iPad reaction

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The Apple iPad launch was very interesting to me, looking at the varying reactions across the internet and my twitter feed. The general vibe seems to be either "Screw you, this is the greatest thing EVAR!!11!!", or a resounding "Meh".

Let me just state for the record that outside of a few narrow uses, I never 'got' the concept of the tablet PC, and I 'get' the iPad even less so. This is odd to me because I have and use quite a few Apple products, and usually the experience is top notch, and the price of admission is worth it for the thing that the device is meant to do, because it does it so well, even at the cost of missing features. It does the thing it was meant to do so well, you DON'T CARE about what it doesn't do.

I guess that is the crux of my dilemma: I can't figure out what this device is meant to do. 

However, Its very easy to figure out what it's not supposed to do by looking at the features that are notably missing.

  • Its lack of storage makes me think that its not supposed to be an 'ipod for everything'. Even at 64 GB (which, let's face it, is getting away from the "Starting at $499*" price point that is sure to be on all the marketing materials and into macbook range price-wise), you are going to run into storage limitations fairly quickly. You are not going to be able to carry your entire media library around with you like you can with an ipod and your mp3s. So why am I going to take the time to pick and choose what 'playlists' of media I am going to take with me?
  • Its lack of format support means to me that its not supposed to be something you copy your unconverted media to. If you are the type of person who rips all of your DVDs into your iTunes library, and only downloads stuff from the iTunes store, I guess this won't be a problem for you. Me, I'm going to have to spend a significant amount of time converting Xvid videos to this thing.
  • Its lack of Flash or Silverlight support means to me that its not meant to be a device that you stream media to. No Netflix, no Hulu, etc. Unless they make an app for that.
  • Its lack of a camera/mic tells me that its not meant to be used for media creation in the field or on the spur-of-the-moment. You aren't going to be using this thing to grab a quick video of your nephews opening Xmas presents. You can view images on it, but only if you sync your iphone to your computer and then sync your computer to your iPad (assuming you haven't run out of space).
Probably most disturbing thing though is that the iPad is the most radical departure to date from general purpose computing, in a package that feels like it should be a general purpose device. Now, I understand that everything I run on my iPhone has to be personally approved by Steve Jobs, and I accept that, because at the end of the day, its my phone. I am willing to give up certain freedoms for the intangible iphone experience. But part of that willingness also comes from the sense of casualness that comes from a device that fits in my pocket and is used in short bursts, mostly because I'm bored, or just need a discreet piece of information really quick. 

The iPad feels to me like it should be more than that though. I am expected to sit down with this thing for longer stretches of time. I guess the thing that makes me feel uneasy about it is that this is a device of almost pure consumption, more like a television than an interactive magical wonder. Can you use it to create a keynote presentation, or collaborate on a google doc or google wave, or send an instant message to a co-worker? Sure. But you can do that stuff with a cheaper netbook, which this device is supposed to be better than and you can install whatever application you want on a netbook. 

In other words, does the iPad stand alone? Would I take it and only it to a conference across the country for a week? I don't think I would. Why would I buy this over any other Tablet PC?

Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining about the iPad. I really don't care that much. Honestly, we will probably buy one or two for work and I will get some serious hands on time with it. And maybe in the next year or so we will see some killer app that comes out and makes this thing the next iPod. I would really like to see that.

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Compared to a laptop/netbook, it will be easier to use while lying down. ;)

The move away from open computing is troubling, though.

I'll definitely be getting one for home. The iPhone has taught me that I prefer the tablet to the laptop form factor.

You know, despite what I said, after thinking about it for awhile, I can sort of begin to see this thing working. Maybe its a completely new thing, and maybe the experience will be so good and different that I won't care about the features I think are missing.

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