Friday, September 24, 2010

Why Apple Can't Have my Money

OK, I'll admit it. After playing with an iPad, I now want a tablet. I really, really want a tablet.

And he saw that the tablets were good.

I know what you're thinking: what's the appeal? (Unless, of course, you're one of the several million strong owners of an iPad.) I thought the same thing before using one. It's certainly pretty, portable, nicely accessorized, and a great conversation piece; but I've always been of a far more practical bent when it comes to gadgetry. All show and little to no go does not earn a spot on my Christmas list.

But I still want one.
Tablets are highly illogical.

Here's the thing: the iPad both wins and loses me in the category of "potential." Apple's uber slate conjures up images of a device that can be so many things at once. It's a portable computer, a portable media player, an internet window, and a communications device sandwiched in sexy aluminum. It's slick, compact, and actually kind of fun to use; you know, like the first time you used a mouse. Wait, that's really dating myself. I mean, like the first time you used a Game Boy. Never mind, go back to mouse.

Anyway, it's the iPad's potential to be all things that grabs me. When I first used one, I had visions of composing articles, reading online newspapers, and checking emails all while talking to a friend over Skype. The clouds would part as a unicorn dances down a double-rainbow so he could use my magical tablet to update his Twitter feed to "@Unicorn: lol, my poop cures teh cancer!"

This is how I normally picture unicorns, by the way.

This is when the dream starts to fall apart and the bleary eyed, grumpy-bear reality shuffles in. As much as I want the iPad to do everything, it won't. It's not supposed to. Apple CEO Steve Jobs is quite clear about the nature of his company's products; they're meant to be part of an ecosystem, not a single tool solution (this is why he claimed, in introducing the new Apple TV, that people don't want the internet on their TVs since they already have computers for that). You have your iPad for mobile media consumption, browsing, and light data processing. Your iPhone suffices for calls, texts, music playing, and light web browsing. Your iMac serves for main computing and storage. Then there's Apple TV for (semi) HD viewing and rentals, AirPort for wireless, and all the rest of the gang for their various purposes. They all integrate seamlessly via iTunes, and each fulfills its niche with aplomb.

If I want to experience the full glory and splendor of the Apple Kingdom (and it is, admittedly, rather glorious and splendid), I need to invest in an iMac, iPad, iPhone, MacBook, Apple TV, and a handful of other products with the pretty fruit stamp on the back (and, possibly, stop shaving and start shopping at Salvation Army for that oh-so-vintage look). Going along with this, I'll need a mobile phone plan with data package, a separate data package for my iPad, and home internet service. Then I get to pay for media to stream over the paid lines to my paid devices. You can see where I'm going, here.

I really want a tablet, but I don't want an iPad. I want something that pairs down rather than augments my device list. I want a something that can fill in as a laptop, media player (a for-realsies one that can stream HD content to my TV), internet connection, data processor, e-reader, and so on. I don't game on my computer, so I don't need a powerhouse tower. I don't want to invest in movie discs I'm only going to watch once, so I don't need a blu-ray player. I don't want to carry around a dedicated music player. I don't want a separate device for phone calls and texting (if I'm already slinging a man-purse for my tablet, it doesn't matter to me that the tablet won't fit in my pocket; that's why God made bluetooth headsets).

Who says man-purses make you look stupid?

Where does that leave me? Gadget purgatory, that's where. I now get to sit around burning off the device-lust sin of wanting one gadget to rule them all. I could have gone my entire life in ignorant bliss if I'd never picked up a tablet in the first place. Stupid iPad.

Why must you taunt me, vaporware?!

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