iPad: storage challenged

Summary:Will be the iPad be a big success? If it is, it won't be because of the storage. Because there's hardly any. And that will be a problem.

Will be the iPad be a big success? If it is, it won't be because of the storage. Because there's hardly any. And that will be a problem.

Shades of the Mac 128 The original Mac had 128 KB of RAM and a single 400 KB floppy - barely enough to bring up MacWrite at glacial speed. Apple doesn't specify how much RAM an iPad has, but 16 GB is ~40,000x 400 KB. Is that enough 25 years later?

In the excellent Rules of Thumb in Data Engineering (pdf) the late, great, Jim Gray and Prashant Shenoy noted that "Storage capacities increase 100x per decade" or 10x every 5 years.

105 times 400 KB is 40 GB - suggesting that most of us will be happier with 32 if not 64 GB - and that Steve Jobs is still willing to sacrifice storage to meet a price point.

RAM tough enough? Since the iPad appears to have a single-tasking OS it may not need much RAM - but people will want to flip from mail to web to iBook to Pages without shutting down and starting each app each time. If the iPad isn't multi-tasking today, it won't be long before customers demand it - and there's no RAM expansion.

Let's hope the engineers were able to put in enough RAM to handle multi-tasking. Otherwise a lot of 1st gen iPads will be landfill when multi-tasking is supported.

The great indoors But like the Mac 128 the iPad offers little in the way of storage expansion. No RAM expansion. A couple of dock dongles - one for USB, another for SD cards - may support external disks or flash at the cost of ruining the sleek lines and easy portability of the iPad.

The Storage Bits take $499 is an nice price point, but as a 16 GB iPhone user I can say that you won't be happy with 16 GB for long. A few hundred songs, 3-4 movies and a couple of dozen apps and 16 GB will seem more like 400 KB.

I suspect the demo emphasis on ebooks and the iBook app was meant to divert attention from the iPad's limited storage. Remember the first iPod? 1,000 songs in your pocket? No claims like that for the iPad.

32 GB will be the minimum for casual users. Business users will opt for 64 and want more within a year.

Just in time for the iPad GS!

Comments welcome, of course.

Topics: Processors, Hardware, iPad, Mobility, Storage


Robin Harris is Chief Analyst at TechnoQWAN LLC, a storage research and consulting firm he founded in 2005. Based in Sedona, Arizona, TechnoQWAN focuses on emerging technologies, products, companies and markets. Robin has over 35 years experience in the IT industry and earned degrees from Yale and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton... Full Bio

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