Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

I don’t ‘get’ the ipad

Not long ago I actually left the house and went shopping. Obviously I didn’t actually buy anything, but I did end up in an apple store, for the first time ever, fondling an ipad. I used to be an apple hardware engineer, so I have no hatred of them, but I haven’t ever owned anything more than an ipod. Anyway…

I just don’t get it.

I can see that it’s a geek fantasy to have a ‘padd’ from star trek as a geek toy, I can imagine all sorts of cool commercial uses for it, I bet a lot of admin staff in airports or warehouses or any sort of travel hub or whatever, have a legit use for something like the ipad. In other words, places where you are stood up and consulting notes now and then.

But at home… no.

Basically if me and my better half are surfing the net, or wanted to look at photos or whatever, then My default position is to stick my feet up on a pouffe, slouch like a student on the sofa, and park a laptop on my legs/belly. This works perfectly. The keyboard acts as the base, and the screen is constantly adjustable to get the perfect viewing angle.

With an ipad, I’d have to hold the stupid thing, or grab a cushion to prop it up, or some other silliness. I also find it much easier to control whats on the screen with keys or a touchpad, so I can still…you know…SEE the screen as I do it. The first dozen times you zoom in by splodging your hands on the screen is cool, but isn’t this just the silly tom cruise interweb interface again? (I admit it is cool to turn pages this way though).

Seriously…who reads like this? (img from

I also don’t think the ipad is especially thin, or lightweight, compared to a fairly high-range lightweight laptop. Obviously, I didn’t buy one, I also think it’s hilariously pricey for what it is. So tell me, what am I missing? Am I just lazier than everyone else? am I just tragically uncool? Or after a month of fiddling with your ipad do you wish it was the same form factor as a netbook?

32 thoughts on I don’t ‘get’ the ipad

  1. I’ve come to a similar conclusion, actually. I love the mobility of a laptop, and if I really need something lighter than my fairly big laptop I might go in for a netbook. And I see the value in a true handheld computer (the size of an iPhone, sans phone service) for something like grocery-store-prices and shopping-list apps and whatnot while out and about. But the iPad seems to fall between two stools in terms of useful-to-the-general-public.

    But I guess I’m missing something too, based on how well it seems to sell.

  2. I too don’t see the point of iPads. For quickly checking something on the internet or light surfing, then my phone (an android) serves that need extremely well. Something inbetween a phone and laptop just ins’t required unless you have a specialised need.

  3. I’m not an Apple fan, at all, but I don’t hate them either. The only difference I see between Apple and any other major computer manufacturer is they’re really slick salespeople, that’s it. Their marketing is evident in the actual design of each and every product as well – not the other way around, as is the case with most other offerings – each product has a specific look and appearance with the key objective being to continue to sell the product, even after purchase.

    Anyways, beyond that, yes I agree with you. A ‘padd’, from my understanding of it, is a very task-centric device. You just don’t see random people using it randomly. It’s there, assisting in the diagnosis of some systems failure, or helping some artist make something artistic, or providing an interface for note taking in some trial, but again, it’s focused around the specific task. You’ll notice, in the Star Trek shows, their communications devices is also very task-specific, presumably either since the style of communication has evolved SMS, email, twitter, etc right out of usefulness; or alternatively such systems are never highlighted in the show.

    But, then again, if we were to have such specific task-centric devices currently, these big companies wouldn’t make so much profit, and then would lose focus and momentum. So, instead, they make one-device-does-it-all, and hype it up to such a point that everyone wants one “because they’re so cool”.

    I’ve never owned an i-device. I consciously make choices to use the technology that best fits my lifestyle, instead of adapting my life around the technology. And I think that’s where most people differ: they want easy and fast decisions, they don’t want to bother learning or understanding, they just want it easy, at the expense of everything else. You couple that lazy attitude towards life with an insanely clever marketing team, and you get devoted zombie followers, like these people who bought the ipad the day it came out and will now buy the ipad2, even though it’s only been 11 months since the previous iteration. What a way to live life.

  4. I think you hit the nail on the head with the Tom Cruise reference, because it’s really just a ‘cult thing’. ;)

    For industrial use, though, it is pretty neat-o handy to be able to pass someone an iPad loaded with schematics, docs, video, what have you for a quick information share, just that tiny bit more convenient than the heavier keyboard-equipped clamshell of a laptop.

    Also I think that the official iPad2 promotional video that shows in-classroom use is a good demonstration of practical use.

