Monday, April 05, 2010

IPad - Reviewing the reviews

Coverage of the IPad has been ... interesting. When the device was first announced several correspondents live-blogged it. Their initial reaction was "it's just a big IPod Touch". While the world waited to get its collective hands on units, a few select journalists got pre-release units. Suddenly the reviews went from positive to glowing, even gushing. The most extreme example I have seen is here. This reviewer believes that we all secretly hate our computers (even ones from Apple). He goes on to insist that the IPad is different. Using it is so natural that anyone can use it without thinking, even a three-year-old or an 80-year-old.

Why the big change? John Dvorak points out that the dying media are clinging to the IPad as their lifeline. Beyond that, Apple was selective in only handing them out to people with a history of Apple boosterism. Put the two together and you have a conflict of interest where the people writing the reviews have already been given units worth hundreds of dollars and their editors are hoping to promote the new business model. No objectivity here.

I can understand why the old media is making the attempt. The Wall Street Journal is an example. You can get their content for free here or you can download their "free" app and pay $3.99/week for the same content. I know which the WSJ wants you to do.

There have been numerous articles that mention reading ebooks and magazines on the IPad. All of them make a point of how the experience mimics the real thing. I think that basing an interface on an older technology is a mistake for several reasons. The biggest one is that newspapers and magazines are laid out like they are because of the limitations of ink on paper. Some people have a fondness for the tactile experience. I suspect that they have associated the media with the experience of reading the content. People who have not been taught this relationship will be confused by it and probably reject it.

Now that people actually have IPads in their hands, people with no vested interest are weighing in. They still call it an impressive device but some are questioning the idea that it is a replacement for notebooks or even netbooks. For example, this article lists 13 glaring shortcomings. To those, I would add the lack of email folders, the lack of tabbed browsing, the lack of handwriting recognition, and the inability to print and its tiny amount of memory. During the gushing phase, some reviewers suggested that the IPad could run business applications. Given these problems, it is hard to see how this could happen.

The bottom line is that the IPad is an expensive toy that hopes to create a niche.

I could afford to buy an IPad but I'm not going to. I really don't know what I would do with it. My Nokia N800 is much smaller and good for checking emails (it supports folders), quick web browsing (including Flash). I can also read ebooks from Project Gutenberg on it.

Most anything else I do is handled quite well by my notebook or my netbook. All of these have more storage available than the starting IPad and I can run the same software on the notebook and netbook. Also, none of them cost what the IPad costs (I got a good deal on the notebook - it came with Vista just as Windows 7 was being rolled out). Given all of that, the IPad would be nothing but an extra toy that I don't need.

Now, if someone would just port an ebook reader to the Zune HD...

Speaking of the Zune HD, my biggest disappointment was that it could not connect with  WiFi that redirects your to a terms of use page. Microsoft just released a firmware update that solved this problem. I verified this at dinner tonight.

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