iPad About

“What can I do with it that I can’t do with a laptop or an iPhone?” they might now be objecting. “Too big for my pocket, not big enough for serious use. Don’t see the need. It’s a solution looking for a problem.”

There are many issues you could have with the iPad. No multitasking, still no Flash. No camera, no GPS. They all fall away the minute you use it. I cannot emphasise enough this point: “Hold your judgment until you’ve spent five minutes with it”. No YouTube film, no promotional video, no keynote address, no list of features can even hint at the extraordinary feeling you get from actually using and interacting with one of these magical objects. You know how everyone who has ever done Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? always says, “It’s not the same when you’re actually here. So different from when you’re sitting at home watching.”? You know how often you’ve heard that? Well, you’ll hear the same from anyone who’s handled an iPad. The moment you experience it in your hands you know this is class. This is a different order of experience. The speed, the responsiveness, the smooth glide of it, the richness and detail of the display, the heft in your hand, the rightness of the actions and gestures that you employ, untutored and instinctively, it’s not just a scaled up iPhone or a scaled-down multitouch enhanced laptop – it is a whole new kind of device. And it will change so much. Newspapers, magazines, literature, academic text books, brochures, fliers and pamphlets are going to be transformed (poor Kindle). Specific dedicated apps and enhancements will amaze us. You will see characters in movies use the iPad. Jack Bauer will want to return for another season of 24 just so he can download schematics and track vehicles on it. Bond will have one. Jason Bourne will have one. Some character, in a Tron like way, might even be trapped in one.

There’s much to like of course. The physical beauty and classy build quality, as in anything designed by Jonathan Ive. The shockingly low price — $499 for the basic model. The contract-free, unlocked nature of the 3G version. But there are two chief reasons for its guaranteed success.

1. It is SO SIMPLE. It is basically a highly responsive capacitative piece of glass with solid state memory and an IPS display. Just as a book is basically paper bound together in a portable form factor. The simplicity is what allows everyone, us, software developers, content providers and accessory manufacturers to pour themselves into it, to remake it according to the limits of their imagination. I’ll stop before I get too Disney.

2. It is made by Apple. I’m not being cute here. If it was made by Hewlett Packard, they wouldn’t have global control over the OS or the online retail outlets. If it was made by Google, they would have tendered out the hardware manufacture to HTC. Apple — and it is one of the reasons some people distrust or dislike them — control it all. They’ve designed the silicon, the A4 chip that runs it all, they’ve designed the batteries, they’ve overseen every detail of the commercial, technological, design and software elements. No other company on earth does that. And being Apple it hasn’t been released without (you can be sure) Steve Jobs being wholly convinced that it was ready. “Not good enough, start again. Not good enough. Not good enough. Not good enough.” How many other CEOs say until their employees want to murder them? That’s the difference.

Slightly annoying that the iPhone autocorrects iPad into upas – which is a kind of poison mulberry I believe… you can bet that omission in the iPhone’s glossary will change with the upcoming release of iPhone OS 4.0.

I have always thought Hans Christian Andersen should have written a companion piece to the Emperor’s New Clothes, in which everyone points at the Emperor shouting, in a Nelson from the Simpson’s voice, “Ha ha! He’s naked.” And then a lone child pipes up, ‘No. He’s actually wearing a really fine suit of clothes.” And they all clap hands to their foreheads as they realise they have been duped into something worse than the confidence trick, they have fallen for what E. M. Forster called the lack of confidence trick. How much easier it is to distrust, to doubt, to fold the arms and say “Not impressed”. I’m not advocating dumb gullibility, but it is has always amused me that those who instinctively dislike Apple for being apparently cool, trendy, design fixated and so on are the ones who are actually so damned cool and so damned sensitive to stylistic nuance that they can’t bear to celebrate or recognise obvious class, beauty and desire. The fact is that Apple users like me are the uncoolest people on earth: we salivate, dribble, coo, sigh, grin and bubble with delight.

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234 comments on “iPad About”

  1. venuskitten says:

    I think the iPad will be a success. It has the right sort of quiet confidence that springs from good breeding and stunning styling that is the hallmark of the best of the Apple stable. It might start in a relatively low-key way, but my hunch is that all those people who have been waiting for eBooks to develop further will take the plunge and buy an iPad. I know it will be further refined in versions 2 and 3, and so this is a work in progress, but many early adopters, geeks and Apple fans will be unable to wait that long. Give it a few months, and Mr Fry will be proved right.

