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Are Most Looking at the iPad With the Wrong Perspective?

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In a blog post on Friday, The Omni Group, a major developer of productivity applications for the Mac, announced that it will be bringing five of its most popular applications to the iPad platform, namely: OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, OmniPlan, OmniFocus and OmniGraphSketcher. According to its announcement, The Omni Group is making a major shift in its development cycles because it sees the iPad as “the best computing device for most of the things people use computers for.”

This news certainly makes one think about the placement of the iPad in the computing world. In the few days since the announcement, many have panned the device, focusing on things like the lack of multi-tasking and a built-in keyboard when arguing that it could not replace a computer for most people. The refrain “It’s just a big iPhone or iPod touch,” has been heard over and over again when dismissing the iPad as a computing platform. After all, the iPod touch is certainly an impressive device, but no one expects it to replace even a netbook, no matter how big the screen is. Even Leo Laporte, usually known as an Apple evangelist, declared himself somewhat confused by Apple’s demonstration of iWork, indicating that perhaps it oversold the device’s capabilities.

The Omni Group’s excitement about bringing its applications to the platform, however, is just the latest indication that some disagree with this characterization. For example Joe Hewitt, the former developer of Facebook for the iPhone, wrote a long blog piece discussing how much more capable the iPhone OS is than people think, and that it only lacked a larger display to really come into its own. Apple has also made itself clear about the capabilities of the iPad with its demonstrations of iWork applications that are not stripped down versions but fully capable desktop-class programs in their own right.

One problem may be in how many pundits view iPad applications right now. Despite Apple showing us just what was capable with iWork, most pundits are still focused on the fact that the iPad can run iPhone applications. They are thus distracted by the idea of scaling phone applications up to a larger device. Developers like The Omni Group and Joe Hewitt, however, make it clear that they are thinking about things from the opposite direction, scaling desktop-class applications and websites down to the iPad. It’s also clear that, like Apple, they see this transition not as a step down to a more limited platform, but as a lateral step to a platform that offers opportunities you can’t get on a desktop or phone device.

It may be that our perspective of the iPhone OS is simply off. Many consider it to be nothing more than a cell phone operating system, so they look at the iPad and wonder how capable a larger device running a phone’s operating system can be. The reality, however, may be that Apple sees the iPhone or the iPod touch as a small iPad, and that what we know of as the “iPhone OS” was actually meant to provide the foundation for a much more capable computing device from the very beginning.

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26 Responses to “Are Most Looking at the iPad With the Wrong Perspective?”

  1. Indu S Das

    Tell me one thing: it’s not obviously not a smartphone/pda/handheld and it can’t even replace your laptop/netbook, then what exactly is that ?

    Didn’t Apple just create one more category of gadgets ? If you think from customer’s perspective, we need less categories, like how phone/PDA/camera etc is merging, not more.

  2. i think most of the complaints come from the user’s existing experience. That is, people expect to use computers to ‘make things’ or behave in the way computers have traditionally worked. Those things may only be e-mails or blog posts in real life, but they are afraid they can’t do ‘real work’ on iPad. Never mind that it is unlikely they’ll do ‘real work’ on their netbooks most of the time, they think they do. They expect to navigate file structures, and run multiple apps in the background even if they can’t use them all at the same time.

    I’ve also heard people complain that the iPad won’t output 1080P. While it would be nice, how many people are hooking up their netbooks to a 46″+ 1080P TV and sitting more than 8′ feet away? Sure it’d be nice to not have ‘only 720P’ (and not real 720P at that given the iPad’s native resolution), but only a niche user like me would care.

    I will agree that some things like a proprietary connector is something I loathe and is unnecessary from a tech standpoint. I’m sure Apple uses it for a competitive lock-in much like the SIM card seems to be. Another sore point for me is no multi-tasking for 3rd party apps. I would like to be able to run a third party player like Pandora while reading a book or surfing the web. I understand Apple’s reasoning, but I don’t have to like it.

    I’d like to see more on how the iPad integrates with other desktops or laptops. A device that uses an arguably new paradigm may gain better traction by associating it with how it affects people’s current workflows and use. It is a difficult thing to pull off, but I suspect Apple has more user testing and experience in this arena than either I or most detractors possess.

  3. But isn’t it contradictory to see the iSlab as a productivity device, when it really isn’t very capable as a serious workstation?
    I think I’ll go completely bonkers when I have to open and close my apps just to copy an email address from Mail to iWork, or worse, a picture from a website!
    Even when I succeed at that, I won’t be receiving skype calls, google chats, or listen to webradio.
    I honestly think that the iSlab cannot be used for actual work without multitasking.

