Friday, January 29, 2010

Special Guest Post: TOM EHRENFELD Offers Five Defenses of the iPad

I'm in Washington, DC today, catching up on some work and trying to figure out why I cannot escape from snow. Plans to spend tomorrow in Richmond may be foiled by the prospect of six inches of snowfall in an area that rarely gets any. While I'm being distracted by the demands of travel and conflicting priorities, my friend and early Mac-adopter Tom Ehrenfeld offers his thoughts on the iPad. I will never be able to afford one, so this is an academic discussion for me, but I will say that I love my iPod Touch. Oh, and my MacBook. If anyone at Apple would like to offer me an iPad for review, I'd be glad to send them my address . . .

So finally the iPad is revealed to the masses. And since the announcement of this new device (do I need to go into details to you burned out folks?), it seems that everyone who knows anything about devices has concluded that this shiny new thing is just an expanded version of the iPod Touch. Could they just shut the fuck up? Here are five reasons why this could be so very much more:

1. Have you seen the iPod Touch? This little thing that's half the size of a deck of cards can play music, run your bank account, identify songs, make restaurant reservations, give you a recipe for flan while you're in the supermarket, contact AAA when you're stranded, and perform a tracheotomy in the wilderness. (Well, everything but the bank account parts.) Talk about taking things for frickin granted! And now you can get everything that comes with an iPod Touch (including the ability to immediately transfer each and every app you own) on a device that's much larger, seemingly faster, and with about four times the screen size. If that were all that this thing was, then it would be pretty amazing.

2. This is the first time in years that I've felt a glimmer of hope for newspapers. I loves the New York Times on paper, but do feel that this is a quaint and endangered way of consuming news. And while I read the paper on the Internet, it still doesn't feel quite right to me. The very limited demo I saw of the Times on this device was very exciting — it seems to me that finally there's a right way to do what were once newspapers digitally, and this device will hasten that in a good way.

3. Unfortunately, what you see is not what you will ultimately get. Not only do I expect Apple to add more stuff (camera, multitouch capability, etc.) but the real value of the pad will be realized when folks start writing apps for it. I am already blown away by the things that my iPhone does. And I believe that in a very short time folks will invent amazing things for this tablet to do. Apple has opened up the software, and hopefully it will get better at the process of working with outsiders so as to engender more great stuff.

4. It's NOT just a big iPod Touch. Apple has never been about the very most cutting-edge technology in terms of specific technical qualities. The genius of Apple has always been the way that its products integrate cutting-edge technology to produce something that folks can USE in new and imaginative and deeply deeply satisfying ways. These things solve problems you didn't realize you had or create new experiences you hadn't quite imagined, but make perfect sense once you start experiencing them. The iPhone was not just a juiced-up phone or phone-with-music; ultimately it was something a bit more than anything that preceded it. Until folks have actually used this thing — watched movies and used the iWork suite and tried it out in contexts they hadn't really imagined — then it's ridiculous to dis the device by unimaginatively comparing it to the last generation of products. It's all about how you use it, and I believe folks will ultimately USE this differently than they do the iTouch.

5. Finally, despite what seems like drooling fanboy defense of Apple, I'm really burned out by experts and hype about its stuff. I love Apple products and have used them for many many years, but I'm just as weary of the endless chatter as anyone else. And I think that the folks who are quick with their smug "just a big iPod Touch" are basically know-it-alls who have never touched the device. Being underwhelmed by this device is in some ways a smug and under-informed way of showing off one's tech cred. I'm bored with it. I want to get my hands on one of these things; I want to read a book on one.

And this is the last thing I'll write about it!


Claire said...

The main problem I've heard about the iPad is that it can't multi-task. If Apple wants this to become a viable netbook/iPod/whatever replacement, they'll have to iron that out.

Anonymous said...

The iPad isn't just an oversized iTouch; it's comically oversized iTouch. As soon as I saw a picture of Steve Jobs holding the thing, I thought about the phone gag from the movie "Top Secret" (

-- Ed