Daniel Eran Dilger
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Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 7. It needs cameras

Daniel Eran Dilger

Here’s segment seven in my series taking on iPad myths: no the iPad doesn’t need a camera for video conferencing.

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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Dear gadget spec people: 7. It’s a myth the iPad needs a camera and other peripherals built in.

Spec-oriented gadget people often really don’t like Apple because the company doesn’t cater to their specification numerology game. Apple didn’t release any irrelevant details about how much RAM was in the iPad nor how many transistors were in its new A4 custom processor. Apple relies entirely upon utility, not upon numerical puffery, to sell its products.

Where is the iPad’s camera? There’s a lot of iPhone apps that make some use of the camera, and there’s some evidence that Apple may get a camera into the iPad before it ships, just as its expected to add a camera into the next revision of the iPod touch. However, the camera-free iPod touch has become extremely popular without a camera, so its a bit of a stretch to suggest that the lack of one on the iPad is a deal breaker.

A built in camera?

The iPad doesn’t really need a camera built-in because it has the ability to work with external peripherals wirelessly. An enterprising third party should be able to create a Bluetooth camera that works as both a general camera, a front facing conferencing camera, and whatever else users might want a camera for. A built in camera on the iPad would only limit what users could do with it. The same goes for other devices.

Additionally, many iPad users will also be carrying an iPhone or some other camera phone. It’s much easier to grab a photo or video from a mobile phone and then wirelessly deliver it to the iPad than it would be to hold up a tablet-sized device while awkwardly trying to shoot a picture or a video sequence.

Of course, had Apple included a camera in the iPad as demonstrated, all the pundits would be dashing to their typewriters to explain to us why this will prevent it from being attractive to corporations, because some have security policies that forbid the use of cameras. That’s what they complained about the iPhone, despite the fact that pretty much every phone has a camera.

Getting nowhere with flattery

Using the iPad’s camera connector, any other external camera can also be used to fill it up with photos on the go. But there’s also another good reason why users probably won’t be too excited about trying to video conference from an iPad: it simply presents a terrible camera viewing angle when held as a tablet device.

Unlike the MacBooks and their roughly eye-level, forward-facing iSight, the iPad would typically be held and used at a very unflattering angle for taking pictures and especially videos visible live to the party on the other end of a call. Most people seem pretty resistant to the idea of video conferencing as it is; throwing in a tragic camera placement on a tablet isn’t going to improve things.

Peripheral potential

Additionally, beyond the camera and other built in devices, the iPad doesn’t need a USB port (as some critics are weeping about) because it already has USB signals exposed on the dock connector, just like every other iPod and iPhone. And really, the iPad doesn’t need anything built in, because Apple designed iPhone 3.0 to work with external peripheral devices via USB or Bluetooth.

It can also interface with other devices via WiFi, just as it does with Apple’s Remote app to control Apple TV. This appears to be a secret to many pundits. Use it, and you’ll wonder why nobody is crowing about Apple delivering the first multitouch remote control that makes navigating through menus on your HDTV feel downright futuristic. Another company might be hyping that free app as a major product offering.

Still, the iPhone Remote app only gives a glimpse of the kind of sophisticated control surfaces third parties could deliver for the iPad. Among these, of course, is the ability to manage complex interaction with a real camera for podcast recording, or even a small wireless cam that could be placed at a flattering angle for recording directly to the iPad. If, that is, anyone actually does want to video conference with it.

  • miloh

    @gctwnl:

    Multiple profiles are only necessary if one assumes the need for multiple people to share a single device. If one does not assume this need, then other options become available. Context is key. One must always be willing to question their assumptions and adjust the parameters of the problem. The tricky part, however, is recognizing when one is making an assumption. It’s not always obvious. I fail at this quite often myself. :)

    A shared iPad may not be in Apple’s plans. I see no reason why it couldn’t be a personal device like the iPhone or iPod. If each person had their own, that would eliminate the need for any sort of individualization capabilities.

  • buffo

    I’m curious:
    How many people here video chat?
    How many video chat on a mobile device?
    Using wi-fi?
    Using 3G?
    What is the performance like using wireless services?

  • Player-16

    @miloh:
    Multiple profiles. You had to bring THAT up. Example: the night before, after the youngens have gone to bed and you surf ‘those’ sights. The next morning, the youngens want to go back in history: ‘hey that’s curious? What were they looking at? Ohh!! What’s this all about?’ Everyone’s forgetful. Forgot to hit “Private Browsing”.

    Anyway, chances are, the iPad will be held in ‘portrait’. The camera is mounted parallel to the screen. To correct this, you would have to tilt the screen, lower the position of the screen; both would mean holding it further and steadily from your face. Another option would be to mount the camera on the side and you would hold it in landscape; possibly covering the speaker and/or mike forcing you to hold it along the top or bottom edge. The rear facing camera: that’s a odd if not comedic gimmick. You’ll get the shakes holding something so large steady while clicking. Do you see why having a camera on such a large device is more of a dock-mounted option than a necessity? Its use is limited. Try taking a picture with your laptop while holding it in your hands and tell us how that turned out.

  • miloh

    @Player-16:

    That risk of the children seeing your porn history currently exists with the single-user iPhone. Why should the iPad be any different?

  • sp800

    How would you defend the lack of USB?

