Steve Jobs Was Wrong

Yesterday, because I needed it for work*, and because my wife growls threateningly whenever I get near hers**, I went and got one of the latest iterations of the iPad. As advertised, it is a very lovely piece of kit; the retina screen is gorgeous to look at, the most recent iteration of iOS is perfectly snappy, and of course it has the sort of elegant design that makes you feel smarter just for walking around with it (which is of course entirely dangerous). I like it.

Also, the damn thing is still not the right size for me. I can’t really do anything with the thing with just one hand, typing on the thing means I am confronted with a too-large keyboard in profile and a too-small keyboard in landscape (not to mention that the people at Apple give us an onscreen keyboard whose layout continues to show that no one there apparently needs to type anything), the thing is just ever-too-heavy for long reading sessions, and ever-so-awkwardly sized for lying around in bed with. This is why, despite the iPad’s obvious charms and features, I suspect at the end of the day my go-to tablet will continue to be the rather more modestly-specc’d Galaxy Tab 2 7-inch tablet I bought in May.

Steve Jobs was famously of the opinion that the iPad was exactly the right size, but you know what? Steve Jobs was as capable of being entirely full of crap as anyone else on the planet. I am an almost exactly average-sized human male, and a seven-inch tablet is far better sized for almost every single thing I personally want to use a tablet for on a daily basis. This is why, among other things, the tabletized Kindles and Nooks have been so very successful, and why people continue to slaver over the idea of the iPad Mini, which allegedly will be released in October. Although I won’t be buying one of those — please note the actual purchased iPad — when it comes out (and I think it will), I will feel totally vindicated. Vindicated, I say!


* SHUT UP I TOTALLY DO NEED IT FOR WORK. No, seriously. The video game I am working on is being built for mobile platforms, and obviously the iPad is a target platform in that area. SO THERE.

** She doesn’t really. And I’m not just writing that because she is standing directly behind me now.***

*** She wasn’t really. It’s comedy, people! Keep up!

55 Comments on “Steve Jobs Was Wrong”

  1. I had the exact same reaction to the iPad’s size. The only thing it works really well for that I’ve tried is sketching.

  2. Speaking as a more generously dimensioned chap (at six foot four, I’m not a giant, but I’ve got a few percentage points on people), I’m throwing in another seven-inch shout-out.


    Ahem. Sorry. Brain thing. Anyway, my Nexus 7 is the absolute loveliest little thing I’ve ever played with. The only time I’m getting a bigger tablet is when it comes with Wacom functionality built in so I can noodle with my paint and sculpt apps on a hand-held device. ‘Course, it’ll need to run Windows too, but, yeah. Seven inches should be enough for most things – anything else you need too hands.

    Yeah, I totally could not not write that last bit.

  3. I don’t see any chance at all of my buying the smaller iPad that’s reportedly coming Very Soon Now. I have read books with iPads and read books with Kindles. I’ve played games with both. For me, it is not contest, bigger is better.

  4. You started working on that video game just so you could buy gadgets and deduct them as business expenses, didn’t you? Well played Scalzi, well played.

  5. Sticking with my MacBook and Nook, thankyouverymuch. All them newfangled doohickeys are too expensive for moi. Enjoy your new toy.

  6. I use my iPad 2 all the damn time at work. And the keyboard took me much less time to get used to than I thought it would. (I’m using it now!). It may perversely have helped that I am not a touch-typist.

    I think an iPad Mini would be too small for my usage, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there would be a market for it.

  7. The husbeast generously got me an iPad 2 for a holiday/birthday gift for me after months of seeing my sad panda face whenever he happily puttered around with his iPad 1. Unfortunately, it now seems to have reversed the effect, as he is now the sad panda comparing how much lighter and faster my iPad is (which is not helped by the fact that apps are no longer being updated for the iPad 1).

    Which just goes to confirm my initial suspicions: Jobs was a diabolical genius when it came to getting people to buy Apple stuff.

