The iPad Report: The Premature Rants Continue

February 11th, 2010

All right, you can be certain that, between now and the actual arrival of iPads for shipping to customers, various and sundry financial and tech pundits will be trying as hard as they can to rip Apple a new one about the product. This is, in large part, a mirror of the six month run up to the release of the iPhone, so how could it be otherwise?

This week, no less than Bill Gates, who spends most of his time in the worthy effort of giving away much of his vast fortune for charitable reasons, is complaining that the iPad can’t possibly succeed because of its touch-based interface. To his way of thinking, you need both the traditional keyboard and a stylus to fill in the missing pieces. Certainly the former will be available as an option from Apple and other companies, but he forgets the fact that the technologies for touch and for a stylus are different, and melding the two might only deliver an imperfect compromise, but that’s nothing new for Microsoft.

The dreadful truth that Gates won’t confront is the fact that tablet computers, as envisioned by Microsoft, have been abject failures except in a few vertical markets. Doctors use them in fairly decent numbers, for example, but the public has rejected tablets, at least so far. To add insult to injury, 20% of the physicians surveyed recently said they planned to buy an iPad in the coming year. Take that Bill Gates!

I’ve already covered the objections to the lack of Flash, but I do wonder, in passing, if some of those columns are in part fueled by Adobe, hoping to force Apple by dint of public opinion to accept a Flash app on the iPhone and iPad. Certainly Apple isn’t above feeding juicy tidbits to the press, and it stands to reason Adobe has a vested interest in saving their product. Sure they give away the player plugins, but they make lots of money from selling you the content creation software. Without Flash to help boost their earnings statements, they would be even worse than they are now.

What they don’t realize, of course, is that if tens of millions of devices don’t support Flash, Web developers will simply look for other solutions that do work. That in itself will ultimately kill Flash, or at least reduce its ubiquity on the Internet. It’s not as if loads of potential customers of Apple’s mobile devices will choose not to buy them because of the lack of Flash. That may impact some people, but not a lot. Most customers aren’t quite so concerned about such things.

Another rant covers the lack of content partnerships. Sure, you know that some major publishers are already present at the starting gate to deliver e-book versions of many of their titles. You also know that Apple has, singlehandedly, upset the Amazon pricing scheme and caused the latter to sign new contracts agreeing to an “agency model” that allows publishers to have more flexible pricing structures.

But why, some might ask, haven’t you heard about textbook publishers? Surely, the educational market is ripe for the picking with the iPad. Students would love to get ahold of such a gadget, and they’d be even happier not to have to lug around tons of heavy books in their backpacks. And I haven’t even covered the high costs of acquisition, since I don’t expect electronic textbooks to be necessarily cheap.

Then there is the entertainment industry. Since Steve Jobs is the largest shareholder of Disney, why isn’t there a special deal covering a subscription service or a similar value-added extra tailored to the iPad? Where is that announcement, forgetting about all the other entertainment conglomerates?

Now the answers to both are essentially the same. If Apple blows its wad during the initial announcement, how do they keep up interest in the iPad in the interval between the launching and the actual shipping date?

The answer, of course, is to fuel interest with the rumors and reality of ongoing partnerships. So there’s a story out this week, still unconfirmed, that Apple may offer downloads of TV shows in standard definition format for one dollar upon the introduction of the iPad. It keeps people talking.

Between now and the end of March, it’s a sure thing there will be yet more announcements of various and sundry content partnerships. Some of this is strategic, with the news being doled out gradually for maximum impact. Some of it is simply because the contracts have yet to be signed. Such things don’t always come easily. Even the present deals with the music industry are the result of hard-fought battles over pricing and digital rights management, and in the end both sides gave a little to cut a deal.

It may also be true that one or more of the apparent missing features will somehow turn up on the shipping iPad. Some third-party accessory makers are already claiming that there’s room in the iPad for a Web cam. That either means there will be one at the starting gate, or that such a feature will appear in a future version. Or maybe they are just blowing smoke.

Regardless, it’s a sure thing that people won’t stop talking about the iPad for quite a while yet. That’s the way Apple wants it.

