January 28, 2010

1124 words 6 mins read

iPad. Biggest. Flop. Ever.

If you haven’t heard about the iPad yet, you live under a rock on Venus. Even my mother heard about it. That being said, I think this product is one of the biggest flops in recent history. Sure, there have been massive flops in the past, but I can’t think of anything this made of fail in the last year or two.

If you read the news or twitter, you’ll see a number of articles for the iPad and (I feel) even more against the iPad. My vote is, of course, against. Gizmodo’s “8 Things That Suck About the iPad” has the right idea but sort of whines, picking on it just to pick on it. Mashable has a very well written article “The Anti-Hype: Why Apple’s iPad Disappoints” which illustrates a few key points on why the iPad isn’t “magical”.

When I look at a device like the iPad, I try to ask myself how I would use it. The iPad is supposed to be, if nothing else, 2 things: a Kindle killer and a netbook replacement. I’ll get to the ebook thing later, first lets talk about netbook replacement. My netbook sits idle 95% of the time, because I have real computers to use. Mainly, I use my netbook for traveling, when I don’t want to haul a 17” laptop with me. The iPad could travel, it would entertain me (but so can the netbook/iPhone). When I get to my destination I could use it to check my email, but my iPhone already does that. Once I’ve been around for a few days, I may want to offload my digital pictures and take a look at them on a bigger screen… and this is where the iPad comes to a screaming halt, cause you can’t. The iPad is not a tablet computer, it is a tablet iPod. As a “slave device” it cannot be connected to your digital camera and offload pictures. You can’t use it to touch up the pictures a little bit, and then post them to your blog, or send them to flickr. An iPod is a device that entertains you, it doesn’t get work done. It might entertain you with music or a video distraction while you work, but it certainly is not a device for getting work done. The iPad, being a 9.7” iPod… doesn’t get work done either. Oh, sure Apple is going to put out their iWork suite (which will cost you $10 an app) in case you want to type something up but if I wanted to spend any serious amount of time typing, I’m going to use a REAL keyboard, not a virtual one.

There are accessories you say, like a keyboard dock, which gives the iPad a proper and tactile keyboard. Well, that is just shiny, except for the fact that now you have to carry 2 SEPARATE baubles to get anything done. My netbook closes up and is easily carried (note: with keyboard) with as little as two fingers. Anything that you need to add to the iPad to make it useful to you, is one step farther away from a usefully portable tablet.

So let’s step back to an accessory-less use; one of the major uses the iPad seems to have: ebook reader. If you ask Stacey Higginbotham of Gigaom about it, she’ll tell you “Will the iPad Kill the Kindle? In a Word, Yes". Then again our Miss Higginbotham is obviously high on some mighty good stuff, probably that Hawaiian stuff (from what I’m told that is some of the best). Don’t get me wrong, the shots of the iPad showing The New York Times looks very impressive, but the iPad has a huge and fatal flaw. That screen that makes it look so pretty, is an active display. By that I mean it uses a backlight, like your laptop. For most people, computers screens are tiring on the eyes to look at for a long period of time. You get tired of reading the screen, but most people still go home and read the newspaper or a book. Why? Because books aren’t backlit, something Amazon understood with the Kindle. The eInk screen on basically every ebook reader worth it is damn isn’t there because they are cheap, they are there because they replicate the look of reading real paper something that appeals to most everyone. Additionally, the iPad’s active screen burns battery. Sure it has a fantastically long life (for a “computer”) at 10 hours, but a Kindle’s battery is rated in weeks in some cases. Even someone like my mother who reads heavily, all day, only has to charge her old Kindle one (with an elder and dieing battery) once every few days. So where does that leave the iPad? With a screen that people will not want to use for long periods of reading and a battery that will die.

Now because I love kicking a device while he’s down, lets take a look at the price of the iPad. $500 for the lowest model (Wifi only, 16GB Flash). Not bad; I was impressed to see that Apple is capable of making anything that cheap. But… I can, and have, bought a Netbook with more flashdrive space, faster CPU, and a whole lot more functionality (read: it is a real damn computer), for $350. Heck, you could get cheaper too. Now since the iPad is supposed to to a “Kindle Killer” (hilarious), let’s compare prices. Kindle 2 — $260 ($489 if you go to the DX). iPad — $630. Why that much more? Apples to Apples, the iPad would have to have 3G, just like the Kindle. Oh, and the iPad will also cost you $15 a month where as the Kindle costing you nothing a month. In fact, I can go buy a Netbook and a Kindle 2 for less than it costs to buy an iPad with 3g.

In the end, the questions I ask are: What killer feature does the iPad have? What problem is it solving? I can’t answer either question, and that really is what spells the end of it in my book. It doesn’t have any features that aren’t available in either your computer or your iPod. It solves no problem other than to “bridge the gap” between computer and iPod, but if you have both, you don’t need the bridge. In fact that bridge is mostly useless — the river ain’t exactly the Mississippi. Will some people still buy the iPad? Sure. Will I? Definitely not. Will anyone I know buy one? Can’t find a single person so far that wants one. I’m sorry Apple, but you should have let the “Apple Tablet” stay dead with the Newton MessagePad.