Gentlemen's Debate: The iPad is pointless piffle

Order, order, the House will now come to order to hear whether iPad is indeed a "pointless piece of piffle" as the Honourable Gentleman On the Left has suggested or whether in fact that's "tish-pash and bunkum" as refuted by the Honourable Gentleman On The Right. Gentlemen, if you will, I should like to hear no interruptions, no references to one another matrilineage and no calling of the other a Turk. If the Gentlemen On The Left would like to begin.

Thank you Mr Speaker. I would like to begin by congratulating the Honourable Gentleman On The Right on his purchase of an extra large iPod touch and ask, indeed, why he bother? After all, he already has a Macintosh computer and an iPhone. For what purpose could he possibly want an iPad as well?

I welcome the Honourable Gentleman's congratulations and the answer is simple - it allows me to read and watch videos in bed and on the sofa without having to get out a big laptop. I can, of course, do that on the iPhone, but I am a gentleman who enjoys his viewing and I should like a larger screen to enjoy.

A larger screen it may have but, surely the Honourable Gentleman's arms tire of holding onto it? A laptop might be a bit heavier - not all mind - but a least there's the stability of the keyboard and base to rest on your legs while you lounge in the drawing room or sip cocoa whilst tucked up in bed. Besides, the warmth of a laptop in winter is as good as a hot water bottle.

Ha, indeed. Well, yes, I do agree that an iPad is heavier than a ebook reader for example, but it is a lot smaller than a laptop and still far lighter. I can then put my feet up, "kick back" and relax. The iPad screen is good enough for couch surfing, and if it bothers the Honourable Gentleman that much, then why not just buy a case with a stand for it?

True, you can purchase a stand and I suppose one could always tilt one's knees up in bed to free up one's hands. The question is though, how much does Apple charge for extra trinkets like that? 

If one has just paid $499/£500 for an iPad, then I'm sure one could stretch to a stand, a strong wrist, or even make one oneself. I would suggest that that is not what is of actual importance here. A trifling extra spend is not going to stop one wanting to buy an iPad. The Honourable Gentleman is happy enough to buy and hold a flagon of ale in a crowded public house, is he not?

Order, order, any slander as to drinking habits of the Honourable Gentleman On The Left and his sobriety at the last Gentlemen's Debate will be taken very seriously.

I am indeed as happy as any man is to hold a flagon of ale but there are some serious stealth taxes beyond the initial outlay for an iPad unlike with alcohol. One must purchase a case, a keyboard dock, any videos one wishes to watch within the walled garden and the app developers seem suddenly to have taken the idea that their prices can shoot up just because the screen size has too. What is worse is that many of the content applications involve a further subscription as well. One will have paid for the thing twice over within the first 2 months, let alone adding in the cost of an extra contract if one has the misfortune of owning the 3G model.

One buys the model, one surfs the Internet, one gets one's emails, one responds to tweets and one sideloads one's own "backed up" videos and television transmissions. It is all there and quite simply laid out to discover for even the greatest of simpletons. Then there are services like catchup TV that allows one to watch UK television for free. Or, of course, there is the ABC player or Netflix for our cousins in America to enjoy. These all allow one to take advantage of free services that are out there. If one wants to purchase applications, then, yes, indeed, it will cost, and there is more of an urge to buy said apps because the iPad does not have a secondary purpose such as being a phone to boot. However, one gets to control one's own destiny. One need only spend 10 pounds on a game if one wishes to have some fun. Surely we cannot put a price on happiness?

Ha, well so long as that does not mean being huddled round a candle eating a can of cold baked beans by the glow of one's precious iPad.

If the Honourable Gentleman cannot afford an iPad then perhaps he ought not buy one then?

Indeed. And what of all the other tablets on their ways; all the ones that do not appear to have the mass of Achillies' heels that the iPad has? Where should we start? The lack of Flash support, perhaps? Who would want to buy a device that one cannot even surf the web upon?

Well, by all means, wait and buy one of those then. You must understand, the iPad, like the iPhone, is an emotional luxury purchase that does not have to be justified by statistics. If one plays that card, then one would have to say that the iPhone is doomed as there are better spec'ed, better hardware-focused devices out there. However, that has not stopped Apple selling 50 million of them around the world to date. The HP Slate might have a camera, the Google Chrome OS tablet, due out in November, might offer Flash, but they also may be clunky as hell to work with.

