The Gilded Cage: Why My Next Tablet Won’t Be an iPad

I love my iPad, truly I do.

But this is my last one.

Other than a few iPods over the years, it’s been my first true Apple product — at least one I purchased and wasn’t handed to evaluate — and the experience has been nothing short of excellent since I lucked into one late last April at an Apple store in North Carolina. The anticipation leading up to the launch of the iPad made it a foregone event — at least within the walls of Lenovo — but no one anticipated the excellent responsiveness, elegant user interface, and impeccable integration with iTunes and the iTunes app store. The product was far more than an upsized version of the iPhone, and came as a sharp rebuke to the stylus-based tablet computing model pushed by the PC makers and Microsoft.

Nearly a year later I spend as many hours with the iPad as I do with my classic laptop. I’m purchasing and reading an average of three Amazon Kindle books per week on it, do nearly all of my television/movie consumption through the Netflix app, and use a mixture of browser, Google Earth, and other reference tools as I read and research various non-fiction topics. I hate typing on it

In short, I’m a satisfied customer and am glad I winced and bought the $500 device when I did. I think it represents the most significant shift in computing devices in over twenty years, and has shown a way forward for a completely new model of information/entertainment delivery and consumption.

Now with the next version allegedly already in manufacturing, I  can also say this iPad is probably my last Apple tablet. My next one will most likely be an Android Honeycomb version, not purchased with a 3G/4G contract from a carrier, but most likely a WiFi enabled device.

I shared a table on the Acela to NYC this week with Forrester’s tablet analyst, Sara Rotman Epps. Like any good analyst she took the time to survey me, the average man on the train, on my purchase intentions. I told her — this time next year I’ll probably spend as much as $350 for an Android tablet and expected it would be much lower in build quality than an Apple — plastic instead of brushed aluminum. The real question is what, other than god forbid breakage or loss, will induce me to move to a new tablet. Camera? I don’t think so. Video calling is the most overhyped technology since speech to text recognition.

Why will I leave Apple?

In order of importance:

  1. Monopoly: I’m alarmed by Apple’s monopolistic moves towards publishers — and book sellers — that essentially forces them to sell content — books, movies, magazine subscriptions, through Apple’s commerce infrastructure. This tollbooth will jack content prices up, with the impact inevitably being handed down to me, the buyer. I am sick and tired of Apple’s proprietary/walled garden approach to their platform from the lack of Flash support to sticking guns into the sides of the third parties that have coalesced around the platform to make it so successful.
  2. Google integration. I am a Google person. From Gmail to Google Docs, Google Voice to Google Earth, Chrome to ….. the Google mobile app on the iPad is weak. I am also an Android phone owner, so I want better sync capabilities between devices. Google’s stuff works ok on the iPad, but not great.
  3. Cost: I want to pay way less than $500 for basically half of a laptop. I hated netbooks although I inflicted one on my daughter, but regard the $250-$350 price point to be just right for the form factor. Sure, my next tablet will be made out of cheesy plastic, but slide it into a nice cover/case and who cares? It’s all about the screen and the processor.

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