A 16-year-old’s view of Apple’s iPad: iFail

Tonight when I picked up my son in Petaluma we started talking about the Apple iPad and he told me he thought it was a “fail.” This reaction was interesting coming from Patrick (he was first in line in Palo Alto for the iPhone and has been an Apple fan for as long as I remember.)

Anyway, I asked him if I could record our conversation, he said yes, and this is the result. It’s in two parts, because when we uploaded the first part we got a lot of reaction on Twitter so followed it up with a second part. Here’s the two audio recordings, sorry for the poor quality, we recorded that while driving.

Part I.
Part II.

His major points are:

1. That it isn’t compelling enough for a high school student who already has a Macintosh notebook and an iPhone.
2. That it is missing features that a high school student would like, like handwriting recognition to take notes, a camera to take pictures of the board in class (and girls), and the ability to print out documents for class.
3. That he hasn’t seen his textbooks on it yet, so the usecase of replacing heavy textbooks hasn’t shown up yet.
4. The gaming features, he says, aren’t compelling enough for him to give up either the Xbox or the iPhone. The iPhone wins, he says, because it fits in his pocket. The Xbox wins because of Xbox live so he can play against his friends (not to mention engaging HD quality and wide variety of titles).
5. He doesn’t like the file limitations. His friends send him videos that he can’t play in iTunes and the iPad doesn’t support Flash.
6. It isn’t game changing like the iPhone was.

Anyway, revealing conversation with a teenager who got extremely excited about the iPhone (and saved up to buy his own) the day he saw that.

What do you think?

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

147 thoughts on “A 16-year-old’s view of Apple’s iPad: iFail

  1. Your kid wants this (as do I): http://www.ted.com/talks/pranav_mistry_the_thri

    My Mac guy says its a computer built (with the touch screen action, easy browsing and easy seeing) for our parents. I think he's right. I love mac and have several, but agree that they need to bring out the big guns…stop saving stuff…I know they have it!

  2. I think just about everyone's reaction initally was a bit of a let-down, but many after thinking about it, and seeing what developers are saying, are really excited about it. Initially I couldn't care, but now I want to be first in line.

    Now that Patrick's had a week to consider the possibilities, does he still think “iFail”, Robert?

  3. I totally agree with this kid. For me the iPad is like a surprise gift to people. You'll get surprise, you buy it and later on you'll realize that it's not worth the buy. This is kid could be a tech critic. LOL. Nice.

  4. I'm not challenging your manhood, just stating an opinion. And as far as I know iPad is available and was when I wrote this. I stand by what I said. All of it.

  5. “…even Apple can screw up once in a while.”

    How can you say this when the device hasn't even come to market yet? Like Scobleizer 2.0, it doesn't fit your needs or even wants, so you write it off as failure.

    For the first 24 hours I didn't want one.

    But every day just about I think of a new use for an iPad for me. And that's despite my iPhone or MacBook doing a similar thing (e.g use to show my portfolio). So I can't wait!

    It's about the best tool for the job, and the iPad is going to be the best in for a lot of things.

    Touch will define this decade. (In the 80s it was the PC; in the 90s, Windows; in the noughties it was the Internet.)

    Like Scoble said before it's release, the iPad will change the way we use computers, and what we expect of them.

  6. I think Steve Jobs is an aging baby boomer. I think he said he thinks this is the best thing he's ever done. I think he's not aiming at 16 year olds with this.

    My parents are aging baby boomers. They interact with web services as their main Internet usage, most of which are better accessed through simple app-interfaces, as in via an iPhone. But their aging baby boomer eyes and fingers find the iPhone too fiddly and small.

    I think for these folks the iPad is a bucket-load of win.

  7. I like the look of those, but what I really love about the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad is how solid and well built it feels. To put a real OS on it would be my perfect tablet, but one can only dream. I am strictly a windows user, but I think I would have ventured outwards to Mac OS if that's where this was going.

