You'll never guess what this week's topic is …

What should I be writing about this week? The death, at 91, of legendary author J.D. Salinger? The continuing assault on net neutrality legislation by the RIAA and the MPAA? What the FCC should be doing about a national broadband strategy? The issue of the FBI's Communications Analysis Unit using sticky notes to replace legal process when they wanted to examine phone records? Google standing up to China's government (at last)? Nope, none of the above.

No, the hottest topic de jour is … yes, I'm sure you saw this coming, Apple's iPad.

So you think you know Apple?

The first thing to point out, as many others have already done, is that "iPad" is not the greatest name. It sounds like a feminine hygiene product for heaven's sake! In fact, Mad TV spoofed the very idea of an iPad some years ago. Perhaps Apple's marketing wonks don't do YouTube.

Then again, this is Apple we're talking about. The Apple that, as many see it, can do no wrong, and when it comes to the iPad, I think that there's some justification for a large amount of unwarranted optimism.

The iPad is essentially a giant iPhone. It has a great screen, a great user interface, great connectivity, a great size and a great (claimed) battery life. It is also not a bad weight, although I've heard a few people grumble that they couldn't hold it for long while reading in bed unlike their experience with, say, the Kindle. This strikes me as a spurious argument tended by people with puny wrists.

But is the iPad perfect? Absolutely not. No camera! No exchangeable battery! No multi-tasking! (Actually, that last clause should get a couple of hundred exclamations behind it … on a phone, I can sort of live without multitasking, but on something that's a type of computer, that's like going back to DOS.) No Flash! (Ditto on the exclamations.) No handwriting recognition! (To not have handwriting recognition on a pad device is a bizarre omission.)

The missing video camera is perhaps the oddest thing for Apple to have left out. In fact, the iPad should have two cameras; one pointing away from the user for taking photos and videos, and another pointing at the user for video conferencing, something that would make the iPad a really compelling tool.

I have little doubt that Apple is going to be selling an insane number of iPads and what concerns me is that the company will continue with its walled garden strategy. The iPad's lack of support for Flash is the biggest tell regarding its market approach because that technology would allow all sorts of applications that Apple couldn't control do all sorts of things that Apple believes it has to control.

Here's the thing: The iPad is going to make some serious inroads into the e-book market because of its multimedia abilities. Combine that with Apple’s iron-fisted control of the iPhone market and its hold on the content market through iTunes, and at some point someone is going to have to call it: Apple will have a monopoly that will need to be disassembled in the public interest.

Moreover, in an age where so much effort is being directed towards open systems and open source, here we have Apple doing the opposite. For all the great things that Apple has produced, some of them insanely great, the success of the iPad will eventually define it as just another greedy, self-serving company. Remember its 1997 advertising slogan, "Think Different"? It doesn't really.

Even so, Gibbs in Ventura, Calif., wants an iPad. Your wants to backspin@gibbs.com.

This story, "You'll never guess what this week's topic is …" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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