  5. I work with a bunch of Apple fans and even them admit that these gadgets are just that: gadgets. Their biggest use of these gadgets seem to be for games… So I’ve came to consider things like the iPad some kind of bad console.

    I see them carrying their iPhone and iPad everywhere mostly just to do something else than what they are supposed to do.

    I’m sure those gadgets can have a real intelligent use (maybe someone that needs to keep track of inventory on the floor) but for that you must not look at those owning such gadgets currently…

  6. I think you’re having the same problem I do, which is that you are by a wide margin not the iPad’s target demographic.

    There are plenty of people out there that don’t really understand computers. They may know their way around a browser and Word, but that’s about it. All the intricacies and minutiae are baffling at best and terrifying at worst. Working with a computer for them is a process of memorizing the incantations that elicit desired results from a fickle and occasionally malicious beast.

    Here’s an example: suspend/resume on a laptop. You and I know that, if you stay off battery long enough, eventually the laptop is going to have to sync to disk and shut itself down. In my experience that’s a dicey proposition. I have enough of an idea *why* to understand it. For a lot of people the laptop just “sometimes doesn’t save itself when I close it”. It’s fickle and confusing and far too much work to watch Youtube videos.

    This is the kind of person the iPad is for: someone who wants casual computing without futzing around with an actual computer. It’s a good size to read, it’s not much less comfortable to use than an equally-sized book, and it’s *dramatically* easier to use if you don’t really understand how computers work.

    For some people, that ease of use trumps all. Everybody knows someone like this. I’d suggest you find an opportunity to watch them use a computer. It’ll be eye opening how intimidated they are by things we consider routine or don’t even think about.

    That said, I don’t want one. Switching between my phone and laptop gives me everything I could want from an iPad, for all the reasons you’ve given. It’s just that there’s a hidden assumption of “roughly equal usability” in your comparison that isn’t true for most of the people out there.

  7. We have a family iPad in our house, and it gets a fair amount of use. Of course, we are a family of voracious readers, so we all read while eating and read instead of watching any tv, so we are not a typical family.

    Previously, I read online at my computer desk and read books, magazines and newspaper at the table or in the living room; each to a place, with no overlap. Since getting the iPad, I have started surfing at the table as well (that’s where I saw this post and posted this reply). So for us, the iPad is the internet where we read; not a new computer, but a new kind of magazine – one that has the whole Internet, every ebook, your email, and YouTube, plus text editing and some silly games.

    If there were fewer than the three if us using it it would be a pricey new toy, but with the whole family sharing it’s a lot better value for the price. Do we each need our own one? No, that’s crazy. Are we getting a new one now? No, it’s still as good as it was at the start of the week. Does everyone need one? I don’t know; when and where do you read?

  8. For me, it’s the Internet as a book (and easier to use than the iPod Touch)

    Your laptop seems to do the same job for you already.

  9. The iPad is *NOT* a computer. It is a general use device, that can run programs, but it is not a computer, and not intended as computer replacement. I think that is what your missing.

    It is designed to be media and game device, but it has the power and ability to do significantly more.

    The iPad can be used as a limited replacement for the computer. For example, in my day to day work at a college as a Desktop IT Support, my iPad is used for Evernote (document retrieval and some updates), appointment scheduling, directory assistance, web searches, etc… In my daily work flow, it basically can replace a laptop…

    Yes, I wouldn’t use it by itself for large batches of data entry, unless I was mobile when I was performing it. That’s why I can re-assign a bluetooth keyboard to it, if I need to. Or connect a USB keyboard as well.

    If you think it’s a toy, or a simple gadget, then I would guess you’ve never seriously tried to use just an iPad for a day or two…. Without touching your computer / laptop / netbook.

    It’s not perfect, but it can be a full laptop replacement, especially if you pair it with a mini-bluetooth keyboard…. And significantly lighter, with better battery life, and a significantly better / larger screen then most netbooks…

    Take ebook reading, you’ve got a 10 display… An laptop would be prohibitive for ebook reading, or at least not very portable. But perfect for an iPad… So is the laptop just a gadget?

    I don’t claim the iPad is perfect, like I said, I would prefer not to write the great american novel on it… But trivializing it is wrong.

    That’s like saying that a Palm Pilot is a gadget. This is a large scale PDA / Netbook in a slim line case, that is darn portable.

  10. > The iPad is *NOT* a computer.

    Nothing more to add.

