You may not be interested in iPad, but iPad is interested in you.

fountation.jpg Looking at the list of places that had iPads in early, you'll notice that most are owned by print mags or newspapers. Only one or two independent blogs got review loaners. "Why us?" is the obvious question, but it's the wrong one. The question that keeps coming back to me is "Why you?"
But first, here's Fake Steve "Dan Lyons" Jobs on iPad reviews, as quoted by TechCrunch:
[Apple's] head of PR told my predecessor, Steven Levy, to pass word to the powers that be at "Newsweek" that Apple wasn't happy with the idea that they were going to hire me. Yes, that happened. And Apple plays this game. I mean, notice who got iPads and who didn't get iPads. Notice who got access and who didn't.
Adds TC's Devin Coldeway: "They have the press in the hollow of their hand, with the iPad more than ever." It's true that it picked Time over Newsweek. Shocker! But it also loaned one to The Root, one of WaPo/Newsweek's legion of sister publications, albeit with a distinctive editorial identity of its own. And, of course, to Boing Boing, despite our frequent criticism of Apple and its policies. Check out our archives; plenty of posts praise Apple or one of its products, but the majority don't. It's not just Cory and BBG, either, who lob darts at Cupertino. Xeni pokes them also, and links to negative coverage elsewhere. We even became a hotspot of the OSX netbook hacking scene for people who wanted easy advice on how to perform the EULA-busting installations. And we do our fair share of Apple-themed photoshops and other cheeky amusements, too. What, you think they don't know? There's nothing special or virtuous about this spectrum of coverage. A similar mix is characteristic of all the best tech blogs, including those that were 'snubbed' by Apple last week. If there's one thing I'll bet Engadget, Gizmodo, Techcrunch, Wired, Boing Boing, et al., all share in common, it's the fact that our mailboxes are chock full of people complaining about how much we love Apple--right by the ones complaining about how much we hate them. In any case, Apple's choice of who to give loaner iPads seems not to be influenced by what we've written in the past. It's a pitch, to audiences it hasn't yet won. It loaned early units to newspapers and mags not to entice their publishers into the App Store fold--they need no further convincing at this point--but because it wants their unconvinced audiences to buy iPad. A similar plan holds true here: vast and diverse as it is, the readership here includes an awful lot of tech-savvy culture hounds who don't follow the gadget scene too closely and are suspicious of Apple's policies, but who remain susceptible to the lure of new technology. And you win some and you lose some. But then there's the delicious thought that we haven't quite made up your minds. Our collective ambivalence is reflected in the comment threads, too! A few of you chewed out Apple's myriad corporate errors only to describe a simple design change--a 7" version of the iPad, for instance--with which it could still win you over. Apple is supremely self-confident in the quality of its work, and for all the talk of 'inner circles' it hasn't ever shown any interest in holding court for critics. There's no guarantee it'll offer us an early look next time unless it wants close attention from you--not us--again. We buy interesting but compromising products because we know they wouldn't be a threat to anything if there existed quality alternatives. This holds true for Apple's iPad because there's nothing else like it, even accepting truthful irrelevancies like "It's a giant iPod Touch" or "It can't do things a netbook can do." With the thing now in stores, you can go and see for yourself. But I do notice that writers often like to polish off their Apple coverage with neurotic biblical references that dissolve into bathos, and on that front I too can deliver! To understand the appeal of Apple's excellent gadgets, you don't need to ask true believers "whither thou goest?" every single damned time. You just need to point out "hither thou always art" and leave it at that. All the same, if you're tempted, you should wait for the version with cheap 3G.


  1. Is BoingBoing paid to advertise for the iPad? Seems like half the articles posted as of late are about it.

  2. Hey, sockerbit: Shut the fuck up! I mean, Christ, did you even read…no. No, of course you didn’t.

  3. Why us?

    I’ve been using Apples almost exclusively since the Apple ][ computer lab was installed in my grade school in 1982. I’ve had 5 consecutive macs that i’ve squeezed the life out of, and I had a ][gs before that.

    Never had a virus, never had an epic fail, never got less than 5 years out of them.

    good tools for people like me. or, us?

