Apple progressed their PR launch strategy last night. They went above the usual newspaper and blog nerds, supplanting coverage with a few non-tech writers. Since this is the first computer for non-geeks, they should have gone a lot further.
Apple's goal, it seems, is to not let the geek press color the launch with complaints about the iPad not having flash, or being too similar to the iPod or iPhone. They had the right idea in, well, excluding the usual tech blogs (including Gizmodo.) I mean, the article about the nitpicks, a counterbalance to all the posts we have that expressed love, surprisingly resonated to the tune of 1.2m clicks to you all. They aimed for more people who wouldn't nitpick over details and would get the general magic. But with the technical bar all but banished—what use is a review of the user interface if it's pretty much invisible? What use are benchmarks if it's fast enough? What use are comparisons if it stands on its own—They should have gone for straight up influence, and tuned the device for each celebrity reviewer by using apps. And they should have gone all the way. Because this future of computing, it isn't just for geeks.
How about getting Martha or Rachel Ray or Momofuku's David Chang to review it with the Epicurious app? Or Ebert in the context of movie watching? Or Oprah on any of her outlets? Or Adam Savage with the amazing digitized periodic table book or some other sciency tool? Or Brad Pitt, with it loaded up with books on architecture? Or Ashton Kutcher with twitter apps? Conan, who has plenty of time, would be perfect, but so would Letterman or Fallon himself. Or Justin Bieber, who seems to be everywhere for no reason? Or Betty White, to inform the rest of the older folks Mossberg doesn't influence? Or Jaden Smith, son of Will Smith, who'll be in the Karate Kid? Any of these folks would find outlets, as Stephen Fry did, for an early iPad. Or least make tons of short, effective media appearances for it. How about sending it to the lady site Jezebel or NY/Media/mainstream site Gawker.com or Kotaku or io9 or Lifehacker for facets of geekdom that aren't about the hardware. Because the iPad is hardware, sure, but it's not about the hardware. And I don't think Apple wants it to be compared to anything in that category. I'd guess, Apple probably doesn't need hardware writers anymore—just ones that cover apps.
Steven Fry at Time and Xeni Jardin over at BoingBoing wrote my favorite reviews specifically because they ignore all the typical trappings of the gadget reviewer and the indecipherable—or at least indelicate—old schooly geek scribe language that Walt Mossberg and Andy Ihnatko and PC Mag and delve into. They focused on the sublime points of not what makes this special, but what makes using the iPad feel special.
Like the new thing it is, the iPad needs new reviewers. I think Apple had the right idea to move away from geek press with the initial reviews. I just don't think they went far enough.
UPDATE: Wait a minute. PC Magazine's pretty geek. So what's the pattern of exclusion here? *shrugs*. Also, I hear quite a few companies are thinking of employing such a strategy. Guess what: only works if you reinvent computing for the masses. Sorry.