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14 Responses to “The iPad Report: The Premature Rants Continue”

  1. Lawrence Rhodes says:

    I enjoy The Steve’s Flash bashing. As I’ve mentioned before, on my 2.1 GHz iMac G5 all but the tiniest Flash video stutters in the browser plugin even when fully downloaded, while QuickTime and even WMV play fine. The Flash video even plays fine in QuickTime player using the Perian codec. I don’t know what’s wrong with the Adobe software guys, but they sure don’t inspire confidence.

    One dollar is the maximum I’ll pay for a TV episode even on DVD, so seeing the iTunes store adopt that price is of some interest to me.

  2. Dan Decekr says:

    Wow Gene, I never expected to ever read the words “blows it’s wad” on this site! Not that I think you are some kind of prude or that I’m offended. Just surprised. Bravo!

  3. adamk359 says:


    Bill Gates is contradicting himself here when he states that the iPhone blew him away but that the iPad doesn’t impress him…it should…it’s running the same mind-blowing software that impressed him years ago when the iPhone came out.

    Also the fact that he states that the iPad doesn’t do anything that he wishes Microsoft would have thought of first…well again he should. Apple knows how to design an interface…and a useful one at that. Microsoft does not…mobile or otherwise. If Microsoft really wants to push tablet computing they’ll come up with a slimmed down version of Win7 that is optimized for it. I just read an article about the Arcos 9 tablet running Win7 and it is just that…full blown Win7…and apparently it is horribly sluggish. Microsoft just doesn’t know how to do anything if there isn’t a good bit of bloat and clunkiness involved.

    If they want to really play in this arena…stop pushing mock-up videos of Courier and just build it for Pete’s sake…or well for Bill’s sake I suppose.

  4. Charles Jenkins says:

    My dad is a gun enthusiast, and he used to load his own shotgun shells. You use “wads” in their manufacture. To “blow one’s wad” means to fire one’s shot, rendering the shell useless. The idea being suggested is that you better aim right, first! Maybe Dan thinks the saying comes from some kind of…literature which has appropriated the saying for some other use… 🙂

  5. Jocca says:

    Microsoft and Apple have always had huge difference in their computing philosophy. MS likes to throw everything into their windows and when you run their program, the screen is filled with all sorts of options, some of which will crash the system if you happen to choose the wrong one. Apple interface is minimalist and every feature works without problem. The same philosophy is apparent in their mobile offerings and we know which one is more successful in this regard. Bill Gates’ tablet never gained traction in the real world because of this compulsion of his to throw everything into it instead of picking just the right balance of useful features as Apple seemed to do all the time. Personally I think the virtual keyboard on the iPhone is the future of mobile computing. Once you get used to it, you will realize that it has advantages that a physical keyboard on a tiny pad will just not cut it. The character recognition (for Chinese) on the iPhone works with the tip of the finger just works (no need to carry a stylus – something so simple that Bill still does not get). The iPad is going to be great and some of the program (Brushes for instance) will work even better on it than on the iPhone. It will really point the way towards the future of mobile computing, and Bill Gate does not seem to get it yet. Your article is spot on.

  6. Marty says:

    Careful with that axe Gene. Speaking the truth on these matters in these times could get you into trouble.

  7. DaveD says:

    I read Mr. Gates’ view on the iPad and can understand his vested interest in preserving the current Windows platform. But it’s a glaring example where and when Microsoft leads, others do no follow. Apple which had made many mistakes in the 80’s and 90’s finally learned and made corrections to become so successful in the first decade of the 21st century.

    Apple now knows who they are and what they want to be. Microsoft is in some kind of fog. It has found or trying to find success by copying others’.

  8. Rob says:

    My iMac 2 GHz G5 has some trouble with Flash (running at 100% of system resources with fan blowing failry loudly), but my more than 2 year old Toshiba laptop handles Flash videos at full screen without any hesitation or difficulty. I like both computers, but just because Flash doesn’t work well with Apple computers doesn’t mean it is bad.

