iPad 2 hysteria another lesson in crass consumerism

People are prepared to line up for the new iPad, but do they really know why?

As media reports surface around the launch of the iPad 2 in Australia, it's time to take a good look at how tech products can result in subservient slaves rather than mindful masters.

When we see a story a story about people camping out on the street just to be one of the first to get their hands on a second-generation device with known specs, we should be asking ourselves whether technology is really taking more from people than it gives back?

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The iPad is a great device, but, like the multitude of touch screen tablets that preceded it and are now flooding the market, it is best used as an access device.

We’re seeing mass consumerism reach another level – in addition to sunglasses and soda bottles it’s now also smartphones and tablet PCs

As I’ve said in the past, generally the smaller the device, the better is for accessing data and the worse it is for creating information.

Now, with the arrival of rich mobile operating systems like iOS and Android, smaller devices are much more adept at data input that they have ever been, but they will always have their raw size against them.

Activities like typing, document creation, image manipulation and multimedia work are almost always going to be easier, and hence more productive, on a desktop or notebook than a tablet.

A lot of Apple’s iPad and iPhone marketing centres around what’s possible with iOS. Of course, what’s possible with something doesn’t mean it’s the most practical or productive way to do it.

Apple’s objective is to promote its ecosystem. It portrays the iPad as partly a business tool, but the real money is to be made in all sorts of applications – business and consumer.

Even if Apple lost money on the iPad and iPhone devices it can more than make up for it with the content.

So while Apple trumpets the fact that one can do video editing on the iPhone, that doesn’t mean it will eventually replace the video editing workstation in a future “post-PC era”.

I think there is a lot more innovation to be had in the PC space, and mobile devices are a good complement to the existing technology.

Today is the day the iPad 2 will go on sale in Australia and people are lining up for it. Yes, it is cheaper, but why the bumper following?

The answer lies in a junction of good marketing, innovative technology and rabid consumerism. With the last of those being the most distasteful.

Sure the iPad is a “sexy” product, and it doubles as a fashion accessory, but as analysts said when it was announced in the US, it’s not that much of an improvement over the first generation.

People are camping and queuing for iPads because they are led to believe it is a “must have” tech gadget. They’re not much different from people who line up to see their favourite sports team or band.

They are driven by hype-driven want more than need.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that Apple’s mobile products are very restrictive in nature. It’s not like people are eager to get a product they have unlimited usage rights over – the hardware, operating system, application and content ecosystem is tightly controlled by one company.

From my observations most people that buy and use iPads are doing so because it’s a nice, neat, integrated package. It would certainly be an overstatement to say most consumers who use an iPad use it for something “special” or something that could not be done on a similar device.

Never before have we witnessed so much anticipation for a set of technology products. It’s right up there with a new Star Wars flick.

We’re seeing mass consumerism reach another level – in addition to sunglasses and soda bottles it’s now also smartphones and tablet PCs.

The release of the iPad 2 gives us a good reason to remind ourselves about the technology “why” as well as the “how”.

A new generation of smartphones and tablet PCs are resulting in a new paradigm of information access, creation and management, but that doesn’t mean we should all rush out and queue up for one, particularly if the majority of use cases remain standard.

Before you go and camp out for the next iPad ask yourself how you would use it and why you think you need one at all.

Don’t less mass consumerism drive your technology agenda and spending. At the rate at which technology progresses, today’s grand hysteria could easily be tomorrow’s garbage heap.

And, in case you’re wondering, no, I won’t be lining up for an iPad 2 this evening.

Follow Rodney Gedda on Twitter: @rodneygedda

Follow TechWorld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU

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