    1. Really? I consider you lucky then.

      Warning: Rant follows

      I grew up with Macs back in the 80s and 90s. We had one up and die and be too expensive to fix to be worth it. My parents are fiercely Mac loyal though and think getting 3 whole years out of a PC you spent several thousand on is a great thing. No wonder they couldn’t help me with college! Dang. I think they spent more on Macs while I was growing up than I spent on my first two years of undergrad.

      I had the first gen of iMac (or some where there in the beginning). Worst computer ever. It was obsolete within a year, and baked in the attic while I used an even older generic PC I borrowed from a friend. It wasn’t even half payed for. It was just pathetically unable to handle any software, the internet, anything really. It was also dependent on those stupid iomega jump drives. I used an ancient custom build PC running ME! That’s right. A dusty PC running Windows ME outdid it the iMac at everything but being a table lamp.

      In the years since I could only work on Mac for a while because the software I used was Mac exclusive, and Macs were what were in the labs. As the price on Mac computers stayed high I pretty much was priced out of any useful computer from them and I learned my lesson on their “cheaper” products with that 2k blueberry scented lemon that now has rotted in the attic.

      Parent’s had the cube though and loved it. So I guess you never know. The cube didn’t actually cool itself though. It overheated. Overheated crashed and then you waited for it to cool and worked until it overheated again. Of course that’s your fault if you call them about it. You should have put it in a better place. Yeah… like under a fan? That’s where ours ended up. On a special slotted tray with a mini fan above and below it. But Mac has never let functionality get in the way of a pretentious “futuristic” design.

      I priced a computer that would serve my needs in Apple’s store recently. 8k! Screw that!!!! I can make the same thing for 3k. All it will lack is that glossy panache that says “I spent more on a computer than some people spend on a car.”

      I’ll probably never own a MAC as my home PC unless I pick up a macbook to run a couple things on. Although atm I can’t think of what or why.

      I guess I just get tired of the barrage of bull Apple puts out about their products. They’re just computers, and for a lot of purposes they’re not useful or sensible… and you definitely shouldn’t spend on them if you just need to access the internet. You can run a few programs and get online in a $500 PC and have money for your family and rent! If you’re rich and/or way into status symbols go for it, but seriously.

      I guess that makes me a “hater” but whatever.

      I have their phone. It’s pretty cool, but I don’t see any value in the iPad at all, frankly. All this marketing hype is necessary I guess for them to try and make a profit, but it’s wearing on my nerves.

      Immersive advertising. Every freaking where I go. So it makes me feel compelled to offer another voice.

      Eat it Apple, if I bought an iPad it would only be so I could take it apart and see if I could learn something from it.


      1. hey blueelm, i more than understand. Sounds like you had a bad machine and/or the wrong machine on a couple occasions.

        I guess I just get tired of the barrage of bull Apple puts out about their products.

        But that’s just advertising. Look at what (Bear Stearns (or enron, or BofA, or the NYTimes, or Chrysler, or anyone)) has said about their own products and see if you can explain why people seem angrier at Apple.

        They’re just computers, and for a lot of purposes they’re not useful or sensible…

        Yes they are just computers, and as such, if a brand doesn’t meet your needs, don’t buy that brand.

        I’ve never understood why people complain that a company who isn’t trying to meet their needs isn’t meeting their needs.

        Personally, I don’t need to code. I don’t need to debug. I don’t need to duke nukem. I only need to communicate and be communicated with. The machines are great for that.

        That said, my first iPod is 3 months old now, and my current mac mini is 5 yeas old. So, I’m no fanboi, and I’m not rich. I’m just a satisfied customer.

    1. I’m pretty sure I don’t speak that posh normally. I keep telling people on twitter that that was my “Is this the BBC?” voice. But now I’m frightened that it wasn’t and that I’m doomed to slowly become the professor from Buffy.

  4. I suspect that this space will have the more interesting and useful ironies about how the thing plays out as a cultural artifact. (“The street finds its own use for things.”) And that that will drive sales beyond the “binary” level of discourse about its value at launch. The news here will be about how the iPad itself moots, rather than how its proponents and opponents moot and that will likely be how later adopters decide whether or not to buy one.

