Your problem is stopping to think about it

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iPad, ReviewOr, more thoughts about the iPad

John Swansburg of Slate has written a rather droll article about using his iPad. It is simply titled,  I Hate My iPad. That might come across as a little strong, but I feel his pain. For anyone who has bought an iPad it’s an amusing read, not least because Swansburg asked some of his Slate colleagues to prove him wrong. Their responses are a wonderful mix of regret and justification, embellished with the occasional hint of admission that spending $600 on a device, that hasn’t changed their lives, wasn’t the smartest thing to do. As Swansburg says – “Now I just feel annoyed, having spent $600 on a device that hasn’t done anything to improve my life. A salad spinner would have been a better investment, and I don’t even eat that much salad.”

Ok, so maybe Swansburg is reaching, or he fell into the trap of thinking more like a magpie than a human – the shiny object attracts my attention, I must have it.. maybe it started out as his precious? And now, not so much.

The title of this post is a telling quote from Swansburg’s colleague, Farhad Manjoo, who also says – “The problem with reading a book on the iPad is that there’s always the Web and Netflix to compete with. I’ve never finished a book on the iPad.”

What’s interesting to me is how Swansburg, or anyone else who has bought an iPad or another tablet, dropped their money in a faith-based way. Steve Jobs is the ultimate sales guy and now I think about it, he sold the iPad to us as a game-changing device replete with apps that would change the way we interact with the web, how we read e-books, watch streaming movies, etc, etc.. Nothing wrong with that except the audience, the iPad buyer, didn’t grasp at first what the iPad actually is.

I noticed that people that I respect and follow on the social web were writing about how they were going to leave their laptops locked away for a week as they tried to use the iPad for business. For many, the results were not what they’d expected, and that’s because they were attempting to replace a computer (laptop) for a device that is not meant to replace a computer. As we approach the release of iPad 2 on March 2nd, I wonder if prospective buyers or those upgrading have really worked out how to use it to their benefit, or at least for pleasure?

And it’s not just those buying the device that have had their struggles – media companies, most notably, have failed to deliver an app that solves the problem for the iPad user in how to access the content of newspapers and magazines. The list is long but recent apps, ones that I will generously call “well intended,” include The Daily, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair and Project Magazine. These apps were provided by companies who are focused in the present of solving problems of the past. By that I mean the apps are delivered to us with the intent of trying to fix the loss of the revenue that those companies have suffered since the onset of the web. They are not meant to create an easy, simple way for us to access the companies content. (Although I suspect that the apps designers believe they are doing just that.)

Alexandra Lange, who blogs at DesignObserver.com brings up a good point about how, in our hyperactive digital world, tech critics who review new devices such as the iPad, review them rapidly and in the immediate moment. They never wait a beat to see how the device gets used in real-world conditions because the race is on to be the first to review it, to get the scoop. Here’s her insights:

Last semester I was looking for examples of interaction design criticism for my D-Crit class and came up short. Reviews I read were either in love with the idea of the app, never mind the execution; or too tecnical for the lay reader; or too focused on the device and not the experience. I’ve seen the iPad reviewed as fetish object and as tech advance, but never before the whole user experience. What Swansburg provided was what I have been missing: a walk-through of how a regular person might use the device. It is sidewalk criticism for the digital world, and we need more (a lot more) of it.

The fact that this review is “late” is part of its beauty. I’ve often considered starting a column called The Late Adopter, to talk about what is surely my shared experience as someone who can’t and won’t rush out and buy the latest thing. I don’t have the money for much of it, but more to the point, I like to see what people say a new thing is good for, and whether that’s something I need to do. But so few reviews go there, since the tech critics have to review immediately and move on. And most real people, once they have spent $600, are loath to admit they can’t actually do anything new and better on their latest purchase. Sounds a lot like some architecture criticism, no?

I love her phrase “sidewalk criticism for the digital world..and we need more (a lot more) of it.”

I can happily stop right there.

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The Daily a Tablet Newspaper For Everybody (There they go again…)

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