New iPad announced and still iDon'tCare

March 8, 2012

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Another year, another iPad. I'm still not sold. (Apple photo)

The new iPad was announced yesterday. I thought it would be a good time to reassess my position from two years ago since the first iPad came out. But as I have for the past two years since Apple supposedly redefined the computing landscape, I can only shrug.

Now, I understand that I must not represent the market at large, but based on how much the iPad costs in its various incarnations, and what you gain from it, I just still for the life of me cannot wrap my head around its blockbuster popularity, let alone this notion that it has redefined the future of computing by ushering in an era of tablets that will soon supposedly become more often purchased than laptops or desktops.

I've used the iPad. Used it at work and even borrowed it and brought it home to play around with. Yes, it's cool. Yes, clearly it's the best device on the tablet platform. But the iPad, or any tablet, does not seem to fit into my workflow and usage habits. I must be some sort of strange aberration. Help me out here. (Or, better yet, don't — because I don't want the help that will convince me to buy a $500 device I don't need.)

The way I see it, usage patterns of PCs and devices come down to two tiers of tasks: consumption and production. Consumption is the reading or viewing of content — articles, books, videos, or what have you. Production is the act of creating such content — writing or blogging, video or photo editing, graphic design, and so forth.

Perhaps to help understand my position here, you should be aware that I own a very good smartphone (an HTC Thunderbolt). It's great. I use it all the time to read articles, catch up on Facebook and Twitter, send emails and texts, and watch the occasional YouTube video.

I also own a very fast Windows 7 desktop PC with a very large (27") HD monitor. This is what I use for writing, managing my websites, editing video, creating content, or watching HD video.

(And when it comes to watching TV or movies, I do not use any sort of computer for that. I use that device called an "HD television." Call me old-fashioned or a quality snob, but web video still is not as good a quality as most of what I watch in 1920x1080 60i HDTV, and certainly not if I have to pay more for Hulu or Netflix when I'm already paying for cable.)

Given these two platforms, I do not see where the iPad fits in. Perhaps it's because I do not subscribe to the singular vision of using Apple to do everything with cloud computing, for downloading music, video, and apps. I tend to diversify based on what suits my needs. (I do, for example, use iTunes when I download music, but I also use Amazon at times if the songs are cheaper.) I suppose if I were an Apple junkie, all of my needs would be satisfied by one platform that is all interconnected through all my Apple iDevices, but I don't feel the need to cave in to that restrictive-seeming paradigm.

I seriously considered getting an iPhone a while back, but when I saw that a good Android phone could do what I wanted and more and it had a user experience that I felt was comparable to the iPhone, I chose the path that had more open-source development and free stuff, and less of a warden-like gatekeeper approach like Apple.

Anyway, I'm straying off point here. To me, the tablet is defeated by two simple facts: (1) Unlike a smartphone, it is too large and heavy to be as useful as a portable pocket device (or even something you can use comfortably while lying in various positions in bed), while the smartphone can do all the consumption-related tasks I need while taking up a lot less space. (2) It lacks a keyboard and mouse (*) which to me are mandatory for any sort of comfortable usability when doing precise work like image or video editing, which really should be done at a desk with a large monitor anyway.

* And, yes, I understand you can get a keyboard and mouse for the iPad, but if you're just going to turn your tablet into a laptop or desktop computer, what's the point of having a tablet in the first place?

Given the iPad's inability to shoehorn itself as a piece of necessary technology between my smartphone and PC, I must yet concede that there are plenty of other people who have different needs than I have. I can respect that. But what I do object to is this notion that we must have a new iPad (and iPhone and iWhatever) every damn year — especially after reading about the human cost of producing these things at such an absurd rate. Looking at the specs, does the new iPad improve upon the iPad 2 enough to justify its existence? (Given that HD video content is only 1920x1080, do we really need the new iPad's 2048x1536 display on a screen that's only 9.7 inches?)

Can't we be happy and patient with the awesome technology we already have for at least a couple years before moving on to the next-generation device to replace it with? Philosophic fodder for another blog, perhaps.

