Ok, this is something I've been waiting for since (I kid you not) 1997... I was talking to my good friend Bill Bull back then who had just taken a job doing interface design for the BeOS and he said two things:
a) Apple can't afford to do this
b) even if they could, the technology just doesn't exist
Mostly true. The tech did exist in nascent form (the Newton) but it couldn't do what I wanted it to do. What I had in mind was a device like a clip-board that I could hold in one hand (or arm, you know.. like a clip-board) and write on with a stylus and which would have decent hand-writing recognition. I'm in the habit of printing in all caps, so the bar for that wasn't too high. I also wanted it to be ruggedized so I could use it outside, and I wanted a largish touch screen with decent graphics capability to include a digital camera. My thought was that I would use it to document my research for my anthro fieldwork. I'd be able to point the camera at whatever I was looking at, take a picture of it and write notes on the picture or embed it into a text document. I also thought it would be nice if the were some way to make notes on the where and when of each picture and maybe use that meta-data to organize my photos. I also figured that the camera would need to swivel back to face the user because this was the sort of thing you could use as a video-conferencing thing. Such was the faith I had in AOL's ability to force information down my phone line. Real blue sky stuff back then... of course so was my thesis, but that's another story.
This was always kicking around inside my noggin as the web and web browsers eclipsed AOL and Compuserve. Then there were the cameras and the GPSs and the WiFi and then the iPhone. All of the tech has finally matured and the iPad was announced today.
It's been called all sorts of things and it's been hailed as the savior of the old print media and all of that and of course Redmond has their fanboys too and they'll tell you that it's a POS because they'll have to accommodate something new at their corporate IT jobs.
Everyone (including Apple) seems to be missing the point. THIS IS A COMPUTER FOR PEOPLE WHO WORK WITH INFORMATION WHILE STANDING UP, OFTEN OUTDOORS. Namely, Doctors, Nurses, Archaeologists, Police Officers, people whose job it is to find lost underground fuel storage tanks for the EPA (me), The Clergy (maybe?).... You get the picture, it's a clipboard.
So why am I still waiting? Well the obvious point is that, even at <$500, I still can't afford one. Also, it's always best to let those with more money than sense buy the 1st generation of a product. They really are only buying a fashion accessory anyway. The real reason? Despite the fact that all of the tech I was dreaming about in '97 is now off-the-shelf stuff, there are a few glaring omissions from the iPad. These are the deal-breakers for me:
1. No camera(s). There's a camera in the iPhone and now that AT&T has their shit more-or-less together, you can send these pictures to other people. Not so on the iPad. This device actually needs two cameras, one pointing at the user (ala the iSight, standard equipment on all Macs) and one pointing away from the user to record whatever they choose to record. Both should ideally be video, rather than still.
2. No GPS. Again, this is something that took a while for the iPhone, but it's there. This is a mobile device. It needs to know where it is. And if you are taking pictures or video outdoors in some sort of official capacity, meta-data tagging like location/date/time is key. This is true even if you are doing this as a recreational activity.
Not a deal-breaker, but: I'd also like to see a true haptic interface. Input AND output. It's already got accelerometers, why not add a buzz/rumble/clicky sort of thing. Touch is a vastly under-rated sense in interface design.
The way I see it, there's just no excuse for these omissions. I'm sure there's a reason and I'm sure that they'll be fixed, but for now the grapes are sour.