Why banning iPads at baseball games doesn't matter

I'm a satisfied iPad owner and have always been an advocate for the device's usefulness to sports fans. In a perfect world, they'd be the idyllic accompaniment to a ballgame. As things stand now, they're almost useless. Honestly, there's no use fretting about other stadiums doing as Yankee Stadium did and banning the device. Here's a few reasons why:

  • A majority of stadiums don't offer wifi. This, in itself, is a huge problem if stadiums want fans to share their experience with others. Up until recently, the wifi version of the iPad was the only one available. If one wanted to enjoy the great content put out by the MLB AtBat App, they couldn't. If one wanted to do anything other than look at photos or listen to music, they couldn't. Now, Apple does offer the 3G version but that's equally useles. Why?
  • The AT&T network is a joke at sporting events. Any iPhone-using sports fan has experienced this. When too many people group together in a small area, AT&T's services breaks down completely. So, even if one were to have a 3G iPad, it'd be as useless as a wifi iPad without wifi. The network is so bad that phone calls and texts have trouble getting in and out; no reason to think audio, video and other media would be available over the shoddy network. 
  • The MLB AtBat audio is always behind. So maybe your stadium does have wifi or the network is less terrible than normal and you'd like to listen to the audio on your iPad—tough. The audio is always ridiculously behind the game action. When one isn't at the stadium, this lagging audio paired with the AtBat visuals that spoil the action before you can hear is even more annoying.
  • There isn't a stable and reliable Twitter app. In my mind, Tweetdeck is the best iPad Twitter application out right now and it's moderately terrible. I often abandon my iPad when trying to follow commentary for a sporting event on Twitter. The updates are always behind, the app crashes and doesn't operate with the fluidity of its desktop or iPhone counterpart. If you think using Twitter during a sporting event isn't worthwhile, you've never tried it. I've been to 10 Mariners games so far this season and have monitored this list constantly on my phone at every game.
  • No multitasking. This is the biggest and most obvious complaint against iPads (and iPhones). Even if I could do all the things I wanted to do, I couldn't do them at once. I couldn't watch highlights and have my Twitter list updating. Can't use an app to keep score and check game stories. It's obnoxious. While the MLB audio app can run in the background, nothing else can.

And for everyone who says "why would you want an iPad at a baseball game anyway?": you've been to a baseball game right? The amount of downtime is huge compared to other sports and I'd rather be entertained by a deeper level of insight and content than blooper reels or other jumbotron promotions provide. Quick list of things I'd use the iPad for at a game:

  • Radio
  • Keeping score
  • Video
  • Twitter
  • Blog game threads
  • A media guide app

For fans, and journalists especially, the iPad could be a great device to have at a ballgame. But right now it isn't.

Disney CEO (think ESPN) says iPad 'has a lot of potential'

The iPad is coming and, as disappointing as it is at first glance, some people will inevitably buy it. To satisfy those people, developers will need a little bit more than blown-up iPhone applications. Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger isn't discouraged by the initial responce and is thinking big when it comes to the iPad, saying it "has a lot of potential" and "could be a game changer in terms of enabling us to essentially create new forms of content."

Iger, speaking during a conference call with analysts, said that the iPad's portability and interactivity create the the possibility of something different than what is available on a typical computer or TV set. "With ESPN," he said, "you have ScoreCenter, which is a great app on the iPhone and provides rudimentary information and scores. Suddenly we have a platform where you can really make those scores come to life."

Business Insider highlights the possibility of using the iPad/ScoreCenter to watch replays and monitor other scores while watching games on TV. Of course, this is a possibility, but so is using the iPad at live sporting events.

We've already seen similar devices taking advantage of technology that allows stadiums to add to the experience of attending a live game. As far back as 2007, Seattle Mariners fans owning a Nintendo DS couls use it at Safeco Field to watch the live broadcast, check out replays and even order beer and beverages from their seats. There's no reason to think that if a Nintendo DS—not even the most technologically advanced handheld gaming system—could handle tasks like this three years ago, the much more advanced iPad should be able to handle this and more.

