iPad: Cost Benefit Analysis

I spent 17 years teaching accounting in various universities and colleges, specializing in cost and managerial accounting. Never was a tax guy, never too interested in auditing, didn’t particularly care for the financial statements gig. I did have a natural draw toward the world of cost accounting and how important this type of knowledge was for managers and others working in all sorts of businesses. Cost/benefit analysis is one example of the techniques that are typically found in the skill set of a cost accountant. It’s almost always an imperfect analysis, with several different ways that costs can be computed and where determining benefits is often nothing more than an informed opinion.

As I prepared for a keynote address at the NETnet Distance Learning conference in Tyler, Texas, it occurred to me that my biggest source of discontent with the iPad is that it doesn’t even come close to passing my cost/benefit test. In this case, calculating cost is relatively easy. I bought the $600 model (32GB, no 3G, actually $599 + tax). I’ve added a couple of peripherals and a couple of apps, but let’s just go with the $600 figure since I want to compare it with the base price of other devices. (The pic above is from one of my PPT slides for the conference.)

So let’s see what I got for my $600, before adding in peripherals and apps. I got a touch screen, check. I got decent battery life, check, but that’s mainly true if you completely power it down after using it, which I don’t. The shortcomings of the iPad are well documented all over the web, except that most of them tend to end with something like this: “But still, it’s so cooooooool !!!

Cool is just not enough for me, at least not in this instance. Let’s see what I didn’t get.

  • No USB ports that would be oh so handy.
  • Can’t print from the iPad.
  • No camera built-in.
  • Glossy screen with lots of glare. Major eye strain coming down the pike.
  • Not easy to hold – slippery and difficult to position comfortably while holding.
  • Can’t edit documents (view only) in Google Docs or Zoho docs using Safari on iPad. Pathetic. So much for all that cloud stuff. (Fanboys will blame this on Google & Zoho, but whatever, it definitely lessens the value of the iPad.)
  • The virtual keyboard is not very good.
  • I hate being dependent on iTunes for anything. Needs to be web-based, not a client that I have to install on every device I own or even just try on for size.
  • How exactly do I import my photos onto this thing?
  • The battery will need to be replaced someday, oh that’s right, I can’t do that either.
  • 4:3 screens are so 2001.
  • I’ve heard so many fanboys try to spin the single-tasking thing as a feature or advantage. Give me a break. You’re telling me that it’s not possible to listen to Pandora while I check my email and that’s a good thing? I can’t have Tweetdeck open and type something into Evernote without constantly shutting one down to open the other? That’s not at all useful or efficient.

A couple of weeks ago I was finally able to replace my old smart phone with a Motorola Droid. The Droid impresses me at every turn. It seems like a much higher quality device than the iPad – and yes, I’m sure that the Johnny Appleseeds reading this are rolling their eyes and retching at such a statement. I really feel that I got my money’s worth on the Droid, but don’t feel that way at all regarding the iPad.

Undoubtedly I’ll get hate mail for my final comparison. I realize that the iPad and the Xbox 360 are two very different things with very different intended uses. But since I have two young boys who are begging for an Xbox 360, even though we already have a Wii (okay, two of them) and they each have Nintendo hand-held game systems as well. So they really want an Xbox, but I’ve been trying to resist it. They have spent many hours on my iPad and think that it is uber-cool, but they are perfect examples of why I find the iPad so lame – they watch YouTube videos and play a couple of very lame games that were free apps. It’s just a $600 toy. So what would we get with an Xbox 360 (the newest version)?

  • A full-featured entertainment center (video games, MMORPG, movies, television, etc.)
  • Integrated 802.11 n Wi-fi
  • 250 GB hard drive
  • 5 USB ports
  • Wireless controller and wireless headset
  • Compatible with Project Natal (now called Kinect?)

The base price for the Xbox 360 is $300 ($299, actually), or half of the cost of the unspectacular iPad. As you can see in the graphic above, I certainly don’t think that the iPad is worth two Xbox 360 units. I also hope that my kids don’t figure out that their old man spent $600 of their inheritance on this little piece of nothing instead of $300 on an Xbox. Don’t tell them, please.

