What’s the deal with the iPad?

You’ve got to hand it to Apple and their cunning marketeers; put simply, they’ve got the formula right. Once upon a time the humble Mac used to be a niche computer when compared to the dominance of the PC, but now it’s difficult to walk into a university or office without seeing a plethora of Mac-based computers.

The iPod has fast become the standard by which other MP3 players are measured, to the point where the term ‘iPod’ has become an interchangeable term for ‘MP3 player’ to those who aren’t terribly tech savvy. And then of course there’s the iPhone that lured tens of millions of people into purchasing a smartphone that works brilliantly in the ‘smart’ department, but has some serious shortcomings in the ‘phone’ component (short battery life anyone?).

At least my 3G is better than the 2G... right?

(Image: burgermac)

So intense was the temptation of the iPhone that it convinced me that I absolutely needed one, mere weeks before the release of the current latest model, iPhone 3GS. And now I’m stuck with the iPhone 3G and torn between wanting to upgrade it to the 3GS and doing the practical thing and waiting for the fourth-generation iPhone to be released. Mission accomplished Apple: you’ve got my phone upgrade sights set firmly on your product and not any other smartphone alternative.

iPad touch

(Image: matt buchanan)

But then there’s the iPad. Today I received an email from Apple announcing, quite simply, “iPad is here. Available online at your favourite Apple Retail Store.” The strange thing is that I don’t really care. The iPad has been the hot topic that everyone’s known about for quite some time now, and rumoured for even longer than that, but I really don’t see the point of it. I’ve read up on what it’s capable of, seen demos of how it’s set to revolutionise the way we consume short-term print media (magazines and newspapers) and heard many people (both journalists and non-journo friends) rave about how much they want one.

A practical bridge

(Image: j.budissin, Julian Nitzsche)

To me, the iPad seems to fill a void between mobile phone and a laptop: and that’s where my biggest gripe is. There is no void between a mobile phone and a laptop! If you want a phone that offers more than cellular communication, you get a smartphone. If you have a problem with the mobility (read: weight and battery life) of a laptop, you get a netbook. To me, the iPad is the equivalent of building a bridge above a road that doesn’t suffer from congestion: sure, it’s another option for how to get from A to B, but it’s pretty unnecessary.

Truth be told, I haven’t had hands-on time with the fabled iPad and so you won’t hear me calling the iPad a device that shouldn’t be bought. I’m just not won over by the sales pitch, what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen (yes, I have seen one in use).

Would those of you who intend to buy an iPad please enlighten me on what I’m not seeing?

Further reading:
Apple sets Australian price for iPad
iPad launch delayed in Australia and rest of world
Although it’s been said many times, many ways: the iPad is the future


6 Responses to “What’s the deal with the iPad?”
  1. Dude from Sydney says:

    I want one so bad that it hurts, and here is why. My brother and i spend enormous amounts of time sitting infront of the TV and playing games (sometimes at the same time). Using laptops on your lap is incredibly unweildy; they are heavy, hot and awkward, not to mention massive and in the way when you aren’t using them. The iPad will serve primarily in this situation; a gateway to the internet while also being comfortable! I can’t wait!

    What i love about it is the ease of use, the lightness, the way you can type short messages without the need for a fecking keyboard. Just awesome.

    Don’t get me wrong, the lack of flash pisses me off. But you cannot say that it doesn’t have its place. Especially not now that we are moving into a world where high speed internet is offered without limits and where ISP’s and internet giants like Google are offering high speed streaming of TV in HD. It is also a fantastic PDF reader which makes it perfect for my studies (i am currently studying law), where on the one hand i have two screens so i don’t need it while writing up essays, on the go i can just load all my pdf’s onto the HD and read them in high resolution at my leisure. Just plain awesome.

    Having said all that i am a self confessed techno phile of a high order so i would have bought it even if i couldn’t find a use for it.

  2. K says:

    Best advice would be to simply use one. Then it’ll at least help you understand the immense appeal.

    For me as a teacher, it will be a wonderful tool (and even for students, especially those with learning difficulties who currently use inept netbooks, those with autism and other disorders, etc.). Right now, I “lug” my 17″ MBP Unibody around (by lug, I mean it’s still portable and light) the school, and it’d be nice to just quickly be able to plug my iPad straight into the projector/interactive whiteboard, and go through a Keynote or documentary, or in chemistry I can fire up that brilliant Elements app, link up to my iPhone Attendance app for roll-mark and homework/assessment notes, etc., and just generally use it at home, on the couch in bed, and all the rest without worry of the batteries going.