  5. All gadgets have a niche, though some are bigger or smaller.

    Everyone uses their gadgets for different things — the avid reader uses an eink device, the avid gamer a DS or PSP, the avid talker or texter a smartphone.

    The majority have a use for a jack-of-all-trades like the iphone, so that they can use one gadget for everything, since they don’t do anything *enough* to warrant a dedicated device.

    Maybe their universal device is a netbook or laptop instead, depending on their needs.

    Tablets have not taken off before, however, so this ploy may or may not succeed.

  6. I use UNIX, Microsoft XP (closed – no access to the outside world – on a CNC milling machine) and Apple products.

    I have developed software and hardware for Macs.

    I bought an iPad (on ebay – I live in Oz) because I see the potential in my company to use it and interact with other employees and researchers in a different and unique way. I do not see it as a “be all end all” product. None are. No matter your proclivity for 1s and 0s. No matter what you use – it is a tool to do more (or less) than you would without it. I have read quite a bit of pre-judgements on the web about what the iPad is not. I am looking forward to seeing what it is.

    Is it worth all the hype? Well, at least it is the “moses tablet” because jesus didn’t use a tablet or iPad.

    What will it be like in 5 years… I can’t even imagine (well, actually I can). I bought the first iPod in Canada and the first 17″ Power Book. And what has transpired with both is simply amazing.

    Innovation while immersed in the future is a lonely place. Who thought in 1980 that I would have a phone that slips in my pocket instead of the Motorola Behemoth that lived in my cars trunk!

    Cheers from Oz.

  7. So – did Apple send Xeni the thing specifically?

    Are you at liberty to discuss how it came about, or did I miss that bit in a post previously?

    And Joel: you must ignore, you must ignore, you must ignore.
    I’ll never get why even in a medium where people can pick and chose what they read and are exposed to, there are still those who complain about content, and complain so viciously. Must ignore.

  8. I think Boing Boing has done a great job dealing with the obvious internal inconsistencies inherent in its (former?) masthead. The iPad is kind of a Wonderful Thing: it’s beautifully designed, a nifty gadget, and totally of a piece with the other technological flotsam featured on the site. But it’s also a terrible thing, in all the ways Cory highlighted. And, given BB’s status as a relatively important blog, it’s also just Important News Because Everybody Agrees It’s a Story People Want Covered, and that leads to meta-coverage like this, the story-on-the-story.

    Given that, I just don’t understand all the strung out debate happening in the comments. Frankly, all the haters are only feeding Apple’s hype machine. I think the real story here is that Apple is brilliant at leveraging the media as its marketing department, stringing along the rumor sites to build buzz, tactically dropping review units in demographically favorable markets, and once again managing the beautiful news coverage of snaking lines, which must be masturbatory material for the VP for Marketing there in Cupertino.

    I don’t think Rob’s thesis here is wrong. I just think that it doesn’t really matter how someone comes down on the issue; Apple’s goal is to move units, and it will move more units the longer we’re still talking about this. The iPad is a technological statement. My belief is that Apple is far more interested in perpetuating its corporate paradigm than it is in the tablet issue; it’s another platform for printing money through the app store, another system by which it can indoctrinate users into its model of the way the future works.

    tl;dr: the iPad is a bigger idea than it is a product, and BB plays into perpetuating that idea through its coverage, which isn’t a flaw, it’s just the way that the entire media universe works today. This is an Important Event because everyone is talking about what an Important Event it is. I’m sorry if this seems banal, but that’s the way it looks from here. The iPad is dead, long live the iPad, &ct.

  9. To be honest, my interest in the ipad is based on over9000 articles posted on BB. I’ve never been a fan of macs and probably never will be, because of the limitatios the (pc)user has to face.
    Though my family and friends are glad using it at home or at work…
    I actually think “too” different for macs.
    I NEED to put my thinkpad mainboard in the oven.
    And i NEED to have a system that punches me in the face each week.

    But before all. Macs scare me.
    Macs and especially the ipad offer me a future i don’t want.
    A future where your life is limited by the companies of the hardware you use.

    Imagine the icar that only works with gps. No pedals, depending on the traffic and route and the reason of the drive you had to type in, it decides how fast it goes. And if you bought the “city” version, you have to buy new routes in the carapp store. No stereo because you can only drive or listen… etc.