  4. Did anyone in Star Trek walk up to a conversation, open a clamshell laptop and use a trackpad?

    The future is not shaped like a laptop. It’s shaped like a slab of plastic that has access to all the info in the world. Once all of us old people are dead, qwerty will go the way of the buggy whip. People will be using T9 (the old phone keypad text standard when they don’t want to just tell the computer what to do (NB, voice control on iPhone is incredible!).

    Is the iPad the fruition of computing? The best think since sliced silicon chips? No. It’s merely the beginning of computers as they actually will be.

    I’ll buy one. I’ll complain about it’s drawbacks. I’ll love it. I’m really glad I don’t have to wait until the year 2400 for a cool slab of intelligence connected to the info resources of the world.

  5. I wonder if the perception of a lot of (short sighted) people in the tech sphere is partially Apple’s fault. If I remember the keynote properly, one of the first things they showed was how the iPad could run all of the iPhone apps from the App Store, either in the middle of the screen or stretched.

    I wonder if the perception had been different if they’d started with the amazing iWork demo, and close the keynote by saying and showing: “Oh and by the way, it also run those 140,000 apps available on the store!”.

    The iPad, which is closer to an appliance than a full blown PC (e.g. no 2-3min boot time, etc) will be a little revolution for several groups: mobile workforce, tech illiterate folks, etc.

    I can’t wait to see what comes out of it!

    • Game board, recipe book, digital picture frame, alarm clock, wireless tv you can hang anywhere (with slingbox), magazines, electronic whiteboard, casual games (crosswords, soduko, Peggle, and more intense games) better than gameboy DS, newspapers while standing up in a subway or bus, mapping for geocaching and sailing enthusiasts, using a computer lying down, point of sale device, controller for a home media center, any sort of home automation, richer 3rd party hardware guaranteed from iPhone/iPod heritage (wifi, bluetooth, and iPod cable help also), can use all iPhone/iPod applications, kids multimedia bedtime story book, security system interface, survey giving device.

      Form factor makes it more like carrying a book than a laptop. And this is all for a little more than an iPod Touch.

    • Alex, they are for totally different tasks.

      Ask yourself, can you hold your MacBook Pro in bed over your head with one hand, while reading the screen??? Maybe you like weight lifting, but I don’t.

      Do you get it now? The IPad is a ultra light and portable device for reading ebooks and cruising the web.

  6. I like the IPad and I think it will be great hit.
    However I don’t like the way the OS is “closed” and not letting install own apps.
    The risk is that as soon as it comes to hands it will be “jailbroken” :-)

  7. Gazoobee

    I think the iPad will really take off, but I haven’t changed my opinion that the actual device is quite a let-down from what is possible, and quite a reduced feature set, from what Apple was originally shooting for with the device. It really is just a big iPod, but that’s not a bad thing in terms of sales, and it’s a starting point for a lot more hopefully.

    The biggest drawback I see to it overall is that it’s input capabilities are somewhat *less* than the iPhone or iPod touch. It’s a mobile device that you can’t actually type on while … mobile (unless you sit down or find a table). The iPhone and iPod are true mobile devices. The iPad can be poked at, but it can’t really be used while standing or walking, which is something I do with the iPhone all the time, every day.

    • “the actual device is quite a let-down from what is possible”

      And is the price? They have to make it affordable and they did. The PC naysayers said it was going to be over 1000 buck, and now they are bashing it because it has no camera or OLED screen. Can’t win with them.

      As soon as there is competition more features will show up.

  8. I love the entire concept of the iPad. At first I was disappointed that it would be running iPhone OS, but then I got to thinking, how much simpler were computers to use back when the operating system didn’t get it in way? How fast would applications be if they actually had the majority of a 1Ghz processor dedicated to them without 90% of it being eaten by all the background crap? As much as we all like to claim how good we are at multi-tasking, bottom line is simpler is always better. I love my iPhone and the simplicity of it has really changed my whole computing experience. It’s made me “pickier” at making sure new programs I look at have that same level of simplicity. I’m extremely excited about the iPad and hope to slowly convert to using it, once I get one, most of the time and stop using my laptop so much.

