Since the iPad announcement a few weeks ago, a number of big giant questions marks have popped up about the device. There are so many fundemental things that just don't seem to connect. So much that we don't know.
Apple is, playing this as they do so well, the masterful marketing machine at Apple is running at full steam. Leaving out some of these details could lead up to a last minute One more thing... announcement by Apple, or could be a spin of the fact that Apple was left a little short on development of the next version of the OS for the device.
Either planned slow release of information or covering up for OS release delays, the result is whetting the appetite of the consumers and increasing the buzz and the demand for the device.
Lets take a look at some of the most glaring questions that still surround the iPad.
The home screen of the iPad, the launcher that lets you organize apps and launch them, is very similar to the one on the iPhone. Make sense, it's running on the same OS as the iPhone, though a different version number. The downside to this is that it leaves the home screen looking oddly sparse.
Small icons separated by lots of space, a really poor design for the device. And that's very un-Apple like. Apple design is top notch in everything they do. I'm sure there's more than one designer at Apple that is losing sleep every day until they can get the home screen this device deserved delivered to customers.
The great mystery of the missing apps! The iPad as we've seen it thus far has far fewer base apps installed than the iPhone does. While there's obviously no reason for the phone or SMS app, where has weather, voice recorder, clock, calculator, and stocks gone? The current consensus on their disappearance is that the design could not be completed in time for the launch presentation. And that's fine and understandable. But that was weeks ago, surely they will be ready for launch, right? We don't know.
Mystery Camera Bezel
Shortly after the device was announced, Mission Repair, a third party device repair company with direct access to spare parts from their manufacturers, showed off what they reported to be the bezel of the iPad. In this case the bezel is the metal frame that is inside the outer case that holds all of the internal parts in a rigid way and supports the whole device.
Like the frame of a car as an example. This purported iPad bezel clearly has a space for an iSight-like camera. As a matter of fact, a stock Macbook iSight camera part just happens to fit in there perfectly.
So, what does this mean? One of two things. The most likely is that the bezel was designed to hold a camera, but that camera was scrapped for the initial model of the iPad. Could be for cost considerations, could be the OS wasn't going to be ready to handle it, could be a design decision that was changed at the last minute. If it was pulled, we will likely never know why. Though it's possible that future iPad models, if they were to use the same bezel, could include a camera.
The other option, and the one I am honestly hoping for, is that there really is a camera in the shipping iPad. But that feature, and possibly a few others, are waiting to be disclosed at a special media event just before the launch. Or maybe they will be utilized in a future version of the OS. I have to hope.
iPhone App Compatibility
Another example of very non-Apple design decision has to do with the way that iPhone apps are run on the iPhone. The iPad apparently is compatible with the vast majority of iPhone applications. But the standard resolution of iPhone apps (320x480) doesn't fit very well on the iPad screen (1024x768).
Apple chose to display running iPhone apps as either normal size centered in the middle of the screen or pixel doubled on the screen. When shown at actual size, there is a huge black boarder around the app. Pixel-doubled means that for every pixel on the iPhone display you double in size horizontally and vertically to display the app at 640x960 -- still less than the full resolution of the iPad. So even when pixel doubled there is a huge black boarder around the app display.
This is a very ineloquent design. For instance when pixel doubled, text on the screen looks just huge! Very non-Apple quality design decision for this feature.
My take on this decision is that they needed compatibility, obviously, so that they can launch with 200,000 applications available for the device. Most of the apps are not designed to take advantage of the device, but there are tons available that will work. I also think it's another example to stop-gap design decision. It doesn't look good, but under the current OS architecture, it's the best they could do.
I expect the next major iPhone OS version will include methods to multitask applications. We will then see iPhone applications running in windows on the device. This will allow you to run multiple iPhone applications, each in their own window on the device, preserving their size without a huge black boarder around the app.
Many of these questions seem less like typical Apple design decisions and more like stop-gap solutions to iPhone OS 4.0 not being ready for when the device ships. Really the device should probably have been held for iPhone OS 4 to be released, but for whatever reason, Apple had to get the device out the door sooner. Some have suggested that Apple needed new hardware to keep it's stock on the rise. I don't agree with that. Apple isn't one to bow to the analysts demands.
This isn't to say the device won't be useful on day 1. Quite the opposite. It seems like we will see hundreds of iPad optimized apps and games the days following the release. We'll be publishing more about those apps in the days leading up to the release. But I think the device will reach full potential with iPhone OS 4 release later this year.
In the end, what we are in the middle of is yet another masterful marketing move by Apple. With less than two weeks before the device ships, there are still so many unanswered questions. Four days before the iPhone launch we learned that it had a glass screen and a YouTube application. Could Apple be planning a similar last-minute reveal for the iPad?
The mystery surrounding the device gets people talking on Twitter, Facebook, email, and in articles like this one. In the end it makes people want the device even more. Increases the anticipation, the desire.
Well played Apple.
What do you think? Will we see a One more thing... announcement before the iPad launch on April 3rd? Let us know in the comments.