Five Ways Apple Can Fix the iPad
The iPad, Apple claims, is revolutionary and even magical.
No it's not.
"The bar's pretty high. In order to really create a new category of devices. Those devices are going to have to be far better at doing some key tasks. They're going to have to be far better at doing some really important things. Better than the laptop, better than the smartphone." -- Steve Jobs.
It's got so many teething problems. Even the product name, in one day, has become the butt of jokes on the interweb.
I've had the opportunity to sit down and talk to several analysts and industry professionals about their thoughts on the iPad. Views seem to be split, but everyone appears to think the same: the iPad could have been so much more.
Some people say that perspective needs to be had: the iPad isn't supposed to be a full computing device, it's supposed to be an iPod Touch on stereoids. Um... no. Even Steve Jobs himself compared it to a laptop, and said that it's supposed to be better than a laptop at doing several key things, and is supposed to be better than an iPod Touch at doing everything.
So why then does the iPad fail miserably at doing some very fundamental things that even a cheap laptop, like a netbook, can do? I mentioned a few of those points in my previous iPad post, so let's get straight to what Apple can do to make the iPad what it should have been--and could be:
1. Enable multitasking
The iPad needs to have multitasking. It's practically begging for it. It's understandable that on a screen/device size like the iPhone and iPod Touch that they can only run one application at a time, but even competing devices like Android phones can multitask. A device like an iPad, with a screen size of 10-inches, should not be doing less than an Android phone. Period. Apple needs to enable this. There's no sense in not being able to have an IM application running while browsing webpages or reading an ebook.
The iPad has enough horsepower to support multitasking, so I'm sure that the limitation is merely in software. iPhone OS 4.0 is supposed to bring multitasking, and so this should be fixed by the time the iPad is actually available for purchase.
2. Open the OS / Make an iPad specific OS
Again, Steve Jobs compared the iPad to a smartphone and a laptop in his presentation. But developers are tied into the App store. If Apple wants to keep its app-ecosystem closed for the iPod Touch and iPhone to maintain "quality," then fine. But let's not gimp the iPad, eh? With Android devices on the rise, making an iPad specific OS that's open to developers will be seen as a competitive advantage. If it's going to be truly better than a netbook, then it's got to support development like a netbook. Users want to be able to install their own stuff, it's that simple.
Make the iPad support open software development, while still supporting the large number of App Store applications. What happens if you want to run Firefox or Chrome on your iPad? You can't.
But I fully understand why the iPad isn't going to support custom apps. Apple wants you to use their App store. It wants the App store to be the largest software distribution system in the world. It wants to take a cut of the money when you sell your iPad specific software too. It's a very succesful business model and I doubt this will change.
3. Enable the full web experience
Where's Flash support? Again, this is largely a software issue, and hopefully will be addressed down the line. Not everyone who uses a mobile computing device only cares about Flash for YouTube, and so many websites actually have Flash elements today. Perhaps HTML5 will change all that but that's yet to be seen. The funny thing? During Jobs's keynote where he demos viewing The New York Times website on the iPad, the areas with Flash showed an error box.
Jobs said that the iPad is the best web experience. It clearly is not. It doesn't even have tabbed browsing.
4. Enable HDMI output or DisplayPort
We have 2 full months before the iPad is supposed to be available for purchase. Apple needs to have some form of high resolution digital video output. Boasting how amazing the device is for video playback, it's criminal not to allow users to output video to their big screen TVs. Somehow we doubt this will get added before the iPad goes on sale.
5. Expandable memory
Why the iPad doesn't have an expansion slot for flash memory boggles my mind. It should at least have an SD card slot. The iPad supports high resolution video playback, is supposedly your ultimate tool for viewing photos with people. Yet, I can't stick in an SD card and see my photos.
Update: Users have commented that it should also have a built-in webcam. Apple just announced that it's allowing VOIP over 3G, and that makes Skype and other VOIP apps a must have for the iPad. Apple should have launched the iPad with a built-in webcam as well.