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26 comments on this post

    I am proud to say I do not own any Apple products and everything they do passes me by. iTunes is on my PC (because it came with it) but I never use it.
    I have a mate who has Apple everything iPhone, iPad, Apple TV! He's (and they're) like the Borg trying to assimilate us onto some Apple network.

    Which is a nice ham handed segueway into asking when we might get the next batch of TNG reviews.

    Disclosure: I own an iPhone and an iPad.

    I just read an interesting article that doesn't directly address your point, but it does touch on it near the bottom:

    I'm with you on the negatives of the tablet form factor for producing content. I loathe typing extensively on anything except a real keyboard. I do prefer the tablet for "lazy consumption," however, as it is nice for web browsing and video-watching. I traveled extensively by air last year, and the long battery life and optimized experience for watching videos is really nice when portability is important. Of course, storage is limited, so there are trade-offs.

    OK, if you don't care about it, why are you writing about it?

    Methinks the blogger doth protest too much...

    I so tire of the logically dubious "If you don't care/agree/believe, then why are you talking about/writing about/criticizing it?" argument.

    No, I don't care to own an iPad. But I am interested in discussing media trends and technology (even from my own admittedly biased perspectives, which I thought I made clear in the post). They are two separate things.

    I can see the point being made here. I have an IPad that was given to me (no way I'd spent 500 bucks that easily), but I find myself with little reason to use it on any regular basis.

    The fact is that the IPad is a middle-ground product that doesn't perform as well as a large-scale system or a smartphone are able to.

    What makes it sell then? Marketing. Cruel, relentless, overreaching marketing. That and having Apple lovers, like some of my friends.

    I own an iMac, bought it back in 2008. While an inexpensive would easily have suited my needs, I wanted something different. It serves me well, I currently don't see any need to buy a new computer in the next five (plus) years. My cell phone is a basic flip phone. I could text but I don't see much need. Tablets in general, I haven't found much practical use for them. Reading on a tablet I find to be much easier on the eyes. It's still not reason enough for me to buy one.

    Oh Eduardo, why mustn't we proofread our comments?

    "While an inexpensive PC would easily have suited my needs..."

    I just remembered something else.

    As far as predicting the future, this is one of the things that Star Trek actually got right, for a change. You see the crew occasionally using datapads resembling iPads.

    Credit to Mike Okuda for getting that one pretty accurate. You can even download the LCARS skin to the iPad, if I'm not mistaken.

    But even in the episodes, you notice they don't use it regularly. They're always using tricorders or full-fledged computers for research. Their datapads rarely get used, other than for making brief duty reports. So, even Trek actually contributes to Jammer's iPad argument.

    Before we rag too much on Apple we must remember they are a hardware company. Releasing slightly updated hardware every year simply is part of the money making territory.

    The Star Trek data pads, for the most part, were shown as glorified clipboards. Look back at The Original Series incarnation of the data pad. It was simply a large, fancy clipboard which the ladies handed to Kirk to sign off.

    They did have other uses. Many a time you'd see a person reading a book using the data pad. If I recall Jake often used on in his writing. To me, these are great uses for a tablet. The current price point, however, eliminates my desire to purchase.

    Jammer comments how his Smart Phone suits his needs. To me, the opposite would be true. I wan my cell phone to be a phone, nothing more. Once the tablet market matures and the cost is reasonable I can see myself buying a tablet. That is unless I determine a simple eReader will suit my needs.

    well I wrote out a very very lengthy reply to this. Praising my iphone and expressing my lust for the iPad and all things apple. Also made a snarky comment about my current laptop, which is what I used to type this, then hit send and the internet quit working on it so it was deleted... KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    anyways... yay apple. Anyone who says they don't WANT one is kidding themselves. You want it. Need it? nope. who would? Want. DEFINITELY...

