Oh, look! Something shiny!
That’s my first reaction to the official Apple description of the iPad.
My sys admin sent me links to about six in-depth computer industry articles on the much-touted Apple e-reader yesterday, which—since I am just a tiny bit OCD—I read all of. By the time I was done, you bet I’d convinced myself it was the only e-reader out there. I couldn’t remember anything about the others, even their names.
But then I went back to the official Apple page and re-read it with a more jaundiced eye. And you know what I discovered? No matter what the thing actually does, what they have chosen to peddle in their marketing spiel is less than. . .what word am I searching for?. . .intelligent.
The VERY FIRST feature they laud is that it’s LIMITED. Huh? Yes. It is apparently now a virtue to only see one thing at a time. Which is odd, because that’s what I do anyway. But this is a big deal to Apple—they claim this is how web pages “were meant” to be seen. Fascinating. I didn’t know they invented the web page. Much less that all other similar gadgets force you to look at more than one even when you don’t want to. I’ve learned something from them already!
The SECOND thing they announce is that I can now “see and touch” my emails “in ways you never could before.” Good god. So that’s completely scared me off that feature.
The THIRD feature is that this thing can show me my photos the same way my digital camera can. Okay. Well, my laptop can, too, except for this exciting new business about displaying photos “in a stack.” Oh, wait. . .I get it. What they mean is they’ve fixed it so little bits of the bottom photos stick out around the top photo, giving it a kind of real-world look. Which, again, is what I get from my real photos in, well, the real world. Except better. Also, I’m OCD, so I keep my photo stacks tidy without edges sticking out. So they all look like the top photo, except really thick. If you’re listening, Apple.
Also, I love the photo they chose for marketing the large photo display: adolescent, bright blonde, blue eyes, very white teeth, pink shirt to show it’s a female, because of course everyone would rather look at a female. Particularly a female adolescent. I wonder if they could have tried any harder to represent the Aryan Uber-Race.
Is this supposed to appeal to the 30% Asian population of Silicon Valley? the 30% Hispanic? The 15% “other”? They’re obviously not even wasting their time with blacks, much less the middle-aged, who make up the vast majority of their highest-educated, most-experienced, professional target market. Oh—well, of course. I’m being myopic. This is supposed to appeal to a much greater target market than just Silicon Valley. Like the entire world, which. . .uh. . .includes China, with its single largest ethnic majority on the planet. . .oh, yes. And which includes that 25% black.
This is also looking stranger and stranger, considering that by now I’m getting it their main marketing thrust is toward BIG. And EASY TO READ. Guess who needs stuff to be EASY TO READ? That’s right. Retirement-age Boomers. Who are a vast target market. Represented not at all by that photo.
So, the FOURTH & FIFTH features are all about video. Again, what’s the selling point? LIMITATION. No pesky buttons! You see what they tell you to see. And, according to them, you love it! “You feel totally immersed.” Except I don’t, because this object is about as big as a lunch plate, and I am much bigger than a lunch plate. For anything even close to total immersion, I still have to go to a theater. Welcome to the Monkey-House, Mr. Jobs.
Now, the next four features are total gimmes: you can use Apple stuff! Oh, boy! iPod, iTunes, iBooks, the App Store. . .I am SO going to buy this gadget because it “allows” me to buy exclusively from the people who sold it to me! I also buy magazines just because they come with those cool subscription inserts.
They also offer maps. Not exactly a GPS, but GPS gets a bad rap in a lot of quarters, what with its inability to distinguish a good neighborhood from a bad one. Is this GoogleEarth they’re using here? I have no idea. It says nothing about where Apple gets their satellite photos, just that by looking at them I can “see more of the world.”
Okay. . .that was tea spurting out my nose. Hang on a second—
Okay, I’m back. Now there are three more features offering 1) a calendar, 2) contacts (sounding dangerously close to offering me friends there, guys), and 3) a device-wide search. All of which I have on my laptop. Oh, yeah. And which I also have on paper, especially that thing hanging on my kitchen hutch, which my son and I always make a big deal about going to our local indie bookstore and picking out every year. (He got to choose cats this year, a win with all of us. I am currently in disgrace because last year I chose out-houses.)
Actually, I also keep my contacts list in my purse. It’s really tiny, covered in strikingly-dated stylized leaves from the 1990s, and full of erasures. I call it my address book. And it is a heck of a huge improvement over the gazillions of scraps of paper on which I used to carry phone numbers and addresses in my pockets when I was a teenager, which my mother cured me of by throwing them all away one time when she did the laundry.
I realize I’m skipping one of these types of features. I’m saving that one for last.
ALSO—and I know you’re waiting for this feature on the edge of your seats—along with all these utterly amazing other features, I could even get A HOME SCREEN. That’s right, people. It “features” a desktop. For those of you out there languishing and pining for one of your very own. Gazing over the shoulders of strangers in public. Weeping into your pillow at night. Apple has heard your cries.
Now, we’re all writers here, right? A lot of us make a living or at least part of a living writing ad copy. We all know how valuable every single word is, what a high premium each little area on the page goes for, the huge selling potential of white space. But read this copy here. It’s all about one thing. Repeatedly. And not even a very important thing.
These feature introductions consist almost entirely of pointing out that this is a touch pad. “Touch the screen!” it says. Over and over again. Nothing about the actual touching is revolutionary—it’s all the same stuff I do with my laptop mouse. Once for this, twice for that.
Only Apple will let me touch THE SCREEN.
But I don’t want anyone touching my screen. I don’t even own screen-cleaner. Spit and the corner of my shirt, that does it in an emergency, the same Mommy Solution I use on everything else. What my life really needs is fewer such opportunities. If you could work on that one, Steve, I would be truly grateful.
And the final feature? The real kicker? The one that’s sold me on this $500-$830 ($830! During a Depression!) gadget hook, line, & sinker, no questions asked?
It comes with a notepad!
You read that right. A real, live, (well, not-live) imitation, yellow lined-legal pad just almost exactly like the stack I get for $29.99 at the local stationery store every six months and keep under my desk. Except this one’s shorter, necessitating twice as many page shuffles. And it takes it upon itself to circle things without my permission. And I can’t fold it in half and stick it in the back of my belt or my purse or a shopping bag when I go someplace where all I intend to do is write. And I can’t use just any old pen or pencil I find lying around on it, feeling—along with A.A. Milne—that smooth, gentle, gliding motion under my fingers, triggering the creative part of my brain, starting things trickling out of the dark recesses of my subconscious down my nerves, into my fingers, out into the light of day, where I can thrill to them, mull over them, share them, alter them, wallow in them. . .write them, write them, write them, write them down. . .
Huh. Maybe when they say the price is “unbelievable” they’re really just having a nice chuckle with us all. Ha, ha, Steve! I get it! What a great little kidder you are.
(And for those of you who still haven’t had enough of the subject, check out Scott Adams’
opinion. UPDATE 3/3/11: This link has been removed because it turns out Scott Adams is a jerk.)