While we’ve covered most aspects of the iPad, we should touch briefly on gaming. Since the iPhone has been deemed such a success as a gaming platform, it’s been speculated that the iPad could take this to new heights. It’s possible, especially as the hardware is quite capable, but it’s too early to judge as the market for iPad games is currently dominated by re-tuned iPhone games. At this point in time gaming feels like a nice-to-have, rather than a reason-to-buy, feature. It’ll take something special to persuade us otherwise.
Gaming seems especially trivial given our most substantive complaint about the iPad: you can’t multitask!
To a layman this might seem an odd thing to focus on, but it is a fundamental limitation of the device at this time. On the whole, though it has plenty of issues and uncertainties, the iPad makes a reasonable argument for itself as a companion device. In and around the house, on trains, planes and in other scenarios, an all-in-one device that can play games, watch videos, view photos, read books and magazines, and enjoy all the various internet related activities (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, web apps and websites) makes a good deal of sense – not least as the iPad delivers all these delights very effectively.
However, without multitasking, it rings somewhat hollow. Want to be logged into instant messaging, monitoring Twitter and browsing the Web at the same time? You can’t. Want to stream music from Last.fm or Spotify and read a book at the same time? You can’t. Want to pause a game, check your email and return? Well…you get the idea. Hopefully the multitasking features in iPhone OS 4.0 will make it to the iPad sooner rather than later, but to launch without them seems foolhardy.
There are a few other gripes to be had, too. We can understand the lack of a USB port as it would look pretty ugly on the iPad’s sleek chassis, but not having a memory card reader is a pretty myopic decision. Instead you have to buy a separate adapter for the docking port, which allows you to connect a memory card or USB device (e.g. a digital camera). It’s also frustrating that there’s no mini-HDMI output, or an equivalent, especially as the component video dock has a baffling resolution limit of 576p. Sceptics will also point toward Apple’s limited codec and format support, which remains selective at best.
There are two conclusions to be made about the Apple iPad. As a product you could buy, it’s a tempting but ultimately unconvincing device. Anyone with a particular penchant for Apple, or enough money to burn and a love of shiny tech, are likely to buy into it. Unlike the iPhone, however, it doesn’t traverse the boundary between early adopters and the mass market. Most people probably wouldn’t know what to do with it.
What it does do is demonstrate the potential of the tablet as a segment. In time, with a few software updates, tweaks to the hardware and a more compelling library of content to draw on, it could well deliver on the hype it currently receives. It’ll also spur on competitors to compete with it, which can only be a good thing.
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