One last thing. No doubt many people will think this is just a pro-Microsoft and anti-Apple rant. Not true. In fact, one reason that I haven’t bought an Xbox is because it comes from Microsoft. I’m not a big fan of either one of these Hal-like companies. All I’m saying is that considering what you get for your money, either the iPad is a terrible value or the Xbox is a great value, or both.

BTW (or another last thing), based on what I’ve been reading, I’d probably consider a PS3 over an Xbox, but the cost/benefit analysis in comparison to the iPad is pretty much the same either way. I’m not interested in debating the Xbox vs. PS3 question; take that somewhere else.

A “Debate” (kinda) at DLA2010

I’m attending the Distance Learning Administrators conference at the Jekyll Island Hotel Club. You can tell from the pics that this is a lousy destination. 😉

Tomorrow morning I will join Myk Garn for a quasi-debate based on the following proposition:

Resolved: Faculty must be required to actively consider, and explicitly justify, cost when selecting textbooks and instructional materials students will be required, or advised, to purchase.

I don’t know yet which side of the argument I will be taking. The moderator, Micheal Crafton, will flip a coin and we’ll choose sides based on that twist of fate. So, I might be arguing for the affirmative and I might be on the negative. Quite frankly, I don’t know which side I prefer – and I’m woefully under-prepared to speak for either side.

So, feel free to help me out in the comments section. Your input will be added to the crowd-sourcing that we are planning to do as part of the “debate.” We will be asking the audience (if there is one) to provide ideas for the constructs on each side before we actually give our opening arguments. This is basically an experiment, so we’ll see how it goes.

Multiple Personalities and Operating Systems

Operationally Confused, Times 4

I enjoy watching the United States of Tara, a Showtime series about a family where the wife/mother has multiple personality disorder. Apparently I enjoy it enough to be accepting of my own multiples. On Tuesday I purchased a Motorola Droid to replace the not-so-smart phone (Samsung Omnia – highly NOT recommended) that I had suffered with for a little more than the past year.

I’m loving the Droid so far. The Android operating system seems to be all that and a bag of chips. Lots of good apps and really fast. The voice recognition and speech-to-text functions are really outstanding. Sure I’d like longer battery life, but even that is better than the pathetic Omnia.

It occurred to me yesterday that I now have the following multiples, all of which require me to think a little differently about how to get things done, and all of which do some things well, but maybe not everything. Four devices, four different operating systems.

  • My main laptop is a convertible tablet/notebook (HP EliteBook) running Windows 7.
  • My phone is now the Motorola Droid (Verizon network) running the Android OS.
  • My new toy is a 32G iPad without 3G (hate AT&T, no soup for them!) running the Apple iPhone OS.
  • My old toy (2 years old) is a Nokia N800 Internet tablet running a version of Linux for an OS.

Although it’s only three days old, the Droid is clearly my favorite device of the bunch. The EliteBook is my second favorite while easily outscoring the iPad. I actually liked the EliteBook with Win7 enough to abandon an attempt to switch to a MacBook several months ago. Windows 7 is by far the best Windows operating system I’ve ever used, and the Mac just never really grew on me. I think the iPad is a joke, and that I’m an idiot for plunking down $660 to buy the stupid thing. The only good things I can say about the iPad is that it is much better than the Nokia tablet and that there are few free games that are fun to play on it. (Okay, I admit it, there are a few other good things about the iPad – but seriously, it’s way overpriced.) The Nokia tablet is totally worthless, except they have a good version of Bubble Breaker on there.

Apparently I’m easily amused and totally confused.

Jury Still Out on iPad

Still can’t tell you whether I like it or not. I have fun playing stupid games on it, but not finding ways that I can use it for my job very productively. So for me, the jury is still out. It certainly doesn’t feel like something I should have paid $660 for – that much I am certain of.

For several additional opinions, I decided to see what the Twittersphere is saying about the iPad today.

