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Is the iPad an iFad?

You might say “all pads, all the time” has been the theme of the past week or so, what with the splashy debut of Apple’s second-generation contender. Indeed, by many accounts, the new iPad 2 is truly the best thing since the proverbial sliced bread.

While the limelight has been focused squarely on Cupertino, it’s become plainly evident that not everyone has sipped the iKoolAid yet. Early reactions to the new device have been decidedly mixed, in fact — particularly when it’s held up in the clear light of day against Motorola’s Android-powered Xoom.

It’s been just a little over a year since Linux Girl last raised the “pad” question with Linux bloggers, who were noncommittal at best back then. Now that we’re on to the next iteration, she couldn’t resist checking back to see if their opinions have changed.

‘Very Expensive Toys’

“I have no plans to purchase an iPad because I don’t want to buy a product that is intentionally closed so that I can only buy manufacturer-approved applications,” asserted Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project.

“However, I tend to be fairly conservative when it comes to new technology,” Travers added. “The industry is still figuring out what good tablets are, how to design an optimal user interface, and where they might actually be helpful for real work.

“Until the market matures, they are basically very expensive toys,” he concluded.

‘Just Another Fad’

Similarly, “I don’t see myself buying a tablet any time soon — not when I can get a laptop with 4x the memory, 4x the cpu, and 20x the storage for less,” noted Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site.

“On the other hand, I can see how others would find it appealing — not just in a ‘look at my neat toy’ kind of way, but for single-use mobile applications such as order taking or inventory,” she added.

Indeed, “I think they are just another fad like eReaders were a couple of years ago,” Slashdot blogger hairyfeet agreed.

“The thing is too big to drop in a pocket like a cell, yet doesn’t have the power of a netbook,” hairyfeet explained. “The only real niche I see for these things is industrial and medical, where it makes a handy electronic notepad for taking inventory or updating a patient’s chart.”

A Short-Lived Advantage

A “passing thing” was also blogger Robert Pogson’s view of the current tablet craze.

“Tablets are consumer-oriented,” he pointed out. “Producers of content will always prefer something with a keyboard. Even now we see several products combining a smartphone with a notebook as a dock.”

“Such products will be about the same price as a tablet eventually and combine all the best features of smartphones, tablets and notebooks — a serious competitor to a tablet,” Pogson added. “Companies like Apple may start fashions in IT, but they cannot hold the result as a cash-cow forever.”

‘Nothing Amazing’

As for Apple’s device in particular? “Maybe in a couple of years the iPad4 will match the current Motorola Xoom, though I doubt we’ll ever see support for Adobe Flash on the iPad,” Hudson opined.

In the meantime, “one good thing about all the iPad hype is that it’s creating interest for tablets in general and forcing competitors to get ahead of the curve,” she added.

The iPad 2 “seems like a nice iteration, but nothing amazing,” Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza opined. “It does include some pieces of hardware which ought to have been on the original, so that will be a nice cash bump for Apple as the diehards upgrade.”

Waiting for a Desktop Replacement

Apple’s devices lead when it comes to battery life, Espinoza noted.

“Friends who have tried competing devices from Motorola and Samsung complained about battery life in particular,” he explained. “I don’t care so much about battery life since I tend to use mobile devices in short bursts.”

For his part, Espinoza is “still waiting for a cheap, powerful tablet which can function as a low-end desktop replacement,” he added. “I plan to dock it in the living room and use it to play video (hopefully via XBMC) and then be able to take it to the car and use it for navigation as well.

“Only my flakiest netbook has 1080p output, and none of mine really have the horsepower to be a media player since they’re all single-core,” he pointed out.

‘Apple Will Not Sell as Many’

Looking ahead, “the domination of the tablet market by Apple will end this year with the tuning of Android for tablets and the large number of competitive manufacturers,” Pogson predicted. “Apple has locked up the supply chain, but there is still enough product outside Apple’s supply chain that Apple will likely drop to about 60 percent share of units shipped in 2011 and less than 50 percent in 2012.”

Apple may release one new version per year, but “the world can produce dozens at lower prices and with better performance,” Pogson added.

While some iPad owners will undoubtedly buy an iPad 2, “most will not,” he added. “The idea of changing computers annually is silly. Apple will not be able to sell as many units as they did in the first year of the iPad.”

Android, meanwhile, “will be available on many units around (US)$200 — less than half the price of the iPad this year,” Pogson predicted.

6 Comments

  • Katherine, I agree with you. In fact great minds apparently think alike in this case, because I used the same "iFad" wording before I saw your column! I wrote a similar column in today’s edition of Minyanville.com.

