Are Apple’s iPad Shortcomings Real or Perceived?

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I’m not an Apple apologist, honestly. I don’t like everything they’ve created, I swear. I don’t own iEverything (no Apple TV, no iPod, no MacBook Air, etc.). However, in light of the flurry of initial iPad complaints, I just had to counterbalance perceived shortcomings with a modicum of reason.

EMPHASIS: Perceived shortcomings, not actual shortcomings. The damn thing hasn’t even shipped yet!

If you fell victim to the hype surrounding the iPad, you deserve to be disappointed. Don’t hold Apple accountable for it not living up to some truly insane expectations.

Mind you, I find the lack of a camera a glaring omission from the first generation iPad. The aspect ratio (4:3) and stunted video output (not even 720p) are also shockers. We might find these limitations addressed in future hardware revisions, iHope.

  1. Still no support for Flash. Adobe needs to get on their shit, yo. It’s not Apple’s fault that Flash is one of the worst-written, unstable, unoptimized pieces of software on the planet. Blame Adobe, not Apple. The #1 reason to use either Safari on Snow Leopard or Google Chrome on either Windows or OS X is to sandbox that POS Flash plugin. If HTML 5 takes off, say good-bye to Flash and its proprietary madness that we’ve been made to deal with. No support for Flash is an absolute blessing, folks.
  2. No USB Ports. I’ve read that this was a “must.” A “must” for what, I ask? A laptop, sure. The iPad isn’t a notebook computer. It’s like complaining that the iPad doesn’t have a CD tray.
  3. Apple is still using AT&T for 3G. So, don’t buy the 3G service? Even in a pinch, you could get it for a month and drop it the next – with NO CONTRACT, I’m not sure what else there is to complain about?
  4. It’s an oversized iPod Touch. This argument has some degree of merit, but here’s what the iPod Touch doesn’t have: a fast processor (by today’s standards), wireless 802.11 N, an LED screen that supports IPS, support for an external keyboard, customizable SpringBoard background, allegedly-longer battery life, and… of course, a screen that’s much more accomodating for sharing and viewing content.
  5. $499 is too much to spend on it. Really? I dare you to find another touch-controlled device that’s EQUALLY powered and just as usable today. Compare the starter-level iPad to Amazon’s Kindle DX (which is currently selling for $425); it makes the iPad look like a bargain. If you put it in the eBook Reader category – ALONE – it’s a clear leader.
  6. It’s not a Tablet PC. Duh. Do I really need to explain why this isn’t a valid complaint? Jesus Diaz did a great job explaining this on Gizmodo last week.
  7. Still no multitasking. Here’s a suggestion: focus on the task at hand instead of juggling? More to the point, research is now suggesting that multitasking actually slows us down! I’m not going to hold a device responsible for what neuroscientists say is a shortcoming in human wiring – and neither should you. Pay attention to that which needs it – and nothing more. There are certainly cases for needing more than one app open at a time, but not at the peril of a good (single) app experience. Knowwhatimean?
  8. Still no background apps. I do believe the workflow of app switching could be better, but in my experience, background apps zap power – and one of the biggest issues with mobile devices today is battery life. I’m more concerned about my “percentage left” than I am knowing I can’t have a Web page and email message open simultaneously. Moreover, I’ve used devices that support background apps… and… I really don’t miss ‘em all that much.
  9. There’s too much bezel. That’s what I thought, too – at first. Then I thought: “What if I touch something I didn’t want to touch, when I was just trying to hold on to the gosh darn thing?” Point also addressed by the must-read John Gruber.
  10. “iPad” is a stupid name. Yeah, I’m still cringing over their choice – but in all my 36 years on Earth, I’ve never avoided a product due to its name. Its color and design, yes – but its name? Who cares what it’s called if it works? And that’s still the question which remains: will the iPad WORK? I can make fun of a million names, too.

For as much as you might not want one, the iPhone OS experience is the most usable mobile (and touch) platform out there today; I’ve yet to experience anything like it. I got my Mom an engraved iPod for her birthday last year, and she’s been eyeing the Kindle. I told her to wait – and I’m glad I did. It may not be the end-all, be-all gadget for geeks, but for people like my Mom? More than adequate.

The iPad is an all-encompassing content consumption device that belongs more in the traditional “media reader” camp than it does the traditional “tablet computer” camp. When you place it in that category, the reasons Apple made its decisions with the iPad become largely clear. Would you mock an eBook reader that didn’t have a camera?! I’d hope not. And what about admonishing a digital photo frame that didn’t run Flash apps? Not likely. The iPad might compare to an Archos 5 Internet Tablet, but even that isn’t a very fair comparison.

Seems to me that most initial iPad complaints are largely due to the problems WE are having in classifying this device in our existing taxonomy of gadgetry. From Wikipedia on perception:

The processes of perception routinely alter what humans see. When people view something with a preconceived concept about it, they tend to take those concepts and see them whether or not they are there. This problem stems from the fact that humans are unable to understand new information, without the inherent bias of their previous knowledge. A person’s knowledge creates his or her reality as much as the truth, because the human mind can only contemplate that to which it has been exposed. When objects are viewed without understanding, the mind will try to reach for something that it already recognizes, in order to process what it is viewing. That which most closely relates to the unfamiliar from our past experiences, makes up what we see when we look at things that we don’t comprehend.

Food for thought.

Oh, and I’m also looking to get a new PC (with Windows 7) at some point in the near future – so stick THAT in your fanboy-pipe and smoke it. ;) That, and if you have any recommendations, I’m all ears – but not because I’m looking to replace something in my life, but augment it.