iPad observations

We all know about the newest apple device by now, here are my impressions:

Big iPhone: This was a really good decision on Apple’s part. It would have been a major mistake to put the full version of Mac OS X on this machine. It needs an OS that is rooted in the touch interface from top to bottom.

Apple has shown with keynote and pages that you can build full fledged applications to work on the iPad with more or less all the functionality of a desktop app, so we’re not constrained to “mini-apps” like on the iPhone.

Unfortunately Apple remains the sole gatekeeper of which apps will make it onto the store, and therefore which apps will make it on to your iPad. Gone is even the pretense of needing to do this as a measure to protect cell phone networks. Apple doesn’t need to be the gatekeeper, it just wants to be. They think it offers a better experience, and it many cases that’s probably true. Unfortunately you still end up with situations like the Google Voice app, where Apple can simply kill dead anything they don’t like. That still sucks a big one.

As for steve saying that the iphone provides a better web browsing and e-mail experience than a laptop, I’ll believe it when I see it. Any web browser that doesn’t have options to block ads is not a better experience. Also, if a browser doesn’t have flash, it’s not a better experience. There are full websites built with flash. I don’t mind not seeing them on my iPhone. But it would be a big problem with my main couch surfing machine.

Hardware: It looks like Apple was taking aim at the netbook segment, as its screen size and resolution are almost identical to most netbooks. It’s bigger than the kindle, but smaller than the kindle DX. Without holding one, it’s hard to get a sense of how it would feel. I really like the kindle, but it’s clearly not meant to be a web browsing device.

Like the iPhone, it’s an incredibly closed piece of hardware. No USB ports, no access to the file system, all connections going through the dock connector, no memory expansion slots, etc.

The screen sounds nice, but the a ppi of 132 seems too low for reading books without eyestrain.

No webcam? Seriously? You don’t think this thing would be great for video ichats? What the hell?

I don’t believe for one second that this thing will get 10 hours of battery life. Apple is notorious for stretching the truth on this one, and I’d be shocked if it made it through a work day.

eBook Reader: I bought a kindle around christmas and my review is still forthcoming so take the following with a grain of salt.

Backlit displays are hard on your eyes. They create a large contrast in light levels between the screen and your surroundings, which is why most display calibration software recommends turning brightness way down, or why LCDs on your laptops are unreadable in bright sunlight.

Unfortunately this ends up reducing contrast on the display itself, making the darks and the lights closer to one another. This is also hard on the eyes.

That, along with the battery savings is why amazon chose e-ink. You need front lighting so you’re guaranteed the same light levels as the surroundings, and the contrast of the screen itself is fixed. It’s more like a book. If you start to get eye-strain, you simply put more light on it.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, the pixel density seems too low. This also creates eye strain.

And while it’s cute and all, it’s just stupid to waste 200 pixels or whatever to render the unturned pages on the side of a book. I know Apple probably feels it’s got pixels to burn, but it makes the text seem lopsided, and I’d rather just have text span the whole space.

While it’s great that Apple is using the ePub format, and that makes it great for publishers who want to reach a lot of devices, it’s still undoubtedly using DRM, so who gives a shit what format you choose if I can’t move my books over to another device?

Letting publishers set whatever prices they want is fucking stupid if you ask me, and going to result in slower sales. There will have to be significant differences between a kindle offering and an iPad offering if you’re going to charge 2-5 dollars more per book on average. And you know what publishers are going to do to demand that higher price? Absolutely fucking nothing. Sure authors can add video if they want, but they won’t. Why?

Because publishers still hate e-books. They’re being dragged kicking and screaming into the market, and they’re just barely playing the game. One of my complaints about the Kindle is that out of the 15 or so books I’ve bought, probably 30% have significant layout or spelling errors, where the text was obviously typeset for a book, and probably not finally proof-read. This isn’t on old books either. While publishers are massively benefiting from dramatically lower costs of production, and cutting out the middle men book stores, they still charge very close to the cost of a printed book, and obviously do less work. I rarely see more than one or two spelling mistakes in printed books, and I can’t think of the last time I saw a layout error.

If publishers can’t even be bothered to proof e-books (a product on which they make significantly higher margins, and also get other massive benefits like killing lending and reselling), what possible justification can they have for demanding 90% of the price of a printed product? Apple simply letting them name their price is a bad idea, and will largely be used by publishers to put pressure on Amazon to raise prices. Presumably Apple expects publishers to put more work into the iPad versions of books to justify the price difference with Amazon. If they honestly believe that, they’re delusional.

Also presumably like the kindle, there will be no lending or sharing. Who knows if you can annotate, bookmark, use a dictionary, clip text, load free books from other sources, etc that you can currently do with the Kindle.

Personally I think e-ink has a real chance of replacing printed books. I don’t know if LCDs will get to that place any time soon without better lighting techniques and better resolution.

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