Jan 10

iPad: critiquing the critics

Every time a new Apple product comes out, the experts share their opinions. But who reviews the reviewers? Well, that sounds like a fun job…

Erica Ogg (CNET): “… the quintessential Apple device …”
Nice, Erica. I buy that. If you look at everything Apple’s done in the last few years, you can easily say “it all led to this.”

Donald Bell (CNET) (Editor’s Take): “… a bit of a misfit… fortunately I like misfits… I’m a fan of disruptive technology… it is going to change the way we think about mobile technology beyond the smartphone.”
Disruptive is the key word. iPod and iPhone were disruptive. While some will be sniping over iPad’s missing features, disruption will be happening all around them.

David Pogue (NY Times): (paraphrased) Phase 1: Apple rolls out product. Phase 2: basher-bloggers scream about its many limitations. Phase 3: positive reviews, people line up to buy it, basher-bloggers disappear.
We like you, David. You don’t take yourself too seriously, and you see the folly all around us. You’re a smart guy, though not the best singer.

Walt Mossberg (Wall Street Journal): “It’s about the software, stupid. … public acceptance… depends heavily upon the software and services that flow through its handsome little body.”
A little creepy there at the end, Walt, but the sentiment is correct. Also, congratulations for scoring an invite to the event even after that tawdry little piece you wrote about Windows 7 being as good as Mac OS X.

Michael Hiltzik (LA Times): “After months of hype, the reality was underwhelming… Hard to see it as anything other than a threat to Kindle; depending on how it is exploited, eventually it could be more.”
Hmm, I’m a little underwhelmed by your ability to imagine. Somehow I think Apple may have a plan for “exploiting” this thing. Since you mentioned it, I’m also now wondering if iPad really is a threat to Kindle. Kindle might have a shot at life as your basic e-reader — if they cut the price to a fraction of what it is today.

Adam Frucci (Gizmodo): “My God, am I underwhelmed by it… absolutely backbreaking failures that will make buying one the last thing I would want to do.”
My goodness, Adam. You sound like a very confident man. By the way, what you would want to do — fascinating as that might be — really isn’t the story here. It’s what a few million other people want to do that has resulted in iPad.

Mark Wilson (Gizmodo): “Substantial but surprisingly light. Easy to grip. Beautiful. Rigid. Starkly designed … touch responds like a dream.”
Mark, would you mind having a word with Adam? You guys work in the same office?

Nicholas Deleon (special to CNN): “Will size matter? … We’ve adjusted [to iPhone’s size] and there are no signs that people are tiring of it. … iPad… couldn’t possibly be considered portable… a 10-inch behemoth.”
Dear God, man. Do you carry your own coffee? In one hand?? It’s an eight-ounce monstrosity!

Claudine Beaumont (Telegraph UK): “…  had hoped to hear more about how iPad could be used to read magazines…  potential to be a game-changing device, but it will be the second- and third-generation versions that will really drive the agenda.”
I hear ya, Claudine. Had that same hope for the magazine thing myself.
Revolution temporarily on hold.

Michael Miller (PC Magazine): “Given the hype… the most surprising thing is that Apple was still able to have some pretty big surprises… the pricing was much more aggressive than I thought it would be… felt faster and more responsive… applications aimed at creating content.”
The content-creation part of iPad hasn’t nearly gotten as much air play after the intro. But I agree, Michael. What people do with iPad — a computer with no visible OS — may surprise many.

Josh Topolsky (Engadget): “… was fairly underwhelming… unimaginative might be more accurate… will really come into its own when developers get their hands on it…”
Correct, Josh. And
on the third Sunday of next January, the sun will rise in the west. Developers did have a wee bit to do with iPhone’s runaway success. And as we saw at intro, iPad gives developers a far richer place to let their imaginations run wild.

