Reaction to iPad is underwhelming

1 Feb

February 1, 2010

By Geoff Meeker

Apple launched its iPad tablet last week, after months of tech industry speculation and buzz.

There were rumours that iPad would redefine the portable computing market, make netbooks obsolete, and do serious harm to the Amazon Kindle.

However, within hours of its release, Twitterers were tittering – actually, laughing derisively – at the product’s name, which reminded them of sanitary napkins. It was nothing like the adoring coverage that followed Apple’s release of the iPhone. There were a lot of jokes, at Apple’s expense, along with a few positive comments in social media about how great it looks (I was one of them).

But then the technology reviewers began to delve a little deeper into the iPad’s features and specifications. And a different picture emerged. The iPad looks far less appealing to me now.

First the upsides, and they are minimal. There’s the high-resolution 9.7 inch LED screen, which is reportedly bright and crystal clear. There’s the brilliant, touch-sensitive user interface that was pioneered on the iPhone. The device is thin – just a half-inch – and light, at 1.5 lbs. It has built-in wireless Internet, able to lock onto any unsecured signal, and there will be a 3G option, enabling Internet access through cellular connections.

But that’s it. Unfortumately, there are more downsides than up. At the product launch, Apple’s Steve Jobs made a few digs at netbooks, those smaller-than-laptop computers that are the nearest competition for the iPad. Interesting comparison, since some critics are pointing out that netbooks have more functionality than the iPad – at a better price.

For starters, the iPad will not multitask. That is, you can only run one program at a time. Those accustomed, for example, to listening to iTunes while surfing will see this as a big leap backward.

There is no camera on the front, which means no video chat with friends – a feature that would have nicely complemented the portability of this device. And there is no camera on the back, so you cannot take shots and upload them whilst live-blogging.

There are no USB ports on the iPad, so you can’t connect an external drive, or other peripheral (though you can purchase a USB adaptor). Which means you can’t load software or burn copy songs from CD. Yes, you can connect to and download wirelessly from your computer, but still… no USB?

The iPad is a locked device, so you can’t upgrade the RAM or hard drive, and can’t replace the battery. Heck, you can’t even change the web browser.

Incidentally, the lowly netbook has – or can do – all of the things listed above. It may not look as cool as the iPad, and can’t run video as nicely, but the netbook has far more flexibility. And netbooks cost much less than the iPad. (The iPad starts at $500 and goes to $1000, depending on memory size and options, whereas you can buy a good netbook for $400.)

Oh, and the iPad runs on the iPhone operating system, not the full Mac OS X. That’s sad, really. Most netbooks run the full Windows 7 OS, which puts more computing power at your fingertips.

Despite all the hype about video quality, the iPad screen has a 4:3 aspect ratio – yeah, the obsolete one – not 16:9 widescreen. And there is no HDMI output for viewing your movies on a larger screen.

There was speculation that the iPad would be a ‘Kindle killer’; that its interface and screen quality would knock the Amazon product back to the bush leagues. Not at all. The iPad does have a reader, and it’s great for magazines, news pages, and other quick reads. But Apple did not deploy e-ink screen technology, which looks almost exactly like paper, is not backlit and consumes far less battery power. The iPad uses an LED backlit screen that sucks battery power and is likely to cause eyestrain after extended reading.

This is not the only bad review you will read of the iPad. There are dozens to be found on the Internet, all saying more or less the same thing. The majority of tech reviewers are underwhelmed by this product. You can be sure that the good folks at Apple are reading those reviews with great consternation, and are already into damage control, looking for ways to remedy these problems.

Bottom line: the iPad has a great screen and will be fun to use, but there are far too many shortcomings for anyone accustomed to – and thus expecting – the functionality of a netbook. My advice is, don’t buy the iPad for now – wait to see what changes Apple will make to future versions.

To read more about the iPad, visit or search for iPad review in any search engine.

Geoff Meeker is a communications consultant with a soft spot for technology. He also writes a blog about the local media scene, which is hosted at


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