    • i think the quality of the screens on new models recently are nothing short than incredible. While pretty resilient, found out hard way they can break. Especially if have over zealous children. Sent over to theipadpros just waiting back for results, but service been good so far. Looking forward to giving the Air a go again.

  • Let me guess, you own a corvette? Silly me you must drive a Viper or Ferrari? Why not? the stats are simply higher then say a Dodge or Toyota? Who cares what its for, the overhead costs and need.. That pretty much what you Story sounds like. I am a huge Linux command line guy and I love the iPad as "it just works". Does it do everything my high end Dell desktop does? no, and I don’t need it to but funny how I use it over 85% of the time over my desktop. You compare it to a Xoom? I’m sure the Xoom will work nicely but the average consumer does not simply compare specs like maybe you only care about. What about apps and eco system (ie iTunes, app store, Apple Tv, AirPlay, movie experience, etc)? But I guess who cares about that when your PC has 2gb of memory right? I love to read new and opinions but it so bugs me the short sited-ness of some people whom assume they know "how things are". Maybe your better at making pizzas.

  • My what a narrow view of the market. What’s sad is the assumption that tablets are a fad or a "toy." On the one hand, the article describes pads as a "consumer-oriented" device, then on the other, someone opines that they would be good for "single-use mobile applications." These do not necessarily add up to toy status, and certainly do not to lead to a dead-end fad.

    For many, tablets are no more (or less) a toy or fad than their laptops were (yes, I said "were"). Not everyone is a programmer/engineer geek that needs to get under the hood or run CAD or heavy graphics applications. And even many tech types welcome a dedicated portable device to mainly use for consumption and communication that requires no effort to configure (although in this case, the "toy" description probably fits).

    Personally, with my limited budget, a single device with a little more versatility (I’m in the engineer/geek category) is all I can muster, so I deal with weight and battery life and use a laptop. But based on what I have experienced with the tablets many of my colleagues at my office have, the tablet is really so much more appropriate for so many people; it is what I recommend to many friends and family. Not everyone likes them but nobody HAS to like them. Obviously, plenty of people do like them and although not horribly expensive, tablets still represent a fair chunk of change for many. Yet zillions have been sold so far, and I don’t see them going away anytime soon.

    PS: Another commenter suggests that e-readers are not fads and points out rising sales in that segment. That seems true enough. What will drive e-reader sales down will likely be tablets, as they become more affordable…and versatile. So the dedicated e-reader device itself may become obsolete soon, but the e-reader concept is far from a fad–it will simply be subsumed by the tablet market, further propelling tablets beyond fad status.

  • Just wow……………… why does everyone want every thing to be everything for everybody.

    I love my iPad 1 and have from Christmas day when I received it as a wonderful gift.

    I have just never gotten on with a laptop. Just something about them that I inherently dislike. Yet there was instant love with the iPad.

    In general I guess I like touch screen as I started with windows mobile 6 or something, then moved to the droidX neither having any physical keyboard.

    So they control what programs can go on. It’s their company! I’ve yet to not find any program I’ve needed that I couldn’t find

    I’m a contractor and I must say my clients LOVE the iPad presentations and the usage in the field. Every client and prospect has oogled over it. A notebook does not have that kind of impact.

    Comes down to this, people like different things. Not everything can win everyone over.

    As I read the article all I could think was "get over it"…..to coin a phrase from Rocky, albeit substituting they for I….."They didn’t make it for you".

    Buy it don’t buy it….stock closed at 360.00 Friday.

    Some people love it, some don’t.

    Laptops, some people love em, some don’t

    Desktops, some people will never again tough one, some will never move away.

    Big world with lots of stuff and they are ALL toys.

  • Wow. The most successful new product in recent tech history, and you can’t find a single person who thinks it’s a good idea? And the comparison with the Xoom is laughable. Higher cost, no apps, smaller screen. Maybe Flash (how many times have how many people promised that so far?)

    Oh, if it’s a "fad" like e-Readers, well, I notice that there are more companies coming into that space, not fewer. Seriously, this is the worst reportage I have read in some time. Congratulations on the most idiotic piece on the web – for today at least. Perhaps this writer will contribute another, and top her own record!

    I am curious. Has the writer ever actually *used* a netbook? Given the lofty praise, it would seem the answer is "uh, no." I have, and they’re garbage.

    (PS: I don’t own an iPad, so this is not some Apple fanbois talking, just someone with a bit of common sense, something apparently not common here.)

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