Why You Don’t Want an iPad

iPad People have been asking me if we’re going to support using the iPad for home automation. The short answer, for all the obvious reasons, is yes. But there are a few reasons why an iPad might not be the ideal solution for you.

Fingernails. Whether “real” or acrylic, they simply don’t register on the iPad’s capacitive touchscreen. (The majority of women I’ve talked to don’t like touchscreen phones for this reason.) This technology requires direct flesh contact. So unless your nails are really short, the iPad might be a poor choice for you as a home controller.

A single interface. If you have a large home and plan to have several iPads to operate everything, you may be stuck with a single interface. And if you’re in the kitchen, for example, you shouldn’t have to drill down to switch the lights on. A single graphical user interface is stored on a central processor and is loaded by the iPads in real-time. Having a different user experience in different areas of the home simply isn’t possible with many systems.

The docking. The iPad docks in portrait mode. So, if the user interface is in landscape mode, you’ll be looking at it sideways when it’s docked, unless you undock the iPad and hold it in your hands. The user interface can be designed to be oriented in portrait, but if you also have dedicated touchscreens in your system, you’ll then have two user experiences rather than one.

Connect time. Home control on an iPad will run just like any other iPad app. That means it takes time to launch and connect. This could be frustrating when you want to perform simple tasks. You could leave the home control application open all the time, but with 150,000 apps, books, web browsing, email, and more, it will be tempting to close it. The iPad doesn’t support multi-tasking, which would allow it to run more than one app at a time. So not only would you need to relaunch home control simply to adjust the lights, you’d need to quit your high-scoring game of Tap Tap Revenge to do so.

The iPad will prove to be an amazing device capable of doing many things. Get one, download a book, and sit back in your favorite chair… but use your dedicated touchscreen controller to turn on the reading light.

  1. Sorry have to disagree.. While dedicated touchscreens are great and fast I still use my iPhone all the time to turn on lights as that is always on me.

  2. All I see are a bunch of bullshit reasons on why you guys wouldn’t want to develop for this platform (but of course you will, it will make you money). I’m tired of the women and their fingernails argument. It’s like someone with the bridge of their nose pierced complaining that they can’t wear most sunglasses. That is a personal choice that the majority of people do not make, so don’t complain when it inhibits your options. As for the landscape vs. portrait UI, that is just a lazy cop-out. Lots of developers have dealt with this and have even embraced the duality of the device. You can have more options available in landscape, and if you want to focus more on a single object, rotate to portrait. Did you guys really want a square iPad with a resistive touch screen? Fuck that.

  3. @guisep. I use my iPhone too. I will have an iPad and I expect it will also be appropriate for 60% or more of our clients. Thanks for your comment.

    @Bruce (Bruce Wayne? Nice email address. Why anonymous?). Women have a strong influence. In fact, 40% of technology spending is influenced by women today. I don’t have a figure for those with the bridge of their nose pierced, but I would if I were in the sunglass business.

  4. I think this should be relabeled “Why you don’t want to replace your home automation system with iPads”

    I have an AMX system in my home with an MVP-8400 as my main system. However, I probably use my iPhone 85% or more of the time to make changes. I’ll consider getting an iPad to add to the system once AMX’s support for it comes online (announced yesterday!), although I’ll have to figure out exactly what it would add to my personal system.

    I can see TONS of applications where an iPad, in conjunction with an existing control system, would be great. The fact that it would have a portrait layout while the main system has a landscape layout just means it would take a more dedicated graphic designer to create the same feel from panel to panel, but there’s no reason that couldn’t be done.

    You’ve also missed one of the key positives, at least in the AMX world (I know Crestron has some of this already): the iPad can do stuff other than control your home automation! Now you can keep one device on your end table that can control the AV, Lights, etc, and surf the internet to look up that actor on IMDB. Or the same panel in the kitchen can change the music and look up a recipe. You’re not going to do that on a Modero Panel.