    [Do you mean, were it lacking USB? – Dan]

  • Pingback: Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 8. It’s a curse for mobile developers — RoughlyDrafted Magazine()

  • Pingback: Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 3. It’s ad-evil — RoughlyDrafted Magazine()

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  • Pingback: Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 6. It needs HDMI for HD video output — RoughlyDrafted Magazine()

  • John

    Multi-user device? Easy.
    Buy 2 of them!

  • John

    Or more.

  • miloh

    @John:

    Exactly. :)

  • SteveS

    @gctwnl 46:
    Yes, Daniel produces better arguments than the likes of Thurrott or Enderle, but that’s not exactly making great praise for Daniel either. The point I was making is that they’re equally predictable and apparently incapable of challenging even the smallest of decisions made by their company of choice. If you’re aware of a situation where Daniel has been critical of Apple, I’d be interested in reading more about that. If not, then my point remains valid.

    @ChuckO 48:
    No worries, I took no offense to your obscenities, etc. The point of mentioning it was simply to demonstrate your own hypocrisy. Remember, you were the person accusing others about getting “way over emotional about a FREAKIN’ IPAD!”. Remember that?

    As for the missing camera being the “dumbest thing Apple could have done”, I’ve said no such thing. I’ve not predicted success or failure based on this missing feature. I’ve simply made the point that the missing camera is a valid criticism. It’s a feature I would like. It’s a feature that you yourself admitted that you’d like (through your iPod Touch example). The point I made was that the cost was trivial and various other sources have indicated there is a placeholder in the iPad frame for the camera already. Giving Apple a pass on not including the camera is one thing, but writing an entire article defending Apple’s (poor) decision was a bit over the top for me. I enjoy Apple products as much as anybody, but such fanaticism is a bit much for me. I’m glad to see that you enjoy it though. Drink up! ;-)

  • John

    @SteveS

    Well done!
    Beautifully thought out. Congratulations!

  • http://www.metrokids.ca Conrad MacIntyre

    @SteveS

    I have to point out that you are not providing a valid criticism. You are comparing the lack of camera (which will make NO difference to MOST users) to lack of a LEFT ARM? Surely Chuck and I cannot be the only ones who see this hyperbolic analogy as so ridiculous as to not warrant any validity.

    Anyway. Camera might be marginally useful, not as useful as my left arm. *facepalm*

  • aquaibm

    Great! You don’t really need a speaker built-in because it has the ability to work with external speakers, and you don’t even need a mouse or keyboard came as standard because it has the ability to work with third party peripherals wirelessly.Genius!

  • Pingback: Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 9. It can’t multitask — RoughlyDrafted Magazine()

  • Pingback: Ten Myth of Apple’s iPad: 1. It’s just a big iPod touch — RoughlyDrafted Magazine()

  • Pingback: Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 4. It was over-hyped and under-delivered — RoughlyDrafted Magazine()

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    In the original account I posted this Video to on YouTube, it received 1,722 views and the following comments:
    codeincomplete (3 days ago)
    I am not so sure that you can build a real third party camera accessory with the iPhone 3.x SDK. Prior to iPad SDK you couldn’t even do an external keyword or sim card reader. Maybe it could be done with bluetooth or wifi but that is hardly an intergrated solution.

    I really don’t like a company excluding a feature because it wants people to buy the next version! While missing a camera may not be a final deciding factor, a camera is a key feature for this kind of device.

    xocoatlmty (1 week ago)
    I’ve seen all seven myths, but this is the weakest stated.

    I am sure future versions of iPad will have camera as I know future versions of iPod Touch will and then what will be your argument?

    thehighconcept (1 week ago)
    If you read the accompanying article, you’ll see that the point isn’t that a camera would be a terrible thing on the iPad, but rather that it’s simply not true that the iPad will be a failure if it lacks a camera. The iPod touch is very successful without a camera.

    PaulAlbacheese (1 week ago)
    it wasnt solved by iPhone 3.0!
    the reason it doesnt have it is because its a media CONSUMPTION device, not a media PRODUCTION device.
    and we all know that the 3rd party will just come out with shit.

    JellyFish1965 (1 week ago)
    I think this one is my favorite so far…You were funny.

    TheLxxy (1 week ago)
    …either way, I’m off to make an iPad shoulder holster just in case…no arm fatigue, and you’ll only look marginally ridiculous!

    TheLxxy (1 week ago)
    While I can understand the perspective someone holding an iPad in it’s most natural position would be seen via webcam, would it not just be a matter of holding it up vertically?

    I’m not sure of the ergonomics, and of course having to extend out your arms and hold them into any sort of place would certainly keep any sort of conferencing short…but how about snap judgement pics? Or the ability to read product bar codes? Though, with a USB tether that might be more convenient…

  • Player-16

    @aquaibm:
    ‘You don’t really need a speaker built-in because it has the ability to work with external speakers’? I don’t understand. It’s like saying; you don’t need a desk for its thin and incapable of standing upright on its own. You don’t need a power switch for it has the ability to shut off on its own. Mind you, that’s what you’re saying. There are times when I do not wish to have ear/headphones or a cord dangling from my device while I enjoying a bit of leisure. Did you know that the iTouch now has a speaker built-in for ‘casual listening’? What happens when you’re out and about and you want to show some QT video to someone: take out the earphones and let them wear ’em?

  • aquaibm

    @Player-16
    Man,have you really read my comment?

  • Player-16

    @aquaibm:
    I quoted the first half of your sentence so I must have read it. So please correct me or clear it up to what you’re saying about not really needing a speaker built-in and its ability of working with external speakers.