In iPad We Trust

Article excerpt

Byline: Daniel Lyons

Why Apple's tablet isn't the second coming--yet.

Why do we invest so much hope in new technology? What do we expect these devices will do for us, and why are we so disappointed when the Next Big Thing turns out to be just a new computer? This is what I'm asking myself after Apple's latest overhyped product introduction. This time around the Big New Thing is called an iPad. It's basically an oversized iPod Touch, and it will be great for watching movies, reading books and browsing the Web.

Yet for some of us who sat in the audience watching Steve Jobs introduce the device, the whole thing felt like a letdown. The iPad is a perfectly good product. It's reasonably priced, and after spending a few minutes with one I'm pretty sure I'll buy one for myself and probably a second one for my kids so they can watch movies on road trips.

So why did I feel disappointed? As a friend at Apple put it, "Did you think it was going to cure cancer or something?" The thing is, rumors about an Apple tablet have been floating around for months, and during that time a lot of us started dreaming up a list of amazing things that Apple might do.

Some said the tablet would save newspapers and magazines by creating a platform where publishers could charge readers for digital subscriptions. Others said Apple would offer TV subscriptions so wouldn't need to have cable TV anymore.

At the very least we had hoped a tablet from Apple would do something new, something we've never seen before. That's not the case. Steve Jobs and his team kept using words like "breakthrough" and "magical," but the iPad is neither, at least not right now. It might turn out to be magical for Apple, because what Steve Jobs is really doing here is trying to replace the personal computer with a closed appliance that only runs software from the Apple's online App Store. So instead of selling you a laptop and never hearing from you again, with iPad Apple gets an ongoing revenue stream as you keep downloading more apps. That really is "magical" --for Apple's bottom line, anyway.

And that's fine. What's wrong, or at least interesting, is why some of us expected so much more from a new gadget. I suspect this is because for some people, myself included, technology has become a kind of religion. …