iDéjà Vu [Poll]

It’s hard to believe they could fit so many recycled ideas into something so unimpressive. “Magical and revolutionary”? Hardly.

Wyatt Anderson
Wyatt Anderson

If you’ve been following the news, you’ve heard about Apple’s latest product. The unfortunately named iPad has been called many things (most of them unprintable), and it’s beginning to look like the almighty Apple may finally have bitten off more than they can chew. The iPad has been the subject of gossip for more than a decade. Ever since the death in 1998 of Apple’s first attempt at a “tablet,” the PalmPilot-like Newton, Steve Jobs has been creating and scrapping plans for the device that was unofficially (and far more sensibly) known as the iSlate.

Fans have speculated on a wide range of possible features ranging from a forward-facing, MacBook-style camera for videoconferencing to a high-definition OLED screen, but with the iPad, Jobs has shown us that he’s unwilling to take a real risk. This may prove to be a smart move, though — the less effort they put into a product that’s destined to fail, the smaller the monetary hit.

What’s really sad about the iPad is that Apple doesn’t even seem to be trying anymore — there’s nothing new here. Jokes aside, the iPad really is nothing more than an oversized, unwieldy iTouch. I mean, except for Apple fanboys, who’s really going to buy this thing? Apple has the iPad aimed squarely at the space between two portable Web devices — the smartphone and the netbook — but I’m skeptical that there’s actually any market there. You could buy a netbook and an iTouch with the money spent on an iPad.

Apple also tries to pretend that the “business market” really exists, as if the iPad can achieve success by courting the rich folks who need to get their PowerPoints done on the way to Prague. A product like this can’t survive on the disposable income folks alone.

The reason the iPhone was such a success was its near-universal appeal (an app for everything) and a sizable dose of wow factor — wow that the iPad lacks three years later.

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Arguably one of the iPad’s biggest faults is the lack of support for Web standards — namely Flash and Java. Ten years ago, this might not have been a big deal, but this is 2010 — the Internet is built on Flash. Without Flash, there is no Hulu — no streaming video at all, really — and no free Internet games.

“But there’s an app for that,” you say. “Anything the iPad doesn’t have can be added by developers.” It’s not that simple. Apple has a history of removing competing products from their App Store citing the ambiguous “duplication of existing features.”

Last year, Google’s telephone service app, Google Voice, was rejected by Apple on those same grounds — an embarrassingly obvious attempt at stifling competition.

Even the Federal Communications Commission has seen the potential problem here and has stepped in to investigate “suspected anticompetitive behavior.” Thankfully, the FCC’s poking around seems to have forced Apple to open up a bit: SlingPlayer and Skype, apps previously limited to WiFi only, will finally be allowed to work over 3G. If I were an optimistic man, I’d take this as a sign that Apple may finally be opening up its platform, but because it took government intervention to get this far, well, surely you can understand my doubts.

With the iPad, Jobs is seemingly hoping to get a slice (or, as popular as Apple tends to be, the whole pie) of the burgeoning eBook reader market, which, until now, has been dominated by Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s nook.

The difference here is that both the nook and the Kindle have what’s called an e-ink screen instead of the iPad’s backlit LCD. The e-ink screen requires outside lighting, like a regular book, and is far less stressful on the eyes. Many people get headaches when trying to read for any length of time on an LCD screen flashing 60 times a second, myself included. Apple’s gambling their product’s success on people’s willingness to read entire books on an old-style backlit screen. It’s a big step backward for a company that has historically been about innovation.

But we all know how this works. They release a flashy and promising new gizmo, and before the buzz can even wear off, they’ve announced the next evolution of the product complete with all the features that were missing from the first generation. Look for the next-gen iPad to be announced around this time next year, complete with a price drop — remember when the iPhone was $600? It’s not even an original scam; early adopters in the tech world always get left behind. What I can’t believe is that people continue to fall prey to this scheme.

My advice? If you can’t imagine life without another iDevice, wait for the inevitable iPad Pro.