Who needs the iPad? Nobody, I’m sure.

iPad. Who cares.The wonderful iPad. Frankly, iDontGiveADamn.

The headline pretty much says it all. What is the point of the iPad? I think this may be the perfect example of the consumer product that exists first and foremost to fleece its buyers out of their money. Goal #2: To convince them that it’s great in the absence of these customers having better reasons for living.

Too cynical? Perhaps. Granted, the last thing I should probably do is dare to question the uber-smart-and-savvy Steve Jobs. After all, every high-tech, game-changing, mega-hyped, life-altering, blockbuster piece of techo-wizardry that Apple has released in the past decade has been a slam-bang success, right?

The very first “i” product, the iMac, basically saved Apple from oblivion shortly before the turn of the millennium. After that came the iPod and the iPhone, both of which redefined the notion of success when it comes to cool-ass gadgets. The iPod announced Apple as a company that owned the gadget zeitgeist, and the iPhone was so hyped it confirmed Apple’s lightning-in-a-bottle reputation well before it even came out. For me to question the potential success of the iPad is probably betting against the house, where the house has long ago rigged the game.

But we’ll see. There’s a part of me that can’t shake the feeling that the concept of the iPad is very flawed, trying desperately to invent a market rather than fill one that actually exists. Do you really need a device that positions itself in between your smartphone and your laptop? If you have an iPhone (which I grant is a terrific device that I would gladly own) and you have a laptop — and I’m guessing about 99 percent of potential iPad buyers have both — do you really need an iPad?

No. You don’t.

You are just buying it because it’s cool. And because you have $500-$700 to set on fire.

This flow chart explains it pretty well.

And if snarky humor doesn’t do it for you, I think James Poniewozik does a great job on an actual pragmatic level.

But the thing about Apple is that they find a way to make their gadgets so darn cool and effective when it comes to user interface that they manage to transcend the whole necessary-ness thing. So Apple prevails.

But I still can’t help asking: Why? Who out there is buying an iPad? And can you admit to the rest of us that it’s because you think it’s cool, and because you heart Apple, and only because of that? Because, beyond that, I would think your lightweight awesome MacBooks would provide enough Apple+Portable to get you through the day.

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25 comments on this post

Eduardo
Sunday, April 4, 2010, 1:55 am (UTC -6)

I’m not buying it. The IPad might be useful if you’re a starfleet officer on the 24th century, typing a report for your captain.

Matter of the fact is, this was clearly Apple’s not-at-all subtle attempt to get into the new market that’s “supposedly” being created by the Kindle (which i haven’t bought either). This whole digital book trend sounds needlessly superfluous.

I loved the flow chart, when you posted it in on Twitter, earlier today. I saved it (and retweeted it) as a way to enlighten every single one of my friends who tend to follow the impulse buying route, especially when it comes to Apple products. I’m pretty sure they never asked themselves what’s the point of having the thing in the first place.

It just goes to show how Apple really manages to make marketing and social appeal become more important than actual product content and usefulness. At least the IPod and IPhone have a few uses. Can’t say the same regarding the IPad.

Troy clark
Sunday, April 4, 2010, 6:36 am (UTC -6)

I bought an iPad. Yes because it was cool. Yes because I’m a gadget geek. But from a practical point of view, I use my ebook reader a lot and this is just better for books newspapers and magazines. I accumulate less clutter and trash. Also it’s easier and more convenient than my laptop. Am I going to do intensive production work on it, nooo. But can I check my email and Facebook and Twitter from the tiny kitchen counter while making coffee? Yes. Did I need it? Oh hell no! Is it for everyone? No. Is it for me? It was this or a new laptop. Definitely better than a laptop.

alex99a
Sunday, April 4, 2010, 2:51 pm (UTC -6)

Interesting device, but apparently I can’t put my own content on it in a way that suits me so… pass.

Vrenir
Sunday, April 4, 2010, 2:55 pm (UTC -6)

Disclaimer: I have been quite pleased to own a Macbook for the past four years.

The iPad(d) is impressive. It makes nerds happy by looking like something off of Star Trek, and it even has the right name to back that perception up. (I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time before somebody develops an LCARS background for it.) And as such a nerd, I find that I want one just for the 24th century look.

As a high school teacher, though I can also see several real uses for this device. For me, it does everything mobile that I need: full-on word processing, slideshow creating and presenting, and internet access. It also allows me to play movies and music in a fairly portable manner for road trips, plane rides, sitting in the park, or working after school. In short, I could easily lose my laptop for one of these.

That said, the iPad cannot function as a person’s sole computer, only as a supplement, and it makes no sense to own a laptop and then another half-laptop that performs the same tasks with slightly more portability and slightly less capability. In the same way, it makes little sense to own an iPad and an iPhone or iTouch, because they are mostly redundant in function. The iTouch fits in your pocket, and the iPhone makes phone calls, while the iPad allows for office work.

I would suggest using a basic rule of proportion: your supplement must be on such a smaller and more limited scale than your primary computer as to perform a different service. If you own a laptop and want a supplement, get an iPhone or iTouch. If you own a desktop, get an iPad. The desktop would function as your home base, housing all of your media files and advanced programs. The iPad would become the module that you load with the things you need with you. Have an extra keyboard at your office desk, and you’re set to go. (This assumes that you do not need to use company-provided programs at work, but I’m a teacher, so I’m pretty free to use what I want outside of official grade-reporting.)

Ideally, I could even see this system working as the basis of a household computing network. The family purchases one heavy-duty desktop and an iPad for each member. The overall cost remains comparatively low, and everyone retains an individual device capable of performing most daily tasks. The shared desktop covers the other occasional needs and holds all the photos and media for synching.

Brendan
Sunday, April 4, 2010, 7:04 pm (UTC -6)

I actually think it’s a great idea in concept… the version that’s out now is lacking in a few areas though.

Dan C.
Monday, April 5, 2010, 8:45 am (UTC -6)

If you have an iPhone (which I grant is a terrific device that I would gladly own) and you have a laptop — and I’m guessing about 99 percent of potential iPad buyers have both — do you really need an iPad?

My primary computer is a desktop. My iPad is replacing my laptop as my secondary computer.

Bult then, who cares? The iPad clearly isn’t worth anyone’s while. Just like them new-fangled horseless carriages or that crazy television that everyone is talking about. Why do you need an automobile or a televisiion when your horse and your radio will do the same jobs?

Should everyone get an iPad? Certainly not, if you don’t have a need for it. But don’t condemn an entire product just because you don’t have a use for it in your own life.

Quinalla
Monday, April 5, 2010, 9:09 am (UTC -6)

I had the same initial reaction to this device, but after thinking about it, I can see how it would be useful for some folks. It’s not for me though. I have an IPod which I love and use a lot, I have a smart phone so I can e-mail and browse the web when traveling for work, and I have a work laptop which could not be replaced with something like this. My computer at home is a desktop and I personally don’t have a need for a home laptop even, so definitely not this either.

As for similar devices, I’ve considered the Kindle as I love to read, but I dunno, there is something to be said for holding a real book in your hands. Right now, I just bring a book or three and then have some audiobooks on the Ipod and that is fine for me.

Joseph B.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010, 8:00 am (UTC -6)

The iPad has been conceived and executed as the best current way to consume digital media of all types: That’s eBooks, magazines, comics, rented movies, and music. That it can also read and compose email, play cool games, and function as a rudimentary presentation device are just bonuses.

The iPhone/iPod Touch can already do all of this, but the user experience is limited by the screen size.

A full laptop and/or desktop can do all of this, but the user experience is limited by the user interface and the relatively bulky equipment.

At this moment in time the only device on the market that has been optimized to provide the best experience in the consumption of all types of digital media is the iPad. There is literally nothing else like it currently on the market. If you can’t see that then please sell your Apple stock. To me.

Adam
Tuesday, April 6, 2010, 6:57 pm (UTC -6)

Vrenir, you can already customize your i-products to look like LCARS displays: http://www.lcarscom.net/

alex1939
Tuesday, April 6, 2010, 8:39 pm (UTC -6)

But do you “need” it?

I think people need a computer in today’s world or at least access to one. But this is clearly a luxury item. It’s easier and more convenient for digital media but your laptop can do that and more.

Christoff
Saturday, April 10, 2010, 8:33 pm (UTC -6)

it doesnt have flash, and never will have flash – nuff said

Josh
Monday, April 12, 2010, 3:10 am (UTC -6)

The LCARS look seems so dated by today’s standards. It’s a lot of solid shapes. No gradients, no alpha, no glassy effects.

Jayson
Tuesday, April 13, 2010, 7:38 pm (UTC -6)

I’m in no financial position to aford the iPad but even if I were I would probably still be torn on weather or not to get one. Honestly I love the concept of a light-weight portable media device because well I am a sci-fi nerd. However I still can’t quite get over the resemblence to the iPod so maybe for me it’s more of the asthetic thats turning me off. Perhaps if it could be redesigned to look less like a larger version of the iPod.

Brendan
Thursday, April 15, 2010, 4:47 pm (UTC -6)

Listen to this: The PM of Norway is currently running his government via an iPad while stranded in the US because of the Iceland volcano.

iPad: so useless it can run a government.

Jammer
Thursday, April 15, 2010, 9:23 pm (UTC -6)

As if a laptop couldn’t. And do it better, since it’s a more versatile tool.

Nes
Monday, April 19, 2010, 9:55 pm (UTC -6)

“As if a laptop couldn’t. And do it better, since it’s a more versatile tool.”

Its Norway,no rocket science needed to update a twitter account,wich is basicly what he does anyway 😉

He is a socialist though,dont think his voters like him to buy 500$ gadgets while at the same time asking the common person for more taxes and more goverment savings.

Snafu
Tuesday, April 20, 2010, 4:00 pm (UTC -6)

The iPad has one thing in its favour: it’s the first computer one can use without knowing nearly anything at all about current personal computers.

What really limits it is the all so apparent greediness of control-freakish Apple, and the simple fact that it is a v.1.0 version. What one hopes will save the concept is the wave of apps and add-ons that will emerge and take advantage of the format, and the Google guys providing a more open alternative.

O-Perez
Sunday, May 23, 2010, 2:02 am (UTC -6)

I have a four-word review for the iPad: Basically a large iTouch!

Eric
Friday, May 28, 2010, 10:02 pm (UTC -6)

Jammer, when you first wrote this, I agreed with you. But I’m actually starting to see the value of this device. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but as was pointed out above, as a pure digital media device, it seems pretty hard to beat. The 3G support has the potential to be incredible, but AT&T’s current system prevents it from reaching its full potential.

dave
Saturday, November 20, 2010, 4:24 am (UTC -6)

ipad is pretty great. its going to finally bring tablets into the mainstream . I have a toshiba tablet from back in 2006 , the laptop that flips around , that thing is still cool to me .. so Mac or PC tablet is the way to go for portable computing , Ipad just does it very very well for a 500$ entry fee. my toshiba was 1100 or something , its a complete computer but ipad is a better experience. my internet is a magazine, even in my own house i have never felt so free. laying on the couch surfing my internet magazine . i would buy another in 1 second

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