Monday, April 5, 2010

The iPad’s most significant flaw

I have yet to see an iPad in person. (I almost went with a friend on Saturday morning to pick one up, but he decided a purchase like that can wait.) However, unless it gets as hot as my wife’s MacBook Pro with its dead fan, I’m pretty sure I already know its most significant flaw.

It needs a computer.

Some might argue that “needs” is too strong a word, but I don’t think so. It needs a computer just like computers need backups. Without a computer, you can’t back up the stuff on your iPad, and without a backup, you could be in trouble. You also can’t install OS updates without a computer, and who knows what great features are coming?

Some might not even think this is a flaw. If you think of an iPad as a big iPod touch, you might be right about that. However, Steve Jobs says the iPad is in a new category between laptops and smartphones where devices need to be better at things like photos and music, and without a backup strategy, you risk losing all your pictures and songs, and that is certainly not better.

Maybe you don’t think this is a big deal because you already have a computer. Sure, I’ll buy that. It probably isn’t a big deal for you. But what about the people who don’t want to bother with a computer? What about those that just want to do a few things but don’t want to learn about antivirus software or what cable goes where?

For example, take my mother-in-law. She’s a wonderful woman who doesn’t want to mess around with computers. There are things she’d like to use—email, the web, digital pictures, Facebook—and the iPad would be perfect for that. However, I can’t in good conscience tell her to ditch the computer and DSL in favor of an 3G iPad with a data plan and an overpriced dongle for her camera. Not until she could rest assured that if the iPad were lost, stolen, or destroyed, she’d still have everything.

Apple, please hear me out. Eliminate or modify activation so the iPad works out of the box. Add the ability to update the OS over the air. Most importantly, add a version of OS X’s Time Machine. Eliminate the need for a computer and you will win.


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