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Apple iPad misses the mark as HD-enabled living room tablet, media controller

Apple iPad misses the mark as HD-enabled living room tablet, media controller

“Missed it by that much!” – Maxwell Smart, Get Smart

Huh. Yeah. That new Apple iPad is full of potential. I really want to want one but it feels like it’s just missing the mark by a hair. And that hair is going to keep this writer from buying. At least for now.

I’m not going to run down all the details of the iPad. I’m sure you’ve read an article or watched a newscast that’s covered the tablet in-depth. If not, watch Apple’s overview video above. That should do the trick.

You see? It’s not a smart-phone and it’s not a laptop. Apple claims it’s a whole new category of device. I get that. And I think the devices it’s directly competing with are the Amazon Kindle (a dedicated book reader) and the netbook (crippled, mini-laptops). But the iPad doesn’t offer the easy-on-the-eyes ePaper screen of the Kindle, making eye-strain a probable issue when reading ebooks. And it doesn’t have the ability to multi-task or the extensibility of a mini-laptop. The iPad only has one port and it’s not standard. If you want to plug anything into it, you’ll need a handful of adapters.

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So, it’s not the best eBook reader and it’s not the best mobile workstation. At the end of the day, it just comes across as a big iPod Touch or iPhone, right?! Another window to consume media. Well, here’s where Apple missed the boat. They focused on functions that we see everyday on our phones, and functions that other, cheaper devices do better. They spent their keynote speech demonstrating the devices ability to read text and create spreadsheets. They should have shown us new things. Things that this device can do better than anything on the market. Like comic books. Like magazines. Any two-bit e-reader can handle text. There isn’t anything on the market at the moment that can allow a comic or magazine as printed to resonate with a reader in digital form. The iPad can do that. It can display full, large coloured pages as they were designed. As they were meant to be read. And I’m certain it will, through applications like ComicZeal, Comixology and iVerse.

But more exciting to me is the potential for this device to become something new in my home. Like, for instance, to become my media controller. I can envision myself sitting on the couch, leaning back with my iPad, scrolling through all my music, movies, TV, books, comics, magazines. The access is all there in my hands. But I imagine some of this content living on my Macbook Pro hard drive, on an external HD networked through my Airport Extreme or on another dedicated media device like Apple TV or PS3. I should be able to find a movie, no matter where it’s living in my house and click play on my iPad. And when I want to share it with others in the room, the iPad should be able to move the film to my 40″ LCD display, whether through a media centre like the Apple TV or directly through a wireless DLNA connection. All of these things are possible with the hardware built in to the iPad.

When I say that the iPad misses the mark, it’s really in relation to our expectations of the product. We were hoping for something revolutionary and transformative but were shown more of the same. Only bigger. In hardware terms, it fails to make the grade by not including a more universal port (like USB) and a webcam to video chat. I’m not sad that it doesn’t include a Blu-ray drive. I think it’s ridiculous to expect a thin, handheld device to contain a spinning optical drive. I got over carrying my discman around with me about fifteen years ago.

In terms of the software, the sky is the limit. Anything is possible. So, to my mind Apple really missed out on impressing its consumers and critics by failing to provide an example of the potential of the product, leaving it up to application developers to dream of new directions for the product. It could be so much more if Apple will only allow it to be. If they have the vision to take it there.

Will I buy an iPad this year? I’m still undecided. Do I hope it succeeds? Absolutely. I look forward to owning an iPad that proves itself to be more than my iPhone. And more comfortable on my lap and in my hands than my Macbook Pro. And if it manages to somehow become interoperable with my Blu-ray player so much the better!

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