Not-phone, not-computer


Posted: Friday, February 26, 2010

Arthur C. Clark wrote 25 years ago that black monoliths would swarm Jupiter, eventually reducing it to a star. While that book is a seminal piece of science-fiction, Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs states that the future is here - and he can do the same thing to Earth through the iPad.

The iPad's basic model is expected to hit Apple stores sometime in mid-March, with the 3G/Wifi/GPS assisted iPad to follow a month later.

Reviews have been passionately polarized, as with all things coming from 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, Calif. The iPad's lack of a physical keyboard or camera (unless you don't mind shelling out big bucks for Apple accessories) and inability to multitask or run Adobe's ubiquitous Flash platform have some potential buyers holding off on the initial models.

The iBook E-reader software - dubbed a "Kindle-killer" - will have the ability to run the majority of apps from the Apple Apps store and has most Mac fanatics salivating like rabid dogs. This should guarantee madness at Apple's Times Square flagship store upon arrival.

Personally, I will dodge the initial release. Apple is notorious for staggering price drops, and internal memos have already been released stating this may be the case for the iPad if the next two quarters' sales aren't up to snuff.

Credit Suise analyst Bill Shope, who recently met with Apple executives, stated that they remain "nimble" on their pricing scheme. All of the overblown hype and high possibility of a staggering price cut are all too familiar. Remember when the iPhone's price dropped $200 just eight weeks after its release? I certainly do.

Apple has said repeatedly that the iPad wont step on the toes of any of its other products. Unfortunately, even with the 3G, it will be unable to make phone calls, which is a huge disappointment for those of us that wanted to be obnoxious on a 2010 equivalent of Zach Morris' mobile phone from "Saved by the Bell."

The iPad will more than likely be an appliance, not a computer, so don't expect to sit on the couch debugging a day's worth of code. The inability to run more than one application simultaneously exemplifies this.

So, it's not a phone or a full computer. With the current proliferation of bottom dollar netbooks running Microsoft's Windows XP and 7, it will be interesting to see how Apple's middle child will fare in the market.

None of this means that I won't live off of Ramen noodles and PBR for a month to eventually get one. Apple has developed a brand new A4 1Ghz chip specifically for this device, which has my inner geek beyond excited. The idea of a 10" touchscreen with up to 64GB of flash memory and a beautiful user interface with up to ten hours of full usage battery life sounds promising. Unfortunately for the six or so remaining *nix/BSD geeks left in the world, it's running a carbon copy of the iPhone's "walled-garden" operating system (no shell access, no tinkering and breaking this thing software-wise).

I'm not sure which demographic Apple was shooting for with its iPad, aside from the "I have $500 and that has an Apple logo" group. Even still, I'm halfway sold, almost. The potential as an E-Reader, Video Player and mobile platform for me to school anyone who doubts my prowess in scrabble is near-enough reason for me to buy this.

Unfortunately, I'm also the guy who has gone through around 20 phones in a little over two years, and this device with a 10-inch glass screen sounds like it's begging me to keep up my horrible and expensive reputation as a chronic device buyer.

Even t hough Steve Jobs' "future" starts today, I'll be waiting until July to pretend to make phone calls on my new 10-inch not-phone, not-computer, device: the iPad.

• Will Muldoon is a pre-press technician and IT guy for the Juneau Empire.

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