  2. John The Bad says:

    I must admit, the whole Horp episode caught my attention here more than Stephen’s post.

    Horp, you are a knob. You attacked the man by accusing him of accepting a backhander and then you tried backtracking and spouting nonsense like, “I was just speaking my mind.” Feck the feck off you fecking eejit (which is a self-censored form of what I really wanna say).

    Ah Apple, why am I so against them? I used an iPhone once, just once and I was blown away by the usability. There was no way around it, it didn’t just work, it just did. Such beautiful design.

    But I suppose I don’t like Appple’s closed-shop attitude. I’m an Open Source man by and large. What I’m pretty sure the iPad will do for me and my ilk is, it will make all other electronic companies up their game. In a year or so (maybe less) we’ll start meeting the iPad imitators. They will suck at first but eventually, someone like HTC will come out with a model that will leave the iPad behind.

    And then Apple will come up with another new innovation. Something mind-blowing like 3D computing. And the race will go again.

    Right, I’m off into town to finally get my hands on a HTC Hero. Geek on my friends.

  3. a-system-of-strings says:

    My, my! Such controversy in these comments. We here in Oz haven’t heard much about the ipad, which is a shame, but apparently it’s very big in the US at the moment. I’m looking forward to it, but I think I’ll wait until the 3G comes out, for now I’m happy with my iphone! I guess the REAL brilliance of the ipad and the iphone is that with the applications it will take a LOT more time to get old, you can constantly update it, and you can’t do that on other smart phones. I think apple has the market cornered, I’d advise you buy some shares now, Mr Fry, because one day I predict the death of Microsoft – apple will have taken over the world and you’ll be a bazillionaire!

    Wishing you love :D
    xoxo Eva xoxo

  4. Grok says:

    Hello to all!

    I’ve been reading Stephen’s post on the iPad and the comments it generated and I was intrigued (and amused) by the emotions stirred.

    I do own a tablet and I have been using it daily for the last 5 (five) years. My opinion on the matter should be, I believe, heavy. :-)

    I’ll be back in a couple of days with some two-bit wisdom (sorry – due papers), but first, just out of curiosity: is there any other blogger around here who has real, day in day out experience with tablets (no brands, please)?

    Kisses to all
    (but especially to Stephen),

  5. Ginger von Ricken says:

    Leaving the ipad to one side for the moment, I would like to say that as much as horp is entitled to his opinion, his venom is not welcome. I would also like to add this; Stephen, you do not owe anyone on here explanations to what money you get, why you recieve it and where it goes too, anyone who is not a celeb would in no uncertain terms would have told horp to go w*%£ big hairy dogs, but being a celeb that is not possible.

    The majority of people on here support Stephen in his endeavors, and will continue to do so with or without the Apple.

    It is frustrating that a forum will at times decend into back biting and inneundo, that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be here. It is unfortunatley part and parcel of freedom of speech etc….

    Stephen please don’t take any of this to heart, take it for what it is…just blah blah blah, you won’t be the first nor the last to be a target for horp….

    And…..I love the ipad….ipod and the mac….

  6. Robin Rowlands says:


    Much as we all love lingering shots of cashmere sweaters.
    How close is the BBC’s Virtual Revolution series prepared to get with regard to those more pressing questions posed by the internet.

    Whilst the I Pad provides yet another interface into that other world, the real interface and threshold is elsewhere.

    What effect is this evolving entity and our relationship with it as individuals and communities going to have on the development of mankind?

    Shouldn’t we the last of the ‘real people’ be giving this some thought, or is that for ‘the other’???

    Robin Rowlands Guildford Surrey

  7. Lucozade says:

    It’s 0450 in the morning here, and my delightful neighbours are screaming obscenities at one another, so I thought I would come to a haven of peace and gorgeousness to find out what one of the finest people in TVland has been up to of late, and I discover vitriol and nastiness, shame.

    Apple has, once again, taken something fairly utilitarian and made it a thing of beauty. Instead of seeing the tools we use every day as merely tools, they attempt to make them objects of delight, they often succeed. Mr Fry has again given us an article full of infectious enthusiasm, full of his own opinions of an object he was lucky enough to play with before I did (jammy). Why this has encouraged some people to turn it into a fairly personal attack on the poor man is beyond me.

