Apple has announced the iPad, which I’ve been speculating about for months. My initial reaction was one of disappointment, in that it is essentially an enlarged iPod Touch and, like Apple’s computers, rather expen$ive. But I’m sure I’ll still buy one. The joke about this is that Apple ought to rename the iPod Touch as the iPad Nano.
A New Niche
The iPad is meant to occupy a new niche between smart phones/e-readers on the low end of functionality and netbooks/laptops on the high end of functionality. (The iPad, of course, will occupy the stratosphere on price!) This sort of ‘tweener device appeals to the technorati and those with plenty of disposable income, but I don’t expect it to have the broad appeal of the iPhone. After all, a netbook is cheaper and offers greater, if far less elegant, functionality. I, for one, have long desired a cheap tablet for web browsing around the house and when dining out, but a $200 tablet like the mythical Crunchpad was illusory, morphing into the disappointing and more expensive JooJoo.
My New E-Reader?
I adored my Kindle 1 and use my Kindle 2 almost daily, but with the death of print I frequently find myself using the iPhone when dining out, even though its screen is painfully small for reading. The Kindle’s interface and web experience pale in comparison to the multitouch interface and web browser on the iPhone. So I know I’d love having an iPad propped up in its case in such situations. I would hope to use the Kindle App on the iPad, however, rather than Apple’s iBooks, which I expect to be more costly and less accessible across platforms.
The other major use for an iPad would be web surfing on the couch and in the bedroom. Here the competition is my netbook, which is certainly more practical for content creation like this blog post than the iPad with its virtual keyboard. And my netbook happily plays Adobe Flash videos, which are a web standard yet won’t work on Apple’s iPhones nor the iPad.
For web browsing, however, the iPad would be far handier to pick up and put immediately to use. I know I’d prefer its multitouch interface over the annoying touchpad on my netbook. And while my Apple TV is great for watching podcasts and renting shows on my HDTV, browsing the web via the aTV Flash hack is even worse than surfing with the Kindle. Finally, while the Kindle is allowed in bed with me for a relaxing read at the end of the day, the netbook is not allowed in the bedroom at all. I think the iPad would be provided in-bed privileges.
I like to snap photos and post daily blog posts with slideshows when I’m off on extended day hike trips. I think the iPad’s separate keyboard/charger and card reader dongle would be annoying when compared to those built-in functions on my netbook. Then again, if Apple invested as much effort into porting iLife apps to the iPad as it has on porting the iWork applications, that might let me edit my photos and create simple videos about as easily as I now do using ThumbsPlus and Windows Live Movie Maker on my netbook.
Which Model to Get?
The low-end $499 iPad has only 16 GB of memory and no cellular connection. Oklahoma doesn’t have the kind of WiFi coverage one finds in the coastal metropolises, I can’t tether the iPad to my iPhone, and I’m not about to carry around a MiFi when I can instead pay $30/month only as needed (no contract required!) for iPad cellular service. So my preference would be to wait until May for the WiFi+3G version of the iPad.
As for memory, I wouldn’t load up an iPad with music or video since I’d still have my iPhone for travel and my Apple TV at home. But one can’t tell what sorts of wild new applications might arise for the iPad, and the rule of thumb is to always max out the memory to be safe.
So let’s see…a 64 GB iPad with WiFi+3G is $829, the keyboard dock is $70, the case is $40, and the SD card kit is $30…that adds up to $969. JEEPERS! Have I mentioned how much I already like my Kindle 2, iPhone 3G, and Asus Eee PC netbook? Maybe I’ll just bind them together with some duct tape and call them MyPad!