Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Might Be Wrong About: iPads

As the colon in the title suggests, this may be the first in a series of posts on topics about which I suspect my opinion is wrong. Or it may not.

I try to be open to changing my mind when better evidence or arguments come along. I think I'm the only one in the history of the Internet who ever ended an online debate by typing, "I hadn't thought about it like that, you're right."

On some topics, my opinion lies so far outside the mainstream that I think there's a fair chance it's incorrect. When I notice, I try to make a good-faith effort to figure out what I'm missing. Sometimes I come around, sometimes I don't. I've come around on the artist Marc Chagall: I never liked his work until I went out of my way to study it; I still wouldn't necessarily want it hanging on my wall but I do genuinely appreciate it now. On the other hand, I still haven't come around on guacamole: nearly everyone I know loves it and I don't. People tell me, "Oh, you just haven't tried mine!" so I always do, hoping that this time I'll crack the code, but it's all flavorless green phlegm to me. Still, I try it every time.

Today's inaugural "I Might Be Wrong About" topic is the iPad. People I know whose opinions I respect love them. Their iPads satisfy needs they didn't even know they had and changed their lives profoundly.

I don't get it.

I considered buying an iPad shortly after they came out, went down to the Apple store, got the sales pitch and demo, and stood there staring blankly. I couldn't imagine what I would ever use it for. Nothing it did was anything I'd ever want or need to do. After my wife Karen recently got an iPad 2 for her job, I eagerly sat down to play with a fresh attitude, poised to be persuaded. Five minutes later I was bored and done (and I spent half that time taking pictures of my cats).


I ask people who have iPads how they use them. They say, "Web browsing," "e-mail" and "apps." I do the first two while working at my computer all day; when I'm away from the computer, I don't want to do them anymore. That's my "don't do anything remotely computery" time. E-mail can wait a few hours. As for the apps, I dunno. I realize there are hundreds of thousands and I've test-driven maybe half a dozen, but they were not compelling toys and certainly not worth the $500 it'd cost to get started. In addition, I'm not very impressed with the iPad's vaunted design. It's not as intuitive as advertised. When I have to double-click the button and swoosh my finger to make something happen (but not swoosh too hard or something else will happen!), I think it'd just be polite to explain that.

I can read your mind: I'm a cranky fossil who just doesn't get it. Trust me, I sincerely want to. It's pointless to argue with me that I'm wrong, I admitted that in the post's title. My mind is as open as I can pry it, ready to be seduced. So far, the iPad hasn't even cast me a flirty glance from across the room.

But I might be wrong.


Sherwood Harrington said...

You're not.

S. Jobs said...

IPads have been proven to be very effective at chopping ingredients used to make guacamole. The razor thin profile and easily gripped edges make it more effective than a ginzu knife for thinly slicing onions, tomatoes and cilantro. Turning the IPad parallel to the cutting surface allows you to mash the avocado efficiently. And the constant diversions and time wasters available via the IPad ensure that you will be so distracted, you won't have to actually consume the guacamole you just laboriously constructed.

Mike said...

We had this discussion at my son's on Thanksgiving. A lot of the people there were tablet people, but they don't use computers for anything as complex as layout and design. There were three nurses there who like having their references in one searchable spot and whose input is medical data, which is mostly short and in drop-down menus. And tablets readily slip into the pocket of a lab coat.

Aside from whether a tablet would be able to load and run Photoshop and either Quark or InDesign simultaneously, the more specific and detailed work in design, and the volume of typing in the writing part of my work, would simply not work on a tablet.

That puts me in your position -- I'd only use the tablet for walking around when I wasn't working, and, if I really felt I needed that, a smart phone would probably do the job. And I don't feel I need that.

Jim O'Kane said...

Totally with you on this, Brian. My children are of the Apple Generation (28 & 22) but the Apple product line pretty much passed me by. I'm not a tablet person, and as Mike said, tablets don't seem well suited for typing. My son disputes this, saying that a keyboard taking up half the screen on an iPad is fine, but maybe I just can't stand the constant wiping of my oily fingerprints off the glossy surface of the tablet.

Apple has great visual design sensibility, but the products they design just don't have a practical intersection with my work habits.

Another thing: I may be the only remaining person on the North American continent without iTunes loaded on my machine. I'm sent daily reminders by Apple that my computer doesn't have iTunes installed, but I just don't want the fingers of Cupertino reaching into my /mp3 folder. Don't like the software interface, especially don't like the external indexing of my drive, and don't have any requirement for devices like iNanoPhonePadPod or whatever to sync with my home computer. Harrumph.

Brian Fies said...

Sherwood: Good to know!

S. Jobs: Brilliant. Thank you for taking a break from what must be a very hectic time for you to attempt to sell one more iPad. Sadly, the Guacamole App you describe does not suit my needs. However, if you've got a Talking To The Dead App, you've made a sale.

Mike: That's part of the quandary for me. The iPad seems too small to be useful for real writing or graphic art (in fact, I'm about to take delivery of a second large monitor so I can double my electronic workspace) but too big to usefully carry around. It'd make a lot of sense in a medical environment, though; I had a doctor who used to carry a heavy laptop from room to room to record notes and such, and by the end of the day her arm was beat. A teacher friend of mine replied on Facebook to describe a neat iPad project she'd done with her students. I can see how it would fit into a lot of lives. Just not mine.

Brian Fies said...

Jim: You and I are the same age and, I think, of similar temperament. I don't find the Apple Cult particularly interesting or seductive. However, I am an iPod/iTunes fan; THAT thing fills a need that the transistor radio, Walkman, casette player and portable CD player never could.

Sven said...

Hi Brian,

just some of the things I use my iPad for:

- reading the 120 RSS feeds I subscribed to in bed or on the couch instead on my main computer

- browsing my rightclick-save-as-picture folder, which sits on my dropbox, which I can access comfortably through an App

- a mobile skyping device, showing stuff to my sister (which lives on the other side of the world)

- get notified of emails, while I keep my main computer off

- read books and pdfs on the couch instead of at the desk

- look at reference images while drawing

- and of course browse the web for occasional research

It is of course debatable, whether that is worth $500.