You can definitely call me an Apple fanboy: I’ve bought practically every device that Steve Jobs has made since 1985—when I got my first Macintosh. I own an Apple TV, several iPods, a Macbook Pro, a Macbook Air, an iMac, two iPhones, and two iPads (one was a gift). For various reasons, I need to use Microsoft Outlook and Windows, so I run these in a virtual machine on my Mac. But this fanboy is listing his iPads for sale on Craigslist. Why? Because they’ve become like the paperweights on his desk. I just don’t use them.
When the iPad was first announced, I predicted that it would be a game changer. I touted, to my Twitter followers, that grandma would soon be able to tell her cable company to take back its cable modem. She would no longer have to deal with the complexities of configuring Wi-Fi connections on her router. All she would need in order to surf the web and check email is the $15/month AT&T 3G service. Junior would soon be able to traverse new virtual worlds and learn world history while playing games on this slick new device. I also expected that I wouldn’t need to carry around my bulky laptop; instead I would have a device that provided almost the same features as my laptop, but had the elegance and simplicity of an iPhone. I really believed that this cool new device would solve the world’s technology problems and reduce the number of electronic gadgets I had to carry around.
I still think that Grandma and Junior should keep theirs, but it just doesn’t do its magic for me any longer. Here’s why:
First, I can’t easily load my Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents on the iPad or access the year or more of e-mails that I carry around on my 32 GB USB drive. The iPad has no USB port, and its means of transferring documents—through iTunes—is pathetic. Apple’s cloud strategy seems to be centered on iTunes. This is fine for buying movies and music, but not good for document management and retrieval. Yes, there are apps that provide a drop-box service. But I have thousands of research papers and other documents that I need to be able to search and retrieve; a drop box doesn’t provide what I need.
Second, Apple’s Microsoft Office-like products on the iPad are just cheap imitations. Apple’s Pages is a decent word processor, and Numbers is okay as a spreadsheet manager, but these don’t hold a candle to Microsoft Word and Excel. Moreover, I can’t use the excellent cloud-based word processing tools that Zoho offers, or the decent tools in Google docs. The iPad doesn’t recognize the rich-text format that these applications use, so it doesn’t display a keyboard when you try to type.
Third, I usually need to view different applications in multiple screens when I am writing. I want to have my web browser appear in a split screen next to my text editor, and I want to be able to jump between applications—just as I do on my Mac and in Windows. The multi-tasking in iOS 4 allows me to listen to music as I work, but doesn’t do much more for me.
Fourth, on many of the websites I visit, I can’t watch Flash presentations. I am tired of the blue legos telling me that Flash isn’t supported.
Last, I didn’t miss the camera that didn’t come with my iPad until I got my new iPhone, but now I can’t fathom why it isn’t there. Facetime, on the new iPhone, is a killer app. It changes the way you use your phone and the way you communicate with your friends and relatives. The iPad lets you make Skype calls over Wi-Fi, but there is no Facetime app—and that’s because there is no camera.
I know that the iPad’s book reader is awesome, and that the device can play some cool games. But these are things I also have on my Macbook Air—and there I have a full keyboard, larger screen, and multiple windows in case I want to take some notes. The iPad doesn’t replace my laptop, and it doesn’t replace my iPhone. So, for me, it’s neither here nor there; it’s simply an extra gadget that I need to carry around.
I am sure that the iPad 2 will have the camera and magnificent new features. And I will, without doubt, get in line and wait for hours with my fanboy comrades on the day it is released. So, Steve, have no fear. You still have a loyal fan. But until then you won’t see me carrying around an iPad or tweeting about how it is going to change the world. (And Steve, no worries about that iPhone antenna, I agree this issue is blown out of proportion.)
Editor’s note: Guest writer Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur turned academic. He is a Visiting Scholar at the School of Information at UC-Berkeley, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School and Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University. You can follow him on Twitter at @vwadhwa and find his research at www.wadhwa.com.