Why people need to shut up about the iPad

Blair Hanley Frank

For those of you who don’t know, Apple released a little trinket on Jan. 27, the iPad. Finally, after two years of rumors about an apple tablet circulating around the blogosphere like digital herpes, there has been a product announcement. Since the iPad is the Next Big Thing out of Cupertino (Apple’s home base) it’s hard for digital media types: myself included: to keep from wild speculation.

Unfortunately, things have gotten out of hand.

First, some details about the iPad special event held in San Francisco: It was an invitation-only event, with mostly media types invited. However, it was a small event, and not everyone who writes about tech was invited. I know I wasn’t. But articles about Apple products bring in big reader numbers, so every blogger worth his or her salt from here to Yakutsk is going to be writing a piece on it.

Therein lies the problem: How do you write a story about a product that has had two years of hype behind it when you haven’t even seen it? Furthermore, how do you maximize the potential readership bump that could come with an article about the iPad?

In some cases, the answer seems to be to write something stupid. In my expeditions around the Internet, I’ve run into a lot of complaints when it comes to the iPad. Some of them have merit but a lot of them are just a bunch of drivel from people who felt jilted when the iPad didn’t live up to all of their masturbatory fantasies. I’ve decided that it would be a good idea to break down the top three complaints I’ve seen (in no particular order).

1. No multitasking
Okay. Apparently, it’s a big deal for everyone to make sure that all of their personal computing devices can do 15 things at once, which is fine by me.

I appreciate the ability to write my column on my laptop while simultaneously checking my Twitter feed, chatting with people on Facebook and watching an episode of “Castle” as much as the next guy.  But that’s on my laptop, which is packing a 2.16 GHz, dual-core processor, as well as 4 GB of RAM. The iPad’s processor is a 1 GHz, single-core chip.

But, for all its power, my MacBook’s battery life tops out at about three hours of typical usage, if I’m lucky. For the iPad to make its 10-hour battery estimate, minimizing power usage is key. You can’t do that if you are running four apps at once. Having to keep track of all of the apps currently running would be a pain. Long story short: Multitasking makes way more problems than it solves.

2. No support for Adobe’s flash plug-in
I understand, Flash is used a lot on the web. I’m plenty guilty of wasting my time playing incredibly addicting little games that are powered by Flash. That said, I’ve had a lot of problems with Flash. Blogger and analyst John Welch put it very eloquently on his blog: “The problem is the plug-in crashing our browsers.” I spent two hours playing Flash games before writing this column. My browser crashed three times. Flash sucks up processing power like a turbocharged dust buster.

3. There’s no camera
Cameras are nice. As a photographer myself, I have an entire page of apps on my iPhone devoted to taking pictures with its camera. That said, I don’t see the use of a camera in the iPad, because it’s just too big. The iPad’s dimensions are well-suited for holding in your hands and reading, or typing on your lap. But holding something roughly that size up and trying to take a picture with it are just not what it was designed to do.

As someone who reviews products, I know that it takes substantial time to really get to know a new gadget, especially something as multifaceted as the iPad. Most of the analysis that comes out over the next few weeks before the iPad is actually released to the public (or most reviewers) is going to be powered by the wild speculation machine that is the blogosphere.

If you enjoy blowhards spouting assumptions and theories at one another, by all means, pay attention. They’ll love the traffic. Otherwise, just wait until March.