Friday, January 29, 2010


Soapbox time, folks! This is a bit of a departure for me here on the ol' blog, but I wanted to get this off my chest. :) If you're not really interested in Apple computer stuff or technology in general, no prob. I'll keep blogging like usual, but I wanted to say a few things about the generally negative reaction to Apple's new iPad device.

Leading up to the announcement of the iPad, the internet was buzzing with all kinds of news, hype, leaked photos, and plenty of outright speculation and conjecture. But now that it's been officially announced and we've all seen the coverage, or better yet, watched the Keynote itself or at least some of the hands-on demos, many people have formed their own more-or-less informed opinions on Apple's "magic" new device. So far my own reaction is fairly positive, but I'll get to that in a minute.

First off, I need to address two issues that seem to be raising the most controversy in the popular media regarding the iPad, the first being its name. Within hours, nay, minutes, of Steve's announcement, teh internets were squawking about the name. "iPad" was a stupid name, and borderline inappropriate for casual conversations, so spake the masses. Why not something like iTablet? MacTablet? iSlate? Anything but iPad!

Oh, how quickly we forget the lessons from tech history. Let's step back a bit to 2006 when the Nintendo Wii was announced. Leading up to the official press announcement, the Wii had was bestowed with the codename "Revolution." It was clever, daring, and indicated a shift for Nintendo, a company traditionally seen as one that catered to families and children with colored consoles and kid-friendly games. But Wii? People liked the technology, but hated the name. It was met with well-nigh unprecedented ridicule and scorn throughout the internet and mainstream press, and many claimed the name of the console would lead to its demise. The worst part, though, was the onslaught of sophomoric jokes and halfhearted attempts at humor at the expense of the Wii. Even Matt Casamassina, one of IGN's most prolific Nintendo standard-bearers, said the Wii made him think of urine, and that was one of the kinder things that gaming pundits said of the console's name back when they first heard about it. It was like the entire gaming press took a giant leap back to junior high, making fun of the weird kid in class with a funny-sounding name.

Fast forward to 2010 and the Wii is doing just fine. In fact, it has consistently outsold its rivals, the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, every month since its launch. And the name? All concerns about it have faded into obscurity, and no one thinks twice anymore about Nintendo's once-oddly-named console. The same goes for all those kids we knew in seventh grade who had funny-sounding names. We grew up, and so did they, and hopefully we are now a little wiser and can get past the whole name thing.

My point? The same will happen with the iPad. Right now people are having a seventh-grade-level heyday with the name of the product. For people to malign Apple's latest creation simply because of its name is short-sighted and downright silly. If you have some real criticism to offer, then fine. But if all you bring to the table is a few jokes about its name, then please leave the discussion. And in the meantime, remember that the iPod was also maligned because of its name when it was first released, but people have moved on from that as well.

The second issue that needs some perspective is that of the iPad's capabilities--in short, what it actually does. And to get the needed perspective, let's take a brief trip back to 2001 and the introduction of another Apple gizmo, the iPod. Nowadays the little-mp3-player-that-could is not only ubiquitous, it has entirely changed the way we approach music. Remember making a mix CD for a trip? Remember buying an entire CD instead of picking and choosing songs at will for 99 cents each? Remember *not* having thousands of songs at your fingertips? But back in 2001, people hated the iPod. It was too limited, it didn't support enough music formats, it only worked on Macs, and on and on. Come to think of it, pundits also predicted the failure of another of Apple's devices that changed the world, the iPhone. Some even refused to give the iPhone a chance and branded it a failure long before it was even released. But Apple understands the concept of user experience better than any other technology company, and as time passed it was clear that despite the limitations of the iPod and iPhone, the devices sold like gangbusters because they were simple, easy to use, and actually did have plenty of features that people enjoyed.

With that in mind, would everyone who is currently criticizing the iPad who has actually used the device please raise your hands?


My point exactly. Very few people have seen the iPad in person, much less used it. And those who have used it are pretty darn positive about it. Sure there are legitimate gripes to be had: the lack of multitasking, the lack of a camera, no actual keyboard, no USB or other readily apparent connectivity features, limited battery life compared to the Kindle, no Flash support for the browser, and so on. But let's remember the iPod and iPhone and their laundry list of limitations for a second. But would anyone deny that these devices have not only been entirely successful, but single-handedly altered our perception of their entire respective device categories? No, I don't think so.

And so at the end of the day, I have to give Apple the benefit of the doubt on this one, simply because history demands it. Not every one of their products has been a success, and several were honest-to-goodness failures. But to dismiss the iPad because of what it can't do (rather than giving Apple credit for designing a device that actually does do quite a bit) or criticizing the product because of it's name doesn't really help the discussion at all.

Time will tell, and that's all I ask. Let's wait until the iPad is released before we start calling it a failure.

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