Why internet devices like the iPad are a bad idea

Apple's iPad isn't magical, whatever Steve Jobs claims

Jeremy Laird

Some you win and some you lose. As it goes, Apple's new iPad makes me feel like I'm first past the post.

Not because it's going to change anyone's life for the better, but simply because it confirms what I've been saying for longer than I care to remember about mobile internet devices, or MIDs.

Not to put too fine a point on it, MIDs are a bad idea. And make no mistake: the iPad is nothing more than a MID. I could, of course, count the ways in which the iPad fails. I might wax proselytical about the oversized screen and how it bloats the device's proportions unnecessarily.

I could wail and gnash that the lack of support for Flash video is utterly bonkers in a device Apple claims is better for web browsing than a laptop.

Equally, there are legitimate complaints to be made regarding Apple's decision to run a Mickey Mouse smartphone operating system – one that lacks proper multitasking support – on a far larger and supposedly more capable device.

Likewise, the total absence of expansion-friendly ports, sockets and card readers is a galling limitation that smacks of control freakery. Whatever Steve Jobs claims, magical the iPad ain't.

But ultimately, debating the pros and cons of the iPad's weak execution is irrelevant and plays into the hands of Apple fanboys. It gives them the opportunity to point at the widespread criticism levelled at the first iPhone and confidently imply that the trash talkers have got it wrong once again.

No, the real problem with the iPad isn't poor execution: it's the broken MID concept. For starters, the fact that even a flawed MID such as the iPad is better for internet browsing than the best smartphone counts for nothing. You can't slip the iPad or any other MID into a trouser pocket.

What is it?

To put it another way, MIDs neither replace nor compete with smartphones. As Apple itself says about the iPad, it's a new category of device, not a replacement. However, what MIDs do have to compete with, contrary to the preachings of his royal Jobness at the iPad launch event, are laptops in all shapes and sizes, including netbooks.

It's difficult to think of more than a small handful of distinctly niche applications for which the tablet or slate format factor is preferable to the classic fold-out screen and keyboard design.

Indeed, Apple's promotional video for the iPad, replete with images of the hapless user contorted into a slouching, knee-high, feet-on-coffee table position, tells you all you need to know about the difficulties of the slate form factor. Anything other than perfunctory prodding at the screen is a royal pain in the backside.

Article continues below