My esteemed colleague and good friend Jason Perlow just declared the iPad to be the Technology of the Year. I can't help but disagree with him.
In fact, if you're thinking about getting or giving an iPad this Christmas, I'll give you 9 reasons you might want to think again.
The iPad is fine technology, but quite limited. As far as the "Technology of the Year," I'd certainly say the iPad might rate as the gadget of the year simply due to fan enthusiasm.
But in a year that has seen cloud computing grow to the point that it can provide a $525, 2048-core cluster in 45 minutes, there are clearly ground-breaking technologies that go far beyond a glorified iPhone with a bigger screen.
For that is, essentially, what an iPad is. It's an iPhone with a bigger screen -- minus the phone and the camera. Certainly, the iPad is portable and convenient, but it's also wildly limited.
Here then, are 9 reasons you might NOT want to buy an iPad.
Reason 1: The iPad 2 is coming
Apple regularly updates its hardware and the iPad is no exception. Many of the features of the iPad already significantly lag behind the iPhone 4, so we're likely to see a significantly upgraded device released within the next four or five months.
Reason 2: There's no USB port
This is one of those no-excuse lacks that makes the iPad infinitely frustrating. Getting data onto the iPad is tedious, at best. If you want to load the iPad up with movies or PDF files, you have to go through any number of convoluted approaches, including using the horrid iTunes interface or uploading files to Dropbox and then downloading them again.
Reason 3: You have to use iTunes
Reason 4: There's no way to wirelessly synchronize your bookmarks
I know this is a nit compared to many of the iPad's other shortcomings, but it goes to proving how limited the machine is for production use.
It is actually quite pleasant to sit on the couch and browse the Web on an iPad. But if you're a writer like me, and you find a Web site you want to save for later, you can't easily bookmark it and have that bookmark show up on your other machines.
I use Xmarks to keep my bookmarks in sync across all my devices and it works wonderfully. But although there's an Xmarks app for the iPad, it doesn't work in Safari (because Apple won't let it). Safari is an island on its own.
Even if you own a Mac and you want to sync iPad Safari to Mac Safari, you can't do it wirelessly. You have to hook up the iPad and let the -- let's all say it again -- horrid iTunes sync process run to get those bookmarks in sync.
One new bookmark could take ten minutes of hooking up, unhooking, syncing, restarting, and otherwise futzing with technology that seems far more 2001 than 2011.
Reason 5: Kindles are much less expensive
If you want to use the iPad as an ebook reader, you may want to consider a Kindle or a color Nook. Kindles can be had for as little as $139 and the color for $249. Compare this to the iPad, which starts at $499 and goes all the way up to $829.
Plus, the Kindle comes with a free data plan. If you choose the more expensive iPad 3G models, you'll have to pay for a separate monthly data plan.
See also: Five lessons Apple can learn from Amazon
Reason 6: WiFi is still unreliable
For some reason, Apple can't seem to get WiFi working reliably with the iPad, even in its latest updates.
This is unfortunate, since the iPad is pretty much useless without WiFi. Some users (myself included) find that the iPad's WiFi implementation is notoriously unreliable, so much so as to render the device almost useless.
This is unacceptable and, as usual, Apple isn't acknowledging the problem.
Reason 7: You can only run software approved by Apple
Jason and I have both written extensively about Apple's restrictive policies. The fact remains that, unless you want to go out and jailbreak your iPad, you're forced to run software that Apple has approved for sale in its own app store.
Apple is notoriously capricious about what applications it approves and doesn't approve, often denying publishing rights to software that's otherwise excellent -- except for the mere fact of competing with Apple's mediocre equivalent applications.
You should have the freedom to run whatever software you want, and developers should have the freedom to sell or give you the software they make. But in the case of the iPad you're locked in, so much so that members of the GPL community are considering pulling applications because of Apple's restrictive policies.
Reason 8: There's no camera, front-facing or otherwise
Apple's video conferencing software, FaceTime, is rapidly becoming a killer app for the iPhone 4 and Snow Leopard-equipped Macs.
You would think FaceTime would be a perfect application for the iPad, but there's no camera. Will there be one in the future? Probably, but not on this iPad.
Reason 9: It can't be used as a standalone computer
The iPad almost seems like the perfect parents or in-laws machine, a true Internet appliance that would allow less technologically facile family members to have access to the Internet, email, and social networking capabilities without needing to know much about computers, operating systems, software installation, viruses, or any of the other nightmares of daily computing life.
Except that, apparently by design, the iPad really, really wants to connect to a computer running iTunes. Bizarrely, to get started using the iPad, you first have to physically tether it to an iTunes-running computer and then, for all updates, it's again a physical connection.
This from the company that introduced WiFi to the masses. It's just very strange, highly inconvenient, and rules out gifting the iPad as a turnkey "get online" solution.
So there you go. Nine compelling reasons to avoid the iPad this holiday season. TalkBack below. For the best reading experience, click View All Expanded.