The Case(s) Against the iPad

By  |  Friday, April 2, 2010 at 10:08 am

Two smart people have written stirring pieces arguing against buying an iPad. And the fascinating thing is, the two arguments have almost nothing in common.

Over at Fast Company, Gina Trapani says you shouldn’t buy an iPad because they’re too pricey and aren’t fully baked yet. Hold off until they go more completely mainstream, she advises.

Meanwhile, Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow thinks you shouldn’t buy an iPad because they’re already too bland and commercial: He wants an iPad you can crack open and hack, and one without any DRM and the App Store’s limitations on what you can install on the gizmo.

And me? Well, I agree with points in both pieces without buying either argument. Like Trapani, I think lots of intelligent folks won’t even consider buying an iPad until the second-generation version comes along. (I said so in a piece I wrote for, and have never regretted holding off on the iPhone until the 3G model arrived.) And like Doctorow, I’m unhappy with both the idea of Apple being the only distributor of iPhone/iPad software and many, many things about how it’s performed in that role.

But here’s the thing: one-size fits all buying advice just doesn’t work. While Trapani’s bide-your-time approach is eminently sensible, is there any doubt that some people will ignore it, and be happy they did? I’ve owned pricey bleeding-edge gizmos which I deeply regretted having bought. But there are others I’d get all over again. (I had multiple MP3 players before the first iPod came alone, and while they were all deficient in multiple ways–my Rio PMP300 had a nasty habit of losing all its music if I jostled it the wrong way–I’m still glad that I got in on digital music early.)

As for Doctorow’s stance that nobody should buy an iPad because they’re locked down: I think you have to acknowledge the fact that the iPhone, for all its Apple-imposed restrictions, has been a far more amazing tapestry for creativity than any phone that preceded it. I’m still willing to believe that Android’s more unfettered approach will lead to wonderful things in the long run–but for the most part, you can’t prove it by the current state of the Android Market.

Should you buy an iPad? Maybe–it depends on a bunch of factors. But this much I know: Anybody who tells you no, you shouldn’t or yes, you should without knowing anything about you is giving you faulty advice…


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7 Comments For This Post

  1. joe c Says:

    I can see Cory’s points (but really, you KNOW the iPad is going to be cracked), but I can’t help but think Gina’s always had a bug up her butt with Apple’s portables. She didn’t like the iPhone when it came out and she doesn’t like the iPad, yet both are pretty obviously revolutionary if you ask me. Her “first-generation Apple products are for suckers” is a crock: technology is ALWAYS improving, and there’s always a better version coming at some point. Really, look what she says right away: “only lemmings with no self-control and excessive disposable income buy first generation Apple products…” Sounds to me she has more of a problem with the Apple fanboy stereotype than the device, and if so she needs to step back and reevaluate. I never regretted buying that first gen iPhone. And pointing to the pricing drop of the iPhone makes no sense: Apple tried a pricing scheme, it didn’t work, so they went to a lower one with a bigger cut from AT&T. The pricing on the first iPhone never had anyone going “wow, I can’t believe this price is this low” but the iPad has people saying it in droves since they expected to pay twice as much. She also implies that Apple learned nothing from the iPhone as far as pricing goes. Of course they did, and this reflects it.

    For what I’ve used a laptop for so far, the iPad does around 70-80% of that in a much more convenient form factor. I’ve already ordered mine, and I’m saving money by delaying my next laptop purchase from what I can see so far. Sounds win-win to me.

  2. ediedi Says:

    The thing is: you can’t really compare the iphone to the ipad. I for one remember being absolutely amazed by the iphone introduction. I was blown away, I wanted that thing so bad, even without the apps. And when I finally got the real thing, it did not disappoint, to the contrary. If I gave 10 to the iphone introduction on an amazement scale, the ipad would get 2-3. I just don’t understand the hype. Maybe it’s just me, but try to remember: how does your iphone launch reaction compare to what you feel now for the ipad?

  3. gargravarr Says:

    Gina’s an Apple hater – take it with a grain of salt. Cory won’t be happy until he can get everything in the world restriction-free. I wonder if he’d like me to take his novels and distribute them in an easily copied format. If he made no money from his efforts, would he be as keen?

