Times media writer David Carr has been salivating over the iPad for months now (see columns like “A Savior in the Form of a Tablet“), and his desire for Steve Jobs’s shiny new object reached new heights in the last two days leading up to its debut in stores tomorrow. Carr’s rapid-fire tweets about the iPad two evenings ago had Gawker joking that there might be something untoward going on between him and the device. He followed that up yesterday on the Times “Media Decoder” blog by outlining various scenarios in daily life during which the iPad might become useful, or even coveted. On a plane, “you can’t sit next to it and not want it,” he wrote. It might just bring you and your spouse closer together on a casual Sunday morning. You can even use it on the toilet. We are led to believe he tested this theory out. Last night, we called Carr to ask him about the new object of his obsession, and whether he thought his coverage crossed the line from “fanboy” to “salesman.”
Your posts [yesterday] were so visceral. Tell me about how the iPad makes you feel.
Well, I have fanboy tendencies. Like, rock music: They let me write about rock music but they always kid me about it. “Whatever band you cover is the greatest thing there ever was!” Sam Sifton was giving me trouble &8#8212; who are those hairy southern boys? Kings of Leon. I did them very early on. I said, “Oh, they’re going to be the biggest, most amazing thing!” And it didn’t come true for a couple of years, so when they did win a Grammy I sent a note to my editor.
I tend to have emotional engagement with the new. I really like discovery. But, this is really less about hitting my buttons as a consumer, and more about hitting my buttons as someone who covers media and looks at the implications. This is sort of my first time at the rodeo in that it’s my first big product unveil. The skepticism you get from David Pogue isn’t quite baked into me. I don’t really care what the nerds think about what I write. I don’t have any nerd cred to start with. Part of why I went home and tweeted about it was: You’ve got a secret for five or six days. You can’t even show it to anyone. I was trying to imagine, what if I got it just with everyone else? I still would think I was seeing into the future. People say, “Well it’s just a big iPhone.” And I say yeah, it is a big iPhone. But it changes the aggregation, it renews the romance of surfing. It makes browsing the web no longer a chore. Video looks gorgeous on there. The absence of flash is a bummer.
It does sound like you’re shilling for Apple in a way.
Well, that’s up to you to judge. But why would I shill for them? What do I care about them? We’re supposed to have a reflex of built-in skepticism, and, “It’s not all that!” And that’s the cool way to be. I don’t really care about being cool. That doesn’t matter to me. I have no reason to curry favor with them. They’re not really my beat. I believe that this is a transformative device on my beat, and if my words make you or others uncomfortable, I really don’t care.
It doesn’t make me uncomfortable. But by going through different scenarios in which it would be useful, that starts to feel like an advertisement.
That’s a fair criticism. Although let me think: There’s one post talking about when you do an Internet search and there’s no flash. There’s another where you see a thing you want to work on and it doesn’t work. That, I think, is making an argument for its utility. But I didn’t think about this before I did that. What I wanted to know when Steve Jobs visited our place was, “Where does it live in your house? What does it do?” All these people are talking about how it’s a laptop killer. I don’t see that at all. I don’t see it as a work device. I wanted to know once it’s in the wild, where does it live? When you drop it between a couple of feral teenagers, what happens? Those are all the things I wondered about, so that’s why I really did that. But you know that could kind of come out as an argument that I’m saying like, “Look, it’s honestly useful, and it’ll shine your shoes!” So, yeah, well said.
You think this is more of a step than the iPhone, in terms of getting us to a new age of browsing?
Well, I’m not as good at that. I’m not an iPhone user. I like to make phone calls on my phone and I like to text. And the iPhone isn’t good at either of those things. The iPhone didn’t change my life. I don’t think the iPad is a laptop killer, I think it’s much more of a mouse killer. People are going to demand and require that every screen they walk up to recognize their touch and what the intention of their gesture is. So I think it’s formative in that regard.