iPad: Why All the Vitriol?

by Kara on March 18, 2010

I ordered my iPad Friday night, a belated birthday gift from my husband. I hate to label myself an Apple fangirl, but since switching to Mac a few years ago, I have definitely fallen in love. I don’t buy all of their products – we don’t own AppleTV and we certainly don’t buy every generation of the various devices that come out – but if I am excited about a new product, I will probably buy it. I am excited about the iPad. I have long wanted an eBook reader, but hesitated because they are devices that only do one thing. And even though I am a voracious reader, I wasn’t sure if I would buy enough eBooks to justify the cost of a Kindle or a Nook. I wanted to try one out in everyday situations to see if I liked it, but I never quite convinced myself to get one. When the iPad was announced, however, I knew that was exactly what I was looking for. It’s an eBook reader, but it also does everything else I want a portable Apple device to do, except maybe take pictures (a feature I don’t really need because I have an iPhone and a digital camera). The other big plus is that it only weighs a pound and a half. For someone with chronic back problems, this is a huge improvement over a laptop. I always drag my laptop with me when we travel, but hiking around Bhutan with a laptop in my backpack is not always practical. The iPad will make keeping in touch while on the move that much easier. Will there be shortcomings? Of course. I don’t believe every word that comes out of Steve Jobs’ mouth, but I do know that Apple has an excellent track record of creating products I love.

For me, getting an iPad was a no brainer. But I certainly understand that there gazillions of people for whom the iPad holds no interest. And if you don’t want an iPad, it doesn’t really affect me in any way. Which is why I am astounding by the vitriol with which people attack Apple and the people who buy its products, apparently holding special contempt for the iPhone and iPad. I have to ask why. Why do these people care whether other people they don’t know buy Apple products? Why do they feel compelled to call people who want an iPad idiots? Logically, I know that it is the same universal insecurity that drives people to belittle others in order to feel good about themselves, but still it amazes me. If I ever write a post saying that people are idiots for liking something I don’t like, I hope someone slaps me. I know I am stating the obvious, but when you are so insulting to people with ideas different than yours, it says a lot more about you than it does the person you are insulting.

These diatribes are often prefaced with a comment about how some people will buy anything that Apple puts out. Some folks will, but I don’t really understand why that is a problem for someone else. I have been reading the comments on various articles about the iPad and iPad sales, and a large number of the negative statements are about the limited intelligence of people who want an iPad. A lot of them say because there is no Flash, no camera, no USB port, etc., the iPad is useless. But what they are really saying is that those features are important to them and they would prefer to buy a device with those features or wait for an iPad with those features. Belittling people who do not care so much about those features just doesn’t make any sense.

Here is a comment posted Friday in response to an article about iPad sales:
“I hate to use the term fanboys, but I can’t think of any other term to use for anyone who is “pre-ordering” one of these things, and it goes to show the lack of intelligence of Apple’s customers. There is NO reason to pre-order other than if you want to be the first to own the next Apple product. No USB? No camera? Low storage? As soon as the tablets from HP, Dell, and everyone else start coming out, these people are gonna feel pretty stupid. And in 6 months when Apple comes out with a new version with these features they’re gonna feel even stupider…”

Where is the evidence to support these statements? There are plenty of reasons to order a iPad besides wanting to be the first to own the next Apple product. Just because he can’t think of any doesn’t mean there aren’t any. I’ve already stated my reason – I want a device that can be used as an eReader as well as doing many of the other activities that are important to me, such as checking email, listening to music, watching a video, etc. I am not too sure why doing a lot of reading makes me an idiot, but apparently it does. I would also point out to this fellow that there will be no second generation iPad if people don’t buy the first generation iPad. If no market exists, then that will quickly become apparent. Apple hasn’t released any numbers yet, but I do believe there is a market.

Another interesting comment:
“Apple products are geared towards people who are technologically challenged and like things to be kept simple and unchanging. I’m glad that Apple has used this niche market to maintain it’s (sic) success with their products. And I think it’s sweet that so many people have bought these for their grandparents and mother-in-laws.”

This is clearly not true, and the condescension is just obnoxious. My husband, who uses a Mac Pro and a MacBook Pro, has a PhD in computer science – his particular area is data mining and machine learning. He is no computer novice. He deals with many complex computing issues every day, and for home use and his photography, he prefers a Mac. Many people of varied ages and abilities prefer Macs, and I cannot figure out why this seems to bother some people so much. If you don’t like Macs, don’t buy one.

