Why the iPad 2 leaves me cold

Apple fans the world over may be all a dither over Apple's latest tablet, but there are numerous reasons not to be

At the risk of offending Apple fans far and wide, I can't for the life of me see what there is to be excited about in Apple's new iPad.

Yes, I know it has front and rear cameras, and it finally has a dual-core processor. That's awesome, without a doubt, as is the tweaked operating system and the addition of a gyroscope. And yes, it's thinner and lighter, both of which are good things too, I guess.

But analysts have observed that the new device fails to "move the bar," and I agree. The iPad 2 leaves me cold, particularly when you compare it with Android-based competitors like the Motorola Xoom. Here are just a few reasons why.

1. Incremental Specs

The iPad 2 may have a few, minor advantages over competitors like the Xoom for now, but they won't last long.

"The specs are basically what everyone else is coming out with in three to four months," NPD Group retail researcher Stephen Baker told my Computerworld colleague. "We're at a point where this set of features will be similar across every device, at least for this round."

2. You're a Slave

As with every other doodad out there in Apple's carefully protected walled garden, you have no say over much of anything. Apple hands down the technology from on high, and you are expected to love it just as it is.

There's very little room for customization. In other words, rather, you have to do things the way Apple tells you to do them--and like it. If there are problems, you'd better get used to waiting for help. Apple, and only Apple, is in charge of the entire ecosystem.

Nothing like a monopoly for good service, right? Hah, not so much.

3. A Censored Selection

Along similar lines, while Apple's app selection may still outnumber those for other platforms simply because its platform has been around longer, you only get to see and use the apps Apple has benevolently decided are right for you.

Apple's stance on porn is already well-known, but there are plenty of other, potentially more valuable contenders it's keeping out of its OS too, such as the WikiLeaks app it banned late last year. There's also no evidence whatsoever to suggest the apps that do make it through are any more secure--quite the contrary, in fact.

Are you a grown adult? That's what I thought. Then why let someone else tell you what's good for you?

4. A Humdrum OS

iOS 4.3 may be an incremental improvement on the operating system used in the first iPad, but it still can't hold a candle to Android 3.0, or Honeycomb, particularly for tablet purposes. Honeycomb is more customizable and secure, and better at multitasking and it sports numerous other features tailored to use on tablets.

5. No Flash

Are you content to let Apple dictate that you can't watch Adobe Flash content on your device? Well you'd better find something else then, because that's just what it has done. Isn't it better to have the option? How could removing choice be a good thing?

6. Insecurity

Critics of open source software are fond of associating every passing vulnerability with the software's openness, but the data suggest otherwise. Security firm Secunia, in fact, last year declared that Apple products now have more security vulnerabilities than any others--including even Microsoft's, and that's really saying something. Apple actually topped Secunia's ranking of the top 10 vendors with the most vulnerabilities in 2010.

More recently, researcher McAfee named Apple products as growing targets for malware this year. "Security through obscurity," as the pro-closed argument is called, is just a fallacy, nothing more. No way can Apple's limited staff protect you better than legions of open source users around the globe--and your own common sense.

For my money, the relatively open Android platform is a much better bet, even aside from Honeycomb's numerous other tablet-centric advantages.

7. It's All Marketing

In a Retrevo survey published about a year ago, the majority of consumers said they didn't really want an iPad. That's not to say that many didn't apparently come around over the course of the past year, of course, as Apple's sales figures can attest.

But I think the results from that survey are a telling comment about the effect of marketing in this arena. Marketing is clearly one of Apple's fortes, and I believe it's a leading reason why people buy the company's products--much more so than for other companies.

That's why potential purchasers of the iPad 2 need to separate themselves as much as possible from the hype. Sit down and take a cold, rational look at the device and its competitors--particularly the Xoom--and you'll see why Apple just hasn't delivered all that much, except another snazzy performance.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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Katherine Noyes

PC World (US online)
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