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The iPad Morphing Machine

Posted 8 years ago in Tech by Rod Drury
Posted by Rod Drury

At first I was disappointed, but last night I got to watch the key note presentation and having reflected over night I think the iPad is more important than I first thought. But let me come to that soon.

Why was I disappointed:

  • Lack of Flash support in the browser. Flash is everywhere on the web. We use Flash objects in our Xero charts and my little boy lives in Club Penguin. That lets down the ‘best browser experience’ claim.
  • The camera didn’t make it, so obviously there is a version 2.0 coming soon. Also the big bezel looks very V1.  Version 2 will be nothing but screen. So the iPad creates a dilemma. I want one, but there is a better one coming.
  • For business it’s not a note taking device so it doesn’t replace the A4 notebook I carry around in my bag.  With no stylus it can’t be a Microsoft One Note, but applications like Things will allow tasks to be entered.  For the iPad to be used in business it has to work like a pad – where you can write on it, but not look like you’re checking your email. Apps might bridge this gap. I assume that ActiveSync still works but connecting to Exchange is conspicuously omitted on the iPad site.

RWW also advocates holding off to version 2: 5 Reasons to Wait for iPad 2.0

Clearly the iPad overlaps the iPhone and the MacBook.  The question is, is there a space in between for an eBook reader and intimate lounge surfing device?But the bigger aspect of the iPad is the user interface style. Remember that iPhone and Mac OSX is the same operating core system, which is how Apple has been able to port the iWork applications across quickly. This is a huge competitive advantage to Apple.

What was revolutionary about the iPhone is that it is a Morphing Machine:

The iPhone is the information appliance that Raskin imagined at the end of his life: A morphing machine that could do any task using any specialized interface. Every time you launch an app, the machine transforms into a new device, showing a graphical representation of its interface. There are specialized buttons for taking pictures, and gestures to navigate through them. Want to change a song? Just click the “next” button. There are keys to press phone numbers, and software keyboards to type short messages, chat, email or tweet. The iPhone could take all these personalities, and be successful in all of them.

When it came out, people instantly got this concept. Clicking icons transformed their new gadget into a dozen different gadgets. Then, when the app store appeared, their device was able to morph into an unlimited number of devices, each serving one task.

This concept greatly simplifies computing. PC style computing of multiple overlapping windows and a file system is difficult for non technical users to grasp. The iPhone ease of use is now being applied to larger devices. And with the keyboard dock this maybe a great primary device for 95% of the population.

As you can see in the examples above, the operating system is practically invisible on the iPad.

So while there is overlap, the iPhone/iPad and Mac OSX allow Apple to play with both modes of operation. The iPad can become the simple to use computing device for the masses. Therefore iWork on the iPad is significant.

What I’d like to see now is the MacBook Air become more of a convertible device that allows the relaxed browsing experience of the iPad but still has the full multi-tasking power of OSX. But then I’d only need 2, not 3 devices.


January 29, 2010 at 12.16 pm

i agree. i wish they would bring out a cross between a MacBook Pro & the iPad. That would be perfect & would be useful for meetings etc

Nathan Li
January 29, 2010 at 1.34 pm

iPad wasn’t designd to replace iPhone neither MacBook. It might be just design for a single purpose. It’s like iPod, all it does is playing music. iTune has been changed the music industry which was broke. The purpose of iPad might be to change the media industry. Some people speculate iBook might change the book industry or kill Kindle etc, it could be true. but it also might be designed to change the education or healthcare industry. But Steve Jobs Says Apple Tablet “Will Be The Most Important Thing I’ve Ever Done.” and I definitely don’t think making tons of money would be the most important thing he’s ever done!!! And if iPad is to redefine education or healthcare, it won’t need a camera or Flash support, at least not the first version

Robert Owen
January 29, 2010 at 1.46 pm

No Flash is the killer for me. Interesting that Apple cited the processor demand of Flash as the public reason for not including it on iPhone but iPad has bigger processor that Apple are touting as fast. Obviously it’s all about locking in apps to the app store. Adobe perhaps need to come to some kind of licensing agreement with Apple to solve this one.

January 29, 2010 at 2.07 pm

Time to start the process of ditching Flash on Xero! For modern browsers HTML Canvas and SVG are excellent options which will work even on handheld platforms. Flash’s days are numbered.

As to the camera, yeah, surely that’s got to come in a 2.0 model. The lack of handwriting recognition came as a shock to me too. Seems a glaring omission.

That said, I’ll be getting one, as it fits enough use cases for me personally and the price is right.

Rod Drury Xero
January 29, 2010 at 7.23 pm

Thinking a bit more. Multi-window vs Modal is not mutually exclusive. Frontrow ( is a great example where OSX can flip into a Modal use case. Adding Safari to FrontRow would get you close to an iPad.

