What the iPad Is Missing

by Bakari Chavanu Feb 04, 2010

A reader response to my initial opinion about the iPad hipped me to the fact that the iPad doesn’t have a USB-port for external drives. I had assumed as such, but consumed by the hype of iPad announcement I totally didn’t realize that the USB feature on the device is nothing more than a 10W USB Power Adapter for charging the iPad.

Of course, Steve Jobs and team spent nearly 90 minutes showing off the great features of the iPad, comparing it to netbooks, which Jobs complained are "not good for anything." But he didn’t point out what I think are not so obvious about some of the iPad‘s missing features. So here some further thoughts of mine about the iPad.

Not a Laptop Replacement
I think first off, we need to be clear that the iPad is not a replacement for a conventional laptop. As my reader pointed out, not only does the iPad not include support for external USB devices, but it will not be able to run conventional applications, only iPhone and iPod touch applications. Jobs of course didn’t point this out, and I think many potential buyers of the device might assume that it can handle non-iPhone apps.

For users who have a MacBook or MacBook Pro, getting an iPad simply might not make sense. I never purchased a MacBook, so the iPad will replace, but not fully replace, my old PowerBook. By the way, I never purchased a MacBook because I’ve always thought they were too expensive and they were not as portable as a netbook. So finally that issue is being addressed, for me anyway, with the iPad.

Cloud Computing
There’s another way I think of looking at the iPad. It’s not a netbook or a laptop because that’s not what it’s meant to be. It may well be a slightly different way of computing. For the most part, we use computers to both produce and consume content. Computers help us edit and produce documents, videos, digital images, spread sheets and multimedia applications. And of course, the bulk of users spend a lot of time consuming what is produced using computers.

The iPad falls more in line with the consumption side of computing. Yes, there will be plenty of apps like specially formatted iWorks apps demoed at the Apple keynote that will be useful for producing content. But largely, the device’s portability and 9.5” screen are designed for entertainment purposes: watching videos, playing games, social networking. For heavy-duty computing, it’s not what you would use.

Secondly, the iPad like the iPhone and iPod touch are great for cloud computing. What that means is that content (music and other digital files) are accessed over WiFi and 3G connections. You can access a lot of content on Internet servers or wirelessly through a local computer network.

However, this may be not be an attractive way of computing for many users. The only content my wife and sister, for example, have ever posted in the "clouds" are emails. They don’t have a storage locker of files on anybody’s server. They access whatever I put on my MobileMe galleries, and that’s it. While I on the other hand access lots of media files over the Internet.

So maybe in the same way that Apple boldly got rid of the floppy drive before many of other computer manufactures did, it may now be leading its users away from depending on large and external hard drives. At least in terms of its portable devices.

In some cases I’m okay with the cloud computing, though it has drawbacks. I’m largely okay with it because it’s not the only way I’m forced to produce and consumer media content. I’m okay with it because it means I’m not constantly adding more external drives for my ever growing music files, nor am I not having to deal with backing up that data. As long as I have WiFi connections, I have access to that content.

Finally, the reader of my article wrote: “The iPad really is just a large, over-priced iPod touch. Apple is charging a $300 premium for the iPad over an iPod touch with the same memory. Granted, it’s a larger display, but that’s most certainly not costing Apple an extra $300 per device.”

He scores another major point here. But Apple‘s shrewd marketing approach to the iPad will probably make most potential buyers okay with the $499+ price tag. Though like I said before, the price of future generations of the iPad will probably be cheaper and include lots more features. So it really depends what your computing needs are and if the first generation iPad fulfills them.

I’ll be attending Macworld next week and will report back on my hands-on assessment of the device. Looks like I might leave the event more conflicted about the device than I am now. And I don’t think I’m alone in this view.


  • Your article seems to be lacking a few facts….

    The one that stands out the most is your comment that the iPad only runs iPhone (or iPod Touch) apps. I think you may have missed the way it has (or will have) it’s own apps, and ALSO runs iPhone apps. They are not Mac apps, but they are more than iPhone apps and in many cases equally capable.

    You also didn’t get a MacBook because you wanted something as portable as a NetBook. And yet you then say the iPad isn’t powerful enough… but neither is a netbook.

    Remember also that a bigger screen also means a bigger battery. The processor is faster on the iPad than the iPhone (hopefully they’ll all have a similar processor shortly). The unibody design has a higher cost etc.

    Lastly, I’m not sure why the cloud computing angle is a problem for your wife and sister. If you are correct that it’s a content consumption device then the providers of the content will be making sure it’s accessible, it won’t matter to your sister where it’s stored.

    So if you’re conflicted, best to get some facts straight before you make your decision.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Feb 07, 2010 Posts: 228
  • Greg, it’s not so much about getting the facts straight. The point of me piece is that the iPad is not a traditional laptop or even a netbook. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing is hard to tell until it actually comes out and we’ve had time to play with it. From what I‘ve read so far, I think it has some very good features, but it may be a little confusing for some users who still haven’t taken advantage of what the iPhone or iPod touch can do. Of course that will change over time. And those who get it will get it, and those who don’t will depend on others to explain it to them.

    Whatever the case, it’s going to be interesting to see the evolution of this device.

    Bakari Chavanu had this to say on Feb 07, 2010 Posts: 47
  • I’m not arguing your reply - I agree it’s a new piece of technology that needs to be evaluated from a fresh perspective and not as compared to a computer.

    I just disagreed that it only runs iPhone apps, that a full powered laptop was the same price, that the extra price was too much since it is just the bigger screen, and your take on the cloud. Oh, and disagree that you’ll see it next week at MacWorld (though that would be a good move on Apple’s part if they could wangle it).

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Feb 08, 2010 Posts: 228
  • Yeah, you‘re right I was just reading this morning that Apple won’t even have a booth at the Expo. I think that’s a pitiful shame and seriously disrespectful to Macworld attendees and Apple supports.

    Bakari Chavanu had this to say on Feb 08, 2010 Posts: 47
  • To be fair to Apple, it was about 14 months ago that they announced they wouldn’t even have a booth at MacWorld this year.

    But with the iPad, it would seem to be a good move if Apple showcased it a bit! I wonder, though, if Apple would particularly avoid that out of respect for future MacWorld attendees, so they didn’t expect last minute appearances by Apple with fancy products….

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Feb 09, 2010 Posts: 228
  • Page 1 of 1 pages
You need log in, or register, in order to comment