Walking and chewing gum. It’s a simple idea – you do one thing while at the same time doing another, with your brain shuffling between the two (and various unrelated autonomic functions) to keep the whole parade in step.
Modern computers are similarly adept at juggling concurrent tasks -we PC users call it “multitasking.” Yet for users of iPhone OS-based devices, including the new iPad, multitasking is a completely foreign concept. You can’t walk and chew gum with the iOS. In fact, you can’t walk and do much of anything with an iPhone/Pod/Pad other than carry a tune (current iOS devices can play audio in the background, but that’s about it).
Why so many iPhone/Pod users are willing to put up with such a limited functional model has always been a mystery to me. Maybe it’s the fact that most people simply don’t expect too much from a “smart” device. After all, it’s not a real computer – it’s a phone (or media player). The fact that you can get online at all with such a device seems like a huge leap forward to many people, especially less sophisticated consumers with cash to burn.
Now we learn that the upcoming iOS 4 will likely improve on this situation, but only a little. Depending on the mood of Apple’s often arbitrary application approval process (Google Voice, anyone?), certain apps will be allowed to run in the background under iOS 4. So you may finally be able to walk and chew gum – and perhaps even carry that tune as well. But don’t expect to be able to walk and carry an umbrella (not approved), or to walk/sip a drink/read a paper or map (too many tasks at once).
Again, people don’t expect too much from a “smart” phone, so the continued lack of true multitasking will likely go unnoticed. But even the idiot iPhone-using masses know that PCs are supposed to multitask. Concepts, like switching away from one running application to do something in another running application – all while the first application is still running - are now thoroughly ingrained in our collective consciousness.
It’s a level of functional convenience that we’ve grown to expect in any serious computing device. Which is why I predict a high degree of long-term customer dissatisfaction with Apple’s latest and greatest, culminating a in a glut of used iPads hitting eBay (just in time for Christmas).
You see, customers are buying the iPad with the expectation that it will somehow replace all of their other computing devices. Such has been the media hysteria surrounding the product’s launch. However, in reality the iPad is nothing more than a glorified “companion” device – a limited function platform designed to compliment a Mac or PC while roping Apple’s customers ever more tightly into the iTunes sphere of influence.
So, when these early adopters - especially those swayed by the media hype - begin to bump into these very real functional limitations, they’ll likely feel cheated. And as they slowly gravitate back to their familiar PC environments (including powerful new Windows 7-based tablet PCs that outclass the iPad in almost every way), they’ll begin dumping their now underutilized Apple devices into the online auction meat grinder.
Hence my prediction: By year’s end there will be a glut of used iPad’s flowing through eBay, Amazon, et al. So resist the urge to splurge now and count your savings later.
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