    And still many people would love it, and buy it
    and slowly loose their technical independence, wich is in my opinion a damn important aspect of life in the 21th century.

  10. Me? Well, I suppose they thought BB readership has some sort of lemming-like amenability toward our Blogospheric overlords.

    Demonstratively not true.

  11. Gasp! Apple good at orchestrating major product releases and arranging broad favourable press coverage! Isn’t this what succesful companies are supposed to do? Compare and contrast with Microsoft’s dismal attempt at whipping up some interest in Windows 7.

    Still, this will attract more contributions from the rabid (I mean, literally frothing at the mouth) Apple haters.

  12. Christ, I’m sick of hearing about iPads. Give it a rest, BoingBoing, there must be something else to talk about.

  13. Essentially, the iPad is an iPod Touch with an enhanced display and much increased battery life.
    But it’s impact on internet “consumption” and design will be immense.
    Just got a tweet “ launches first iPad-native website”.


  14. I don’t think it’s a fair comparison between BoingBoing and Newsweek. You all thrive on being on the edgy side. In fact, if you posted all flowers and spring birds about the iPad, readers might get suspicious. People *trust* BoingBoing, which is the power you have.

    Newsweek, on the other hand, is just a media outlet. I don’t have the same trust level I do with BoingBoing in Newsweek. Or Time. Or any of the “mainstream” journalistic mags for that matter. They thrive on the scoops, on the exclusives that speak to the general masses. So, for them, not getting early access to the iPad is an issue, because it means they don’t get that scoop, the “in-depth” reporting, nor the chance to whore themselves out nice and good for the “normal” people who read them.

    It’s not just about general coverage. You all cover important topics that are parallel to the target market. Cory’s rant on the closed system – important. Disassembling the iPad? I’d argue it’s important as well. But the market segment who cares about that, who actually reads and perhaps takes action on that is way outside of the “target” market that Apple can just say, “Look, it’s magic! And ponies! And is powered by unicorns! REAL LIVE UNICORNS!” and they stand drooling in line to get it for themselves. Or their kids.

    I’m by no means playing down the professionalism of a news outlet like BoingBoing. But the market forces at play for you all and someone like Newsweek – and therefore the power Apple wields over it – don’t seem like comparing Apples to Oranges. Or Microsoft.

  15. Arse, pants, botty and double damn it to hell! Stephen Fry indeed! He’s no journalist. He’s a god!

    “Many people would no more think of entering journalism than the sewage business – which at least does us all some good”
    Stephen Fry

  16. In 30 years in and around the computer industry, there’s one thing I’ve learned beyond all shadow of a doubt: buy the 3rd major revision of anything. The first is always feature-incomplete. The second suffers from what Fred Brooks called “Second System Syndrome,” a hubristic desire to cram all of the features they had to skip in version one into the new version, /whether they know how to make them work or not./ It’s when the third version comes in and cleans up the wreckage of the 2nd system that you get the first version of anything that’s actually worth paying for.

    Of course, if everybody figures this out, nobody will buy the first version, and there won’t even be a 2nd or a 3rd version. This exposes one of the flaws in our economic system: all of our technological innovations and all of our technological infrastructure are funded via one form or another of fraud.

  17. He’s hilariously irreverent and funny in a modest sort of way. He’d be the perfect uncle.

  18. Yes, very funny, of course, indeed, even….(love his comment re-Americans’ response to the assumed IQ of one having a British accent, which reveals both his classism/ist attitude, and how little regard for our intelligence). But, the iPad? Guess he’s a known apple fan.

  19. Rob, how is Cory’s post ‘lose some’ for Apple? It’s a bitter rant lambasting Apple for not putting ideologues and nerds first. That’s not a criticism, it’s a stroke of marketing genius.

  20. Best ipad article yet, and I’ve been reading… so… so many of them. (I’m in the ‘anti-iPad’ camp [or the Lebowski camp I guess, right Joel? : )]).

  21. In the early 1990s we used Apple computers at work to connect scientific instrumentation to our desktop computers. Networking was trivial on Apples as compared to Windows at that time. I purchased the first model of the Power PC for personal use, then.

