iPad Review: Can the Multimedia Mobile Device Handle the Job?

Tech research firm Current Analysis after testing the iPad for a week issued a report today that offers perspective on the iPad's competitive impact, highlighting the mobile device's exceptional Web browsing, ability to provide a stellar multimedia experience and insight on how it performs mobile computing tasks.

While Apple is currently highlighting the iPad's multimedia capabilities, the company is also pointing to enterprise functionality, such as corporate e-mail and its Works suite of productivity apps, "that hint Apple has bigger plans for the tablet," writes Avi Greengart, research director for consumer and mobile devices at Current Analysis.

Due to its multimedia support for Web browsing, music and video, mobile apps and e-books, the iPad is poised to demand its price point of $499 to $829, which means any tablet competitors must either add to this base to compete, or, charge less if they don't, said Greengart.

"It is critical to note that competitors cannot copy one use case at a similar price point and expect to succeed. The iPad itself would not sell at $499 if all it did was browse the Web or read books. We will have a JooJoo tablet in for review shortly, but we are skeptical of its value proposition. Vendors planning Android tablets will need to add significantly to the value proposition," he said.

The iPad as Handheld Computer

Though there is speculation that Apple's ultimate goal in releasing a tablet device is to take netbook market share away from other computer makers, Greengart said the first iteration of the iPad falls a bit short in this area, but not so much that competitors can relax.

He notes that the iPad is not a stand-alone device, as it requires a PC with iTunes for software updates, and that lack of a physical keyboard and mouse can make lengthy writing sessions and cutting and pasting tedious. Another drawback: no unified inbox.

Also missing for corporate users are some critical enterprise features, even though Apple offers the office suite iWork for the iPad (for $30).

"Pages does not allow tracking changes, which means that it does not fit into a standard editorial workflow. There is no way to print from the iPad -- a problem for corporate users and consumers alike. Keynote is not PowerPoint-compatible, and the iPad does not ship with a VGA port (an added-cost adapter is expected soon), so forget using it to make presentations with most projectors. However, the biggest limitation for productivity use is the iPad’s lack of a user accessible file system. It is not even possible to save documents to external drives or most file storage Web sites. There are e-mail workarounds if you have Web access to your files, but the process is so clunky that it is really only usable as a last resort," said Greengart.

He also believes that Apple must address the lack of multitasking on the iPad in a future software update for the iPad to be used in a work environment.

iPad Web Browsing Bonanza

Greengart's position on the iPad's lack of Flash support is that, in the long run, it will be a non-issue as HTML 5 becomes more popular with mobile and multimedia developers. Still, lack of Flash support on the iPad means, for example, users can't view content at the popular video site Hulu.com, which is Flash-based.

"It is hard to articulate just how good a Web browsing experience the iPad provides. The combination of a large, high-resolution, multi-touch screen with Apple’s natural gestures and fast processor is exceptional. The lack of Adobe Flash support is a major negative today, but Apple appears to be winning the game of chicken with major video content providers, all of which expect to move to HTML 5 at some point in the future regardless of the iPad’s success or failure," writes Greengart. "For now, Flash support will be a competitive differentiator; over time, however, this will be less of an issue."

Long Battery Life, Mobile Apps, E-Books

One area where the iPad delivers on Apple's claims -- and beats out notebooks and portable DVD players -- is in battery performance, with 10 hours of video before the juice runs out, according to Greengart.

Apple is also going to benefit from its vast inventory of iPad-specific mobile apps, which now has its own dedicated virtual shelf space in the App Store.

And, on the e-book front, Greengart believes the iPad is a worthy challenger to the Amazon Kindle, as the screen technology "is not a non-reflecting surface like e-ink or paper, but it has much higher contrast than e-ink and is much easier to read in low-light environments."


iPad, Apple, mobile apps, mobile device, iPad review