Today is the day the masses can acquire an iPad. Sadly, I will not be among these. No, Apple did not give me one in a clever marketing move. Rather, I will be among the many who do not have an iPad.
I must admit, the iPad is appealing. This might be due to the massive amount of free advertising Apple has been getting. As Stephen Colbert pointed out, Newsweek made the iPad the feature story for this week. Poor Amazon had to actually buy ad space on the back page of the same issue to push their Kindle. Colbert also spent much of the show waving around his new iPad. CNN also did a feature on the iPad as well. Apple clearly knows how to use the media folks to get this free coverage. Can you imagine a car company getting this sort of attention because it made a bigger car from a smaller model?
The iPad is definitely cool. However, it is still basically just a bigger iPod Touch/iPhone. Although I would gladly accept one as a gift, I could not justify spending that much for so little. For about the same cost, I could get a fully functional notebook (or a netbook and an iPod Touch) that would do so much more than the iPad. True, the notebook would not be as cool, sexy or hip…but it would be more useful and do pretty much everything the iPad actually does (other than funnel money to Apple via the app store).
As I have mentioned before, the iPad is both too much and too little. It is too big to give it a clear portability advantage over a netbook. It is also too little in terms of not being a full computer. If I am staying in one place, I can just use my netbook or PC. If I am moving around a lot, I can just use my netbook or iPod touch.
The iBook does nicely target some niches, though. It seems like it will hammer the Kindle fairly badly as an eBook reader. It has a color screen and provides so much more than the Kindle (although the Kindle does have that “free” wireless connection). If I were a big fan of ebooks, I would certainly buy an iPad. But, I still prefer books and magazines.
It will also appeal to students. While it is really not very good for taking notes or typing a paper (although the kids today have some amazing texting skills that might allow the iPad to work this way), it does provide an excellent way to ignore a boring professor during class. Plus it has that cool factor that hip young kids will love.
The media capabilities will also appeal to folks who want portable entertainment and have the extra money for such gadgets. Of course, the iPad won’t run Flash. While Apple’s professed reason seems to be about security, running Flash does not seem like a significant risk. In any case, it would seem that this is a choice that should be left to the user (just like with other computers).
I suspect that Apple has locked Flash out to protect its app store. After all, if developers could just crank out Flash apps for the iPad (and iPhone), they would probably be much less inclined to go through Apple’s app store, thus hurting Apple’s income. Adobe has attempted to “bypass” this by providing a means by which Flash apps can be converted into apps suitable for the app store. This might help allay Apple’s “security concerns.”
T. J. Babson says
Cory Doctorow has a good take-down of the IPad::
The model of interaction with the iPad is to be a “consumer,” what William Gibson memorably described as “something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It’s covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth… no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote.”
The way you improve your iPad isn’t to figure out how it works and making it better. The way you improve the iPad is to buy iApps. Buying an iPad for your kids isn’t a means of jump-starting the realization that the world is yours to take apart and reassemble; it’s a way of telling your offspring that even changing the batteries is something you have to leave to the professionals.