    Around that time Apple had allowed clones to be manufactured and sold by other companies using non-Apple hardware. Steve Jobs returned to Apple, and breached all the contracts with clone makers, forcing many of them out of business.

    I have never owned another Apple product, and never will. I felt it was the only way I, as a consumer, could object to their business practices.

  22. In form, the iPad is merely a large iPod Touch. In function it has the ability to become much more, though I imagine its full potential wont be taken advantage of by third parties who instead opt to make the latest fart machine or rss reader. Having said that, I would sell my kidneys for an iPad.

  23. Count me among those who are quite put off by the fawning press of every stripe. In earlier days it was called “advertising” and was distinct from “coverage” – and that was seen as a positive, at least by those of us who are more interested in things of a factual nature.

    And no, I’m not going to buy one. Guess that makes me a “frothing hater” or something.

    Or maybe I prefer to live my life outside walled ghettos.

  24. Since I can’t comment on the ad below this article, I’ll comment here.

    wtf boingboing? ads that look like articles now?
    milkbone fake posts?

    I’m fine with banner ads, heck, I’m fine with ads in general, but when they start looking like your posts, ya gotta start saying no.

    That’s just uncool.

    (and no, I don’t care if any sane person could tell the difference, even the second glance makes it journalistically questionable)

    1. Since I can’t comment on the ad below this article, I’ll comment here.

      How about in the Mod Policy thread?

      Besides that, the fact that it says “Advertisement” cleary at the top, and is on an entirely different colour background than any other content seems good enough.

  25. My main interest in an iPad right now is the 1.0 aspect;

    The fun hasn’t started until the ‘Security Update’ versus the ‘unsafe exploit’ battles begin.

  26. I think Boing Boing has done a great job covering iPad, I think it is possible to read too much into Apple’s actions, and I’m glad at least one blog got a review unit early. I think Boing Boing did the right thing and got genuine reviews out there. I’m actually disappointed that people responded in a more partisan way instead of reading what Xeni and Cory wrote. So this is not a criticism of Boing Boing.

    However, Rob, I think you’ve missed a critical point of the whole discussion. I have no doubt Apple PR tried to get review units out in a way that made them look good – *every PR organization does that*. The question isn’t Apple’s motives; it’s the reviewers’.

    Looking down the reviewer list, you see a lot of folks who do tend to be advocates of Apple’s technologies and depend on the Apple platform ecosystem. On top of that, they’re writing for publications that themselves have significant business interest in the success of the platform (most notably, The New York Times and Wall Street Journal).

    You don’t respond to these concerns in your story here. But they have caught attention before, in the case of David Pogue:

    — and from the NYT Omsbudsman:

    I ultimately agree with the latter opinion; you *want* to hear from these folks. I looked forward to reading each and every one of these reviews. I know and respect these writers. It’s not that I don’t want their reviews, it’s a question of presentation by their respective publications.

    Now, as a writer, I’m regularly accused of various forms of bias (sometimes from both sides of an issue), and I’m also quick to defend some of my own actions. For instance, the article above goes absolutely nuts when Pogue gets a free DriveSavers storage recovery for the review. Sorry, but there ain’t no way I’m blowing two grand as a writer to review a storage repair product, so I can’t be critical.

    But I think that isn’t even the issue. The point is, we can’t always remove sources of potential bias or vested interest. We have to endlessly, relentlessly disclose those potential sources of conflict.

    I am not convinced in this case any of these publications made any real effort to either insulate from those issues or to disclose biases where they occur. I think it’s ironic in the case of the previous ombudsman article on Pogue that there wasn’t an effort.

    And saying that Apple is interested in promoting the iPad doesn’t even begin to work as a defense of any of this.

    Fortunately, as bloggers, we have a lot more freedom. We don’t have someone hovering over our shoulder, we don’t have word count limits or (most often) editors. I think we’re more pragmatic and have fewer illusions about what bias can mean – and jeez, we know we’ve got readers who don’t cut us any extra slack.

    But I think we all have an extra obligation to try to be more forward about this. If we are excited about the iPad because we think it’s going to be a publishing platform for us or even an ad platform, we should just come right out and say it. I don’t think any of these newspapers will, and maybe they don’t even have a forum in which they can. But we’re different. We can talk directly to readers, be atypically honest, and see what their final judgment is. I betcha they don’t pull any punches.