    "Anyone who says they don’t WANT one is kidding themselves. You want it. Need it? nope. who would? Want. DEFINITELY…"

    I am still teaching myself to feel sorry for these kind of people. Which ones? The ones who apparently know me better than I know myself: The ipad/iphone kool-aid drinkers, the barefoot running kool-aid drinkers, and to an extent, the McDonald's pink slime eaters. Even though the latter aren't evangelists, I include McDonald's because of the absurd number served, and I have had several experiences abroad where the locals have tried to coax me to their McDonalds - not because they eat it or like it, but because they're quite convinced that as an American I do. They "think" they know that I really want to. Similarly, Hayes-Paul can't bring himself to believe that everyone doesn't want everything he does too. I wonder if he's one of those fellows who waits to go potty until someone else has to go too.

    I'm with Jammer on this. I have an ipad at work. It's a "neat" gadget, but I'd have little use for one at home, especially at the price point. Furthermore, I think the comparison to running shoes is actually apt because just like electronics, there is an active campaign to make runners feel that if they don't buy the latest and greatest model this year, they must be as mentally challenged as they will be physically challenged. You see this with certain products for sure - cameras, yes. toaster ovens, no.

    I don't have a problem with the manufacturer's grabbing for my attention, but I pity the fool who becomes one when he or she can't be content to make his or her own purchase decisions without judging mine and insisting I'm just in denial. It's no wonder that we - as consumers-at-large - can so easily ignore the human cost of production when it suits us.

    Just thinking about iPads and tablets recently. I came to the conclusion that if I find a tablet with an excellent stylus and handwriting capture, then I can see using one a lot.



    @jordan gekko: "ignore the human cost of production"- that's something I am considering more and more, after listening to "This American Life" radio program; to think men and women are cripples by age 30 over the constant, exacting labor, and that some are committing suicide over the working conditions; "suicide-free" phones, computers and tablets would be a cynical, but apt joke; what a world - Dean

    The last Apple product I purchased was way back in 1987: the Apple IIGS (no, it was *not* a Mac, it was the final evolutionary step of the Apple II computer, the machine that started the company. Or at least as far as Apple would allow it to evolve before stomping it out). IMHO, it was last cool device that came out of Apple that had adventure, fun and soul.

    At any rate, I agree with Jammer. The iPad has no real purpose, it's just an expensive gimmicky toy. I had one on loan for an entire summer and didn't think all that much of it, nor was I sad to return it. I'll admit I enjoy using a smartphone in bed to read websites, e-mail or watch videos, but the iPad is too large and heavy for that. And once the novelty factor wore off, there was little reason to even turn it on and use over my laptop or desktop PC.

    Honestly, I only found two useful purposes for the iPad. 1) Reading a scanned copy of a magazine in PDF format that I found online. 2) Using as a toy for my cat (she likes fish pond app!).

    Of course I quickly discovered I can save $500 by reading a actual physical paper magazine and a piece of string for the cat. :)

    My case: after using an eBook reader for half a year (and enjoying it a lot), I tentatively bought the cheapest iPad (WIFI-only, 16 GB).

    I use it daily, for both consumption and production. Its portability, true instant-on (both device and apps-wise) and battery life are gold to me. I pingpong documents I'm writing between my desktop computer (two monitor setup) and the iPad, I stream multiple formats of movies from my tower to the tablet, I VNC-control my desktop from it, etc. There's no better PDF viewer. I consider the lowish price of this lowest iPad model money well spent. The new models' most tempting features: its high dpi screen and the FullHD-capable camera, given the enormous viewfinder that screen provides. Most apps I use are freeware or 'light' versions: at most I've spent $20 in a few fully-featured apps.

    And I assure you I'm no Apple fanboi but the most vocal 'the grass is always greener' borderline troll at the usual Mac forums there is. Lots of things to complain about. Even so, tablets are the kind of thing I've been wanting since I saw a Palm Pilot and started wondering what they were waiting for to release the DIN A5-size version. The iPad delivers in enough fronts to fulfill that.

