Deeper iPad Intel: To Buy Or Not To Buy

SCap_ 2010-04-06_75Now that the dust has settled a bit on the iPad launch (unlike that from the Icelandic volcano which is keeping me in Europe for a few days longer than planned), it is time for a round-up of initial impressions.

And while everyone has predictably been falling all over themselves to get in a lot of general reporting about the debut, yours truly has been busy curating the less obvious, in order to get to the bottom of the question – to buy or not to buy…

The Form Factor Issue

After testing out the iPad at the Apple Store in Austin for about 20 minutes, and then again the following Monday at BestBuy for nearly 2 hours, I have to concur with the commentators that said it was a bit on the heavy side.

Not so much in the sense of the weight itself, but in the sense of being distributed in slightly too large of a form factor (kind of like overly large furniture making moving of it more awkward even if the item isn’t that heavy).

Not once did I think that that there wasn’t enough shown on the 9.7″ screen. Instead, it was almost too much. And watching various commentators such as Scoble et al. on the review by The Gillmor Gang wield theirs for the camera, they looked a bit too large as well. Wield is the right word for it come to think of it.

I said in January after the announcement that I had wished for the iPad to be “one size smaller”, about paperback size. Slightly smaller screen, less bezel instead, to keep it at about 4 x times iPhone size, rather than 6 x. If it had to be slightly thicker to fit batteries and other entrails, then so be it. No one seems quite as obsessed with (device) thinness as Steve Jobs come to think of it.

We’ll see if one of the other tablets planned for Android/Chrome OS or Windows will take advantage of this smaller form factor. [UPDATE: Looks like Dell is going to, with 5″ and 7″ screen versions of its Streak tablet. 5″ seems a bit too small given that the current largest smartphones are already nearing 4.5 inch screens.]

Think about it like this: A 10″ screen held at 2 feet equates to a 50″ screen at 10 feet! (This is why no one thinks that hard about the little screens in the airplane seat backs being too small to watch many hours of movies on long flights.)

Right now I have my laptop on my lap, with the 15″ screen about 2 feet away. The iPad would have to be held with your arms fully out-stretched to create the same distance. At about 1/2 – 2/3 of that distance, the current iPad screen size will actually be the same (at 2/3) or even bigger than that (at 1/2 distance). I really think a 7-8″ diagonal screen would be completely sufficient.

And make the tablets much easier to wield…

The keyboard issue

There are several aspects to this:

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Is Advertising Failing On The Internet? today featured a guest post by Eric Clemons, Professor of Operations and Information Management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania entitled "Why Advertising Is Failing On The Internet".

In the lengthy post he argues his "basic premise […] that the internet is not replacing advertising but shattering it", which due to its sweeping nature definitely warrants further examination. The post as of right now has generated well over 200 comments, on a Sunday, so it obviously hit a nerve.

Among other things, Professor Clemons makes the following points about advertising both online or via traditional broadcast media:


Consumers do not trust advertising. Dan Ariely has demonstrated that messages attributed to a commercial source have much lower credibility and much lower impact on the perception of product quality than the same message attributed to a rating service. Forrester Research has completed studies that show that advertising and company sponsored blogs are the least-trusted source of information on products and services, while recommendations from friends and online reviews from customers are the highest.

Consumers do not want to view advertising. Think of watching network TV news and remember that the commercials on all the major networks are as closely synchronized as possible.  Why?  If network executives believed we all wanted to see the ads they would be staggered, so that users could channel surf to view the ads; ads are synchronized so that users cannot channel surf to avoid the ads.

And mostly consumers do not need advertising. My own research suggests that consumers behave as if they get much of their information about product offerings from the internet, through independent professional rating sites like or community content rating services like or TripAdvisor.

While I would agree with all three points made, and would count them among important caveats for anyone choosing to advertise for anything in this day and age, I disagree with Professor Clemons’ basic premise. Here’s why:

I would argue that none of the major "Old Media" players online (or for that matter none of the "New Media" either) are anywhere close to having efficiently monetized their page views. Everyone is still clumsily fumbling around when it comes to intelligent targeting of ads, both as to offer theme, as well as to offer pricing.

(Or rather mostly lack thereof, as when trying to employ Madison Avenue "image advertising" without any clear offer being made. Which, if it ever worked on TV, etc., certainly isn’t working online. In fact, online it may increasingly create a negative image of a company/brand/product as "someone" who just doesn’t get it).

This is astonishing, when all it really takes is some common sense about selling people stuff that makes sense in the CONTEXT of what they were already doing.

First, let’s get clear on the fact that an article or opinion piece in e.g. the New York Times provides a lot more pointers as to readers’ state of mind/interest than most Google queries ever could (as do Web videos posted on such sites), so the failure to target properly is in part simply a form of laziness.

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