The iPad frenzy

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 2, 2010; 10:26 AM

When was the last time that Time and Newsweek went with the same cover subject, other than their repeated exploration of all things Obama?

I mean, it would have to be a development so important, so vital, so indisputably crucial that it changed civilization as we know it.

That day has now arrived, in the form of a $500 to $800 product that you should already feel guilty for not having, even though it doesn't hit the stores until Saturday.

The iPad may turn out to be so revolutionary that we'll look back on its unveiling like Alexander Graham Bell speaking to Mr. Watson. Or not.

I don't dispute for a moment that Apple makes elegant products that have lifted the level of technology. That's quite apparent, as the iPod and the iPhone have shown us. But I marvel even more at the company's magical powers of media manipulation.

There is something about Apple that makes smart tech writers go weak in the knees. Maybe it's the secrecy, the mystique, the Steve Jobs factor. The iPad is now getting a massive publicity launch that would have cost tens of millions of dollars if Apple had to buy all the column inches and air time. And keep in mind that Jobs already unveiled the thing back in January.

My take (having not laid hands on the thing): The people who write about technology love fancy gizmos. They love the Apple-orchestrated drama of these rollouts. And they harbor a deep wish that the iPad is going to rescue the print business from oblivion, thereby preserving their way of life.

Ordinary people, for the moment, can get by with a laptop and a cellphone, especially if they have a smartphone. My BlackBerry handles most of my mobile needs. I don't like virtual keyboards. So I have yet to be convinced that I must rush out and buy this tantalizing tablet.

But markets also run on mass psychology. If your friends are raving about the iPad, you'll eventually feel you also must get one. Which reminds me:

Aren't we supposed to be in a recession or something?

NYT columnist David Pogue mixes praise with plenty of criticism:

"When the iPad is upright, typing on the on-screen keyboard is a horrible experience; when the iPad is turned 90 degrees, the keyboard is just barely usable (because it's bigger). A $70 keyboard dock will be available in April, but then you're carting around two pieces. . . .

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