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Magazines > Searcher > May 2010
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Vol. 18 No. 4 — May 2010
SEARCHER'S VOICE
Technolust
by Barbara Quint
Editor, Searcher Magazine

The Searcher's Voice Podcast In the immortal words of Angel Martin, the kooky friend of private eye Jim Rockford in the world-class television series, The Rockford Files, “You and I both know, Jimmy, that you can’t make one thin dime selling people what they need. You’ve got to sell them what they want.” Angel’s rosy visions of scalawag success were only equaled by his criminous incompetence. Nevertheless, truer words were never spoken. They should be engraved in the heart — and probably are — of every marketing executive.

Despite my undying memory for the wisdom of those words, I must confess that I have been swept up and away in the incredible hype for the new Apple iPad. When you get David Letterman doing a “Top 10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Waiting in Line for the iPad” [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqwI-Myg9Bo] 2 days before the product was available in stores, that’s viral marketing of pandemic proportions.

David Pogue did a brilliant review for TheNew York Times, entitled “Looking at the iPad From Two Angles” [http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/01/technology/
personaltech/01pogue.html?sq=pogue ipad review&st=cse&scp=1&pagewanted=all
]. Pogue recognized that the new device had already received lots of digital ink —half from haters and half from super-fans. As he put it, “The haters tend to be techies; the fans tend to be regular people. Therefore, no single write-up can serve both readerships adequately. There’s but one solution: Write separate reviews for these two audiences.” And that’s what he did.

Well, it’s nice to know I’m a “regular” person. Despite the negative comments from the techies, despite the “Get down from that ledge” arguments from my personal technical adviser (David Rensberger, a Searcher Tools of the Trade columnist), despite all the internal admonitory scoffing from the tiny voice my mother had installed within my psyche from an early age — well, despite it all, the sun had not set on Saturday, April 3, 2010, the first day of iPad’s product launch, before the Apple.com website had me — and my credit card — in its clutches.

Unlike the people standing in Letterman’s lines, I will not see the device for a couple of weeks at least. For online shoppers, the Wi-Fi versions of the iPad are supposed to ship on April 12. For the more expensive 3G versions, Apple had not yet set a shipping date on launch day. Actually, I expect to receive an iPad shipment much earlier, but only for an attachment, one of the three that boosted the total price of the purchase experience by about half again the price of the iPad. Words of warning from David (Rensberger, that is, not Letterman) echoed in my ears: “This is only the beginning. They’ll nickel-and-dime you to death.” Still, I refuse to bang out responses to email messages on a screen. I want a keyboard and no two ways about it. At least, I do until I’ve tried out the screen keyboard. And I do look forward to linking my flat-screen television monitor to the device, so that’s another gizmo.

So what justifications have I made for such an exuberant purchase? Well, this magazine and competitive publications are awash with articles about mobile computing. I need hands-on experience to properly edit such articles. Then there’s my reputation as a consumer advocate to consider. Ever since I started seeing these apps appear, I’ve become more and more suspicious. These are often answer products, information designed to lead to decisions and actions by users. Where is the critiquing information? How do you know those map directions recognize the latest road changes? How do you know whether all the recommended restaurants had to pay the app developer for inclusion? How often do these apps update their information? How complete is it? Only hands-on usage can build the proper frame of reference for good critical analysis.

As for the real reasons why I bought it, they are as follows. I am sick and tired of always being the last guy in the row behind new technologies. Just because I don’t get out and about as much as most folks and don’t need a smartphone or a cell phone, just because I’m not riding around town with earbuds blaring music in my ear, just because I missed one or two (or three or four) generations of consumer electronics, doesn’t mean that — just once — I wouldn’t like to be at the head of the line when it comes to technology. And then there’s the elaborate, delicious fantasy of showing off my iPad in front of that friend of mine who’s always flashing her iPhone (a previously owned iPhone at that). I can just see myself looking at her texting away and then leisurely leaning forward to pull out my iPad. Heh, heh, heh. Shabby thinking? Evidence of a low moral nature? Sure. But very, very human. As the great Oscar Wilde put it: “For me, it is not enough merely to succeed; my friends must also fail.”

By the way, the Monday after the Saturday launch, I got an email from Amazon offering a free download to enable Kindle books to work on iPad. The week before the launch, Amazon had sent me a similar announcement covering PCs and Macs. And speaking of other iPad announcements, Netflix issued a press release announcing a free iPad app for its subscribers to get tens of thousands of television shows and movies for which Netflix offers streaming video. (By the way, if you want to watch The Rockford Files via Netflix’s streaming service, season one starts with http://www.netflix.com/Movie/The_Rockford_Files_Season_1/70020002?
strackid=458e3be768fc845d_0_srl&strkid=1671062426_0_0&trkid=222336
. The pilot is the first show and the only one where Rocky, Jimfather, is not portrayed by the beloved Noah Beery Jr., known to his colleagues as “Pidge.”)

Do I see a lot of fun (and learning) in my immediate future? You bet I do. Yippee! And I have already called the publicist of a leading library vendor to ask what the library planned to do for the iPad. I even made a few suggestions — and the toy hasn’t even arrived yet! But when it does, watch my speed!

— bq


Barbara Quint's e-mail address is bquint@mindspring.com.
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