Last Saturday at nine in the morning UPS delivered my very first Apple; the new iPad. I had high, in retrospect, unrealistic, expectations. The iPad didn't fulfill them, so I took advantage of the 14-day return policy to ship it and the keyboard dock I bought back to the company for a refund. And I'm not alone.
I don't mean to imply that the iPad was a failure; it just wasn't what I'd hoped. It is a brilliant entertainment device (aside from the lack of a Flash viewer, a major drawback.) The quality of the video is, frankly, amazing, and held at arm's length it provides a larger image than my big-screen TV a dozen feet away. The iTunes system works flawlessly. Apps are a breeze to upload. I'm not a gamer, but I bet it rocks when used that way. Best of all, it boots up in an instant.
So why didn't I love it?
First, I'd hoped to use it in place of my creaky laptop for writing business articles and fiction. I found when I placed the iPad on the keyboard dock, the result was a flimsy construct, and I lacked confidence that it would put up with the abuse I put my laptop through.
Second, I found the device cumbersome to hold and carry. After carpal tunnel surgery, my grip is iffy, and the slippery aluminum back of the iPad made it oh so easy to drop. For someone as clumsy as me, it would be just a matter of time.
Third, moving files back and forth with my Windows-based home system proved more awkward than I'd hoped. To transfer files from the iPad via iTunes requires an extra step that online-based services like dropbox.com make seem very 2008.
Fourth, the size of the iPad is a problem; too large to carry like an iPod, so I need yet another device to listen to tunes while I work out. I'm fairly content with music on my Blackberry Storm, which also has a camera.
I'm not the only one taking this step, either. The Business Insider pointed out that media expert Jeff Jarvis, who is returning his, tweeted "I am having morning-after regrets. Sweet and cute but shallow and vapid." Joe Wilcox on Betanews rounded up seven people who have taken the same steps.
One of them, Michelle Alexandria of tv.com, disliked the lack of multitasking ability and "price gouging" in the iBooks store. Blogger Nick Ellis realized, as I did, that he already had devices that did the same thing that the iPad does, devices such as his iPhone and laptop. Mike O'Conner may have been swayed with a post on Boing Boing by the outstanding science-fiction writer Corey Doctorow about why he's passing on buying an iPad, including privacy issues, digital rights and the Apple handcuffs.
I've contacted Apple to inquire about the number of returns it has seen to date, and am awaiting its response.
Seven, or, counting me, eight people does not a movement make, but it's enough to raise the question -- does the iPad have a unique niche? I bought a Kindle when it first came out, only to sell it a few weeks later for its lack of features, awkward size, and inability to download e-books from my library. The iPad is a step better, but I suspect I'll never like the book-sized format.
As a toy, as an entertainment platform, the iPad is great (if you don't mind paying for everything you watch). As a work platform, not so much; certainly not at a price point well above that of more versatile netbooks.
Why I returned my iPad