Hiawatha Bray (Boston Globe): “Not a world-changer, but not bad.”
I’m disappointed, Hiawatha. Have you gone soft? I was kind of hoping for something more definitive, like your first take on iMac in 1998: “The iMac will only sell to some of the true believers… doesn’t include a floppy disk drive drive… an astonishing lapse from Jobs, who should have learned better… the iMac is clean, elegant, floppy-free — and doomed.” Not that I hold a grudge…

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  • Haha, the contrast between Gizmodo is pretty entertaining, some awkward silences in that office eh?

    I wrote a review on my blog of why I jumped to conclusions and what I realized after looking a little deeper, would be honored if you’d take a look Ken :)


  • Chris

    To say the launch was anything but disappointing would be wrong. It jsut didn’t live up to the hype. Of course, in a year or so, all will be forgiven and we’ll all be wondering how we lived without it all these years.

  • Jim Pyle

    What I’ve not heard anyone mention is vertical applications. The iPhone and the Touch are already used for this by the U.S. Army, health care, retail, etc. The iPad with it’s larger screen and faster processor are a natural for tons of these applications.

  • David

    After experiencing two great product launches, I think we have been conditioned to wait for the 2nd and 3rd gen models. I know I’m waiting.

    I don’t want to be stuck with a 10″ iPad, when in 8 months, Apple comes out with a 12″ version WITH a front-facing camera, and a 20 hour battery.

  • Kesey

    @David — you’re never stuck. That’s what ebay and craigslist are for. “Rent” the first generation iPad and dump it on when the time’s right.

  • D W

    I have read your blog for the last couple of months and I have found it interesting and insightful but over the last couple of weeks, I have seen a trend, according to you Apple can do no wrong. …..And believe it or not, Windows 7 is an excellent OS and levels the playing field with Mac OS x

  • ken segall

    I’ve never pretended to be totally objective. Clearly I favor the Apple way of thinking. At the same time, I wouldn’t say I’ve been on an Apple-can-do-no-wrong kick for the last few weeks. Just hours after the iPad launch I posted an article to express my disappointment that the “revolution in publishing” was not part of the show. I thought this omission seriously hurt them. I have another critical one brewing for next week on a related iPad topic.

    I have no personal experience with Windows 7. From most accounts I’ve read, it’s vastly better than Vista, but still no Mac OS X. I don’t bash Windows 7, just the marketing of Windows 7. And remember, from my point of view (I’m an advertising guy, not sure about your background), the difference between Microsoft and Apple is utterly astounding. The creative development process within each company is the reason why the results are so different. Most everyone in advertising would jump at the chance to work on Apple — only the extraordinarily bold or the eternally hopeful seem to get involved with Microsoft.

  • Jimi

    Slightly off the topic….

    The most interesting part of the keynote address for me was that Steve Jobs got up and announced how much money Apple are making for 10 minutes and then tried and convince us that Apple wasn’t all about money… Really, the iPad is little to do with being awesome technology and much more to do with trying to create a new product space, and a new market, with new revenue streams…

    This is what every large company does, whether it be a conscious decision or not, because the share market only respects growth. Nothing else. If your company doesn’t have the potential to grow, then the market couldn’t care less about it.

    Where Apple has been very clever so far is in their ability to change the game on their competitors. They did this in the music market, and the phone market. This is also where the term disruptive technology comes into play. Disruptive technology is a short hand for saying that someone just pulled the rug out from under it’s competitors by changing people definition of what something is. This is how the iPhone killed the mobile phone market, a mobile phone wasn’t a phone anymore unless you could browse the internet (etc…) on it… So it didn’t matter how good Nokia’s phones were, or how crystal clear their voice quality was or what features they had, if it didn’t have the internet on it, it wasn’t a mobile phone anymore…

    So does the iPad have the capability to disrupt the book/newspaper market? Or even the eReader/netbook market?? We shall see…

