Vivek Wadhwa Tries Linkbaiting With The Help Of iPads

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Vivek Wadhwa researches and writes about entrepreneurship and innovation. I like most of his writings and research findings. The following is one that I don't like.

First I thought I would respond. Then I thought it would be pointless. But I am responding below nonetheless, otherwise he would not have any feedback. So, here goes.

Vivek wrote about why he is "Craiglisting" his iPad.

My first problem with this article is that it has nothing to do entrepreneurship. It is merely a linkbait. Vivek is an expert on entrepreneurship, not on iPads. It is like me signing up for Gruber's Daring Fireball to read about Macs and technology, but getting food advice instead.

Two, Vivek's article is not provocative. It is name-calling disguised as a linkbait.

Three, it is not scientific. It is full of assertions with no backing, just like a linkbait.

Vivek's entire article is inlined below (his typos and all), so it can be read by tuning out my responses.

On Jul 17, 2010, at 6:26 AM, Vivek Wadhwa wrote:

Dear friends, No you can't have my iPads. They are for sale! can J Apple fans are more fanatical than the xenophobes I get death threats from. Expecting some scathing comments!

Actually, Vivek lost me here. He just called me fanatical, and ascribed actions to me that I would never indulge in. Hardly a nice intro to an article he wants me to read with anything less than a regard for a bad parody. With that intro, Vivek launches into Why (he is) Craiglisting (his) iPads:

You can definitely call me an Apple fanboy:

By his admission here, and his assertion above, Vivek is "more fanatical than a xenophobe," and is likely to send "death threats" to anyone criticizing Apple. I wonder if he is sending death threats to himself?

I've bought practically every device that Steve Jobs has made since 1985 — when I got my first Macintosh.

Steve Jobs never made a single device. Apple and its 34,000+ employees did various actions which resulted in the devices. Most devices were made by workers in factories, initially in Singapore, Ireland and California, and lately by Quanta and Foxconn in China. To say, "Steve Jobs made" and "Steve Jobs wants you to" is just poor writing found in low-quality, linkbait blogs. I have stopped reading those kind of blogs and switched to writings by folks like Vivek because I was expecting better quality.

I own an Apple TV, several iPods, a Macbook Pro, a Macbook Air, an iMac, two iPhones, and two iPads (one was a gift).

So, what is the point? Is Vivek listing the various Apple devices he owns as evidence that he is a self-professed "fanboy"? The other thing I don't understand is why he needs so many Macs, phones and iPads? I am a full-time researcher coding and writing for my living almost 15 hours every day. All I own is a single MacBook. Whenever someone lists out how many devices they own, I wonder if it their attempt to try and convey the seriousness of their work? You can't work on one Mac at one time, you can't use more than one iPhone or one iPad at one time. What is the point?

For various reasons, I need to use Microsoft Outlook and Windows, so I run these in a virtual machine on my Mac. But this fanboy is listing his iPads for sale on Craigslist. Why? Because they've become like the paperweights on his desk. I just don't use them.

Ok… that "F" word again — "fanboy." What the heck does it even mean? If Vivek had been a woman, would he still call himself a fanboy? Is calling oneself a fanboy a preemptive attempt to deflect criticism of one's shoddily written linkbait of an article? If he needs to run Microsoft Outlook and Windows, I feel sorry for him, but he can do that on a Mac, as he well said, within a virtual machine. If he is an occasional user of Microsoft's offerings, they run just fine inside a VM. If he is more than an occasional user, why on earth is he an Apple fanboy? Why doesn't he just buy a Windows PC and end his disillusion with Apple?

When the iPad was first announced, I predicted that it would be a game changer.

So did many folks. Many also predicted that it would be a complete failure. Big deal. Predictions and and those who predict are pointless, in my view. If I keep predicting something, once in a while I will be right. Let's say I predict every day that the stock market will go down. However, every day it goes up. All I do then is say that "Wait, just wait and see." One day the stock market does go down, and I pounce on that with a smug smile, "Look! I told you so!"

I touted, to my Twitter followers, that grandma would soon be able to tell her cable company to take back its cable modem. She would no longer have to deal with the complexities of configuring Wi-Fi connections on her router. All she would need in order to surf the web and check email is the $15/month AT&T 3G service. Junior would soon be able to traverse new virtual worlds and learn world history while playing games on this slick new device. I also expected that I wouldn't need to carry around my bulky laptop; instead I would have a device that provided almost the same features as my laptop, but had the elegance and simplicity of an iPhone. I really believed that this cool new device would solve the world's technology problems and reduce the number of electronic gadgets I had to carry around.

"Solve the world's technology problems"? I think he is being a bit melodramatic. He is also being a bit presumptuous in conflating his need for reducing the number of gadgets he has to carry around with the world's technology problems. In any case, what the above reflects is Vivek's misplaced and misguided expectations, none of which were caused by Apple. They were completely and solely his. I have never expected iPad to solve world hunger, or even replace my laptop for everything I do. I do expect it to replace my laptop for some of the things I do.

I still think that Grandma and Junior should keep theirs, but it just doesn't do its magic for me any longer. Here's why:

Ok. So it seems that grandma and junior can still use their iPad, but you can't (because of your dependence on MS-Outlook and Windows, I presume). So, that is a 33% disappointment rate out of a sample of three.

First, I can't easily load my Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents on the iPad or access the year or more of e-mails that I carry around on my 32 GB USB drive.

Again, I feel sorry for him. First, anyone who thinks that Word, Excel and Powerpoint are "work" doesn't need an iPad. Word, Excel and Powerpoint are fluff for me. They are not work. In any case, the iPad provides Pages, Numbers and Keynote as an alternative for those who create fluff for their work.

Second, any one who carries a year of emails on USB is not tech-savvy. I have 15 years of email on an IMAP server that I can access via the iPad without any problem.

The iPad has no USB port, and its means of transferring documents—through iTunes—is pathetic.

What is this ridiculous argument? He should have known all this before he bought the iPad. It was written there on the tin — "Word, Excel or Powerpoint can't be installed on this iPad; This iPad doesn't have a USB port." In fact, it is also written on tin that "This iPad cannot play Flash content; and you require iTunes to work it." Didn't he read that? Or, he just decided to get in line and purchase one just so he could trash it in an article later on?

Apple's cloud strategy seems to be centered on iTunes. This is fine for buying movies and music, but not good for document management and retrieval.

Apple's "cloud strategy" is focused on buying movies and music, and last I checked, they were doing very well with it. Much better (at making money) than any other company. When Apple has a real cloud strategy (whatever the heck that means), I am sure Apple will announce it. Apple doesn't care about the thousands of self-professed "cloud strategy experts" defining and divining Apple's own cloud strategy.

Yes, there are apps that provide a drop-box service. But I have thousands of research papers and other documents that I need to be able to search and retrieve; a drop box doesn't provide what I need.

So, can we soon expect an article trashing "drop-box services"? In the meantime, Vivek should get Papers for iPad. He will be able to access all his research papers from his two iPad, unless he has already sold them on Craigslist.

Second, Apple's Microsoft Office-like products on the iPad are just cheap imitations. Apple's Pages is a decent word processor, and Numbers Apple is okay as a spreadsheet manager, but these don't hold a candle to Microsoft Word and Excel.

Are Apple's products "cheap imitations" or are they a "decent word processor" and an "okay spreadsheet manager"? Vivek, make up your mind.

Moreover, I can't use the excellent cloud-based can word processing tools that Zoho offers, or the decent tools in Google docs.

The Vivek-proclaimed "excellent cloud-based" tools actually being cheap imitations of "Microsoft Office-like products." I have used all of the above, and I find Apple's products to be eminently more usable than any of the above. That said, for serious and large spreadsheets, Excel is indeed a much better spreadsheet than Numbers. If my work depended on spreadsheets, yes, I would buy Excel. Some tools are just better than others.

