Product testing is a common practice for many manufacturers. In the enterprise space, vendors refer to them as beta testers – people or companies who agree to test an indevelopment product to check it for usability (or lack thereof) and help fine tune the product. The benefit of being a beta tester is you get to be at the cutting edge of the market with influence over the course or development of a product.

A more common name that has cropped up in recent years is early adopter. TechTarget defines an early adopter as a person who embraces new technology before most other people do. Early adopters tend to buy or try out new hardware items and programs, and new versions of existing programs, sooner than most of their peers. According to a theory called Diffusion of Innovations (DoI) formulated by Everett Rogers, early adopters make up 13.5 percent of the population.

While bragging rights and the envy of all are qualities that come with being an early adopter, it is well known that the risks associated with being first to own are real. Software may be buggy, as in the recently launched 15-inch and 17-inc Macbook Pros. Apple published a 256MB patch as part of its software update 1.3 (http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1600979/apple-microsoft-patch-buggy-products).

When Apple released its new toy – the iPad – I was one of those who posted an early look at the device.

Back then I was merely trying to set straight what the iPad was, and what it wasn’t. At the time of writing, the iPad was touted as a tablet PC in the vein of tablet PCs running Windows 7 and Linux. For a couple of months I resisted getting the iPad for a number of reasons:

First generation Apple consumer products usually are feature poor. In the case of the iPad, it lacked any USB ports, no memory slot card reader, does not support multi-tasking, and no camera.

But my wife decided to get one for me as a birthday present. Within one week from unboxing the iPad, I discovered one more flaw – a very severe one, in my view. The WiFi stopped working! I really mean stopped working. The iPad could not pick up any WiFi signal whatsoever. Apple tech forums offered a number of suggestions and I tried all of them but my iPad – which I dubbed iGor – remains unable to connect to anything other than the laptop.

Before Steve tells me I am stupid, yes, Apple. I restored the software (three times). I reset it several times as well. I turned off the auto brightness control. I set the brightness to maximum. I even called the vaunted Apple Tech Support and after almost 30 minutes of fiddling around with iGor, the technical on the other side of the phone suggested I bring it to the nearest Apple Store for repair.

There was one small catch! The iPad is not yet available in Hong Kong. I was given a choice: fly to the nearest country that has the Apple locally available – that would be either Japan (five hours away) or Australia (8 hours away) or wait until it becomes available in Hong Kong (no idea when that will be).

Being in the media, I thought I’d try to use my media charm and cry ‘help’ to the local Apple PR contact. I was not surprised when I didn’t get any response (not even an email bounce).

Scouring through the Internet, I came to this article about the vaunted iPad WiFi problem. (http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/ipad_hits_a_bump_wi-fi_woes_point_to_apple_bug.php) But none of the fixes were of any help for me. I am resigned to the idea that I will have to wait until when Apple decides to make the iPad available in Hong Kong.

What I am left with today is an oversized iPod Touch (minus WiFi).

Its great for reading ebooks or playing games – installed via iTunes. The videos are not as sharp as I’d expect and this is despite my trying out several settings when ripping a couple of DVD movies. But the one feature that I have come to expect from any mobile device – WiFi connectivity – remains off the table.

I don’t really know if there is anyone to hold blame here. Maybe everyone is. But what I do believe is that Apple has an obligation to respond to its customers’ call for help regardless of whether it can do anything immediately or not. Silence is nothing more than an indication it doesn’t really care about its customers – people without whom Apple would have long passed into oblivion.

My wife probably paid close to US$1,000 to get this iPad for me by any means she possible, paying a 35% premium just to get it for me on my birthday.  

I am hoping to cross the border later in July or August to get my hands on the iPed – a purported iPad clone. I hope to get an Android version. I was told I can get one for US$105.

Yes I am an early adopter. Being an early adopter has its perils. But when you invest US$105 in a product and it works as advertised, it begs the question: why pay US$1,000 for a premium-branded door-stopped.

Finally, someone wrote that my blogs make them laugh. So in keeping with tradition, watch the video below on some of the things the iPad was designed to do, and some of the ways people get around with using the iPad.

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