iPad Envy


New York Times Magazine

Earlier this year Apple previewed its iPad tablet computer and enjoyed a blizzard of media attention. As is often the case, the most memorable response came not from a tech blog or a mainstream media outlet but from the satirical publication The Onion. In The Onion’s telling, the iPad would include this feature: “To ensure that its users receive the constant public attention they crave, the iPad will emit the phrase, ‘Hey, does that guy have an iPad?’ every eight minutes.”

With the initial batch of devices scheduled to ship in early April, the first iPad owners now walk among us. Possibly they want no attention and their gizmos are silent, but we know when we see one just the same: there goes an early adopter. If someone were to construct a pantheon of consumer-culture gods, it would have to include the early adopter as a heroic figure, idolized far and wide by marketers and business gurus and anybody carrying a business card that includes the word “trend.” Seen as bold, discerning and forward-thinking, the early adopter is always living in the future, and shaping it. Even The Onion’s articulation of resentment hints at early adopters’ power: they adopt, and the rest of us merely react. As a “white paper” distributed by the trade journal Advertising Age recently asserted, these are “all-powerful individuals.”


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