Yes, But Can the iPad Serve as a Flotation Device?

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Apple’s release of the iPad reminds me of when fire was first discovered. All these Neanderthals kept saying, “Oh, hey, Grok. Fire going to be super warm. You like fire. It so warm it burn. It game-changer.” I was skeptical. Then fire came out. My friends stood in line for days around a hole in the ground with old wood in it, waiting for fire to come. Sure enough, fire was warm, but you couldn’t get into it the way you can get into a hot spring. So, fire’s warmth wasn’t as great as the hype suggested. “Grok will wait until warm bath invented,” I told all my friends. “Hype just hype.” However, on occasion, a reasonable commenter, probably not a person named Grok, can find some middle ground: a skeptical assessment laced with optimistic realism.

Writing about Apple’s latest “game-changing” gadget for The New York Review of Books, Sue Halpern finds the right mixture of skeptical objection to the current iPad and hope for the device’s potential. As she says:

As it is built now, the iPad is the ultimate consumer device, meant primarily to consume media, not to produce it. That’s why, in its first iteration, it has no native printing application, no camera, no USB ports for peripherals. But the impulse to make it into something else, a lightweight computer that can stand in for a PC in the classroom, at a meeting, on the road, wherever, is strong. This is why iPad users have been buying keyboards to bypass the touchscreen, and finding apps that allow for rudimentary multitasking, printing, and remote access to one’s home computer in order to use non-iPad-enabled software like Microsoft Word. The paradox of having designed the ultimate consumer device is that ultimately the consumers will make of it what they want–if Google, with its rumored Chrome Tablet, doesn’t get there first.

Source: The New York Review of Books

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