'Book Value

Steve Wozniak Says the iPad Is for Normal People: How Normal Are You?

Charles Moore - 2011.04.07 - Tip Jar

During a keynote session at Storage Networking World in Santa Clara, California on Monday, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said, that tablets are the culmination of what Steve Jobs wanted to create at Apple from the beginning, noting, "The tablet is not necessarily for the people in this room . .  . It's for the normal people in the world."

Obviously, a lot of folks have decided that tablets - mostly iPads - are the PC for them, so it appears that Wozniak has a point.

So how normal are you?

I've been trying to decide for myself and have come to the provisional conclusion that I want an iPad. Indeed, I probably would have bought one by now if I had caught one of the last first generation 16 GB WiFi iPads that Apple Canada sold off for Can$369. You can still get a leftover 3G model for Can$549, but that doesn't seem like much of a bargain for my purposes, since there is no 3G coverage within 35 miles or so of where I live, and the new 16 GB WiFi iPad 2 is listed for Can$519, but there's a 2-3 week wait. (More than a bit annoying that the price is higher in Canada with the Canadian dollar trading at US$1.04 and heading for US$1.09 according to the financial pundits. I digress.)

At those prices, the iPad 2 with its greater speed, sleeker form factor, and expanded feature set makes more sense for future-proofing.

My Next Apple Product?

I had been anticipating a main system upgrade for late this year or early next, with the new Core "i" Thunderbolt MacBook Pro or perhaps the 13" MacBook Air taking over for my now two-and-a-bit year old 2.0 GHz unibody MacBook, but an iPad purchase in the meantime could incline me to postpone that move as long as the MacBook continues giving the flawless performance it has for the past 25 months.

So I've pretty much decided to go with the iPad 2, preferably a white one, but not badly enough to stand in line for one. I'll wait until the availability backlog clears a bit more and also keep checking the availability (currently zero at the Apple Store Canada) of Apple Certified Refurbished 16 GB iPad 1s, which would be tempting if the price was right.

With the second generation, you get the A5 dual-core CPU in place of the original iPad's single-core A4 silicon and claimed much better graphics performance, plus the cameras, 5-in-1 USB adapter and card reader for iPadbut unfortunately the number one item on my iPad wish list - a USB port - was not delivered, so iPad 2 users are still stuck with dongles for the 30-pin dock connector (such as this one) and bereft of a really satisfactory file transfer interface. You'll also need a dongle in order to to get HDMI support for connecting your iPad 2 to a television, and there's no SD Card slot for data storage overflow and transfers. Consequently, I still don't find the iPad irresistibly compelling, but it is compelling enough that I'm ready to climb aboard.

At this point I'm not seriously considering joining the "post-PC era" whole-hog; I anticipate that the iPad will not be a laptop substitute, but a complementary device, with a laptop remaining my primary production tool. I'm keeping an open mind, and it's possible the iPad will surprise me once I have my own, but its manifold limitations make me doubtful of its practical utility as a production platform.

What I do expect I'll use it for is general Web surfing, Googling, Binging, and email, and perhaps for some reading, although I still much prefer ink-on-paper hard copy for that over any electronic screen. However, hard copy magazine subscriptions are getting more and more expensive, and I can envision switching some of the several I take to electronic delivery, with the iPad a more convenient and comfortable-to-handle content consumption device for relaxed content consumption. It's notable that that In 2010, digital was the only media sector realizing audience growth.

The Only Growth in News Media

The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism's 2011 State of the News Media annual report on the health and status of American journalism finds that news media increasingly follow the rules of device makers and software developers, such as Apple and Google, to deliver their content, and that In 2010, digital was the only media sector realizing audience growth.

The Pew researchers found that as of December 2010, 41% of Americans cited the Internet as their primary source for "most of their news about national and international issues," more than doubling from 17% a year earlier, with 46% of respondents saying they now get news online at least three times a week, surpassing newspapers (40%) for the first time, and with local TV news the only more popular news platform (50%). Additionally, the survey finds that 47% of Americans now say they get some kind of local news on mobile devices such as cellphones or other wireless devices (such as iPads), and that as of January 2011, the number of Americans owning electronic tablets (7 %) had also nearly doubled, but in this instance in just four months, while the audience for cable news has declined substantially over the past year, with median viewership falling 13.7%, and prime-time median viewership by 16% in 2010 - CNN suffering the most (37% decline), but Fox News and MSNBC down as well.

Network news also continued its three-decade downward trend, and print newspapers weekday circulation fell another 5% and Sunday editions 4.5% year-over-year, while newspapers' online audience grew, although not enough to compensate for print losses industrywide, and another Pew Research Center survey for the People & the Press, finds the total audience that reads newspapers, in print and online, at least three times a week dropped by six percentage points over the last two years, with just 40% of Americans reporting reading a newspaper in any form, down from 46% in 2008 and 52% in 2006, while the metric for those reporting reading a newspaper "yesterday" - print or online - now sits at 37%, down two percentage points from 2008.

Circulation for the six news magazines covered by the report fell 8.9% - subscriptions fell 8.6%, and newsstand sales were down 17.7%, while circulation for the magazine industry as a whole dropped 1.5%.

Consequently, as Bob Dylan observed nearly 50 years ago, you don't need a meteorologist to discern which way the wind is blowing, and it's becoming clearer that those who don't join the tablet or ereader revolution are going to be left behind, perhaps more rapidly than they imagine.

Planning Ahead

However, I didn't want to buy two new devices within a few months of each other, so with my three-year target for a main system upgrade approaching next winter, I'll maybe have to rethink things a bit, perhaps buying my iPad 2 by late spring and postponing replacement of MacBook for a bit, at least past the next 13" MacBook Pro and MacBook Air refreshes, which might make more sense anyway.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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