Oh, Beautiful iPad. Why I Won't be Buying Thee


As an Apple fan, I can’t help but feel a warm glow in watching other Apple fans get excited over a major new product release. Whatever you might think of Apple, I find their products to be sleek, elegant and, most importantly cool. So, when the buzz started to rise around a possible new tablet computer, I paid attention. I’m typing this here, now, while Erin watches President Obama’s State of the Union address. As inspiring as Obama is (and he sounded to be in fine form), I bet you can guess which video I’d rather be watching.

The initial response to the new tablet computer, the iPad, seems to be positive, and I have to say that it has won me over. Yes, it’s basically an iPod Touch on steroids, but you can watch videos, do word processing, play games, write e-mails and browse the webs using a very intuitive touch-screen interface. It’s incredibly light (1.5 pounds) and should function very well as a eBook reader. It’s also extremely reasonably priced — starting at $499 US — with decent deals for always-on Internet access, regardless of where you stand on this continent.

The iPad is all of these things and more. And I won’t be buying one.

Some people have been wondering if the product will really live up to its hype. Warren Kinsella asks, “do Jobs’ executives have to exude that shiny-eyed, Moonie-like fanaticism all the time?”. I replied “My sense was that the Apple executives hyped this up more than usual because it’s quite a different device and it will take some selling to get people to adopt it. It’s halfway between an iPod touch and a flat-out computer, but which is it? Will it satisfy both customers, or neither? That’s what Apple has to overcome… …They were similarly effusive about the iPhone, but that device was easier to sell, not only because it was so elegant, but it was also something that customers easily understood.”

But that’s the thing: is the iPad an iPhone? Is it a Macbook? Is it both? Or is it neither? And will I, who owns and loves a Macbook, really benefit from having this machine, or will it be one more gadget that I have to fumble?

Apple’s iPad looks to be an elegant machine, and I look forward to playing with one when they appear at the nearest Apple store. But I think I might just get an iPhone. This is because I need a phone, and it would be nice if that phone was designed by Apple and has Apple’s functionality. The iPad’s primary function is as an always-on web browser, and I don’t need that on the go. As a writer, when I am on the go, I need a proper keyboard, such as what the Macbook delivers. The iPad is many things, but it’s designed for applications which don’t require extensive use of a keyboard. Which means, it’s not designed with writers in mind.

Once you make the distinction between an iPad with no keyboard and a Macbook with a keyboard, you start to think about all of the things the iPad can do that a Macbook can already do. Watch videos? Already possible. Check e-mail and keep a calendar? Also possible. Game? Well, while some are specially designed for the iPad, the Macbook is no stranger to games either. Besides, I don’t base my computer purchasing decisions on what games I can play. I don’t need another device in my life, which is why the iPhone has an allure to me that the iPad does not. The iPhone may end up replacing my cellphone and iPod, freeing up pocket space. The iPad does not.

But then, Apple didn’t really need to design with me in mind. They already had me with the Macbook. The iPad promises to be an amazing device for someone who is looking to do e-mail and web browsing on the road, who is interested in not lugging a lot of weight. They will appeal to people who want to play games or watch videos at home, and who probably only hunt-and-peck on the keyboard, or hate typing altogether. Hmm… now there’s a market that can be tapped.

And by pricing the iPad at under $500, Apple has taken aim at the Netbook market which are, as Apple executives noted, little more than cheap laptops. You have to appreciate the bold move that Apple is making here, since the people who purchase these Netbooks might be individuals who don’t particularly like laptops, but who have, until now, assumed that browsing the Internet and reading e-mail required a keyboard.

In this respect, I can see the iPad device as being revolutionary. But it will be a revolution that I’ll be watching on the sidelines. While typing on my Macbook.

It should be noted that the British comedian Peter Serafinowicz, known for his brutally funny parodies of Apple’s ads, produced one a few months ago which uncannily guessed the name of the new tablet and, ironically, its price. Check it out here.

Hat tip to Boing, Boing.

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