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Technology Review: iPad or iFad?

Mark Vidal
Editorial Director

You may have wanted it even before Apple Inc. finished engineering it. Is it because popular tech culture automatically seduces us into loving anything Apple produces? Or is Apple really that good at meeting the people’s needs and wants?

After Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad on Jan. 27, for many the answer was a “yes” and a “maybe.” A poll taken by online retailer Retrevo asked 1,000 people before Jan. 27 if they would ever consider buying the iPad. Only 26 percent said they would not. However, that figure doubled to 52 percent when the poll was taken again following the iPad unveiling.
Now, tech reviews all around the Web and in print are denoting what a disappointment the iPad is to everyone who hoped for something greater.

But what doesn’t sound great about a new half-inch thick, 1.5-pound tablet with a 9.7-inch LED multi-touch widescreen?

With the iPad, to be available in 16, 32 and 64 GB versions, you can read books, maintain and browse your own photos, listen to your iTunes, watch movies, e-mail, surf the web and even have access to 140,000 apps from the Apple App Store.

After researching all of the wonderful capabilities of the iPad on my $600 HP Pavilion notebook, it hit me: I can already do most of those things on my laptop.

And that means people with MacBooks and iPhones are already enjoying all the glorified thrills that the iPad is boasting, plus more. When you compare what your MacBook can do with what the iPad can do, the iPad seems pretty unnecessary.

Great, the iPad displays photos and movies at a crisp, high resolution. But half the fun is being able to shoot photos and movies yourself directly from your built-in webcam, which the iPad denies you of. Even the new fifth-generation iPod Nano shoots video.

Wonderful, in addition to Wi-Fi, the iPad will feature available 3G connectivity available solely by subscription through AT&T. But who wants to pay an additional monthly service fee for a 3G data plan on top of their Internet and cell phone (iPhone) plans?

Super, the iPad can play your movies, games and apps. But if any of those happen to be flash-based, you are out of luck. Oh, and did I mention, no multi-tasking?

Part of Apple politics is stirring hype for a new product that offers new, yet limiting capabilities and then later releasing improved versions that offer the irresistible options you really want.

The moral of the story is, if you have a laptop, you are not missing out on a whole lot of portable fun. If you have an iPhone as well, you are not really missing out on anything – at least not yet.

You will probably fare best to stay strong and save your money at the end of March when the iPad becomes available because a better, more improved one will most likely follow down the road. Heck, maybe it will even have a better name, one that does not confuse others with sanitary napkins.

Mark Vidal can be reached at

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