    The iPad has, along with almost anything the company produces made my inner voice shout ‘Shiny! Want one!’

  8. Jack The Autumn says:

    Oh Stephen. I love ya brother but the kool-aid on ur breath is vaporized ether.
    Though I can’t deny their dominance in the electronic market (nor their uncharacteristically good quality control exhibited with the iphone/ipod touch lines) Apple still are the Ed Hardy of the computer electronics field with better PR. And as far as their CEO’s personality; well at least Bill Gates KNOWS he’s not cool.

    Dear Gentleman- I’m merely thirty and back lit screens have reeked visible and irreversible damage on my sensitive retinas through the years.
    So stock up on a lot of red to go with the bloodshot eyes that a non e-ink display shall grant you.

    AND NOTE!! I’m using ur blog to coin a term to describe such phenomena: “Apple Eyes”. Now to register the trademark before mock turtleneck man does. :)

  9. drgs100 says:

    Some non-partisan original thought, thanks.

    I do slightly disagree with the simplicity of the iPhone narrative. It was a long hard road from first release to the present world domination and at many points the iPhone could have failed.

    I’m not sure if products have destinies but I can well believe the one you have given the iPad.

  10. foyble says:

    I only caught the hype second hand after the keynote and instantly adopted the opinion that the iPad was nothing but a big iPhone that you could not call people on.

    After 92 minuts of demonstration I am utterly sold and I wonder if many of the people who hae blogged, tweeted, reported and podcasted poor opinions of the device has seen the demonstration either.

    My favourite piece of news on this is Stephens, someone who has had the product in his hands and told us all about first hand experience of the device. I am sold on the product now and am only gutted that I am unable to afford the product itself.

    I do hope that the pricing in the UK does not substitute $ for £ but even so, the pricing does surprise me.

    Anyways, great article Stephen, very enjoyable.

  11. jaycea says:

    Well its apple isnt it dear fry :)

    Apple have always managed to make their products seem like the most fantastical product in the world when they release, infact, i am sure that steve jobs is a reincarnation of goebbels when it comes to releasing products; propraganda central.

    There is a bit of a love hate relationship with apple.
    Either 1. you hate them (either because youre a pc fan, and you hate their cheap adverts, the users with their ray bans, or you hate their sense of style / non inviduality (okay, your star trek uniform is cool, so is mine, albeit it makes me look like i have a HUGE crotch, something any star trek fan aside from a klingon shuold have).

    2. You love them (you got into indie music because of them, youre an arts student, youre a white surpremisist, you love japanese labor instead of taiwanese labor, and yes, i do buy things from japan more than i do taiwan, because if youve visited taiwanese factories and actually helped work their, well, you wouldnt to buy them, albeit foxconn (the company who manufacturers thsi products) have had a fair share of “abuse”)

    3. You love hate them. You are simply posing as the 2 listed above, but secretly love them, or secretly hate them having all ipod products in your room like a crazed serial killer loves and hates his victims and researches them (seen it!)

    I for one, love apple products, yes i have fallen for Jobs amazonian ritual ceremony and have been fed the bad bile, but yet, the ebook market seems like a daringly risky place to go, because; ebooks have never really had much interest, infact, im more likely to go to the library down the road, go to the non fiction section and start reading up, infact i find it kind of hard to actually study on a computer, or even read, as books are not limited by their battery life, im not sure if anyone has that pattern, but maybe including everything will turn the tide, i will just have to wait really, but it seems daring, and lots of companies have been pushing the same idea, and im keen to see what other companies like MSI gigabyte and even MS are doing, they have had some great ideas, but seem to be going “FLASH SUPPORT?! lol, apple dont have that, we do!”

    Infact no flash support is a bit of a bugger, yet they all tell us HTML5 is the future, well hopefully that future is not so distant (like back to the future distant), because i dont see lots of people using it at the present, we all know somewhere deep down its not because “it crashes” a mac, but the application market would apparently crumble like my knees after a choclate splicing incident, where i my kneecaps would be replaced with nougat, i highly doubt it, not to many flash apps that could surpass the ones in the store, but for bored preteens with no money? Yes, flash games would be where its at.

    In the end, doesnt matter how the product is built, for some reason apple products make people go giddy for an unknown reason, maybe if i do an indepth research into apple HQ i will find a ancient shaman who summons the happyness spirit into each and every one of its little ipad and ipod counterparts that makes everyone feel as if they arent whole if they lose it, there is a giant sense of, hmm, whats the word, belonging maybe.