    In summary, I’d suggest that you add an iPad to your system, but think hard before replacing all of your existing panels with one. It’s an improvement for certain situations (bedside, couch, kitchen), and a downgrade for others (full home control, video preview, in-wall operation).

  5. @Jeff. Thanks for your comment. Well summarized. I’m certainly looking forward to getting mine 🙂

  6. Hello!

    Thanks for this very informative post. We all will see how the low hardware price of an iPad will influence the cost of the programming service as part of the overall package. Up until now it is no big deal cross financing programmer’s hours with the margin made on touch panel hardware.
    On a more technical side it is yet to be experienced how fast the iPad will reconnect to Wifi after getting out of sleep.

  7. @Harald. Great points. Thank you for contributing.

  8. FYI: Our CF iViewer app caches the interface on the device, so you can load a unique device into any iPad if you have multiple.

    I’m sure you can do this with Crestron’s app too, might require a CompactFlash card though to store the files in separate folders…but don’t quote me on that!

    Someone should invent nail polish, or even within the acrylics, that’s conductive so that they register as touches on a capacitive screen (like how some gloves have this built in).

  9. Great article Morgan. The fingernail thing is something i have never heard about or dealt with. I will have to keep my eyes peeled for future clients with long nails :).

    @guisep.. The iPhone is incredible for subsystem control. You basically just need to check status and make adjustments between 1 and 5 times per day. I think its also a great mobile outdoor option when compared to keypads and waterproof remotes. The connection drop becomes a huge issue when you are trying to do things like watch DirecTV. Imagine how frustrating it would be to have to wait for the connection while surfing channels. What about trying to fight the volume jump at commercials or when things start to explode in movies? Todays “i will put up with it” will be tomorrows “why did i ever agree to this”.

    @bruce.. There is no conspiracy going on here. GUIFX has been around since before most of the population knew what a touchscreen was so when they have an opinion about anything related to them its usually spot on. The goal is/should always be to have seamless consistency across every interface in the home or business. While the techie member of the family may be able to master all the secret hidden menus of every device its usually not as much fun for the other members of the family or guests. Tilt/change for the iPad GUI adds an additional layer of confusion IMO

    @Jeff.. You pretty much nailed why i think the iPad would make an AWESOME touchpanel. Before i got an iPhone i would keep my notebook pc near me on the sofa and carry it to the kitchen or garage or wherever i was hanging out in the house. Once i got the iPhone my notebook never leaves its dock on my desk at home. Occasionally i would get up and go to the PC to respond to an email or post at a forum. Now i will have a bigger screen and i wont ever have to get up. Thank goodness for elastic waistbands :).

    @Harald Steindl.. Very good points. The reality of the industry is that hardware pricing will continue to fall. Gone are the days of giving away all labor to profit from hardware. Today we have to refocus/reconfigure the way we do business. Your expertise in system engineering and installation and programming are the products you have the ability to make the most profit with.

    As of right now the only thing that will keep me from replacing every touchpanel in my house with an iPad is the connection issue. My experience with an iPhone with the remote app controlling iTunes on an iMac (complete apple solution from beginngin to end) is that each time the iPhone times out i have to slide to unlock and then wait for it to connect. Sometimes its 1-5 seconds.. and sometimes its 5-20 seconds. Its ridiculously annoying to watch a movie and there is no way i would be able to stand using it to watch TV.

  10. @Jarrod. Capacitive touch requires contact with a relatively large “pad” (gloves have conductive pads on the finger tips, and available styluses are very blunt), so the nail shape would still pose a problem. Cool idea though.

    @39. Thanks 🙂 (Note to self: Fix blog css to accommodate such thorough comments.)

  11. I can’t wait to put crestron mobile pro on this thing!!!

    -this post brought to you by an iPad!!!


    -ck, crestron cert programmer

  12. @Ck. Brilliant! Our first iPad poster!

  13. I bought an iPad on Saturday. When I saw it back in January/February at the announcement I immediately declared that “you would be crazy to buy a Crestron touchpanel for home use now.”

