NEW YORK (
) -- October 2011 was finally going to usher
into a new era where I could leave home for more than a few hours, carrying only my iPad, not needing also to bring my laptop. The combination of iCloud, iOS 5.0 and the most recent version of iTunes was supposed to make iPad life without a laptop finally into a possibility.
I'm sad to report that on this important goal, Apple has failed.
I'm also able to report that Apple has a relatively easy fix for this,if it just bothers to implement it. Let me tell you what's going on.
I use my iPad for numerous things, including making phone calls usingapplications such as Skype and MagicJack. It is my primary telephone.It is also my mobile TV/radio, because I listen or watch CNBC on theiPad.
and become a fan on
Most importantly, however, my iPad is my podcast machine for audio and video content alike. I subscribe to many audio and video podcasts, perhaps 50 to 75 series. Some of these podcast series have 10-plus new episodes per day; others have one per week.
It is critical for me that I am able to quickly refresh my podcast list by simply pressing one button. At least three times per day, perhaps four, I need to make sure that I get the latest podcast entries into my iPad.
Here is the way it's done today: On my laptop, inside the podcast view in iTunes, there is a refresh button in the bottom right corner. Click once, and within a few seconds iTunes has gone through the whole podcast list and started downloading the numerous podcasts. If you're in front of your laptop anyway, this system works just fine. You just sync with your iOS device the same way you've been doing for years -- over the cable.
Here is the problem: I would like to do this without getting my PC involved. There should be a similar podcast refresh button on the iPad's podcast player, the selecting of which would trigger downloads of all new podcasts in the list of subscriptions. But such a button in the iPad's podcast player doesn't exist.
A Step Backwards
Some really thick-headed reader may provide the following solution to my complaint: "Why don't you just download each podcast individually, from the iPad?"
This objection is similar to saying "Why don't you go into your address book and check each person, one by one, to see if they have sent you any new email since the last time you went through your address book, each personone by one?" It's a complete non-starter.
If I had to go through the iTunes store, looking into each subscription manually, and trying to remember what had already been downloaded, and then manually downloading the new episodes, each updating of my 50 to 75 podcast series would take me half a day and still likely yield an inaccurate result.I should only have to take one second, pressing one single button, in order to achieve this goal. And I shouldn't have to do it on the PC, but rather on the iOS device such as the iPad.
This is no different than the button in your iPad's email program that automatically checks for all new emails from all possible sources, from all email accounts. You press once, and then you get a complete result. No need to go into the John Smith entry in the address book and see if John Smith has sent you an email, then move to Jane, Jack, and so forth, until you've gone through all possible names of people who might have sent you an email.
Any device that didn't refresh all emails, from all people and all sources, by simply pressing one button, would be considered unacceptable on the face of it. The same thing should be true with podcasts.
For this single and simple reason, I am forced to bring my laptop with me on every trip that's more than a few hours. This should not need to be the case! It is absolutely crazy that the only reason I lug a three- or four-pound laptop together with my 1.5-pound iPad is to be able to press a single refresh button three to four times a day. Yet this is what Apple forces me to do, seemingly for no good reason.
Apart from the fact this situation is a general inexcusable failure onApple's part, I think I may have been able to diagnose how this horrific mistake managed to fall between the cracks at the normally detail-oriented Apple. I suspect that the software team in charge of the iTunes client on the PC (Mac or Windows) is different from the software team in charge of the iTunes client on the iPad.
Furthermore, the iTunes team working on the PC is most likely a lot larger and with a lot more thoughtful experience than what may be a tiny team with no interest or clue, working on the iPad version of iTunes. The latter team may not even consist of a person who listens to podcasts, and this team may have been insulated from the kind of feedback that I am so generously providing in this article.
Apple's mission with the combination of iCloud and the new iOS 5.0 wasto make the iOS devices such as the iPad independent from the PC.Clearly this is a massive failure as far as podcast users are concerned. The problem is easily fixed, if Apple just follows my simple and logical advice.
Apple: Please have the team (or single person) in charge of iTunes on the iOS platform walk over to the good folks who are in charge of the PC/Mac version of iTunes. Then have them learn how to add a "update all podcast subscriptions" button to the iOS iTunes client. If you complete this seemingly simple and self-evident procedure, Apple can finally state that the chief goal of iCloud and iOS 5.0 has been achieved: No more dependence on the PC, if you have an iOS device such as the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.
Until then, the incremental achievement by iCloud and iOS 5.0 gets a big F for Fail as far as I am concerned, because no progress was made on this singularly critical front.
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At the time of submitting this article, the author was long AAPL.
This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.
Anton Wahlman was a sell-side equity research analyst covering the communications technology industries from 1996 to 2008: UBS 1996-2002, Needham & Company 2002-2006, and ThinkEquity 2006-2008.