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.
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.