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article imageOp-Ed: iPad gets serious — 128GB model unveiled, rather meekly

By Paul Wallis     Jan 29, 2013 in Technology
Sydney - After what feels like a few million years of “cute” status and feelgood commercials, Apple have apparently decided to turn the iPad into a much more credible machine. The new 128GB version is more expensive, but it’s also more believable.
For those groaning at gadget mania, the iPad is both fascinating and infuriating. The dinky little memory was simply annoying, the small screen aggravating and those who’ve been using touch screens for decades haven’t been too impressed with the kindergarten toy look. The assumption that people wanted to carry around a computer everywhere they go was equally irritating.
(Don’t these people understand that not being connected has a lot going for it when you’re busy? Being reachable all the time isn’t always what you want.)
Mobile Mania has been a pain in the butt. It’s a fizzy product range, all bubbles, no drink. Things have been sold purely on the basis that they’re mobile, not that they’re any good. Crappy hardware was/is no great asset. Nor are half-ass apps that much of a turn-on, particularly if you check out the infuriated reviews on the Google and Apple stores. Netbooks, sawn-off laptops, were pretty pathetic. When the iPad first came out, its main recommendation was that it was so much better than those things.
When I first started writing about iPads, I was looking for a lot more than gimmicks. A bit of digging, however, disclosed that the little box had far/infinitely more grunt than a mere novelty toy computer should have. That got me interested. Design matters. The iPad is a fundamentally good design, in terms of specifications. The Apple engineers did a good job of putting together a well-integrated set of proven technology. What baffled me was that so much capability did so little.
I also wanted to see PC-size GB, not phone memory capacity. The new 128GB iPad is very much where iPads and tablets in general need to go. Functionality has to get a word in somewhere in this festival of gadget-worship. Still don’t like small screen sizes, but in practice, if you’re looking for portable and space-saving, a higher memory iPad is a lot more like a realistic working machine.
Retina display… Uh-huh… 10 year old technological feature. Useful to a point, but novelty seems to be getting in the way of even mentioning the security values in the copy I’ve seen so far. For those wondering, that's what "retina display" actually means. It'd be nice if someone bothered to mention it as a sales point. (Unless they're assuming that everyone knows that, which is overlooking the fact that those who've never used retina displays need more info.)
Sayeth Bloomberg:
Apple said the added memory will be especially useful to businesses that use use heavy amounts of data and need more storage capabilities. The iPad is used for storing project blueprints, training videos, service manuals, X-rays and other data-heavy files. Nearly all Fortune 500 companies are using the iPad, Apple said.
Corporations will account for about 11 percent of tablet shipments in 2013, up from 8.3 percent in 2012, according to IDC. Microsoft has been trying to appeal to this market with its new Surface tablets.
“With more than 120 million iPads sold, it’s clear that customers around the world love their iPads, and every day they are finding more great reasons to work, learn and play on their iPads rather than their old PCs,” Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing, said in the statement.
Er… duhhhhhh? So Apple still wants in to the core user market, and Macs are basically a form of PC. Have a look at the data-heavy usage on those functions. Blueprints? What about CAD?
The other myth here is in design terms that you’re still looking at a box, with or without an attached keyboard, cameras, etc., etc. The core of any computer is a processor with software to operate it. You could put that in a salad bowl, spare relative, whatever, as long as it does the job. One of the reasons phones can now work as mini-computers is that they’re able to carry quite a lot of useful functions in such a small space.
Tablets are a sort of acknowledgement of that fact. It's the really great design achievement of the iPad despite the bizarre low memory capacity in older iPads. Also have a look at the exponential growth of phone memories, and you’ll see a pattern which is now being reflected in the iPads. If you compare iPad models, you’ll notice something interesting- the 5 GHz range. This is essential to good operational speed, and no iPad goes below around 2.5 GHz. They also have multicores, and if they’re still battery-powered (Batteries? A bit better than pedals, yes. Better than anything else, no. Super capacitors where are you?) they’re good for about 10 hours, or the average endurance time of someone on a screen all day every day.
Those specs mean one thing- An iPad designed as a PC (OK, “pseudo-PC” for the purists) of any kind would probably outperform those computers, and pretty severely. What fascinates me is that a good design, good performance and good basic idea are being turned into a gizmo-level “for the kiddies” product.
Who gives a damn about cute? If you buy a machine for work, you want a working machine. A reliable farm horse, preferably a Clydesdale, not a My Little Pony. The “trendy” crap is just insulting a good design that could do a lot more.
The projected memory demand is heading that way, and that’s where iPad needs to be:
1. Cloud, schmoud. Individual usage can gobble up memory so fast now that the Cloud, as a third party use, isn’t the whole story or anything like it. Nor will everybody mindlessly stick everything important on the Cloud, for privacy and security reasons. The Cloud can do some things and can’t do others. Nor is Cloud software for functions very-or even slightly- impressive. Nor are Cloud server issues a great encouragement. (Just saw one the other day, sure enough, now there’s another way of sitting around waiting for things to happen.)
2. Software is getting a lot bigger, and when cognizant computing gets going, there’s a very much open-ended lack of limitations there, too. When software can rewrite itself, who’s to say what the demands will be? Is the iPad ready for multiple major demands on memory from the foreseeable new tech?
3. Apps aren’t going to be small forever. People want apps that will do more, not less. A forest of apps on an iPad will do what to memory needs?
4. Consider multimedia suites like Adobe’s Creative Suite. That’s a high performance mass of software which keeps getting bigger every edition.
5. Now consider CAD software grafted on to a suite like that. That’s where multimedia is going, very fast indeed. The iPad can do what with that sort of software?
To replace PCs, the admirable but under-gunned iPads will have to upgrade their descendants to these performance levels. The other very likely outcome in design terms is that PCs will start taking on a few of the characteristics of the iPads. Nobody’s going to bitch about faster PCs. (Particularly if Microsoft ever gets around to killing off that ridiculous 20 year old “more memory usage makes PCs slower” absurdity.) That performance advantage won’t be there forever. iPad needs to catch up with the demands in one area and maintain its performance edge in the other.
Wake me up with you get to terabytes, Apple. I’d like to think you’re taking your own product seriously. I’d also like to think you had some respect for a good design.
Will run anything.
Will do anything.
Is fast.
Is able to handle massive workloads and that sort of usage.
I’d love to see that. It’d be the consumer’s dream computer.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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