    I’ll go one step further: I think our larger responsibility is to stop treating technology like a 20-year-old Mad Libs. Why was it that so many dismissed real, significant criticisms from Cory and others because “oh, they’re just open source nuts”? On the other side, why was it that so many in the open source community – people who make eloquent arguments for why free software is vital – dismissed some of the analysis of the elegance of the iPad’s user interface design from people like Xeni?

    To have that discussion, though, we have to first regain trust from people who have fallen, much as in politics, into partisan camps. And if we as writers seem to fall into those same partisan camps, that’s going to be a nearly impossible challenge.

  27. I’m curious as to why you dropped the definite and indefinite article and pluralization from your iPad references, as in “iPad” instead of “the iPad” or “an iPad.” We don’t do the same with iPods, iPhones, or Macs. Is Apple officially referring to the iPad this way somewhere?

  28. I’m usually one of the last people that would bring up a question of journalistic impropriety.. but the latest issue of Time magazine? Seems just a little tainted. You’ve got Jobs on the cover, two cover articles about the iPad, the editorial column is about how the iPad (oh, and “devices like it,” but the iPad is the only one mentioned by name) is going to revolutionize the publishing industry, and a full page ad for the Time app store application. I understand the situation they’re in, but that was seriously not subtle.

    It’s sad to me when a personal non-journalistic blog has a more balanced feel to it than freakin’ Time magazine.

  29. There’s very little separation between advertising and journalism. It’s kind of become inevitable, and Apple knows how to work it.

    It might be starting to backfire though. I think I’d be more interested in the iPad if it were simply teased mysteriously, not covered by every single website I’ve been to for the past week. Gadget blogs, music blogs, gaming blogs, science fiction blogs, bloggity blogs…

    I was palpably relieved that at the Easter family thing this weekend, nobody had one. I’d have been tempted to give a live demonstration of defenestration.

  30. Your thesis doesn’t really make sense…It’s not like Apple has a limited number of iPads to go to journalists, why wouldn’t they just give them to all the journalists, whether their audience has been “won over” or not? Also, you really think that the majority of Boing Boing readership wouldn’t have read an iPad review somewhere else? I’d guess they are one of the readerships least needing to be won over.

  31. “Apple is supremely self-confident in the quality of its work…”

    Damn straight. That’s what I love about them (nobody else would do a tablet like this,) but it’s also why I usually hold off a bit before buying anything by them. I’ll let the early adopters see if there are alligators in the waters or not.

  32. from watching Xeni on the morning local news here in LA, I am not so much concerned with Xeni’s presentation as she did her review and demonstrations.

    But what does concern me is the way the reporters and anchors seemed to be endorsing the product as a “must have product.” Reporting and reviewing a product is one thing. But the way it seemed that Apple was getting free advertising from news sources seems to be a bit over the top.

    1. But the way it seemed that Apple was getting free advertising from news sources seems to be a bit over the top.

      I mantain this is not unique to Apple.

      Products are covered and even hyped on the news all the time. e.g. the Segway. A good product will get good reviews. I haven’t seen any negative reviews yet, but i’ve seen a lot of axe grinding from non-users.

  33. I find it funny that apple is becoming more Motorola cellphone like: “EXCELLENT HARDWARE, but the soft ware…”

  34. I saw Charlie Rose do a whole segment on this thing over the weekend. First my jaw dropped at the bizarreness of it, and then after that 3 minutes, I laughed the rest of the interview.

  35. With the thing now in stores, you can go and see for yourself. But I do notice that writers often like to polish off their Apple coverage with neurotic biblical references that dissolve into bathos, and on that front I too can deliver!

    To understand the appeal of Apple’s excellent gadgets, you don’t need to ask true believers “whither thou goest?” every single damned time. You just need to point out “hither thou always art” and leave it at that.

    Oh, nice. Accurate, too.

    If I were one of the people deciding who gets iPads, my calculations would arrive at the same end by a different route. Giving you guys an iPad isn’t a matter of rewarding Boing Boing. Blowing off early publicity from Boing Boing would amount to punishing yourself.

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