Friday, January 29, 2010

Why I won't buy an ipad. . . .

Yesterday Steve Jobs stood in front of the world and sounded a little like a snake-oil salesman. "What this device does is simply extraordinary" he told us. Did that sound hollow to anyone else? Because it certainly did to me. The ipad is essentially just a large ipod touch, it is not even a fully functioning computer in tablet form. It doesn't have the power to, say, word process large documents. Now don't get me wrong, the ipod touch is remarkable technology and the ipad is the first step to a fully functional tablet computer. I am sure it will only be a couple of years until we see a good tablet computer that will do everything that our laptop can do. But we are not there yet. Furthermore, I don't see how this device will save the newspaper or the publishing business. I could already down load many books to my laptop as well as newspapers. The reason I didn't do this was not the device it was the problem of reading back-lit text. It is just uncomfortable to read a great deal of text that is back-lit. The ipad will do nothing to change this basic problem. E-readers, on the other had have significantly different technology with what they call e-paper. But of course e-readers can only read PDF or like-minded kinds of files. What we have here is a classic moment of being stuck between two technologies. The real challenge now becomes inventing a screen that is not back-lit but can still read and reproduce moving files like video. But I suspect we are a long way from this. 

Now don't get me wrong. The ipad (and the other tablets which will be out soon) would be great for a student or someone who travels a lot. A student could take notes in university classes on the ipad's virtual keyboard as well as use it to go online, listen to music, download movies etc. But unless you are using it while traveling or using it as a student I just don't see the any advantages to the ipad over a laptop except portability. I can go out a buy a decent laptop for 600 dollars or so and it will do quite a bit more than an ipad. As far as I can see, the only thing that is actually keeping Apple going is itunes. People, including me, are buying ipods largely because of itunes. If it were not for itunes I would have purchased a less expensive sony mp3 player. But this advantage cannot be maintained forever. And since I can purchase a laptop for about half of what an ibook costs, I don't see how Apple will emerge from a small niche market. In the absence of some tech breakthrough I don't see any long term success for apple because these smaller devices will surely be outmoded by other companies and when someone creates a truly universal itunes type of store ipods will loose their present advantage. 

Meanwhile e-readers are coming up fast and at the moment Apple has no stake in the non-back-lit market. I say leave the ipad to the students and the business travelers and wait for the next real breakthrough. 

No comments: