A close look at Apple's "guided tour" of the iPad.

Culture and technology.
April 1 2010 10:48 AM

Life With iPad

Do you have what it takes to own this magic and revolutionary product?

Also in Slate, Jeremy Singer-Vine asks whether it's bad for your eyes to stare at an iPad for hours, and Magnum Photos fondly remembers reading on paper.

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On to "Photos," where our iPad user is a woman. She, of course, immediately sits down on the couch and puts her feet up. The photos show good-looking friends, adorable children holding umbrellas in Paris, and the like. Thanks to the iPad, we can have the novel experience of holding our pictures "right in our hands." Uh, thanks. Haven't done that before.

The "Videos" video opens with a shot of a popcorn bowl and our iPad woman watching Pixar's Upwith the iPad on her tented legs. The video immediately touts the iPad's 10 hours of battery life. Have you ever tried to hold your hand still for 10 hours? I can't imagine our iPad woman watching Up comfortablyfor 15 minutes without looking for a book to prop up her device. In this video, we hear again how "immersive" the iPad is. The simple, glowing screen sucks us in and drowns out all noncrisp, nonbright, non-Apple-designed distractions.

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Next up is "YouTube." Why are they even showing us this app? Some lawyer at Apple must have negotiated a very bad contract. His punishment is to use Vista. The video has iPad owners watching some guy skateboarding around through balloons. Yep, that's exactly the kind of original, noncopyrighted stuff we watch on YouTube.

In the "iPod" video, our iPad man is back in his lounge chair. He's listening to the indie pop of the Boy Least Likely To near a window with a view of a city street. Why so melancholy? Isn't your iPad enough? Things perk up in the "iTunes" video with Lady Gaga's "Just Dance." A woman is sitting at her kitchen table with a French press coffeemaker. We pinch and poke our way through the iTunes store where the Black Eyed Peas, Precious, The Hurt Locker, and South Parkall make cameos. We watch a sensitive HD clip from the Keats biopic Bright Star. The most head-spinning moment: when the iTunes university is shown and the featured course is Stanford's "iPhone Application Development."

The "iBooks" segment contains the guided tour's most shameless attempt to gull us. A mother is reading Winnie-the-Pooh to her Vans-wearing son. On the table is a recently abandoned crayon drawing and a reference book showing illustrations of elephants. The boy points to something on the screen. They are "discovering the joy of reading all over again." Don't worry, the iPad won't replace books in your house, but will live peacefully among them. Your son won't use the device to play Shrek Kart; he'll nest beside you on the couch and then go outside for a game of Pooh sticks. And, if he gets bored, just change the font size! The "iBooks" app also animates the pages being turned, a cute idea that creates a delay that will quickly become intolerable.

The final three videos—"Keynote," "Pages," and "Numbers"—can be lumped together. These apps are Apple's versions of PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. The "Keynote" one was so complicated that I could barely follow the action. "Pages" shows that the iPad will be excellent if you're writing an Earth science textbook for fourth graders filled with photos of giraffes that need to be moved around a lot. In "Numbers," the iPad man seems to be using a spreadsheet to cruelly rank the various players on a girls' youth soccer team. The not-so-subtle message in these productivity-app videos is that you can use your iPad like a laptop. Just make sure that you don't need to do anything silly, like print something out.

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Michael Agger is an editor at The New Yorker. Follow him on Twitter.