    But I left mine at home today, and i feel like crap.

  12. upndown says:

    I wonder if Stephen Fry’s “secret life of the manic depressive” will be easier to obtain on the I Pad?

  13. Kermode says:

    Oh I see the potential of such a device – imagine reading digital papers on the loo! *g*

    HOWEVER – I am NOT getting one from Apple – they want to censure what programs I run on it? They think they should be allowed to chose what goes or doesn’t?

    HELL NO.

    I DECIDE what I want to run on my devices, not them.

    Google are making one as well – I’ll wait and see what theirs has to offer.

  14. StaticRabbit says:

    Dear Stephen,

    Thank you for facinating and entertaining article. But, like many people, I to was disappointed with the release of the ipad and for a reason that you adressed, which is Open Source Software. Like most great innovators, Steve Jobs’ success is based on predicting what people need, in his ability to ride, even lead, the consumer zeitgeist. The iPad undoubtedly does this in terms of hardware, the multi-touch screen interface is revolutionary and will continue to break boundarie with new developments in pressure sensitive-technologies. However, we are restricted to using a hard-wired apple-developed OS and apps sourced through apple-run sites. It’s possible, even likely, that system-on-a-chip was a route chosen to maximise performance, but what a glorious and joyful day it would have been if Mr Jobs had presented the world with a tablet PC that anyone (yes, even the evil spectre of Microsoft) could write an operating system for. How much further down the road would a REAL tablet PC, capable of running BSD or Linux derived systems, have taken us? With it’s brilliant new hardware, Apple could have taken the first step into a new age of computing. I believe that after a hundred and fifty years of QWERTY they could have forever changed how we write, interface with our computers and communicate with each other forever. Until Apple takes this step then the iPad is not a computer, it is a gadget. A beautiful and brilliant gadget, but a gadget nontheless.

  15. Ca says:

    Oh, gorgeous man! I have only just joined and I don’t have anything profound to say but thank you, Mr Fry. Your style of prose is as beautiful to read as ever, and even if I don’t agree with what you say, I will always enjoy how you say it!

  16. wordgoddess says:

    Previously posted in the Tech-y forum, I thought perhaps more people could enjoy this if also posted here.
    Perhaps Rick Mercer’s take on the iPad, aka iSlab, will keep you amused whilst we await an iPad that does everything we want:

    Greetings from Toronto…

  17. teecol says:

    Unlucky Stephen, it would have been a Forrest Gumplike windfall if you’d bought the shares then (tho that film was made in ’94 when the shares were still nowhere!). Great review, watched the keynote and looks blo$dy gorgous. Think I’ll take onboard what you said tho and wait for v3.0 or the like when all the bells and whistles have been added. Still licking my wounds from Iphone 2G, and now 3G. Can’t bring myself round to buy a 3GS cos I know they’ll launch 3GS2 straight after just to wind me up.

  18. peterdove says:

    I am writing an iPad app which you may find interesting. InfoPad – one screen, twitter, email, rss feed etc – a dashboard of info! Would love to have your input/feedback – can supply source code etc for you to view it on a ipad simulator

  19. Robin Rowlands says:


    I am aghast that you should allow yourself to perpetuate this highly innacurate and unfair vilification of Trolls, or troublesome individuals as they prefer to be known by those who don’t understand or love them.

    In truth trolls are highly sensitive and kind hearted creatures whose penchant for cudgels and night time walks, reflects only a deep desire to avoid the cruelty of those who feel that anyone ‘too hairy’ is fair game.

    Verily and as ever with highest regards
    Robin Rowlands the ‘vigilant and virtuous’
    Guildford Surrey

  20. Mr Centrillion says:

    Anyone come up with a fridge magnet yet to stick up your iPad? These ‘Mediashells’ (my own attempt of describing them) are now here to stay, in lots of guises and quite a few uses…..with potentially tens of millions of users.
    Apple have got me thinking less about ‘Flash Withdrawal Syndrome’ and ‘Multitasking Anemia’ but more along the lines of ‘Kitchen Sink Browsing’ or ‘Conservatory Constellation Wonderment’-the latter couldn’t be done with holding a ruddy great 17” laptop up to part of the night sky, could it?
    I stand as an unashamed Apple fanboy, right from the time I had an iMac G3 Bondi Blue which had a carrying handle…..less than ten years on I can now walk around home with something a lot lighter!

    And SF got his hands on one first….lucky sod!

  21. kimbos3s says:

    Stephen. Thank you for signing The Hippopotamus in Barcelona :) Kim

  22. E-St-Scooter820 says:

    Presently watching C.F.Show, to be honest, I’ve never heard of you, but do know some of your work (career). I am not a writer in any strech, but had to say, I have some experences with Bi-Polar, and drug addiction , and I will look for your documentaries. My common-law wife of 13 years, was diagnoise with both, she ended her life 3 years this St. Patricks Day,(our anniversary date). I lost the house the car and inherited, cc debts, but still very happy raising my (our) children 12,11 years of age, that will always be the greatest gift she ever gave me, but just can’t understand why she would want to miss that. If ever I can help with research, or you can help with huh I dont know , answers(wrong word but…)I will be a fan, you and Craig good show!

  23. cjp says:

    I’m sure the iPad will be a success – but I do think for it’s worth holding out longer and taking a look at the competition. I don’t think it’ll have as easy a ride as the iPod or iPhone, I think their competitors are more wised up now. To me main disadvantage of the iPad is the the display – I’m looking for something I can read, and back-lit LCD displays (like the ones used on the iPad) just give me a headache. If I want to browse the Internet or watch videos then Archos are launching a 7″ Android based tablet this year for just £149 – personally I think I’ll go for that, but I’m sure Apple can market it well enough to sell (and it’ll be easier to use.). For me though the future has to be devices based on colour e-paper displays – like the Qualcomm Mirasol (video below), did you catch this one at the MWC Stephen?


  24. Atroxes says:

    I’m really looking forward to the iPad aswell. It’ll surely stir things up.

  25. Boog says:

    Very much looking forward to getting my hands on the iPad, I’ll have to find an app that allows on to read musical notation.

  26. Alisa says:

    Glad to hear you, Stephen Fry, wonderful and brilliant actor man…smile…is an Apple fan and IPAD user. I currently own the Ipod Touch and love it. I will have to save my “pennies” though to purchase the IPAD, whose start price is $499 and up. Current US recession making cash (cha-ching) flow “trickly”. (Is that even a word??) Anywho, loved your pics from the Apple show introducing the new IPAD. Thanks for sharing them…smile…Again, YOU ROCK MAN!!!

  27. IloveWodehouse says:

    HI. I’m very young but I find you totally fantabulous and cool. Especially in Jeeves and Wooster. Please look at this because although I know its irrelevant I think someone of great importance to the world (like you) would make a huge impact. Thank you!


  28. hybarra says:

    How can I Jailbreak Iphone 3GS with 3.1.3. I’m so desperate

  29. madebysean says:

    Mmmm! looks very nice!

  30. Aeternum says:

    A highly overrated gadget with minimal technical specs. And I really don’t get why people say it’s a great e-book reader. It just isn’t, mainly because it has an active lit screen. The reason people don’t like reading of active lit screens is because they emit light, wich is very tiring for the eyes. A passive lit screen like a kindle is much better.

  31. percipio says:

    Sorry I forgot some pictures.

    Musée des arts et métiers, Paris, Sciences Days, PLUG program
    And here during the handicapped days in the city of Montpellier and the
    musée Fabre
    The man standing is blind. Percipio is guiding.

  32. GarethFoster says:

    Hi Stephen,
    I am extremly joulous of you. You got an iPad which only i could dream of, but one day I will have one.

  33. chrisrr says:


    Congratulations on a superb article, and for single-handedly raising the profile of Apple Inc. Who needs Steve’s Job (anag)?
    But I must ask the question, but then, I assume there’s a bit of tautology as, if I’m asking, it must be a question – is it? Anyway, the question is this:
    Will you, Stephen Fry, take this latest bit of seductive, wonderful kit to be your… FriPad? (Oh the genius in that!)
    I just thought you might want to call your iPad, your FriPad – a bit of a play on words…if you see what I’m… oh never mind. It sounded funny a minute ago but I’ll go get another vodka. Sorry to have troubled you, sir.

    Best wishes,


  34. csdaley says:

    I thought the iPad left out a few key pieces of the pie. Wrote it up in my blog:


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