    My daughter use to like the Webkinz site, and my Wife plays Flash based word games, and I like Hulu videos, all of which work fine on Windows Machines. This is my experience as a non-techincal user.

    Is it possible those who criticize Flash only have the perspective of how it operates with OSX?

    It seems as if Mac OSX and Flash don’t get along well.

    • adamk359 says:

      @Rob, Flash is one of those things like Windows…it became popular only because there really weren’t any other solutions. Yes, there are some websites built entirely in Flash and are animated and interactive and do serve some higher purpose than just playing media. However, for video content there are many better solutions now…and many companies are beginning to see that and
      move away from Flash as a content delivery solution. Apple is just simply pushing harder against than others at the moment.

      Supposedly, in the very near future Adobe is going to be building a Mac optimized implimetation of Flash…but perhaps by then it’ll be a moot point.

  9. Mike Cane says:

    >>>But why, some might ask, haven’t you heard about textbook publishers?

    Because ePub is crap and Apple knows it. And Apple will do something better:

    Apple Will Break Open The Digital Book Floodgates

  10. rwahrens says:

    Thanks for the link, Mike. That was a great article!

  11. Gabriel says:

    13 glaring iPad shortcomings ( and there’s more )

    While the iPad is fun to play with, it’s hard to figure out what role it fill.

    The iPad shows great promise. It’s thin and sleek and not like any other gadget out there. It was also more hyped than any new device in recent memory. But is it worth buying?

    Given the cost, and a slew of drawbacks, the answer boils down to how much you’re willing to pay for a toy.

    We’ve been testing both a low-end and top-end iPad all weekend, also letting family members ages 8 to 60 try it out and offer their reactions, and our overall conclusion is that while the iPad is fun to play with, it’s hard to figure out what role it fills that some other device doesn’t do much better. Here are the most severe problems we see:

    1. It’s awkward
    You can’t carry it on your hip like a phone, so it presents the same portability issues as any laptop – you’ll need a case of some sort to protect it and carry the power cable. Even around the house, there’s no simple way to carry the iPad. It’s too thin, heavy, slippery and expensive to put under your arm. Several of our testers were seen carrying it like a dinner tray, as a butler would, to go from the kitchen table to the couch. Portability, shmortability.

    2. It’s heavy
    To be sure, at 1.5 pounds and with all this functionality, the iPad is an impressive feat of engineering. But it’s simply not light enough (a Kindle ebook reader is about 10 ounces) and that heft adds to the awkwardness. Holding the iPad in one hand for more than a few minutes to watch a movie or read an ebook results in tired wrists. Even holding it with two hands to read an ebook is tiring. Reading an ebook on a smartphone is ergonomically much more practical.

    3. It’s slippery
    We might ignore the awkward size and weight, but the iPad is also slippery, and its aluminum back is ever-so-slightly slightly convex. You feel as though it’d slip right out if you try to hold it under your arm. And on the kitchen counter, it slides and twirls as you try to type or swipe the screen (required for navigating). It needs rubber feet, but of course then it won’t be near as cool.

    4. The screen has too much glare
    The iPad has the same glossy screen as Apple’s Macbook Pro laptops and iMac desktops. Unless you’re reading in a very dim room, the glare will be noticeable and can be distracting. Outdoors, even in the shade, the glare is really annoying.

    5. Forget reading in the sun
    If you thought to take your iPad along for an outing in Central Park or at the beach, forget about it. While bright and contrasty indoors, the iPad’s screen looks washed out and is almost impossible to view in bright sunlight. The Kindle’s non-glossy e-ink display fares much better outdoors than the iPad’s screen.

    6. Fingerprints are annoying
    Once you’ve used the iPad for a few minutes, among the most glaring shortcomings (besides the screen glare) are the fingerprints on the screen. With a smartphone, you can wipe the screen on your shirt or pants. The iPad is too big for that. We’re wondering what exactly to clean it with and where we’ll keep the cleaning supplies.

