There’s been a lot of recent discussion regarding the “usefulness” of the Apple iPad. Some are saying it’s going to be worthless, while probably a vocal minority have expressed interest. The truth of it all is that 99% of us that have formed an opinion hasn’t actually played around with the device because it hasn’t been officially released. So right now, it’s mostly our own conjecture that has formed the basis of our opinions. However, this much I can tell you.
I have an iPhone and I use it quite regularly – often I’ll check my emails on my back porch, while lying in bed about to get some sleep, when I’m carrying out chores around town, or when I have a meeting. It’s not just limited to checking emails either. At the time of its release, it was perhaps the most capable mobile web browser on the market. Other competitors have had to play catch-up with this device. And in some cases, they have succeeded in surpassing the iPhone’s web browsing capabilities (the Nexus currently comes to mind.) The one thing that I’ve always wished my phone had was a larger browsing interface, and with the iPad – that makes this a reality (minus the phone obviously.) The phone is not without fault, but a lot of the innovations included in the original iPhone design has forced a wake-up call on other manufacturers to produce a more capable and user-friendly experience. The iPad is going to do the same thing to the tablet market, as what the iPhone has done to the cellphone market.
When comparing the iPad’s competitor – the Kindle, I would think that it would strike anyone with half a brain that the iPad simply shatters the Kindle in every possible way. 4 colors, a much better web browsing experience, a better .mp3 player, the ability to play videos, a better way to display your photographs, high portability, ease-of-use (judging from Apple’s previous products), VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol according to some rumors), wireless 3G connectivity, gaming, etc. In a nutshell, it’s an over-sized iPod touch with better performance, more capabilities, and a larger screen. Where it lacks is the current lack of camera, multitasking, Flash support, and embedded phone. However, what more could you expect from a first generation device (and also a company that’s trying to maintain a monopoly)?
I could easily foresee carting around this highly portable device to meetings – most of the time all I need to do is display animations, stills, and occasionally take notes. Anything concerning performing my actual work is nearly impossible on a laptop anyways. I could also see bringing this on to my open-air back porch during the warmer months and watching streaming television. If you don’t think people aren’t going to be sitting on the trains here in Boston with an iPad (or something similar in the near future), reading the daily paper and listening to music – then you lack the capabilities to see into the future.
So what Apple has done, while not completely “new” per se, is provided the most portable device that does most of the basic tasks we use computers for, and then some. From the sounds of it, it will be the best tablet on the market to date. This will also serve as a wake-up call to other manufacturers – showing them that they need to drastically revise their own current devices and innovate otherwise they’re as good as dead. And if you don’t think that this isn’t the Kindle-killer, than you can’t see the future staring right in front of you. Jeff Bezos and his Kindle team will have to scramble to either lower costs drastically, or rush to come out with a similar device or better.
Now, I’m not an Apple fanboy – in fact, those types of people annoy the hell out of me. Secondly, I’m not trying to sell anyone on anything. Thirdly, I’m not taking any of this personally nor am I getting defensive. I’m just stating what I think are the facts objectively, and shaking my head at disbelievers. If you don’t think that they direction of the future for society is to come up with the computer/laptop sweetspot – something highly portable yet functional, then you are not seeing the forest for the trees. It is a mere step in the direction towards the future and if you’re a naysayer, then you’re simply demonstrating your lack of foresight. And if this first generation doesn’t impress you, wait until the second or third – and if that doesn’t catch your eye than wait until you see what the competitors can come up with.
Some day, the publishing industry and most laptops as we know them will be dead. Whether or not that occurs in our lifetime depends on how quickly the slower followers take to play catch-up.