Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Thoughts on the iPad

Being in the technology field, I often get asked about the latest and greatest devices to hit the market.  The newest item to be shown by the media is Apple's iPad.  If you have not yet seen it, the iPad is basically an over-sized version of the iPod touch.  Or, a large iPhone that cannot make calls.  The price starts at $500 and goes up to $830 for the top model.  The iPad goes on sale Saturday at 9:00 AM.

While I have yet to see an iPad, I have followed the pre-launch details very closely.  I am looking forward to trying it at some point, but I would like to offer my predictions and opinions prior to launch.  First off, it will be successful.  Apple has the advantage of a very loyal group of fans and a fantastically successful marketing group.  If they launched a coffee maker, people would line up to buy it.  Expect people to notice them, stars to hold them and stores to sell out of them.  Secondly, it is something new.  While touch screens and even tablet computers have been around for years, this is the first attempt that any company is working to market a device this size solely for the purpose of consumer entertainment.  Because of this, it will recive much attention and analysis.  Lastly, there will be waves of competitors and this will be the first of many options for touchable tablet computers.

My inner Geek loves the idea of the iPad and wants to be excited, but my logical brain simply won't let me.  The huge revolution of the iPad is also its biggest drawback.  The design is such that it can be used solely by touch input and easy to use.  The truth is, I like having an integrated keyboard and mouse and I don't mind that my computer is a complex tool.  Now you could easily make the argument that I do not fit the target audience for the iPad, or that it is not meant to replace the computer, but I am still trying to figure out who the target audience is.  With an  entry price starting at $500, it is much too expensive to be a toy.  In fact, you could get a very capable laptop starting at the same price.  And since the iPad is to big to fit in a pocket, you have to carry it in a bag anyway, so it's advantage is not in its size either.  It is also marketed as an ebook reader, but it is missing the e-ink screen, battery life and possibly the delivery system of the Kindle, so it falls short at that task as well.  Models with mobile internet start at $630 and have a minimum of a $15 per month connection fee.  It can play music and videos, but so can my laptop and smartphone.  Why would anyone need something that is less portable than an ipod and less functional than a laptop?  It could be fun for games, but again, probably not unique enough to warrant the price of entry.  As far as productivity is concerned, with no built in keyboard, don't plan on getting work done on the iPad.  There is an external keyboard, but that further reduces its portability and increases its price.

As a geek that is often on the go, I have a laptop, a Kindle, a Zune HD and a DROID smartphone.  I do not always have all of them with me, but I can take what I need when I want it.  They even overlap and can fill in for each  other when I am without one.  Now many of you reading this probably do not have the same assortment of portable gadgetry, but I cannot think of any situation where I would recommend the iPad to someone over one of the previously mentioned gadgets.  If someone was missing all of them, I would say start with a laptop.  If someone was missing something for multimedia, I would say to look at an iPod, Zune or smartphone.  If you are a reader, settle for nothing less than the Kindle.  As it stands, Apple seems to be developing a need for a device rather than a device for a need.  I am not saying that tablet style computers will not have a place, but they need to come down in price and increase in functionality.  The iPad cannot even run more than one program at a time and it has internal components that are much closer to those of my phone than to a full computer.

If you are getting an iPad, enjoy it, I am sure it will be a  fun and great experience.  I do not want to sound overly negative, innovation has to start somewhere.  If you are asking for my advice, at the very least, wait to see what the general feeling is after they have been out for a couple of months.  Also look at some of the other similar devices that are out or on their way. Keep in mind that a good smartphone has all of the functionality of the iPad, just with a smaller screen.  What ever you choose to do, have fun and make the decision that is best for you.

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