I followed yesterday’s iPad announcement with a good amount of excitement. Anyone who knows me will tag me as a bit of a gadget head, so maybe it has just been too long since I’ve gotten myself a new toy. Regardless, my personal expectations for the day were mixed, but I always do hold out some hope for a surprise announcement or game-changing feature from Apple. Sadly, yesterday produced neither of these things. We got roughly what was expected (a tablet modeled after a large iPod touch) and no game-changing features were announced.
There are still many positive elements to this device. For example, I am hopeful that gaming on the iPad takes a control approach totally different from the iPhone/iPod. But, this will take time and sufficient hardware saturation to make the investment in iPad-specific games worthwhile. For me, load the thing up with a solid Photoshop alternative and I’m nearly sold on the thing as an on-the-go photo editing studio! These are my two areas of interest in the device, primarily media/entertainment consumption/editing, and these will likely be the reasons that lead me to purchase one (if I do so – probably 2nd gen).
However, it is just that entertainment angle that also leaves me so, so sorely disappointed with Apple. The lack of Flash compatibility is a major roadblock to enjoying video content online ON ANY DEVICE. This is true of my 1st gen. Macbook Air (seriously great aside from Flash), just like it is for my iPhone, just like many netbooks, a class of device that Steve even called out by name yesterday but cannot top with his own device! Not having solid Flash support hurts. Flash would allow an iPad to access all the many thousands of online video channels that already exist. Flash is what plugs a user into online video these days, period. Changing this is good, but today it is how it is.
And here’s what so many of us have forgotten about Apple, as both a hardware device maker and a content distributor they will do all they can to keep us beholden to the iTunes experience. For as many technical problems that the lack of Flash may present (i’ll leave it to the more informed to specifically value these), the true keystone decision here is include flash and sell more hardware, or close out flash and sell more on iTunes. Over the long-term, I genuinely don’t know which is best for Apple, but I very clearly know what I want.
What would have been an amazing complement to an iPad would be iTunes Video subscriptions. Imagine paying Apple $30/month for unlimited streaming to one device and a handful of movie rentals. Apple fanboys always have more than just one device, so charge them more to support more. This all I could eat streaming to a tablet screen makes sense, and if I were Apple this is where I would push over the long-run. But, today is different. Adding more codec support and flash support would liberate the iPad from Apple’s shackles and make clear to many users the actual value of this new type of entertainment device. It was a mistake to highlight iWork, as touch typing in one’s lap is still an Achilles’ heel.
It is sad that the most revolutionary announcement yesterday was that a US cellular carrier was willing to offer a data plan month-to-month with no contract. Maybe next time…