Saturday, 17 April 2010

iPad or iBad?

The following is a brief digression from my usual subjects of choice (art, food and books) as I wander into Techno-Territory…

Since Apple announced that the much-anticipated worldwide release of the iPad, a new generation tablet computer, had been delayed by a month, there has been much speculation in the press as to the reasons why. Some naysayers have suggested that the release date was pushed back to give the company time to iron out teething problems which have been discovered since it’s US launch on April 3rd.

However, considering these teething problems are relatively minor (such as dodgy wifi connectivity in some areas, and the odd battery-going-dead-quickly issue), one is inclined to believe the official excuse (I mean, explanation). Apparently, demand has been so great in the US that the company is struggling to keep up with orders. Apple wants to clear the back-log in America, and get production running to full capacity, before subjecting itself to a tsunami of international orders.

All this sounds familiar. The “unprecedented” demand that greets every Apple product launch has become, in my opinion, something of a joke. Throughout the world, tech-heads and ordinary humans alike queued for days (and indeed nights) to get their hands on the iPhone when it was first released in 2007. The same has been true of various incarnations of the iPod since it first gained popularity in 2004. The public’s voracious appetite for iPods and iPhones was understandable – these products were genuinely breaking the mould; they were new design concepts that would revolutionize the way we listen to music, surf the net and access our digital photos.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the iPad. According to Apple, it fills the ‘gap’ between the iPhone and the netbook. Was there really a gap in the market to begin with? Various reviews have highlighted that you can surf the net with the iPad, but the absence of a keyboard and mouse makes the user yearn for the easy functionality of the netbook. You can watch movies and videos with the iPad, but you could do that with the iPhone. The size of the iPad makes it more difficult to carry around than either the iPhone or iPod. In short, it doesn’t offer any additional functionality; it is just a mish-mash of previous Apple products.

And so, how can we explain the huge demand for it? Why has the iPad emerged as the must-have gadget of 2010? Undoubtedly, Apple Inc have achieved cult status after successfully conquering (and dominating) the market for portable digital devices over the past decade. Could the iPad be merely riding on the coat-tails of previous Apple successes? Very possibly. Whether or not it becomes a successful product in its own right remains to be seen. But I, for one, will wait for the dust to settle before rushing out to part with my hard-earned cash - and I definitely won’t be camping out in Oxford Street next month!

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