There’s been much speculation in the media over the last couple of weeks about the iPad 2, reportedly due for release early in 2011. Two of the many rumours I agree with – 2 cameras and retina display – because they are already present in the iPhone 4 and latest iPod Touch. HD video recording is also a real possibility in the next generation of iPads because again, this ability already exists in the aforementioned iDevices. Talk of the iPad 2 having a USB port however is leading people down the wrong path, IMHO.
The iPad doesn’t need a USB port. The camera connection kit that already exists as an accessory provides a USB connection with your camera, but only that – your camera. You can’t plugin a memory stick as the iPad’s operating system (OS) only recognises signals from a camera; the ‘universal’ part of USB doesn’t apply to the iPad like it does to your laptop. Instead, if you try and access data on a pen drive, you’re presented with the following error message:
So unless you’re transferring photos from a camera, the kit’s USB connector is a no-go zone.
The iPad doesn’t need a USB port. The other connector in the current camera connection kit supports SD cards. Great you say, but again, like the USB connector, this is inextricably linked to the iPad’s camera roll, so it’s another example of only being able to transfer photos. I like the SD connector though as it means no cables are needed (I don’t even use cables when transferring photos to a laptop – haven’t done so in several years! – always use the SD slot instead). When the iPad’s OS registers the SD card, the camera roll opens and you can download any or all of the photos that you wish.
Too bad if your camera uses compact flash though…
The iPad doesn’t need a USB port. There are already heaps of apps, paid and free, that allow you to transfer photos between iPhone, iPod, iPad and computer. Some of these focus on transfer between iDevices only, some are just Mac and others support PC as well. Some use WiFi whilst others use Bluetooth. The point is, it’s already possible to transfer photos between different devices using apps AND wirelessly. What then, does a USB port offer users, really?
The iPad doesn’t need a USB port – and this is the clincher! The iPad uses the iPhone OS. Given the nature of the OS it’s easy to identify that the iPad is NOT a full replacement for a laptop or desktop – not yet, anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE my iPad (and will likely be first in line for iPad 2), but I’ve found that the iPad’s biggest area of weakness is related to file management. I lot of people seem to assume that the iPad can be a replacement for a laptop, but don’t understand the implications of the menu-based OS that controls how users interact with the hardware and application software.
The iPad doesn’t need a USB port because the OS dictates that all file management is app-based only. Sure, you can import and export Word documents etc to and from apps, although I’ve found this to have a high failure rate. Developers have made some improvements, but there’s still much work to be done in this respect. The ‘open in…’ feature seen in Safari even doesn’t respond particularly well to Apple’s own Pages app. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve tried to view a document from the Internet in Pages, Goodreader, ReaddleDocs and many other (generally good) productivity tools only to have it fail. It works about 10% of the time, which quite frankly is unacceptable. The iPad’s OS doesn’t have a My Documents/Library (PC) or Finder (Mac) component built into it, unlike the operating systems we’re familiar with on our computers.
Seeing a quick view of a document in Safari works, but trying to download this document into another app is a different ball game and one in which is the most frustrating thing about the iPad. I’ve had students wanting to download documents from their Blackboard courses onto their iPad, only to discover that they can only ‘view’ the file, not ‘download’ it. Even Pages doesn’t allow you to organise documents into folders. If you’ve only got a limited number of files then fine, but imagine being a student trying to organise potentially hundreds of files across all of your courses in even one academic year. How many files do you have on your laptop or desktop right now? How do you organise these files? Could you replicate that file/folder structure in the iPad? If you’re a student or teacher, my answer to that would be probably not.
The iPad doesn’t need a USB port because the OS precludes it’s use. Wireless technologies mean users can transfer photos and files (sometimes!) from one iPad to another (or iDevice), or from computer to iPad. I have so many productivity apps on my iPad that it’s a bit embarrassing to count them all! Yet I haven’t found the one killer app, mainly because whilst each have advantages, they all seem to fall down in how they manage files (documents such as PDF, Word, PPT or equivalents etc, not photos) and/or in what type of files they allow users to transfer (especially without having to use iTunes, which is bloated and horrid on a PC!) There’s no coincidence that it’s photos that seem to be the easiest to transfer rather than documents. That’s because at the end of the day the iPad, being a consumer device, was designed for media rather than file management. There’s much potential in this hardware, but there’s still some way to go before we all ditch laptops and desktops in favour of a slate – teachers, students and businesses alike. And until we get to that point, there’s really no clear reason why the iPad needs a USB port at all.