Why I’m Not Buying An iPad This Weekend

I own Apple stock, but I’m not lining up at my local Apple store this weekend or waiting with bated breath for the UPS or FedX guy to show up at my door. Why not?

Shiny Is Not Enough
I don’t think I’ve ever bought a first generation Apple product. The novelty factor is insufficient motivation for me, and I don’t lust after “new” enough to bear the costs associated with a product that is barely out of the prototype stage. Some of those costs are real (ie, money), some of those costs are psychic (ie, frustration). Such is life with first gen products (software and hardware, but software these days is free when it’s dog food).

Balkanization
When (now)  Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web 20 years ago, he did so at least in part because of the lack of interoperability between hardware and software systems of the day. In 1996, he told Technology Review:

Anyone who slaps a ‘this page is best viewed with Browser X’ label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network.

The WWW and HTML/HTTP — along with the open source software movement (with generous doses of Apache) — helped topple those proprietary walled gardens. For computers.

With “smart” phones, however, the Balkanization battle was never fought. As a result, developers now create stand-alone applications to do a variety of things that are done by a browser on a computer. (We can talk about browsers, HTML and standards another day, but that lack of unity pales compared to this.) We don’t read the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal with a proprietary piece of software if we’re accessing that content on a computer, on the Web. But we are encouraged to do so on our iPhones and Blackberries because web interoperability never took hold in this space of highly varied hardware and software.

The iPad is more “computer” than “phone” — and yet Apple’s iPhone (and now iPad) application store is poised to become the primary way this new gadget interacts with web content. Balkanization, a process that increases development cost and complexity. I hope that I’m wrong.

Consumption Device
As I wrote in January, the iPad is a consumption device. I’m trying to reconcile my pragmatic understanding that most people “consume” (the 90-10 rule) with what feels like a device that coddles — that encourages consumption. The beauty and power of Web 2.0 technology is how easy we have made it to produce content. But this device seems dedicated to consuming content. I hope I’m wrong here, too.

Media Savior
It’s not, despite mainstream media fawning, hype and hope.

The current “news” business model — advertiser-driven due to the cost of accessing eyeballs and wallets — is broken. Disintermediated. Advertisers have alternative ways to reach those eyeballs and wallets, alternatives that began draining away revenue with the advent of television in the 1950s and escalated with direct mail. (We can talk, at a later date, about how Congressionally-mandated low rates contributed to this disruption.)

Moreover there are other forces at work. Major national account numbers are shrinking. For example, Macy’s cut its newspaper advertising in half between 2005 and 2008, in large part due to industry consolidation. (Macy’s parent, Federated Department Stores, bought one of its competitors for $11 billion.)

The WSJ’s irrational pricing plan for an iPad subscription demonstrates the depth of this desperation. It also reflects a focus on retaining monopolies through walled gardens. And walled gardens like these iPad applications impede information sharing — links from blogs, links on Twitter, links on Facebook walls — by disguising hyperlinks.

And news stories — or magazine articles — are not like songs. We don’t read them over and over and over again. Yes, we need to figure out a new business model. But those business models are extremely unlikely to come from incumbent organizations. That’s not how innovation works.

Do I think the iPad will be cool? Yep. Would I like to own one? Yep, if I can easily write and edit photos and such. I’m far less concerned about the lack of a video conferencing camera than I am about being able to easily create content. But for the time being, I’ll do without, a philosophical stand against consumerism with a dose of concern about consequences.

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7 thoughts on “Why I’m Not Buying An iPad This Weekend

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    kegill

    April 11, 2010 at 4:03pm

    Note: WSJ app does not allow highlight-copy …. and of course, no visible hyperlinks. It looks like the early days of the NYT, when they had a PDF of the paper’s front page as the home page.

  2. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    kegill

    April 4, 2010 at 6:31pm

    Hi, Jim — I agree that the iPad could be the device that accelerates the move to digital textbooks. And your point about 4G connectivity is spot on: will the 3G device be “upgradable” to 4G? (3G is SLOW, folks!)

  3. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Jim Satterfield

    April 4, 2010 at 5:33am

    You’re right about it being about consumption, not creation. I think that’s why it will be a suitable device when there is competition based on more open standards and the price has dropped like a rock, including how much 3G/4G access costs. This device or ones like it will be a real boon to students who have to lug around heavy loads of textbooks if the financial challenge it represents can be overcome.

  4. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    kegill

    April 3, 2010 at 8:58am

    Thanks, Peter! I don’t see how it can be a “serious” creation tool with a touchscreen keyboard. Even a large one. And while the iPhone’s “hold/drag/copy to clipboard” is better than no copy/paste, it’s slow and imprecise. Will “larger” lead to more precision? Maybe.

    Your examples in graph two illustrate the iPad primarily as a “consumption” device … even though what you’re describing is playback. Signing up isn’t content creation; neither is playing a game. :-)

    As much as I love Twitter (and I do love Twitter), it’s not serious content creation. Blogging (aka writing), photo editing, video editing, audio editing — those are content creation.

    And this is a first gen product. I’m 99.9% certain that the next generation will be better equipped to create content. After all, I didn’t say I would not /ever/ buy one! I’d love to exchange my netbook for an iPad, but I still have serious concerns about balkanization and that such purchases are an implicit endorsement. :-/

  5. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Peter Chee

    April 2, 2010 at 11:10pm

    Kathy,

    “I hope that you’re wrong here too” with regards to the iPad being a consumption only device. I hope that Walter Mossberg’s article in the WSJ is right where he calls the iPad Pages App a “serious content creation app”. I’d love to be able to use this create content faster.

    I’m seriously thinking about using the iPad in my business to tour people/prospects, let them see some video clips about the events that take place in the ts-community, play a few short video testimonials from happy members, let them sign up and pay through the iPad (a tsmember Inner Fence just ported their iPhone App Credit Card Terminal to the iPad).

    I can also see how this might help speed up my team’s interaction using social tools to connect with people. If my community manager had one she might be able to tweet out faster what’s she’s doing when she’s out at various events. I might be able to blog faster using something like this through both WordPress and Posterous. I also might post comments on your blog faster!

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304252704575155982711410678.html?mod=WSJ_hps_LEADNewsCollection

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