The stock market is going crazy today over Apple's higher than expected earnings -- I just looked and at this moment the stock price is already up about 6% since opening today and has more than doubled in price in the past year. The primary driver of this success is the iPhone, the stories say, along with a big increase in PC sales and optimism about the more than 500,000 iPad's sold.
I bought an iPad last week because I love my iPhone so much (I just got it about 7 or 8 months ago, and the user experience never ceases to impress me -- everything about it is great except the battery life) and also because I figured that, since I was going to have a lot of time on hands recovering from my surgery, it would be fun to have a cool new to toy. The rave reviews for it in the the New York Times and Wall Street Journal convinced me that it would be a great device for occupying my time, providing a handy way to read books, watch movies, read newspaper and magazine stories, casually surf the net, play some games and so on. And as I owned an iTouch for years, I loved it and often said "Wow, a giant version of this would be awesome."
So one of the first things I did after getting home from Cleveland was to buy an iPad. I have been using it a few hours a day for a week now. I like it but love it far less than expected, to the point that I am thinking of selling the modest number of Apple shares I bought the day it was announced that Steve Jobs was taking leave (I believed that Apple had built such a strong organization that it would be fine without Jobs)and the stock plummeted to around $80 (it is about $260 right now, this is one of my rare smart investments). I am thinking, solely based on my experience with the iPad, that perhaps it is time to sell my stock (although I hesitate I because the iPhone is so great and part of me wonders that, even if the iPad does not turn out to be such a huge success, if the lessons learned from developing it will make the iPhone ever greater).
Why am I so lukewarm about the iPad after a week? In short, the combination of the surprisingly heavy weight and the glare on the screen make using it for any length of time a constant battle for comfort -- the result is a surprisingly bad user experience despite all the hype to the contrary. I am annoyed and uncomfortable whenever I use the thing for more than 5 or 10 minutes. Claims that it is a laptop killer strike me as dead wrong. The software is great but using the thing sucks in many ways.
The first day I had it, I rented a movie I have always loved, Blade Runner, and tried to watch it for over an hour before simply giving-up. I struggled to get in the right position where I could see it perfectly without glare and get in position where I did not have to hold the surprisingly heavy thing up in the air in the perfect position. After carefully piling up pillows on my lap, and adjusting them, I got it just right, until I got up to got to the bathroom, and readjustment took another 5 minutes. A laptop, buy the way, would have been much easier because you can adjust and hold the angle screen more easily.
Then, I started reading books. It especially sucks for that -- if reading books is important to you, do it the old fashioned way or buy a Kindle. It's not bad for reading a quick newspaper story or two, but is awful for prolonged reading. I am currently reading a great book called Open by Andre Agassi on the iPad -- the best sports memoir I have ever read. Fortunately, because we also have Kindle, I was able to get it (for no additional charge) and all the books other books we bought for the Kindle moved onto my iPad (which was one reason I bought it). My wife mostly uses the Kindle, but I use it sometimes, and I can tell you that using it for reading books provides a VASTLY superior experience to the iPad. The Kindle is so much lighter, comfortable for me to hold in any position, especially holding it in the air for long periods in various positions (as I have been doing) as I read it in bed or sitting. In contrast not only does the weight of the iPad make it uncomfortable to read for even short periods in many different the same positions where a book or Kindle would work well, getting it positioned just right to avoid the glare adds a second variable to the struggle (a problem the Kindle's non-glare screen largely avoids, even though it lacks the beauty of the iPad screen) -- one that is often more vexing the wright or, to be more precise, creates a bad human experience for the user as you try to deal with these two challenges at once. Right now, my plan is to finish Open, but I will probably never try reading another book on the iPad again: destroying one of my greatest pleasures with constant discomfort seems like a ridiculous thing to do to myself again.
Note the thing I like the IPad best for is it provides an instant and beautiful way to to surf the web, so I am using it right now as a second machine to help me figure out which links to remove from my blog and and how to reorganize it on my laptop, and having the second screen on the iPad is much easier than switching back and forth between tabs in a browser on one machine. The iPhone navigation is also fantastic in the larger format. And the iPad provides wonderful opportunities for "social" internet surfing. Rather than huddling around a monitor or passing back and forth that tiny iPhone, the iPad is wonderful for sharing the Internet with others -- we used it the other day to show my 80 year old mom my daughter's prom pictures, and it was great for passing around, as the screen is dazzling and it is perfect for people to hold for short periods. So for easy access and instant access to the web, social surfing, and that wonderful iPhone browsing experience made even more wonderful, I love it. I also quite like the keyboard.
But for just about everything else so far, I find it a very awkward device, lousy for movies and books because of the blend of glare and weight. Also note that after my wife used it just briefly, she usually refuses to pick it up because "it is too heavy and the glare drives me me nuts." So I am a bigger fan than her of this device.
Others, of course, may have a different experience and I am not quite ready to say I am sorry I bought it. But part of me wonders, for a just a a few hundred extra, bucks I could have got one of the new Apple laptops, and especially because we have a Kindle, it might have been a better use of my money. I will keep experimenting and as I said I do like some things about the iPad, but my advice at the moment is that it is not a must have device.
I wonder if my experience with the iPad is consistent with others who bought or used the device. Let me know what you think.
And what do you think, is time to sell my Apple stock?