David Pogue Digs the iPad (with an Asterisk)

David Pogue, the wonderful blogger who tells technology like it is for the New York Times, has weighed iPad in the balance and found it not wanting.

He’s also weighed it on a scale and found it heavy compared to Kindle, 1.5 pounds vs. 10 ounces. But that is not a fatal factor in his evaluation.  In fact there are no fatal factors in his evaluation.  His biggest reservation is the fundamental concept of the iPad itself: why does the iPad exist? At first we were mystified by this enigmatic, existential question. But like a koan the answer came the next day.  More on that in a moment.

Pogue’s approach to appraising Apple’s tablet is divided in two: one column for geeks and one for shleppers.  We take umbrage at the distinction, because it doesn’t give much credit to a generation of lay users who are quite conversant with computer specs.  In fact this shlepper didn’t see anything so complex in Pogue’s “techie” section that could not be comprehended by an English major who did his Master’s thesis on Henry James.

Here are some highlights of Pogue’s analysis:

  • There’s an e-book reader app, but it’s not going to rescue the newspaper and book industries (sorry, media pundits). The selection is puny (60,000 titles for now). You can’t read well in direct sunlight. At 1.5 pounds, the iPad gets heavy in your hand after awhile (the Kindle is 10 ounces).
  • When the iPad is upright, typing on the on-screen keyboard is a horrible experience
  • Things open fast, scroll fast, load fast
  • The iPad can’t play Flash video…Thousands of Web sites show up with empty white squares on the iPad
  • There’s no multitasking…It’s one app at a time
  • The simple act of making the multitouch screen bigger changes the whole experience
  • A great AT&T cellular deal
  • 150,000 existing iPhone apps run on the iPad and 1000 specially designed for the iPad’s bigger screen

We said Pogue likes the iPad with an asterisk, but besides cavils like weight and glare, his specific reservations are so modest we won’t bother to reprint them here.  You can read them on Looking at the iPad From Two Angles

Pogue’s glowing bottom line is this: “The iPad is so fast and light, the multitouch screen so bright and responsive, the software so easy to navigate, that it really does qualify as a new category of gadget. Some have suggested that it might make a good goof-proof computer for technophobes, the aged and the young; they’re absolutely right.”

So – what does Pogue mean when he says the iPad is a hit except for the concept? The answer came in an article by Brad Stone and Claire Cain Miller published in the Times the next day. “Many consumers do not understand the device’s purpose, who would want to pay $500 or more for it and why anyone would need another gadget on top of a computer and smartphone. After all, phones are performing an ever-expanding range of functions, as Apple points out in its many iPhone commercials.” A banker commented that “I can do everything on my MacBook Pro, cellphone and BlackBerry. I don’t need any more devices. I already have six phone numbers and enough things to plug in at night.” A Silicon Valley entrepreneur was quoted as saying “But let’s see: you can’t make a phone call with it, you can’t take a picture with it, and you have to buy content that before now you were not willing to pay for.”

But that very same entrepreneur said “The first five million will be sold in a heartbeat.” Not very enigmatic or cosmic, but until something comes along to top the iPad, this would seem to be the last word.

Richard Curtis

Every Blogger owes a debt of gratitude to newspapers and magazines. This posting relies on original research and reporting performed by the New York Times.

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