After months of speculation, much of it crazy, Apple announced the iPad, a sort of scaled up iPod Touch. I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about the iPad, but a lot of the bigger tech web sites have already made up their mind that they have to do at least a few critical articles, so they have their ass covered just in case the thing tanks. I’ve been meaning to do a blog post taking aim at the some of the stupider criticism, but instead, I’m going to bite off a little at a time.
For my first installment, I’ll go after Mashable, whose own contribution to the iPad-skeptic genre, The Anti-Hype: Why Apples iPad Disappoints, starts by going after Steve Job’s claim that it is the best way to browse the web:
It might be one of the best ways to browse the web on a mobile device, but laptop and desktop computers — even netbooks — are still better. Most current websites were designed to be experienced on those devices with a mouse and a keyboard. Maybe the mouse isn’t necessary, but you don’t have to pop up a software keyboard to type in URLs on a netbook or laptop. Even if you lug around the keyboard dock, it will be a tad awkward moving between the keys and the screen to interact. You’re sacrificing some usability for simplicity on the iPad.
Give me a fricking break. Let me start by making one thing clear: Computers SUCK. I hate them. When I say this, I don’t just mean that Windows PCs suck, which they do, I’m saying that Macs suck too (its true). And to make another thing clear, I’m saying this as someone who has been drawn to computers since I was 8 or 9. Its not really a stretch to say that my first personal computer was a DEC PDP-11/34. So, given that computers suck, there is just no way that a laptop, desktop, or netbook can be the best way to browse the web forever.
Starting with the easy criticisms, netbook screens are too short, they don’t show enough of most pages. What’s more, the trackpads and keyboards on netbooks are too small. You have to make cramped movements to scroll, browse and navigate. Notebooks and desktops are a little better. You can fit more of the vertical page on the screen, and the mice and keyboards are a little bigger and more ergonomic, but just because they are more ergonomic doesn’t mean that they won’t still cripple you if you use them too much. I’m serious here. I have to ice and massage my hands to manage the injury from routine computer use, and I am not the only one.
So, now that we have that out of the way, we can talk about how an iPad can be better. For one thing, you can turn the screen to whatever orientation is best suited to the page you are viewing, something you can’t do if your netbook or laptop screen isn’t tall enough. For another thing, you can scroll, browse and navigate using more natural motions. We’ll see how much better it is in practice, but really, it has to be better than using a damn mouse.
As to typing URLs on a virtual keyboard somehow being a downside to browsing on the iPad. I won’t know until I try it, but I suspect that this will be turn out to be a complete non-issue. It’s not like typing URLs and search terms is all that much typing.
The author of the Mashable piece then takes the opportunity to take another shot at Apple for not allowing flash on their mobile devices
Most importantly, the iPad’s browser does not support Adobe Flash, the foundation of rich media on the web today. Adobe is planning to make it possible for Flash developers to develop apps, but it won’t work on the web.