Sunday, June 6, 2010
Posted by Rida Kamran on 9:13 AM
In these times we have little opportunity for mystical religious experience. By “religious” I mean the feeling that something exciting is about to happen – whether after death or immediately, through the intercession of a divine being, a miracle in life. The neophilic mind has craved magic, craved the new and spectacular, since prehistory. Man deified thunder, worshiped the cave bear. Over time we have refined the impulse; we have learned to associate it with places and things of our own creation, which provoke the mystical feeling in themselves and in what they represent. Cathedrals were at once a site for worship and a site for awe, and our better natures were expressed in them for centuries.
These days a small minority of us, mostly situated in the developed world, have replaced the awe of religious experience with the awe of technological advancement. To further that line of thinking, the fanboy is, it can be argued, a new form of religious supplicant and the fanboy’s most prominent church is the Church of Apple.
The Apple iPad is like a great comet heralded in a cloud of rumor and tailed by equal parts excoriation and praise. I bring up the concept of religious experience because, for many of us, something like the iPad is the closest we get to the presence of a divine being. If you consider the situation, it is very mythic: we hear rumors of something; a prophet (Walt Mossberg) appears to tell us rumors of its coming; lesser prophets (bloggers, Gene Munster) talk up the coming; finally, it arrives with a tumult of excitement, lofted skyward by the high priest (Jobs). Unlike religious experience, however, a device cannot sustain us emotionally and so we are reduced to waiting for the next one… and the next. I know I’m getting metaphysical here and I apologize for this little exercise in throat clearing before I begin a review of one of the most anticipated products in several years. I’ve been thinking a lot about the juncture of belief aka “fanboyism” and technology and I think the iPad is a perfect example of the melding of these profane yet natural impulses.
So with this we begin my iPad review. I’ll tip my hand right now: My official opinion is to wait. The device, as it stands, is so close to the original iPhone that you get a sense of Deja Vu when you open the box and are exposed to the empty canvas bare of apps. Out of the box it is, at best, a large iPod Touch. As Adam Engst wrote on Tidbits: “Here’s the thing that I’ve realized after using the iPad – it’s a blank slate, a tabula rasa.” This is both good and bad. Because even the iBook store is not pre-installed, Kindle konverts may be disappointed and because most of the best functionality comes in the form of iWork for iPad and any number of apps and games, as a pure, unadulterated Apple artifact it is a bit underwhelming.
But what should you wait for?
I certainly enjoy using the device, and I will be purchasing a 3G model when it comes out because I don’t want to be tethered to Wi-Fi. You could also wait for the second generation and I think many of the unconverted iPhone users will take that route once they see enough iPads to get jealous. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk about