Of course, I was all excited to see what Jobsus would bring down from the mountain yesterday. The tablet was real. Finally. Nearly tired of it dominating the rumor discussion for the last few years. However, from there it kind of went downhill for me.
I agreed with Steve that netbooks are not great for anything. They are cheap computers. And maybe for some folks, they are awesome. But for me, they don’t fill any need. I am constantly trying to run a dozen applications while debugging code, updating my blogs, watching or listening to something, etc. The laptop form factor works for me…most of the time. When I am mobile or sitting in bed, I like it. But during the day, I need multiple 30″ screens to keep my mind busy. I need my full on keyboard, etc. A netbook would provide me no value.
Shooting to the other end of the spectrum, we have the iPhone. I use it a lot. I stay connected all the time. I keep on my work email, personal email, and more all the time. I also can keep moving through my steady stream of news for the day. Roughly 250 articles a day. I skim things at stop lights, waiting in line for food, and on the toilet.
So in between my desktop, my laptop and my iPhone, I don’t need any other devices that I know of to work, play or consume media.
However, sometimes there are better ways to do things. Being the geek I am, I have been waiting for a eBook reader that seemed like it would work for me. I almost pulled the trigger on a Kindle before Christmas but then I decided to test it with their iPhone app that reads the Kindle books. I read one whole non-fiction book on it over the holidays. It wasn’t terrible. I would slide in pages here and there. Waiting on a table, standing in line, etc. Then I could think about those pages, consume them, debate them, before getting into a few more later that day. The downside was that my eyes were bugging out. 15 minutes and I was glazed over. Staring so intently at an actively lit screen was at fault. Now I get the digital eInk…passive!
So I should get the Kindle and be done with it. Well, once I got back from the holidays the “iSlate” rumor mill got cranking and put me into a state of FUD and I didn’t pull the trigger. Maybe Apple will have one and you know you have to have that one I would tell myself. No matter what the Kindle might do…you know you will want an iPad just because. Its the Apple brainwash in full effect. I would never have to explain my iPad to anyone but I would have to for the Kindle.
Now that the cards are all on the table, what to do? The Kindle is simple. It does books. It is trying to do more but that is just so they can check boxes. It seems to be the best eBook reader around. The downside lately seems to be about every other book I want is not available. Mostly geek books. The publishers just are not on board. Plus, something about not being able to see color photos if they were in the book bothers me. I almost want a screen with dual modes but that seems impossible.
As for the iPad, a few things bugged me.
1. Going with the iPhone OS? Son of a bitch. It is one thing to lock my phone down on me. But I see the iPad as more like a laptop than a phone. I want Mac OS X. I want to install my own apps. I want file system access. I know I maybe in the minority here. Plenty of (less sophisicated) users would be just fine with apps from the App Store. These follks don’t know what to do with a Finder or a Terminal anyway. That is cool. But that isn’t me. I wish the iPad had an option for a limited or full experience.
2. For me, a tablet will never be a tablet until we have ink input. It has always been my dream. Writing on the screen. Whiteboarding. Having those things solidify into actual text, shapes, etc. Much like the game Crayon Physics has done but more in a business application. We didn’t get that. Surely, somebody will have improved App Store apps where you draw with your finger. But I wanted Apple to innovate there. We needed the big guns.
3. So then for input, we are back to on screen keyboards. I have grown used to it on the iPhone. If the iPhone had a fold out keyboard, I might go with that. I appreciate keeping the screen space for display and not a hard keyboard. But on the tablet, it is just going to be the same issue for me as the iPhone — if I have serious input to do, I wait until I get home on a keyboard and pound out the text 10x faster. I can then include links, photos, etc. I just don’t see a good input potential. I don’t see it being the “better email client” as Steve said.
4. Then maybe its a remote media screen. Well, major fuck up there. The screen dimensions are wrong. Its more like a 4×3. We are at 16×9 now. And then we have to tolerate wide screen movies where we still get black bars. I don’t want this 10″ display and only use 4″ of it to watch the movie. Might as well be on my iPhone then.
5. So back to the book reader. Assuming they will all have the same titles over time and that the costs are all the same, what’s the difference. It boils down to the active vs. passive display for me. I go back and forth. Active would be nice for some books where there are color pictures. My kids would prefer reading Dr. Seuss on the iPad of course. But for a business book, the Kindle/passive would be better. Right now, they both just do the books and don’t seem to add any new value to the mix. How about cool note taking abilites? Clipping? Sharing with friends? I need some interactive and social features and nobody is there. Good thing about the iPad, I think those could be in release 1.1 via software upgrade. Something tells me I would have to buy a new Kindle if they did it there.
On the final front of pricing, you can get into a Kindle for $250. That isn’t bad. Would be nice if it came with book credits or something for a deal. Base iPad at $499 but I would never buy that one. I would max out everything bringing me up into the $829. But I don’t get the 3G service free with that. $30 a month? I can’t tether to my iPhone. Fail. I do a ton of 3G data on the phone so I imagine the same with the iPad — or not. I will probably not be doing this in a car. Mostly at home? And if I was on a road trip, the 3G is pay as you go so pick up a month. Frankly, I have desired that for my laptop from time to time. Like over the holiday travel it would be nice to have a 3G card but you can’t do month to month like that. Anyway, $250 -> $829 is a huge price jump if you are really into the $$ but we all know you pay more to be outfitted in aluminum with fruit logos.
So what to do? I have no god damn clue. Part of me says just buy a Kindle for now. Enjoy it. The books I buy in their store could be viewed on my iPhone, MacBook (soon!), and on the iPad via the Kindle App. It is a good solid reader and might be a great dedicated way to read more. When the iPad finally launches, see how it rolls. Don’t be first in line. See what the next revision offers. I really wanted the iPhone 1.0 but I knew not having 3G would kill me when I had it already. So I waited and it paid off. Might do the same here. Then ultimately have one of each. There are 5 people with eyes in our home — surely, all of these screens will be put to good use at one moment or another.