Duncan Bell is T3 Magazine’s Operations Editor and monthly columnist. More of his commentaries can be found in our weekly audio podcast, which he co-hosts, and is available on iTunes every Friday.
iPad, therefore I am… a little bit disappointed.
Is that it? After all the frenzy, the hype, the building, surging expectation? Is this what all the earnest young men of the tech blogs have been strumming their keyboards for, thrusting towards yesterday’s gadgety happy finish and the ultimate, game-changing, epoch-making techgasm?
How Steve Jobs – cruel, heartless Steve Jobs – has betrayed their innocence. For what is the iPad, at first sight, but a wet fart of meta-nothingness? A digital picture frame you carry around. A comically huge iPod Touch – it even has a 3.5mm socket. “The best browsing experience you’ll ever have,” except there’s no Flash support. An ebook reader without the e-ink that makes reading on a screen a pleasure rather than a chore.
You can smell the disappointment on the blogs, and the reason is simple. All along, it was never clear what the iPad would actually do, so the faithful had to believe there was a special purpose for it. They had to really, truly believe in their hearts, clasp their hands together in prayer and await The Rapture. For truly, Apple moves in mysterious ways, its miracles to perform.
Yet all along, nagging devil-voices spoke heresy. To the unrighteous, it did always look an awful lot like a Tablet PC with a nicer casing and better interface. “You’ll be able to buy and read newspapers and magazines on it” was about as near to a USP as anyone ever got. To which the devil voices responded, not unreasonably, “I can read magazines and newspapers online already and it doesn’t cost me a penny, thanks.”
Despair ye not though, true believers. French types Archos have done formidable business for years selling much less agreeable looking, clonkier versions of the iPad. Netbooks have been a huge market for the last few years, and nobody complained that they were neither small enough to fit your pocket, nor big enough to fully enjoy Apocalypse Now in HD.
The iPad is a great-looking device that will doubtless work like a charm. Its only major failing for me is the lack of Flash, and the fact that the 16GB and 32GB options seem to lack, er, flash. The pricing seems positively reasonable when you consider the price of something like the similarly diminutive Sony Vaio X Series.
Apple is betting that most potential buyers – and that doesn’t just mean the people who write and comment on tech sites such as this – will enter into a trade. That they’ll trade in the greater versatility and lower price of an average netbook for doing the key things people actually do with computers – eat web, suck media – better, on a device made by a company with a greater aura of cool and know-how than, let us say for instance, Asus or Lenovo.
I’m willing to stick my neck out and predict Apple has called that one right. The iPad looks like a very good netbook. The touchscreen netbook to end all touchscreen netbooks. Compared to the pre-release hype, that may sound like damning with faint praise, but sometimes you have to just turn out a quality product. The game changing and epoch making? That can wait for another time.