Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The iPad is no Savior

Steve Jobs with an Uncle Rico vibe

So now we have the iPad.

First of all, great name. Much better than the iTablet a lot of folks were anticipating. From iPod to iPad with one vowel change. Classy.

Will I own one? Depends on the price. Sure, it appears to be handier for surfing the Web and reading than your standard laptop. I have used a laptop for reading and watching movies while on the bus home from work, and it's cumbersome. First I had trouble with my wrists banging on the touch pad for the mouse. Then I got a micro-mouse and had to juggle it while trying to work or entertain myself. So to have a touchscreen, now that would be nice. Even nicer, in my opinion, if it had cutting board-style handles, so I could hold it like a cutting board or book while I watch. I know I've come too close a few times to dropping my Compaq laptop, and I can't imagine dropping an iPad would be a good experience, given the fact that its front surface appears to be about 99 percent glass.

That's another issue -- fragility. These things have got to be rugged, in my opinion, or it'll end in tears. I felt sick to the stomach for weeks after my first iPod Touch went through the clothes washer and died, and that was only a $300 investment. is telling us that a 16 GB iPad will cost $499 -- as inexpensive as a laptop if you hold a blind eye to memory comparisons. A 64 GB iPad, $699, and that's if you go for the wifi-only model. Want connectivity all the time? That'll cost you extra, and I'll be curious to see if it's over the much-hated AT&T 3G network. A 64 GB with 3G capability will run $829. It's a spendy little object.

And a 10-hour battery life? I'm skeptical.

And do I want a bulky object like this? Sure, it's less bulky than an ordinary laptop. But compared to the iPod Touch, which I love, it's huge. And huge definitely isn't better. I like the privacy of my little 3.5 inch screen. I can put it in a pocket if I want to. Of couse, that's how the first one ended up going through the clothes washer.

And the other issue -- Apple is notorious for putting a product on the market and thn, a year later, introducing a better model that's less expensive. I'm hesitant to be an early adopter, especially with Apple.

But would I, could I use one? Probably. I didn't need an iPod Touch until I had one and sent it through the washer. So having an iPad, once I got over the price, fragility and other factors, might be a good thing. But there's a limit on how much I'm willing to pay to get over that "I have to have it" hump.

And I have to laugh a bit. CNN reports that traditional publishers -- magazines and newspapers, to be exact -- are salivating that the advent of an Apple iPad could help them revive their fortunes with subscriptions and such. Well, that remains to be seen. True, the iPad offers full color. But that's hardly enough, in my opinion, to get these publishers a huge rush of online subscriptions. I'm nto sure a product, at this point, is going to change how people consume their news. And since this thing has a web browser, why pay for waht's already out there, on the Internet, for free? The iPad isn't going to be a publishing savior.

I'm fascinated with our fixation on objects and technology as saviors of this or that. The advent of the home computer and the Internet -- objects, arguably -- haven't really helped newspapers, music distributors, et cetera. They've hurt. What they need to do is to figure out how to get back into the public psyche. Just because the iPad appears isn't going to mean that we're suddenly willing to subscribe to online newspapers or online magazines. We've probved that supposition wrong time and again with our access to computers and smart phones, time and again, with the industry aiding and abetting us by offering their stuff for free. The advent of the printing press didn't suddenly mean that everyone was literate, or cared to be literate. That change took hundreds of years of further advancement, and even today, with our access to education and information, literacy isn't a given. The printing press, ad its beginning, got a few people excited. It wasn't until more people could read -- and the development of the quattro -- that printing really took off. To assume a hunk of technology like the iPad is going to explode quickly and permeate our collective psyche as much as printed books or the Internet have is foolishness.

Update: The folks over at Engadget got their gadgety hands on an iPad and took it for a drive. Ther principal criticism: no multitasking. Bummer. So why buy one when a less expensive laptop will do what you want? This no-multitasking fetish that Apple has for its products (neitehr the iPhone nor the iPod Touch allow for multitasking) is an options deficit for a crowd that likes its options.

Another Update: Time Magazine has this nonsensical reportage -- if you can even call it that -- from Peter Ha re: the iPad. iThink he lost me from the get go. If this is twitter reporting, or live event reporting, then can we go back to the old print media? I didn't learn a thing from this one.

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