∞ The stupid iPad 2 article from Fox News

It’s not fair that The Publisher gets to have all the fun poking holes in the trial balloons of our favorite Canadian punching bag, Research in Motion. Canadians are an unfailingly polite people so, when we get cranked up enough to slam someone you know they deserve it. I wanted to get in on the fun.

[ad#Google Adsense 300×250 in story]Which brings us to the FOX Chicago News story and video of The Tablet Wars: Putting Tablets to the Test.

There are two pieces to the web page linked above — in the video, the hosts of “Good Day Chicago” are joined on set by Terry Howerton from the Illinois Technology Association, a self described “Tech Geek,” to discuss the merits or lack thereof, of the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Motorola Xoom.

Well, kind of…

First of all, in the video, Howerton mentions but immediately dismissed the Tab as a product he can’t recommend anyone buy. Fair enough. But then he says, “There’s a later, greater version out called the Motorola Xoom.” I believe a “tech geek” should know those two tablets are completely different devices running different versions of an operating system, don’t you?

The problem with this kind of fluffy morning show “reporting” is that there is no critical thinking done by anyone. For example, Howerton says, “We’re seeing a transition from iPad to Xoom…”

Whoa, whoa, whoa….Really? Anyone else seeing that “transition”? Can we go to the weeks old lineups at Apple stores and ask those folks why they aren’t “transitioning” to the Xoom?

One of the hosts of Good Day Chicago wants to get to the bottom line — which tablet is more user friendly and which is the better value? Fair enough questions. The tech geek responds by saying the iPad 2 is more user friendly but the Xoom is a better value because it has more capabilities and “extendibilities.”

I get what he’s going for but, because of the time constraints and the fact the hosts are simple talking heads with no real knowledge of what they are talking about, they don’t ask him what those additional abilities are. He goes on to say that the Wi-Fi only Xoom is $599 “which is pretty comparable to the iPad 2.” Sure, if the difference of $100 doesn’t matter to you — it sure as hell matters to me.

They then throw the video to Kirsten Miller, FOX Chicago News Web Producer “behind the scenes.” She is sitting with a Xoom and an original iPad. She starts comparing the products and eventually says that if she were buying a tablet, she favors the Xoom. Fair enough. But she also claims that the iPad 2 has a camera on the front of the device without mentioning there’s one on the back and never mentions whether or not the Xoom has any cameras at all.

She also says, “The app stores and the apps are pretty comparable…” Anyone else seem to think the folks at Good Day Chicago need to look up “comparable”? They keep using that word and I don’t think they know what it means.

Miller is also responsible for the article on the Good Day Chicago web site that accompanies the video. And here’s where it gets ugly…

Her second sentence claims that tablets “aren’t exactly laptops, and not exactly mobile devices either.” I don’t know what else you can call a device that I can take and use anywhere other than “mobile.”

She compounds her awful writing/reporting with “No matter which device you buy, it’s important to be mindful that they’re media-consumption devices, not necessarily work horses for word-processing.” She trots out the old saw that these devices are only used for staring at mindlessly, gulping down content. I don’t know what kind of creation tools there are on the Xoom but someone should point Miller to Apple’s iMovie, GarageBand, Pages, Keynote, etc.

Not only is the writing not particularly accurate, neither is the fact checking. Miller says, “Howerton didn’t bring the iPad 2 on air…” Now, keep in mind, Miller was on the segment in question. I assume she had ample opportunity to view the video before writing her report. Yet, she still managed to miss their own Tech Geek showing the iPad 2 or one of the hosts pointing out the cool Smart Cover attached to the iPad 2.

Miller writes herself into another easily avoided trap — the “Something Better is Coming” canard. She hasn’t bought a tablet herself because, “I know that once my credit card gets swiped, some better product will come to the marketplace.” And she’s absolutely correct. Something better, tablet-wise, is coming — but that’s true of tablets, phones, computers, cars, televisions, coffeemakers — any number of consumer devices and products. Waiting for that “Next Thing” means you’d never buy anything.

But the real fun comes with her recommendation to the FOX Chicago News web site readership. She recommends the Motorola Xoom — and I have no problem with that.

I’ve never used a Xoom or seen one in real life. I’m not qualified to dispute her recommendation unless it was based on false information, either from her or others. Luckily for me, she posts her “reasons.”

She claims, with absolutely no facts to back her up, that “speed-wise, the two are essentially the same. I can download apps and cruise the web at about the same speed.” Does she understand that those are two completely different things? But let’s give her the point.

She goes on to say the iPad and iPad 2 are more aesthetically pleasing and the iPad and Xoom are “essentially the same weight” with the iPad being “slightly lighter.” If she is comparing the Xoom with the iPad 2 (which she should be), the difference of more than a quarter of a pound is certainly not insignificant.

She correctly points out “The Android Market has fewer Xoom apps available for download at this point than the Apple Store has for iPad;” Yet glosses over the numerical difference (less than a thousand vs a gazillion). While it may not be important (and that’s certainly arguable) she follows it up with “[The Android Market] has the most popular ones, and it’ll only be a short while before it has the breadth of apps that its competition does.”

How does she know that? Is her crystal ball really that good? And do you really want to recommend a product based on what it might do in the undetermined future?

I always look for clues that tell me whether the writer does or doesn’t know what they are talking about. Miller says, “The Xoom platform is “open,” so a variety of developers can come up with new apps and programs that will work for Droid’s new Honeycomb operating system.”

Yeah, she has no clue what she’s talking about. She makes it seem like Apple’s “closed” environment doesn’t have a variety of developers creating apps. Does she think Apple is the only company who has created the over 400,000 apps available on the iOS store?

Another example of bad or no fact checking is found here: “If you want to dock your tablet to your computer or plug it into your HD-TV, you need USB and HDMI ports. You won’t find those on the iPad. Xoom wins that one.”

If the argument is the iPad doesn’t have dedicated USB and HDMI ports, then she’s correct — to a point. But what she’s actually referring to is the ability to see/use your tablet’s content on an HDTV and the iPad has at least three different ways to do that.

She finishes up with a great line. “I just might have to give the Android OS another look.” Really? Which version? The one on the Xoom which is different from (and incompatible with) the one on the Samsung Tab which are different from the ones that drive “Android cel phones”?

While I’m certainly picking on FOX Chicago News’ Good Day Chicago crew, the issues I have with their “reporting” is endemic in the media in general and TV “journalism” in particular. There simply isn’t enough time given to do complicated issues like this justice and there aren’t enough knowledgeable reporting staff to flesh out the information they are trying to impart to the viewers.

Many of us hoped that the web would encourage the news media to do longer, more in depth reporting to better explain and inform their readerships but sadly, that obviously doesn’t happen. What we end up with is fluffy, ill informed and poorly written pieces like this one that only do a disservice to the products they are discussing and even worse, to their viewers.