What's Worse Than iPad-Was-Coming Hype? Perhaps iPad-Is-DOA Hype or the IPad-Will-Save-Media Hype!
While a lot of the hype around the upcoming Apple iPad has thankfully died down, reaching its crescendo at the unveiling of the tablet device last month, the buzz of two kinds building now is perhaps worse.
The first meme has to do with a notion that the iPad is dead on arrival for a wide variety of reasons. No support for Flash video technology. No USB ports. An eye-tiring screen. Too pricey. Too much like a giant iPhone without the phone. No camera.
You get the idea.
What’s most interesting to me is that some people I talk to say the Apple (AAPL) device is just terrible to use, despite the fact that they have never even touched one.
When I note that I have, indeed, taken it for a very short spin and liked what I saw quickly, they always then ask me all about it as if I held the wisdom of the ages.
My stock answer: “Since you are not buying one, I will spare you the pain.”
While that’s annoying enough, perhaps worse are the ongoing paeans that the iPad will somehow be the savior of traditional publishers of all kinds, providing–finally!–the just-right medium to make their various and sundry media relevant in the digital age.
But, like Goldilocks, that’s just a fairy tale until the iPad is actually out in the wild and subject to consumer use when it begins to be rolled out in late March.
Because even if the iPad proves to be as good at displaying magazine and rich advertising as seems possible (see the pretty video of Wired magazine on the iPad above), it’s not going to be clear whether it’s a success until regular people are using it on the same scale as its sister devices, the iPod and the iPhone.
In addition, it seems as if media companies–in their quest to somehow escape the powerful clutches of search giant Google (GOOG) or Kindle-bearing Amazon (AMZN)–are rushing into Apple’s arms without making the obvious connection more strongly.
Which is to keep remembering that Apple and the music industry have fought viciously over pricing and control ever since the iPod and its progeny took over the market for all nonpirated sales of music.
With their hands on none of the key technology and innovation levers online–not devices, not search, not social networking or e-commerce relationships–media giants continue to be without even a pair sticks to rub together to make digital fire.
They tout their premium content, of course, as being critical to the Apple iPad’s success, but it’s not at all clear it will turn out that way.
That’s why I cringed when I read the last lines from a piece by media writer David Carr of the New York Times, even before the iPad launch, titled, “A Savior in the Form of a Tablet”:
“I haven’t been this excited about buying something since I was 8 years old and sent away for the tiny seahorses I saw advertised in the back of a comic book. Come to think of it, the purchase didn’t really meet my expectations, but with the whole new year thing, a boy can dream, right?”
I suppose he can, but digital dreams–like those seahorses–can sure die fast.