Like a lot of people I was excited to learn about yesterday’s Apple iPad release. Steve Jobs had said it would be “one of the most important things I’ve ever done” [techcrunch]. Apple calls it “magical and revolutionary“. And, also like a lot of people, I was let down by learning the details of the iPad. I think I know why.
Many people assumed that this new device would be along the lines of a netbook — one of those small-screened devices that allows users to do MOST of what they can on their larger PCs, but using more cloud-based services to get around storage and processing limitations. In other words, netbooks are a perfect match for things like Google Docs, Dropbox, and Picnik to help get around less powerful CPUs and smaller drives.
That assumption — that iPad would be a netbook — was what led to my disappointment. The iPad doesn’t do a lot of the things you need a netbook to do: multitasking (multiple applications running at the same time), Flash in web sites, and file and document control. In fact, several sites have lists of why the iPad fail: gizmodo, pcworld. But I think they are missing the point.
As far as most of the features on the iPad, they are available already (albeit in smaller screen space) on iPhones and iPod Touches: Safari, Mail, Video, Photos, YouTube, iPod, iTunes, App Store, Maps, Notes, Calendar, Contacts, Home Screen, Spotlight Search. The biggest NEW feature is the “iBook” which makes the iPad an eReader for electronic books. (Yes, iPod Touch and iPhone also have this ability — Classics app, for example, looks amazingly like what iBooks became.)
What the iPad does do, though, is “revolutionize” Apple’s money stream on iTunes. They will now be selling e-books (along with music, audiobooks, movies, TV shows, and apps). They will now be competing with Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook Ebook Readers. They will also be (indirectly perhaps) taking on Google’s Books.
So, if you consider iPad as an eReader (with the ability to do some apps and multimedia) it’s a great, little device. Pricier than the competition, but with more functionality and style.
Just give up your notions of netbook (Apple has the Macbook Air for that (cough, cough)), and consider this iPad as the missing eReader device in their already excellent music (iPod) and cell phone (iPhone) device line.