    In 5 years time, EVERYBODY will buy tablets. Yes, you might still have 1 computer left in the corner of the house whenever you want to use Excel, or whatever, but for everything else, a tablet is perfect. People want to surf, use facebook/tweater/whatever, play games and read/send email… and you can do that on the sofa/bed/loo/garden/in the car and it is far easier to use/carry than a laptop.

    I bought my IPAD 6 months ago, and everyone in my household are using it. Obviously, people like us, will still use a computer for programming but for everything else (not work related) tablet wins with their fingers in the nose.

  11. I don’t get why people try to convince you it’s something amazing when you just say you don’t care about it.

    I could see my wife use one for what she uses her netbook for (reading Facebook and playing pac-man…) but not to the point of paying twice the price she paid her netbook. Bring me a tablet the price of a cheap netbook and yeah sure I’d consider buying her one if her netbook dies. Don’t really need a $500+ machine to go on Facebook and play simple games.

  12. but even if the i[ad was FREE and it had the power of a cray supercomputer, it still doesnt seem as comfotable for using as this laptop I’m typing this comment on, and which is resting handily on my stomach.
    Also, I can see the whole screen as I type.
    Its not the brand or the power or the coolness I dont get. It’s the form factor.

  13. I thought it was stupid too, right up until I was given one as a gift and it somehow managed to replace both of my two high-end laptops. The form factor is a lot more comfortable that you’re giving it credit for, especially for “light” usage like browsing the internet in bed or on the couch. And while the issue of blocking the screen might have some merit on phones and other small touchscreen devices, it really doesn’t ever happen on the larger iPad screen.

    I’m not saying I literally never use my laptops anymore, but they rarely leave the house now and they almost never come out at home unless I’m doing actual work on them. Coincidentally, it’s also one of the best platforms I’ve ever come across for strategy games (unfortunately, most app developers don’t seem to agree).

  14. I suppose you’re not much of the [paper] book reading type? An iPad is a book, with the following key differences:
    * It’s lighter
    * It’s thinner
    * It can access the Internet
    * It can hold dozens/hundreds of books
    * It can watch videos
    * It can do the job of a calendar
    I could go on…. :P

  15. Lots of great points, both for and against (I still use my laptop, netbook, desktop machine, etc., each for their own uses), but here’s one really interesting/cool/perspective-changing/etc. thing an iPad can do that your laptop never will: _disappear_, leaving the application running directly in your hands.

  16. The only reason I could see an iPad useful is as a book replacement. Playing games on it? Ok, there are a few, maybe 10 or 12 that are Ok but most games play awful on a touch-controlled device. Watching movies? I can do that too on the TV or PC. Useful apps? there are 5-6 useful apps that I use on my iPhone: a calculator, Evernote, dictionary, unit converter and camera. That’s all. I don’t need a larger ‘iPhone’ for that. And let’s be honest, 90% of the 65000something iApps are useless crap. Apart from this I cannot install really useful apps that I need on the iPad, things like Office or Onenote. It doesn’t play Flash content which sucks and the most important reason not to get an iDevice is: You need to use iTunes!

  17. My beloved has been stuck on the sofa breastfeeding for months and with only one arm available most of the time the ipad has been invaluble.

    Regarding Apple, there are fanatics on either side. Some of them make good points. Most of them don’t. They shout very loud.

  18. When Steve Jobs says he doesn’t see the point of a 7″ form factor, I can’t help but wonder if he’s being disingenuous, or outright lying.

    Here are two applications where the full 10″ of the iPad may make a difference:

    Board/card games
    PDF based ereading, such as for RPG rulebooks and coffee table books

    As ever though, use cases will vary, and are highly dependent on the individual. You may prefer a 7″ form factor device, and that’s, okay.

    Now that the price of the iPad v1.0 is down to $400, I can’t say I’m not tempted, but given a choice between the Viewsonic G at 10″ and the Android ecosystem vs. iTunes, well, let’s just say that iTunes is the suxx0rz and leave it at that.

  19. I really think it all comes down to personal preference. I love mine to bits, and I know a guy who ditched his laptop in favour of the iPad solely for web browsing. I find mine great for gaming and reading, not to mention writing (it’s surprising how quickly one gets used to the small keypad.)

    But, as a Star Trek geek, I have to say that “owning an actual PADD” was about number 3 on my list of reasons to get an iPad.

  20. Well, recently my brother received an ipod touch, so for the first time I was curious of what kind of apps the apple store had to offer. I was mostly impressed with games, after searching for a while I discovered some boardgames where aviable for the device.