  8. I'd have to disagree. Without multitasking, what good is it?

    I'd like to listen to music and chat with my friends while browsing the internet or watching videos (non-flash ones obviously). Is there even a good chat app??

    This might be fine for parents who can only do one thing at a time. :D

    1. Like the iPhone/iPod, the iPad can play music and browse the web at the same time. The iPod app can run in the background. Beyond that, you’d be surprised how little most people multitask.

      And there are lots of chat apps for the iPhone, so they’ll work on the iPad, and I’m sure they’ll be updated for the larger iPad screen too.

    2. I don’t get the argument about multi-tasking. Let’s take your use case. You go into Apple’s iPod app and start playing music. You switch to the chat app to say hi to your friends. The music keeps playing. You switch to the web browser to view a page, or a video (which would stomp all over the audio from the music player – I think in that case the music stops while the video runs, but I’d have to test it). You switch back to the chat and chat some more. Etc. Just what exactly is gained by having the browser and chat running at the same time as processes? You can’t interact with both at once, and application switching is so fast as to provide similar context switching times to just going to another already-open window: your brain is the limitation here, because it takes time to refocus. So what exactly have you gained by multi-tasking? By not multi-tasking, you’ve gained simplicity and battery life. That seems more worthwhile than a checkbox that the device multi-tasks always and everywhere.

  9. So you’re paying close to a $100 a month so your son can have an iPhone. Seriously man?

    What does a 16-year old need an iPhone for? Does a sixteen year old need that much internet access? Especially with wifi being all over the place?

    And the device is poorly thought out, but it hasn’t stopped the sale of the iPhone with its lack of features.

  10. You are incorrect sir. It's good to have open standards.

    Facebook is not built on proprietary standards, not Google, not MySpace.
    Flash served and still serves a purpose but frankly 90% of that purpose has faded.

    Video files do not require a proprietary plugin to view them, period. You can just play the video file and this would be all the more true if it weren't in certain “free market” corporations interest to keep them locked away.

    Menus, graphic overlays, splashy crap by conceited designers that do nothing to enrich the web experience can all be done in HTML5 today, right now, it's a new public standard.
    Check out this link in Chrome, Safari4, or maybe even Firefox: http://9elements.com/io/projects/html5/canvas/
    There's no proprietary plugin magic, just open code.

    Sorry, you are right about free markets but wrong about this and the internet. The internet flourished not because it was locked in someone's closet but because it was free.

    Don't fight the internet.

  11. @Scobleizer

    All his points regarding the iPad are valid.

    However, there is a market for “netbooks” that aren't driven by Windows.
    Would have liked to see a camera, I can see how that would be useful for bloggers on the go that would like to introduce photos into their posts live, the larger screen would afford more editing ability.

    Definitely see where there would be times, especially while traveling that one would be handy. I have a Nexus One and am now more apt to leave my MacBook at home but an iPad would be a welcome addition.

  12. I work at a software development firm. The number one complaint amongst everyone there is eye fatigue/strain. We all stare at LCD's 8-12 hours a day. Take this complaint and replicate it amongst many professions that actually stare at LCD monitors all day and you will see that it very much stands up to scrutiny.

    And yes, thank you for pointing out the other benefits of eInk that I forgot to mention. On that note, Notion Ink's Adam does everything the iPad can do as well as multitask and has a full featured OS with no app store lock in. It can play every standard media file format and has a no limit internet browsing experience, meaning Flash, etc. It also uses the Pixel Qi display that sort of emulates eInk and can be viewed in direct sunlight!

    CES this year revealed a plethora of very promising tablets.

    Notion Ink Adam, Asus eee product line, Acer xx20pt/ptz product line, HP Slate, Archos 5/7/9 and some others

    Microsoft also has the Courier/Codex project in the works, which is looking to be my anticipated purchase if the specs are to be believed.

