The iPad and My European Family

Posted on 17 May 2010, Last updated on 10 June 2018 by

IMG_3256 I’ve always imagined the Apple iPad to be one of the easiest purchases a Dad could make. It looks good (no more ugly laptops on the coffee table,) it can be used for multi-player games (something to bring the family together) and it can be used around the house (no more being stuck in the broom-cupboard with the family desktop.) Naturally the price can also be justified (have you seen how expensive those new coffee machines are and a BluRay player, PS3 or Wii isn’t ‘that much’ cheaper. Even smartphones are more expensive over 2 years.) With its relatively large-format text and screen, simple user interface, loungey two-handed usage and access to music, books and films from the device itself,  it’s difficult to imagine the device selling to anywhere else other than the living room. Apart from the tech bloggers, apple fans, the rich, early adopters, journalists, developers,  and businesspeople who also had a reason to get in early of course.

Thanks to TouchMeMobile who kindly did a short-term swap on this iPad for a Viliv S10 we’ve been testing at UMPCPortal. You’ll find the Viliv S10 articles here. (German)

I’ve had the iPad for a little over a week and have been experimenting. I compared it with an Archos 5 to see where it overlaps and testing different usage scenarios. In between, the iPad has been where it is likely to live for most people, in the living space near the TV and remote controls and among what I regard to be an average European family.

Firstly, I should say that the iPad was exactly what I expected. It looks great but is relatively heavy (especially for a tablet that doesn’t have a stand.) It is built with stylish materials that aren’t ideal for hand-holding and it has a user interface that puts all others to shame. The app-store is exciting and the battery seems to last forever.  It’s clear that the touch user interface provides the main excitement though and this is where the ‘magic’ is. I liken the feeling to using an Air-Hockey game. Fluid, physical and somehow detached from the real world. It really connects the device to the user in a natural way.

IMG_3261 IMG_3266 IMG_3265

The iPad was used around my home for about a week and initially, everyone was keen to use it. The game Godfinger featured heavily as did web browsing which was as fast as almost any 700gm device I’ve tested. It was used for a small amount of ‘twittering’ and email too but in the end, that usage model, and anything else that involved my private data and accounts didn’t work in the family scenario. It turns out that multiple users aren’t really well catered-for on the iPad which really goes against the grain of how I see the iPad being used.

After a few days, in a family that has a number of netbooks lying around, the iPad usage faded away. My daughter, 9, uses the netbook once or twice a week to collect and print images of her favorite Disney stars and to browse videos in Clipfish or catch up on ‘Popstars’ via the TV station’s website – all flash-driven videos.  Clearly, printing and flash websites don’t work on an iPad. We’re not big electronic gamers (the Xbox is only used as a media player and DVD player and we’ve never had to tell our daughter to ‘leave that damn Nintendo alone for a minute’ ) and we don’t read e-books for hours on end (magazines, TV and books still feature heavily in our living room.) Short messaging and emails are generally done on phones (SMS still rules in Europe and there’s that personalisation issue to think about again) so I’m left wondering what the iPad would be used for. After a game of Jenga yesterday (try simulating that on the iPad!) while digital radio played in the background via our basic cable subscription, I realised that this family, despite its tech-journalist father, is just not aligned the way Steve Jobs would like and I’m imagining that the same scenario will occur right across Europe when the iPad launches leaving just the aforementioned early adopters buying.

I see where the ‘magic’ is coming from and I see that the iPad is a beautiful purchase. It’s an exciting experimental platform and connected entertainment device; I’d love to have one lying on the sofa or coffee table. Many will accuse me of not seeing the bigger picture too but, as so many people have written before, the iPad doesn’t have a unique usage case TODAY that can be used to lever a purchase TODAY. I can’t justify it.

You might think that a web site called ‘Carrypad’ is heavily pro-tablet but although we love choice, lightweight computing and sofa-surfing, we’re acutely aware of the issues of size, weight and software keyboards. Many tablets overcome the issues by being flexible in terms of connectivity or by being extremely mobile but the iPad doesn’t even do that so at 700gm / 1.5lb, I have to say that this time, Mr Jobs, you went too far in your quest for form over function and missed the mark for a general use media, web and entertainment tablet. You might have created enough marketing magic for the U.S. market and a number of ‘advanced’ European markets (UK, NL, Italy perhaps) but in the very weak Euro/Pound zone right now, where value and privacy are often concerns and where prices are very high compared to netbooks and where marketing doesn’t work as it does in the U.S, penetration isn’t going to be high.

Drop the size to 7 inch and the weight to sub 400gm, open up the connectivity so that we don’t have to treat the iPad as a PC accessory and lower the price by 200 Euro, add a docking station and I think a lot more people would be able to justify it but as it is, my EU sales predictions stay as they are. Touching the iPad didn’t really change my mind.

