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The iPad . . . ideal for keeping your lap warm. Photograph: Kimberly White/Reuters
A star appears over San Francisco and a new gizmo is born. The iPad! At first glance it resembles an iPhone in unhandy, non-pocket-sized form. But look a little longer, and . . Nope. You were right first time.
Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Apple excels at taking existing concepts – computers, MP3 players, conceit – and carefully streamlining them into glistening ergonomic chunks of concentrated aspiration. It took the laptop and the coffee table book and created the iBook. Now it’s taken the iBook and the iPhone and distilled them into a single device that answers a rhetorical question you weren’t really asking.
It’s an iPhone for people who can’t be arsed holding an iPhone up to their face. A slightly-further-away iPhone that keeps your lap warm. A weird combination of portable and cumbersome: too small to replace your desktop, too big to fit in your pocket, unless you’re a clown. It can play video, but really – do you want to spend hours staring at a movie in your lap? Sit through Lord of the Rings and you’d need an osteopath to punch the crick out of your neck afterwards. It can also be used as an ebook, something newspapers are understandably keen to play up, but because it’s got an illuminated display rather than a fancy non-backlight “digital ink” ebook screen, it’ll probably leave your eyes feeling strained, as though your pupils are wearing tight shoes.
The iPad falls between two stools – not quite a laptop, not quite a smartphone. In other words, it’s the spork of the electronic consumer goods world. Or rather it would be, were it not for one crucial factor: it looks ideal for idly browsing the web while watching telly. And I suspect that’s what it’ll largely be used for. Millions of people watch TV while checking their emails: it’s a perfect match for them.
Absurdly, Apple keeps trying to pretend it’ll make your life more efficient. Come off it. It’s an oblong that lights up. I’m sick of being pitched to like I’m a one-man corporation undertaking a personal productivity audit anyway. I don’t want to hear how the iPad is going to make my life simpler. I want to hear how it’ll amuse and distract me; how it plans to anaesthetise me into a numb, trancelike state. Call it the iDawdler and aggressively market it as the world’s first utterly dedicated timewasting device: an electronic sedative to rival diazepam, alcohol or television. If Apple can convince us of that, it’s got itself a hit.
Some people are complaining because it doesn’t have a camera in it. Spoiled techno-babies, all of them. Just because something is technically possible, it doesn’t mean it has to be done. It’s technically possible to build an egg whisk that makes phonecalls, an MP3 player that dispenses capers or a car with a bread windscreen. Humankind will continue prosper in their absence. Not everything needs a 15-megapixel lens stuck on the back, like a little glass anus. Give these ingrates a camera and they’d whine that it didn’t have a second camera built into it. What are you taking photographs of anyway? Your camera collection?
And don’t bring up videocalls to defend yourself: it’d be creepy talking to a disembodied two-dimensional head being held at arm’s length, and besides, the iPad is too heavy to hold in front of your face for long, so you’d end up balancing it in your lap, which means both callers would find themselves staring up one another’s others nostrils, like a pair of curious dental patients. (Videocalls are overrated anyway. You just sit there staring at each other with nothing to say. It’s like a prison visit: eventually one of you has to start masturbating just to break the tension.)
Personally, I’m not sure whether I’ll buy an iPad, although I think – I think – I’m about to buy an iBook. Yes, I was a dyed-in-the-wool Mac sceptic for years. Yes, I’ve written screeds bemoaning the infuriating breed of smug Apple monks who treat all PC owners with condescending pity. But being chained to a Sony Vaio for the last few weeks has convinced me that I’d rather use a laptop that just works, rather than one that’s so ponderous, stuttering and irritating I find myself perpetually on the verge of running outside and hurling it into traffic. (That’s a moan about Sony laptops, not PCs in general, by the way. I’m keeping my desktop PC, thanks: that’s lovely. Smooth as butter. Better than I deserve, in fact.)
I just hope buying an iBook won’t turn me into an iPrick. I want a machine that essentially makes itself invisible, not a rectangular bragging stone. If, 10 minutes after buying it, I start burbling on about how it’s left me more fulfilled as a human being, or find myself perched at a tiny Starbucks table stroking its glowing Apple with one hand while demonstratively tapping away with the other in the hope that passersby will assume I’m working on a screenplay, it’s going straight in the bin.
The iBin. Complete with built-in camera. $599.99.
Original article at The Guardian.