I’m going to make an argument that you should buy an Apple iPad despite widespread rumors of hardware problems and despite widespread criticisms of its design as funky and flawed.
And by “you” I mean yooz guyz who are skeptics.
In order to get there, to the point of this argument, I’m going to have to define skeptical computing, and to do that, skeptical anything, and to do that, what being a skeptic is. That sounds like a long journey but I promise to be concise.
What is a skeptic? A skeptic is a person (or other sentient, symbolically thinking being) with the ability to make rational arguments. The skeptic applies these rational arguments generally, and makes most or all important decisions on the basis of these arguments, where possible. When the skeptic fails to apply the rational argument and develops a belief that is not rationally tested, or that is rationally rejected, the skeptic compartmentalizes that belief as needed, and does not mind when laughed at by other skeptics for such belief.
In other words, a skeptic is a (typically) human (as in flawed) rational thinker with imperfect information living in a world very different from the one economics modelers often assume.
What is skeptical computing? This is a bit more complicated because computing itself is a vague concept as I’m using it here. I mean using computers as a person and the choices you make, but if you are a highly placed IT person that may be quite different than if you are mainly writing letters and keeping track of your schedule. So one dimension of complexity is scale. In addition, you may have more or fewer choices as to what hardware, operating system, and application software you can use. So one dimension is that of available options. Finally, there are probably stylistic choices and personal proclivities that have to do with experience or something specific to you.
For instance, I find that the very pretty, soft, stylized rendering of fonts and other visuals on the current Mac System X to be hard to read, so for me using a Mac no matter how wonderful it might otherwise be is difficult and slightly painful. I therefore feel quite excused for not using one. People who have only used Windows for many years may not like another OS that is far superior simply because of what they are used to (i.e, being crapped on by their computer). There is an irrationality to that, but the irrationality exists as the larger societal level, not necessarily at the personal level.
It might be easier to define skeptical (i.e., rational) computing by defining what it is not. I know a lot of irrational Windows users and a lot of irrational Mac users. People who will tell you that Macs never do anything wrong, or that their Windows machine has never crashed. Those would be the non-skeptical, insane people.
And then there is Linux. Linux is actually the operating system of Skeptics who have a) choice b) some interest in the technical aspects of computer use and c) a tiny bit of experience or training. Linux actually works for more people than that, but making that argument is hard. I’d rather say to people “Linux is not for everybody” and then chuckle quietly when I think what that really means.
My point being, very simply this: Rational people use Mac’s and Linux, depending on various factors. Many rational people are, sadly, forced to use Microsoft systems and software. Woe is them.
So, what is the rational choice regarding buying an iPad?
Well, the most rational choice for most people is probably to not buy one at all until a few months has gone by, because that is what one should always do with totally new hardware if you can. Second or third generation configurations usually become default and basic in a few months, difficulties are worked out, prices drop, and so on.
But aside from that, there seems to be two categories of argument emerging to never buy one, or to at least be very negative about the Apple iPad, or, in some cases, to even bash them with baseball bats and put them in blenders instead of using them. And these arguments are wrong, from a skeptical, rational point of view.
The first is in what appears to be a rather quirky design. The new iPad can only be connected to the outside world in a limited number of ways, and the usual methods of connecting are in some cases lacking. This seems strange, even uncanny. But remember how uncanny the first Macs that had no floppy drives were? That seemed so odd, so counter intuitive, so bizarre, they might as well have been talking dogs or something. But now, nobody has a floppy drive, and we are all so much happier. True, we have thumb drives out the wazoo, and can still never find the files we want, but at least there are no more piles and drawer-fulls of floppy disks laying around everywhere! Yay!
My point being: You might think some of the design aspects of the new iPad are strange, but you might just be behind the curve. Apple has repeatedly introduced totally new ideas that freaked everyone out and that have become universally accepted. They may have only 10 percent of the market, but 100 percent of home computer users use Apple-like desktops and don’t use floppies.
The second strike against the iPad is the number and diversity of negative reports about hardware and to some extent software.
This is where the skeptical part really comes into play. This is where the autism vaccine deniers are separated from the rational people, but in computer-think. Here is the truth: For the average established computer system, the percentage of actual hardware failures, flaws, or quirks that get blogged about … I’m talking about individual instances here, where Joe Schmo has a broken machine and writes a blog or live journal entry about it or comments on an existing blog … is tiny. A small fraction of the instances in which someone’s USB port breaks make it into the blogosphere as news, or are turned into YouTube videos.
In contrast, for brand new, aggressively marketed and hyped hardware and software from a major company like Apple, the percentage of possible (not even actual) hardware glitches that get onto the Internet and discussed rather loudly is … NOT tiny. It might be closer to ten percent. Maybe more.
So you have to take the news with the proverbial grain of salt.
I don’t like Apple’s proprietary approach, and I distrust specialized hardware. But I DO own a kindle and I love it. I’d probably like an iPad very much.