    Being a book reader is a bonus, as it’s a joy to read on from all reports: perfect again for those lazy moments out in the sun, at the beach or park, on the couch. There is certainly a market for this device, in between my iPhone and my 17″ MBP, but obviously not everyone needs a tablet PC…just like many don’t need a netbook.

    Anyway, try one out! Mine doesn’t come until the 7th June, but at least my power adapter arrived today……

  3. Eric says:

    I bought and iPod Touch (or as I call it, an iPad Mini) in January and it took me all of a day to fall in love with the device. It’s portable, capable and incredibly well designed, I don’t go anywhere without it. I read mail, browse the web with /relative/ efficiency, I have information, social networking, entertainment and communications all at my fingertips. In a pinch I can even VPN into the corporate network to ssh into my servers or even remote desktop to my main computer. The only thing it lacks is a larger screen and the ability to tether to my phone for internet access away from WiFi.

    Which leads me to its downfall. The Touch has bluetooth, so there is no reason it *shouldn’t* be able to tether to my phone to use its internet access, except for the fact that Apple doesn’t want it to. I must use iTunes and nothing else to manage the media and software on it. I don’t use Mac OS X or Windows and those are the only supported operating systems that iTunes runs on. Someone came up with a library to manage the iPhone and Touch from Linux, so Apple encrypted the media database. I can’t download software from anywhere but Apple and I can only download the software that Apple deigns to grant access to. Sure, there are hacks, but a jailbroken iPad is just a timebomb waiting or the next update from Apple to brick it.

    This attitude of telling me how I can and can’t use a device I paid for is why I will never buy another Apple device. Ingenious hackers on the net have Android running on an iPhone. As soon as the kinks are worked out of there, I’m sure the iPad and the Touch are next and the day that happens I will be free of the Apple shackles and will never look back.

    So, the iPad is a great device, it’s the prototype for an array of devices that will challenge it soon, but I won’t ever buy one from Apple.

  4. Muffin says:

    I hear tell that it’s marketed towards those people who aren’t totally tech savvy; who don’t own a laptop or an iPhone…Those people who really don’t have any clue what this Apple business is all about. I suppose this gives them a chance to be part of the Apple ‘community’ without needing to be computer/iPhone literate.

    However, that’s just a theory I caught floating around. Personally, I think it’s pointless for all the reasons you detailed above.

  5. @ Dude from Sydney - I’ve always used my iPhone for the in-front-of-the-TV role you’ve described. Sure, it’s not the same as having a proper keyboard and decent-sized screen that a laptop provides, but I’m usually only quickly checking something anyway. I find it interesting that you mention the tecno-phile, as I’m usually the same: jumping at the first opportunity to get anything new and exciting… I’m just finding the iPad hard to place at this point of time.

    @ K - It sounds like you’ve got some areas in your life that you’d fine an iPad more useful than my own! I’m stuck in front of a computer for the bulk of my day — be it my faithful desktop or my convenient laptop — but no matter how much I try to convince myself to get excited about the iPad, I can’t. It is inevitable that I’ll encounter one eventually, in which case I’ll be more than willing to alter my tune (should it need to be altered), but until then I’m still having difficulty in justifying it on the cost vs benefit scale.

    @ Eric - Last year I had a keen interest in the awesomeness of the iPod touch/iPhone vs some of the features that it should logically include… it was interesting to say the least. I really enjoy the irony that people are required to hack their iPhones to get extended functionality out of it… functionality that has been and will be released in subsequent OS updates. I think you’re onto something though… at the very least, by the time the inevitable third or fourth generation of iPad is released, it’ll probably be teeming with features that earlier generation iPad owners will wish they had.

    @ Muffin - I actually wasn’t aware of that angle. Obviously, it’s in Apples best interests to target as many folk as possible, and certainly targeting those who aren’t terribly tech savvy is a wise move. I was always under the impression that those sorta folk were the hardest to sell tech stuff to because they weren’t really interested in it!

  6. newb scientist says:

    useless junk. get an iphone. with the iphone at least u can make proper phone calls.

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