a few short weeks after that early adopters will be able to update to 4.0.
And here’s the important part — we don’t know what operating system 4.0 is going to offer. It may stick with the push notification system, but it may just as well allow you to begin running a few applications in the background. If it does, one of the major issues that the detractors have with the device will be removed. We won’t know until it is announced, and Steve Jobs wasn’t stealing his own thunder. [That's what McGraw Hill's publisher is for.] Again, it’s an issue of those of us looking at the device now trying to take a longer view, rather than simply looking at the device as it stands at this moment.
Fourth and final point — You don’t make your case by knocking someone else
Steve Jobs made a huge mistake on Wednesday. His ego got in the way. The result? He felt he needed to take a few shots at netbooks. He positioned the new device has a better version of netbooks, and then went on to demo the device without applications running in the background or flash. Those are two things netbooks do and people want. As a result everyone talking about the new device immediately began the discussion with “you can’t replace a netbook or a notebook with this device, since the new device doesn’t run applications in the background or provide access to flash applications.”
Had Jobs simply revealed the device as its own device, people could have made their own connections between this device and existing devices. The discussion might then have been focusing on this device versus the Kindle or the nook rather than netbooks. In those cases the device wins almost hands-down. Steve Jobs should not have set it up as a competitive device against any other. Rather, he should simply out the iPad as its own innovative piece of gear. Had he done that I think we would be having a far different discussion.
So those are my thoughts on the current debate regarding this new creation. I don’t think it’s going to be a flop, but I also don’t think it will be adopted at the same rate as the iPhone. I think a device that actually ships will be significantly different than the device we’re using a year from now. And I think the second version of the hardware will be more powerful and less expensive than this one. Sadly I suspect there will also be a little bit less durable. We’ve seen that one before.