iPad early adoption: a risk too far

Steve Jobs wasn’t kidding when he said that the “technology road is bumpy”.

Those familiar with my initial thoughts about the Apple iPad won't be overly surprised if I waste no time in doing a little more "Apple-bashing", since the army of iPad early adopters are already reporting major hassles with their shiny new devices.

Don't get me wrong, I do have sympathy for those who rushed out to get their hands on the iPad the very first weekend it went on sale, only to find in many cases that its wifi was iffy, to say the least. Others have complained it takes an age to charge it up. But although I'm sympathetic, they were always likely, like any early adopters, to pay a price to be first with iPad bragging rights.

Just like the early adopters of the iPod, who went up in arms when Apple dropped the price from $599 to $399 within weeks of it going on sale, the purchasers of iPad 1.0 should keep in mind the words of Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs, when he attempted an apology of sorts back then. As Jobs said, had those iPod buyers been "in technology for 30-plus years", like him, they would have a better understanding of how the "technology road is bumpy", and appreciate that "this is life in the technology lane".

Perhaps he will make a similar statement to appease the customers who have flooded Apple's discussion boards to complain that their iPad is struggling to get a strong wireless signal, despite other devices nearby working normally.

"I have rebooted the iPad three times, doesn't help. My MacBook is running on the same wifi network just fine. Not spending $500 on something I can't even use. It's going back tomorrow," said one user on a forum.

But I'd be surprised if Jobs gets embroiled in such "petty" complaints about his beloved tablet. Talking about early sales figures which showed that Apple managed to shift 300,000 units on the first day of the gadget's release and has sold another 500,000 since, he said: "It feels great to have the iPad launched into the world. It's going to be a game-changer."

Sweat sensation

For those with complaints about the device, it may feel like far less of a game-changer (though I suppose they can always play games on the thing even if they struggle to download books and audio, or surf the net, the purpose for which the device was primarily intended).

Nor are they alone. Buyers of the third-generation iPod Shuffle were staggered to discover that a device marketed as small and light enough to be ideal for gym workouts would break down spectacularly, should any sweat get near the headphone jack. As one of hundreds of commenters on a bulletin board wrote of the debacle: "I would have been SHOCKED if Microsoft was boneheaded enough to have released a product for exercise that was obviously not tested for its primary intent. For Apple, it is inexcusable."

So what does Apple have to say about the iPad wifi issue? Will it be able to do a software patch, or will it have to recall the faulty devices? You'll have to ask the company yourself. I asked what its response was to all of the third-generation iPod Shuffle failures a while back, and the press office failed to respond to my two emails and a phone call.

It seems that because I don't exclusively peddle positive messages about Apple and its gizmos, the company won't talk to me.

Compare and contrast: when I called Microsoft recently to ask about its thoughts on open source in local government, the company hooked me up with its national technology officer within hours. Yet many of the Apple faithful still call Microsoft the Evil Empire!

Anyway, as far as the iPad is concerned, the niggles over wifi haven't changed my mind: I still don't want one. As one commenter on my recent article wrote: "A completely stupid device . .. it's just a fashion statement if anything. It's really not competition for any other device . . . so the makers and supporters say, 'Oh, that's because it's a revolutionary new device' but I say '. . . that we didn't need.' "

For the sake of balance, another commenter said: "I love my new iPad. It's only $500, people, use it for what it does and not bash it for what it doesn't."

Damn, I've failed already.

Jason Stamper is technology correspondent of the New Statesman and editor of Computer Business Review.

Jason Stamper is editor of Computer Business Review

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The dog at the end of the lead may be small, but in fact what I’m walking is a hound of love

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel.

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel. I seem to have become a temporary co-owner of an enthusiastic Chorkie. A Chorkie, in case you’re not quite up to speed with your canine crossbreeds, is a mixture of a chihuahua and a Yorkshire Terrier, and while my friend K— busies herself elsewhere I am looking after this hound.

This falls squarely into the category of Things I Never Thought I’d Do. I’m a cat person, taking my cue from their idleness, cruelty and beauty. Dogs, with their loyalty, their enthusiasm and their barking, are all a little too much for me, even after the first drink of the day. But the dog is here, and I am in loco parentis, and it is up to me to make sure that she is looked after and entertained, and that there is no repetition of the unfortunate accident that occurred outside my housemate’s room, and which needed several tissues and a little poo baggie to make good.

As it is, the dog thinks I am the bee’s knees. To give you an idea of how beeskneesian it finds me, it is licking my feet as I write. “All right,” I feel like saying to her, “you don’t have to go that far.”

But it’s quite nice to be worshipped like this, I have decided. She has also fallen in love with the Hovel, and literally writhes with delight at the stinky cushions on the sofa. Named after Trude Fleischmann, the lesbian erotic photographer of the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, she has decided, with admirable open-mindedness, that I am the Leader of the Pack. When I take the lead, K— gets a little vexed.

“She’s walking on a loose lead, with you,” K— says. “She never does that when I’m walking her.” I don’t even know what that means, until I have a think and work it out.

“She’s also walking to heel with you,” K— adds, and once again I have to join a couple of mental dots before the mists part. It would appear that when it comes to dogs, I have a natural competence and authority, qualities I had never, not even in my most deranged flights of self-love, considered myself to possess in any measurable quantity at all.

And golly, does having a dog change the relationship the British urban flâneur has with the rest of society. The British, especially those living south of Watford, and above all those in London, do not recognise other people’s existence unless they want to buy something off them or stop them standing on the left of the sodding escalator, you idiot. This all changes when you have a dog with you. You are now fair game for any dog-fancier to come up to you and ask the most personal questions about the dog’s history and genealogy. They don’t even have to have a dog of their own; but if you do, you are obliged by law to stop and exchange dog facts.

My knowledge of dog facts is scant, extending not much further beyond them having a leg at each corner and chasing squirrels, so I leave the talking to K—, who, being a friendly sort who could probably talk dog all day long if pressed, is quite happy to do that. I look meanwhile in a kind of blank wonder at whichever brand of dog we’ve just encountered, and marvel not only at the incredible diversity of dog that abounds in the world, but at a realisation that had hitherto escaped me: almost half of London seems to have one.

And here’s the really interesting thing. When I have the leash, the city looks at me another way. And, specifically, the young women of the city. Having reached the age when one ceases to be visible to any member of the opposite sex under 30, I find, all of a sudden, that I exist again. Women of improbable beauty look at Trude, who looks far more Yorkie than chihuahua, apart from when she does that thing with the ears, and then look at me, and smile unguardedly and unironically, signalling to me that they have decided I am a Good Thing and would, were their schedules not preventing them, like to chat and get to know me and the dog a bit better.

I wonder at first if I am imagining this. I mention it to K—.

“Oh yes,” she says, “it’s a thing. My friend P-J regularly borrows her when he wants to get laid. He reckons he’s had about 12 shags thanks to her in the last six months. The problems only arise when they come back again and notice the dog isn’t there.”

I do the maths. Twelve in six months! That’s one a fortnight. An idea begins to form in my mind. I suppose you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out what it is. But no. I couldn’t. Could I?

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism