A hope book named iPad

A hope book named iPad Rijo Jacob Abraham

After months of hype, Apple’s new sensation, iPad, hit stores in the US on April 3. As expected, thousands of people thronged Apple showrooms in the US to own the tablet PC, which according to gizmo geeks, is a paradigm shift in the multi-media and personal computing experience.

No doubt, the iPad is a revolutionary idea. But many cast doubt on the revolutionary zeal of iPad as a product. One can buy it if he/she wants to be a part of this ‘phenomenon’ or he/she is a professional-line sitter like Greg Packer. The retired American highway maintenance worker, also known as the “Man on the Street”, waited three days outside the NYC Apple store in Manhattan, to become the first man to get the iPad. For Packer, it’s a habit. He was the first man who owned the iPhone, the first to be on ground-zero and the first to be at “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” launch.

My point is that buy the iPad just to own it, not for what it is. Or, may be for what it will be. It is the ‘hope book’ of Apple.

When Steve Jobs, Apple’s charismatic CEO, unveiled the device on January 27, he said it will be made available in the market by “late March”. However, Apple deferred its commercial launch to April 3, citing unspecified “manufacturing bottlenecks.” And it was good for the product. There was enough time to create hoopla by the Mac-fixated journalist and reviewers. The number of units for initial sales was also reduced. Initial reports say it did not go in vain as Apple sold around 300,000 iPads on the very first day of its commercial launch.

The missing link?

Why will you buy an iPad if you are not in the leagues mentioned above? Steve Jobs positions iPad between a smart phone and a laptop – a missing link between the “too small” smart phone and the “too big” laptop. The 1024x 768 screen is a good relief from the small screen of a smart phone. But creating lengthy documents can be difficult with the on-screen keyboard.

Presentations with iPad are possible with a VGA-adapter, which costs extra. All the extra accessories could undermine the missing-link factor.

Better than a netbook? Well, it’s true that the XGA screen of iPad provides much richer display experience. However, a major drawback of the device is that it permits only one application at a time. Also, there is no video chat option.

No Flash

The Adobe-Apple war seems to have spilled over to iPad as well. Like iPod, iPad also does not support Flash, a key component for today’s web experience. The Apple CEO hasn’t made any indication that he would tie up with Adobe in the future. At the best, Flash will be relegated to small-screen experience.

The New York Times app that is used in iPad for magazines and newspapers is too limited in the range of website it can access, critics say.

On Kindle’s shoulder

Steve Jobs admits that Amazon’s Kindle has revolutionised the e-book space. Asked about iPad’s ‘iBook’ app, he told reporters: “We are standing on their (Kindle’s) shoulders.”

The iBook app will enable users to buy ebooks from their store and create a virtual book store, which looks really cool. Plus, Amazon has launched iKindle app which will let iPad users access Kindle ebook shop.

If you are planning an ebook reader iPad is definitely expensive – an iPad starts at $499 while Kindle at $259.

iPad is slightly bigger than Kindle. But the issue here is of weight -- iPad weighs1.5 pounds and Kindle 0.6374 pounds -- which could make the former cumbersome to use as a device that would be put down after a long time. But, it is not an ebook reader, after all.

App woes

Adding to the woes is a long list of restrictions on sharing files over network, or installing softwares that do not match Apple’s strict approval guidelines.

Apple has approved around 1,384 apps for iPad -- the largest software collection in the world so far. According to technology experts, these apps were originally designed for iPhones with lower processor speed and small screen. They just are tweaked a bit to be used in the iPad.

Plainly speaking, iPad is just a bigger iPhone. There is not much greater experience offered, if you have used iPhone. (It’s quite ironic that iPad does not support iPhones). Reviews show that it is difficult to use iPad as a full-fledged work-horse.

So, here is the world’s slickest gadget that does not replace either your laptop or netbook or smartphone.

The desire

The Economist ran a cover-story soon after the launch of iPad saying: “Rather than developing entirely new product categories, it (Apple) excels at taking existing, half-baked ideas and showing the rest of the world how to do them properly.”

Many agree that Apple’s hope lies in lobbying websites to develop flash- free websites. If that move succeeds, iPad could change the rules of the game. Wall Street Journal and the National Public Radio have already announced plans to develop flash-free pages. Will others follow suit? It’s not yet clear.

More than a useful device, iPad is a strategy, a desire to transform the market. If it sustains the initial excitement, no doubt, sweeping changes are in the offing. If not, well, let’s see.