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

4/9/10Follow @bbuderi

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

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.

  • dude

    WHOOSH

  • David Lukas

    Amen brother.

  • http://www.thathigh.com Dave

    I’m not so sure Apple cares about being a breakthrough product.

    They wanted a product that people will use differently. They’re trying to fill a different niche than the iphone, than the PC.

    Nobody expects people to replace their PCs with an iPad.

    I think you missed the point. Apple wants to make money, and they sure will (already have).

  • yuzecheng

    you are wrong!

    you forgot the 90% chinese that never used a computer before in china.

  • http://twitter.com/benmc Ben Mc

    I think the complaint is more about not having a forward-facing camera for video conferencing – like the Mac laptops.

  • yuzecheng

    p.s. you are wrong!

    finally the sollution for writing in characters!

  • http://lr.posterous.com/ Lucas Rockwell

    When you go to a hospital and have to use an iPad (for whatever reason they are using), you might change your tune. The iPad does solve a core problem: It is a very powerful (in every meaning of the word) and cheap platform for managing a control system.

    Please see my post about this: http://lr.posterous.com/the-ipad-its-about-control-systems-not-ebook

  • Alan Phillips

    You also suggested that Amazon, Google, Yahoo were fads, didn’t you?

    You are wrong! SEACHANGE!

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/bbuderi/ Robert Buderi

    Thanks all for your comments! You all make good points–except Alan, I never said that about Amazon, just Google and Yahoo :)

    I’m intrigued by Yuzecheng’s comment–not the part about me being wrong, I get that all the time. But the part about the iPad being the solution for writing in characters. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

    Also, Lucas, what you mentioned is interesting–innovation doesn’t move in a straight line and wouldn’t it be something if the big payoffs came more from the business usage. I could really see it as a platform for managing home systems, too.

    As for now, though, I’m sticking to my guns–good product. No blockbuster.

  • http://www.diginovations.com Michael Kolowich

    Apple’s decision to cripple its web browsing experience by prohibiting Flash in a competitive swipe at Adobe was troubling enough. And now, Apple has declared that Adobe’s Flash CS5 iPhone/iPad apps creation feature violates the terms of its developer license.

    Thus, Apple has simultaneously thumbed its nose at millions of users, hundreds of thousands of website owners and content providers, and thousands of app developers.

    Though I purchased (and enjoy) the iPad for a specific application — replacing 20 pounds of chart books I need to carry around as a pilot as I fly around the country — I will be first in line when Google’s Android-powered tablets hit the market, and loudest to cheer their open embrace of the WHOLE web, not just those who’ve drunk the Apple Koolaid.

  • http://tompaulson.wordpress.com Tom

    Right on target, Bob. I’d add one other glitch. The iPad is not small enough, like a phone, to be convenient and unobtrusive. And it can’t stand on its own like a laptop. Why would someone want to type on a laptop that has to sit flat on the table or your lap? Once the true believer market is exhausted, this will be as big a dud as the tablet PC.

  • tony maniaci

    I tied it. It’s very useful. If all you are interested is finding the negatives that’s fine but keep it to yourself. Apple envy is your problem. If you have ideas on a better tablet just go and build it. Opinions based on preconceived notions are not necessary.

  • Gil Press

    You are absolutely right, Bob. But just remember that Apple (and a few other companies) convinced us that we needed a mainframe on our desk by calling it a “personal computer.” Maybe it is the next “NeXT Workstation” (which Jobs insisted should have only a CD drive) or maybe this is simply the first prototype for the cloud-access device that will eventually replace all the billions of mainframes currently sitting on our desks and laps.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/bbuderi/ Robert Buderi

    Thanks Gil–you may indeed be right. And just to be clear, while I don’t think the iPad will prove transformative, I applaud Apple for pushing the envelope and obvsiouly advancing the tablet form far beyond where it has been. Even if it doesnt directly lead to a revolution, maybe it will provide ideas and insights that do. In the meantime, it seems certain that Apple will make money on it as well.

  • John S

    Apple is a great marketer and makes some really well designed products. But people are fooled into thinking that well design goes into the hardware too. I think their just better looking China crap.
    I mean how much different can you get in hardware? I totally agree that this iPad will never replace anything I have. Heck, its not even as good as my first Netbook! But American’s are great at falling for marketing ploys and the iPad is definitely more about Apple getting you locked into their ecosystem of Apps. then anything else. It just amazes me how gullible people are and how they will never admit the iPad sucks even though they know they spent $500 for a over sized iPod Touch.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/wroush/ Wade Roush

    Great conversation. I was going to stay out of it (after all this is World Wide Bob Week), but the comment from @John S reminded me so much of a famous line by CmdrTaco, the creator of Slashdot, that I had to dredge up the quote. Back on October 23, 2001, when Apple announced the iPod, he wrote: “No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.”

    Yeah, really lame — that’s how they’ve sold 240 million of them.

    Apple’s investors seem quite happy about the iPad: the stock is up 14 percent since the unveiling in January and 2.3 percent since last weekend.

  • Diganta

    Is there any iPad app from Autodesk called Sketchpad? Or else you are trying to mean Skechbook Pro?

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/bbuderi/ Robert Buderi

    Hi Diganta–Yes, I meant SketchBook Pro–thanks. Too many “pads” on the mind. It’s fixed now.