I've been falling inexorably in awe of my iPad. In essence, it is everything I actually enjoy doing on my computer inside a much lighter, more portable and -- somehow -- more intimate device. As I use the iPad more I find myself less and less surprised that Apple is selling so many millions of the things. It can do anything, but some things are missing -- here's three missing features, with solutions.
Rather than launch off into some lengthy review in which I would probably reel off the spec sheet, give some glowing description of the product and its build quality (it just "oozes style", you "feel like you've never been without it" etc., etc.,), and then rant on knowledgeably about something I just read about on Wikipedia, I thought I'd focus on just three missing iPad features ...
... and because criticism is just insanely easy and actually having ideas is pretty hard, I thought I'd do my average-intelligenced-at-best best to think of how to bring these missing features to the iPad.
First and fast: I love my iPad, but it doesn't print...
I understand print drivers take up drive space and you don't want to have drivers for every printer hogging that space on your iPad. But why not introduce a simple print app that speaks to your home Mac or PC over the Wi-Fi network or via the 'Net and uses your home printer to print, running drivers on the remote machine?
You could also use this print app to print using whatever computer and printer set-up you were near and arranged access too.
This need exposes one secret to the iPad's success. If your iPad doesn't do something, someone somewhere is making an app which does it for you. In this case let me introduce PrintBureau, which prints email, contacts, web pages, copied "clips", email attachments, photos, text messages, shipping labels and much much more. And includes remote print.
Problem solved. A solution needs a problem first. Good lesson.
Number Two: Triple whammy
Here's something I do. I read and research things online using my browser, email and RSS feeds. I have apps for all three on my iPad, and I also have copy and paste.
What I don't have is the ability to run two or more apps at the same time side-by-side, for example a Web browser at the same time as a word processing utility.
I can understand why I don't have the ability to run two such apps side by side on an iPhone, but an iPad has the screen real estate. To be able to use it in this way would make the tablet far more useful as a netbook replacement.
There's two potential solutions I can dream up:
Apple could enable support for two apps running side-by-side, subject to the proviso that performance would be limited by the hardware. This would be multitasking. It is possible there are technical limitations to prevent this, causing Apple to lean toward the limited multitasking available in iOS 4.
Apple or a developer could introduce an app which combines a text entry and/or image editor of some kind with an RSS reader and a WebKit-based browser (already available as an app development tool to devs). Any two of these could be open at once in a split screen.
Perhaps someone is working on the latter now?
If so, I'd like it to have the ability to access popular blogging engines like Wordpress or Drupal for text entry.
Bloggers, students, researchers and business types need a solution like this. I'm curious what else it may need to be able to do.
UPDATE: A reader has pointed me toward Desktop, an app which seems able to do this split screen thing. I'm looking at it now, I'll let you know how it goes. It is only 99-cents.
Part the third - music everywhere
I just love that I can use Bluetooth to pump music or TV soundtracks or games sounds out of my iPad and into my Bluetooth speaker system.
1. Why can't I choose which audio is transmitted? I'm imagining an app picker, so your iPad can choose to send your iTunes music but not the sound of the game you might also be playing.
3. Why isn't there a solution that lets me send audio from my iPad, iPhone or iPod touch to any of my other Apple devices on my home network?
4. Why isn't there a solution that lets me send audio and video from any mobile Apple device to any of my other Apple devices on my home network, and why isn't there a solution that lets me send audio and video from any mobile Apple device to my TV sets?
Forgive the tautology in 4. The use of seeming repetition was a literary attempt to highlight my point while perhaps making your subconcious pay a little more attention. I attempt to do lots of these in my writing. Not always terribly succesfully. I'm sorry.
While I was wandering round my 'crib' (as I think people say in the USA) last night, listening to some rather excellent music from the likes of Inme, A.F.I. and Satyricon (I'm in a metal-type phase this week) ... while I bimbled about my home I thought how much nicer it would be if the music simply followed me around.
See, I was playing the sounds from my iPad via my Bluetooth system, but it would have been so much more fun if the music simply directed itself out of whichever approved device in my house my iPad and I happened to be closest to.
So, out of my TV in one room, my Mac in another, my lovely powerful Technics system (my neighbors do not love me) in another - you get the idea?
Join the dots
I'm thinking an Apple Wi-Fi device should be able to do this.
It could be a small device which connects to third party equipment, such as televisions or music systems.
It could host an iPod connector so it could also be plugged into those iPod accessories, alarm clocks, speaker systems, whatever.
Your Macs could be given the ability to sense for these devices. Macs could transmit media for playback via these devices (like the speakers option in iTunes) and could also be given the ability to playback media transmitted from any Apple mobile device, in which case the Mac acts as a speaker/TV.
When it comes to iTunes music streaming from the cloud, these devices could conceivably be controlled via Apple mobile devices and computers.
You get to play all the music you ever wanted on your giant music system. You get to watch every episode of The Wire or the L Word, or Lost or whatever you like on your TV.
A device like this is Apple's missing link for the home media ecosystem.
I'm wondering if the mythical Apple TV update that is yet to emerge, shiny and new and ever so slightly god-like to sit amongst our consumer electricals may be part of this missing solution?
After all, systems which aren't made by Apple and deliver this cost thousands of dollars, putting them out of reach of most of us.
Apple already has the building blocks. Does this missing iPad feature suggest part of the future of the Apple TV?
After all, every problem -- every missing feature -- is a chance to find a solution.
With that in mind, what are your three biggest missing iPad features?
And how would you solve them?
Note: This blog first appeared on our sister site Computerworld - read more at http://blogs.computerworld.com/evans - Email Jonny at email@example.com.