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1/27/2010
08:21 PM
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Apple iPad Backlash Begins

The pre-release hype has given way to complaints about the device's supposed shortcomings.

Apple's iPad took years to design and build. Tearing it down has taken only a few hours.

That's perhaps to be expected when Apple CEO Steve Jobs uses terms like "magical" and "revolutionary" to describe his company's latest hardware. Contrarians aren't hard to find online.

Gadget site Gizmodo has compiled a short list of "absolutely backbreaking failures" for this "inessential product." These alleged failures include the name "iPad," the aesthetic failure of the iPad's bezel, its inability to run multiple applications at the same time, the absence of a camera, the multi-touch keyboard, lack of an HD video port, lack of support for Adobe Flash, and the need for adapters to connect cameras.

A lengthier thread on Reddit muses that the iPad is half of a great laptop. One wag laments, "All you're getting with the iPad is a neutered computer and you're saving a half pound of weight."

Such judgments may be fair if the point of comparison is a computer. The iPad is not a very good computer when compared to a MacBook or MacBook Pro.

The iPad is like living with your parents -- there's a lot you can't do, but there are undeniable advantages.

The iPad is a managed device. It comes with fresh supply of "No."

No, you can't run Flash. But you also don't have to worry about patching Flash every month or two.

No, you can't choose to use a Web browser other than Safari or install software not approved by Apple. You will not be blocking online ads or running browser plug-ins. But many citizens live in China, a country with strong laws governing content, and do so without angering the authorities. Visitors to Disneyland, for the most part, enjoy the regulated experience.

Likewise, there will be iPad users who just want to pay and play, unburdened by technological politics.

Let's not forget that the iPod touch and iPhone offer a very similar experience, albeit on a smaller scale, and have done so quite successfully.

For travel, both business and personal, there's a lot to be said for the lightness of the device. The iPad's limited local storage mitigates the chance of a data breach should the device be lost or stolen. Far better to have a $500 iPad disappear then a $3000 MacBook Pro filled with sensitive files.

For households with one or two computers that might need one or two more Web-capable devices for the kids, an iPad's limitations look a lot like strengths.

The iPad is a thin client, more or less, both literally and figuratively, and it has a place.

Rather than reflexively trashing the iPad, it would be more useful to consider how it will fare against a device with similar genre-busting aspirations: the Google Chrome OS netbook. These too will be less than full-fledged computers when they debut during the 2010 holiday season. They're likely to be far more open to customization, but perhaps not so much that they can't fit into a managed ecosystem.

Stay tuned.

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