I haven’t yet had an iPad in my hands. But I don’t need to handle one to know that I won’t be needing one and that I don’t like it at all. It’s symptomatic of everything I don’t like about the ‘new’, consumer-centric Apple: as David Pogue points out in his excellent New York Times review, the device is ‘patently absurd’ from a tecchie’s point of view; and conversely, it’s a delight for non-tecchies. It’s quite possible that the market, which, if Apple’s share price is anything to go from, has been betting heavily on the device’s success, is right: there are far more non-tecchies out there than tecchies. And as Mr Pogue points out, the iPad is a very good device for consuming content, and an atrocious one for creating it.
Writing this blog post on an iPad, for instance, or even writing and sending a moderately long email, on a device that you have hold, with no mouse and no keyboard, promises to be a very unpleasant experience; drafting a web page using HTML or Python doesn’t even bear thinking about. When the keyboards for iPads become available, you’ll have to lug them along with the device, which makes the idea of using it for this type of activity patently absurd. Watching a movie on a large glass and aluminium state that snugly fits on your lap and has a battery time of about twelve hours, on the other hand, is likely to please far more people, even though watching movies or playing video games are activities in which I personally have zero interest.
The question now is whether Apple will desert the tecchie segment altogether. It’s obviously not the tecchies who contributed to building up that lovely forty billion dollar cash pile and the share price that goes with it. But Apple will ignore us at its peril. Tecchies are the trend-setters and the consumer will eventually suffer if those that create content for him have nowhere to go to.
Contrary to what pundits are now assuming, keyboards, the file system, laptops and Mac Pros (a segment that was still at the heart of Apple when I switched in 2003, but that it no longer communicates about at all) have not become useless overnight. What I’m impatient to handle and buy, even at a premium price, is something that the stock market isn’t at all interested in: a 1TB MacBook Air; in other words, a device that is light and easy to carry around; but on on which I can actually do something. Apple, get on with it.