  13. Give me a break, I have a Kindle too, but I use glossy LCD displays to read about 10x longer every day than I've ever used a Kindle and my eyes don't hurt. Most of the world uses LCDs all day long and most don't complain. This argument just does not ring true. That tech, by the way, DOES have some advantages over LCDs: they use very little power, which makes battery life very long and they can be used in direct sunlight, which LCDs can't be. But give the “eyestrain” argument a break, it doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

  14. Because the Kindle uses eInk, which is an expensive technology, and doesn't hurt your eyes like hell to read on it, unlike reading on a glossy IPS LCD color display.

    The iPad will be terrible as a serious reading session device. I think the Kindle will come down in price because of this, but it definitely is the better e-reader.

  15. HTML5 is still 5-10 years out according the the W3C's own timeline. Flash/Silverlight/JavaFX are here now, are far more flexible for developers than HTML5 and are still evolving technologies. They offer better experiences now than anything HTML5 can offer in the future as spec'ed currently. They also have better all around performance, if not the same video delivery performance (Silverlight is great in this aspect).

    I for one am completely against standards, even “open” ones that are designed through collusive efforts of major companies all belonging to a single standards body. I much rather see “standards” like Flash and Silverlight, where the companies are still trying to best each other, which is what really drives innovation and creativity. Once they all get together and agree on a standard, you have languishing innovation and stale creativity.

    Usually the best website experiences are the ones currently using proprietary tech. HTML standardized the web, but it took Flash to make it appealing. JavaFX and Silverlight only add options, they do not detract from the experience. Only those that seek to control and limit the web seek standards.

  16. The iPad will not revitalize the newspaper/magazine industry because they still rely on the pay for content model. The internet, especially the blogosphere, has forever eliminated the pay for content paradigm when it comes to news media. The newspaper industry is still going to be relegated to specialized content providers, like finance news, tech news, etc. and the market will be extremely small. This is a last ditch effort to save themselves and it will fail.

  17. I think you and your son are on the money with iPad (What a ridicules name). There simply is no compelling reason to spend $500 on this gadget. I have never understood why anyone would buy the first version of any gadget – there are always things that will be improved in versions to come.
    I work with and use Mac computers, as well as Windows. That doesn't mean I have to fall in love with the company and buy everything they make. I may get killed for this, but even Apple can screw up once in a while.

  18. More accurately the Kindle has sold 3 million copies. The iPhone and iTouch have sold a combined 75 million copies in about the same amount of time. And I do not believe the iPad will be a failure, you have me confused with my son. I thought his point of view is interesting and based on the reaction here, both from supporters and haters I'd say I was right.

  19. In the span of no time the deluded Scoble goes from insisting that iPad is going to change the game to practically betting on its failure, partly at least based on his douchey 16 year old kid's opinion. Kids that age should be seen and not heard Scoble. You're the same idiot who insisted that the kindle was a fail 2+ years ago, and it's sold bajillions of copies. You are an infantile idiot. Next time you get excited about some new gadgetry, how about you whip out your crank, stroke it, calm down, and think before you breathlessly peck out your next piece of sycophantic nonsense.

  20. Think of what developers will do with it.

    Think of what Adobe, EA and Smule (guys who made Ocarina) will do with it.

    Imagine playing a Star Trek game where you do just wave your hands over it like in the Star Trek movies.

    Imagine the new musical instruments that will be created.

    And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

  21. The game changing aspect of the iPad is probably not as exciting as what the iphone was but it is game changing for one reason, Books.
    The iPad's man function (I think) is to take on one more media source. Apple has cracked into music, movies, gaming, apps (which they created) and soon the digital book. The expression, “you can't out Amazon, Amazon” might have to change. The kindle wasn't cutting it but the iPad certainly will. How amazing would it be to have the 1,000 of books you own all in your computer? Freakin' killer!
    Of course loaning them out would be challenging. =)

  22. not really…as a college student, I'll have to disagree:

