iPad extensibility: the key is in the adapters?
January 28, 2010
While the iPad won’t sport much more than a dock connector for interfacing with other devices, that dock connector may be pretty flexible. In addition to the obvious use for syncing iTunes media to and from a Mac, Apple will offer numerous adapters. For instance, there will be a camera "kit" consisting of an SD and USB adapter, presumably to download pics and videos without having to get a Mac. This means that on-release, the iPad will have access to external media, as well as an external keyboard, all via the dock connector.
The obvious question is whether external storage access will be extremely limited. We guess it will be, but if the iPad could write to external storage devices, that would open a whole new world of possibilities for the device, making it ever-so more versatile. Otherwise, the iPad relies exclusively on networking to transfer files to and fro. There are other interesting possibilities for future accessories, however, which could leverage the USB adapter, or otherwise leverage the 30-pin iPod dock connector. Two such examples follow.
One of the disappointments people have with the iPad is the lack of a front-facing camera. Some will remember that PowerBooks didn’t have iSight cameras embedded in the display frame, but that the original iSight form factor was rather large, and slide onto a laptop via a plastic attachment. These iSights sold for over $75 on release, and releasing a new, smaller version, is a financially considerate move for Apple, who may not want to tack on more money to the iPad’s currently alluring price-tag.
We can see Apple releasing an iSight attachment to the iPad later this year, or early next year, once the mobile version of OS X is more mature, and when its distribution includes a mobile iChat application. The camera could simply orient itself to however the iPad is positioned, and potentially, this attachment could be used on the iPhone and iPod Touch as well, since the connector is the same. Releasing such an iSight would allow it to be used on all mobile Apple devices, and test the popularity of video conferencing on mobile devices before Apple decides to include it in a later iPad revision. In the meantime, the fact that the iSight remains an out-of-box option for the MacBook lineup serves as just another example as to how the iPad fills a category between the iPhone/iPod Touch and the MacBook line.
Apple’s demo of the redesigned Brushes app made for a great presentation, but for many artists, the feel of a pen/brush, along with pressure sensitivity, is important. There’s a clear market for drawing tablets out there, which is why Wacom products sit in every Apple store we’ve ever stepped in. If such tablets could be used with an iPad, we could certainly see many artists jumping on board Apple’s new product niche, as the portability of such a canvas, with a drawing interface aimed at the more artistic crowd, makes for a solid combination. Rather than sitting in front of a computer at one’s desk, artists could bring their iPad/tablet combination outside, to practically anywhere, and expect amazing battery life in a more inspiring location.
Understandably, Apple is all about pushing multitouch, but there’s no reason that the two input mechanisms can’t go hand-in-hand. Literally smudge paint with one’s fingers, but finely draw lines via the tablet, in a more controlled and usual fashion that many artists are used to. Turn the iPad as though manually plopping a canvas on its side, and continue working with virtual brush. Even as non-artists, we find the prospect enticing.