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Early iPad Review From a Product Designer: What Was Steve Thinking?

Sure, the iPad looks cool, it looks hip, it looks "Apple." But the shear lack of features, many of which we all were "expecting" to have on a mobile device, boggles the mind. Let's examine.
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As a product designer, I have seen and used a LOT of mobile devices. Some were epiphanies, others were technology flops. I'm not an Apple follower, yet I was really looking forward to Apple's latest electronic offering. The world of mobile computing has very stringent standards and expectations from tech users who have seen devices succeed or go by the wayside. It is generally not the place to gamble with device designs which are ill-conceived, "good enough," or lacking basic features.

So, amongst the millions of posts you will read about the now famous iPad, here is some digital food for thought... The new Apple iPad is basically a giant iTouch (or a giant iPhone if you get the 3G version). It reminds me of the giant 12" x 8" TV remote that my wife bought for me as a joke last Christmas.

Sure, the iPad looks cool, it looks hip, it looks "Apple." But the shear lack of features, many of which we all were "expecting" to have on a mobile device, boggles the mind. Let's examine.

No USB port - Wow... can you say "gamble"? What portable, non-cellphone device doesn't offer at least one USB port? How many mobile devices and accessories need that valuable port, to make life fun, easy, and productive? Who in their right mind would "assume" that mobile device users would not be interested in a laptop-sized device that didn't have a USB port? You have to be kidding me. The same thing goes for "no memory card reader". My reaction is an immediate "HUH?"

No OS X - OK, so let's see; no ports other than a headphone jack and a 30-pin port, and it's running OS what..? Oh, excuse me, it's the iPhone OS, which is not really an OS, but an "applications manager," sort of what my trusty 7-year old HP PDA runs. OK, its an HP iPaq, and yes it plays MP3s, it has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, it has a touchscreen. I have to guess that with limited headroom from the hardware, Apple was forced to either offer a less-feature-packed mobile device, or a really slow tablet computer. So the iPad is not really a computer, unless you're one of those folks who call their iPhones "portable computers". Sorry Virginia, glorified PDAs are not computers, and neither is the iPad. Add to this, all of the thousands of computer apps out there that will not find a home with the OSX-less iPad. You'll have to bring along that laptop or Macbook after all. Sorry.

Connectivity - or lack thereof. So we have Wi-Fi, and we have Bluetooth, a 30-pin port, and then there's... wi-fi and Bluetooth and a 30-pin port. Don't forget the... Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and that 30-pin port!
What happened to all of the other great options? SD, ethernet, USB, HDMI, etc.? Was the hardware really THAT limited that it couldn't thoroughly support additional ports? Oh, wait - the iTouch and iPhone don't sport those ports either... forgot about that.

I really want to like the iPad -- I really do. I love Apple as an industrial design company. As a product designer, I see more user-required concessions than I do user-friendly features in the iPad.

Steve, what were you thinking..?

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