    The lesson that Apple needs to be very careful about is controlling/directing it’s wild growth… This is where Steve Jobs has been almost the perfect tool for Apple. He offers unflinching direction, and the rest of the company follows suite. The problem will arise when Steve Jobs leaves apple. By that stage the company will be a behemoth, and the market will continue to scream for growth. The only problem then is growth without direction will either lead to Apple trying to put it’s fingers in too many pies, or it will stagnate and be overtaken by a smaller, more agile, disruptive competitor…

  • ken segall

    Agree completely about the game-changing/disruption thing. I do think the raw materials are there for Apple to do it again with iPad. We’re being led to a different way of thinking about computers, where we only need to do what comes naturally: point, drag, tap, and don’t even think about the OS. It isn’t for pros doing high-end work (yet) — but it sure is for a lot of people. Where Apple goes without Steve is a topic in itself…

  • maybe with version 2 or 3? when they fill it out abit more and it becomes the Max iPad?

  • Jimi

    Sorry, got off the topic there…. But i’ve got another one for you :)

    One of my favourite mock ups in the pre-announcement days was this one:


    This was awesome because it’s an OSX tablet, offering the user full computer functionality. This would be great, it offers the user full control to do anything on the tablet that they wanted with it… no restrictions. Technically it could be achieved as the macbook air is basically the same size…

    So why didn’t apple choose to release an appliance (purpose built computer) like the iPad, over a fully functional computer?? The only logical answer is that a fully functional tablet would cannibalize their existing laptop market, and Apple wouldn’t have as much control over how it’s used… More specifically what media can be played on it, and where that media comes from… mmmmmm sweet media distribution dollars…

    I don’t know, but the Apple kool-aid is starting to taste a bit sour…

  • ChuckO

    “We’re being led to a different way of thinking about computers, where we only need to do what comes naturally: point, drag, tap, and don’t even think about the OS. It isn’t for pros doing high-end work (yet) “-Ken


    They have great strategy over there at Apple. They have millions of phone users training in these new methods and now they are saying “why spend $6-700 on a netbook and e-reader. Get this super cool device instead for $500 (or 6 or 7 or 8 or 9).” And then they’ll have millions of more people learning the new way. Then we’ll see how they move these ideas back into the MacBook and Mac Pro world.

  • ChuckO

    Jimi, You aren’t getting it. Your really describing the Microsoft way of doing things. “We think tablets are the next big thing let’s port the pen computing API’s to Windows and sell a zillion of ’em”. Apple thinks about how it should be different (because it is different) then they start out small and see how things develop and then expand once they see how people are using the device.

    And as to the money question, well everybody likes money (or almost) but clearly Apple’s looking at the long term. If they wanted they could have simply released a Mac iNetbook and an iPhone Nano and a enough crapola to keep China busy for years to capitalize on their renewed hipness but they don’t.

  • ken segall

    I don’t think Apple was worried about cannibalizing other models. I think they have this vision of where computing is going, and this is a step along that road. As ChuckO points out, porting the Mac OS X to a new tablet form factor would be the Microsoft approach. Apple’s vision is a new way to use technology. If and when it starts to gain momentum, you can be sure Microsoft and the others will follow suit. A little deja vu?

  • Jimi

    Yep, Microsoft was following suite long before the iPad was announced:

    In late prototype stages apparently….

    Kind of looks cooler than the iTunes portal product that Apple made :D

    I’m sure you’ll all agree with that…. hehe

  • ken segall

    Interesting point about Microsoft. They seem to do pretty well with their “concept technologies” — like the Big Table thing and this Courier tablet — yet the actual products never materialize in any kind of mass-market form we can all use. Then again, even when Microsoft ventures into tablets, they can’t bring themselves to divest themselves of the past. They can’t resist putting a stylus in our hands.

  • “…like the Big Table thing and this Courier tablet — yet the actual products never materialize in any kind of mass-market form we can all use.”

