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”]