Petri Wessman's weblog


Well, like a lot of other people I followed the iPad launch event, and came away more than a bit disappointed. It’s just a big iPhone / iPod Touch combo, with all the restrictions that come with those.

Now, I’m potentially in the market for something like this. I have a metric fuckton of PDFs that I’d like to read, and which are cumbersome to read on a computer display due to the landscape display of screens and the difficulty of curling up on the sofa with a computer (even a netbook). However, this current incarnation of the iPad isn’t quite there yet.

My main problems with the thing are:

  • The display resolution of 1024x768 is quite skimpy. According to my quick and dirty tests it’s probably just enough to read most of my rpg PDFs… but not with full comfort in all cases. It’s doable, but a bit more resolution would be very nice.

  • The absolute lock-down to the Apple App store. This infuriates me, and normally would be a total deal-breaker. However, it depends on how I think of this device. If I think of it as a computer or a netbook, it is a dealbreaker. However, if I think of it as an ebook reader of sorts, it’s much less clear-cut – Sony Reader, Kindle etc don’t allow 3rd party apps either, in fact they don’t allow “apps” in general, period. So, even though I find the tie-in to be a big minus, it’s potentially acceptable.

  • No multitasking. This is the big one. I mean, come on… you mean if I’m (say) reading an rpg rulebook on this thing, and suddenly want to check something online (or use the calculator, or…), I need to exit the PDF reader app first? What is this shit? Did someone roll back the clock to 1980 suddenly? Even my Nokia phone multitasks (and yes, I use the multitasking ability there quite often). You’re telling me that a tablet computer can only run one app at a time? Wtf?

  • No expansion options. I mean, come on, why can’t you stick a standard memory expansion card in here? Well, sure, we know the reason: so you are forced to pay outrageous prices to Apple for that built-in memory instead. Also: no USB. Wtf? And yes, I know the thing has a iPhone-style expansion port – so I can hook up various sorts of dongles and maybe get some expandability. Hooray. Not wild about having N different wires hanging from my supposedly-ergonomic and mobile tablet.

  • How you move files to this thing is as of now totally in the dark. If it’s iTunes-only, via cable, then forget it – iTunes is a bloated piece of crap, and I’m not going to use a cable to update a device that has both wireless and Bluetooth. On the other hand, there have been rumors of some kind of remote-mountable shared directory, which sounds much more reasonable. If I can drag+drop files from my computer to this thing, I’m reasonably happy. So the jury is still out on this one.

There are others (lack of Flash, lack of Java, etc), but the above are the main problems I’m concerned about for my own use. Together, they put this device firmly in the “meh” zone for me.

Maybe Apple will add multitasking to the OS at some point, and maybe moving files to and from this thing will have some simple solution. In that case, I’ll start to consider the thing, at least as far as test-driving it with some PDFs and other documents goes. Until then… distinctly underwhelmed.

Added later: I’ve been told that (at least on the iPhone), while there is no multitasking as such, the apps do save state – so you can hop between applications, and when you return you’ll be in the same application state. I’m a bit sceptical on how fast that can work if, say, I’m browsing a 65 megabyte PDF and enter/exit the app multiple times… but ok, will have to test with a real iPad once they arrive. The real limitation is apparently the fact that you cannot run multiple apps at the same time, so you cannot have an active app in the background and doing stuff while you’re working on something else.

So ok, the situation sucks, but it’s not quite as bad as I feared. It’s still bad, though, the lack of real multitasking on a tablet computer announced in the futuristic year of 2010 makes Sad Panda sad.

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