I’ve been using the Dell Mini 5 for a number of weeks now in stealth mode. I also carry the Kindle DX which has a similar sized screen to the iPad and think Apple may have guessed wrong on this product.
Let me explain why, I’m basing this on what we know of both products and actually being able to hold a Dell Mini 5 at CES.
The Dell Mini 5
The Dell Mini 5 loads Google apps which should also scale relatively easily from a 3.5” screen to a 5” screen. You can put the Dell Mini in a belt pouch (big one), battery life seems to be similar to a screen phone and likely not yet optimized, and it is vastly better than an iPhone (thanks to its larger screen) for browsing, watching video, gaming (assuming you can find good games) and typing.
It is also substantially better for us old farts who don’t like to wear glasses. At 5” the screen is 90% larger which is really what makes a lot of things better. It multi-tasks, has two cameras (one a 5 mega pixel with twin LED lights and digital zoom – the other for video conferencing), and both a removable battery and expandable memory.
But it is the fact that you can toss your phone and replace it with this device that makes it work otherwise you have to carry another largely redundant device with yet another dataplan.
The Apple iPad
Set aside the lack of multi-tasking, Flash complaints, the lack of any camera, and a name that sounds like Maxi Pad. The problem is that it doesn’t replace anything; not even a Kindle really.
I’ve been tracking my Kindle use and my tendency is to use it for nearly two weeks between charges. This is because I tend to read for long times, leave it by my bed or in my backpack, and it will last for days (around two weeks sometime) if you turn off the radio (which you only need to download content occasionally). Because the battery isn’t very large it actually charges up really fast as well. However the iPad is intended to be on-line all the time, uses a high power (energy) LCD display and likely will have a battery life for reading measured in single digit hours and not double digit days.
But I think folks could get around this, particularly if they didn’t read (the Kindle isn’t exactly selling in iPod volumes yet) a lot and used it for media instead which drains batteries not matter what device you use. The bigger problem is despite what Steve Jobs said about the iPad being a better notebook and Smartphone is that it isn’t really either.
Without a keyboard or flash it can’t be a better laptop for typing, browsing and real work, without phone features it can’t be a better Smartphone. And at 10” if it had phone features you’d better love headsets or speakerphone use.
It is a bigger iPod Touch and it likely won’t replace that either because it is too big. Can you picture trying to jog with something this big or trying to fit it into an iPod dock in a car or table radio? This makes the product additive but not as focused as the Kindle on doing one thing well and cheaply.
The Wi-Fi version will likely only work well at home or at the rare open hotspot and the WAN version requires yet another data service. But you’ll likely still generally carry your Smartphone for calls and your laptop for work (and still not be able to tether) and if you have your laptop why use the iPad for browsing? And if you have your iPhone and laptop what do you need the iPad for again?
So while I am carrying a Smartphone, laptop and my Kindle I can’t for the moment figure out why I’d carry an iPad. It isn’t as good as the Kindle for just reading, and it overlaps too much with the laptop and Smartphone to not feel redundant.
I think Apple should have built a 5” iPhone rather than a 10” iPod at least initially. I can see the Dell Mini 5 appealing to folks who want something bigger than 3.5” Smartphone. Now eventually, by version 2 or 3, the iPad will be a better reader than the existing Kindle but so will the next generation Kindle.
Because of the type of screen version one of the iPad is going struggle as a reader and unlike most successful Apple devices it is hard to find one thing it does really well. The browser is crippled vs. a Netbook or Notebook (no flash), the screen isn’t optimized for reading and it’s too big to be your primary portable media player.
Let me know what you think: would you rather have a 5” iPhone like product or a 10” iPod? Clearly Daniel Tosh, who played golf with his test iPad isn’t a fan.
Boy I’ll bet that pissed the hell out of Steve Jobs.
Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them. Currently he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.