The WhyPad

2 comments January 28th, 2010at 11:41am Posted by Eli

Don’t get me wrong, I mostly like what I’ve seen of the iPad so far, I just have trouble identifying a reason why I would want one.

I have a PS2, but I got a PSP because I wanted a gaming platform (and media player) I could carry around in a pocket.  I have a laptop, but I got a Treo because I wanted internet access I could carry around in a pocket.  Then I decided that I really wanted a more format-agnostic media player, but I couldn’t rationalize adding yet another device to my portable ecosystem.  So I was tempted by the iPhone, but eventually ended up getting a Touch Pro2 because I wanted a physical keyboard and a high-resolution screen.

I also decided that I wanted a laptop that could fit in the side pocket of my semi-ubiquitous camera bag and go all day on a single battery charge, so I got an Eee 1005HA.  That would be the most likely candidate to be replaced by the iPad, but I just can’t figure out why I would want to pay $500 or more to replace it with something that’s roughly the same size and battery life but with fewer capabilities and no keyboard.  Maybe if the iPad were running Snow Leopard, but it’s not.  It’s running a scaled-up version of the non-multitasking iPhone OS, which gives me the same “Whyyyy?” reaction as when I see stories about netbooks running Android.  There’s just something kludgy about putting a mobile phone OS on something with a screen that big.

The only device that the iPad really seriously threatens is the Kindle DX and its plus-size brethren, which are the same size and price, but only do eBooks and some MP3s.  But I don’t think all that many people own or are looking to pay $500 for a ginormous eBook reader – they want something pocket or purse-sized, which the iPad is not.

This is not a shortcoming of the iPad itself, which I actually think is pretty cool, and probably the best possible implementation of the iPhone OS in a larger form-factor – it’s a shortcoming of the tablet computing genre as a whole, and the reason why it’s never caught on.  It’s not as capable as a netbook (especially now that the next generation has better screens, better HD video capabilities, better battery life and bigger hard drives) and not as portable as an iPhone.  It might carve out a niche as a prestige device, or as an eBook Reader/Media Player Plus, or as an art/graphic design tablet, but I just can’t see it catching fire, for the same reason that tablets have never caught fire.

I want to want the iPad, but it just doesn’t make a strong enough case for why I would want to pay $500 (or $830) to carry it around.

Entry Filed under: Technology


  • 1. Cujo359  |  January 29th, 2010 at 3:22 am

    It might have some utility as a travel computer for some people. Mostly, though, it looks like a really slick tablet PC, which you can turn into an instrument, a tool, or an appliance fairly easily.

    We’ll see. My needs aren’t everyone’s, and it would be mistake on my part to assume that because I don’t have a use for it no one else will find one.

  • 2. Interrobang  |  February 1st, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve got a friend who is a total Apple devotee (why?) who has been pissed since the 1990s that tablets never caught on, and I’ve been arguing with him for months about why I think tablets aren’t, in fact, all that and a bag of microchips. You’ve finally given me a coherent way of articulating my objections to the things — they’re too big to be genuinely grab-and-go, and too small and limited to be actually useful. I don’t really understand why you’d want something that was almost the size of a netbook but ran a cellphone’s OS.

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