Monday, 1 February 2010

What do we think of the Apple iPad?

The launch of Apple's new tablet computer, the iPad, certainly caught my attention for 3 reasons:
  1. I enjoy spending an hour each evening consuming web content (news, blogs, video, social sites) with only occasional typed interactions - my laptop is massively over-specified for such use.
  2. I like to try out recipe ideas in the kitchen, and wondered if this might be an alternative to paper printing - and my beloved Macbook Pro isn't going anywhere near the place with all that flour and water and raw ingredients and stuff getting in the keyboard or sucked into the fan inlet.
  3. I'm a geek with a soft spot for Apple, so it just would catch my attention (you want honesty here, right?).

Tablet computing is geared towards consuming media content rather than creating it. You wouldn't want to type a novel or major report using it - it's all about reading and watching stuff (with a smattering of feedback), rather than creating or adapting it. This use alone places the tablet computer somewhere between the smart phone where it's all about consuming content except for voice and text, and the laptop which is as much about creating and adapting content as reading and watching it.

Of course you might argue that Netbooks fit between smartphones and laptops. Rubbish. A Netbook is a laptop with all the goodness taken out of it. Cheap, value electronics and poor-quality-everything. Yes OK you might take a netbook where your beloved Macbook Pro, Latitude or Vaio might fear to tread, but that's only because you've lost £200 when you drop it and it smashes into a million value pieces. Come to think of it, Macbook Pros, Latitudes and Vaios are expensive enough to include drop survivability in their design and will be happy in those fearful places. That makes the Netbook even worse value.

No, tablet computers are not really value devices even though they are cheaper than good laptops. Their job is to bring content to you in a convenient and easy to use manner:
  • Powerful enough to offer decent & fast web browsing and media playback on a high quality multi-touch screen that is easy on the eyes and fingers.
  • Convenient enough to take round the house with you - to pick up and put down like a magazine or newspaper. Pore over a recipe in the kitchen, enjoy your favourite blog updates in the bath (waterproof ones, please!), and read your favourite e-books in bed. Use just with the natural stroking and tapping of your fingers.
  • Inexpensive enough to not have as your 'main' computer yet being cheaper only because 'unnecessary' parts such as keyboard, mouse, too many ports are missing. What's there is to be always of good quality.
Seeing demos of the iPad are certainly impressive; my only criticisms are:
  1. Still no support for Flash or Silverlight. Yes I know HTML5 can offer this level of intensive experience but it's not quite implemented in some of the major browsers/versions of browser our customers are using yet. We've only just got ourselves away from wiring a dual site for IE6 (with its 'special' HTML formatting) vs. every-other-browser (with their W3C standard compliance) and don't want to start HTML4/5 divisions if we can help it.
  2. No webcam! Oh how I want customers scanning products by holding them up to the camera - most Netbooks and all premium laptops *do* have a built-in cam. This type of device is certainly suited to the kitchen and I note that some other tablet brands of tablet have built in camera (one of the team has told me they have spotted video source support in the iPad SDK so I suspect a blot-on webcam will be available soon).
However let me balance my criticisms with this important conclusion: Tablet computers are going to be big, they are going to be in the kitchen (amongst other rooms) and we will certainly research a great customer experience for them. Why? Because if Steve Jobs and Apple have invested in the market with iPad, the tablet concept as a whole is sure of success.


  1. 3) Still no proper multi tasking....

    I want to stream spotify whilst using safari....

  2. >>if Steve Jobs and Apple have invested in the market with iPad, the tablet concept as a whole is sure of success.

    Not everything Apple has done has been a success.

    However, I agree the iPad is great, and I recommend investing in a company producing plastic iPad shields for the kitchen.

  3. Multi-tasking is an interesting point but with iPhone / iPad I take the view that not allowing third-party access to multi-tasking programming (particularly in terms of background tasks) is because it is a specialist skill that is easy to get wrong.

    iPhones and iPads are aimed at people who don't want to know or care how the device works - just that it *does*. Background apps using too much CPU can bring the device to a halt and the user won't know why.

    It's not like an Android phone whose users tend to be more tech-savvy and know that their phone is stuttering because of all the apps running - and what it means to kill tasks.

    Apple products tend to be aimed at a non-tech audience. That audience probably has their iPhone docked in a JBL hifi dock with Spotify music pouring sweetly from it nearby...!

  4. Hi Nick you say - "Oh how I want customers scanning products by holding them up to the camera " and yet you have no interface to do this on the iphone which does already have a camera. I can already use Occital's Red Laser to look-up products in Asda via their Barcode technology but not Tesco.

    I believe you would have a killer app if I could scan my finished Colmans Mustard or empty Tetley Teabags box to add to my Tesco shopping list. So much easier than typing it in.

    When do you think you will get around to doing this?

  5. The a ability to scan empty packages and keep my Tesco online shop up to date is the killer app as regards kitchen use of the ipad. Sat on a wall or side of the fridge for controlling my Squeezebox music , see a wether forecast, check traffic and do the food shop.

  6. I would suggest you look at your own sales of Netooks at Tesco and have more respect for them. They are not "laptops with all the goodness taken out" - rather they are remarkable feats of the reengineering low-cost ultraportable laptops that not long ago many of us used to pay a couple thousand dollars each for the privilege of owning. They are democratiation of computing and portability.

    Also I dont know how the Sony Vaio got in there but if you conider these "durable" and dropable then you havent owned one. They are no Toughbooks, that's for sure. In contrast cheap CULVs and netbooks like the Acer 1810 and Aspire One are remarkably sturdy for their ize.

    The ipad i all fine and well and good for those companies that want us to be dumb consumer who input nothing. But netbook remain one of the world greatest step in democratizing computing. People who own one, do not need any other computer to live their life, to create and contribute in life.

    The ipad in contrast is an expensive toy that cannot replace anything completely. Not even the newspaper or book.

  7. My wife is borrowing my iPad right now and trying to do our online shopping at Only you're going to need to redesign your website to work with touch interfaces... the javascript menus are not working properly with iPad Safari. They appear for about half a second...

    So, to go with you on this. I love my iPad. It IS the best thing since sliced bread. But the web as we know it is clearly not 100% friendly to tablets...


As this blog grows in readership - and because it carries the Tesco brand - I have had to become more careful about the sort of comments that are acceptable. The good news is that I'm a champion of free speech so please be as praising or as critical as you wish! The only comments I DON'T allow through are:

1. Comments which criticise an individual other than myself, or are critical of an organisation other than Tesco. This is simply because they cannot defend themselves so is unfair and possibly libellous. Comments about some aspect of Tesco being better/worse than another equivalent organisation are allowed as long as you start by saying "in my personal opinion.." or "I think that...". ... followed by a "...because.." and some reasoned argument.

2. Comments which are totally unrelated to the context of the original article. If I have written about a mobile app and you start complaining about the price of potatoes then your comment isn't going stay for long!

3. Advertising / web links / spam.

4. Insulting / obscene messages.

Ok, rules done - now it's your go: