My iPad rant

Back in Missouri!  Actually, we have been for a while, but trying to get caught up has taken a bit (my apologies to those whom I still must write!).  The house hunting went well, however stressful it might have been, and I appreciate all who helped make it as pleasant a process as possible.  We’ve narrowed the 21 (!) houses we looked at to three in a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C list.  We have bid on Plan A, but the seller seems a bit immovable; Plan A is not dead, but I am happy that Plans B & C are nice choices, as well.  More news as it becomes available.

However, I am really writing to say how much I hate the iPad.  OK, it would be extreme (and inaccurate) for me to say that I hate the iPad, I suppose.  I mean, if someone gave me one for free I would be happy to take it.  Perhaps I should just say that I think it is not nearly all that some crack it up to be.  (Perhaps about 17.8% of what some crack it up to be.  Yeah, that sounds good.)

I wasn’t sure why, exactly, I thought that for a while.  I wondered if it was simple petty anti-Appleism.  But that can’t be it.  While I do still prefer PCs to Macs (of course, for some of you that simple preference might mark me as an extreme anti-Appleist, but there’s not much I can do about that), I have not been unwilling to note the good things I like about Apple products.  Yes, I prefer my Dell to my Beautiful Wife’s MacBook, yet there are a number of things I do like about her MacBook.  And I have never withheld my praise for the iPhone, and I am terribly fond of mine — it’s truly one of the best productivity enhancers I’ve ever purchased.  (And the things I hate about the iPhone, I clearly haven’t been bothered enough by them to write about them.)

But the iPad?  I’ve been less than impressed from the beginning (as my in-depth review might have indicated).

Yes, it does seem, to me, to be simply a big iPhone — or, more accurately, a big iPod Touch.  And while I can imagine that some with specialized needs might want such a thing, I would suspect that few thinking people in the general populous would.  I know that I don’t.

Nifty?  Yeah, maybe.  Revolutionary?  Not even close.

Then there was a video that I saw recently that someone passed on that had nothing to do with the iPad but which encapsulated some of the thoughts I had.  The speaker, Jesse Schell of Carnegie Mellon University, was trying to explain the dynamics of online successes such as Facebook’s Farmville, Webkins toys, et al. and he made the following points.  (If you are aware of the video, feel free to link to it in the comments, though I would have to warn viewers that the fellow did use some “off color” words in his presentation.)

While many believe that in the future we will have one nice “Happy Box” that will do everything for us — show & record TV programming, bring us full Internet access, tune in to satellite radio, provide teleconferencing, electronically monitor our house, you name it — that is generally not the trend of technology.  While many areas do merge to a certain (perhaps limited) extent, technology goes in many different directions and specialties as it advances.  Progress multiplies more tools and utilities than it combines.  He calls this the Law of Divergence, and while I may have explained it poorly, hopefully I got across the gist of it.

But, he said, there is an exception to this: the Pocket Exception.  When merging and combining technologies allows us to place more of it into our pockets, then we’re all for it, even if it is a bit more limited than the full size.  Think, for instance, of the venerable Swiss Army Knife.  Many tools, all in your pocket.  Sure, some of them aren’t quite as useful as their full size counterpart, but, still, a real plus to have them all together.  And think, too, of the iPhone.  All those apps make it one great digital Swiss Army Knife.  The Pocket Exception allows for technological convergence in contravention of the Law of Divergence.

However, as Dr. Schell humorously illustrates in his slide, one large Swiss Army Knife designed for use in your kitchen — with spatulas, tongs, whisks, etc. — would be stupid.  It takes the “convergence” idea that works only because it fits everything into your pocket and ruins it by making it very non-pocket-sized.

And that’s why, he points out, folks hate the iPad.  (Many laughs at this point in his lecture.)  The iPod and the iPhone work because they fit in your pocket.  The iPad doesn’t (unless you have a really big pocket).  With my iPhone, I often think, “Wow — that’s an amazing bit of technology, and all of it small enough to drop into my pocket and carry with me!”  What am I supposed to think of an iPad?  “Wow, that’s an amazing bit of technology, and all of it small-ish enough that I can carry it in a small bag that could also carry a full blown netbook or small, full featured laptop, either of which wouldn’t be limited to AppStore Apps and Flash-less video and, uh… yeah…  wow.”

I know, I know… Those of you trapped inside the Reality Distortion Field will disagree with me.  But I think the good doctor was on to something here, and I have yet to see any reason why I would be excited about the iPad, let alone be willing to spend hard earned cash for it.  My iPhone — I love it and would hate to be without it.  An iPad?  Not seeing one in my future, I’m afraid.  I’m not saying that the iPad is Apple’s “Vista moment,” if you will, but it certainly isn’t revolutionary.  And while it may not be a full step backward, it’s far from being a step forward.  Maybe just a dancing in place while asking for more cash from the faithful.

[EDIT, 3/2/2010: Someone sent me a very thoughtful collection of thoughts about the iPad that I thought generally more well-considered than mine. You can find them here: “A Follow Up iPad Non-Rant”]

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19 thoughts on “My iPad rant

  1. I LOVE my iPod Touch. It is an extremely useful tool for me, and sometimes just plain fun. It’s a little hard to type on, but I can live with that. So there. Nyahh. 😛

    That said: I’ve been wanting to watch the introductory address on the iPad by Steve Jobs and have yet to find the time to finish it. It looks as if it has much nift, but really, it’s far more than I need right now. I need either my iPod Touch or my Windows XP and Windows 7 laptops, but not something in between. (Shameless Luddism: I don’t even own a cell phone and don’t foresee my owning one in the near future.)

  2. I know that well, dear teacher, else I would not answer you the way I do. 🙂 You did say, after all, how much you appreciate your iPhone, the iPod Touch’s kissing cousin.

    The iPad does strike me as similar to what the laser was originally: a solution looking for a problem. Now, of course, lasers are everywhere in one form or another. Perhaps despite everything, this first step will lead to others of its ilk…so why do I feel as if we’re regressing in a way? I might as well be writing in cuneiform on CLAY tablets if I’m going to get that big, heavy and expensive! 😀

  3. Craig

    Humm! If I might respectfully say… I am greatly puzzled by your iPad rant. Why so much negative bias over a product that isn’t available yet, much lest you have seen, touched, or explored its capabilities? There is a principle involved in Prov. 18:13, in that you might want to reserve your judgment until after you played with it and seen what people are doing with it. If it is negative then (highly likely), so be it! Now you sound like a book reviewer who hasn’t read the book.

  4. You might have a point, Mr. Marley, however…

    I do recall a certain person declaring on Facebook that “[t]his thing has unlimited potential” and that it’s “everything the Kindle should have been.” May I say that is quite a bit of “positive bias”? May I question such hyperbole from someone who hasn’t “seen, touched, or explored its capabilities?” You know, Mr. Marley, there is a principle involved in Prov. 18:13, in that you might want to reserve your judgment until after you have played with it and seen what people are doing with it. 🙂

    Forgive me for having so much fun with you, but what’s sauce for the goose…

    Actually, I don’t think your criticisms apply to you or me. Rather, there has been copious amounts of information for us to draw certain conclusions. Wrong conclusions? Possibly. But I would hardly say uninformed conclusions.

    Though if you would say so, then I will simply add that I hope you enjoy your sauce. 🙂

  5. Craig

    My dear Mr. Smith:

    You are right, in that neither one of us has actually used or even seen an iPad. But, I can see no valid comparison between my few sentences of exuberance over the announcement of the long-awaited product (call it a “prediction” and you certainly have my permission to mock my abilities as a prophet if proven wrong—but grant me a year), with your latest 924-word rant (your words) over the same product.

    I merely stated that I like this new car, it is lovely and should have killer sales. You have given a full-page review stating your displeasure having never driven, much less even sat in it! You will also have to forgive me for having so much fun with you, but I was under the impression that you knew something about mathematics (count comparisons), and logic. A “reality distortion field” comes to mind.

    Personally, I think you cooked your own goose. 🙂

  6. Ah, Mr. Marley… To paraphrase Mr. Armstrong, the problem with being stuck in a Reality Distortion Field is that one does not recognize he is in a Reality Distortion Field. And your overzealous Apple devotion (which you seem to happily display) has marked you a denizen of the RDF for some time.

    Yes, I did use a lot of words, as is my tendency — just ask my poor, beleaguered editors. (This comment will likely end up another sterling example of verbosity!) Admittedly, some of those words were spent in how much I like my iPhone and how there are some things I like about the MacBook, but not many.

    And I am enough of a mathematician to know that count comparisons aren’t a one-size-fits-all tool. Ignore the quantity and look at what was said: Happy to have one if it were given to me. A big iPod touch. Nifty, but not revolutionary. Etc.