    Yeah I hear you, my husband has the IPad2 and actually gave me his old IPad about 6 months ago or so and I still haven't bothered to set it up for myself yet. The few times a year I want to use it for something, I just grab his. If I ever get into ereading (I am an avid book reader, but still haven't made the plunge into ereading yet), I will get it set up, but until then when I want to carry an online recipe into the kitchen without quickly jotting it down or show my toddler pictures of puppies where she can't reach my keyboard and mouse, I'll just keep using his IPad. Oh, I guess I did use it to watch some Netflix TV episodes on maternity leave too, a portable mini-TV was useful with an infant in tow.

    My husband uses his all the time. It has taken the place of his phone/laptop for consumption at home and he occasionally uses it to chat in IRC or post on forums too. And the occasional game, photo and recipe too.

    I also have talked to many people who use them for work, but I just don't get it. I can write much faster on a piece of paper, even if I have to type it up later. The screen is much larger for consumption purposes than a phone, but again for work, why not a laptop? I guess if you need it to be more easily portable than a laptop. I dunno, I can see it for a small group of folks, but most of the people I run into using it for work I just think a laptop, desktop or smartphone would serve just as well.

    I do still love the geek effect of them, but I am still amazed at some of the people that buy them.

    There's only one part of this I don't really agree with.

    "Can’t we be happy and patient with the awesome technology we already have for at least a couple years before moving on to the next-generation device to replace it with?"

    If theres one thing I definitely like about Apples business model, it's that they push out new products nearly every year on the dot. This helps to keep other companies on their toes and constantly improving their own products. Competition is an awesome thing and with new products every year, the technology never stops moving forward.

    For example, the new iPad's display. You question why Apple chose to move to such a high resolution when current content doesn't exceed 1920x1080. There are a few very logical reasons for the resolution they chose.

    1. They doubled the amount of pixels in length and width over the old iPad (1024x768 vs 2048x1536). This allowed apps to scale properly and the device could keep the same basic shape and design.

    2. The new resolution allowed them to set the standard for future devices from other companies. Remember when the iPhone 4 came out with its absurdly high pixel density? Now pretty much every new phone has a high res display because Apple set the standard for other companies to follow.

    3. 1920x1080 may be the standard HiDef content resolution right now but that's only because there are few devices out there that can support a resolution higher than that. Because of number 2 above, the market will be flooded with super high resolution displays in a few years and content can move on to the next new HiDef standard more easily.

    Wow that was really unfocused.... oh well. Hopefully you see my point.

    1920x1080 isn't the limit right now just because of the lack of higher-pixel displays, and I don't think HD displays will move on to the next level simply because Apple is creating displays with more pixels.

    HD content is a standard that relies on a lot of things, but probably most importantly the fact that it's possible to transmit that level of detail over existing bandwidth. I don't see that standard being replaced in the near future with anything higher, especially considering that most cable companies already have to significantly compress the existing HD content so much as to introduce very noticeable artifacts into the images.

    If you had a 1920x1080 image that truly took advantage of the full resolution with minimal artifacts, HD would look amazingly better than it currently does. (Blu-ray probably offers the best quality images with the fewest artifacts at present, and that's because of the higher bitrates, i.e. amounts of data.) But the bandwidth cannot carry the signal without significant compression as it is. Have you ever gotten really close to an HDTV and seen how many artifacts there are in a moving image? That's because of compression, and having higher-resolution displays alone will not solve that.


    Interesting. I don't have cable/satellite. I rely completely on the internet and my computers for entertainment so I can see how my point of view differs from most.

    I don't have an HDTV so I'm not sure about the artifacts that you're talking about. I do however have 3 21.5" 1920x1080 monitors and a Blu-Ray drive in my computer so I have quite a lot of HD content. I rip the discs and don't bother with much compression (2 hr movie is around 20GB) so the quality I'm used to may be higher than what people get from the cable companies.

    Frankly I've never understood the draw towards a 60" 1080p TV when I can have a 21.5" 1080p monitor, sit 2 feet away from it, and get the same effect. Maybe I'm just a bit strange.

