10 reasons I don't want an Apple iPad

Battery life, no USB ports, even the name spells disappointment.

The much-hyped launch of Apple's new tablet-style computer yesterday has done little to change my belief that it's a solution looking for a problem.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs, in trademark black turtle-neck sweater, said, "iPad creates and defines an entirely new category of devices that will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before."

Creating a new category in the fast-moving electronics industry is no mean feat. Let's not forget that despite its numerous successes, even Apple has not always been able to do that. There were portable music players before the iPod, and smartphones before the iPhone. There weren't many square computers before its G4 Cube, but then that product bombed anyway.

Is the iPad really a brand new category of device?

I fail to see that it is. As we've established, tablet computers have been around for many years. What makes the iPad drastically different? It runs a different operating system (most others run Windows or Linux) and because it's from Apple, integrates well with the likes of Apple's iTunes and its online iBookstore, and can run all the apps than run on the iPhone. That's about the long and short of it.

Apple's says the iPad is a "magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price". But who really needs it? iPhone users already have access to the thousands of apps in the Apple App Store (not to mention an existing subscription to a telecoms operator). Anyone with a laptop, notebook or netbook has large-screen portable computing nailed, with the advantage of a folding keyboard that protects the screen from scratches and knocks and is more familiar and faster than the iPad's on-screen touch keyboard.

Much has been made of the argument that it will revolutionise publishing because you can download thousands of books, or read newspapers on it in glorious full colour. Sure, for a few hours. While Apple claims "up to 10 hours" of battery life you're unlikely to see that in real-world situations, especially once you have a number of battery-hungry apps running from the App Store and are using Wi-Fi or 3G connectivity in anger.

Compare battery life to the e-reader competition: the Kindle from Amazon claims the battery will last 7 days from a single charge, while Sony's eReader measures battery life as up to 7,500 continuous page turns. So it's not a direct e-reader competitor, if all you want to do is read digital books on the move.

Anyway here are the top 10 iPad disappointments.

1. The name. iPod may have been cool, but iPad just seems lazy. And it sounds like a sanitary towel.

2. Battery life. "Up to 10 hours" is unlikely to be more than a claim in real-world situations. Turn on wi-fi or 3G and expect to need to charge it twice a day.

3. No keyboard. OK, I know that's sort of the point, but how many people want big-screen portable computing without a real keyboard? Keyboards on notebooks protect the screen, too.

4. No USB ports, and you need to buy a Camera Connection Kit to plug in an SD card to transfer your digital photos from a camera.

5. No camera. That means no video chat or Skype video calling. Some people use such things a lot, I'm reliably informed.

6. The price. The base model without 3G (and hence rather limited on the move) is $499 which will probably actually convert to just under £500 for the UK market. iPods cost more on a like-for-like basis in Europe than the US, and the top spec iPads, at around $850, are going to be pretty expensive compared to the competition if that's the case here.

7. No Adobe Flash support. The supposedly best browsing experience doesn't let you use one of the most popular formats for animation and video on the web.

8. Iffy GPS. There's something called Assisted GPS which relies on Wi-Fi or 3G but there's no built-in GPS receiver.

9. No applications multi-tasking apart from for a few apps that come with the device.

10. The name, again. Oh, and limited operator coverage (currently only on AT&T in the US, no word on UK carriers yet). And the closed application ecosystem. And the likely fragility of the thing. And the potential for the screen to get smeary when you keep touching it. And the fact you will become a target for thieves as early iPod users were. And no high definition video output. And the aspect ratio isn't widescreen. And bright screens are a strain on the eye compared to the digital ink technology of rival e-readers...

I'm sorry, but I still don't quite get it. I clearly don't believe in magic. As I've also said before, people will buy this thing. That's the cult of Mac.

 

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Jason Stamper is editor of Computer Business Review

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Leaving the cleaning to someone else makes you happier? Men have known that for centuries

Research says avoiding housework is good for wellbeing, but women have rarely had the option.

If you want to be happy, there is apparently a trick: offload the shitwork onto somebody else. Hire cleaner. Get your groceries delivered. Have someone else launder your sheets. These are the findings published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but it’s also been the foundation of our economy since before we had economics. Who does the offloading? Men. Who does the shitwork? Women.

Over the last 40 years, female employment has risen to almost match the male rate, but inside the home, labour sticks stubbornly to old patterns: men self-report doing eight hours of housework a week, while women slog away for 13. When it comes to caring for family members, the difference is even more stark: men do ten hours, and women 23.

For your average heterosexual couple with kids, that means women spend 18 extra hours every week going to the shops, doing the laundry, laying out uniform, doing the school run, loading dishwashers, organising doctors' appointments, going to baby groups, picking things up, cooking meals, applying for tax credits, checking in on elderly parents, scrubbing pots, washing floors, combing out nits, dusting, folding laundry, etcetera etcetera et-tedious-cetera.

Split down the middle, that’s nine hours of unpaid work that men just sit back and let women take on. It’s not that men don’t need to eat, or that they don’t feel the cold cringe of horror when bare foot meets dropped food on a sticky kitchen floor. As Katrine Marçal pointed out in Who Cooked Adam Smiths Dinner?, men’s participation in the labour market has always relied on a woman in the background to service his needs. As far as the majority of men are concerned, domestic work is Someone Else’s Problem.

And though one of the study authors expressed surprise at how few people spend their money on time-saving services given the substantial effect on happiness, it surely isn’t that mysterious. The male half of the population has the option to recruit a wife or girlfriend who’ll do all this for free, while the female half faces harsh judgement for bringing cover in. Got a cleaner? Shouldn’t you be doing it yourself rather than outsourcing it to another woman? The fact that men have even more definitively shrugged off the housework gets little notice. Dirt apparently belongs to girls.

From infancy up, chores are coded pink. Looking on the Toys “R” Us website, I see you can buy a Disney Princess My First Kitchen (fuchsia, of course), which is one in the eye for royal privilege. Suck it up, Snow White: you don’t get out of the housekeeping just because your prince has come. Shop the blue aisle and you’ll find the Just Like Home Workshop Deluxe Carry Case Workbench – and this, precisely, is the difference between masculine and feminine work. Masculine work is productive: it makes something, and that something is valuable. Feminine work is reproductive: a cleaned toilet doesn’t stay clean, the used plates stack up in the sink.

The worst part of this con is that women are presumed to take on the shitwork because we want to. Because our natures dictate that there is a satisfaction in wiping an arse with a woman’s hand that men could never feel and money could never match. That fiction is used to justify not only women picking up the slack at home, but also employers paying less for what is seen as traditional “women’s work” – the caring, cleaning roles.

It took a six-year legal battle to secure compensation for the women Birmingham council underpaid for care work over decades. “Don’t get me wrong, the men do work hard, but we did work hard,” said one of the women who brought the action. “And I couldn’t see a lot of them doing what we do. Would they empty a commode, wash somebody down covered in mess, go into a house full of maggots and clean it up? But I’ll tell you what, I would have gone and done a dustman’s job for the day.”

If women are paid less, they’re more financially dependent on the men they live with. If you’re financially dependent, you can’t walk out over your unfair housework burden. No wonder the settlement of shitwork has been so hard to budge. The dream, of course, is that one day men will sack up and start to look after themselves and their own children. Till then, of course women should buy happiness if they can. There’s no guilt in hiring a cleaner – housework is work, so why shouldn’t someone get paid for it? One proviso: every week, spend just a little of the time you’ve purchased plotting how you’ll overthrow patriarchy for good.

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.