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Wed 24 Mar 2010 11:09 AM

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Is the iPad a spectacular waste of cash?

Anil Bhoyrul on Apple's toy, bad airline service, and bother at the bank.

Call me a party pooper but what’s all the fuss about the new Apple iPad? Isn’t it just a giant iPhone without a phone? It is really any better than Amazon’s Kindle?

I agree Apple’s boss Steve Jobs changed the world with the launch of the iPod. It revolutionised the way the world stores and plays music but that’s about it. Since then, what Jobs has done superbly is create one of the world’s greatest ever brands. Which explains the results of a survey I read just before the launch of the iPad: it claimed that two thirds of Apple users would buy Jobs’ next product “whatever it was and whatever it costs.”

This is absolutely staggering. I don’t want to cast aspersions on the 43 million people who have an iPhone but would you really buy anything just because it’s from Apple? Have you lost all your marbles?

But I do have to salute Jobs for pulling off this latest feat. He could have launched a new line of hamburgers and still received a hero’s welcome. I was looking at the comments on various websites about the iPad. My favourite is: “simply put I am one of the millions who needs it,” — and that was before the product was even launched.

Having covered the careers of many business leaders for over 20 years, I have always been convinced that nobody would ever take the “world brand champion” title away from Virgin’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. I even remember when he launched a ludicrous range of men’s clothes 11 years ago, which many people — myself included — went out and bought the next day, just because it was Branson behind it. But with the iPad, Jobs has outdone him.

Service without a smile

I’ve been reading loads lately about the quality of service on different airlines. You know, how Emirates is the greatest. How actually, according to its own CEO Tony Tyler, Cathay Pacific is “superior” to Gulf carriers. And of course Branson will tell you that nobody does it better than Virgin Atlantic.

The point is nobody cares anymore. It’s all about price. No matter how many fancy showers, premium lounges, in-flight bars and supermodel air hostesses you can offer, everyone votes with their wallets. Service counts for zero.

You want proof? Turkish Airlines is becoming the world’s fastest growing and most profitable airline. It flies to 151 destinations; made a 327 percent increase in 2008 profits to $525m, and has just bought 20 new Boeing jets.

And the service is.. ahem... (I’ll leave you to insert your own word here). I fly the airline a lot. It’s a miserable experience, I know, but it’s cheap as chips. More than 22 million people a year do the same.

Now Kevin Costner has become the airline’s global ambassador (is he really that short of cash?). So next time your flight has been mysteriously cancelled, you are stuck in Istanbul for 12 hours, or you’re in a queue with 500 other people asking “what on earth is going on?” I suggest you vent your frustrations to Mr Costner. He can be reached through webmaster@treehousefilms.net.

Bank job

Do you know anyone who has had a good banking experience with HSBC Middle East? Of the 400,000 regional customers the bank has, most appear permanently unhappy.

Last month, the bank delayed its plans to give debit cards to all its customers for a second time. Then, thanks to a systems upgrade, UAE customers were unable to withdraw any cash for a whole weekend, with no prior warning.

“I can assure you there has been a conversation subsequently and this won’t happen again,” said spokesman Tim Harrison.

Didn’t he used to work for Turkish Airlines?

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Magnus 10 years ago

You write "It is really any better than Amazon’s Kindle?" so why not look at the two devices then, at least on spec, and give a comparison, pros and con? And something else, have you tried an iPad yet? I suspect, and I may be wrong, that we should reserve statements like these until we've actually tried a product. And you jump from iPod to iPad without stopping at iPhone in between. I also think the iPod should be credited with more than what you attribute to it. But as I said, let's see iPad first, then compare notes. I don't think it'll be a device for everyone but I suspect it'll set standards in different ways that other companies will try to catch up with.

