Game-Changers Are Usually Imperfect

By  |  Monday, April 5, 2010 at 1:10 pm

The iPad reviews continue to roll in, and while most are extremely favorable–here are Engadget and Macworld–there are certainly voices of dissent out there. Dave Winer agrees with Cory Doctorow that it’s a toy. And Paul Thurrott, disappointed by the non-widescreen design, lack of cameras, and weight of the thing, says that folks who think the iPad is a game-changer are tools.

Is the iPad a game changer? It looks that way to me. But I already know that products don’t have to be perfect to be landmarks. The original Mac, for instance, was so short on RAM that it was barely usable for everyday tasks. The first iPhone was a 2G phone that arrived when there were plenty of good 3G phones out there. But does anyone out there want to make the case that they weren’t game-changers?

In both cases, the products’ deficiencies didn’t matter, because the things that were right–especially the software–were brilliantly right. And within a year or so, Apple followed up with upgraded versions that fixed the biggest issues.

Would a widescreen iPad with two cameras and less heft be more appealing than the machine Apple released on Saturday? You betcha. Will there be tablets from other companies with wider screens, cameras, and weight? Sure–but it’s rare that any product becomes a breakthrough via impressive specs alone.

Before Saturday, when people asked me how important the iPad was going to be, I told them to judge it not by the sum of the device that Apple released this week. iPad is a platform, and platforms are processes–so if you’re trying to figure out if iPad is a big deal, envision the one that Apple will release a year from now. Then decide.



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12 Comments For This Post

  1. Chris Heath Says:

    my thinking exactly – well put

  2. Keith Shaw Says:

    Great post, Harry. The problem is that if you like the iPad (I like it, and agree that it will change the way that other tablets are designed, etc.), you get accused of being an Apple fanboy or a tool. On the other hand, if you hate it you get accused of being a crank, or “you’re just saying that to be a contrarian, etc.”

    I’ve never seen so many people that have had a pre-formed opinion on something before they’ve either seen the device or used the device. This is the end-result of the Apple hype machine, but also of the media, bloggers, social media that feed the beast as well.

  3. sfmitch Says:

    I completely agree that there are things that aren’t perfect on the iPad and future versions will most definitely be better than the original.

    However, the aspect ratio of the screen is definitely not a problem. I think Paul just wanted something to complain about – or maybe he really did want to use this primarily to be movies and the aspect ratio truly does bother him. I think Apple really nailed the screen – size, shape, brightness, quality, etc.

    Harry, I also wonder how big of a deal the lack of a camera is. If you ask, would you rather have a camera than not – then, of course, throw in a camera.

    What is everyone wanting to do with a camera in a tablet?

    Do that many people really video chat? If so, you need 2 cameras.

  4. IcyFog Says:

    A widescreen format iPad wouldn’t make sense when it’s turned vertically. It’d be way too narrow.
    Also regarding formats, the current widescreen 16:9 format for TVs and computers is 1.78:1.
    Modern day movies are typically shot in either 1.85:1 or 2.35:1. In both cases to see a movie as the director wanted you to see it, you’d see black bars using a device with the 16:9 format.
    Just sayin.

  5. IcyFog Says:

    Also does an iPad really need a camera to shoot photos? I understand a webcam, but not a traditional camera. That doesn’t make sense to me either.
    I can’t imagine using something as big as an iPad to take photos. If I’m gonna take photos with something that weighs as much as an iPad, I’d rather have a DSLR camera. It’d take better photos, and it’s not as ungainly.

  6. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    > Dave Winer agrees with Cory Doctorow that it’s a toy.

    The priesthood, looking down their noses at the hoi polloi. These guys don’t want the game changed. The game favors them currently.

    These guys clearly don’t understand that iPad replaces your printer, which also has a computer in it and like iPad, requires a PC in order to program it. Unless these guys are writing and compiling software on their printers, their argument doesn’t hold up.

    Also, they talk about App Store apps all the time, and they talk about iTunes Store media all the time, as if that is the only choice on iPad. It is most certainly not. The alternative to App Store is HTML5 apps you can get off any server on the Web, and which live side-by-side with App Store apps on your home screen, and which work offline and have GPU accelerated graphics and touch and can be created with any tools on any platform. The alternative to iTunes Store media is any media you get from any source, easily added to iTunes on your Mac/PC and easily synced over. A user with a huge CD and DVD collection can easily fill up their iPad with media. You can also make media yourself, and in fact, every single Mac has a multitrack audio and music environment, movie editing, photo management, Web development tools, and so on all built-in, and they can all output directly to iTunes so they sync over to iPad.

    So the arguments these guys are making are ignorant at best. The first audio, video, books, and Web pages on my iPad will be the ones I made myself. These guys are blinded by their vision of computer hackers being above all other hackers. Music and movie hackers are just as important. Writers and photographers are just as important. iPad is for everybody, not just for the computing priesthood.