  8. Jardinsky:

    Actually, all that stuff is deductible anyway since I use it for business purposes, including research and correspondence. Which is to say SWEET.

  9. I have a seven inch tablet, and my next device is going to be bigger. It has to be. I use mine for reading comics and for that use case, bigger is most definitely better. I’m looking at the new Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ – but I would go iPad in a heartbeat as long as it’s not shrunk.

  10. I love me my Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 for leisure reading … but reading technical documents and DoD directives (my joy in life …), in PDF, on the 7″ screen is doable, not desirable. I long for the future of Sf movies, where “pads” are just laying around in various sizes, and you grab the one that fits your need at the time.

    Or multiple pads, because another area where electronic documents suck is when you’re doing research or other things where you are pulling info from multiple documents. It’s much easier to have a few dead-tree books open and quickly move grab the one you need than flip through multiple windows (on a desktop), or exit one document, scroll through the list, find the other one, open itm find what you need, try to remember it, close that document, choose the first from “recently read”, open it … (tablet).

  11. In portrait mode, split the keyboard by spreading fingers over keyboard. You can then use your two thumbs to type easier. Not perfect but easier to use in portrait mode.

  12. I suspect that within a decade or so, we’ll be able to buy something that slips easily into a small pocket but can be stretched and/or folded out to any desired size up to, say, a 32″ diagonal monitor.

    (Or most of us will be wearing things like Google Glasses, with some way to share views when desired.)

  13. John,

    Try the split keyboard (swoop out with two thumbs from inside to outside on the big keyboard) I find it much nicer for “thumb typing”.

    I co-worker bought a Nexus 7 last week. I must say I like the 7″ size for much the same reasons that you call out. An iPad Mini will likely be under strong consideration when we get the next iPad sometime on down the line.

  14. Getting a Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad means never having to use the on-screen touch keys again. That plus GoodReader and I have a suitable laptop replacement for word processing.

  15. The right size, obviously, depends on what you want to use the thing for. The 9.8″ iPad is the right size for me, in part because the keyboard in landscape mode works for me. (When it comes to the keyboard, I do warn everyone I talk to that YMMV.) The key spacing in landscape mode actually matches the key spacing of Apple’s bluetooth keyboard. (Yes, I checked. I own both.) I do a bunch of things with my iPad on a daily basis where a smaller screen would just be annoying.

    However, I also know a *lot* of people for whom a smaller, more pocketable device would be more useful. (I say “more pocketable” because I question whether the rumored smaller iPad is actually something that would fit in a reasonable sized pocket. I mean, my jacket has a pocket that the current iPad fits into but I wouldn’t call the iPad pocketable.) I’m glad that they have devices at their disposal they find just as useful as I find my iPad.

  16. I like the size of the iPad, but I also bought a Zagg portfolio. That way I have a keyboard for typing, and I don’t have to hold the thing, I can just lay it propped up for hands free viewing. Seems to work fine for my lap, bed, etc.

  17. I liked the 7 inch form factor for the most part, but one of the things I really like to do on a tablet is read comics, and I can’t read my digitized collection well on a 7 inch screen.

    What I’ve found particularly pleasing is the Asus Transformer tablet, because it’s a longer, narrower 10 inch device. Fairly easy to type on in portrait mode with both thumbs, and I get more screen real estate.

  18. I still love my Kindle with the keyboard at the bottom. When I set it on my chest to read in bed, the covers are just fluffy enough that the keyboard is covered up but the screen is not – which totally prevents me from having to hold it at all!! All I have to do is provide it a casual backrest with my hand – no weight!! And – I always get the right keys because it is TOUCHABLE and TACTILE. I do see that Amazon now has a new 4G Kindle – but they only quote network pricing for the first year. That scares me!

  19. “Steve Jobs was as capable of being entirely full of crap as anyone else on the planet.”

    Favorite. Quote. Ever.

    Suck it, fanbois.

  20. My 7″ nook tablet is perfect for reading books, but there is an iPad in the house and sometimes I reach for it when I want to read tabular data.