Notes made in first 5 minutes:

  • Beautiful
  • Pre-set up not needed (as this is a loan device that has been pre-configured)
  • Wife’s first comment ‘too big’ followed shortly after switch-on by ‘is that for us? I want one.’
  • First touch reminds me of a pinball machine.
  • Web, fast!
  • Email is nice
  • Weight too heavy
  • Slippery when dry
  • Initial pics taken on camera – SD card placed in netbook

Other thoughts.

  • Enjoyed browsing. At last sub 10-second browsing on an ARM-based device.
  • User interface – a joy.
  • Materials – high quality but not built for use.
  • Notifications system – Well implemented – apps need to catch up
  • Flexibility – Poor. Transferring files. Connectivity. Productivity. Hardly the Swiss Army Knife of tablets
  • Weight – poor.
  • Keyboard – very good technically. Few usage scenarios due to weight, lack of stand.
  • Price – Acceptable for a web/gaming device
  • Most interesting usage scenario – highly interactive musical instruments and musical experimentation.
  • Battery life good

Wife’s final comment: Good for eyes, not for the back. (Followed by joke about ‘eye-pad’)

9 Comments For This Post

  1. BenKB says:

    Steve, you have made some spot impressions. Although, I wonder if the iPad was actually purchased by you for your daughter or your wife and it became their own device (not shared around the family) if their usage would be different?

    You mentioned that it hasn’t been as good of a “shared” device as you thought it would be. I think this is generally true if the usage revolves around email and social networking etc. When using a pc it is easy enough to login with your own account and your off and running with all your preferences. But if the device became was solely your wifes or your daughters, I wonder if they would resort to it more. Perhaps they’re just not as invested in learning to get comfortable with it? Ergonomically there is definitely an adjustment to using the ipad. This has been talked about at great length many times over…”How do I hold this thing?” I’ll be honest, I still have moments of wanting to have it just sit on my lap (i.e. laptop) and I wish I didn’t have to baby this thing as much as I do since its a just a big piece of glass.

    For me (as a traditional pc/umpc user) Iam happy with my purchase because I don’t use it as a my primary device but rather as a bit of fun escapism. Instant on and no hot fan blasting away next to me. Great for flicking through blogs and tweets and getting and sending quick emails. But more importantly its the content being developed for fun and creative outlets. Sketchbook pro and number of different music programs being the most captivating.

    re: ergonomics…I recently posted a comment on umpcportal regarding the sony P being the ultimate umpc (as crabolsky). I think my thoughts there still stand.

  2. turn.self.off says:

    i do wonder how much of the early adopter market in europe have already been filled thanks to gray market ebay sales…

  3. jgreg says:

    I had the iPad for 2 weeks but took it back because:

    1. It is not easy to hold for very long.
    2. There is no easy way to get data in or out.
    3. There is currently no way to print.
    4. It is a huge fingerprint magnet.
    5. For what it is, it is too expensive.

  4. sts1976 says:

    Hey Chippy great post with lots of valid points. I agree that the iPad is not a mobile device but a home device, and it’s not a production device but a device to consume media. And this is why its causing controversy and confusion just like the iPhone did and still does. Its just different….

    One key feature you don’t mention and which essentially made the iPhone what it is (i.e. an poor/average Smartphone a good/great Smartphone), is the apps, its store, and the masses of developers itching to make 59p… lol

    It if gets a tenth of the attention the iPhone gets then it wont be long until apps are created to enable your daughter to collect and print images of her favourite Disney Stars and to browse videos in Clipfish or Catch up on Popstar via its very own app. And that’s the beauty these apple mobile devices and it’s this apple ecosystem which if you are happy to sell you soul, enables the average Joe to have a great beautiful time.

    Keep up the good work on those podcasts… they’re great and get me through many awful tube journeys.

  5. Andrzej Rusztowicz says:

    Spot on, Chippy.
    My family of 4 also owned an iPad for a week in Poland, only to sell it without regrets. My 4yo daughter preferred touchscreen UMPC, wife was furious about the number of steps needed to copy and read a simple pdf (didn’t configure mail app as it was a shared, lay-around device) and went back to her notebook quickly. It was left alone in a drawer for the two last days before selling.

    My biggest problem is the screen, always looked dirty and very glossy (I started carrying a cloth around to keep wiping it but gave up).

    I am quite sure I will get version 2 some day (I am a computer geek after all). This version is the only piece of electronics that I sold back in recent years (everything else I keep storing and eventually reuse).

  6. focus says:

    I agree :is too big and too heavy,7 inch is the best,BUT keep the 4/3 format!

  7. cccleaner says:

    This blog is great. How did you come up witht he idea

  8. Thea Mckinzey says:

    Hi Some good thought provoking content on here. Nice work.

  9. Stella Tims says:

    Would you be willing to write a guest post on my blog?

1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Huawei S7 Android Tablet Ordered. Expected Here Soon. | Carrypad says:

    […] I buy it for me? Not really although this could seriously become the coffee-table PC that the iPad was for a week when I had it. With SD cards that you can write to it will be the perfect image viewer. It’s no […]

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