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Summary:

The iPad 2 may have only just arrived, but I’ve spent enough time with the device to get a good sense of what it’s still missing. In the spirit of the post-PC era, here are three experiences I’d like to see introduced with the next iPad.

ipad-3-featured

The iPad 2 may have only just arrived, but at this point, I’ve spent enough time with the device to get a good sense of what I think is still missing from Apple’s tablet. But since, as Steve Jobs rightly points out, it’s more useful to talk about experiences than hardware specifications when it comes to today’s mobile devices, I think it’s more useful to think about what the next iPad should do than what it will look like.

Seamless Desktop Integration

Unlike Microsoft, Apple recognized that shoehorning a full desktop OS onto a tablet device wasn’t going to work out. It’s an act of compromise, and that’s something that rarely results in quality user experience. Instead, Apple went the route of optimization, and designed a specific version of its mobile OS for a large-screen device. Despite its mobile roots, the iPad version of iOS is very different from its iPhone cousin. The same can’t be said of Android, which was awkwardly ported as a smartphone OS to larger devices, then rushed as a tablet-specific version to market.

Now that Apple has differentiated its tablet experience, it appears to be taking steps to bring its various operating systems back into tighter alignment. iOS releases now make simultaneous appearances on both iPad and iPhone, largely boasting the same feature updates. And OS X Lion promises to bring many aspects of iOS to the desktop. This is a planned, well-thought-out convergence between mobile and traditional computing, and hopefully, the next iPad reflects that. I want to see more of what Adobe has previewed with its Photoshop Touch apps — namely a fully complimentary relationship between computer and tablet — built right in to the OS. Apple’s unique degree of control over every aspect of hardware and software on the Mac and the iPad should make this a given.

Make Storage Limitations Invisible or Obsolete

For all the hype about cloud computing and the lean, mean, local-storage-free future of mobile devices, I still find myself running up against space limitations unless I opt for the most storage available at point of purchase. This is especially true on the iPad, where rich media apps and ambitious games can take up a lot of space before you even start thinking about media like music and movies. Apple is putting the finishing touches on a gigantic data center, and hopefully, the company is planning to use that for more than just storing higher-res versions of QuickTime trailers.

The ultimate aim of cloud computing, from a user experience perspective, should be to remove, or make invisible, the idea of device storage constraints. Imagine an intelligent content management system that quietly slips your least-used stuff off to a cloud locker when you want to load on more recent movies, music or apps. It’s not nearly as far out of reach as it once seemed, and rumors about Apple’s cloud plans suggest it may be taking some steps in that general direction, at least. An iPad that doesn’t advertise its storage capacity, but instead touts its ability to handle all the media and software you could want seems like exactly the type of thing Apple has in mind when it talks about the post-PC experience.

Untethered

Many complain the iPad is still dependent on a computer in a very basic sense. I rarely sync, and in fact, usually only plug my iPad into my computer for updating or the odd battery charge if it’s convenient. But tethered syncing is still the only way to get your music and movies from iTunes to the device, unless you want to repurchase everything, and it’s still necessary for updates, backups and activation. Many critics argue the iPad can’t truly be a post-PC device while it still bears these limitations.

I’d argue the iPad can still be considered post-PC even without being completely independent from a traditional computer, but that’s beside the point. The next iPad should be untethered, not for the sake of justifying any cute semantic phrase, but instead, because it will provide that much better of an experience for the user. Having to physically plug in once in a while isn’t a terrible burden, but it’s annoying enough that I’ve been known to hem and haw about it, even if syncing or updating will only ultimately be to my advantage. And for users who could use the iPad as their only computer if only Apple would let them, truly cutting the cord would represent a massive improvement.

  1. Hamranhansenhansen Thursday, April 14, 2011

    These are worthy goals, and also likely to happen, but they are really things you want to see in iOS 5, not iPad 3.

    The desktop integration has already started. In iOS 4.1, Apple added CoreMIDI support to the iOS API and made it possible for iPads to join wireless CoreMIDI networks with Macs. Now many iPad apps that are musical instruments or mixer controllers play Logic instruments or control Ableton Live on the Mac.

    As far as just the iPad itself, I think iPad 3 could just be an iPad 2 with Retina Display and corresponding higher res cameras and it would continue to enjoy tremendous success. If I was a glossy magazine publisher, I’d be readying my iPad edition for Retina Display because that will be higher-res than the print edition. iPad is also the only mobile with color management, so your colors will be correct. Easily the best print publishing platform ever made. Also, it will be able to show a 2K movie, slightly larger than HD, or a 4K movie that has been evenly scaled down which maintains quality.

