Monthly Archive for January, 2010

A Few Thoughts on the iPad

Here is a jumble of thoughts about the iPad, after finally getting a chance to watch the Stevenote last night. If you haven’t watched it, I think that there are some parts of it that are worth watching, particularly the app developer parts. When I first saw the online coverage of the iPad announcement, I wasn’t that impressed. On the surface, the iPad is pretty unsurprising. It’s a tablet and it’s based on the iPhone OS (or may be we should really be calling it OS X Touch).   

User Interface

One the one hand, the iPad is the same iPhone OS that is familiar to 70 million iPhone users. On the other hand, some of the keynote demos show that the larger form factor is going to have some interesting UI potential.

I usually try to pay careful attention to presentations by game developers. It’s not because I am a big gamer myself, but it’s because the people doing games are usually doing some of the most insane, crazy, and interesting things in the business, and it’s worth paying attention to the things that they say are important. Both of the game demos for the iPad had some pretty interesting UI and commentary on the experience of the machine as a whole.

The other really interesting part of the keynote was the iWork demo. I am very impressed with the way that iWork has been adapted to the touch screen. There are a number of really cool multitouch gestures that were demonstrated. This is going to be the beginning of some very interesting user interface stuff.

Integration

I spent most of yesterday watching the Oracle/Sun strategy webcast, and a major theme was the way that Oracle plans to tightly integrate Sun’s hardware, and to optimize the entire hardware and software stack. The Oracle Exadata database machine was repeatedly touted as an example of this kind of integration. If the benchmarks and early customer experiences are indicative, this integration has paid off handsomely, as it has also with the Sun Storage 7000.

The new A4 processor powering the iPad received only brief mention during the keynote, but here too is the same kind of integration. Details on the A4 are very scarce, but speculation is that it was done by the team that Apple acquired from PA semiconductor. It appears to be an ARM compatible (iPhone apps do run) system on a chip design, and I would bet that it is contributing to the (relatively) low price, long battery life, and high performance (according to Gruber) of the device.

I think that it’s worth noting that companies like Google are also doing this kind of vertical integration, building their own custom PC designs, having custom Linux kernels and other software. Many of us in the “open” world decry vertical integration because it is almost inevitably closed, but the kind of engineering virtuosity that is on display does impress.

Wireless

Apple appears to have gotten iPad users a deal on 3G pricing from AT&T. I am not really sure that this is a step in the right direction. If Apple is to believed, we are entering a world where a person could have no less that 3 devices (phone, pad, laptop) in need of wireless data (and voice) connectivity. A contract/plan for each device might be great for the carriers, but it is horrible for the users. Since even Apple has backed down in the face of the carriers, it doesn’t look like this is going to change much, but it ought to.

Me

Will I buy one? I’ve been toying with the idea of buying Kindle for some time now. I wanted the size of the Kindle DX, since I wanted to read PDFs of books and research papers, but I felt that $499 for the DX was too much to pay for a book reader. The iPad is obviously a much more capable device than a Kindle, and I’d expect Amazon to upgrade their Kindle iPhone app to run on the iPad.   

I think that the iPad would be vastly superior to my iPhone as a means of showing my photographic portfolio. I can also imagine using an iPad as a tethered shooting target, which would definitely be interesting. The tablet form factor could lead to some pretty interesting photography applications, and the iPad CPU appears to be reasonably capable.

I’ll say this much – I definitely want to play with one.