ReelSEO isn't a gadget blog, but it's staffed with people who are quite familiar with gadgets. The news of the iPad from Apple is everywhere, and I think it's a topic we can have some valid opinions on.
Background: I'm no Apple fanboy. I have no particular problem with Apple, nor any unexplained gravitation toward their products.
Apple's latest creation—the iPad—has left me scratching my head. Just what are they thinking here? At ReelSEO, we don't get it at all. It's as though they set out to solve a problem that didn't exist.
For all Steve Jobs' raving about how this product fills the gap between smart phones and laptops… I think that gap is there for a reason. Let me explain. Laptops are not able to make phone calls and they don't fit inside your pocket. Enter the smart phone… which is a phone that fits in your pocket that also has the added bonus of allowing you to do some things online. Anything in between those two things is going to have massive shortcomings on both ends. It'll be the jack of all trades, but the master of none.
If I'm to believe Jobs, then there are millions of people out there who want a bigger version of the iPhone—minus the phone capabilities. Ok. Fine. But then what does the iPad offer that a netbook doesn't? The answer, of course, is that it offers Apps.
Let me take a minute and talk about apps. I'm so freaking tired of hearing about apps as though they are something that didn't exist before the iPhone. My Apple-fan coworker says that the iPad is revolutionary because it can download apps. Which is a fancy way of saying that it can download software programs written by third parties—in other words… it's a computer. Apps are just software.
Apps on a smart phone… that's something new-ish and cool. Apps on a computer? That's just… a computer. Only instead of installing any software you want, from any source, you're handcuffed to the App Store.
Okay... with my "Apps" rant out of the way, let's dive in a bit into some more detail on the iPad.
The iPad and Video - Seriously?
Let's talk about the device (and its shortcomings) as it relates to what we do here: online video.
There is no camera
Too bad, so sad. No video or still shots will be taken by the iPad. So you'll need a completely separate device in tandem with it in order to create and upload video—whereas I can shoot, edit, upload, and watch a video with just a single laptop (and most netbooks), and even an iPhone.
There is no Flash support
No support for Flash? Give me a break. I know Flash is a battery hog, and that Apple has a long, sad history of leaving Flash support off their mobile devices. But the fact of the matter is that Flash is everywhere online—tons of video players are built on Flash. Millions of websites are using Flash. No matter how badly Apple may want to kill Flash altogether… that transition will take years. So how will you use the iPad to watch YouTube videos? Well, thankfully, they have an app for that. Awesome.
The aspect ratio is screwy
It's 4:3… you know… like the TV you finally gave up on five years ago in favor of a widescreen. There will be so much black watching video with the iPad that you'll have letterbox-flashbacks. And 1080p is a flat-out mathematical impossibility on this display. Bummer.
Another problem for video fans? This is only a screen.
It's not a traditional "clamshell”-style computer… that's kind of the point. So using the thing is going to be wonky as all get out. Do I have to set it flat on my lap? I will if I need to type… but then I won't be able to see the screen I'm typing on. And as this article points out… you would have to hold the screen perpendicular to the floor for 2 hours in order to watch a movie—either that or you can fashion a makeshift stand out of your couch pillows. I definitely don't want to crane my neck down to my lap to watch videos. Of course, Apple is also releasing a docking station accessory to solve this problem, which will cost you another $100 or so.
More General Complaints
Lastly, some general thoughts that aren't specific to video:
- I'm not sure I want a computer that has zero USB ports. There are just too many things USB is useful for. Oh, but Apple is willing to sell me a special adapter thingy that will then allow me to use USB.
- I am definitely not ready to type exclusively on a touch screen. I have no idea how everyone else uses the Internet… but for me, there is a lot of typing involved. Blogging, typing URLs, sending email, instant messaging, searching Google… the list of things I use a computer for all involve some measure of typing. Call me a cynic if I'm not ready to just believe Jobs when he says that typing on the iPad is super easy. Heck, call me a flat-out conspiracy theorist. But hey… they're selling an add-on keyboard accessory for people that do a lot of typing. Swell.
If the iPad is going to be useful to me, I'll need to buy a camera, a docking station, the keyboard, the USB or SD card adapters—heck, by the time I buy and hook up all that stuff, I'll be as mobile as the Statue of Liberty. It might as well be a desktop computer at that point. This device is supposed to free me, not tether me to a hundred accessories. "Buy our screen-only tablet, and then buy all the other accessories you need to make it actually function like a real computer.” Sheesh.
Look… I'm a video junkie. I write about it, I watch a lot of it, and I even make videos from time to time. I love movies and TV shows, and watch more than 50% of my entertainment content on the computer… a nice, widescreen laptop. I can't see a single use for this new Apple device in my life.
Apple would tell me that I don't understand the device. That they're trying to create something new… and it might take a while to train the public on how to use the iPad. I say that's just lazy spin. It's as though Apple has created a product no one needed, only to then suggest we are just too stupid to realize we need it. Heck, it might even work. Millions of people bought the Apple TV, didn't they?
Look… they've more than earned the right to release any crazy devices they want. They can come out with a touchscreen toaster that plays MP3s while your bread burns… and I wouldn't cry about it. But that doesn't mean someone's going to buy it. I will be very, very curious to see the sales figures on the iPad come this time next year. Sure, there will be a lot of early adopters among the Mac faithful. But for video fans like those of us here at ReelSEO—and our readers—it's borderline useless. At best, it's fraught with so many shortcomings and add-ons that it's just not cost-effective.