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  2. I agree with you about cloud services and storage limitations, but I fail to see how iPad iOS is ‘very different’ to iPhone and iPod Touch iOS. Including a few big-screen versions of built-in apps and changing the configuration screen doesn’t amount to a ‘very different’ operating system in my book.

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  3. Stefan Youngs Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Striving for excellence as you are, it will be helpful to appreciate the richness of the English language in providing us with ‘complimentary’ (meaning expressing approval) and ‘complementary’ (meaning combining to enhance). Thus, above, should read:
    “… a fully complementary relationship between computer and tablet,…”

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  4. I’d say tethering is definitely on the way out. I bought an Ipad 2 at the Apple Store the other day and they offered to “activate” it before I left the store — they let me open the box, then plugged it into one of the macs to do a quick sync. So I could play with it on the way home.

    This wasn’t necessary for the Verizon service (as it might have been for a phone) so I think Apple is just getting the idea that most people rarely plug their iPads into computers…

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  5. Why does anyone waste their time thinking about “what Apple should do with any of their product” ? Steve Jobs has proven more then once it’s his way or the highway. Why isn’t there a smaller version of the iPad like the tablet ? Why doesn’t it run split screen so two apps can be viewed at the same time ? Why is the speaker STILL Sooooo Fricken quite ? I see after 6+ years the laptop FINALLY received a louder speaker. The speaker should be firing towards your ears, HELLO Steve you don’t aim your TV speakers towards the wall away from your ears. Button ?? Why the hell is there STILL a button on the phone ? One more thing to break so we can buy another. How about updating the OS and make it a more functional phone ? Show me who is calling AND the company name, show me their picture in the address book, so me their company name in the address book without having to open there contact info, while being “mobile” I can’t take notes how about being able to record calls ? There is plenty of old flip phones that could.. Why do I have to waste my time jail breaking my phone to get it to work the way I want it to ??? Steve I purchased your stuff and I’m drinking the Apple “juice”, how about giving me more FUNCTION thats useful and less fluff that is not. ???? Wireless SNYC is just people bitching about being lazy, functionality is what you should be asking for.

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    1. I completely agree, man.

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      1. “ipad a post PC device” is still far fetch statement, as it still has to go long way…Because we still need a USB to connect PC to run ipad. It still depended on PC.
        - To activate ipad, we need PC
        - To delete a song we need PC
        - To sync photos we need PC
        - To update iOS, we need PC
        - iwork file cannot be stored on ipad.
        - To backup ipad we need PC

        Cynics would say that it’s done like this to make it sure that iPad sales don’t cannibalize traditional Mac computer sales. But I will say Ipad has to still evolve to become true post PC device.

        Ultimately the iPad will probably gain independence one day from PC. But for now, regardless of logic, market conditions, or technology, I see iPad as a companion rather than a replacement for the traditional desktop or laptop. It’s both something more and something less than the typical computer.

        Will we see the day when the umbilical cord between traditional operating systems and the iOS devices is cut….

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  6. As noted above, these are basically iOS/OS X issues. For iPad 3 hardware, the main things I’d look for are video performance/resolution improvements and a no-kidding hardware data socket. Of course a ‘Mr. Fusion’ infinite power battery would be nice, but I don’t expect that until iPad 4.

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  7. styluslovesiPadtoo Friday, April 15, 2011

    Retina Display + Integration of a good stylus + better camera => Apple stays No. 1 for many years

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  8. Filmmaker looks for Apple interested people all around the world for a documentary film broadcasted on the French German TV channel Arte.

    If you love Apple, or hate it, if you are about to marry in an Apple Store, or want to brake all your Macs, if you want to sing a song dedicated to iPhones, or create a movie on your iPad,… to make a long story short, if you plan to make anything possible with your Apple devices… PLEAAAAASE contact Dimitri at appledocfilm@gmail.com

    We will travel accross Europe until the summer, then in the United States and Canada.

    Hope to hearing from you….

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  9. “Making storage limitations invisible or obsolete…”

    Now that is a great concept and a possible use for that mysterious center being built by Apple.

    Why stop there? I thought, what about making processing limitiations invisible or obsolete? IE, through grid-computing. If all the content is in the data center, why not all the processing power that “touches” that content?

    Wow, limitless storage & power! What would such a device be? What would the differentiators for future models to entice continued upgrades – screen size, resolution, weight … ?

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  10. I agree so much with the storage limitations. Even if it had a slot for a micro sd card, it would make all the difference. You could add 8GB or 16GB micro SD cards as needed, even if it was just for non-sensitive data like ebooks or music that you could refresh in the ipod player.

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