  9. @GS – couldn’t agree more. I’m a doctor myself. I use Apple products because of their simplicity and ease of use. I like to spend my time in front of a computer being productive rather than trying to figure out how to use it (like many of my PC colleges). I’m super excited about the iPad and I’m sure to buy one. It won’t substitute my MacBook, but to be honest, it’s not what I’m looking for. I’ll buy for the great eBook reader and web surfing machine that it promises to be, nothing else. For everything else, I have my MacBook which is super potable and powerful (for my needs)

  10. What would make the iPad perfect? Not what many are suggesting. Not a camera, except perhaps for video conferencing. I’d be embarrassed to be seen pointing this huge slate at scenery while looking at a way-too-large screen. Not multi-tasking. My mind can’t multi-task, and even the iPad screen is two small to display two applications at once. The iPhone’s smart, quick-switch capability is still fine on an iPad.

    No, what the iPad needs is the compact equivalent of a physical keyboard. The best position for viewing simply isn’t the best position for typing. Hunting-and-pecking with one finger is too slow, and I have trouble keeping my fingers on the right keys on a real, tactile keyboard. They’ll wander far too much on a glass one. Nor is Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard the answer. It’s over half the size of an iPad. With it, we might as well lug about a MacBook.

    No, what the iPad needs is an iPhone-sized Bluetooth keyboard suitable for two hands. That’d let us place an iPad where the viewing is best and type tolerable fast, as Blackberry users can attest, with our thumbs, perhaps doing keyboard shift/command keys with our fingers and palms. It needs to be fully compatible with the keyboard/stand that Apple will be shipping for the iPad, so apps don’t know the difference. And if Apple ports their Bluetooth keyboard driver to iPhones and iPod touches, it’ll work with them too, meaning an ‘instant market’ of tens of millions even before the iPad becomes common.

    • Uhm….have you checked the soon to be available accessories? Like the iPad keyboard dock? There is your precious keyboard. It’s right on the tech specs page on Apples iPad site…An iPhone sized PHYSICAL keyboard suitable for 2 hands? Maybe if you’re a munchkin. Who wants to type with their thumbs? I own a Blackberry and it’s a pain in the ass.

  11. great post. someone needed to write about the ipad from your point of view.

    when i purchased my first iphone, there was no app store, no award winning apps and certainly no mobile me service. how things have changed.

    when the ipad was formally introduced, you could consider me one of those people that weren’t totally excited by its abilities. having said that, i’m not disappointed to the point of not realizing what the potential is for this product. the possibilities are endless.

    am i going to run out tomorrow (or whenever it’s available) to purchase the ipad? probably not. will i have one within on year? probably yes.

    the fact that omni group is on board with the ipad should let real mac users understand the potential of this product.

    • Alfredo Padilla


      I appreciate your comment, but I don’t think this is the result of the Apple machine. When I first saw the details of the iPad during the keynote I have to admit that I was amongst those who was somewhat disappointed. It was after actually seeing the presentation and iWork applications at work that I began to think differently about the potential of the iPad.

  12. Only the tech geeks with their unrealistic expections were dissapointed. Those outside the tech world that didn’t follow it every day up to it’s release see the advantage of the device and if the software is there to do what they want and need. The comparison of “it’s just a large ipod” makes no difference to them. Frankly I’d say Apple hit it right on the head, I mean 75 million people already love the iPhone/iPod Touch, and since when did we change our tune that “bigger is better”? It works for TV’s, Monitors, SUV’s and even our own homes! When is the last time you walked up to a 1000 square foot ranch home sitting next to a 5000 square foot 2 story house and thought, man if I won the lottery I would buy that ranch!! No, people dream BIG, big houses, big TV’s, bigger, faster, better. Well iTablet provides, Bigger, Faster and Better if the developers take advantage of the bigger screen and faster CPU.

    I have yet to think of an app on my iPhone and say “damn that will suck on a larger screen!” Bigger means easier to read things, less scrolling and panning on websites, more screen real estate to for developers to make better functioning apps.

  13. People that think the iPad is disappointment don’t understand it’s purpose. What they want is a MacBook Pro without a keyboard, and all the components built into a screen section that is 1/2″ thick. It’s not gonna happen anytime soon. I feel the potential for the iPad is enormous.

  14. Some people have already expressed the opinion that the iPhone appeared out of the development work done for the iPad, that the iPad was what Apple were working towards all along not the iPhone, and as a result the iPhone should be looked on as a scaled down (physically) version of the iPad and not the other way round (iPad is a physically scaled up iPhone). I think I agree with this.