Daniel Eran Dilger
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Ten Myth of Apple’s iPad: 1. It’s just a big iPod touch

Daniel Eran Dilger

Apple’s unveiling of the iPad was guaranteed to do two things: temporarily tank the company’s stock price (just because) and, of course, generate a torrent of feigned outrage and righteous contempt from the usual suspects who always jump all over anything the company produces. As reader Jose Cerritelli points out, an Upton Sinclair quote is appropriate: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Here’s the first segment in my series taking on iPad myths: no the iPad isn’t just a big iPod touch.

Ten Myth of Apple’s iPad: 1. It’s just a big iPod touch
Ten Myth of Apple’s iPad: 2. iPad needs Adobe Flash
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 3. It’s ad-evil
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 4. It was over-hyped and under-delivered
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 5. It’s just a Tablet PC or Kindle
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 6. It needs HDMI for HD video output
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 7. It needs cameras
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 8. It’s a curse for mobile developers
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 9. It can’t multitask
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 10. It needs Mac OS X
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It really didn’t matter what Steve Jobs said, anymore than it didn’t really matter what President Obama said later that same day. The Tea Party of populist rabble rousers, carefully framed by their corporate sponsors, were poised to pounce. Obama could lay out plans to educate more Americans and provide better health care while also lower taxes for the middle class and reducing the national debt and he’d still be jeered for not being able to magically and instantly undo the last decade’s perfect storm of unregulated banking fraud, massive corporate welfare, and an irresponsible lack of investment in jobs, all within his first year.

Similarly, Jobs could unveil a blazing new mobile processor, a genius new expanded user interface for multitouch, a new SDK to make it immediately useful and supportable by third parties, a series of new business models created to support an historically lackluster form factor, and blockbuster pricing to make it affordable even to starving students… and the tech rags and online pundits would only crow about missing support for Flash games aimed at seven year olds. Who is generating the most inane nonsense about the iPad? Let’s take a look.

Dear underwhelmed: # 1 : It’s a myth the iPad is “just a big iPod touch.”

Everyone with nothing interesting to say is just chiming in to inform us that they were underwhelmed by the iPad. Yes, thank you for your arrogant indifference, it’s very impressive that you casually shrug off something nobody has been able to bring to market before. The thing is, nobody really predicted anything cool that Apple didn’t deliver. It’s all just the typical initial response to anything Apple introduces: waaa, I wasn’t sufficiently entertained.

Remember how excited many of these same tools were when Microsoft blew the vaporware smoke that was Courier? Yeah, nice looking renderings of an impossibly expensive concept that will never be delivered. Or how about that Surface? We couldn’t escape the excitement of a bathtub kiosk that people could touch to play what amounted to a visualization loop. Who cares that some hotels ended up installing these $10,000 do-it-yourself kits? And the Zune HD? It was tiny, unfinished and played an ad before opening Chess. Gadget morons loved it.

Apple throws out gold and everyone insists they must yawn before stooping to pick it up. The iPad isn’t just a big iPod touch; it’s a significant rethinking of a product category that melds the simple mobile interface created for the iPhone with a new layer of familiar conventions with the full sized sophistication of the Mac OS X desktop, pared to a multitouch user interface.

The only thing I predicted that didn’t get demonstrated was a VNC client for remote desktop sharing, but the fact is that there are already VNC third party apps for the iPhone, and the iPad will run them unmodified. It’s likely they’ll be enhanced to take full advantage of its full resolution. I also said that it “won’t run page layout apps,” and sure enough, it will. I played around with cropping and masking photos in a text-wrapped Pages document. So yeah, I’m impressed.
Why isn’t anyone articulating exactly why they weren’t impressed? Because they can’t. Everyone expected the thing to cost $800 and nobody suggested what it might actually do. Earlier this month, HP took to the stage at CES with Microsoft to show off a clunky thick device that didn’t really do anything apart from running a version of Windows 7, and didn’t have a clear price or any special features. Nobody was very impressed. Apple’s iPad is the opposite of that. If you’re not impressed, you’re simply not very intelligent.
Unless of course, you are the CEO of Nintendo and are shrugging off the iPad, not because you’re trying to look cool and ingratiate yourself with the Apple-haters, but because you realize that your own mobile AND console gaming platforms now look straight up ridiculous. And really, isn’t there some massive hubris involved with Nintendo blowing off the iPad as “just a big iPod touch” after it has only managed to rev the DS ineffectually and rebadge the GameCube as the Wii over the last several years?

  • gctwnl

    The desktop OS might become more ‘touch’ too. Hah, I’ve got an idea (drum roll…) “OS X Mobile” ;-) (Please, please, don’t take this seriously. I am kidding!)

  • clochard42

    @99gctwnl: If I remember correctly, Steve said during the introduction of the iPhone: “iPhone runs OS X”. So your explanation hit the point.

  • SunnyGuy53

    To say the iPad is just a bigger iPod touch, is not true. Yes, it is a bigger iPod touch — but no, it is not “just” a bigger iPod touch. If that were so, then why bother with making it? In reality, it is yet another game-changer from a company that has become known for game-changers. Apple has been on a roll, ever since SJ returned. Like starting off on a bicycle, it takes time to get moving, and get your mojo. But once you do — the sky’s the limit. What Apple’s been doing since the first colorful iMac was released, no one in their right mind — even Apple fanbois — would have predicted. Apple’s been hitting on all cylinders for almost a decade now. Don’t expect them to ease off anytime soon.

