Why the iPad is Like a Bad Hire
I know this post will get a lot of you mac addicts (I’ve called you mac zombies in the past) up in a tizzy but I wanted to share my feelings about my recent purchase of the iPad.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been brand agnostic. When I buy a product the single most important factor that decides whether or not I whip out my wallet is the practical use of said product. The other factors that go into my decision, in this order, are: specific need for said item (i.e. I need a shirt for x reason), recommendations from friends/peers, and then price/value. Price is the last one because sometimes the value of an item justifies a higher price, however value, in my books goes back to necessity (the first criteria), meaning that the brand or “coolness” factor have little bearing on my decision.
As a startup entrepreneur you most likely apply the same criteria to making a new hire. Unless you are hiring some high profile team member to attract more investors, most of the time potential hires that come your way are not necessarily known to you. At that point you have to rely on the above criteria when making a decision whether to put that new developer, project manager, or designer on payroll. Do you need to make that hire to reach certain objectives? Can your peers in the business vouch for him/her or do their references check out? And, of course, is their salary expectation worth what they’re promising?
The same due diligence is what went into buying my iPad a few weeks ago. I needed a light computer to be able to pound pavement in Silicon Valley, tons of my peers said that iPad was the cat’s pyjamas, and the price was pretty good for the perceived value. HOWEVER, in practice, the iPad was an overpriced electric newspaper.
When I complained about it to some of my peers, what I got back was the same, almost cult-like, response from all the macheads: “Oh well the iPad is a consumption tool! It’s great for watching videos and reading books.” That drove me crazy. The other feedback I got was “you didn’t buy it for the right reasons.” That drove me even crazier. Given the above, I thought I did buy it for the right reasons. The feeling I got was that I was a square who didn’t fit the almighty Apple rather than vice versa. Maybe it’s because mac buyers tend to contort themselves into fitting the limited choice that Macs offer as far as customization (annoying in some cases for PC converts like me, but I can see how this limited choice is also likely the secret to their success in controlling the vertical market through their line of compatible products).
Pulling this back to the hiring allegory, I see similar behaviour from people in the tech scene all the time. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: some well known tech company hires a new CEO with great pedigree to replace their old one in a time of need. The new CEO starts his/her first day on the job to great fanfare, only to run the entire thing into the ground.
Or maybe you’ve heard the one about the young startup who got some big name investor to give them some money and join their board. While in many cases this is a great thing that helps the startup grow and flourish, there are some that find that particular investor is out of his/her depth with the type of business they just got themselves into. The relationship between investor and entrepreneur get strained as the big investor puts on the pressure to go in a direction that deviates significantly from the vision of the company. Scary stuff.
And then there is the busy entrepreneur (me) who needs a thin, light, computer that can help me make my everyday tasks easier. I knew going in that the soft keyboard was not for me so I bought a physical keyboard cover (as pictured above), still giving the iPad the benefit of the doubt. As sexy and sleek as the iPad was to hold and show off, this thing did nothing particularly useful, like, oh I don’t know, EMAIL! Yes, iPads can send emails just like an iPhone would but without the ability to attach a file in-line with an ongoing email chain, it gets extremely clunky. In order for me to attach a file (like say, a pitch deck) I had to download DropBox to act as a virtual drive (which it does quite well. I’m a big DropBox fan), and then download iBooks as a halfway point. I had to basically open the file from Dropbox in iBooks then hit the share button to get it into a separate email from the original email chain!
That was only one of the many problems, but I won’t get into the rest to save you the reading length. The thing is that Apple advertises the iPad as a productivity tool in their TV commercials. If so then how do they explain the iPad cutting my productivity in half due in large part to the need to hack together a bouquet of apps to get a task done that any laptop computer can do in one app, like a fully featured browser, and with Flash to boot!
The amount of extra moves needed to accomplish my computing goals were akin to having to hand-hold that new hire despite them coming highly recommended. It cuts down on productivity in a big way. Therefore, iPad is not a tool that is meant for productivity. It really is just a consumption tool, as my machead friends say.
It plays games, watches videos, surfs Facebook, and takes pictures, but gets little work done. Just like a crappy employee.
So I fired my iPad and hired its much more productive, and equally light, brother; the MacBook Air.