Monday, February 1, 2010

Second look at iPad weaknesses

Concerning Apple's iPad, my recent article entitled Latest creation [display] was inadvertently but grossly over-enthusiastic. Preoccupied by the amusing phenomenon of Steve Jobs presenting his latest Apple baby, I did not even attempt to say what I thought personally about this new device.

Well, having looked into this affair a little more closely, let me now say that I fear the iPad will be a total marketing flop. Why? For the simple reason that I can imagine few reasons why anybody would ever want to use such a gadget.

For a moment, I had imagined the iPad as a blown-up version of the iPhone. This, of course, was poor thinking on my part: I was forgetting that you can't make phone calls with an iPad. Located midway between an iPod touch (an iTunes reader and portable game player) and a full-blown computer such as a MacBook, the iPad might be thought of as combining the advantages of both. Well, I now believe that this is not in fact the case. In trying to be a little bit of a mobile device, and a little bit of a true computer, the iPad turns out to be neither!

A particular aspect of the iPad shocks me greatly. Like the iPhone, it won't display Flash websites. From that point of view, the iPad reminds me of a French novel entitled La disparition, written by Georges Perec [1936-1982], which doesn't contain a single instance of the letter "e", which is normally the most widely-occurring vowel in the French language. In the same way that I wouldn't rush to buy a gimmick novel that doesn't contain the letter "e", I wouldn't rush to purchase a gimmick Internet machine that doesn't offer Flash.

And why exactly is it so important for me (as for millions of other web-users throughout the world) to have a computer that can handle Flash? Let's start with this blog. Normally, in the right-hand column, there are various small banners pointing to my associated websites. Well, if your computer can't read Flash stuff, you simply won't see any of these links. Over the last few years, I've built a score of websites on all kinds of subjects ranging from my personal genealogy through to cultural stuff about the medieval hermit Bruno who's considered today as the founder of the Chartreux order of monks. Well, without Flash, you won't be able to examine the slightest element of all this work of mine. And a corollary of this antiquated state of affairs is that I wouldn't be able to use an iPad to modify anything whatsoever in my web creations. So, to my mind, the iPad gadget is strictly for exotic individuals with specialized computing needs such as Beefeaters in the Tower of London, Druids, Mormons, six-day bike-riders, Creationists and other yokels.

Having said this, I hasten to add that, if anybody were to send me an iPad as a gift, I would be immensely happy to receive it. I would pass it on immediately to the neighboring kids in Châtelus, on the other side of the Bourne, who love to play games. As for me, I'm too old for that. Besides, in all my life, I've never, at any moment, been an inveterate games-player. For me, there has always been only one big game, with fascinating and mysterious rules, called Life. Nothing to do with iLife.

POST-SCRIPTUM: Somebody extracted all the positive words and expressions employed by Steve Jobs and other Apple executives during the recent presentation of the iPad, and strung them all together in the following video:

It's hardly reassuring to find that a new product needs such excessive verbal icing sugar.

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