iPad Camera: where art thou?
I have owned an iPad for over a week and have spent much time familiarizing myself with its many functions. While my future blogs will focus on how the iPad can be used in higher education, I first want to address one of the main critiques of the iPad: the lack of a forward facing camera.
Speculation on whether the iPad would contain a camera goes back to the early rumors of the product’s existence. Many believed that for the iPad to be truly revolutionary, it would need video conferencing. I agreed with this assessment until I actually got an iPad. Now, I believe the iPad will make a significant impact even without a forward facing camera. I do not doubt that Apple could sell over a million iPads in April.
But this still begs the question: what the heck was Steve Jobs thinking? Why no camera in the iPad? There are two leading theories in the cybersphere: 1) Apple held back to increase profits by forcing people to buy the second generation of the iPad, and 2) the iPad hardware cannot support it. I think both of these theories, and all others I have read about, are inaccurate. My own theory on why the iPad has no forward facing camera is that with it, the iPad would have failed.
A forward facing camera is important to the iPad for one reason: video conferencing. In one week, Apple has sold about half a million iPads without 3G. With the success of the initial release, I am confident that many more will buy the iPad 3G model. It is not infeasible to see well over 2 million users by the end of 2010. That number of people added to the 3G network, using video conferencing, would cause the system to collapse. I believe there is no forward facing camera on the iPad because the 3G network would not be able to handle to huge amount of bandwidth required for video conferencing.
Since the introduction of the iPhone, AT&T has not been the most stable network. Adding 1-2 million (or more) iPad 3G users, many placing high bandwidth video calls, would cause the 3G system to collapse and the iPad’s reputation would be forever tarnished. The iPad was too important to Steve Jobs. It is more important that the iPad work flawlessly then to have a camera.
Some people may respond that Apple could have included a forward facing camera and simply blocked the camera from having 3G access. However, it is important to recall that AT&T’s 3G network previously did not allow Skype and other VOIP technologies. Only to fend off possible investigations by the FTC did AT&T and Apple reverse that policy in mid-2009. Therefore, blocking certain technologies from the 3G network is not an option.
So, when can we expect to see a camera on the iPad? Not until there is a reliable nation-wide 4G network... but I do expect to see a forward facing camera on the iPhone before such a network is available because it takes significantly less bandwidth to send video at iPhone resolutions than on the iPad.
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