Angus: Pervasive user interface

It starts with just one iPad. It was never quite the same with any other device..

In a meeting this weekend, one iPad walked in the door. Going out, one of the other attendees remarked that they would be going to the Apple store on the way home – just to look.. The iPad is an addictive device. And once you see other people oohing, aahing and drooling, it becomes contagious. I have seen people bring new gadgets & gizmos to meetings or conferences before, and nothing has quite the impact on people like the iPad.

I have spoken and written about this game changing device, and I continue to be convinced that the iPad is a game changing device. The users of iPad seem not to be those you would expect. One particular user, an operations director, claims that he uses it all of the time. He uses it for all his email, calendar, and even connecting with a 5250 emulator to his IBM i system – just in case he needs to check something. And, I saw him using it for more than just work – his travel, his personal schedule, his personal interests, news, and so on.

I posit that iPhone is one of those devices that companies will typically not want to support. There is a seemingly anti-Apple sentiment among I.T. departments in companies with a Windows focus. That is often aggravated the moment the president, or a C-level executive demands that they have one, and demand it be supported. And while the iPhone is making some inroads into business, Blackberry has a large chunk of those business users already. There is often iPhone adoption amongst the peer executives at a company, but this is not a major wave. iPad, on the other hand, seems to be making those waves. Someone will obtain an iPad – occasionally winning one in some raffle, sometimes getting one from a family member, sometimes just demanding one – and there becomes a downwards wave in the organization of new iPads.

The argument against an iPhone is often “I can already do email, calendar, contacts and internet” on my fill-in-your-phone-bias-here. And, without doubt, being able to provide a wireless hotspot with unlimited data does not yet fit the AT&T/Apple iPhone model of customer service and functionality. But taking that argument to the iPad just does not work. The iPad ~can~ do all that, and…. Now, I can connect to my back-end applications, and READ everything. I can read PDFs, books, magazines. I can watch videos, youtube gunk, movies. Beyond the primary business applications used on mobile devices, iPad offers a new world of gadgetry, whiz, sexiness, and just plain drool-inducing wow.

In this article: Analysts: iPad will cannibalize netbooks, but not iPhone, the suggestion is that iPad customers will not be losing their iPhones, their macs, or their other computing devices. Sales of netbooks may be reduced, but iPads are something additional to other work and play devices. It is obvious that your desktop or laptop PC may be lonely, now you are spending time with your iPad, but it seems that most people will have all 3 devices – personal computing (desktop or laptop), smartphone, and iPad.

The question is, can you support this new device in your infrastructure? Do you have the appropriate security in place to deliver email and information to your end users? Do you have policies on the use of iPads for business? Can you provide access to your existing applications from an iPad? Are you taking advantage of the iPad interface and delivering information in completely new ways to iPad users? And, are you collecting all the appropriate analytics to determine how effective, or not, these devices are?

Our world of I.T. is amazing. Even if end users are simply accessing their green screens on an iPad, it is a new day for computing in the IBM i world. Certainly, shoving the lipstick up the pig is not necessarily as productive as the full blown graphical iPad/touch/gesture process. And, when the competition gets off its collective behind and pulls something even more interesting out with its version of the lipstick, pressure on your I.T. department to be modern, efficient and agile will increase!

Are you prepared for any of this?

There is an i in iPad….

5 Comments

Scott KlementAugust 2nd, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I’ve had an iPad since the end of May, so about two months. I struggle to understand the hype surrounding it, or why it’s a “game changer.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice little machine. Much better screen than a smartphone, and much more portable than a laptop. I mainly use it when traveling, since it’s much easier to use when sitting in an airport, airplane, train or train station than a laptop would be.

However, it’s not nearly as portable as an iPhone. You can’t just hook it to your belt and whip it out when you need it — you need a carrying case, much like you would with a laptop. It’s true that it’s smaller and lighter than a laptop, but not nearly as portable as an iPhone (or other smart phone.) It also can’t make phone calls, or take pictures… again, less versatile than a smart phone.

It’s also not nearly as useful as a laptop. the keyboard is vastly inferior to the keyboard on a laptop. It’s okay for short messages…. better for “tweets” than a phone would be. But for any serious typing, I’m going to wait until I can use my laptop. It’s not good enough for typing letters or coding a computer program. On screens where you do a lot of mouse clicks and/or reading, it works very well. However, most other mouse features (such as dragging) are very difficult with the iPad. It’s very clumsy for copy/paste. Try scrolling a small window (such as this comment box) within a larger scrollable page. Easy with a mouse, but difficult (albeit possible) with the iPad.