  4. gary h Says:

    About Doctorow’s piece — what bothers me about it is his use of grotesque caricatures and strawman oversimplifications:

    – “Apple’s model customer is that same stupid stereotype of a technophobic, timid, scatterbrained mother”;

    – quoting Gibson’s description of “consumers”;

    – citing the purchase of an iPad as “a way of telling your offspring that even changing the batteries is something you have to leave to the professionals” (as if it’s the only purchase that could convey that message);

    – “everyone in journalism-land is looking for a daddy figure who’ll promise them that their audience will go back to paying for their stuff.”

    He’s got legitimate beefs and makes some good arguments, but the overall tone of the piece (sarcastic) makes me want to ignore him as a petulant jackass throwing a temper tantrum.

    [Hi, Harry! Long time since ANIMATO….]

  5. ex2bot Says:

    Doctoro does provide his books in unprotected text, I believe. But he’s always going to be militantly anti-drm. I’m not crazy about drm, but I have so much fun with Apple products that I’m not going to boycott them for that reason.

  6. gargravarr Says:

    ex2bot, you missed the point. Mr Doctorow may have the ability to support himself in other ways, thereby not relying on income from his novels, but I think objecting entirely to protection for such work is an insult to the authors whose sole income is their output for sale to the general public.

    In a perfect world, there would be no DRM because everyone would do the right thing. This is not a perfect world.

  7. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    > have never regretted holding off on the iPhone until
    > the 3G model arrived.

    Me, I never regretted getting my original iPhone 8GB in June 2007, using it for 2 years, selling it for $200, and buying an iPhone 3GS 32GB for $299 in June 2009. I adored my original iPhone. I still miss the aluminum back. The first year of iPhone was the most fun of all. Having a desktop class browser in my phone when that was completely novel was a trip!

    > I’m still glad that I got in on digital music early

    I did that, too, and was also glad. And got an original iPod also, and that was great. Going from storage for 1 CD over USB 1 to storage for hundreds of CD’s over FireWire as awesome.

    > I’m unhappy with both the idea of Apple being the only distributor
    > of iPhone/iPad software

    Except they’re not. The iPhone’s open app platform is HTML5, which is not just a new version of HTML, but actually a set of API’s for making applications on the Web, same as Cocoa is a set of API’s for making applications on Apple devices. HTML5 includes CSS and JavaScript and the DOM and local storage and offline operation and many other things that make it a real app platform. The apps are distributed on any Web server, and installed to local storage and the iPhone OS home screen by the user going to the URL of the app, and tapping “+” and choosing “Add to home screen,” where HTML5 apps live side-by-side with App Store apps, no involvement with Apple at all, no approvals at all, and even run when you’re offline, and with GPU accelerated graphics. The user can’t tell which are which from their home screen.

    You can argue that the HTML5 API is not as sophisticated as Cocoa, but that’s dirty pool. You don’t get to have your cake and eat it too. The HTML5 API is behind Cocoa in features *because* it’s open, *because* it was created by many organizations in collaboration, for any device in the world, not purpose-built by Apple for Apple devices only. However, we just saw Quake II ported to a development version of Chrome, so Web apps are making great progress. Cocoa is behind in other ways, for example in lack of choice of development tools and platforms. If you want all the benefits of openness, you have to take the downside also. Same is true in reverse: if you want the commercial aspect and C frameworks of App Store, you shut up and live with the rules of that game.

    But Apple is definitely not the only distributor of apps for iPhone. Any Web server can also be an app distributor, and enforce their own set of approvals. If you want to make a game where a little Cory Doctorow character chases a little Steve Jobs around a maze shouting “F**k Disney!” at him while smashing iPhones, you can do that in HTML5 and deploy to iPhone and iPad and iPod off your own server with no involvement from Apple at all. Apple cannot stop you. There is no method by which they can stop you. Your app will also run on every Mac, every Google Chrome, and every Firefox, and also IE9.

    So let’s be real, here. For many users, iPhone OS is the most open system they’ve ever run.