  21. It’s like a digital matryoshka doll with Kristine Scalzi in the center.

    In other news, I prefer my Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime for a netbook-sized tablet, not least because it was significantly easier to root. That said, I’m holding off on snagging a Nexus 7 until the iPad Mini either materializes or remains vaporware until December. When serious computing needs arise, I’m usually somewhere I can sit down anyway, and my iPhone is good enough for quick emails, and will be even better when my iPhone 5 arrives in four full inches of diagonal splendor!

    Besides, people who need 10 inches at every turn are probably just compensating…for poor eyesight, that is. The Prophet Jobs, may he rest in peace, was wrong about tablet size options. Then again, he was “wrong” once before, and the people who excommunicated him from Cupertino almost didn’t stay solvent enough to savor their Pyrrhic victory. While they’ll be no third coming of Jobs, I hope for Mac’s sake that his ghost does not have the last word on screen size.

  22. I want something so I can watch movies in bed or in my Zero-G chair when my back is acting up. The few times I’ve used an iPad at work for testing web apps, I’ve found it heavy and slippery. At the same time – super easy to use. Very soon I have to decide if I’m going Android or iOS. My old Blackberry is almost toast so it’s time for a new phone and I want to stick to one family of toys/tools.

  23. I grabbed a rooted HP Touchpad with Android 4.0 on it, and it’s a dream for reading PDF journal articles. However, I agree with Scalzi; the keyboard on a device this size just isn’t QUITE right. Comics are brilliant on the thing, but for reading actual books I’ll stick with an e-ink device since it feels a bit easier on the eyes for me.

  24. The Kindle fire is heavy and the browser sux. Ordinary iPads, without some way to prop them are tiresome but the iPad mini is coming (maybe). Good Luck and good viewing!

  25. I won’t read on a tablet. I read too much. Eyestrain is bad, plus glare outside. Love my Kindle Keyboard. (Plus, I’m not crazy about touch screens, but I would probably get used to one.) All that said, I might buy a table to watch videos on … someday. But I’m a 5’0″ women and I HATE things that are too big for my hands.

  26. Jobs was wrong on another aspect of the iPad: Nothing, and I mean nothing, should be referred to as a retina display unless it projects the image into your retina the way Google Glass or similar devices do.

    If the iPad is a “retina” display, then my 8-Track player is an audio-neural stimulator.

  27. I rather enjoy my Playbook for the same reason – the size is just right for most of what I use it for. I bought it on a whim when the price dropped, and absolutely fell in love with it.

  28. Put the iPad in landscape and using two fingers “pull” the keyboard apart. Ta-da! Two part keypad much easier to use. Also, you can add a bluetooth keyboard if you are not on the go with it.

  29. Hmmmph. I, on the other hand, am barely 5′ 3″, and I think it’s the perfect size. For one thing, I need the font set pretty large. So more screen is better. Although I have arthritis in both hands I don’t have a problem with the size or weight because it’s so much easier to hold and manipulate than a book. Esp a large paperback. I’ll give you the keyboard, but mostly I only type short things on mine like email or blog comments. Not much of a problem. People vary and so do their needs.

  30. I agree. The iPad is too heavy to Hold for any length of time. I do love the nexus 7. It is light, has a nice display and I do a lot of reading and web browsing on it.

    As has been suggested, try the split keyboard for thumb typing on the iPad. Or get the little apple wireless keyboard for it. My main gripe with all Apple’s onscreen keyboards: they only have uppercase letters on them, even when they’re not going to output uppercase.

  31. I’ll weigh in with support for the Transformer – I have an Infinity. The battery life is awesome, and I love the keyboard dock, on which I can touch-type with ease. I bought it for NaNoWriMo – with a two-year-old, I need to write where/when I can, without stopping every hour or two to charge the thing. The only problem is that said two-year-old has discovered that she can ‘draw’ on the touch-screen with my drawing apps, and she fights me for it whenever she sees it!