And of course we expect touch screens on the next MacBooks so a MacBook Air could/should be a superset of the iPad.

That would be the right thing to do.

An era of personal consumptivity? « Online accounting software news from Xero
January 31, 2010 at 9.45 am

[…] Rod, I was initially underwhelmed with the iPad’s launch. I’ve since had a couple of days […]

Matthew Laver
February 2, 2010 at 5.01 am

I think I would point anyone who has not read it yet to Stephen Fry’s excellent breakdown of the situation:

I really think that the possibility of this becoming the next thing to have around the home is very real and would recommend you consider writing a Xero App for iPad right now!

Sean Hoyt
February 2, 2010 at 10.53 pm

Steve Jobs eluded that HTML5 is where they are going with the pad and iphone. Right now, Flash is the standard (an almost monopoly standard) but you can already see the shift to HTML5 in one of the biggest Flash users around, YouTube:

Many repair facilities have received iPad parts and have reported that the internal frame does indeed have an opening for a front-facing webcam/lightsensor chip, the same chip used in the unibody MacBooks: so good news there, but maybe a V2.0 reveal

Everybody knows that Jobs considers a stylus to be evil, but given the amazing touch resolution across the surface, I’d imagine that writing would be amazingly detailed given a simple finger tool to increase pointing precision. There are drawing programs on the iphone so I’d imagine that the API would allow screen drawing as handwriting and ultimately OCR to text. The onscreen keyboard just doesn’t look or feel right. Works on the iphone because you tend to 1 or 2 finger input, but on a 10″ screen with all 10 fingers and ZERO tactile feedback? I’m not excited about that.

Xero app?
I don’t know guys, the cool thing about Xero in the “cloud” is that they can roll out new features quickly because they aren’t recoding and recompiling for multiple platforms. If they created apps they have to individually maintain each one, right? Seems like that would eat into the development resources. Why is Xero using Flash anyhow? The JQuery framework is the way to go… which runs great on the iPhone/iPad/Android/Palm/Blackberry.

Amber Hone
February 8, 2010 at 10.04 pm

I too was a bit dissapointed by the iPad and then I slept on it. My husband made me sit down and watch the launch video with our kids and they immediately loved it. Mind you, hubby’s very savvy and extra cutting-edge when it comes to technology and our kids are all avid Apple lovers and users.
What I soon discovered was that while I initially dwelled on the negatives – lack of browsing and overall usefulness of the iPad (I was once an avid mature and early adopter of Compaq/HP iPaq/02 XDA and loved transcribing with my fingernail so didn’t need a stylus, so I can’t wait till this comes in as a standard Apple feature ), I also could see the general usefulness in a more common setting for a less business oriented user.
As for the Flash ordeal, I believe this is over-rated. We all have to face the fact that like NZ’s number one car brand (and many other countries favourite car brand too), who currently have major safety technical issues and product recalls, Adobe faces a very similar reality that we’re all a bit oblivious to it seems. Adobe has many ‘trusted products’ we’ve all come to use daily and take for granted without questioning how safe or secure they are. This is despite the apparent interoperability and usefulness of their products in many areas of our personal and business use. My main point is that I feel we all need to move on, see the bigger picture and that for many who don’t understand it – the lack of Flash support from Apple could be a blessing in disguise for the iTouch/iPhone and can only provide us with a bit more security. Apple can only push more boundaries and continue to grow further from here it would seem.

Rod Drury Xero
February 8, 2010 at 10.18 pm

@Amber great comment.

I keep thinking of new scenario’s where I would use an iPad. For example when reading the Sunday paper I often look at houses and jump on my laptop to see more photos. That would be so much easier on an iPad.

Things like auction sites or real estate sites, could really benefit from an iPad optimized experience.

I’m beginning to agree with you on Flash. The really big websites have the resources to move to HTML5 and won’t want to miss out. It’s an interesting dynamic as it sounds like a big deal to move off Flash, but each individual website owner is motivated to have the most traffic. YouTube is already getting there. I bet Hulu (which seems to be the big Flash site the Americans don’t want to miss out on) will have an HTML5 announcement soon. So Apples stand could actually work.

I was at a school today. Solving the textbook problem is a real win.

Very interesting times.


February 9, 2010 at 11.11 pm

I personally won’t be getting one – have you seen the alternatives? Lenovo, Dell and Google are launching their own as well. I’m pretty sure they’ll support multitasking and come with Flash. Google’s will run Chrome OS, and I’m pretty confident that sometime soon it will have many more apps than the Apple store. (For the simple fact that they don’t have that strict approval process that seems to get Iphone developers really upset).

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