If you have $500 to burn, feel free, but realize that you are a beta tester. That hasn't been talked about enough in the 24 hours since the announcement. This is Apple's MO. I know. I have a $400 first-gen iPhone in my pocket. It only took Apple two more generations of the iPhone to come out with what should have been the first product. I'm typing this on a 1,1 MacBook. Within months of buying this MacBook they threw the dual core processor's in that should have been there in the first place.As a long-time Apple user, (though one who's also got a soft-spot for Linux), I totally concur. Buying a first generation Apple product is always a dicey investment.
When iPad 2.0 comes out with it's video camera and multitasking, I'll have my tongue wagging to grab one. Until then I will be staying far, far away. I've learned my lesson with Apple's first-generation products.
But once their products set into the stride of second and third generations? Well... that's just a whole other kettle of fish. Which is why I think the big subtext to the Apple story from yesterday is next-gen iTunes going cloud-based and the coming 2010 iPhone.
My greatest interest in the iPad itself is what it means in terms of leading to a race to replace paper media with legitimately easy-to-read digital alternatives. That and the rather concerning notion of a single corporation (via iBooks) owning both the media and the device to read and buy the media. In a sense, the iPad experiment, like the iPod, is focused on the realignment of channels of distribution. If iPad wins, it will alter not just the few mom-and-pop bookstores left (they might actually become specialty shops for non-digitally-available media), but could shake up (or shake down) the Amazons, Borders, and B&Ns of the world.
As I said in yesterday's post (as well as in the comments), I see the potential of the iPad (or some similar device) as instigating a movement towards communal computing. That is, a device sitting on the coffee table at the dentist's office or a device I find lying on my pillow when I check into my hotel room. I don't own the device, but rather can use it to access the web and all my stuff.
From the looks of it, the iPad's absolute best use is reading text on the Web. That's been the bane of so many folks who insist on paper, so by combining touchscreens with a larger portable device, Apple can only up the ante for other companies to produce better alternatives to paper books. On this front, a part of me wonders if the first iPhones were just a test to see if folks would go for that sort of interface. Because familiarity with the iPhone has totally set up a swath of the culture now to be perfectly attuned to use the iPad.
Furthermore, I understand the frustrations folks are expressing: no Flash, no phone (barring Skype... maybe?), no multi-tasking, no camera, no audio/video production suite. But again, this is just the beginning. I'm not saying that Apple will (or deserves to) rule the media landscape, but I see this as one of several steps -- throughout culture and across media and consumer outlets -- in taking the act of reading to a paperless place.
As for all of those folks on the tech blogs, (and especially in the comments, jeez... I'm so glad we have 'mature' readers commenting on this blog -- kudos to you), there's been a lot of complaint that this thing is just gonna sell on sex appeal. Well, guess what?
It matters to adults and kids alike. And I think where Apple is getting this right -- no matter what you think of the price (which I personally actually think is pretty reasonable despite the fact that I can't currently afford one... ehem!) and no matter what limitations the device provides for content creation in opposition to content consumption (though we are ultimately the producers of the Internet and we really don't have to rely on Apple's apps and way of doing things with their device just because they want us to) and despite all of the various problems and threats this device holds, it has one advantage over every device I've ever seen meant to provide for reading on the web: it makes you want to use it.
And if we can figure out a way to get these things into the hands of kids who don't like books (boring) and who don't like reading online (headache) we might be able to make the reading experience attractive. I understand that that may seem totally counter-intuitive to any of us who grew up curled around books. But I've got three kids of my own: two of them love books. The other? Not so much. But put him on a computer and he'll read anything. To us, counter-intuitive; to him, not so much.
You should have seen his eyes light up when he caught a glimpse of the web promo of this thing.
Now, what's it all mean?
First of all, the iPad is not -- nor do I think is it meant to be -- a do-everything device. At least in it's initial form, it's a really rad e-reader. And I mean that sincerely. I've read on the Kindle. The Kindle sucks. I feel like I'm stepping back in time when I read on the Kindle. And not in a good way. More like in a creepy way like when you see a movie you thought was funny as a kid and now, seeing it again by chance, you don't find any humor in it.
Second, I love the idea of everything going on the cloud. But I think right now is the time to demand an inclusive method of distribution so that small publishers, independent authors, and alt media outlets aren't excluded. I'll be impressed when I see Apple open up its system to authors regardless of saleability. And yes, I realize that's total idealism.
Third, any business with a waiting room should do us all a favor and buy a couple of these things. Cancel your magazine subscriptions and let us access our own stuff while sitting around waiting for the root canal.
Fourth, obviously Apple wants to make this thing as ubiquitous as possible. That's the reason for the $499 entry tag. That's also why this thing doesn't have the camera or the multi-tasking or the...
It's about creating a market. And I think it's an interesting experiment. That market is not schools (at least not yet), it's folks who can drop a few Franklins, like great design, and like to read. I know quite a few people like that.
Fifth, this thing ain't (as I've read so much over the last 24 hours) a big iPod Touch. This thing is an experiment in whether Apple can get people either to change the way they read or make the reading experience more pleasurable. And of course capitalize on that in big dollars.
Sixth, I think this whole thing represents something a lot bigger than Apple. I have no stake in the company, but as a teacher and a human-being I do have a stake in the future of the written/printed/digitized word. I recognize that the iPad can't do half the things I use a 'real' computer for (recording and mixing heavy-duty audio, playing video-heavy MMOGs), but I also recognize that that's not the purpose of the device. I'm interested in the outcome, despite whatever the product is; after all, the Google tablet is on the horizon (which may or may not be better for production) and who knows what personal projection and advances in augmented reality hold down the line.
So, I agree with Mr. G that this is basically a consumer device. Will the iPad and the iMac someday merge into a teacher-approved wonder device? Not today.
But will the iPad up the ante in e-readers and force any potential competitors to create devices that don't feel like they were built (and meant to work) in 1990? We'll see.
Hype or no hype, what we're considering here is whether we are going to let technology alter the way we relate to text. Hopefully in round two it'll be in a more interactive way. Can't wait.