Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 5. It’s just a Tablet PC or Kindle
February 4th, 2010
Daniel Eran Dilger
Here’s segment five in my series taking on iPad myths: no the iPad isn’t just a Microsoft Tablet PC or Amazon Kindle copycat.
Ten Myth of Apple’s iPad: 1. It’s just a big iPod touch
Ten Myth of Apple’s iPad: 2. iPad needs Adobe Flash
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 3. It’s ad-evil
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 4. It was over-hyped and under-delivered
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 5. It’s just a Tablet PC or Kindle
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 6. It needs HDMI for HD video output
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 7. It needs cameras
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 8. It’s a curse for mobile developers
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 9. It can’t multitask
Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 10. It needs Mac OS X
Microsoft’s apologists are desperately trying to give Bill Gates credit for the iPad by touting his unveiling of the failed Tablet PC nearly ten years ago, ironically unaware that Apple itself debuted a two tablet concepts a decade before that: the first was a PowerBook without a screen (pretty much Bill Gates’ Tablet idea) while the second was a more aggressively progressive tablet system designed to use a stylus and a sophisticated gesture and handwritten recognition engine. They might as well credit Microsoft with inventing the iPod by delivering the Zune five years afterward.
Remember that they also tried to credit Microsoft for the iPhone’s multitouch application environment after it rushed its Surface camera-bathtub to “market” months afterward, even though it couldn’t actually get it to work for another year or so.
Of course, beyond all that, the iPad bears nothing in common with Microsoft’s Tablet PC. It’s not based on a stylus ineffectually poking at desktop Windows metaphors. It will play real games. It bundles real apps you might want to actually use. It isn’t slow and hot. It isn’t absurdly expensive with “convertible” parts that are notoriously likely to break or stop working. It isn’t two inches thick. It doesn’t have a bunch of exposed ports you won’t ever use. It doesn’t run the Windows pantheon of spyware and viruses. This isn’t a Tablet PC by any stretch of the imagination.
Paul Thurott actually insisted that the iPad’s bezel was ugly, and recommended that Apple make it a “real” games machine by adding buttons (or perhaps a joystick?) in the bezel area to make it more attractive. Right, thanks for that blaze of genius. Clearly it would be easier to play games on a multitouch tablet if the frame was surrounded by hardware controls lifted from Atari games of the 1970s.
That’s why Star Trek and Minority Report and Avatar envision a future of computing where control surfaces look like an Xbox controller. That’s why the iPod touch flopped as a game device while the heavily buttoned Microsoft CE Gizmondo turned out to be such a hit. Well that, and its brilliant ad-supported business model. And now I’m done with the sarcasm.
Think of the Kindle!
A lot of pundits are also hung up on e-readers, as if the entire market is somehow more important than the backhanded mention of the new iBooks app that Steve Jobs accorded it during his iPad presentation. After all, iPad is just another e-reader, right? A fancy Kindle that should have Apple groveling in front of Amazon for creating it a market, because it was Jeff Bezos who actually invented the idea of reading books electronically, and Jobs just stole his idea and ran with it.
Except that this is historical revisionism of the stupidest kind. Plenty of companies have tried to create electronic books a decade ahead of Amazon; that company simply leveraged its online storefront to dominate booksellers without having to pay their sales taxes, and is now using its position to push a proprietary e-book format on a third rate device that is pretty freaking expensive for what it does, particularly now that the iPad has dropped in at a disruptive $500 entry point.
The Kindle was a half-assed attempt to take over a product category that had never taken off because its technology just wasn’t that compelling. Sure you can read books on the Kindle, but that’s all you can do. No way to browse the web with any sort of sophistication, no video, and it can’t even do nice graphics.
It is somewhat outrageous that the same people who complain that Apple killed music by setting a 99 cent price for songs are now complaining that Amazon’s copycat strategy, which publishers say is simply unsustainable, is at risk because Apple wants people to pay a $12-15 for a book, the price it negotiated with publishers to reach. Which position is “right,” or is Apple simply automatically wrong no matter what it does?
Not big in Japan, just like the iPhone wasn’t supposed to be.
Junko Yoshida, writing for EETimes, circularly criticized the iPad as being irrelevant to Japan because she was in Japan at its introduction and didn’t see any relevance, because she didn’t actually see the device in person. Since when is being ignorant about something “news”?
Yoshida rambled on for some time about Japanese companies investing in those failed e-ink devices that slowly refresh displays designed to coast on a trickle of battery power. The thing is that users care more about devices working brilliantly rather than in needing to recharge more than once a week. Anyone who touched an iPad is not under the illusion that it is anything like the Kindle or other e-ink devices in anything other than cost. You navigate with your fingers, not some clunky plastic buttons. You see immediate updates, in color, which respond to your touch. Sure iPad can read books, but it can do a lot more too.
The iPad isn’t a book reader any more than the iPhone is simply a way to telegraph SMS messages. It’s a multitouch computer screen, and if you haven’t experienced it, you’ll at least need some vision and imagination and intelligence to get that.
If you’ve picked one up, you don’t need much in terms of brains to realize that it is one slick piece of hardware fused with some brilliant software. That’s not to say that all those media droids in attendance got it; many acted like they were covering an Obama speech for Fox news, and were tasked with generating the stupidest possible criticisms they could imagine, just to delight their Cro-Magnon audience’s prejudices.
One reporter I overheard actually said on camera that he saw no evidence that the iPad would save media companies. O’really? What’s your next story, a blip on how nothing Obama said seems relevant to creating jobs?
I find it at least somewhat amusing that Jobs wants Obama to be president while President Obama wants jobs. Can’t we just fire all these simpleton journalists and then hire unemployed factory workers to provide us with a better take on what’s going on? Oh wait, no we can’t because Google’s ads aren’t enough to pay for good content.