I played with an iPad for a few minutes at Red Rock in Mountain View, and since everyone else to talking about it, I might as well too.
It’s a big wireless touch screen display. That’s how you have to think of it. It’s not a “big iPod Touch,” anymore than an SUV is just a big Chevette. Big isn’t just better, it’s different.
It’s not a replacement for the laptop or the desktop, since you can’t type long on it. It’s an addition. It’s for when you want to browse the Internet, and a laptop is too much. It’s for when you want to lookup something on IMDB while watching television. It’s for reading PDFs or finishing tweaking a presentation on a plane. It’s a device a for consumption, not creation. As commenter BadUncle put it on the Awl, “Steve Jobs has reinvented the clipboard.” (An iPad would have been perfect for all the years I helped my dad do end of year paint inventory.)
Do I want one? I’m kind of ambivalent about it. I’d use one if I was given one, but I can’t imagine using it enough to be worth $500. It’s a toy. It’s a better looking Chumby.
Does it foretell a dystopian future of locked down computers? Maybe. I can see the AppStore model being expanded into the traditional software market, and I really really do not like the AppStore. I don’t have a problem with the existence of the store. It provides a list of apps to download. I even don’t have a problem with Apple vetting the apps in the store. That’s useful for users. These apps are safe. Fine. What I don’t like is that there’s no other way to distribute applications for the iPhone and iPad except through the AppStore. That’s what really bugs me. That and the hypocritical and schizophrenic application of Apple’s rules, and that if AT&T or some other “strategic partner” doesn’t like your app, you’re shutdown. That’s telling me and my users how to use our machines. No one has that right.
So in conclusion, I give it a warm maybe.
If I want to browse IMDB while watching TV I can 1) use my netbook, which costs at least $150 less, depending on the iPad model, and has a keyboard, or 2) use my iPod touch which has the same app, fits in my pocket, and costs way less than an iPad. As far as I can tell, and granted I haven’t actually used one yet, the iPad experience is sort of a hybrid of the netbook and iPod/iPhone experience, but lacks the advantages of both. It would be a good eReader… I could see it being good for people like UPS drivers if it cost a little less… but that’s about it.
I agree that it’s a neat toy, but that’s all it is right now, a neat toy. I don’t begrudge the people who have the disposable income to get one, but it’s far from a necessity.
While you are technically correct that you can use a netbook or iPod Touch/iPhone, the experience is completely different. Ask yourself why your netbook isn’t your primary computer. That reason is the same reason why the iPad is different from your iPhone.
As far has having the advantages of a netbook, I’ve yet to find any advantage to a netbook. They’re too small and too underpowered. I’ve yet to find anything they do well.
I understand the iPhone’s place in the world. It’s niche is “I want the Internet right now, and I don’t have a computer” The iPad’s niche is harder to place. It’s an in-between device. I can see using on a plane, because using a laptop on a plane is physically impossible for me. It something that sits on a table.