    1. Firstly, spoiled is all I can say. I have neither. Second, its smaller than a laptop thus could fit in my single bag without the need of lugging around a laptop/carry case.
    2. Handwritting recognition still wouldn't replace my (nor anyone-I-know's) paper notebook. Plus, “there's an app for that” and the accessories to do it. And you can bet that's the first app developers are itching to make for it sue to the demand.
    3. There's a thing called the internet, your son needs to look past the iBooks store. I'm not sure about the highschool level, but I can get electronic versions of all my texts online. Not to mention the free/illegal textbook scene is surprisingly huge.
    4. Agreed somewhat. The iPhone is not a real gaming device though. The psp/ds would win there. Its good enough to pass some time. (Its sad that “real” games are more than just time passers)
    5. Agreed. Adobe better pump out mobile flash soon or HTML5 will just steamroll in.
    6. People bitched about the iPhone on launch day too.

    Its not a laptop/computer replacement. Its a reader and media device with productivity abilities.

  23. My 9 yr old will go nuts over this – he loves the hand me down holiday gift of a 1st gen iPod touch.

    I will love the iPad. All I do for news consumption is read (or watch some news shows) on my laptop and you know what? It stinks b/c of the form factor but I've put up with it for years b/c the medium (internet) is the better way to consume news and media.The iPad changes all of this and is for sneezers like me who consume and create massive amounts of stuff online (no, it won't take photos but it will upload them!). It's actually dare I say, perfect.

  24. I don't want to hold up a device this large to take a photo. I will always carry a pocket camera be it on my phone or otherwise. Video conferencing (ahem, goofing on PhotoBooth) or other video calling is the better use of a camera on this type of device.

    It has HD video capabilities. The screen can't be 16:9 … that's weird for other media. This is a compromise.

    I will not wait for more background processes (really all I want is for the streaming apps, Pandora, Public Radio, etc to still play while I do other stuff)

    Printing would be nice but actually I rarely print.

    I'm all in, might buy 2.

  25. I'm finding your premise to be untrue.

    I even use ClickToFlash (a flash blocker for Safari) and load the actual video file on YouTube pages.

    Guess what?! My laptop doesn't start it's engines for take off. It just plays it and everything is grand.

  26. Well you can play all of that. To be polemic: flash is dead (long live !flash but Adobe and all their investment in SVG or other stuff — their player sucks on apple products so they get punished).

    Remove flash video players (is happening), and remove conceited flash site design (menus, photo overlays and other stuff JQuery does better) and you lose 90% of flash on the web.

    The other 10% are games which granted can not yet be replaced by HTML5 but it's close!

    Those 10% are largely and happily replaced by my kids on the OS X Mobile platform by something (gah, dozens) of games from iTunes.

    Everything is amazing and everyone here is bitching and moaning.

  27. $200 will get you just that: “2 GB of RAM and 2 Genuine Intel x86 cores.”

    No screen, no battery, nothing else.

    I wish to win the lottery 80 times and become a billionaire.

    As for Microsoft partnering with Novel/SUSE to make it a horse race, they can just buy them since Novel still bears the scar of the knife in its back. And the only viable partners with Intel/Moblin would be hardware makers. Microsoft cannot make a dime off of Moblin or SUSE anyway.

  28. That was a rhetorical question. However, to me, it was actually a device that made all the features of a mobile phone intuitive, usable and accessible. The web browsing is great too, for a smartphone.

    The tablet, however, is a big deal to me. iPad is not meant replace a laptop or a desktop, as so many here and elsewhere are suggesting, so that their mother or grandmother can overcome her fear of computers. It is meant to be a large iPod Touch and will require a computer (Mac or PC). You can disagree with Apple as to the proper definition of a tablet. But Apple sure has plenty of support and infrastructure behind it to make it a success as a consumer device as well as a business device.

  29. “I doubt Apple will allow Microsoft to release an iPad version of Office.”

    You are joking? Apple would love Microsoft to release an iPad version of Office. Last time they were so keen, they signed Apple's intellectual property rights away. The reason Apple developed iWork in the first place is because Microsoft was dragging its foot releasing crippled version of Office for the Mac, and Apple needed a decent reliable source for such productivity software (in fact, that was the reason they brought or bought so much application development in-house.)

