Apple iPad: It's not about the features

While technology blogs nitpick the iPad over missing features and inadequate specs, they're missing the point of the device, which is to create a tool that people love to use.

"From a techie point of view, one could say, oh, my gosh, it didn't have this feature, it didn't have that feature. And I think a lot of the blogosphere has gone along with that line of thinking. But I think [Apple] is after a different market entirely," said ArminasX Saiman, an Apple enthusiast and IT manager for a large multinational company.


Me (left), Armi, and Joe

The iPad is designed to appeal to people who don't know much about computers at all -- the crowd that has "12:00" blinking perpetually on their VCRs. "Those people don't have a hope of running a desktop machine. There are a lot of those people, and I think that's the group this is really targeted at," Saiman said.

The other target market: Casual computing, which includes secondary computers, Saiman said. For example, he has an MacBook Air he uses mainly when he travels; when he's at home, the Air lives on a table next to the sofa, where he uses it to look up information based on what he's watching on TV, along with a little e-mail.

I talked to Saiman -- which is, of course, not his real name -- as part of my podcast, Copper Robot, which is recorded with a live audience in Second Life. You don't have to be in Second Life to join the audience; you can get it on the Web or in iTunes (iTunes Store link). Listen to it here:


Like many people in Second Life, Armi doesn't use his real name or give out much information about his first-life identity. He's a senior IT manager at a large multinational company which mostly runs Windows, with a few Macs. But he's a Mac enthusiast. He's owned 10 different Macs, with four still operating, has had three different kinds of iPods and two iPhones. "So I think I've sent quite a bit of money down to #1 Infinite Loop in my day," Saiman said.

Normally, I'm uncomfortable using anonymous sources, but I'm making an exception here for several reasons: I've known Armi in Second Life a while. Anonymity is the custom in Second Life. And he's not stating unverifiable facts here, but rather giving out opinions, and the opinions stand for themselves.

Also on the program was Joe Miller, who goes by Joe Linden in Second Life. Joe is VP Platform & Technology Development for Linden Lab, the company that develops and operates Second Life. He's a long-time Mac developer, who first met with Steve Jobs back in 1978 -- yes, during the Carter Administration - and launched the first third-part peripheral, the MacVision video digitizer, when the Mac was first introduced. Since then, he's kept his hand in Macs, as a user and also as a developer; until recently, he oversaw the team that develops the Second Life Viewer, which is available for Windows, Macs, and Linux and has tens of thousands of Mac users.

Joe agreed with Armi: Specs and features are not the point of the iPad. But, although people will likely love the iPad, it's still missing a lot of features, and has hardware shortcomings, for example: No support for Flash dynamic Web pages, no phone, no camera, and the aspect ratio is 4:3, rather than the widescreen standard 16:9.

We had a wide-ranging discussion, talking more about the iPad user experience, Flash support, the aspect ratio, the iPad's usefulness as a social appliance, whether the iPad will be a Kindle-killer, the type of display hardware used in the iPad, and more.

I pumped Joe for details about when the iPad will run Second Life. As I wrote in an earlier blog, I think Second Life and the iPad are made for each other. Joe said he couldn't provide specifics. He said the iPad is "going to be a great form factor for interacting with" Second Life, and noted that there are already at least two App Store apps for connecting with Second Life: Sparkleand Touch Life. Those apps are primarily text-based. He noted that the graphics hardware specs of the iPad are still unknown, so it's unclear whether the iPad will support a rich graphical SL client. He added that one of Linden Lab's priorities for 2010 is to improve support for mobile devices.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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