  32. Hmm…. do you find a 7″ to be easier to type on though? I guess theNook Color I used to have was easier in portrait but it was useless to type in in landscape. Also, if it’s the glass that you find a pain in the arse when typing, try a Touchfire – (no affiliation, just an owner, etc etc). Of course if it’s the size this won’t help. Oddly, it’s not the size that bothers me it’s that you can’t arrow back and forth when editing. Which is one reason I’m typing this on an 11″ Air. In a coffee shop. :)

  33. hmm. Frys has a 10 inch no-name brand Android tablet for $199 right now. If I hadn’t just eaten up my gadgets and goodies budget…

  34. Gulliver: Besides, people who need 10 inches at every turn are probably just compensating…for poor eyesight, that is.

    This is one of several reasons I don’t have a handheld tablet or e-reader yet (I do have Kindle installed on my desktop, however). My ideal desktop monitor size would be somewhere around 25″. Last monitor was 22″ (too small), current monitor is 27″ (a bit larger than I’ve decided I really like). I have a 17″ laptop I use on the road (which happens rarely), but I really need more visual real estate. If my laptop died and I had to replace it, I could probably be talked into a 12″ tablet, if such a thing exists. But anything smaller, and I don’t care if I do have the ability to adjust the font size, it’d still be more trouble than it’s worth, to me. I’ve had vision problems since early childhood, it’s only getting worse, and I’m 40 so my age doesn’t help either.

    What I’d love to see is something like a tablet that could be rolled up, so even a 17″ screen wouldn’t be out of the question. Then I could tuck it in purse, backpack, luggage, whatever and still have the screen size I need to accomodate my visual difficulties.

  35. I’ve read roughly two hundred books on my iPad. I must be just that much stronger then the rest of you (;

    Logitech makes a wonderful keyboard, totally changes the way you use the thing.

  36. Fear not. In time the bones of your descendnts will conform to the glorious design of the Obsidian-Turtlenecked One.

  37. Love, love, love the iPad 3 display. It is a tad heavy. But mostly use it for watching hulu, netflix and surfing the web… I have read a few books on it (redshirts!). What we need is iPad 2 weight with the iPad3 display.

    My 72 year old mom has an iPad 2 and a bluetooth keyboard. Display is perfect size for her and the UI is much better than a laptop (again, for her).

    I did pick up a Galaxy Tab II 7in. Do not like. Seriously. It’s lacking so much polish it’s kinda sad.

    Hopefully apple will have a 7in with the high end display in Oct. I’m hopeful since the new iPod touch has the same display as the iPhone 5.

  38. Have had a small lap top (Dell and Acer) for several years. Just got a Nook and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. Can honestly say that the Samsung is the most versitile for out-of-the-house use. And as far as Steve Jobs goes, he is full of crap. I grew up in the Bay Area and listened to Jobs and Gates go around and around. If you have ever seen or read Pirates of Silicon Valley, you can truly understand what it was like. The 60’s was an intersesting time to grow-up especially in CA and in the Bay Area.

  39. Guess I’ m just not anyones target market. I HATE typing on touchscreens of all ilks. I’ve used i-Pad, Nook color, Nook tablet & my droid phone. All are equal pains in the ass to me. I do agree the Nook size tablet is best for leisure reading for me. Phone is just too small, and i-Pad too big to toss in purse and carry everywere. ( Full disclosure here, I don’t own an i-Pad, but my brother works for apple so I’ve had chance to fool around with all i-pads yo date I like my Nook better. I use it 99% of the time for reading only, not internet or data/word processing

  40. I have tiny little hands and find the portrait keyboard on the iPad 2 perfect. And I read comics and manga on it, so perfect size for that, too.

  41. Just wanted to point out re: earlier comment, nested footnotes have a long glorious pedigree, set by, among others, dsquared over at Crooked Timber.

