UX Magazine

Defining and Informing the Complex Field of User Experience (UX)
Article No. 472 January 27, 2010

Apple Event Coverage

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Recap: The technology seems quite impressive but not revolutionary, it's essentially a bigger iPhone with more processing power. We appreciate the engineering that was required to make this happen but the many issues that other tablet devices face (such as the on-screen keyboard) do not seem to have been resolved in any meaningful way. This is essentially a collection of new, finely crafted apps. The UI is very Apple but totally adapted to a tablet form-factor. Great work on that front but this is basically the iPhone OS and no sign of multi-tasking or camera. Would have loved a front facing one to video conference.

Screen seems to be getting rave reviews, very clear, very easy to read. Response speed seems fantastic too. "Gorgeous" is what we're hearing. So a great device for sure and definitely something that could be useful for when you can't use a laptop but it's still difficult for us to recommend this as a must-have item.

iPad

This feels like a futuristic device, especially because it is so responsive and thin but in the real world we don't see a huge need for it. The iPod made listening to digital music work and the iPhone was quite possibly the first real smart phone but this doesn't really seem to give us something that isn't handled adequately by existing devices in some form or another.

It really has the feel of a gadget, a great, beautiful, futuristic gadget but one nonetheless. Things may change as we get to play with the units in 2 months but for now even Steve hasn't managed to manufacture the need for this in my life.

11:35am - comment: And that's it. No new iPhone OS or iLife which were both expected by many today; and definitely no new iPhone with touch-sensitive casing. I think today will be remembered for all the things we didn't get. This leaves a lot of room for other tablets, especially e-ink, low-powered ones like the Kindle which just do the reading right. I think we can expect many iPad versions of iPhone apps which is great but it will be a surprise if the iPad sales are even anywhere close to those of iPods, iPhones or MacBooks. This feel more like the MacBook air which was cool and impressive but nothing more than a vanity product for Apple. We knew we would be either blown away or underwhelmed by today's announcement. Unfortunately it's the latter.

11:32am: "This is a magical device, at a breakthrough price." Not really and not really. The iPhone was all about those holy crap moments but this is just a bigger iPhone with a smaller potential market.

11:30am - comment: The fact that Apple has built a dock with a "real" keyboard shows that they don't have full confidence in their on-screen keyboard. If touch-based input was good enough they wouldn't have had to but it seems that even Apple can't solve that one. It's just an odd thing to hold unless you hold it with both hands or like a notepad, which means you'd need a (shock, horror) pen. After slamming the stylus repeatedly with the iPhone launch they weren't going to do that.

11:25am: Designer Jony Ive talking about a "magical device" but seems like a lot of internet chatter seems underwhelmed. To be fair to Apple they didn't promise anything and most of the hype was generated by the same audience who now seems disappointed. Steve Job's reality distortion field is in full effect but not really delivering the wow moment we were expecting.

11:23am: Available in 60 days which should give you some time to save if you really feel there's a huge need in your life for a tablet. Hardware isn't at all innovative (but then the iPhone isn't a bad framework to base it on). Dock with keyboard allows you to rest the iPad and type without having to do thumb yoga.

11:18am: The price is $499 for the 16GB base-model (without 3G) which is not terribly expensive but a bit of a downer considering how much the 3G connectivity was just hyped. The minimum cost with with 3G is $629. They have 6 models of the thing at 16GB, 32GB and 64GB with or without 3G. No upgradable memory. Most expensive unit is $829 which takes it into the range of a decent notebook and even Apple's own MacBook.

11:16am - content: Do we NEED this? We seem to think there's definitely a "want" but not a "need". Looks like reading may be great. It may change the way I go to the bathroom however.

11:13am: 3G built in. $29.99/month for unlimited data in the US.

11:11am: Somehow data entry into spreadsheets using touch doesn't sound like the best idea. However, there's a place for the device in areas where you walk around and need to take notes like healthcare, stock-keeping, etc... Not really sexy but it's light and yet big enough to be useable. Still, expect to see this in hip boardrooms everywhere. We hear Jack Bauer may be using one in one of the later episodes of 24.

11:07am: Phil Shiller is demoing iWork. Looks great but once again as you would expect iWork to look if Apple designed it for a giant iPhone. Don't get me wrong, this is the most exciting looking tablet out there but it everyone here isn't running out to get one just yet. Tablets are a hard sell.

