Monday, September 20, 2010

iPad is like a BMW 7 Series: fat and excessive

A year ago or so I had a week with a friend's big, fat BMW. It was actually a 645i not a 7 series, but same point: I found it so fat and luxurious I actually felt nauseous when sitting down in the thing each the morning. I'm not trying to pull a Cayce Pollard here. I'm not thinking I've got some preternatural sensitivity. I really did find the steering wheel so meaty in my hands--which are not small themselves--and the sensation of being trapped inside the bathtub like interior of that car so constricting that it brought back childhood memories of delirium, when I had a fever of 104F and the world felt like the inside of a Dali painting. Also, there's such excess in a high end BMW, a level of perfection so far above where normal mortals live. Every stitch is in place. The leather is thick and heavy with wealth. All the switches click with a sublime feel that makes me think only of large quantities of delicious butter and steak and the morning after feeling of way too much expensive red wine. Nauseousness.

This afternoon I spent my first 15 minutes with an iPad and felt exactly the same way.

If you know me, you know I love technology. I just purchased a LiveScribe pen for example and am tickled with it. I have a BlackBerry filled with way too many apps. I use Twitter. I have to have the latest software version and am always trying new stuff. I buy almost all my books in electronic format. But I was surprised at how completely unsuited I am for the iPad. Here's why:

1. I do love keyboards. I love that tactile give of the keys. Hitting the glass of a virtual keyboard for even a short length of time makes my fingertips hurt.

2. The iPad is heavy. Really heavy. Let me say that more strongly: it feels like a brick, like you could use it in an exercise routine. My Kindle and the iPod touch in contrast are magically light, almost weightless. Holding the iPad made me feel again like I was in a childhood delirium.

3. I don't play games. My laptop is fine for the occasional movie. So all that functionality is wasted on me.

4. I find Flipboard frightening. That's the app that pulls content from everywhere and creates your own magazine. I am not a strong person. I am too easily seduced. Flipboard feels like being trapped in a doctor's office with an infinite number of the latest magazines and no appointment in sight. Get me out of here! But no, even though the door is unlocked I DON'T WANT TO LEAVE!

It makes sense that the iPad is devouring netbooks and consumer level cheap notebooks. It's the same price and incomparably more beautiful. It's like a taste of BMW for the price of a used Honda Super Cub. But the only use I've got for it is to show someone a presentation across the conference room table. For the most part, as Cory Doctorow says, it's just a consumption device.