The iPad Shows the Failure of Journalism

Can we please stop talking about “game changers”?

The iPad is the future of computing.

No, wait, it’s a waste of money and typically crippled product from Apple.

Oh dear, this is getting tedious.

iPadHere is the truth about the iPad: It’s fine. It’s a useful and interesting consumer device, and it’s about time someone made it. I remember reading about a similar device in Wired magazine back in 2000. The plan was for it to run BeOS or Linux – the company was evaluating both platforms. It never appeared, of course.

Since then, however, there has been nothing short of a collapse in the cost of manufacturing computer systems – and a resulting explosion in low cost devices. For example, I am writing this article on a €270 netbook.

When I first contributed to Low End Mac in 2002, I couldn’t afford to buy a new computer. True, my earning power has risen (and subsequently collapsed, like everyone else’s), but the price fall in computing has been breathtaking.

iPad Value

Given the low bill-of-materials (BOM) cost, Apple has been able to produce an impressive device at a decent price. It’s certainly worth writing about, it’s certainly worth critiquing (why no webcam, for instance?), but it most certainly is not the most important – or the worst – piece of technology we have ever seen.

Almost every tedious cliché and strained neologism imaginable has been trundled out to describe the iPad: it’s a game changer, it’s a “fail”, it sounds like a sanitary product, it . . . do I really need to go on?

The world is straddled by fibre optic cables and copper wires in a human achievement that is truly mind-boggling, and we seem to use it mostly to prove how funny and insightful and witty we are by endlessly recycling tired jokes and smart alec remarks that often border on the non sequitur.

The First Generation Myth

And what is this tale of “first generation” Apple products being flawed? Since when did this become an iron law of the universe?

It’s just not true. Some are flawed; some aren’t. In most cases what actually happens is that the machines improve incrementally with each revision.

So what? It would be strange if they didn’t.

Of course, we could hardly have expected any more. For all the complaints about Apple hype, journalists seem quite content to play the same silly game, viewing small but significant advances in consumer technology as part of some Manichean struggle between light and darkness.

It is ironic, then, that so many journalists and publishers think that the iPad and platforms like it are going to save the publishing industry. After all, they appear to have entirely lost faith in the value of their own enterprise.

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