Apple iPad: What We Still Don't Know

Apple answered a lot of questions Wednesday about its fabled tablet, now known as the iPad. We know it has a 9.7-inch screen, weighs 1.5 pounds, has Wi-Fi with a 3G option, and Apple claims it has up to 10 hours of battery life. The iPad runs the iPhone OS and "almost all" iPhone apps and uses the ePub format for books. We know a lot about this device, but there are still so many unanswered questions, not to mention a few mysteries, to keep you guessing. Here's what's at the top of my mind:

Adobe Flash

Since the iPad is running the iPhone OS that means no Adobe Flash--unless you want to do this. The problem is there are so many Websites out there using Flash not only for advertisements, but regular video as well. To my mind this is a big miss on Apple's part. Maybe one day HTML 5 video will rule the Web instead of Flash, but that day is not coming any time soon.

Ten hours of battery life? Really?

Apple is claiming you can watch 10 hours of video on the iPad and that the device can sit in standby mode for one month on one charge. Don't believe the hype, folks. Computer makers love to exaggerate battery life claims, and Apple is no exception. So don't take this one to the bank until PC World's test center checks out the iPad's battery life.

Mobile Me

What about Mobile Me, Apple's cloud syncing app for your contacts, email and calendars? Apple says you will be able to sync the iPad with your Mac or PC through the iPad's 30-pin connector, but why no cloud syncing? Apple has had trouble in the past with Mobile Me, so perhaps the company is not ready to bring the iPad into the mix just yet. But you've got to assume this is coming — unless Apple plans on killing the Mobile Me service, that is.

"Almost all" iPhone apps?

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the iPad works with "almost all" iPhone apps you can find in the App Store. So which iPhone apps won't work with the iPad, Steve?

Magazines

We saw The New York Times on the iPad, but what about all that talk we heard about new magazine formats? GQ is experimenting with iPhone apps; will other publishers follow suit, or is there something else in the pipeline for magazines on the iPad?

AT&T? Really?

PC World spent the summer testing 3G connections across the U.S., and AT&T achieved some of the lowest reliability scores compared with Verizon and Sprint. AT&T has a bad reputation when it comes to delivering data to the iPhone, and yet, Apple is relying on this carrier for another data-intensive device. The unlimited data plan pricing is pretty good at $30 per month, but can AT&T's network handle the iPad?

How much for those accessories?

Apple has yet to release pricing on the iPad's accessories like the keyboard dock, iPad case and camera connector. The keyboard dock is especially important, since its price may be a deciding factor for people who want to travel with the iPad instead of a netbook.

Is the iPad a threat to netbooks?

You can buy an external keyboard (price unknown), and the price for the iPad is right at $499. You can buy iWork, a suite of productivity apps for the device, so why not replace a netbook with the iPad? One concern might be Microsoft Office compatibility, but the standard version of iWork allows you to save files as Office documents, and presumably iWork on the iPad will do the same thing. Of course, most netbooks come with Webcams for video conferencing, and the iPad, well...

Why no Webcam?

You can put a Webcam in something as thin as the MacBook Air, but not the iPad? Are you kidding me? This is another big miss, to my mind. I have to wonder if the addition of 3G connectivity prevented Apple from even considering a Webcam. The telecoms probably wouldn't be too happy to see people using Google video chat and Skype across 3G connections on the iPad. What other reason could there be for not having a Webcam? Was Apple afraid a Webcam-enabled iPad would cannibalize the 13-inch Macbook? Not likely, but you never know.

VoIP

Just like the iPhone, the iPad will probably let you use Skype over a Wi-Fi connection, but using 3G with VoIP is likely out of the question. I also wonder if Apple will allow a Google Voice app that's built specifically for the iPad. There may not be any point to that since the iPad isn't a phone, and Google just came out with a Google Voice Web app specifically for mobile devices.

How comfortable is the typing?

If you look at the iPad promotional video, you'll notice the user doesn't let his non-typing fingers rest on the keyboard. That means the onscreen keyboard probably won't be very comfortable to use for long periods of time. Again, the unknown price of the iPad's keyboard dock could be a big factor in how well this device sells.

The next iPhone OS

The iPad brings the issue of background processes up again. Having more than one program open at a time is important, especially if you are going to run Pages, iWork's word processor, and need to refer to the Web while you're working. Will the next version of the iPhone OS solve this problem, at least for iPad users?

There are other questions that need to be answered, such as whether or not the iPhone will be able to read iBooks. Will Apple try to ban the Kindle app from the iPad? Also, will the iBookstore be a part of iTunes or something that is accessible only from the iPad? I hope we'll find out soon.

Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

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