Although subjected to Apple’s usual silent treatment before the big unveil, Apple has released waves of detail since. Yet, even as pre-orders are shipping, there are still many things we don’t know about the iPad. What surprises are in store?
Apple hadn’t said much about the iPod application in the iPad. But today’s release of a series of “guided tour” videos clears the air somewhat. The iPod app is neither a port of the small-screen app from the iPhone and iPod Touch nor of the OS X iTunes application. It sports a new look and feel that is a cross between the two, with a column listing media types to the left and a new “bookshelf” view of cover art to the right. Surprisingly, cover flow seems AWOL.
Selecting an album causes it to flip and grow in place, changing to a song list. This is a welcome new concept, since simply listing the tracks in the right column would have left much white space on the screen. Album art can be displayed full-screen, but I wonder just how good low-res images will look. I also wonder whether iTunes LP content will display in part or in full.
One comment in the guided tour voiceover really caught my attention, though. They mention three ways to listen to music: Use the built-in (mono) speaker, listen with wired or BlueTooth headphones, or “connect iPad to your home stereo system and play your music throughout the house.” Does this mean the iPad uses AirTunes to stream to an AirPort Express? Or that the iPhone Remote app is built in? Or do they mean connecting it through a wired or bluetooth adapter? I’m definitely hoping for direct AirTunes, since we very much enjoy that capability today at my house!
The Connected iPad
One area of great interest is the usability of the iPad in corporate and academic settings. Although Apple admitted (late) that the iPad supports Microsoft Exchange, there has been no mention of VPN support. Disclosure of calendar and contact support has been sparse, too, though one imagines it will be at least as full-featured as the iPhone.
I remain surprised that no multi-user features have yet appeared. Although iPhones tend to remain with a single person, the iPad just begs to be shared. Yet it appears that the apps are all single-user oriented. This is disappointing.
Consider the Mail app. Most people have an email account or two these days, yet the iPad has no obvious means of separating his and her (or their) mail accounts. Even a mail app-specific password would be nice, allowing one to share the device’s other features but reserve private mail access. Apple assumes that iPads will not be shared, but I’m sure my kids will have their peanut-buttery paws all over mine constantly!
Lots of Books!
It’s great to see Apple stocking the iBooks store with 30,000 free books from Project Gutenberg, and major existing book readers and stores (Amazon, Barnes & Noble) look to be supported. I’m especially looking forward to using Instapaper on the iPad, having fallen head over heels for that app recently.
So far, the only post-announcement hardware surprise has been the fact that the switch that mutes the iPhone will be used instead to lock the orientation of iPad content. Although many speculated that a camera might be added before the ship date, it looks like this will not happen. Although all iPads sport a digital compass, only the 3G model includes GPS hardware.
Apple clarified that the iPad will support just about any BlueTooth keyboard or A2DP audio system, but it remains unclear if it can connect to a standard BlueTooth headset. The specs are also vague on whether the headphone jack supports inline microphones, as found on the iPhone.
Waiting For My Box of Mystery
iPad mysteries remain. I’m certainly looking forward to opening the UPS package Apple promises to deliver this Saturday!