iPad: storage challenged

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

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  • Such insight from ZDnet

    Gosh o-golly. You forgot to mention the low-end iPad with 16GB
    memory has 4x more memory than the high-end Kindle DX. Why does
    anyone buy a Kindle? Why aren't we all buying WinMo devices?
    • Kindle comparison

      Wow, I didn't know you could use the Kindle to watch video,
    • Video and

      Video AND apps.

      There's over a 140,000 apps for the iPhone and a healthy minority are
      business apps. For example, health care pros are excited about the
      iPad for clinical management apps. There are plenty of possible
      business uses that the larger screen enables.

      As such, even the 32 GB version isn't much more capable -storage-
      wise - than the original 128 Mac. If the Kindle supports added flash,
      why not the iPad?

      R Harris
      • RE: iPad: storage challenged

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  • I don't agree

    The network is the computer, to use Sun's old marketing line.
    Storage isn't an issue for me on the iPhone 3Gs and I don't expect
    it to be on the "iPhone 3Gs on steroids" (aka iPad).

    It seems subconsciously you're viewing the iPad as a
    laptop/netbook when clearly this is not what it is striving for.

    If nothing else, as you suggest, wait a year.

  • The real question is, why would you need more storage

    I am not trying to defend the iPad, by the way, just pointing out the next in the line of pretty ridiculous lack of analysis in Mr. Harris' writing.

    Will you really put your music collection on the iPad? Is it meant to be an iPod replacement? I don't think so. It lacks portability.

    Want to watch movies? There's a 10-hour charge and 10 hours of movies will easily fit on it.

    It is not a productivity device, not by a long shot, so you don't need storage for that.

    E-books are not that large.

    It appears to be a thin client for primarily web-based content consumption. In my opinion, it is its failing, actually, but as far as storage needs, they aren't that large.

    And offering the 64Gb capacity actually alleviates a lot of those concerns.

    Robin, we need better analysis from you, or else we are simply reduced to waiting for what kind of nonsense you will come up with next.
    • People ALWAYS want to do more than designers intend

      People will try to do as much with iPad as they can - and with a
      thousands of business oriented apps to choose from they have quite a

      I have 5 GB out of 95 GB of mp3's on my 16 GB iPhone. I have another
      5 GB of movies - and the iPad's bigger screen will require larger
      versions. Add on several GB of apps - like Delicious Library ( which
      iBook looks a LOT like), Mail, Evernote, JotNot and news - well, 16 GB
      fills up pretty fast.

      People who don't have much foresight will be happy with a 16 GB iPad
      for about 9 months. Then they'll wish they'd bought more.

      R Harris
      • On my 16GB iPhone...

        I have 2,249 songs, 4 full-length movies, 447 photos and 42 apps.

        Storage challenged? This is more than enough for me. I can easily free
        up a lot of memory if I need to.
  • It ain't the storage

    The problems is that the iPad doesn't seem to offer much for the money. It seems to be an iPod Touch for people with bad eyesight or the lovechild of that iPhone and a Kindle.

    While it seems to be a nice device for that purpose, it isn't a game changer.
  • This device makes perfect sense!

    I never understood why people would drop half a grand on a Kindle. It's awfully limited.

    This device, for the same price, gives you a color screen and exponentially greater functionality.

    If they hooked up a channel to the major university publishers, I could see myself getting this and putting all my textbooks and leisure books on it. Then using it for fun too. It's just a common sense device.
  • What's the aspect ratio when tilted sideways?

    Looks like 16:9 from the demo.

    Whoops, wrong blog. Anyway...
  • You're not very familiar with Apple marketing, are you?

    Apple has a LONG history tiering their models in factors of
    two and pricing by 50%, iPods especially. 8Gb for $199,
    16GB for $299 is SOP. I agree that a 16GB is light, but
    that's surely to get in at the $499 pricepoint. Once you see
    it, touch it, hold it, use it, you start think that you get
    [i]twice[/i] as much for an extra hundred bucks, and voila
    Apple's revenue jumps incrementally. Those of us who've
    been to this rodeo before don't even bother with the
    mental calculations, Apple's marketers have done it for us,
    just buy top tier and save yourself the agonizing.
  • Business users need 64 GB - What??

    As I read your article, I checked usage on the enterprise desktop. After about six years of service (not a single machine, several life cycle replacements but six years all the same), total storage ~150 gb, total free ~132 gb. What would one do with 64? Shared drives on the network >600 gb (I wonder what all that stuff is!), but relatively little on local storage.

    True, a few years back, storage requirements included numerous client applications, and there was a lot of data stored locally. But today, the apps are server based and browser accessed. Local storage is discouraged by official policy - enterprise information, to be shared, has to reside on the network. What would you do with massive local storage if you had it?

    Likewise at home. Eight total desktop and laptop computers, but data isn't sequestered in individual machines. No drive is over 10% utilized.

    It seems your criticism is about a decade out of date.
  • RE: iPad: storage challenged

    Indeed, storage demand depends and extra songs/ movies
    can be stored in a desktop or portable hard disk at home.

    But, multitasking is the weakest link in the iPad.
  • Can you say ... server farm ...?

    The iPad is a mobile computing device. Steve Jobs went out of his way
    to define that product as such.

    In May, Apple started the $1 Billion dollar North Carolina server farm

    Hmm .... Can we say "Cloud Computing + iPad + Sever Farm in one

    I don't think onboard storage will be much of a problem with a
    person's iPad. The product and its ecosystem will be in place to
    support the user's needs and designs for this product. All it takes is
    "money" ... as the saying goes. For just a "little bit more" a user will
    be able to sync any amount of personal data from the iPad to "the
    cloud". That, of course, is speculation but the ground work for that
    has already been established by the "MobileMe" service.
  • RE: iPad: storage challenged

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