This isn't even any more advanced, but I'd be more than content using the iPad to listen to the radio broadcast while using a 'scorecard' app to keep score and check stats. Unfortunately, the iPad isnt capable of doing two things at once. Let's get it together Apple.

What the iPad means for sportswriters and sports fans: not much right now

The big day has come and gone with the landscape of print media staying exactly the same. Shocking, huh? While others focus on how the iPad has been a colossal letdown to all of humanity, I'll choose to focus on the segment of that audience who is interested in sports.

I'm bummed. I had big expectations for how this could affect the daily life of a sports fanatic like myself. While some of those expecations were a bit unrealistic and others may even be met, I—like almost everyone else—come away from the announcement disappointed.

To be fair, the iPad does do some things that make it a valuable device, but are those really all that great? Let's look at what the device can do and where those abilities fall a bit short.

  • Mainstream media outlets will have iPad-specific applications. Not entirely surprising but it'll be interesting to see how newspapers utilize said applications. The mockup of the Sports Illustrated application seems cool but does it offer enough for you to pay for it over going to CNNSI.com? Same with the New York Times, does a new layout make me all that much more interested? Also, are small local papers going to be able to fund the design and development for slick iPad applications? Almost more importantly, what kind of prices are we looking at for the applications? Are they subscription based or a one-time fee? How do they work? Do I need to be connected to the web in order to read them or is the data downloaded and stored? There are a lot of important questions that need to be asked.
  • You can watch live sports. This isn't entirely new as the iPhone already has applications for the MLB, NBA and soon the NFL. Now, the larger screen not only gives you a slightly better look at things but also opens up the potential for displaying other items (stats, replays, etc) but at the same time, what are games streamed over 3G going to look like on a 10" screen. Sure they'll look great over WiFi but if you plan on using WiFi to watch games, why not just use a computer, where you can have multiple windows open, perusing the web or glancing at Tweetdeck during downtime?
  • You can read books on it. No surprise here. While screen won't be quite as friendly on the eyes as the Kindle, some still hail it as the the Kindle-killer. Great. We were expecting to hear much more on deals Apple may have struck with publishers. So far, no such luck.
  • It has a slick onscreen keyboard and the ability to attach traditional keyboard. The goal with this is getting it close as possible to being a serviceable computer in times of need. You can write emails, tweets, blog posts and documents. Just not at once. Say you want to follow Tweetdeck while writing a post? No way. Listen to Pandora while browsing? Nope.
  • Games! Not only can it run every iPhone App/game but the improved hardware will no doubt see several iPad-specific games geared to take advantage of the machine's ability. However, will these be able to stack up with products produced by Nintendo and Sony? Because, honestly, where are you going to be playing the tablet version of Madden? It's not ideal to pull out and play at random moments like the iPhone. And if you're at home you'd much rather be playing the Xbox 360 or PS3 version. It may be good for longer road trips or flights but the available games—until we see how great they can be—are not a major selling point right now.

So, what gives? How did Steve Jobs let this happen? My take: this isn't the OS the tablet is really meant for. It has the speed to handle multitasking but the software is absent without reason. Is it not ready yet? Possibly. Or maybe it's other hardware. ReadWriteWeb's Sarah Perez sums up—approximately—what I've been thinking since the presentation.

So why not let the iPad multitask right out-of-the-gate then? Because Apple wants to push the multitasking update to all its iPhone OS 4.0 devices at the same time. That means cramming a smaller version of the A4 into the power-hungry iPhones and iPod Touches then announcing that those people with the new devices can multitask thanks to the new technology. Speculation? Sure. But possible? Definitely. Of course, you probably won't need new iPad 2.0 hardware for this - the feature will come via a software update and likely even sooner than iPad 2.0. It will just sweeten the deal when you get ready to buy the second generation tablet device.

The intiial disappointment of the tablet won't last forever. Once the tablet's true ability is opened up, we'll get a much better look at how this can influence the lives of sports fanatics.

Photo credit: New York Times