    I was pleased with most implementations and discovered that the i-pad, would be an awesome “boardgame platform” (most of the games translated well, and the big screen emulates a “large” board).

    Still, the selection of boardgames (that I like) is not that big, and the i-pad is quite pricey, if there where at least 10 board games (that I like) aviable for the device I think it would be a good investment.

  21. Dammit, the main reason for you to buy an iPad is so you can help the Red Marble folks with porting GSB to it :)

    Every time I play it on my computer, I feel like a touch UI could work out much better. Games that require a brain and don’t require 13 year-old reflexes are perfect for the ipad.

  22. I only bought it, because I am creating iphone games as well as online games. I was very surprised to find myself using it so often.

    The form factor is fantastic for certain things – such as reading digital books, non-action games, simple browsing (its fantastic for settling arguments when you can check facts so quickly), and its amazingly convenient to leave on a coffee table. Suprisingly, I play more games on it than on my PC these days, 5 minute blasts are so convenient. It is also the ultimate man peripheral, you can take it to the bog!

    I think it would a great platform for Gratuitous Space Battles actually, especially as some my favourite games on it include Weird Worlds and Settlers of Catan.

    It’s a weird machine in that, most people don’t “get it” until they have it for a little while, then they discover the random moments they use it. As for this level of convenience being worth the current price, well not really, its merely a nice to have with the brilliant Apple marketing team behind it.

  23. I guess it’s all in what you need it/use it for. I’m a systems administrator and my iPad is a constant companion. Remote apps let me check the function of client applications while standing at the console in the server room. I can access remote consoles and management information while troubleshooting a diagnostic instrument without trying to precariously balance a (relatively) heavy laptop. My e-mail and the web follows me everywhere, as does my link to the internal corporate phone system. And notes synced via webDAV have completely replaced paper for me.

    Mark said it right .. when I got one I wasn’t completely sure how useful it would be, but the more I use it, the more uses I find for it. I’m not sure if I worked from one location it would be as useful, but for me it’s brilliant.

  24. I held off buying an iPad for a long time, but I eventually went for it despite a fear that I might get hit by a lot of buyer’s remorse after the fact. I haven’t regretted it for a moment.

    I’m basically a desktop computer guy. I have a very old laptop with a non-functional battery that I kept next to my bed so that I could read online news or watch netflix when I get settled in for the night, but it hardly counts as a portable device. There was very little incentive for me to buy a laptop or even a netbook as I was unlikely to do real “work” stuff away from my desk, where I want the power that a desktop can bring. But a portable web browser, netflix/youtube player, and PDF/ebook reader was definitely something I could use.

    Obviously a netbook could do that too, but a lot of your real-estate is lost to a keyboard/trackpad. I’m going to echo one of the posters above and say that the iPad is truly ideal way to carry around 30+ Dungeons and Dragons books in PDF form. The form-factor is perfect for reading documents.

  25. For reading I like to use it like I read most books: Either holding it or having it flat on a desk. It’s great for looking stuff up fast because of it’s fast boot time. It just personal preference but I can’t stand reading books on a laptop.

    Aside from liking its aesthetics and ergonomics (again just my pref), I mainly use it an impatient-persons laptop… No fumbling with power cords, no waiting for it to boot up to look something up like a map, find a new restaurant, or to check email. It replaces a note pad for jotting down and managing ideas, syncable grocery lists etc.

    If you have a good transparent waterproof bag you can watch movies,play games or read in the tub. (Don’t have it plugged into the wall of course.) You are really better off building a waterproof wall mount so there are no $600 accidents, lol.

    All that said, you can buy a great laptop that will do a lot more for a lot less than $600.

  26. I’m a big fan of the ipad and have been keeping my fingers crossed in hopes that you would consider bringing GSB to the iDevice. The touch screen interface seems perfect for this, and the tech power of the Ipad 2 could definitely handle what you throw at it.

    I posted on the GSB message boards but can’t seem to find the message.

    If you get a sec, check out this video for Land, Sea, Air Warfare – also for iPAD, developed by a one man team. There’s definitely a hungry audience for these types of games, and although LASW leans closer to RTS, it certainly puts me in the mind of GSB…

  27. As someone who has “gotten” the iPad long time ago and is now considering purchasing Gratuitous Space Battles should I be worried? Do you get it now? :)

  28. Yes I do, I just wish typing on the thing supportted the same keyboard shortcuts PC keyboards have had for the last decade :( I’d use it WAY more then.
    I think I blogged about how I changed my mind of the ipad a few months later…

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