11:03am - comment: Twitter seems to be running slow under the load. Apple's marketing momentum seems unstoppable at this stage. The tablet hardware seems good but nothing groundbreaking. Apple is pushing the app design which we already know they're good at. At this stage this is not much more than a really large iPhone but there is definitely a market for it, at the right price. We're still worried that the keyboard will be hard to use as the tablet needs to be held in a way that makes typing difficult.

11:00am: After showing a very slick reading UI as well as the new bookstore they are now discussing iWork for the iPad. iWork includes Keynote (presentations), Pages (word processing) and Numbers (spreadsheets) and is essentially Apple's answer to Microsoft Office.

10:55am: Steve is back and done talking about third-party apps. Now's the time to talk about the Kindle or how Apple will attempt to beat them at their own game. Enter, iBook, a first-party reading app which looks as slick as is to be expected. The page looks like a page, the bookshelf like a bookshelf. Looks like it could be comfortable reading on this even though it isn't an e-ink screen.

10:50am: More apps -- painting app looks very impressive and useful for the doodlers out there. Interface feels organic and responsive. Need for Speed looks slick and quick. Games are being pushed a lot.

10:40am - comment: Reading on this could be the big selling point, the screen looks very crisp and browsing intuitive. The rest of the apps (e-mail, etc...) are handled well by iPhone and MacBooks. This together with the gaming could really sell this thing.

10:35am: New York Times looks just like the paper version with embedded videos. Columns, inset images, etc... Looks like there's still a future for DTP. 

10:30am: Some tech info: it's half and inch thick, 1Ghz processor, 9.7 inch display, Wifi, Bluetooth, compass, accelerometer, 10 hours of battery life, 1 month stand-by. How much will this thing cost?

10:25am - comment: Everything that has been shown up to now looks pretty much as expected, even the tablet design which is basically a stretched iPhone. Buttons are bigger, font sizes have been adjusted. Videos look great, photos look great. Our guess is that it needs more to become a must-have device vs something that fits uncomfortably between your phone and notebook.

10:20am: Apps and more apps. E-mail, photos and browsing look slick and as you'd expect from Apple. Experience between iPhone and computer. iTunes looks nice and tweaked for the form-factor.

10:15am - comment: There was a "missing plug-in" box when Steve went to the NY Times website. No Flash it seems. Odd they let that slide. We're a bit underwhelmed, this looks like a big iPhone and the keyboard looks like it may be awkward to use.

10:05am: Steve is on stage. "Apple is the largest mobile device company in the world".

10:10am: It's called the iPad (as many suspected) and looks similar to an iPhone with that single button at the bottom, a relatively thick border. Think MacBook Pro without the keyboard. OS UI looks like a mixture of iPhone and Mac OS X.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

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Alex is CEO of Sideshow , an award winning creative agency. You can read his blog here.

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Jonathan (@first_day) is a tech-focused jack of all trades and the editor-in-chief of UX Magazine. He is also the author of Effective UI: The Art of Building Great User Experience in Software, published by O'Reilly Media. Through its partnership with UX Magazine, Jonathan is also a senior advisor to Didus, a recruiting and career development company focused on user-centered professionals. As well, Jonathan is Managing Director, Product Strategy & Design for Dapperly, a fashion-oriented software product startup, and he is the Principal of First Day, a small private equity and consulting company. From 2005 to 2009, Jonathan helped found EffectiveUI, a leading UX strategy, design, and development agency focused on web, desktop, and mobile systems.

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This kind of overlaps on multiple markets segments, but I'm not sure Apple will get significant market share on any of them. This is what I can deduce from what I read:

* e-reader: I really don't think this will be a viable alternative to the Kindle. 10 hours battery life? I guess a lot of people will be plugging their power cord into those "Shaver only" outlets after having forgotten to charge their iPad the day before.

* Nettop: Buy an extra keyboard cradle and you get a really nice MSI Wind... With a detachable screen. And no USB or HDMI ports.

* Portable Video Player: Awesome video player I'm sure, but WAY too expensive for that.

All the other uses mentioned just seem to be people scrambling to find a place for it.

Looks like a cool toy more than a world-changing device like the iPhone or iPod. I may be completely wrong of course and be blown away with the experience when I actually try one out, but I doubt it.