Regarding the iPad, I am Dr. Buzzkill

It's here. And I'm disappointed. It's not just that the iPad failed to live up to its hype (which was just short of ending world hunger, curing disease and raising the dead). It's that the iPad doesn't change the world, no matter how many times Steve Jobs says "advanced," "revolutionary," "magical" and "unbelievable."

It's certainly no savior for newspapers. What are you going to do, kill your website and sell your "publication" in the App Store? Nonsense. The iPad doesn't change the economic equation. You aren't prevented from selling your content by lack of technology and tools; you're prevented by a lack of market demand. And the demand isn't there because people have, at their fingertips, far more alternatives than the human brain can process -- literally billions. The iPad doesn't change that. If anything, it makes it worse by furthering mobile access to the Web. And by the way: This is 2010. If you're still thinking you run a "publication," you're dead already.

It's certainly not a new form factor. Computer makers have been trying to peddle tablets for years. They fall into a chasm between usable sizes. Palm engineered the original Palm Pilot by whittling wood blocks that would fit into a shirt pocket. Guess what: That's pretty much the size of the iPhone, Blackberry, Droid and Pre. Then you have the laptop, which has become the standard computer workstation. Shrink it too much, and it fails (7-inch netbooks are so dead, 9-inch netbooks are struggling). So what happens when you grow the iPhone into that size and shape? We'll see.

The list of shortcomings is stunning.

No multitasking. Are you kidding me? Palm Pre and Android have it, and they're "just" smartphones.

No Flash, so most of the video on the Internet won't play. Also rich-media ads won't play, so stick that in your "savior of journalism" pipe and smoke it.

No USB ports, so you can't plug anything in ... not your camera, not your printer, not your tetherable Blackberry that might give you Internet access. OK, you can fix at least some of that with an accessory that costs more, but Apple hasn't divulged the pricing. Maybe it can network over USB. Maybe it can't.

No 3G on any network other than AT&T. Can that be right? It doesn't support standard SIM cards, and if you manage to get a T-Mobile micro-SIM card, it still won't work because it's not on the right frequencies. Oh, by the way, if you're in Europe, get lost.

No camera? No Skype video? Whatever were you thinking?

Sorry, Apple fans, but I just don't see any innovation here.

Recently I've been on a downsizing binge, so I get the "small is beautiful" thing. For work, I traded in my Macbook Pro for a smaller 13-inch Macbook, and lately I'm locking it away at the office rather than carrying it around. Several times on international trips -- France, Germany, Spain, India -- I've traveled with my tiny Nokia N800 Internet Tablet and a folding keyboard. But even at a price (as low as $499) that's much lower than many had predicted, the iPad just doesn't seem to be fixing a problem.

Not long ago I bought a semi-netbook, an Acer laptop with an 11.6-inch screen. It's all the things that the iPad isn't. It's a real computer running real software. I can edit photos and even video (not great for that, but it can be done). Full-size keyboard, 160 gigs of hard drive storage, camera, Flash video, dual-core CPU, built-in reader for SD/MMC/XD/MemoryStick, Ethernet and SVGA projector output -- all of which the iPad doesn't have. It cost $100 less than the cheapest stripped iPad. Nope, I'm not tempted.


Methinks you were expecting too much, then – especially if you're looking for something that allows you to sell newspaper content and save the industry. That was certainly not among Apple's promises, unless I missed it. Newspapers need to get over thinking that people will pay them a lot for content online, and focus on leading (and following) their existing audience to the Web. The Web's increasing mobile-ness should be an opportunity, not a problem. Maybe the iPad's current limitations give newspaper's a little breathing room to work toward a goal of increasing engagement -- from the current miserable average of less than one minute per visitor per day to something better. A cooler experience of reading news, whether on a computer or a tablet, would be a step in that direction. The point is, the new hardware will not solve newspapers' problems; better software, a better experience, is what they need.