The iPad doesn't recognize the rich-text format that these applications use, so it doesn't display a keyboard when you try to type.

That is because the "cloud-based" tools don't use a rich-text format. They use HTML and CSS to do their magic. To an iPad, they are not an application; they are a web page.

All that said, these are way off assertions by Vivek. Actually, MS Office-like (sic) products appear cheap imitations in front of Apple's very beautifully designed products (my opinion, just like the assertions above are Vivek's opinion). Besides, why complain that the iPad can't do this. Didn't he know that before he stood in line to buy the iPads? It is like complaining that the "Tandoor, Pure Vegetarian Restaurant" doesn't serve "General Tso's Chicken." The thing is, one wouldn't go to a pure vegetarian restaurant, eat the food, and then trash it because one couldn't order chicken. That just wouldn't be reasonable.

Third, I usually need to view different applications in multiple screens when I am writing. I want to have my web browser appear in a split screen next to my text editor, and I want to be able to jump between just as I do on my Mac and in Windows. The multi-tasking in applications iOS 4 allows me to listen to music as I work, but doesn't do much more for me.

My iPad doesn't allow me to cook pancakes. Man! I am returning it. What a piece of junk… can't even cook pancakes like my inexpensive Farberware can. Can Vivek name an iPad alternative that can allow him to do the split-screen stuff described above? If he can, he should go and buy that, and leave the "fanboys" alone.

Fourth, on many of the websites I visit, I can't watch Flash presentations. I am tired of the blue legos tell me that Flash isn't supported.

I feel sorry for him. But, he knew this before-hand, didn't he? We all saw the blue legos on Steve Jobs' iPad right when he first introduced it to the world.

Last, I didn't miss the camera that didn't come with my iPad until I got my new iPhone, but now I can't fathom why it isn't there.

Don't know. Steve Jobs hasn't told anyone why. I am guessing, perhaps design issues, perhaps the need to keep the cost down, perhaps space constraints, perhaps a strategy to introduce a product right away and then incrementally add more capabilities and functions to it, making the product better at every iteration. All "perhaps" and "maybe." We can only speculate.

Facetime, on the new iPhone, is a killer app. It changes the way you use your phone and the way you communicate with your friends and relatives. The iPad lets you make Skype calls over Wi-Fi, but there is no Facetime app—and that's because there is no camera.

So, now when Vivek get into his car and appreciates that it has wheels, is he going to start criticizing the iPad because it didn't come with wheels even though he didn't miss the missing wheels on the iPad until he got into his car? Man! Vivek's arguments and writing are so convoluted that even my rebuttal is becoming a tongue-twister.

I know that the iPad's book reader is awesome, and that the device can play some cool games. But these are things I also have on my Macbook Air—and there I have a full keyboard, larger screen, and multiple windows in case I want to take some notes. The iPad doesn't replace my laptop, and it doesn't replace my iPhone. So, for me, it's neither here nor there; it's simply an extra gadget that I need to carry around.

So, don't. By the way, I will happily take Vivek's iPad off of his hands.

I am sure that the iPad 2 will have the camera and magnificent new features. And I will, without doubt, get in line and wait for hours with my fanboy comrades on the day it is released. So, Steve, have no fear.

Steve doesn't worry about you, Vivek. Remember, he doesn't make the iPad. He has a company to run, mind you, a rather successful one. But one that didn't become successful by sitting on its butt, or by listening to what each "world renowned expert" thought Apple should make. It got successful by envisioning computing that it successfully brought to fruition, through excellence in design, manufacturing and customer service. By being a $250 B market cap company, but by still behaving like a start-up. That is something you are very good at writing about. Why don't you write about that?

You still have a loyal fan. But until then you t see me carrying won around an iPad or tweeting about how it is going to change the world. (And Steve, no worries about the antenna, I agree this issue is blown out of proportion.)

Good for you, Vivek. "Steve will be happy" that you will buy "his" product. And, I will be happy as an Apple fanboy, but, most importantly, as an Apple shareholder.