    Big Table, called Surface:

    real world users: Harrahs Casinos, Hard Rock Café, Sheraton Hotels, Disney’s Tomorrowland, MSNBC … sounds like they’re in the mass market already … you just have to define your mass market sector…

    and with apps:

    http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/chris-dannen/techwatch/11-killer-apps-microsoft-surface-videos, some of them geared towards the medical profession and law enforcement already, apparently …

    the Courier having a stylus is a good thing in that it’s a natural extension of the way we use notepads, sketchpads, journals, so that’s pretty intuitive, no finger dancing, just draw & write …

    just being a fly in the ointment …

  • ken segall

    That was pretty much my point about Surface. I’m talking about the mass market, as in things that millions of people use. It’s very cool to watch, very cool to visit places that have it working, very cool to see it on TV and YouTube, but how many years has it been out there and still hasn’t found its way into products “for the rest of us”? I was actually a proponent of bringing Surface into the lobby of a certain unnamed, fledgling global ad agency because it is a new experience for people. I love the idea of it. But once again, Apple seems to scoop the others by putting it in a form that we can all use in our daily lives. Not that iPad is anywhere as sophisticated as Surface, but it’s a step in that direction. I’d still argue that Courier is a step forward with a foot stuck in the past, but even if it’s perfect — where are the products?

  • yeah, but saying that the Surface isn’t a good thing because it can’t penetrate the mass consumer market is like saying servers fail because i can’t have one in my attache case … different device, different purpose, success measured differently.

    as it’s out there and seen by millions of people, i feel that qualifies as a success, given its category as ‘not a consumer item’ but rather it’s extending the way we utilize technology everyday in various applications … oh wait, that’s what they said about the iPad … ;p

    so you don’t think that MS is taking the potential of the Surface and porting that over to the Courier? i think they’ve approached the problem from the other side: get the technology out there, let people see it in action and get warmed to it by using it at large venues they frequent, get revenue from big players like Disney and Sheraton and then release it in the wild in a consumer edition … seeing a device in the Apple store has an effect no doubt, so does having your kid play with one at Tomorrowland and rave about how cool it is and can he get one? has another and equally potent effect … just sayin’

    as for the products for Courier? we already have them: the web, streaming content, illustration and writing functions built in, music play back, Flash support … it’s already out there and all it needs to be good is the ability to utilize what’s already out there intuitively, after all, it’s not a full computer like the iPad is not, it just needs to allow us to do what we already do at home and in the office, on the road …

  • ChuckO

    I don’t know how great the tech behind the surface is. My understanding is there’s a camera involved in figuring out where your tapping. So I don’t think it works like the Apple stuff like a lot of people assume and therefore might not make sense on smaller, mobile devices.

    Microsoft does a lot of stuff. A lot of it isn’t very elegant.

  • ken segall

    I didn’t say Surface was a bad thing because it didn’t penetrate the mass market. I said it was a very cool thing that’s been out there for a long time, but has yet to find its way to the mass market. You might consider it a “success” for having shown up in these high-end uses, some with consumer visibility — but Microsoft hasn’t turned it into a household technology. Their marketing sense is kind of wacko. Courier is coming when? With iPad still 60 days out, maybe it will arrive around the same time. But if that were the case, and the “natural interface” is as big part of Microsoft’s vision as Ballmer says, why on earth wouldn’t they have made a big deal of it at CES? Say what you will about the technology, Apple runs circles around these guys when it comes to marketing.

  • i consider it a success for the simple reasons i mentioned in the first paragraph : different device for a different market with different results, sounded pretty simple to me … and judging by it’s uses to others as well … let’s apples to apples and oranges to oranges …

    and Ballmer might be the biggest problem with MS (they didn’t make a big deal of Surface either, to be fair), that’s a problem and yes, Apple runs rings around the competition in marketing, but marketing Edsels well don’t make them good cars, do it?

    can’t wait to see the spots for the Pad, though that’s more an interest in what Chiat will do, don’t remember any good marketing for Apple TV, or the Cube…