There are thousands of comments like these, but I’ll just share one more:
“So where is this economic crisis? oh yeah, we still haven’t learned our lesson on saving and not spending beyond our means…silly Americans…”

This is one of many examples of a commenter painting every iPad buyer with the same brush. The economic crisis has affected people to varying degrees, and although I am sure there are plenty of Americans ordering iPads who can’t afford them, there are also plenty who have no credit card debt and a lot of savings and have no problem paying $500-800 for an Apple tablet. The writer is correct that people should not buy things they can’t afford, but the implication that everyone who buys an iPad cannot afford it is ludicrous.

So why do people say things like this? It isn’t limited to Apple products. Folks seem to think it is great fun to bash other people for their choices (and hopefully get a rise out of them in response). But I can’t see wasting too much of my precious time on such an activity. There will always be room for well-reasoned arguments, but if you follow those arguments with “if you don’t agree with me you’re an idiot,” then you’ve just undone the case you built.

For my part, I am looking forward to the arrival of my iPad. I’ll have to wait a bit longer than some because I ordered a 3G. The iPad won’t be perfect, but I do believe it will be worth the wait. I’ll let you know.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Rohini March 14, 2010 at 9:28 am

Thanks for taking time to write the blog post. It is easier to point to this post than to explain the same to my friends.

Margot March 14, 2010 at 11:59 am

Most peculiar, I agree. Although my argument with the iPad and other readers is the Digital Rights Management embedded thereon. My husband spends half his life campaigning against DRM and trying to explain to people that there are ways to protect authors’ rights without taking away consumer rights.

Stephen March 15, 2010 at 6:21 pm

I agree about the DRM issue. I can’t see myself paying $10-15 for an e-book and not being able to lend it to a friend or resell it. Furthermore, there have been numerous occasions where a company pulled their DRM servers leaving customers stranded without any way to access their content.

That said, I think the iPad is going to a great tool and I would get one even if there was no book reader application at all.

Kara March 15, 2010 at 6:30 pm

You are completely right about DRM, but I am probably not going to buy a huge volume of books to begin with, when I have about a zillion actual books to read and get rid of. Now that iTunes is offering DRM-free music, I am hoping that eventually that will be the norm. Has Apple made any announcements about DRM in relation to iBooks? If they have said whether the books they sell will have DRM or not, I missed it.

Ken McCoy March 16, 2010 at 8:42 pm

I totally agree. I’m waiting for the 3G/GPS version to order mine.

(I found this blog in a rather random fashion — I was looking for a nephew’s site, his last name is Sjoblom. I’m married to a Sjoblom, or “slob job” as I called her in college, and know that the name is very rare.)

Kara March 16, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Ha! Slob job is one I haven’t heard before. Everyone thinks I’m crazy because not only did I keep my difficult maiden name, I chose to hyphenate it.

Yeah, I definitely wanted the 3G version too. The wi-fi version has been more popular so far, but even if I don’t activate the data plan on it right away, I couldn’t see buying the wi-fi only version. The only way to upgrade if you later decide you want 3G is to buy a new iPad, and that seemed a tad impractical. I do hope the 3G ones ship sooner rather than later!

Stephen March 17, 2010 at 8:21 pm

I know a few people who are planning to get the 3G version but only activate it when they are traveling. It doesn’t make much sense to pay $30/month for your phone’s data plan and an additional $30/month for the ipad (Note I’m assuming that most people planning to get the ipad also have an iphone — this is true in my circle of friends).

Kara March 17, 2010 at 8:32 pm

That is the one thing that is disappointing regarding the 3G iPad. It doesn’t seem fair that you should have to pay for two data plans. And to switch to the iPhone 3Gs, I had to pay more for my data plan anyway, which totally negated any price break on the supposedly “subsidized” iPhone. I would feel a bit differently if I weren’t paying $200+ more a year for my data plan than I was on my original iPhone. Then to charge me for another data plan kind of adds insult to injury. So activating it only when traveling seems to be the way to go.

Kara April 1, 2010 at 12:11 pm

From the New York Times’ David Pogue’s FAQ about the iPad:

“Q: Am I really supposed to buy this thing when I already have a laptop and an iPhone?

A: It always surprises me how many people are made indignant by the very thought of the iPad, as though Congress passed a law that requires you to buy one! You’re not, as it turns out. Buying one is totally optional.”

I now officially love David Pogue, if only for this. Good man, that David.

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