    In fact, I have seen a number of reviewers and Apple-philes (even some with vacation homes in the RDF) make the same pronouncements. Are they oddly bitter? No. They’ve just taken the large amount of information available and drawn rational conclusions. (Those are the sorts of conclusions drawn outside the RDF. It’s a wonderful world out here!) iPod, iPhone? Truly revolutionary. iPad? Just… not. Nifty, true, and not without a “neato” factor, but not at all a boundary breaker like its predecessors.

    While, on the other hand, your comments? “Unlimited potential.” Really? I know: exuberance. “Everything the Kindle should have been.” Sort of like saying that an apple (no pun intended) is everything an orange should have been. Actually, at the current prices (especially after market), I’d much rather get a Kindle. For the other things that the iPad does that interest me (according to Apple, not my imagination) I already have in a device for those things and it fits in my pocket.

    I do agree with your recent, toned down statement: It is a lovely car, and it should, indeed, have killer sales. And there are things I like about it as well (again, “Nifty” and “Neato”). But my review stands. Based on all Apple (by the way, that’s the company actively promoting the object in question) has said about it so far, it is less than impressive and not much of a step forward at all. The folks that created the iPod Touch have simply made a bigger iPod Touch that’s easier to see, can’t fit in your pocket, and adds a few bells and whistles. It will sell well to the Borg-like faithful, to the naïve-possessing-cash-or-credit, and to those in niche markets for whom big screen iPod Touches would be helpful (and I readily recognize that such niche markets exist)

    The product pushers put out their info and asked us to form some opinions. I’ve done that, as have you. But unless Steve Jobs has some facts, figures, and fascinating functions that he has yet to unveil, I don’t see the fault in my review, nor do I see the justification in your “exuberance.”

    So, no goose today, thanks! Though, I have never eaten goose and would love to share a meal of one with you if I can ever make it across the border. I might even meet you in the Reality Distortion Field. (As long as I didn’t have to stay there — the RDF is a nice place to visit, but…)

  7. Reality Distortion Field? Is that like the Improbability Field used by the HEART OF GOLD in THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY? 🙂

    I dunno, guys. I think you’re BOTH in an Improbability Field. The one thing Apple isn’t supposed to be is Borg-like – that’s Microsoft. 🙂 Apple is supposed to be more like the U.S.S VOYAGER, trying to get home against impossible odds, including the whole of Borg Space.

    That said, maybe the iPad is the U.S.S. VOYAGER with Seven of Nine on board.

    Now I HAVE to see how one of those things work, just to settle the argument in my mind. Thanks a lot, guys. 😀

  8. James Schmidt

    Well Mr Marley might be able to sum up his belief in a few short sentences. I find it interesting that Mr Smith has been able to prove with many points why he is not impressed, and why he believes it will not do well in the long run.

    I personally have not been a big Apple fan. One: I really haven’t had the funds for them and two: the functionality has always been meh… for me. Take the ipod for example, while nice I dislike the fact that it has limited storage. I prefer my Zune with large storage. Take the iphone, I’ve liked blackberry for the fact that I can get a battery for it that will last a lot longer than the standard one that comes with it.

    But as for this ipad it’s not a Vista moment yet, but it may very well turn into one.

    By the way I am in no way trying to persuade anyone to one form or another merely stating my opinion.

  9. I think the iPad would make a fine desktop for the computer shy and those needing simple email and web, and those needing books and multimedia in a handy package.

    No I’m not buying an iPad. I’d rather have a MacBook Air…with an SD slot…and Firewire. Yes, a MacBook Pro has both but with more weight. I just think iPad is doing something right for a very difficult and stagnant market segment.

    I saw an Acer Aspire Revo in Fry’s the other day. Smaller and cheaper than a Mac mini; sold with WinXP. Now iPad vs Revo…

  10. Good comments Lyndell, and I agree that the iPad will give a kick in the pants to tablet development, though I don’t know if it will be enough. However lackluster, if the iPad inspires competitors to finally make tablets work, it will have served a purpose. And your comment about the MacBook Air is echoed by the individual who wrote the comments I reproduce in my follow up post.

    (I’ll have to look into Revo. I was intrigued way back when at the introduction of the Mac Mini — almost got one but decided to build my own PC, instead.)

  11. Lenovo had a similar product on display at Fry’s. If you rather build your own, Artigo may be your preference, but the barebones kit is over $200. It’s the size of a box of Kleenex. There’s also Shuttle, but they aren’t as small. Though, us.shuttle.com shows an Intel Atom variant that might be as small as the Mac mini.

  12. Craig

    “…overzealous Apple devotion”!??? Pleaze, Mr. Smith, you make it sound like I am worshiping at the shrine of “1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA.”