    7. It does not multitask
    The iPad runs the same operating system as the iPhone, and as a result has all of the iPhone’s limitations. The most obvious of these is the inability to multitask — or do multiple things simultaneously. The iPad can’t run more than one app at a time (with the exception of a few Apple apps, such as iPod, the iPad’s music playing app). While this is may be acceptable in a smartphone, it’s a major handicap in a device that Apple expects people to spend hours at a time on. (11 iPhone Tips That Also Work on the iPad )

    8. The browser is limited
    The iPad also uses the same limited Safari browser that’s found on the iPhone. While much fuss has been made about the iPad’s inability to play Flash video, there are other things it can’t do as well. For example, Safari on iPad can’t be used to create Google Documents, only to view them.

    9. The virtual keyboard stinks
    While the virtual keyboard on the iPad is much larger than the iPhone, it’s still awkward to type on glass. Even those who’ve used tiny, cramped netbook keyboards will be disappointed by the lack of real keys and likely reduced to one-finger typing. The iPad can be paired with a physical keyboard, but even this is awkward, because the actions normally done with a mouse or a trackpad on a desktop or laptop have to be done with your finger on the iPad.

    10. There’s no USB port
    The lack of even one USB port – the universal means of connecting just about everything these days – means you can’t connect the device to a printer or other computer peripherals, such as an external hard drive. The iPad can be connected to cameras, but it requires the purchase of a separate accessory from Apple.

    11. iPhone-only apps look horrible
    Apple boasts that many of the 150,000 apps already available on the iPhone will also work on the iPad. What the company doesn’t tell you is that when enlarged to fit on the iPad’s screen, these iPhone apps look horrible, with images and text very pixelated. For this reason, many people will opt to buy apps that are made specifically for the iPad, which tend to be more expensive than their iPhone counterparts.

    12. The price is just too high
    $499 is just the beginning, a low-memory model that will fill up too quickly for anyone with a big music library and/or an appetite for video. Toss in ample memory and a 2-year, $280 “we’ll replace it even if you drop it” warranty at Best Buy, and you’re out $1,000. Given the iPad’s weight, awkwardness and slipperiness, we think the warranty is smart.

    13. It doesn’t replace anything
    The iPad will not replace your smartphone. Unless you can’t type, it won’t replace your laptop. If you love books, you could argue it’s a great e-book reader, but let’s see what your wrists say after a few days. The Kindle is a better e-reader. Frankly, we’re not sure what need the iPad fills, other than the desire to be cool by owning a device that is in a class all its own.

    This is just SOME of those testers didn’t like about “SUPER HYPED IPAD” – it doesn’t innovate anything at all – its just iphone & ipod touch expensive big brother…

    If APPLE will sell a POOP with APPLE LOGO on it, theres still retarded iFANBOYS will buy it, like me before ( i have mac book pro, iphone & ipod touch-just to say I’m IN the circle ) I’m buying their stuff but thats enough they are shortchanging people & for you not to feel mad towards them, they will give you lollipop (firmware update) and will ask you to wait for another one later…


    • I’m sorry you didn’t like the iPad. I do hope you actually bought one, though, and you’re not blowing smoke. But I have a few comments.

      7. It does multitask, but not with third-party apps, and if you have been doing any reading on the subject, you’d know that Apple’s version of this feature (far better than what you get with an Android) will be offered with the next software revision, this fall. So you just wait if you can’t handle it till then.

      8. No Flash? You’ve fallen for the Adobe Kool-Aid here. 86 million users of Apple’s mobile computing products have managed to survive for nearly three years without Flash, and big sites are rapidly moving towards HTML5.

      11. Horrible apps? 200,000, actually, and it was reported from Day One that the ones not yet optimized for the iPad would look pixelated at 2X. You living in a cave, my friend?

      12. Price? The pundits figured it would be more expensive. Actually Apple delivered the iPad at a pretty reasonable price for what you get. Apple’s extended warranty is $99. You don’t have to buy Best Buy’s.

      13. The Kindle DX is only $10 less. Is that overpriced too?

      Methinks you actually don’t have an iPad. You just read a few critical and not always well-informed blogs and made up the rest.

      Have you ever actually touched one? Even for a few minutes? It’s time for you to tell the truth here.


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