With the seemingly endless media coverage of the good, the bad and the ugly of Apple’s new iPad, most everyone should know what it is. Sifting through the information leads to one question: Is all this hype going to stand up against the shiny silver case? In a word, no.
The hype has been building since the much-anticipated January 27 unveiling by Apple’s co-founder and CEO, Steve Jobs. With Jobs touting it as a “magical and revolutionary product,” the whispers began. Maybe it wasn’t going to be so amazing after all. For one thing, the iPad looks like an iPhone that was hit by the ray gun in “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid.” In typical Apple style, it lacks anything other than size to differentiate it from the iPod Touch or iPhone. The interface doesn’t help, either; again, it mimics the iPhone and Touch, on a slightly larger scale. In fact, the operating system is iPhone OS 3.2. Superficial problems? Yes, but the design and interface foreshadow what’s to come.
Following the announcement of the iPad, there was initial confusion over what market it would fall into, and what would do. “Tablet,” “netbook,” “e-reader,” and “mobile device” are all terms that have all been thrown around to categorize the iPad, though Apple says, “it’s a whole new kind of device.” Without a concrete category, consumers are having trouble understanding what it is good for, and what they can reasonably expect to do with it. Maybe Jobs’ no market research philosophy is starting to fail him.
With all the excitement in the air, consumers have overlooked major faults of the iPad, sometimes even after buying it. There are over 2,500 iPad-specific apps, and most of the 150,000 existing iPhone apps will work with the iPad. And that’s great... until you go to open two at once and realize that you can’t. The term “tablet computer” is a little misleading, especially when it can’t multitask. (The iPhone OS 4.0 update this fall is expected to address the multitasking issue, but for now, you’re stuck.) You may say that is okay; how often do you really need to have more than one program open? But think. When writing a paper, you generally have two or three programs open: one to write in, one to do research in, and possibly one you use to talk to your buddies. Still okay?
Die-hards will fight this and say, well would you really be writing a paper on the iPad? The answer is yes; if owned, some portion of a paper or presentation is likely to be conceived on the iPad. Most students carry their laptops around all day every day, simply because they’re always doing work. A MacBook Pro at 5.5 pounds gets tiresome quickly, especially when combined with a textbook and everything else needed for a day on campus. With the 1.6 pound iPad being the lightest in the Mac family (a MacBook Air is nearly twice the weight at three pounds), it is going to be looked at as Apple’s solution to the netbook, and it is going to be carried all the time.
The second largest mar on its silver case is the lack of a USB port. Sure it has the familiar iPod and iPhone dock connector, but what good does that do when you have to buy additional accessories in order to do anything other than charge it and sync with iTunes? After all, iTunes doesn’t accept Word documents. The standard means for getting photos or any other document on an iPad is via email, unless you use Apple’s iWork.com or purchase Apple’s adapters. And don’t forget — those adapters won’t be available until later this month. While this may not be a hassle for some, it is viewed by others as Apple trying hard to control the content you receive.
The explosion of the netbook market left many Apple users craving the debut of the highly rumored tablet and probably pushed Jobs into a shorter than anticipated timetable. The resulting product is unimpressive. In the end, it’s several hundred more dollars in Apple’s pocket, and an Apple geek holding an oversized iPod.