iPad and iOS: Anatomy of a Love-Hate Relationship

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From the moment I downloaded my first app for Apple's iPad, I was addicted. I spent hours and hours the first couple of months downloading and trying apps, and testing different ways to work with Apple's tablet.

AccuWeather's iPad app. (Click to zoom)
I still use it every day. It's become my instant information tool and entertainment device. I listen to music, play solitaire, check the weather (I prefer the AccuWeather app), check weather radar (RadarScope) and nip out to the Web to research something I want to buy. It's indispensable when you travel.

But now months later, my ardor has cooled somewhat. And I've tried to put my finger on why. It's not the hardware, that's clear. I love the Apple's industrial design and especially the gorgeous touchscreen. And it's not the fact that the app store isn't completely free. I like the idea of supporting a development ecosystem around the iPad and iPhone. I bought an iPhone 4, but it wasn't that that dampened my enthusiasm for the iPad either.

The problem, I realize, is one I hadn't expected. I'm just not that jazzed about iOS (including iOS4). It's fine on the iPhone because the tiny screen of the iPhone limits you anyway. The problem is, with only a little bit of invention, I can easily imagine the iPad becoming my full-fledged travel machine -- no notebook needed. But Apple has, it seems, intentionally hobbled the iPad. There are so many things it can't do. And I'm not wowed by the apps that are designed to word process or perform any business-oriented function.

As many writers before me have noted, the iPad, and more specifically its operating system, is not designed to host content-creation activities. It's a media reader/player. Why? I think Apple is selling the tablet form factor short. I want to be able to print (now, I realize iOS4 4.2 is supposed to add wireless printing). I want to have access to the file system for managing files, without using kludgey third-party utility workarounds. I want business apps that recognize that I might want to throw a spreadsheet together or type a letter. I'm far more impressed by what the iOS operating system cannot do than what it can do on Apple's tablet.

Apple's iPad is a success. I'll never be without some type of tablet in the future. It has clearly changed the way I use computers in a way I like very much.

But the iPad could be so much more if Apple allowed it to be so. And that is very frustrating.

This story, "iPad and iOS: Anatomy of a Love-Hate Relationship" was originally published by Computerworld.

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