Tablet computers have never really caught on, until now. We think there is a convergence of technology and culture that will all work together to create the perfect storm for the iPad. The era of the touchscreen tablet PC has come. Read along and find out our reasons why.
The iPad's tech is good enough. Until now, processors were too large, too slow, too hot, and too inefficient to make tablets practical. Now, Apple's tiny, efficient A4 processor runs at 1GHz, and makes for some sprightly performance. The graphics are a lot better, too, letting you watch high-definition TV on this super-slim handheld. Too bad its aspect ratio is only 4:3 instead of the preferred 16:9. Even so, it's good enough.
Apple is doing it. Say what you will about the Cupertino company with its ubiquitous reality distortion field, but its hardware and software design have proven themselves to be nearly irresistible. It's about time Apple got into the tablet business. The company's market-tested one-button design was a big hit with the iPhone, and will be equally successful with the iPad, regardless of what hysterical Apple haters say. Short sighted naysayers have been wrong many times before about Apple, and are just as wrong again about the iPad.
People need it, whether they know it or not. Apple's PR machine will create a want so intense it will feel like need. The secret to success in the tech industry: 40% innovation and quality, 60% marketing. Apple delivers on that equation with a refined product, to be accompanied by hundreds of hours of propaganda touting its latest "creation."
There will be plenty of content. Example: magazines. They're desperate. Just like what's happened on the iPhone, now even more magazines will begin to create their own apps for this new platform, and yes, some of them will even charge for their content. But then, maybe not. Magazines could use this attractive hardware device to showcase their wares, filling the screen with colorful pictures and easily readable text, and oh yeah, ads — on a platform that can be taken almost anywhere.
The iPad's touchscreen is close enough to perfect. Like the iPhone, the iPad's nearly miraculous oleophobic coating keeps fingerprints, grease spots and smudges at a minimum. Its capacitive touchscreen responds to the slightest touch, which we describe as "very organic." If you've ever used the touchscreen on the iPhone 3GS, you'll know what we mean. Did you notice at Apple's event there was nary a word about stupid styluses? There's no need for such nonsense when you have a screen that effectively resists smudges and is so easily navigated with the fingertips.
It's better than an e-reader. You think the iPad doesn't compete against e-readers? You're right, there's no competition. The iPad's "10-hour" battery will last long enough to overcome the e-reader's main advantage: long battery life. Beyond that, try reading a comic book or a magazine on an e-reader, and you'll see why a sharp, backlit color screen will slam-dunk any Kindles or their mob of wannabes on the market. Don't forget about the versatility of this overgrown iPhone, capable of performing most of the functions of a laptop.
It leverages the 130,000-app App Store. The principal strength of the iPhone is its cornucopia of apps, and now they all work on the iPad. Sure, only Apple's own iPhone apps are rewritten for the iPad thus far — others will expand to full screen at reduced resolution. But the software developers kit (SDK) is on its way to app developers, and soon most of their software will display full-rez on the iPad.
Proven on-screen keyboard. We weren't too crazy about the iPhone's virtual keyboard at first, but after using it for a couple of years, we like it a lot better now. The same thing will happen with the iPad, where it's a bit awkward to use its keyboard now, but people will get used to it. Beyond that, we don't think users will be doing a lot of office work on the iPad. If they do, they can always use Apple's optional keyboard/dock, or choose from the avalanche of accessory keyboards on the way.
It's not a laptop, it's a tablet. People will think of the iPad as a tablet that can also perform some of the functions of a laptop. It might even be good enough to do away with laptops altogether. It will also eliminate a good reason for owning the iPhone in many circumstances. For example, after just finishing a phone call using the iPhone, we realized we hadn't used it as a telephone for almost a week. The iPhone is a small tablet PC. But as a portable computer, its screen is too small. The iPad's 9.7-inch screen is a whole lot bigger — it's just the right size. Finally, the perfect electronic device for bathroom reading has arrived, and like we said years ago, whoever creates the perfect device to accompany that daily elimination all of us must do will make a fortune.
But wait, it can't multitask. You want multitasking? On the toilet? Good for you. Yeah, we would like to listen to Pandora while we surf the web, write text documents and update our websites. But we don't find ourselves doing that with our portable tablet computer of choice, the iPhone. There's a time and place for everything. Plus, we're thinking Apple will roll out multitasking on the iPhone and iPad soon enough. We will miss Flash, though. But Flash is the past. For now, there's an app for that, and for the future, there's HTML5.
The price is right. We thought this bauble was going to cost at least $600, but Apple surprised us by offering the cheapest iPad for $499. Sure, you'll pay more for 3G or for more storage, but we don't care to store a hundred thousand songs on a tablet PC. We'd rather connect to the cloud via wireless N and use the iPad for our web apps and browsing. Heck, maybe there will be a tabbed browser soon, solving a lot of those multitasking problems. Meanwhile, we want to read magazines and books on it. We want to read childrens' books to our kids with it. To us, it's well worth $499, and AT&T be damned — we're not going to pay that sleazy company another red cent than we have to for its pathetic 3G service.
Summing up, the iPad is another version 1.0 win for Apple, in keeping with the company's habit of redefining a product category with an attractive device that has a couple of features missing at first. Nevertheless, it's the beginning of a new era in computing, revealed at a time when the technology is just good enough to support it.