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Is Apple’s iPad Worth a Test Drive?

January 29, 2010

iPad

After listening to a video of David Lazarus from the Los Angeles Times talk about the Apple iPad, the anticipation and buzz surrounding the machine reminds me of the recent debut of the Honda CR-Z. The CR-Z is intended to be a sporty and inexpensive hybrid and, despite the fact that no journalists have had the chance to drive the vehicle, that hasn’t stopped everyone from condemning or praising the soon-to-arrive Honda. Lazarus notes a similar sensation with the iPad: no one has really had the chance to spend a useful amount of time with the device to see how it works in real-life situations, so he is hesitant to offer any serious opinions just yet. People writing for blogs can offer as much insight as they want, but without actually spending time with the iPad, the opinions shouldn’t be considered too significant.

Having said that…

…the iPad is pointless for someone like me. It doesn’t have a physical keyboard, but the biggest problem – besides the name – is the fact that it doesn’t use what CNet.com calls e-ink. E-ink is what helps make the Amazon Kindle so useable: you can stare at the screen for hours and it won’t hurt your eyes as much as a normal screen. So if the iPad’s book- and newspaper-reading feature is supposed to stand on the shoulders of Amazon’s popular device (as Steve Jobs said during the iPad presentation), then it has additional work to do.

I see very little reason to buy an overpriced but very sexy device with a 9.7-inch screen like the iPad. The $499 price should come with more than 16 Gb, but then, maybe the iPad is supposed to be a combination Kindle and Web browser? If that’s the case, then why doesn’t it have Flash? In a funny CNet.com video, the editors zoom in on one portion of the iPad unveiling when a Web site Jobs visited had a little icon that told him he needed to download Flash, except you can’t yet on the iPad. Without Flash, you can still browse the Web, but in a compromised way. If I am paying $499-699 for a slick piece of technology that Jobs compared to less expensive Netbooks, I don’t want a compromise like that. Don’t videos like the one to which I linked above use Flash?

What I am eager to see is what happens to sales of the iPad after the first 4-6 months. Early adopters will usually be happy to try the latest technology, but at this price point, I would much rather replace my 5.5-year-old laptop with a heavily discounted computer that’s significantly more capable than the iPad but admittedly, not nearly as attractive.

The lack of a camera on the iPad doesn’t bother me, but it would be nice if you could use more than one application at a time, as I can on my $99 smartphone.

Media integration of the New York Times and Sports Illustrated won’t save journalism. I think the greatest potential for this device might be with Web-only magazines like Winding Road. If the iPad is supposed to be a bridge between a smartphone and a laptop, I would imagine the device won’t be used all the time. It’s the type of thing you might take on a vacation or on the bus/train as you commute to work. In this sense, the iPad might be incredibly helpful for a select group of people but even for them, won’t they come home and use a laptop? In other words, even the people who will enjoy the iPad might not necessarily view the New York Times on the device as much as they would on a computer or smartphone. It’s a cool device but I don’t have any interest in buying one. Maybe I just need a test drive?

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