    Anyways, Apple may not have an effect on what sort of resolution our HD content is, but you can't deny that they are certainly pushing the boundaries and setting new standards with their yearly new product release cycle.

    I think I can go some way towards answering your question with a few iPad usage examples I've encountered:

    - a friend of mine bought an iPad for her elderly mother, who previously had never shown any interest in using a computer. She now sits with the iPad on her lap, surfs the net, reads news, looks things up on it while she's watching TV etc... the intuitive touch interface makes the iPad accessible to her in a way that PCs or laptops never were. The entrance barriers are much lower - no need to learn to use a mouse, keyboard or any controls, or learn how to navigate an unintuitive OS. More than anything, its compact size is a big advantage.
    - a lot of families in the UK are essentially buying them as toys. Gone are the days when dads gave their kids the iPhone to play with - the iPad is much more suited to gaming for young children as it's larger and you can't accidentally call people on it :P. Parents download games and apps for their kids to play with.
    - at a trade show I was at recently, promotions and market research staff were using iPads to interact with visitors. I was repeatedly approached by sprightly young people brandishing iPads and asked to fill in multiple-choice surveys or tap in my details on the screen to enter a competition. The device's mobility is a major benefit in applications like this. At the same trade fair, some companies were also using rows of stationary PCs with conventional keyboards for the same purpose (market research and competitions). As these were fixed in one place and the promotions staff therefore couldn't wander round the trade show and accost people but were tied to a particular spot, I suspect they were less successful.
    - People with disposable income buy Apple products as toys and status symbols, not for proper computing or creating content.
    - My parents have a modern Windows 7 PC at home, upstairs. My mother can use a PC relatively well and does so a few times a week to read and write mails, read news, catch up with TV and radio shows, print photos, scan in and send documents etc. My dad is a lot less computer savvy and has always had problems using a PC. He largely stays away from it apart from to use the internet sometimes, which he can manage. At the same time, he's a prolific reader and often sits with a physical encyclopaedia on his lap while watching history shows on TV. As I live far away, and as he's bored and understimulated since retiring and has early signs of cognitive decline, I've been considering getting him an iPad - so I can Skype with my parents directly into their living room, so I can play Scrabble (for example) with my dad, so my parents could use it to catch up on radio and TV shows without having to use the upstairs computer, and so my dad could use it in the way he currently uses reference books.
    - a translation client of mine develops IT solutions for the banking industry. One of their big innovations at the moment is an iPad app for interactive investment consulting, that bank staff can use to explain investment options to wealthy customers. Using the touchscreen interface, both the bank employee and the customer can select and deselect investment options during the session, so it's a real two-way process and the customer feels much more involved and in control of what they're doing with their money. It's far better than them both squatting in front of a PC handing the keyboard back and forth to each other, or the customer simply sitting there while the bank employee taps options into a computer then simply hands the customer a printed summary at the end of the session.

    Despite these applications, for my own purposes I completely agree with you, Jammer. They're extortionate toys with a number of downfalls (no USB, no Flash, everything runs through iTunes, everything locked down and under Apple's control etc. etc.) so I definitely won't be getting one for myself. I just don't need it.

    It's odd how Apple are so intent of updating the iPad so often, and yet I'm a frustrated music fan who has to make do with a three-year-old iPod because there is nothing else on the market.

    I own a vast library of CDs which will simply not fit on the largest currently-available iPod (160Gb). This same model has been the most high-end iPod for three years now, with no upgrade or replacement in sight.

    A number of my friends are in similar positions - we have simply too much music to fit on one single iPod.

    Rather than releasing new iPads every could of years, why not wheel out a 500Gb or 1Tb iPod for those of us who would appreciate the extra storage!

    Rant over.

    It might not make that much of an impact now, but it's efefct will increase, as Apple adds on to it. The iPad is currently getting a lot of criticism, but Apple's stock will still probably increase. It might not have too much of an efefct now, but like the iPod Touch, it will probably create a strong impact. I wouldn't be surprised if celebrities sponsor it. After all, Stephen Colbert endorsed it at the Grammy's, even before it was released. Apple's products are always pretty reliable in terms of sales, but if this essay is due after the iPad comes out, then I would recommend waiting. If not, check blogs (on both sides), the media, and other sources. Good Luck

    As a happy owner of gen 1 iPad I can say that when you own one you find yourself using it more often than you might imagine. Obviously I can't speak for everyone, but for me that has been the case.

    For the record, I also own a very nice PC with a large monitor. My iPad, obviously, does not replace this device. I do not own a cell phone or laptop, which I think is probably a part of why I get so much use out of my iPad. In fact, having used both, I far prefer my iPad over either a laptop or a cellphone.

    The quick snappy interface and robust (cheap) software availability make it a better option, IMO, than a laptop. The interface, with it's bold simple design, is simply more logically suited to on-the-go computing. And the ability to quickly find and download whatever software I need is nice. I got a great, simple, writing app for .99 cents. Paired with a keyboard, there's really no great advantage to a laptop.

    As far as smart phones go, the screen size makes a huge difference. My fingers don't get in the way on the iPad, which they pretty much constantly do when I use an iPhone or other smart phone. In fact, all that extra screen makes everything better from videos, to games, to books.

    There's a lot more I do with the thing than I've even touched on here, but I guess my main point would be that, yes, if you think about the iPad as being the same as your home computer you probably will find it lacking. But it ISN'T a home computer. It's something I always have on me in a small messenger bag. I bring it with me to work. I bring it on vacation. I use it on the bus. I've even used it while hiking. These are things I couldn't do with my beautiful tower PC, nor would I want to.

    You don't need it. That's cool, but don't discount that it CAN be a very useful device.

    Jammer, I'm surprised you don't appreciate the iPad more, since it's the realization of TNG technology! A smartphone indeed accomplishes pretty much everything one needs for mobile computing (I use my iPhone heavily). But the iPad offers the same thing with a larger screen, and therefore allows the user to interact with content more easily. And combined with my Mac and my iPhone, I have a very effective work environment:

    For example, today I was using my Mac for a full-screen, processing-heavy graphic design application, while playing "All Good Things..." via Netflix on my iPad (therefore not slowing down my Mac from performing the bigger job), and I had your review of "All Good Things..." open on my iPhone. Although I could also have played AGT on my iPhone if I didn't have an iPad, the iPad's screen is much larger and has excellent quality. Then I went to work out in my weight room and brought the iPad with me, never needing to pause the episode. Even though different exercises require me on the floor or on my feet in different positions in the room, I simply prop up the iPad or lie it flat on the ground as needed, conforming the entertainment experience spontaneously to my ideal physical training environment, rather than centering that environment around a TV screen or even a laptop.

    Also, as a pilot, my iPad mini is an indispensable tool for flight. It saves about 20 pounds of manuals, charts, and publications that I need to be able to access in the cockpit.

    I should mention that I felt exactly the same as you feel about the apparent needlessness of an iPad in 2012 as well; it was shortly thereafter I wanted it for flying, and then found it was incredibly useful for other spontaneous situations like I mentioned above. But I am one of those people who has gone full-Apple, and it has been liberating rather than restrictive.

    I think the long-run will see all these pieces of technology blending together more and more seamlessly, along with cloud computing awesomeness just like we see in TNG.

    I use my iPad all the time. It is far more convenient than a PC, and much more portable than a laptop. It takes about 4/5 hours to recharge, but that is easily dealt with. And it allows a great variety of apps, for everything from hands-free of Google, to reading dozens of books, to watching films. Its limitations are mostly those of PCs, which is not much of a privation. I am writing this on my iPad, having earlier taken photographs with it, as well as gone to this weblog . I am neither a techie, nor an Apple groupie. I like my iPad because it is very convenient, light, sturdy, and long-lasting. It can withstand being walked on by my cat. And the screen is easier to keep clean than that of a PC or laptop.

    The previous poster has said everything else that need be said.

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