The Techies Are Wrong about the iPad

Steve Jobs is right again. It's a computer for the rest of us.

Getty Images
Getty Images

When the Apple iPad was announced in late January, techies across the Web carped endlessly about what was wrong. It lacked a camera. It couldn’t do videoconferencing. The bezel around the edge of the screen was too big. It wouldn’t support Flash video. Worst of all, the Holodeck option wasn’t truly immersive 3-D with full-on hot tub time-travel functionality.

By contrast, if you watched Steve Jobs’ speech announcing the iPad, you might have noticed that, throughout his demo, he kept commenting on how the iPad “just works.” Other Apple execs swooned about how the iPad was “cool and easy to use” or, even, “magical.”

The geek-elite would have none of it. The tech blog Engagdet retorted “Magical? Really? Doesn’t seem that magical to us!” PCWorld complained “Apple’s iPad Just a Big iPod Touch.” 

I had my doubts, too. So, when Apple provided me with an iPad a week ago, I was curious to see which side was closer to the truth. After playing with the sleek tablet for much of the last week, I have no doubt that the techies were wrong and Steve Jobs was right. 

First, I bet that anyone who thinks that the iPad lacks a “wow factor,” will change his or her tune after playing with dazzling apps like “The Elements,” a new kind of interactive book that presents the periodic table with eye-popping photography and video. The iPad’s comfortable size, exceedingly sharp display and fast processor will be a powerful platform for reinventing traditional media like the book and interactive media like the Web in numerous and unimaginable ways. And the “wow factor” will only increase as innovators develop new apps to take full advantage of the iPad’s unique strengths.

Second, saying the iPad is just a big iPod Touch is like saying HD video is just TV with a bigger picture. While such a statement may be technically true, it misses the deeper fact that higher resolution experiences are often radically better than their lower-resolution cousins.  Watching a film on an iPhone is a pleasure when my only option is an inane in-flight movie but, given the choice, I’d much rather watch on the bigger, crisper screen like that on a laptop or iPad. I can skim a PDF on my iPod Touch but, for a 30-page document, I’d go mad without a larger display like that on a Kindle DX or the iPad. For sharing one or two digital photos, a mobile phone screen is good enough but, for slideshows with dozens of pictures, only an easy-to-use digital picture frame like Kodak’s PULSE or an iPad makes any sense. The iPad’s enhanced screen and processing power are not just incrementally better than the prior generations of iPods and iPhones, for many applications the iPad will offer a fundamentally different experience.