Apple’s tablet was rumored to exist months, if not a year, before it was announced. There’s probably at least a decade of tradition involved — people have always talked about an Apple tablet. The media coverage of this rumored device was so over-the-top that one reporter called the reporting “fan fiction,” and a few tech sites started calling it the “Jesus Tablet.”
The problem for Apple is that there was so much hype and speculation that their product, in many peoples’ eyes, didn’t live up to the rumors. One reporter called it an “oversized iPod Touch” to explain why they were disappointed by it. And indeed, it was disappointing. Among the rumored features: background app support (so you could have one application running in the background while using another, and switching effortlessly between them), a video camera with video chat support, and, long overdue, the ability to display Flash applets on things. None were implemented.
But despite being a little bit of a letdown, I still want one. I’m not going to run out and impulse-buy one for $500, but it’s certainly earned a spot on my gadget wish-list. I know a lot of people who have said they don’t see the point. But here’s what I see in it.
I have a B&N Nook. It’s pretty amazing. I have lots of PDFs and a few books on it. When taking the train in, I sometimes purchase a copy of the LA Times or New York Times for 75 cents on the Nook, and get the day’s news. (Boston Globe: I’d totally buy your paper instead, if only you offered it on the Nook.) But current e-readers have some shortcomings. For one, as beautiful as the e-ink screen is, it’s a pain to use. I brought my Nook into work and a few coworkers were trying it out. They all did the same thing I keep instinctively trying: they touched the e-ink screen to select things, and swiped their finger across the screen to advance to the next page. And waiting 1-2 seconds for the screen to redraw is infuriating if you’re into what you’re reading, or if you’re a fast reader. This isn’t a Nook shortcoming, as much as a shortcoming of e-book readers as a whole.
I also find I want a web browser. The Kindle has one, though I’m told it’s a bit persnickety and not all a “real” browser like modern smartphones have. (i.e., the pages don’t look anything like you’d see on a normal computer.) I have my iPhone for browsing, though when I’m holding a much bigger screen, it’s kind of annoying to have to have to switch to the iPhone’s seemingly-tiny screen to browse the web.
For non-geeky computer users, I think the iPad could even replace a conventional computer. A lot of people don’t do much beyond checking email and browsing the web. If the iPad weren’t hamstrung by not being able to do Flash, that alone might make it worthwhile for some people. Add in support for iPhone apps, stellar mapping, an impressive photo browser, the ability to play music and movies, and the ability to read e-books, and it’s really a pretty nifty device.
The iPad could be better, and it is a bit disappointing compared to the rumors. But I still think it’s a pretty useful device.