Well, indeed, they may be but I would be surprised if they all were. The iPhone was a different kettle of fish, though. The iPhone served a unique purpose and was genuinely far better than any other handset for a long, long time. It was only really the HTC Hero that heralded the first of the phones that could compete with it. Firstly, the iPad will not sell as many because its use, as you say, is one of luxury. It is largely superfluous to needs. It is a toy. Secondly, I believe that the manufacturers of the new flush of tablets will be smarter than all the phone makers who held aloft their "iPhone killers" for 2 years in the past. What really held them back in the phone department was the quality of the touchscreen and the simplicity of the system. Both these issues have been addressed. Just like Apple, all they need to do now is to make it bigger.

Ha, but you forget the killer factor here - the developers. Apple is just the facilitator in this, that is what the iPad is, it is a gateway to something else. The hardware does not really matter and, in the hand, one does not care what is inside it but what it can do to make one's life better. With 3500 applications from day 1 and plenty more no doubt for the United Kingdom launch, the power of the iPad is developers creating apps that people want. Nobody else, including Android, is anywhere near that at the moment.

Android may not have as many applications on the Market but I'm sure it is faster growing than the App Store right now - largely, because of all the iPhone/Pad app makers are just producing the same ones for Android now - minus all the dross that did not work on Apple's system, of course. Developers are so keen to write for iPhone OS because they see a mass of cash-heavy, savvy-light consumers clearly prepared to part with a lot of money for not very much. Plus, one does have to take the iPad's hardware into consideration. If tablets are really to find a niche, it has to be in the home as an all-purpose, all-connected device. The iPad just does not cover enough of that. The only reason the iPad is doing well is because it's Apple and it's first.

This device is not aimed at the tech savy, spec wannabes, it is aimed at real people who want to get in on the world of computing without being scared. It is an empowerment device. Android is all well and good. It is a noble OS, but it's also very pure, very engineering, very dull - why else would every phone maker try to add their own skin to it otherwise? While that suits the computer "dude", Android is not for the mother of two teenagers who just wants to check her email and surf the Internet. I think the Honourable Gentleman will be disappointed if he is looking for a consumer device that also quells tech-spec lust too.

Every phone maker is trying to add their own skin to Android because every phone maker is petrified of their company and hardware being subsumed by the software of another company that is on it, but that is a debate for another time. I understand the joy of the Pads, Pods, and Phones of this world and have to take my hat off to it really. These things are very easy to get the hang of. What is difficult to marry up with that ethos though - and I'm thinking of the mother of two here - is why Apple insists of, yet again, stopping short of supplying customers with the complete solution that they deserve? That mother of two wants to be able to use the iPad to make video calls to her relatives. She wants to be able to see her grandchildren after her youngsters have moved out and started families of their own. Strip away too many features and the iPad just becomes a very expensive way of checking e-mails, playing Scrabble and browsing an incomplete version of the Internet. And, I would appreciate it if the Honourable Gentleman spares us the insult of describing the iPad as a serious gaming system.

Naturally, there will be competition in the short term and I welcome it because it will only strive to make the iPad better. At the moment, however, it is like holding the future in the palm of your hand. It is like being on the set of Star Trek (can you look at these charts, I say passing it to my wife - yes I have one of those) and it lets you believe that. In the coffee shop people look and stare. It is "cool". It has massive amounts of kudos factor and whether one loves that or loathes it, that is what Apple does best. It makes products that might not be as feature packed as one wants, but, damn it, you do, for some strange reason, want them nonetheless.

I am willing to believe that the Honourable Gentleman has both a wife and is a Star Trek fan simultaneously and I am also willing to accept that, yes, the iPad does have that X-factor desirable aspect to it. It is just very difficult to appreciate and applaud Apple for what it comes up with when it is delivered in such a smug fashion. It makes it rather tricky to have any middle ground on it.

Order, order, the time has concluded on this matter and, seeing as no decision has been reached on the iPad, it will be settled in the time honoured tradition of pistols at dawn. We would also welcome discussion from the floor until such time as the Gentleman On The Left and the Gentleman On The Right meet in the mists of dawn.