  42. Hi John,
    You say
    :”a seven-inch tablet is far better sized for almost every single thing I personally want to use a tablet for on a daily basis.”
    I think maybe you baught an Ipad for the wrong reasons.
    You also say:” This is why, among other things, the tabletized Kindles and Nooks have been so very successful”
    The other thing, the most important thing of course is that they are cheaper than Ipad.
    It’s like with all things: what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you.

  43. I don’t use my IPad 2 very much. Mostly, I use it to stream NPR at work. I occasionally take it to meetings to type notes. The size and battery life make it better than my laptop for that purpose. I have the Logitech Bluetooth keyboard, which helps with typing.

    The main reason I still have the iPad is that one of my College Algebra sections is full of high school students who have iPads through their 1:1 program. That means I have a good opportunity to find useful educational activities for the students on the iPads. There is also a good chance that I’ll be developing a college algebra textbook for the iPad next year.

    I’ve seen the iPad HD, and I don’t think the better screen makes it worth lugging around the heavier device. I’m perfectly happy with the specs of the iPad 2.

    The one device I am thoroughly interested in is the Microsoft Surface. In the past, I’ve been a Microsoft hater, but their products are really starting to work for me. The Surface has a keyboard in the cover. I’m hoping it will integrate better with my PC’s and with my Office documents. The iTunes interface on PC has been a big turnoff for me and converting PowerPoint to Keynote hasn’t worked well enough for my tastes. I’m not going to develop presentations on my iPad, as the screen is too small and getting mathematics into PowerPoint is hard enough.

    Of course, the Surface could be the next Zune, so I’ll wait for reviews before purchasing.

  44. Steve Jobs was NOT wrong – considering the BILLIONS in income Apple has made off the iPad. You disagree with his or Apple’s design choices – as is your right. His choices did not match up with yours – it happens. My wife is very tall and has long, skinny fingers, she types well on her iPad. A Bluetooth keyboard is a simple investment. Hope the alleged iPad mini hits your sweet spot if/when it comes out.

  45. I’m in no way a touch typist on a physical keyboard, but my two finger (actually four finger) typing skills on my iPad definitely exceed what I do on “real” keyboard. I guess its probably my fat fingers that make the iPad keyboard easier for me. But I also prefer the iA Writer keyboard with cursor keys over the stock keyboard that I’m using here.

    Although smaller tablets have a certain appeal, such as for reading when I’m backpacking, I dont think I’d like typing on them. The Retina iPad is pretty damn close to ideal for me, both for consumption and creation.

  46. I dont’ have an iPad, just a cheap Android 4.0 tablet with 9.7inch display.

    As others have already wrote, one of the mains reasons iPad’s original 9.7inch display was “exactly the right size” it was because it had the minimal size, resolution (1024×768 in iPad and iPad2) and best aspect ratio (4:3) needed to read most pdf documents with enough ease; especially those formatted for A4 (half page or 50% zoom, A5, B4 (half pahe or 50% zoom), B5, legal and letter (half page ot 50%) paper sizes.

    Tablets with 7inch 16:10 displays are good enough for ebooks in epub/awz/mobi format because those are reflowable, but most pdf are not and are formatted for printer friendly page formats.

    The moment you start reading lots of pdf documents with graphics, multicolumn text, etc you need at least a 9.7inch 4:3 display with at least 1024×768 resolution, nothing less.

    I’ve tried 7inch 16:10, 8inch 4:3 1024×768, 10inch 16:10 1024×600 and in the end the 9.7inch 4:3 1024×768 is a lot better (even compared to the 10inch 1024×600, they have almost the same area, but aspect ratio and a little less resolution made a huge difference).

  47. I have read hundreds of books on my iPad and love the large screen and the retina display. (Of course, many of those were on the iPad 1 or iPad 2.). I would not give up the retina display, but I would love a lighter device.

    That said, my coworkers with Nexus 7 devices love how light it is and how well it renders text.

    Methinks The Steve was right about the seven inch tablets of the day – older display tech, heavier – but current tech has advanced. (the Nexus 7 could not have been built two years ago; nor could the iPhone 5 or the Kindle Paperwhite.

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