When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad, he hailed it as “the best web browsing experience you’ve ever had.” My job has me primarily in the work in the cloud, so I was willing to give the iPad a shot. Unfortunately after using the iPad for about a month, I have to disagree with Steve.
Before I dive into some of the shortcomings of the iPad, I would like to spend some time on what the iPad does right.
The form factor is simply brilliant for consuming content on the web. If it didn’t fall short in other areas (see below), I could see this replacing my laptop for heavy browsing. An IPS screen tucked into a pound and a half aluminum enclosure that feel great in your hands, and doesn’t heat up (or have annoying fans) is a dream.
The operating system can best be described as simplicity without a condescending tone. I handed my iPad to my mother, and she was able to get online and surf around with ease. This is the same women who calls me every time she wants to watch a DVD.
Let that sink in for a minute. An operating system that doesn’t look like Microsoft’s “Bob” is able to be picked up and used without instructions or directions. I would recommend this device to anyone who isn’t a power-user without hesitation.
However, power-users will quickly bump into a kink in their workflow. The lack of tabs. If you’re anything like me, when you visit a news site you skim the front page and open any interesting article in a new tab.
On a computer, this is a very functional workflow (see above). I’m also given the flexibility to read the articles later when I might not have an internet connection.
However on the iPad, tabs are no where to be found. Instead you are greeted with a button that will activate an exposé style overview of all of your open windows.
At first glance this appears to be a fair compromise, but as time goes on, it has proven to be a grinding experience. Having to touch a button to view your open windows is the equivalent of having to right click on a computer, pull up a contextual menu, and then selecting the window that you would like to switch to.
The problem gets worse. Trying to apply my typical browsing habits on the iPad highlighted a hardware limitation.
Knowing that I was going on a long car ride, I decided to visit one of my favorite news sites and open a bunch of articles I found interesting.
I finished the first article and tried to switch to the second when I was greeted with a blank white page, and then a connection dialog box that told me I needed to get online to grab the page.
Shipping with a lackluster 256 mb of ram, the iPad simply is physical incapable of holding a small selection of the web pages in memory at one time.
I have come to the conclusion that the lack of tabs is an issue that is reflective of a hardware limitation. It is possible that Apple could release a software update that would allow a more aggressive caching mechanism, but for the time being, power-users are S.O.L. using Safari.
What do you think? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll be happy to continue this discussion publicly (if you so desire) on codesketch. Comments are disabled as I am aiming to have intelligent discussion around this issue.