  30. I disagree with this:

    “I believe that this will be the true 'computer for the rest of us', i.e. the remaining billions of computer-phobes and avoiders, and of course everyone who wants to carry some fun, and light productivity capability with them, everywhere they go.”

    The iPad's design requires that it be used with an existing computer. So it can never become a main computer.

    However, I think it seems what people are really debating is what a tablet really is. Should it run a desktop OS and function as a touchscreen notebook with, or should it run a specialized touch OS?

    To answer this, you would have to ask yourself a basic question. If it should run a desktop OS, then how will it handle all the existing apps written for a desktop OS? Most of them will be either unusable or a pain to use. How do you play games that require a keyboard? How do you use a spreadsheet? Producer of such a tablet would have to rely on existing desktop application makers to modify their interface to work with a tablet. The only viable choice for OS would be Windows 7, and most developer don't want to risk writing code for a platform that seems to be somewhat up in the air – the touch interface on Windows 7 isn't exactly like a finished product.

    Apple is placing its bets on the specialized touch OS. For three reasons. The first is it can count on apps written specifically to take advantage of it, and thus such apps will provide a superior user experience. The second is that it already has a specialized touch OS supported by thousands of developers who have created over 140,000 applications for the platform. The third is that there are over a 50 million users already familiar with Apple's iPhone interface.

    So yes the iPad is supposed to be a large iPod touch. That is what Apple is betting the tablet is. Google is also betting along the same lines, but they even allow less functionality. Chrome OS is supposed to be just a browser running Linux. When you consider the form factor, the weight, and the battery capacity of tablets, you realize that Win 7 with a touch interface slapped on top intended to run all existing desktop apps is not the way to go.

    Besides, there is nothing wrong with a large iPod touch. The iPod touch is actually a miniature tablet which because of its small screen does not lend itself to many tasks. I think a lot of people will change their minds once they see, in three to six months, the sort of apps will be developed for the iPad. There will be a lot of professional and business apps. According to Amazon the Kindle is doing extremely well. Yet in a couple of months you will be able to buy a device that costs only $10 more that the Kindle DX but does a whole lot more.

  31. Excuse me? It totally changed the game. Finally gave us a mobile device that made the web/internet usable on. Every cell phone company is STILL being disrupted by the iPhone, even three years later!

  32. “6. It isn’t game changing like the iPhone was.”

    iPhone doesn't do 1 through 5 either. I am curious to know what was about the iPhone that he considered game changing?

  33. It's compelling enough to be a very good ereader and put other ereaders out of business. You can better resolution, color and functionality. You can't view graphics and diagramsn like charts well on the the Kindle. You can use the Kindle in the dark like in your bedroom before you go to bed. Plus with the iPad you can watch movies and use one of the tons of appstore application.

    It's a very good ereader but not meant to replace your laptop/netbook/notebook.

  34. You guys are killing me!!! Chill with all of this left brain thinking and pointing out all of the things that iPad doesn't have or do. If you are a real tech geek, you should buy one when it first hits the streets. Why? The killer-app or killer-use hasn't even been thought of yet. It is going to come from those who have the device in there hands and actively seek ing out creative ways to utilize it.

    I bet within 3 years the iPad will be use in ways that will have you saying “I never ever would have thought that the iPad would have been used to _________” . Buy one, start using your right brain, and fill in the blank. Techville will thanks you.

  35. Excellent thoughts.

    Although I believe that 2. – 5. will be cured by time/ new versions. 1. is the crucial one! Why?

    There will not be enough room for a smartphone, a tablet, and a laptop side by side as shown in Steve Jobs' introduction. What is going to stay then? Definitely the smartphone. We need to talk to each other over a distance! How about tablet versus laptop?

    My feeling is those two devices have to converge into one – a tablet to-go with proper monitor and keyboard connectivity for office/ home.

    Which somehow brings us back to the early 00's PC tablets. Only better. We'll see :)

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