    I will have to explain “unlimited potential” since you are having difficulty grasping what I meant by it.

    Unlike you, who is technologically savvy, most people just want a device that is simple to use and does what they want. I can envision a future where people have a device the size of a clipboard with a beautiful display that will do everything they want. Show movies, books & magazines in color (RIP Kindle), play games, create art, organize information and their lives with a touch screen instead of a keyboard. The ideas are “unlimited” for a single, easy-to-use device.

    I cannot easily lie in bed with my wife sleeping and read a book on my laptop, nor use a laptop on the treadmill. But the potential is there for an iPad. A laptop is just awkward to carry around the house and sit it on my lap. A tablet is much easier and more natural to hold.

    Whether Apple is going to pull this off or not I don’t know. Maybe the world will reject a tablet yet again. Maybe it will be a flawed device. But maybe with the foundation of iPhone apps, it will take off this time.

    “IF” the average consumer embraces it.
    “IF” it gets a camera so video chat is a reality
    “IF” it interfaces nicely
    “IF” Apple gets the hardware right eventually
    “IF” killer apps are developed
    “IF” Google and especially Microsoft play dead

    If..IF…IF! Hence the word “potential”. I think Steve Jobs has a vision and people again don’t see what he sees. Maybe he will fall flat this time. But I’m not betting against him.

    The history I’ve seen with technology over the past 40 years is that when a truly revolutionary device comes on the market few can grasp its potential and nobody can foresee the applications for it. I remember putting the iPhone in this category (and I am such a “fanboy” I don’t even own one, nor even a iPod). I believe the next revolutionary change will be a tablet computer and Apple now has the potential to make it happen. I think these guys grasp it:

    http://ycombinator.com/rfs6.html

    ———————–
    “Like all revolutionary new ideas, the subject has had to pass through three stages, which may be summed up by these reactions:
    (1) ‘It’s crazy — don’t waste my time.’
    (2) ‘It’s possible, but it’s not worth doing.’
    (3) ‘I always said it was a good idea.'”
    – Arthur C. Clarke.

  13. Well, with one exclamation mark and three question marks showing up, I seem to have touched a nerve…

    My turn to be brief. (Difficult, as this unnecessary parenthetical statement indicates, but I will try hard!)

    I will not contest your difficulties with a laptop, since I am not you and cannot speak to the state of your lap. However, I have never had such problems with mine, and find the difference in angle between screen and keyboard/touch pad to be something I would miss.

    But I agree with your general statement that tablet devices have great potential and I have thought so for some time. (Back in 2007 I blogged about a surface computing video and had similar thoughts in mind.) If the iPad serves to invigorate the pursuit of a product that truly fulfills the so-far-only-imagined potential of a tablet computer, fantastic! Let the race begin, and may the best software/hardware/platform win. And maybe an Apple-created descendant of the iPad will win it — more power to them.

    That said, I still see no reason to believe that I have been, somehow, more extreme in opinion than you. (If such a train of “ifs” sufficiently qualify a comment about “unlimited potential”, then “unlimited potential” is a weaker descriptor than I thought. With similar logic, my ability to hang a spoon from my nose has “unlimited potential” as a source of income. Woo hoo!) However, believe what you will — no hard feelings, and I appreciate good friends who share different opinions.

    And I certainly don’t think your Uncle Steve will fall on his face. Nifty-and-neato-but-not-revolutionary is still a real money maker these days, and, as I said, the iPad easily qualifies on that count.

    Live long and prosper, Mr. Marley!

  14. The authors of the sci-fi novel THE KILLING STAR added another point:

    4) “I thought of it first!”

    Which has happened more than once in the history of technology…

  15. Lyndell

    Sales pitches compare to competition to show there is a market. That is what Apple is doing. However, I think it has more potential in the unkown with those who have neither phone nor laptop.

  16. Lyndell

    I forgot the best point. It’s the hype that’s bothering you. I can understand that. Blitzer calling a storm surge a wall of water really annoyed me. At least he did report the 20ft surge perdition and 17ft seawall. That’s the most powerful detail and it got little attention. The media got stupid before the AppleTV was announced. The tiny venue was a big clue.

  17. Alex

    a quick note on net books, since you mentioned them…

    I recently acquired ASUS’s eeePC… it’s pretty snazzy. My major concern was portability, so I wanted small and a long battery life.

    I take it to work and leave it on most of the day, then can work on it in the evening before charging it over night. It runs Windows 7 Starter, has a 250 Gig HD, and comes with 1 Gig of RAM (upgradeable to 2).

    Not perfect, but fills a void.

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