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Is that a maxi or mini iPad?

February 1, 2010

Sorry, cannot help myself. This may go down in history as one of the worst product names ever. This is what happens when the boys do not let the girls in on their decisions. I should, however, be grateful to Apple. Whenever I teach the topic of marketing and the importance of understanding culture when marketing products, I use examples such as the Ford Pinto and Chevy Nova. I now have a brand new example to add to the pack. Thanks, Apple.

Had a student come up to me after class within 36 hours of the Jobs-a-thon and ask me what I thought of the iPad. It does not take a media genius to figure out that Apple is going to sell kajillions of these devices. It is also clear that this has significantly raised the stakes in the budding ebook wars, and it is likely safe to assume that the Kindle will now die a slow but steady death.

But are we all so naive to think that this will be a troublefree device? I love my iPod Touch, but its battery life is horrible. Enlarge the screen and even with a larger battery I can only imagine that the iPad will suffer from a similar problem. Apple claims ten hours, which in plain talk means six, which means after a year of charging cycles four, at best. Apple is a computer hardware manufacturer still bound by the rules of physics, and the simple fact is that battery technology is not advancing at the clip with which devices demand it, whether one is speaking of handheld devices or cars. The big breakthrough is still before us. Replacing the battery will be prohibitively expensive, too, as experience has shown us, which renders the iPad yet another disposable device after two or three years.

I am also curious to use the virtual keyboard. One of my students pointed out that there will be a dock with an external keyboard. Umm, that sounds to me like a Mac laptop. I had one of those foldy keyboards back in the days for my Handspring Visor, and while it was übercool, it was also a major PITA. Do not want to go back to the days of devices that require more hardware to be useful. If the virtual keyboard is no good, I want a light laptop.

Beyond the hardware issues, there remains the fact that media content is still locked up in little silos thanks to things such as DRM and the persistent inability of media firms to find licensing models that work globally. Already one has heard the first warnings, as with the Kindle in its day, that the international version of iBooks will not appear for some time for legal reasons, not technical. Any iTunes user with broad media tastes who has ever tried to buy content from another nation has confronted this issue head-on, and it is not pleasant to be told, in our digital era, that because the address where you lay your head at night is in the “wrong” country, you may not buy some track or show. It will be little different with iBooks.

Still, I want to get one of these. I am not that jaded.

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