I have no personal bias for or against the Apple iPad, which will start shipping soon. It may be a great device, it may be only so-so, it may serve the needs of some usrs fairly well and be a bust for others.
What I do object to is the breathless hype visited on this product before hardly anyone has actually used it, and more importantly, used it for awhile.
Too many pundits are speculating what it means for the future of print, of "media" in general, and even for life and civilization as we know it. C'mon, folks, give me a break: It may be wonderful, but it is not the all-encompassing solution to whatever your problems may be.
That's where I have a problem.
The pundit class, and that includes editors, journalists, and other observers, spend too much time speculating and not enough reporting and assessing based on verifiable facts. Many of the so-called iPad reviews I've read were written by those who had never actually touched one, let alone used one. This self-reinforcing adulation; hype serves little positive purpose, except to set everyone up for the next round of disappointment with the actual results, and diminishment of the role of more solid analysis.
Not surprisingly, this over-the-top gushing leads to the inevitable backlash, "Analysts Ask if the iPad Can Live Up to Its Hype" (The New York Times, March 28, 2010).
Never mind that much of the hype was stirred by the very same folks who are now worrying about it.
Let's all take a chill pill here, please.
The oscillation between overarching hype and harsh reality makes it harder for real progress to be made at its fair pace. We know from experience that technological revolutions don't come quick or easy, that adoption on new products and formats takes much longer than we think it will, and they almost always takes on a final shape which hardly anyone foresaw.
This river of endless speculation and prediction ends up reducing the signal-to-noise ratio of useful insight to PR dreaming, mostly by raising the noise level. (A secondary effect is that for the next round in the PR blizzard, the noise level will be higher and thus even more hype will be needed to cut through it.)
Don't worry, though, since when all is said and re-said, engineers will likely be blamed for not delivering on the purported promise of this be-all, end-all product--as they have been with so many others (you can make your own list here).