Another year, another iPad. I’m still not sold. (Apple photo)
The new iPad was announced yesterday. I thought it would be a good time to reassess my position from two years ago since the first iPad came out. But as I have for the past two years since Apple supposedly redefined the computing landscape, I can only shrug.
Now, I understand that I must not represent the market at large, but based on how much the iPad costs in its various incarnations, and what you gain from it, I just still for the life of me cannot wrap my head around its blockbuster popularity, let alone this notion that it has redefined the future of computing by ushering in an era of tablets that will soon supposedly become more often purchased than laptops or desktops.
I’ve used the iPad. Used it at work and even borrowed it and brought it home to play around with. Yes, it’s cool. Yes, clearly it’s the best device on the tablet platform. But the iPad, or any tablet, does not seem to fit into my workflow and usage habits. I must be some sort of strange aberration. Help me out here. (Or, better yet, don’t — because I don’t want the help that will convince me to buy a $500 device I don’t need.)
The way I see it, usage patterns of PCs and devices come down to two tiers of tasks: consumption and production. Consumption is the reading or viewing of content — articles, books, videos, or what have you. Production is the act of creating such content — writing or blogging, video or photo editing, graphic design, and so forth.
Perhaps to help understand my position here, you should be aware that I own a very good smartphone (an HTC Thunderbolt). It’s great. I use it all the time to read articles, catch up on Facebook and Twitter, send emails and texts, and watch the occasional YouTube video.
I also own a very fast Windows 7 desktop PC with a very large (27″) HD monitor. This is what I use for writing, managing my websites, editing video, creating content, or watching HD video.
(And when it comes to watching TV or movies, I do not use any sort of computer for that. I use that device called an “HD television.” Call me old-fashioned or a quality snob, but web video still is not as good a quality as most of what I watch in 1920×1080 60i HDTV, and certainly not if I have to pay more for Hulu or Netflix when I’m already paying for cable.)
Given these two platforms, I do not see where the iPad fits in. Perhaps it’s because I do not subscribe to the singular vision of using Apple to do everything with cloud computing, for downloading music, video, and apps. I tend to diversify based on what suits my needs. (I do, for example, use iTunes when I download music, but I also use Amazon at times if the songs are cheaper.) I suppose if I were an Apple junkie, all of my needs would be satisfied by one platform that is all interconnected through all my Apple iDevices, but I don’t feel the need to cave in to that restrictive-seeming paradigm.
I seriously considered getting an iPhone a while back, but when I saw that a good Android phone could do what I wanted and more and it had a user experience that I felt was comparable to the iPhone, I chose the path that had more open-source development and free stuff, and less of a warden-like gatekeeper approach like Apple.
Anyway, I’m straying off point here. To me, the tablet is defeated by two simple facts: (1) Unlike a smartphone, it is too large and heavy to be as useful as a portable pocket device (or even something you can use comfortably while lying in various positions in bed), while the smartphone can do all the consumption-related tasks I need while taking up a lot less space. (2) It lacks a keyboard and mouse (*) which to me are mandatory for any sort of comfortable usability when doing precise work like image or video editing, which really should be done at a desk with a large monitor anyway.
* And, yes, I understand you can get a keyboard and mouse for the iPad, but if you’re just going to turn your tablet into a laptop or desktop computer, what’s the point of having a tablet in the first place?
Given the iPad’s inability to shoehorn itself as a piece of necessary technology between my smartphone and PC, I must yet concede that there are plenty of other people who have different needs than I have. I can respect that. But what I do object to is this notion that we must have a new iPad (and iPhone and iWhatever) every damn year — especially after reading about the human cost of producing these things at such an absurd rate. Looking at the specs, does the new iPad improve upon the iPad 2 enough to justify its existence? (Given that HD video content is only 1920×1080, do we really need the new iPad’s 2048×1536 display on a screen that’s only 9.7 inches?)
Can’t we be happy and patient with the awesome technology we already have for at least a couple years before moving on to the next-generation device to replace it with? Philosophic fodder for another blog, perhaps.