    As I learned more about the device before touching one I began to back-peddle a bit. Now that I own one I need to retract that statement entirely. You’re not crazy to buy a Crestron touchpanel for home use now that the iPad exists but you’d better think REAL hard about it. Commercial use practically begs for dedicated Crestron hardware, however.

    The stumbling block of wait-times is top of my list. The iPad is faster at everything than the 3Gs iPhone but it still is a 5-7 second load time for most apps. You’ll need to add in up to 30 seconds for the Crestron connection to establish too. This doesn’t work for most consumers. What happens when a user pushes a button and nothing happens? “IT’S BROKEN!” and they push harder or simply throw up their hands and give up.

    I think that the best thing that the iPad will do for the automation industry is force a sea-change in consumers and integrators alike: gone are the days of $2500+ dedicated wireless touchpanels. Can’t you hear your clients now? “Why should I pay $3000 for that panel when I can get an iPad for $499 that does so much more?” That’s a very valid question now and you’d better have a solid $3000 answer ready!

  14. the fingernail issue is a great point, its no wonder you never see women with an iphone. GET A CLUE.

  15. Let’s not forget that for reading iBooks the reflective screen would not be ideal in many lighting conditions, even outside, you’d have to hold it steady once you find a non-light reflecting position.

    This and the fact that say, if you want to read it bedside, you don’t need a lamp may cause many ergonomic, un-natural and just plain uncomfortable issues.

    As a graphix professional I also see no need for it yet and especially for personal productivity use for me. In my estimation its a tech-toy for tech-geeks. Although I do see a big benefit for school kids, and higher education and even in the medical field, but thats if you put aside battery issues AND ergonomic issues.

    Eventually this iPhone/iPad OS will replace the current Mac OS X. Its the beginnings of a new OS and computing paradigm in which we will all have to adapt to move forward.

    Ultimately, right now, this was made to gain more OS acceptance, impress the boards, investors and spike up profits and impress the world and satisfy the Apple Store line-making geeks.

  16. I will have to place myself on the ‘Pro-iPad’ camp.

    I use my iPad without incident and I have no problem with connect/load times. It is a very slight bit slower than pressing the screen on a TPS6X and having the screen pop up, but nothing of concern. 2-3 seconds, tops. I am not waiting excruciatingly long periods of time for anything.

    My wife has nails, longer ones, and she has no problems with hitting the buttons for control. Maybe this is a problem with ladies that have nails so long it is more a disability than a fashion?

    Personally, I think that the iPad is pretty well-suited for residential and small commercial applications. I do multi-zone lighting, HVAC, and home theater control through mine and it has been a very good experience. This includes using it outside on the deck in direct sunlight, where the screen is still perfectly readable. (volume and lighting control of the deck environment)

    Crestron needs to get moving on the analog feedback that they say they are working on, but other than that I think it is a great solution.

  17. Great post Morgan!

    @Jon Danforth: I agree completely. Most of our business is in the IT world (though we are Crestron programmers too) and when the $399 computer hit the market years back, we were sunk in selling business-class hardware. Our business clients couldn’t understand why they should pay us $1,500 for a business-class desktop when they could get something “just as good” for $399 from Dell. Just as good?? Right … nevermind that the default OS came with a Home version of Windows and the internal components were different from machine to machine (making large-scale deployments almost impossible). But end users don’t care about things like that. Thus we had to begin educating clients as to why it was NOT “just as good” but rather completely inappropriate altogether. It’s a story that will be told over and over in technology.

    Touchpanels are no longer immune to this syndrome as they once were. As integrators or control system programmers / GUI designers, we had an edge in that the hardware released into market was tightly controlled by the manufacturers … purchasing can only be done through registered dealers. You can buy an iPad at Best Buy. As touch technology becomes more ubiquitous, the demands of lower prices will come.

    At least you still need an integrator to interface with the control system!

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