The Apple iPad launched this past weekend leading to an overwhelming influx of posts both online and in print media.
Most reviews have gushed over the devices capabilities (here’s a pretty good iPad review from the Washington Post) . There’s a lot to gush about to be sure – with a great looking 9.7″ screen the iPad makes the applications that we loved on the iPhone work even better on the iPad.
The next question to be answered is whether the iPad can replace laptops. While the touch screen device is certainly attractive and simple to use there are a few issues that I noted in my weekend of testing that make me wonder just how quickly businesses might adopt an iPad type device.
Issue #1: The iPad browser won’t run all the sites that your laptop will
In my initial testing I immediately ran into problems running Google Wave which repeatedly crashed the iPad browser. Similarly when trying to use Facebook I was stopped when trying to view videos that friends had posted because the iPad doesn’t (and won’t) support the Flash technology that Facebook uses to embed the video.
Yes there are mobile sites that I probably could have run instead. However to make a fair comparison between an iPad and Laptop I feel you have to test the process of opening the same sites – and not relying on another typically lightweight (and crippled) mobile site for compatibility.
Apple has been steadfast in their refusal to support technology such as Adobe Flash. This is probably irrelevant or uninteresting to most people – unless they rely heavily on a web site that makes use of Adobe Flash technology for displaying content or interacting with users.
Issue #2: The iPad is a closed environment where all applications must be approved by Apple
A closed operating environment is great for home users. It shields them from a lot of complexity and issues with rogue applications that could be attempting to steal data.
For business users though the inability to readily access third party applications that might expand upon Apple’s Safari web browser functionality – say to make it more compatible with all web sites – is troubling.
Apple has essentially stated they aren’t supporting Adobe Flash. While many web sites are working hard to redo their embedded content to avoid Flash – will corporate users want to be at the whim of what Apple states they will and won’t support?
Businesses need to be sure that the applications they require in the future can be loaded to their hardware. With the Apple iTunes policy there’s no way to be certain of that.
Issue #3: The lack of multi-tasking is presently a deal breaker
In my testing over the weekend I found that inability to easily read incoming emails while working in another application to be a deal breaker for business user.
Unless you want to be constantly closing and opening applications so that you can read email as it arrives you’ll probably soon tire of this limitation.
For home use I don’t believe this will be as much of an issue as for businesses where the volume of incoming email is greater and typically of more importance.
Apple is rumored to be working on releasing multi-tasking capabilities in a future revision of their operating system. However as it stands today you can’t multi-task within the iPad – and it’s an annoying problem that you won’t have with a laptop — which might cost less than a new iPad.
The iPad is a great device that, for now, is best suited for home use. It makes viewing online content much easier primarily because the screen is so much bigger than that of the iPhone or iPod Touch.
Battery life appears to be fully capable of achieving the promised 10 hour life – and then some. Integration with all the existing (over 100k) iPhone applications is wonderful although nearly all applications need to be updated to take advantage of the bigger screen.
Should you buy one?
Yes if you’re an iPhone or iPod Touch fan and would like to see the applications that you use on the iPhone/Touch on a bigger screen with more functionality.
No if you’re solely (or primarily) looking at replacing a laptop and you intend to do more than use iPhone type applications.
Until Apple is more open about accepting apps that they claim “duplicate” the functionality of the built-in programs you’d be better off buying a laptop that allows you to load any applications that are needed for your business.