Tuesday, May 21

Apple iPad overhyped, overpriced


Steve Jobs' shiny new toy costs $500 and lacks too many necessary features to be considered useful

“A magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price” is the tagline at the top of Apple’s iPad Web page. The price certainly is unbelievable, and the device may well be magical if you’re one of the lucky few UCLA students who believe in magic. Sadly, it’s also revolutionary, just not in the way Apple’s marketing team meant it.

The iPad’s release on April 3 did indicate a revolution in the technological landscape of the U.S. The revolution entails companies trying to create consumer desire instead of meeting its demands. It entails pieces of technology being far more flash than substance, more technological play-things for those with the money to spend than being truly useful and necessary for our society. With 300,000 people picking up the iPad on day one, I can only hope a wave of buyer’s remorse is washing over our country.

It’s OK to market your product, because if you don’t, then nobody’s going to buy it. But if you create within your consumer base a rapid desire to purchase a product regardless of whether it’s good, you have a responsibility to deliver an excellent product. With the iPhone, Apple hit the ball out of the park. No one realized that they needed the iPhone until they had it, and now they can’t live without it. The iPad just isn’t the same story.

I’m not suggesting that the iPad isn’t a cool piece of technology, but rather that a piece of technology being cool does not justify its being purchased. A quick rundown of the specifications of the iPad reveal a multitude of missing features a device that costs you $500 should have.

The most glaring omission is the lack of Adobe Flash support. Flash is nearly universal on the Internet, from powering entire Web sites to being used as a video player or to play Flash games. That significantly cuts down on the amount of enjoyment someone will derive from an iPad. It also limits the many ways we as students occupy ourselves during boring lectures.

The second omission is the lack of multitasking. It’s due to the enhanced iPhone operating system running on the iPad. It’s incredibly questionable that a “magical and revolutionary” device is using an operating system that powers the iTouch and iPhone.

For whatever reason, Jobs and Co. didn’t think consumers wanted the ability to listen to music through the Pandora app while surfing the Web on Safari or reading an e-book. Say good-bye to surfing Facebook while on AIM while taking notes if you purchase an iPad for in-class purposes. It means you can’t take notes in class while playing Tetris or any other Flash game on the Internet, a favorite pastime of mine.

Without the ability to multitask, something PC and Mac users have enjoyed for decades, the iPad cannot and should not be expected to compete with laptops.

A lack of USB support and a camera cement the iPad as a device marred with technical shortcomings that early adopters are sure to miss. Apple will surely add fuel to the fire by releasing subsequent versions of the iPad with the exact same features tech-savvy consumers are missing right now. It’s impossible to prove that this is deliberate on Apple’s part, but consider that all corporations, including Apple, are profit-driven entities.

All of these problems, and I haven’t even gotten to the outrageous price yet. The lowest price model comes in at $499 with 16GB of hard drive space. The next model up comes with 32GB and costs an extra $100. This is a rather puzzling price increase, considering that you can now purchase 16GB flash drives for $20. If you want to get the 64GB, 3G-enabled device (3G being essential for those without constant access to Wi-Fi), you’re looking at $829 before taxes and without a warranty plan.

In addition, the 3G plan is only available through AT&T and costs $30 a month for unlimited bandwidth. Considering how horrible AT&T service is on campus, especially in the dorms, 3G can’t fare much better. After accessories ““ a $40 case and a $70 keyboard dock ““ you’re left with a gaping hole in your wallet and a device that works best in the realm of YouTube viewing and e-mail checking, hardly worth the price, and a sad example of consumerism overtaking logic.

All of my assertions would be wholly irrelevant if it weren’t for netbooks. If you don’t own one, you’ve definitely seen them in your classes. Netbooks are basically mini laptops. Generally they have 8-inch to 11-inch screens and run a fully functioning version of Windows. They run from $300 to $500, but even the $300 models have at least 160GB of hard drive space. They are by far the perfect technology device for students ““ small enough to fit in your backpack without a problem, versatile enough to be used as your sole computer.

The iPad has proven, more than any other device in recent history, that there are hundreds of thousands of consumers in the U.S. willing to purchase unfinished and under-featured devices. This creates a cycle of consumers purchasing Apple products, being dissatisfied with the lack of features and ultimately purchasing future generations of the product as well. We’ve seen it with the iPhone, and the iPad is sure to follow.

It’s up to consumers to speak with their wallet by abstaining from purchasing the iPad until it lives up to its price point and its potential. In this case, just as it was with the iPhone, Apple decided to create a need instead of meeting one. Through masterful marketing and hype, as well as an eloquent CEO, Apple managed to convince its loyal fan base that the iPhone wasn’t enough, that there was this larger device with almost the exact same functionality ““ except bigger ““ that they absolutely had to have.

According to CNET, “the only concrete reason to buy an Apple iPad is to be able to play around with the most celebrated gadget of the year. For CNET readers, we expect that is reason enough.” For UCLA students, I hope it isn’t.

E-mail Zymet at [email protected] Send general comments to [email protected]

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