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The iPad Controversy

Thiago Alves

On January 28th Apple released its new product, the iPad. Since a month or more before the release, everyone was speculating and trying to guess what this new product would be and how it should change the world.

Well, the day to know the beast came and almost everybody was disappointed with it. The question is: Why?

Original iPad

In my humble opinion, the problem happens because everyone was expecting a step above the laptop and no one like it when they realize that this new product came below laptops.

The dreamed tablet running MacOS X unmodified had to wait, but let us face it, what are the primary uses for a tablet? I can come up with some:

  • Specialized software like medical or coaches playbook
  • Reading
  • Students notes

Honestly, I can't see a further use for it since they first appear in 2001 as the first public prototype from Microsoft.

The industry didn't put any effort to bring tablets to the mass until they realize that Apple was doing it. But we cannot talk about tablets before say a word or two about NetBooks for two reasons: First they came to life as the gadget between smartphones and laptops (which is what Apple claims iPad is) and the second because Steve Jobs talked about then on his Key Note.

Unfortunately, I have to agree with Mr. Jobs. I can't see myself programming, writing long texts, playing a game or even watching a movie on a NetBook. But I can see myself taking notes from a class on it, reading an email on the road and doing a quick post on this blog.

But for those tasks that a NetBook will fit I can't avoid thinking in this workflow:

  1. Open my bag;
  2. Take the little gadget from it;
  3. Open the lid;
  4. Wait for it come to life;
  5. Start the desired application;
  6. Use it;
  7. Close the application;
  8. Shutdown the NetBook;
  9. Put it back in the bag.

This workflow is the same when I use my laptop; only the gadget is smaller. Sorry but I can't see any difference.

Also, we have to think about NetBooks performances. I don't have one so I cannot talk too much about it but I wonder if a NetBook is faster enough to a "quick post" before an appointment.

Imagine yourself going to an office for a meeting and the secretary says that you'll have to wait for a while.

No problem I can take my NetBook and make some notes on it while I'm waiting!

Well, if the waiting time is shorter than the time your gadget takes to turn on, it will be embarrassing.

So why NetBooks exists in the first place? Contrary to what Mr. Jobs believes, NetBooks have two things way better than a laptop:

They are smaller and cheaper then laptops!

And those are two things that mobile professionals love!

A full computer a little bigger than my smartphone?

Who cares if this machine doesn't do as much as my laptop! I can put it in a backpack/purse, and it cost way less than a laptop!!!!

And the NetBook market was formed. The industry started to think in ways to improve it, make it better, bigger, smaller, prepare your breakfast and everything you can imagine until Apple did what they are excellent about:

Get a small set of tasks and do them in the best possible way.

You can see this in MP3 players. Everybody knows that a generic MP3 player has way more functions than an iPod, but for those tasks that an iPod does, everyone else fails miserably. Microsoft felt this with its Zune.

And what are those tasks Apple is trying to embrace with the iPad? As I can see (disregard what Mr. Jobs said) these are the key features that iPad intent to do:

  • Reading
  • Browsing
  • Email
  • Movies
  • Specialized apps

And I'm pretty sure that Apple will do them brilliantly, as always.

So imagine yourself reading a book or a magazine on a NetBook, then imagine the same thing with an iPad. Which one is better?

Aha! But for read books I have a Kindle and iPad will never be a Kindle killer!

Exactly! iPad is not a Kindle killer because it doesn't have to! Remember that iPad has its place between smartphones and laptops and eBook Readers are a whole different category.

But Apple launch the iBookStore! How can you say that this is not their intent?

Well, I think on iBookStore as another media store for Apple devices. Imagine three years from now with iBookStore having almost the same books as Amazon and then Apple launch an eBook Reader with eInk. Its device will have all those titles available just like Apps for iPad! So reading on iPad is probably way better than any other device except eBook readers.

Now, on the category of Specialized Apps that iPad will shine. Which you think is better, a medical care software used by hospitals on a NetBook or an iPad?

That's the point! Apple didn't try to launch a product competing with laptops or smartphones because they will not have two products competing (they already learned that lesson from the past).

They launched a new platform for new possibilities, and we'll only see what iPad is good for in a year from now with the help of iPad developers.

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