Mark Thompson 10 years ago

I think Mr. Anil has missed the point of Apple when he asks the question "Have you lost all your marbles?". I have been an Apple fan since using an Apple IIe way back in the technological Dark Ages. I've been a fan because, as the Apple slogan used to say, they "Think Different". The problem with technology that comes out of just about any other provider is that, while it may function perfectly well, it is often boring and utilitarian. Apple consistently produces technology that not only works but knocks the socks off any competitor design-wise (and produces a rash of "me too" copies - have you noticed how all those other phones look remarkably like an iPhone and how car manufacturers are behind the curve if they don't have iPod connectivity?). Do we really just want beige boxes or do we want objects that are well designed, fit our lifestyle and, dare I say, are just stunning to look at and hold. There is more to life than just functionality. Sure, there are pockets of well-designed technology out there but it often comes at a price. Take Bang & Olufsen for example. Absolutely stunning design and brilliant sound systems. But how many friends do you have with a B&O system at home? Apple manages to merge form and function at an affordable price. Mind you, I'll be waiting for iPad 2.0 before I shell out any hard-earned cash (I may be a fan but I like to wait for the inevitable bugs to be ironed out!).

ctevez 10 years ago

I totally agree about the airlines,no one cares about the service most people will search for the cheapest prices unless their companies are paying for it.

Tutti Tornado 10 years ago

Grew up with DOS and Windows, yes, I am that old that I had a copy of Windows 2 (yes, Version 2), as a teenager though. Since I switched to the Mac 6 years ago and would never go back. But I bought a copy of Windows 7 to see how the competition fairs and so far, I like it. Not where Mac OS X is, but getting close. but Apple does not always create "winners". Look at the Cube, the Newton, The Apple TV, the Apple Hifi, these are some real flops. However, the iPad is a perfect living room device. Perfect for all the "in between" tasks, from checking facebook, writing a quick email or chatting with family. I think it would be the perfect device for my Mom, see her kids family pictures on a nice huge screen (ideally pushed to her online gallery automatically, write emails, chat with kids, browse the web. That's exactly the iPad. The "enough" computer that does stay clutter free, needs no defrag and antivirus, firewall. Short: a PC that's good enough for non-pro users that does not need a manual nor a 3 week computer crashcourse. Probably no flop...my prediction ;-)

sonnydubai 10 years ago

Great article....and very true! Nobody chooses airlines on service anymore, HSBC have had more bad PR in this region than Tiger Woods and i dont even know what an Ipad does! Anil, you should write more opinion pieces

Paul King 10 years ago

No real surprise that originality and innovation passes straight over the head of this region. For a region where the fake, the lookalike and the that will do flourish it's difficult to explain the allure of world class products! I've just asked 5 people in our office and they all said they wouldn't fly Turkish Airlines if it was free! Let's see how fast they are growing in ten years once enough people have had an inferior experience.

Jack Gordon 10 years ago

Anyone who grew up on Apple products is a fan of most products. Given that Apple was selling 25K Ipads an hour when they went on sale in March -- they aren't available until April-- I don't think your review holds much water. You, obviously aren't a die hard fan.

myself 10 years ago

You got your title back to front.. It is really any better than Amazon’s Kindle? you mean, Is it really any better than Amazon's Kindle? And yes it totally is... i can't wait to get one.

Greer 10 years ago

Yes well said Anil! I do think tht peple are mesmerised by the i-What name and will almost buy anything that Apple hands them. I dont agree with Mark that this stuff is affordable - at least not when it first appears - the prices tend to be very high at the start, so one has to be pretty sure it will be a winner before shelling out for it - and to be honest, othe reviews I have read on the iPad simply dont make it look terribly attractive. Mark is right in that the designs are nice... but lots of expensive stuff is nice... see Marks aside about B&O... very true... Airlines - yes service is suffering and no-one is fixing it - but we have been heading down that path for a while now, and I must say that although I used to be able to put up with cattle class - the Middle East was the only area that I used to tell my clients "Its Business Class or forget it, I won't go!" - because sitting in those narrow seats, combined with the lack of service, and the smell, was just not on. As for HSBC - infamy - thats all - infamy - they need to get their act together - the worlds bank - not even in their dreams - the worlds toilet more like it.

Dubya 10 years ago

Some people do vote for quality over price. In this region it seems to be rare with people expecting Rolls Royce quality at Tata prices - particularly in the professional / services industries. However, quality shines through time after time. I would choose Virgin / Etihad / Emirates over Turkish Airlines as quality of comfort is important to me. If everyone goes for the cheapest - why would you have business class / first class - or platinum / gold / black banking - or VIP / VVIP / VVVIP tickets - people will pay for convenience and quality (although some will do so purely for status).