Perfecting Imperfection


When the iPhone came out it was amazingly great and obviously stupid at the same time. No cut and paste? No changeable battery? No slot for expansion cards?

Now the iPad will have a similar growth curve, probably even steeper. The software that is initially shipping with it suffers from being 1.0. And Apple 1.0 versions suffer further from not receiving wide beta testing. Congratulations early-adopters, you get to beta test the iPad extensions to the SDK. This device will lay the groundwork for a great future in tablet shaped devices, and this initial device will be fondly remembered but not with the martyrdom of the Newton because this one will be supplanted by improved devices instead of being abandoned.

The netbook just died, it hasn’t stopped moving yet but netbook sales are about to fall off a cliff. I’m sure this drove the $499 price point.

This will be the device that makes eBooks real. Kindle was a side show, there will be more iPads in peoples hands than Kindles only a couple weeks after launch, and in a year there will be some serious numbers. The people with these devices in hands also just happen to be the people who spend real money on media.

There are hints of impending perfection:

  • The single most important thing about this device is the new form factor. The apps will come, and like the iPhone this will be a gadget that paradoxically improves with age.
  • Book reading will be good. Not perfect but very good. I’ve already switched to reading books on my iPhone months ago, this will be better, I think.
  • My kids won’t be hauling around huge textbooks in college, it is pretty clear that some device with this form factor will be filled with PDFs or something and take the place of print very quickly.
  • Book and magazine publishing has to be impacted by this. Not tomorrow but soon. Glossy magazines that found no love with Kindle will find it here. That goes doubly for Playboy and their kin. Cookbooks and cooking magazines, sports, etc. And comic books. Any pub that pay photogs or artists as much or more as they pay writers.

Unfortunately there are some flaws we will be stuck with for awhile, possibly until other manufacturers catch up;

  • Relatively low resolution screen. 1024x768? Really? Is it 1996 again? This will need to double linearly asap.
  • It shouldn’t be necessary to own a computer in order to make full use of either the iPhone or the iPad. This is an artificial limitation that needs to be corrected asap, iTunes is painfully bad now, it used to be great and single-purpose.
  • Cameras. Come on. This device format should be the video phone we’ve been promised for 40 years. (Though I’m not sure we want it any more.)
  • The bezel is way too big and spoils the esthetic, which tells me it was an unavoidable technical problem; guts too big to hide fully behind the screen, larger screens too expensive, battery life with larger display area too lousy. The thin-bezel OLED version of this thing in a few years will be pure sexy.
  • No GPS. Lame. Had to be cost driven for this generation.
  • For the love of Pete can we have a little multi-tasking? That Pandora has to stop playing so I can check a map is stupid on the 3Gs, it will be mind-numbing on the iPad.

For all that, will I be buying one? In a heartbeat. Trust me in 2–3 years you’ll have a device very much like this sitting on your desk, another in your living room, and maybe another that lives on your nightstand.