The Real Truth About the iPad: A Non-Early Adopter Tests It Out, Pronounces It Lckig=ng (Typed on an iPad)

If you’re a fan of the TV show Supernatural, as the writer of this essay is, then at this point you might think a demon has taken possession of my colleague Wade Roush, who of course writes his World Wide Wade column every (or almost every) Friday.

That would not be correct. But a demon of sorts took over me, which led to me taking over this column. I got a little fed up (in a nice way) with all the ‘iPad this’ and ‘iPad that’ I’d been hearing. Wade got up at 5:00 am last Saturday to buy one, he polled readers about it, he carried it all over the office. If you went to an editorial meeting around here, there was Wade trying (I say trying) to take notes on his ‘Pad. If you looked in his office, there was Wade, head craned down (read on about that), sitting in a guest chair typing notes on his iPad, his once busy laptop perched forlornly on his desk.

So last night as I was leaving work and Wade was just beginning today’s column, I said, “Why don’t you bag your column and I’ll write it for you, and I’ll write the truth about the iPad, which is that it will NEVER be a breakthrough success.”

To which Wade responded, “It sold half a million units already!” To which I said, “They marketed the hell out of it.” At which point Wade turned over his iPad to me for the night and I set out to do a quick and dirty, impressionistic, bullet-point review.

And you know what? I stand by my first impression. While it has all sorts of cool features, is beautifully designed, and all that, the iPad will never become anything close to the breakthrough success the iPod or the iPhone have been. That’s because:

1) The iPad is a coffee table book waiting to happen. Very nice, very fun to look through and play with. But it…

2) Doesn’t solve a core problem or address a core need.

3) It’s just plain a size that, while nice, is non-essential (it doesn’t work as a desktop device, it’s too small to be your home TV, and it’s far too big to be truly portable).

4) Typing, including the ergonomics of typing, is disastrous on the iPad. It adds a zillion extra characters if you merely rest your fingers on the screen the way you would rest them on a physical keyboard, and so you are forced to look at the screen with each letter you type. If you are a touch typist, you are POL (Pad Outta Luck). And you will assuredly get a stiff neck to boot (remember that image of Wade bent over his iPad?).

5) There’s something else wrong with the iPad, which many have noted before me, and that’s Apple’s notorious refusal to allow Flash to run on its mobile devices. The iPad’s whole point is to be a fun, recreational device. But when I went to my beloved KenKen puzzles at NYTimes.com, they didn’t load. Just as I was imagining having an iPad hanging out in my living room so I could at least pick it up and read the paper and do some puzzles when I had a moment of leisure…that reality hit me hard.

6) On a somewhat related point, others have complained about the lack of a camera. You gotta be kidding me. Who would want to hold up something the size of a clipboard to take a picture? What it really needs is video conferencing, another shortcoming, at least at the moment.

So that’s my quick take. Yes, some things are fantastic and seem truly perfect for the iPad’s size and shape—like Autodesk’s SketchBook Pro, or some game apps, or browsing through a book like The Elements. And yes, Apple will undoubtedly sell a good number of iPads.

But unlike the iPod, which let you carry music to the gym, on the subway, or anywhere you wanted to go, or the iPhone, which opened a world of apps in a form factor that works seamlessly with our modern lifestyle, the iPad is a novelty, really. And the vast, vast majority of people just aren’t going to want to lug it around, a truth that will ultimately discourage many people from buying it (especially for $499 or more), despite Apple’s marketing blitz. In the end, the iPad will look great on a coffee table, or maybe sitting by your bed, waiting for its 20 minutes each night.

So I’m gladly (well, mostly gladly) giving Wade’s iPad—and his column (extremely gladly)—back to him.

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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