    > Paul Thurrott

    Has no credibility. When Microsoft ships a mobile tablet in 2012 or 2013 with no widescreen, no camera, and the same weight as an iPad, Paul Thurrott will say it is the best thing he’s ever seen. Same as he said the 2007 and 2008 iPhones were completely useless due to lack of copy-and-paste, but now that Microsoft is shipping a revamped Windows Mobile that will not have copy-and-paste in 2010 and 2011, he says no big deal, the other features make up for it. Well, duh. He has also been schilling for Dell while hiding that he’s getting paid by them. No credibility at all.

    > Would a widescreen iPad with two cameras and less heft be
    > more appealing than the machine Apple released on Saturday?
    > You betcha.

    I’m pretty sure you mean “at the same price point and with the same battery life” but the reality is, the batteries make up most of the weight and the $499 price point has no room for more stuff. A lighter iPad with camera and 5 hour battery life for $599 is not actually more desirable.

    These are weak complaints, anyway. The screen is the biggest ever on a mobile device, and you double-tap movies to see them widescreen or not. A camera is a much better dock accessory, including a pivot so you can aim it. An MSI Wind netbook is 1179 grams and gets 6 hours of battery life, while iPad is 680 grams and gets 10 plus hours. We should all have flaws like that.

  7. Jose Alvear Says:

    I agree, Harry. Very good points. The version 1.0 of new devices are never great. I didn’t buy an iPhone until late 2008, when it was much more mature. The iPhone only got picture mail and cut/paste a year ago, wasn’t it?

    I can’t wait for the iPad 2.0 because it will surely be better. But I don’t think I can wait that long.

  8. scott Thomas Says:

    I’ve watched Paul Thurrott on Leo’s Twit Live network, producing “Windows Weekly” and he sounds a little more contrite towards the iPad. He conceded that the iPad will be a very well made device. I don’t remember the exact words, but I think he may have even used the word “nice”.

    Paul I find is very entertaining. I would even say pragmatic. I have a lot invested in Apple gear, but even I was a little skeptical about the iPad. It wasn’t until I watched Andy Ihnatko demonstrate his iPad live to Alex Lindsey that I started to get it. Once I saw the real world demonstration, I had a better grasp of what this device means.

    It’s not a computer in the way we have thought about computers for 30 years. It’s a device for consuming content. It’s the missing link. Think of all the people you know that *want* to write emails, send tweets, watch YouTube videos, but don’t understand all of the complexity of the systems we have today. I’ve been tinkering with computers since the Atari 800, I later graduated to the Amiga. I used to have a mastery of all of the system directory structure. I was even pretty good at fixing Classic Mac OS systems. Now in this age, there’s too much. If I with nearly 30 years of experience with computers, has trepidation when monkeying around with the System and Library folders of OS X, how can I expect anyone else to? I still can do it, but it’s not the same.

    The need for Personal Computers won’t go away. There will still be content creators that need tools for heavy lifting. But *people* need easy access. And I can appreciate that.

  9. alphaxion Says:

    The iphone itself wasn’t a game changer here in the UK, it was the unlimited data tarriff that came with it that was. It dropped inhibitions for using the net to any degree on a mobile because you no longer feared a colossal data bill. But then, Network 3 had been helping this beforehand.

    The ipad totally underwhelmed me when I saw it unvailed, I was expecting so much more (imagine being able to use the bluetooth on it and turn it into a multi-touch interface for your mac/macbook?).
    It didn’t look any different to the devices from others such as Archos, functionality wise. The product vision is quite muddled and most people I talk to say “well, I don’t really think it’ll get much use out of me”.

    Tell you what will be game changing? The MS Courier, provided it makes it to market and matches what we have seen on the rendered videos. Sadly, that’s a big if.
    However, that device has me chomping at the bit for getting my hands on it – the idea of a net aware, infinite and collaborative digital notepad could really bring back the concept of personal computing in a way that PDA’s have so far failed for the majority of the population.

  10. Bill C Says:

    The iPad may be a platform, but it is a closed platform that makes developers jump through too many hoops. I can’t develop for it on a non Apple computer, I have to pay to get my app listed, I have to hope it passes their approval process, etc… Development hurdles don’t make for a very good platform in my mind. No thanks Apple!!

  11. gargravarr Says:

    Paul Thurrott – Ha! Mr. Thurrott has little or no credibility when it comes to predicting the success of most things, Apple products in particular. Despite this, he continues to rail away.

  12. Computer Parts Dwight Says:

    I truly believe that this will do little to the market of a the tablet or notebook computer. Its functionality is quite unuseful at the moment. Maybe a quick fix here and there may make it a better product, but it needs some things to make it safer and more effective..

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