28 January 2010

Scoring the iPad without having used it

In iPad About, Stephen Fry writes:

There are many issues you could have with the iPad. No multitasking, still no Flash. No camera, no GPS. They all fall away the minute you use it. I cannot emphasise enough this point: “Hold your judgment until you’ve spent five minutes with it”. No YouTube film, no promotional video, no keynote address, no list of features can even hint at the extraordinary feeling you get from actually using and interacting with one of these magical objects. You know how everyone who has ever done Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? always says, “It’s not the same when you’re actually here. So different from when you’re sitting at home watching.”? You know how often you’ve heard that? Well, you’ll hear the same from anyone who’s handled an iPad. The moment you experience it in your hands you know this is class. This is a different order of experience. The speed, the responsiveness, the smooth glide of it, the richness and detail of the display, the heft in your hand, the rightness of the actions and gestures that you employ, untutored and instinctively, it’s not just a scaled up iPhone or a scaled-down multitouch enhanced laptop – it is a whole new kind of device.

It’s not about the extra features. It’s about doing the basic features right. It isn’t about what it does; it is about how it does it. It isn’t about the number of features; it’s about the user experience.

Yes, you can browse the web and do e-mail on a laptop, a “smart phone”, or a netbook. Yes, the iPad doesn’t have other features that those devices have. What Apple is claiming is that the iPad handles these basic features—like the web and e-mail—better than those other devices.

Here are the tasks Apple touted as what the iPad needs to do better than a “smart phone” or a laptop. I’m guessing at how well it will do in each category.

By the by, I’m not a laptop person. I’ve used laptops, so I can do some comparison, but—for me—the comparison against my iMac tends to stand in for the laptop.

Web browsing: I’ve surfed the web on desktop computers, laptops, “smart phones”, and on my TV. There is a time and a place for using the web from all those devices. Most of the time, however, I’d prefer to be doing it the way it looks in the iPad demo.

E-mail: Pretty much the same story as web browsing. (Except I don’t think I’ve ever done e-mail on my TV.) I still want to access my e-mail from my iPhone and my iMac, but I expect the iPad will become my preferred e-mail access.

Viewing and sharing photos: Yes. Hands down. The iPhone will still be preferable for taking photos simply because it can and the iPad can’t. The iMac will still be preferable for organizing and sharing online. Still, viewing and sharing in person is an important thing that the iPad does look better suited for.

Video: Having watched movies on both a laptop and my iPhone (and my iMac), I think the iPad will be preferable. Of course, I expect my HDTV will still be preferable to the iPad, but perhaps not my standard-definition TV.

Music: I don’t see how the iPad adds significantly to this. Better browsing but that isn’t much. My iPhone will still be my preference.

Games: It depends on the game. Some games are going to be better on my iPhone; some on my iMac; some on the iPad.

E-books: It depends. For some books—like most fiction—I think I’ll still prefer my iPhone. For other books—like PDF RPG manuals—I think I’ll prefer the iPad.

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