It’s browser is Apple’s Safari — which is an okay web browser…. but not a great one. Many web pages aren’t quite compatible with it, causing cosmetic flaws. On pages that are heavy in JavaScript and/or AJAX (best example would be Mafia Wars on Facebook) it’s noticeably slower than a PC. Plus, the lack of support for Adobe’s Flash breaks compatibility with a TON of sites. You don’t realize how many sites it breaks until you try to use iPad for everything! Apple basically shrugs and says that Flash is buggy and slow, and that folks should upgrade their sites to use HTML5 instead of Flash. Well, that’s nice for them — but I have no control over other people’s web sites!! So I have to deal with the fact that many sites simply won’t work with my iPad. The e-mail on iPad is similarly inferior to my PC’s e-mail. Now, I’ll tell you up-front that I’m not an average e-mail user… I participate in dozens of e-mail discussion forums, and I have my own Internet domain with hundreds of e-mail addresses, all of which get routed to me. So it’s a complex setup… but the e-mail client on iPad simply can’t handle it. So I have to be happy with handling only a small subset of my e-mail messages on iPad. Once again, anything more complex has to be done on my laptop.

I love my iPad. Much easier to travel with than my laptop. When I go on vacations or getaways, I don’t take the laptop, I just take the iPad. It’s a nice machine. It’s basically a touch-screen version of a netbook — or a bigger iPod touch. However you want to look at it.

But a game changer? I just don’t get it.

angustheitchapAugust 2nd, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Scott,

The game is changed in many ways. You – personally – now have a device you take on vacations or getaways that is not your PC and works better than your phone. It is now added to your ‘arsenal’. And, since you can now use it in more locations, it has changed your game by letting you be connected more often… We can debate if this is good or bad, but regardless, it has changed your game.

But the game is not changed directly, in my opinion, for computer/I.T. people. You already understand computing, data, information, etc. Most of your notes were about comparing the individual tools, how they work, etc. For many consumers, there is no comparison. The iPad is SO much easier to use than a mouse. The tools you use are not the tools for many new iPad users. They are either confused by the current crop of user interface requirements, and using your finger is a completely new approach – one that works rather well for non-computer oriented users. For them, the game has changed drastically.

Business executives will be able to, and want to, access information like never before, and in more and more locations than ever before. We have a device that is going to be used in so many places where a laptop was too big, and a phone was too small. Game changer.

And, when these devices have to be connected to an I.T. network, and to your applications – they are not a phone, they are not a PC – they will require that we pay attention in new ways. Security, access, information are all key things that will require new approaches with the iPad paradigm. Game changer.

The iPad is not necessarily the tablet that will be the most pervasive, but it is the first successful one. And it will spur more development in the tablet area – game changer.

Looking from the big picture, here is a device that never existed, and had no market. Apple releases it, and now you and several million of your friends have one. They are popular, and the sales are growing – there must be something to it!!! Game changer…

Trevor

Nathan AndelinAugust 3rd, 2010 at 12:34 am

I don’t have an iPad yet, but we’re becoming an increasingly mobile world. I can see people pulling them out on the subway during their commute to work, where they typically don’t pull out a laptop. The form factor looks like the perfect compromise between traditional hand held devices, which are too small for most applications, and a laptop with all its accessories that make it too inconvenient for full mobility.

I hope that students and schools will be able to afford an iPad or similar, because they would be ideal to facilitate interactions between students, parents, teachers, and administrators; enabling students to access assignments, instructions, curriculum, media, school records, and even answer tests and quiz questions. When moving from class to class, students need that kind of form factor. We can think of lots of applications in school settings.

The keyboard appears to be somewhat limiting, but it amazes me what kids are able to text on cell phones, so I would think that with practice, a nearly full-size on-screen keyboard would be sufficient for most form input, and light typing.

I’m really impressed with Safari’s implementation of HTML 5 & CSS 3. In time, I bet most web sites will support it, even as a replacement for Flash.

An iPad would make a good backup for a home computer that may be shared between family members. When someone else is on the home computer, grab the iPad as an alternative.

I can see iPad as a game changer in that client devices really drive server applications. As iPad use grows, we’ll see a lot more Web based applications targeting it. I can see it spurring new development, and replacement of THICK client devices.

There are a lot of Visual Basic, Visual Foxpro, Java Swing, Progress, and similar thick-client applications that are ripe for replacement. Microsoft’s business model is still geared around HEAVY desktop applications, that get slower and slower, even though the hardware get’s faster and faster. I think we’re poised for even greater growth in thin client interfaces.

-Nathan

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Jon ParisAugust 3rd, 2010 at 4:02 pm

One of the huge (and growing) markets that the iPad seems to have opened up is the gray market – but in this case “gray” as in granny. Any number of grandmas seems to be adopting them so they can do email and keep up with their families on Facebook etc. No PC no matter how good was ever going to penetrate that market.

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