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

Photo: Getty Images
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I'm far from convinced by Cameron's plans for Syria

The Prime Minister has a plan for when the bombs drop. But what about after?

In the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister set out a powerful case for Britain to join air strikes against Isil in Syria.  Isil, he argued, poses a direct threat to Britain and its people, and Britain should not be in the business of “outsourcing our security to our allies”. And while he conceded that further airstrikes alone would not be sufficient to beat Isil, he made the case for an “Isil first” strategy – attacking Isil now, while continuing to do what we can diplomatically to help secure a lasting settlement for Syria in which Assad (eventually) plays no part.

I agreed with much of David Cameron’s analysis. And no-one should doubt either the murderous barbarism of Isil in the region, or the barbarism they foment and inspire in others across the world.  But at the end of his lengthy Q&A session with MPs, I remained unconvinced that UK involvement in airstrikes in Syria was the right option. Because the case for action has to be a case for action that has a chance of succeeding.  And David Cameron’s case contained neither a plan for winning the war, nor a plan for winning the peace.

The Prime Minister, along with military experts and analysts across the world, concedes that air strikes alone will not defeat Isil, and that (as in Iraq) ground forces are essential if we want to rid Syria of Isil. But what is the plan to assemble these ground forces so necessary for a successful mission?  David Cameron’s answer today was more a hope than a plan. He referred to “70,000 Syrian opposition fighters - principally the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – with whom we can co-ordinate attacks on Isil”.

But it is an illusion to think that these fighters can provide the ground forces needed to complement aerial bombardment of Isil.  Many commentators have begun to doubt whether the FSA continues to exist as a coherent operational entity over the past few months. Coralling the myriad rebel groups into a disciplined force capable of fighting and occupying Isil territory is a heroic ambition, not a plan. And previous efforts to mobilize the rebels against Isil have been utter failures. Last month the Americans abandoned a $500m programme to train and turn 5,400 rebel fighters into a disciplined force to fight Isil. They succeeded in training just 60 fighters. And there have been incidents of American-trained fighters giving some of their US-provided equipment to the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.

Why has it proven so hard to co-opt rebel forces in the fight against Isil? Because most of the various rebel groups are fighting a war against Assad, not against Isil.  Syria’s civil war is gruesome and complex, but it is fundamentally a Civil War between Assad’s forces and a variety of opponents of Assad’s regime. It would be a mistake for Britain to base a case for military action against Isil on the hope that thousands of disparate rebel forces can be persuaded to change their enemy – especially when the evidence so far is that they won’t.

This is a plan for military action that, at present, looks highly unlikely to succeed.  But what of the plan for peace? David Cameron today argued for the separation of the immediate task at hand - to strike against Isil in Syria – from the longer-term ambition of achieving a settlement in Syria and removing Assad.  But for Isil to be beaten, the two cannot be separated. Because it is only by making progress in developing a credible and internationally-backed plan for a post-Assad Syria that we will persuade Syrian Sunnis that fighting Isil will not end up helping Assad win the Civil War.  If we want not only to rely on rebel Sunnis to provide ground troops against Isil, but also provide stable governance in Isil-occupied areas when the bombing stops, progress on a settlement to Syria’s Civil War is more not less urgent.  Without it, the reluctance of Syrian Sunnis to think that our fight is their fight will undermine the chances of military efforts to beat Isil and bring basic order to the regions they control. 

This points us towards doubling down on the progress that has already been made in Vienna: working with the USA, France, Syria’s neighbours and the Gulf states, as well as Russia and Iran. We need not just a combined approach to ending the conflict, but the prospect of a post-war Syria that offers a place for those whose cooperation we seek to defeat Isil. No doubt this will strike some as insufficient in the face of the horrors perpetrated by Isil. But I fear that if we want not just to take action against Isil but to defeat them and prevent their return, it offers a better chance of succeeding than David Cameron’s proposal today. 

Stewart Wood is a former Shadow Cabinet minister and adviser to Ed Miliband. He tweets as @StewartWood.