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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Labour can be populist and English without copying Donald Trump

There's nothing deplorable about discussing the common interests of the people.

As Labour’s new populism gears up for Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent, it will be tested on voters who are, by a significant measure, more likely to see themselves as English. In the 2011 census, both constituencies scored "English" identity nearly 10 per cent higher than the English average and still 5 per cent higher than England outside of London.

It’s no surprise that both Ukip and the Tories have polled well in these places. In the 2015 general election there was strong correlation between feeling "English", or feeling "more English than British", and voting Ukip and Conservative. Indeed, amongst the "English not British" Ukip took about a third of the votes across England, and the Tories a fifth. Labour lagged below 15 per cent.

Labour’s problems may be getting worse. A recent YouGov poll, commissioned by the Centre for English Identity and Politics at Winchester University, showed "Englishness" gaining at the expense of "Britishness" in the year of Brexit. At the extremes, "English not British" rose by 5 per cent (from 14 per cent to 19 per cent), with ‘British not English’ falling by a similar amount. If past relationships hold, these voters will become harder for Labour to reach.

Although most people in England would favour an English Parliament, or English MPs alone voting on English issues, these have not yet become the political demands of an explicit nationalism as we might find in Wales, Scotland or Catalonia. Indeed, there’s no actual evidence of a direct link between feeling English and the way people vote. It well be that the underlying factors that make someone feel English are also those that incline them, overwhelmingly, to vote Brexit or to support Ukip.

We may identify the drivers of English identity - the declining power of the idea of Britain, the assertiveness of devolution, rapid migration and the EU - but we know little about the idea of England than lies behind these polls. There’s almost certainly more than one: the England of Stoke Central imaginations may not be identical to the Twickenham RFU car park on international day.

One of the most persistent and perceptive observers of alienated working class voters sheds some light on why these voters are turning towards their English roots. According to The Guardian’s John Harris:

"When a lot of people said ‘I’m English’, they often meant something like, ‘I’m not middle class, and I don’t want to be…. I’m also white, and coupled with the fact that I’m working class, I feel that somehow that puts me at the bottom of the heap, not least in the context of immigration. But I am who I am, and I’m not apologising for it.'" People who said "I’m English" seemed to be saying, 'I’m from somewhere' in a ways that politicians and the media did not."

Given Labour’s history in seats where support is ebbing away, it’s reasonable to think that the party’s target must be the voters who Martin Baxter of Electoral Calculus describes as "left-wing nationalists". In this definition, "left-wing" attitudes tend to be be anti-capitalist, hostile to business, generous on benefits, support the welfare state and redistributive taxation. "Nationalist" attitudes are seen as isolationist, against immigration, disliking EU freedom of movement, thinking British means "born here" and that Britons should be put first.

For many in Labour, those nationalist attitudes might bring "a basket of deplorables" to mind.  In recent days both the Corbyn left, and centrist MPs like Alison McGovern and Wes Streeting, have warned against meeting these voters’ concerns. Progressive Labour populists must also calm those fears. But Labour will be doomed as a party of government it it can’t reach these voters (even if it does hang on in the forthcoming by-elections). The obstacles are formidable, but with the right language and framing, Labour may find an appeal that could cut through without alienating the party's more liberal support.

Just acknowledging that England, and the English, exist would be a start. The reaction to Birmingham mayoral candidate Sion Simon’s appeal to England in a campaign tweet simply emphasised how much of Labour prefers to say Britain, even when they mean England. We don’t need a swirl of St George crosses at every event; we just need to use the word in normal everyday conversation. At least we would sound like we live in the same country.

The defiant cry to be recognised and heard should trigger another Labour instinct. The demand that the nation should be run in the common interests of the people runs deep through radical history. Jeremy Corbyn reached for this with his talk of "elites rigging the system". But no ordinary English conversation ever talks about elites. Instead of "mini-me Trumpism", English Labour populism needs careful framing in the language of day-to-day talk. Labour's target should be not be the wealthy per se, but those powerful people whose behaviour undermines the national interest and by doing so undermines the rest of us.

This language of national interest, both conservatively patriotic and politically radical, meets the mood of the moment. The select committee challenges to Amazon, Google, Philip Green and Mike Ashley struck a chord precisely because they revealed something deeply true and unpleasant about this land. We can defend the national interest without invoking a racist response. Why are our railways sold to other governments, and our companies sold abroad for quick profit? Why should it be easier for a foreign gangster to buy a house in Surrey, and hide their ownership overseas, than for an English family to get their own home?

By asking what any change means to the people of England, we might bridge the divide on immigration. If the impact of migration is exacerbated by the pressure on housing and service, let Labour make it clear that the rate of immigration should not exceed the pace we can build homes for those already here, as well as any newcomers. The government must be able to expand services to meet additional needs. If every policy should work in the interests of the people of England, migration which improves our services, creates jobs and grows the economy is to be welcomed. It is hard to see a genuine liberal objection to posing the migration challenge in that way. With the exception of refugees, immigration policy cannot be designed to benefit the migrant more than the resident.

Let the test of every policy be whether it works in the interests of the people of England, or works only for a few. That’s a simple test that would appeal to widely shared values. It could be the foundation of a genuine Labour populism that speaks to England.

 

John Denham was a Labour MP from 1992 to 2015, and a Secretary of State 2007 to 2010. He is Director of the Centre for English Identity and Politics at Winchester University