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iPad, iNot Sure

A few things about today’s announcement by Apple:

1. The iPad is a very flat name–it has none of the Biblical ring that the iTablet conjures, or the outer-space feeling of the iPod. A pad is something you take notes on, use for protection, or the place where you sleep (my favorite definition is “A flattened mass of anything soft, to sit or lie on”), but nothing very dynamic (there is launchpad, but iPad does not evoke it). And iPad just means you’re doing it all alone. Also, it’s not unique: the NY Times reports that “a Canadian lingerie company, Coconut Grove Pads, has the right to market iPad padded bras.”

2. The iPad does not have a camera, nor can you make phone calls–this is more of a consumer device than a production machine. While it has an auxiliary keyboard, it brings us back to word-processing without all the other complementary media that we can produce.

3. The mixed-media that the iPad will receive is what already exists–the Apple promotion says “the best way to experience the web, email & photos.” But it does not handle Flash software. And what if we want to experience or create new forms that don’t exist–Apple seems to want us to be happy with what is, and to consume it. Their ad does not say “great for new forms about to be invented!”

4. For a consumer/producer, it seems like this device is weighted on the consumption side, not the production. It allows for lots of distractions (reading a book while checking email, etc.), but not much intervention. There is a touch-screen keyboard (generally difficult to use to write longer texts) as well as an auxiliary keyboard that one can purchase, but in a sense we have backed away from the “active reader” paradigm. Now it’s back to consuming. (Maybe we’ll get some video in our books?)

So is this actually a revolutionary device, or one bringing us backwards? Maybe it’s too early to tell, and I certainly have not tried an iPad, but from reading various reports it seems like we have gone from the earlier versions of Apple, allowing us to make music, edit video, use a webcam, etc., to a platform which is good at receiving stuff. Can it be all in the apps to come?

Now it’s up to the “content makers” to move us along–and not just provide us with more of the same. While I have nothing at all against getting good movies and books on my iPad, wasn’t this supposed to be a “new media” revolution?

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