  • Gizmodo Apple announces a whopping 2million iPads have now been sold http://bit.ly/at5HN2 (BD: apparently the price is not a concern for most)
  • victoria_lacey iPads are f***ing useless laptop/iPod touch hybrids. Need a laptop? Get one. Need a touch? Get one. Don’t combine the two, moron. (BD: With all my combinations- I might be a triple moron)
  • JasonAlmenas So 2 million iPads sold. For a product with no real use it sure is being used by a lot of people. (BD: “used” is probably not the right term – except for what is happening to us)
  • DNebrera @popiplo A ver! A VER! Si esta tarde llego a la twittmad con tres moviles, dos Ipads y una esposa rusa. Habran ganado ellos. (BD: just working on my Spanish)
  • nuclearnessa41 iPads aren’t as cool as people make them seem to be (BD: then again, neither am I)
  • fredtengasantos iPads..sucks no usb port. (BD: or any other port for that matter)
  • LeeMurrell #iPads Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating – MY ARSE (BD: oleophobic? is that a fear of margarines? I can’t believe it’s not butter!))
  • ToddBrink Motherboard Manufacturers Release Software To Charge iPads From Almost Any USB Port http://bit.ly/byVljW (BD: assuming you have another device with you, of course)
  • pbump An Australian airline will start providing passengers with pre-loaded iPads, in lieu of a seatback system. http://p-bu.mp/8s1 (BD: I was hopiong that they wouldn’t be unloaded devices.)
  • ebertchicago: I tried reading a book on an iPad and: It. Just. Isn’t. A. Book. (BD: It. Just. Is. A. Waste.)
  • ohnmartz: Obligatoty firdt tweet frpm the iPad. The keybparf ttypes like a dream. (BD: your’e soo stuoid)
  • egearmag: Asus announces iPad competitor, the Eee Pad http://bit.ly/a6Pw6u(expand#iPad (BD: fabulous marketing and branding)
  • stevenmatsumoto: Take that iPad! RT @mashable: LG Shows Off Windows 7-Powered Tablet – http://bit.ly/a6cEaL
  • theFictionaut: TweetDeck on the iPad is blooming marvellous much better than the iPhone version. (BD: good to know)
  • Halfdozenmonkey: Why is the iPad version of #tweetdeck so much poorer than the iPhone version? More space = less useful for some reason. (BD: good to know)
  • eita3: I want to try iPad w/ 3G, but it is too expensive. It is about 80k yen. If I have such money, I’ll get Legacy driver Type S w/ Tour AD DI-6 (BD: ’cause that’s not too expensive, right?)
  • anemani10: Since the iPad doesn’t multitask well, I find myself actually focusing on things. #unexpectedbenefits #fb (BD: brilliant!!)
  • ethpressoiPad is a productivity tool because it doesn’t let me multitask. (BD: brilliant!!!)
  • grahamjh: so apparently the ipad‘s inability to multitask is now a ‘feature’ that allows “immersive computing”?!? (BD: brilliant!!!!)
  • FourPtRoll@davidlemoine David, Better to wait for a Verizon or Sprint model. I’m leaving iPhone because of AT&T. #ATT #iPhone #Apple #iPad (BD: AT&T is the devil, which is why I don’t own an iPhone and didn’t buy the 3G iPad)
  • johnmahon@PastorDuncan this is why I did not get the 3g ipad and always opt to use my verizon mifi with my iPad/iPhone/laptop! AT&T does suck! (BD: ditto)
  • Igniter: Surprisingly able to touch type on my iPad almost as well as my keyboard. Definitely faster than my blackberry. Loving it. (BD: faster than two thumbs, impressive)
  • kellbot: RT @jonathanstark: Let’s be honest: If you can type on an iPad as fast as you can type on a laptop, you can’t really type. (BD: touche’)
  • DanDFriend: But honestly I think the #iPad is a pointless, bulky, heavy, hard to type on device that people buy just so they can say that they have one. (BD: I have one)
  • rotster: Ok, have decided I need an iPad. Just not sure why. (BD: my new hero)
  • WTFANYTHING: I look upon iPad haters with pure pity. Once you invest serious time into this device it’s returns are ten fold. Best thing I ever bought. (BD: I’m expecting $6,600 from Apple any day now)
  • techealer: iPed clones iPad with Android for $105.00 http://bit.ly/bN96o (BD: too cheap, it’ll never sell)
  • looztra: Just bought an Archos 5 powered by android for my wife. Ipad is way too expansive and does not fit into her handbag 🙂 (BD: it is expansive AND expensive)

So now I know exactly what I should think about it. Much like red meat and/or milk and/or cigarettes – it’ll either kill me or give me life everlasting, depending on who you believe.