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iPad Delusions: The Curious Appeal of Workaround Computing

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It's slim, it's light, it's revolutionary, and it's...annoying.

The iPad's popularity is nothing short of astounding. Apple's tablet computer has been setting sales records ever since it was introduced. At first glance, this makes sense. Apple has, once again, created a computer that is way cooler than its competition. Also, having once been burned by Microsoft's underselling tactics (nigh unto oblivion), Apple has learned the lesson of competitive pricing. Thus, not only has Apple introduced the slickest tablet on the market, but Apple has also managed to tickle customers' fancy by selling the iPad for considerably less than any other competing device. Very impressive.

Last fall, my netbook imploded so, over the Christmas holidays, I caved to the hype and purchased an iPad. Given all the rave reviews, I figured my new iPad was going to instantly catapult me into a new and more wondrous computing realm. Yeah, right. As P.T. Barnum once put it, "There's a sucker born every minute."

Contrary to all of the hoopla, my first impression of the iPad was chagrin at how much it couldn't--and I was soon to discover, wouldn't--do. For starters, after unpackaging the iPad, I was disappointed to discover that it was not a standalone computer. In other words, you can't just turn the damned thing on and use it. Instead, first-time users must plug their revolutionary Apple tablet into some other computer that has been preloaded with iTunes--and to which the iPad must remain spiritually harnessed in perpetuity.


Even more annoying, users cannot successfully breathe life into their iPads unless they provide the iTunes store with a credit card number with which to make "convenient" (Read: excessive, unnecessary impulse) purchases. Although this might be great for Apple's bottom line, it also conveys the impression that Apple views its customers as easy marks from whom it can exact never-ending tribute. Not much of a first impression.

Now, on to using the iPad. Apple likes to brag that there's an app for just about everything. Yeah, right. I'm channeling P.T. Barnum on this one again. Suffice it to say that most iPad apps remain in development, which is another way of saying that they don't work very well. I could create a long list of the shortcomings of specific iPad apps, but, since I'm trying to keep this article brief, I will simply say that, when it comes to the App Store, caveat emptor!

Yet, more aggravating than the functions that iPad apps can't accomplish are the myriad operations that the iPad refuses to accomplish. Yes, you read that correctly. There are a wide variety of straightforward computing operations, which most computer users have come to take for granted, that the iPad simply won't allow. Once such activity is attaching documents to email.

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Again, WHY?!

Of course, it is possible to send email attachments with the iPad, but apparently because Steve Jobs is opposed to traditional, straightforward file management, it requires a circuitous workaround: exiting the email program (...WHY!?) and sending files one--but not two, three, four or more--at a time.

Don't get me wrong, I like Steve Jobs: he's a visionary who's done more to spearhead the personal computing revolution than anyone in history, and I hope he lives to be at least two hundred years old. Three cheers for Steve! But, that said, he's got this one wrong.

Steve Jobs doesn't like file management (or USB drives, or Chrome, or Flash, etc., etc.,) but his customers do--particularly this one. But that's just too darn bad. The iPad is Steve's baby and Steve wants iPad users to compute his way, not their way. So, when it comes to the iPad, it's Steve's way, or the highway.

Well, I've tried the iPad, and I'm pleased to report that, no matter how busy that particular technology super-highway may be, there are plenty of exits--and I'm taking the very next exit to Linuxville.

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Tim McGettigan is a professor of sociology at CSUPueblo. Tim's primary research interests are in the areas of science, technology, society (STS) and the future and Tim blogs about those topics at the following sites: The Socjournal, (more...)

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Well, I've tried the iPad, and I'm pleased to repo... by Timothy McGettigan on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 9:45:35 PM