So, yesterday was the big day. The Coming of The Tablet. I’m not exactly a big tech pundit. I’ve never seen an iPad in person. I haven’t even played with the emulator yet. But I thought I’d still post my immediate reactions.
The Name: It’s not that bad. It doesn’t trigger the same juvenile “feminine products” joke urge in me that that it does with all of the commentators on Slashdot. It kind of reminds me of PADDs from Star Trek, which is a good association for a high-tech device. It’s better than “iSlate” would’ve been. I think “Apple Tablet” would’ve been better, but I don’t know that it’d be trademarkable. Not that “iPad” is exactly easy from a trademark standpoint…
The Hardware: Looks gorgeous. ARM Cortex-A9, which is about what I figured. For you people that have never designed an ARM before: that doesn’t mean that ARM designed the chip and Apple/PA Semi just slapped their design down. Given Apple’s propensity for attention to detail, I’m sure they didn’t just use the synthesizable core from ARM and put it in an SoC — I’m sure that they took the architectural/micro-architectural IP and built their own chip.
The non-ultranerd parts of the hardware look nice, too. People online are complaining about the bezel, but I think it looks about right. John Gruber agrees. The screen isn’t OLED, but I have a Sony NWZ-X1061, and I can personally attest that the screen technology is not useful in bright light. OLEDs now are where LCDs were 10 years ago — completely transmissive (well, actually emissive in this case, but it’s the same idea). Somebody somewhere will come up with a way to make transflective OLEDs like they did for LCDs, and then we’ll have reasonably usable OLEDs. Then the price can come down about 90%, and Apple can put one on an iPad. Until then, a big IPS LED-backlit LCD is the way to go.
The Software Ecosystem: This is the biggest point of contention. It’s true: Apple is deploying another closed ecosystem. Like the iPhone, this product will not encourage tinkering. I’m sure somebody will jailbreak it. I’m equally sure that it won’t matter. I have a few different responses to this issue:
- It’s as open as the web. Yes, you can’t run native code on it without getting it through a barrage of Apple testers. You have a first-class web browser which seems to be much better at handling multiple open pages than Mobile Safari on the iPhone is. I see this as no different than WebOS or ChromeOS. Apple has no problem making useful APIs available through the browser (like Geolocation). Hell, with things like Bespin, you can even do development through the web.
- The iPad isn’t going to replace tinkerer’s computers. If I could move my parents away from full computers to iPads today, I’d do it. The safety of a managed platform far outweighs anything else, given how much important stuff people are putting on their computers nowadays and how dumb most people using computers are. Yes, I’ve heard the argument that without being able to tinker with the inner workings of your OS, you can’t grow up to be a proper hacker. Well, I never really tinkered with the inner workings of my OS until I was old enough to buy an old desktop and put Red Hat 5.1 on it. That ability won’t be going away.
- It doesn’t matter what I (or anybody else reading this blog post, probably) think. The 3 million people that will buy iPads this year (my personal guess) don’t give a crap whether or not you can deploy unsigned applications to it.
The Audience: This is going to be big. Not as big as the iPhone (at least, not right out the gate). But big. It kicks the crap out of Chrome OS and netbooks in general (the idea of a cheap netbook-level device with decent industrial design and fabrication is amazing). I’m going to want one. And you’re going to want one, too.