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Apple iPad shows “lack of vision”

If you’re wondering who gave that quote – OK, it was me, just now. But it does feel right.

I was playing with my brand new iPad the other day. And I felt …underwhelmed. Here’s why…

Firstly, after being overwhelmed with “magical and revolutionary” adverts, and seeing demos of brand new apps at the keynote by Apple’s favourite developers, I was expecting to be able to fill my iPad with replacements for all my iPhone apps, that take things to a whole new level.

But…. No. Not really.  I mean – Elements is nice; shame I haven’t needed Chemistry since Sixth Form. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype, and Spotify are all big apps for me, but there are no iPad versions out yet. I assume they’re working on these right now? Well… I would expect Facebook and Skype will be, because however many (few) iPad users there are (2 million and growing?), the number of Facebook / Skype iPad app users will be nearly as high, by default. But, as popular as the iPad is, unless it becomes as huge as the iPhone, then the impetus for the smaller developers to develop apps specifically for it, will also be less.  Most will regard the iPhone version with screen doubling as “good enough” – unless the iPad really does bring their specific app to a whole new level. I notice a raft of ‘HD’ medical applications, for example – and you can see how they can be dramatically more usable running natively on the iPad.

But take a look at Apple’s Mail. Does anyone else find moving mail into folders frustrating? Did anyone else expect to be able to simply rest a finger on the body of the mail, and drag it straight into a folder at the side (kinda like Outlook) – rather than tapping on the move icon, then tapping on a folder – with some accuracy required.

How about Safari? Does anyone find tapping on the icon to switch to a new icon/pane a bit 2009? Did you expect to be able to spread your fingers on the current window, and just ‘push away’ the current tab back to the panes window, before tapping to open another one?

The fact is – the iPad could be “magical and revolutionary”, but it isn’t – yet. Apple are on the right lines – they’ve positioned the hardware – but it will take some visionary developers to make real use of it – and then that will be within that individual app, rather than existing in Apple’s iOS as a whole, which is what it should have been. Ironically, Apple are bound by their legacy platform – the iPhone. While the iPad could support a whole new way of interaction, the fact is that 90% of apps will simply evolve in an unimaginative way from the iPhone versions – following Apple’s style guidelines, effectively treating the iPad as two iPhones bolted side by side (the right one showing the page/document/email), the left showing the menu/folder/overview – plus a larger/wider full-screen view).

What we should seewould be the Google search app showing you a 3D cloud of your search results – allowing you to rotate, zoom, zap a node, view thumbnails of the results side-by-side. What we should see are 3D mindmaps, rotatable in real-time. Memos that you can drag around a virtual desktop. What we should see is Minority Report, Avatar… and indeed, what we get, is a big iPhone. Or two bolted together.

There are a few apps that I’ve found so far that do give a hint of what the iPad is capable of. The HD news apps – I’ve tried Financial Times, because it’s currently free, but I assume the WSJ, etc are similar. Click on the stories – expand them, swipe through them, hyperlink to stock performance for the company in question.

Google Maps, on a fast DSL link, also truly makes you feel you can fly through this data. I believe Google Earth really could be revolutionary and magical – I hope they’re working on it! [Edit: they just released it the day after I posted, and it is great!]

Books, of course, is good. Apps like Alice in Wonderland are exactly what the revolution will bring (more of).

Zinio – the glossy magazine reader – again, has it right. It’s shiny, it’s available, it’s easy. They just need to allow annotations and bookmarks.

So, Steve. How about it?

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