The iPad: a nice distraction, but when does the future really begin?

More local adventures yesterday with the monthly MoMo (Mobile Monday) lunch and discussion, followed by a workshop on tagging technologies, organised by the Edinburgh College of Art.

The topic for this month’s MoMo was “keep taking the tablets!”, inspired by recent local, regional, national and international salivating over the iPad.

Jess wrote an excellent update on MoMo here: http://startupcafe.co.uk/2010/05/10/ipadstablets-debates-and-insights-from-momo-edinburgh/ – some nice comments too.

I still don’t really get the iPad. Frankly it shows just how poor innovation is in the mobile/notepad market that Apple has floored the competition with relatively little effort. I recognise the flexibility and creativity that comes with touch-screen technology, particularly from Apple… I do, but come on people, it’s just a big version of the iPhone. One of the things I like about my iPhone is the diversity of content I get from something that will fit in my pocket. I bought a MacBook earlier this year, which together with my iPhone, as well as my iPod and two digital cameras enables me to feel comfortably tooled-up.

There are two main reasons why I resent the iPad… Firstly (actually the first reason consists of lots of smaller reasons) none of the benefits presented at MoMo persuaded me why I should add an iPad to my collection of Apple devices. Chatting with Fraser (lead developer at Blonde) about this, he suggested one of the advantages might be collaborative working, but then the iPad seems such a small workspace to share with someone else. So I had a look online… what were other people saying about the benefits of the iPad?

So first stop: http://connectwithyourteens.blogspot.com/2010/04/10-ipad-benefits.html (in hindsight this might not have been the best link to reference) – where they listed 10 benefits for the iPad – I’ve included my thoughts!

1) “The iPad is perfect for the times when my laptop is too heavy but my iPhone is too small.”

My laptop’s pretty light and I’m never far away from a WiFi connection for work that needs done on a bigger screen. I don’t see this as a reason to purchase.

2) “I still didn’t have an e-reader or a netbook and wanted both.”

I spend so much time in front of a screen already, it has become a luxury to feel the touch of paper. I was never a big reader at school, but will now happily take a book to bed, into the bath with me, read in a coffee shop and perhaps most importantly lend to friends. Plus… nobody’s going to mug you for your book and it doesn’t matter if it gets soggy round the edges.

3. “Watching videos, movies and television shows on the iPad is amazing.”

I doubt that. Watching 3D films, with surround sound in a cinema is amazing. Why do we have to squeeze experiences that are already scratching at the glass to be let free, into such limited spaces? This isn’t where they belong.

4. “The split screen makes it so much easier to use apps like calendar and email”

This may be so, but it still doesn’t solve my greatest diary and email problems: how to easily aggregate events in a diary, which come from different sources. E.g. Facebook, professional email, personal email, text message etc and how to file and label messages so I don’t feel continually swamped by email.

5. “Being a tablet makes the iPad so much more portable than even a netbook. You can take it from room to room and easily watch it at the same time. If you are using a recipe act, there is no need to print out the recipes, just bring the iPad into the Kitchen. Want to show family members something on your iPad, just carry it to the room they are in.”

Who moves from room to room with their netbook or laptop? I’m either moving around the house doing exciting domestic stuff, or I’m sitting on the bed or on the sofa surfing the web or chatting the friends. Since my recipe books have had to be packed away in the garage, I have had to resort to looking up recipes on my iPhone and laptop, but with the fear of spilling something on either device.

6. “Pictures look beautiful on the iPad. Now I have a new place to keep my family pictures. Slideshows are automatic, no need to learn how to make one.”

Perhaps you need children to want to see photos over and over again, but I don’t often look at my photos once I’ve uploaded them to Facebook or Flickr. The most important part aspect of taking photos for me is the ability to share them with other people. The platform is pretty irrelevant ….

7. “The iPad is simple to use. Especially if you already have an iPhone or iTouch, there is no learning curve at all. And because the iPad is so intuitive, even people that have never used an Apple product will easily adapt to the iPad.”

Hmmm, the developers at Blonde may disagree with this statement, given my not entirely infrequent queries about my Mac’s “quirks”. You’ve heard that Macs “just work”, well sometimes they don’t stop working and occasionally they’re so clever, it takes ages to figure out what actually happened and they’re only vaguely intuitive if you’ve never used a PC. Once you’ve learned how to use a PC, you have to unlearn a lot of stuff in order to use a Mac.

“8. The iPad is very fast and scrolling is a breeze.”

Not much you can say to this… erm, next?

“9. The virtual keyboard works pretty well when using the iPad in landscope mode. If you plan on doing a great deal of typing on it, you can buy a real keyboard to use with it.”

Ah, so all the benefit of wrapping all these applications up in a compact device is still lost when you want to do any real work…

“10. I love reading newspapers and magazines on the go. The iPhone screen was too small for me to fully enjoy this.”

Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s the former art student, but I love paper magazines. I love stacking them up by my bed, reading them over breakfast, tearing out interesting pictures that I can have on my wall. What I like about life is the portablity of content and I certainly don’t want mine contained in 8 by 10 inches.

Second stop was a clip of Steve Jobs unveiling the iPad; I got two thirds of the way through before I tired of “extraordinary!” “best browsing experience!” “phenomenal!” (mentioned three times), “unbelievably great!” “way better than a laptop, way better than a smartphone!”, “an incredible experience!” and “a dream to type on”. Hmm, not if my iPhone is anything to go by (I don’t like touchscreen keyboards).

And yes, secondly (see, I haven’t forgotten I had another point), why, why, why haven’t we made more progress with wearable computing? It’s already been established we’re not designed for screen-based lifestyles…. it’s having a significant impact on health. I’ve pointed Kristina Höök’s work out previously…., but she makes some valid points: we are equipped with all this mobility, emotion and gesture and yet we fix ourselves in front of all these grey boxes (even the very thin ones).

I find it a little sad that the iPad has generated so much excitement, when nobody seems to be discussing what it means to be mobile.

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