    Sunny Guy

  • http://macsmarticles.blogspot.com Derek Currie

    Much as I agree with Dan about FUD attacks against the iPad, I don’t go along with the concept that ‘It’s a BIG iPod Touch’ that does 3G being FUD. In fact, I’ve been using this explanation to help people understand that the iPad is NOT a computer as we think of them. It is instead a ‘Consumer Appliance’ and therefore has a very different feature set from a computer. The idea is SIMPLICITY. Therefore, the computer running the show is hidden and inaccessible to the user. This approach to computer enhanced devices is going to be MASSIVE in the future. It’s another step forward in user-friendliness.

    Q: What current device most resembles the iPad? The iPod Touch. Why is this fact supposed to be FUD? I have no idea. Instead, pointing out that the iPad IS a BIG iPod Touch that does 3G helps people comprehend exactly what it does. I’ve found this explanation entirely helpful to people who’ve come up to me and asked about the iPad.

    However, there is a lot more to the iPad than simply what you get with the iPod Touch. The larger size enables a lot of features the iPod Touch can’t pull off, including allowing it to be a great reading device. The iPad also has an incredibly beautiful and functional revamped user interface that no doubt will filter down to the Mac with time.

    One prediction for the iPad that didn’t come true: No IR interface. I see the iPad as your house and shopping hub. IR allows it to be your Universal Remote for anything with an IR receiver/sender. I suspect this will happen, if only as an add-on gadget.

    Also, the iPad already has an inner frame that is able to hold an existing iPhone camera. Watch this happen in v2.

  • gctwnl

    @sunnyguy53: Steve, though extremely good, is of course not perfect. Remember the Segway of which SJ predicted it would be the biggest revolution ever? Remember how the NeXT failed even if it was a technological masterpiece (and its failing was more a matter of Apple & Microsoft stifling the market for NeXT)? Remember the G4 Cube? (Actually, I own a G4 Cube and a NeXT Cube, so what does that say about me?)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/gctwnl/sets/72157622973369487/

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  • Seth72

    Good work and nice presentation. A few tips to improve your video.

    1. Aim the camera lower, and position your head left of center.
    2. Add some front lighting to brighten the picture.
    3. Don’t try to fit in all your presentation into one clip. Get one or two minutes of video down at a time, and don’t be afraid to push clips together. If you stay in the same place, most people won’t notice the transition.

    Anyways, good job and nice analysis of the iPad. Can’t wait for its release!

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  • Shunnabunich

    I think the problem a lot of people have with the iPad is that, in the state in which it was shown to us, it isn’t a large enough step forward. No, I’m not talking about running desktop OS X on it — that’d be the same stupid mistake that caused Windows tablets to be an abject failure. But at the same time, if, say, the iPhone had been a similarly “small step” as the iPad, it’d be an iPod Classic that made phone calls, like all those silly fan mockups predicted it would be.

    There’s no denying that the iPad has potential, especially now that developers simply have more room to play with, both on the screen and in the hardware. The problem is that it has almost nothing BUT potential at this point. It very much seems to have been introduced before the software was finished, so they hacked wallpaper support and floaty menus onto the existing iPhone OS and dumped it on the iPad just in time for the keynote. It’s nice that they made a bigger iPod touch for those who wanted one, but it just doesn’t seem like enough of a change to warrant its own separate product. The iPhone didn’t rely entirely on third-party apps to make it successful; it made its own way in the world first. In contrast, the iPad is going to need the charity of iPhone developers to give it anything resembling a “killer app” outside of the niche e-book market. The issue here is NOT, I think, that the iPhone OS isn’t good — because it absolutely is — but that the iPad doesn’t have anything new that makes it “special”.

    Even third-party multitasking alone (or, alternatively, Apple-vetted third-party background processes that can be turned on or off by the user) would have accomplished this. It would’ve said, “hey, this is the same iPhone OS you already know and love, but grown up for a grown-up device”. Now, there’s a distinct possibility that this could show up in iPhone OS 4.0…but by then, the iPad will already have earned a reputation for being introduced without it. Apple could’ve avoided the damage and made themselves and the iPad look far better just by waiting until it was ready for prime time.

    (As for background processes, I realize that sounds scary, but only if you think of them the same way you do on Mac OS X, as mysterious, invisible daemons or little icon gremlins sitting in your menu bar. What if Apple provided a visual, touchable UI space just for them, sort of like Dashboard? Perhaps you’d pull down on the status bar when you’re in the home screen, and unfurl a sheet of icons or very simple widgets that let you turn on your background IM service or background GPS navigator? There are plenty of use cases that are sorta-kinda covered by Apple’s PNS, but…well, to me at least, PNS has always seemed to be a kludgy stopgap measure at best.)

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  • http://www.markalanthomas.com marsviolet

    Ulicar doesn’t get it.

  • miloh

    @marsviolet

    It’s always interesting to watch how different people respond to new information, particularly if it’s contrary to what they previously knew. Some are open to change and will say, “Oh? I didn’t know that. I wonder what else I don’t know. I’m going to go study it.” Others get defensive and occasionally hostile. They pride themselves on knowing and cannot bring themselves to admit (or even recognize) there are things in the world they do not understand.

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  • http://blogs.sfu.ca/people/lpb/ lpb2ha

    I agree with the author re the 8 myths listed so far. See also:
    http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2010/02/11/apple-ipad-thums-up-brain-fitness-value-and-limitations/
    it’s an interesting device, one could write about this for a long time.
    Luc

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  • http://www.cyclelogicpress.com Neil Anderson

    “Everyone expected the thing to cost $800…”

    I expected it to be $999. And to think, the most expensive 3G model is over a hundred dollars less than that. Times, they are indeed a-changing.