Thoughts on the iPad

2 Feb

First of all, what an awful name. Of all the rumored and possible names for this thing… iPad? Seriously? (My favorite name was “Canvas” but that doesn’t fit what the device turned out to be.)

Second of all, initially it’s underwhelming, because it seems to just be a big iPodTouch. I have an iPodTouch. It’s an amazing thing. A bigger one would also be an amazing thing, and I can easily imagine that browsing the internet by physically interacting with it is much more enjoyable than using a keyboard and mouse. But the tablet seems like just a bigger iPodTouch.

When Steve Jobs introduced the tablet he positioned it as a third category of product in between the Laptop and the iPhone. I think that’s disingenuous. The iPad is clearly meant to be a replacement for a laptop and not just a larger iPodTouch. In the future, it will be. Get a MacBook now while Apple still makes them. The iPad is the “laptop” of the future. Soon almost nobody will use laptops anymore because they will have iPads, or iPad-like devices. It can run programs as powerful and sophisticated as the iWork applications (basically Apple’s version of Microsoft Office), something that my iPodTouch certainly cannot. That means it’s as powerful already as most people need a laptop to be.

I can hear the screams of protest. “It doesn’t print!” “It doesn’t have a keyboard!” “It doesn’t have a camera!” “It doesn’t have a disc drive!” and so it can’t possibly replace a laptop. But I think that it can and it will. Maybe not this initial version, but it will improve, and tablet sales will soon outnumber laptop sales. Why?

Because it does the things that most people use their laptops for, and it does them better (and cheaper). Most people use laptops for email, for browsing the internet, and for… well, that’s basically it. Maybe there’s word processing. Maybe there’s video watching. Maybe there’s digital photo sorting and editing. The iPad does all of these things and aside from the word processing it seems likely that it does all of these things better than a laptop. Combine it with the keyboard dock (or a bluetooth keyboard) though, and it’s just as good as a laptop on your desk for word processing, but when you want to travel you only have to take the screen with you and not the entire bulky and heavy laptop. It’s better for sharing photos and giving presentations. It’s better for carrying around with you when traveling. It’s better for reading.

For people who get confused when Finder is the front app but a Word window is taking up the whole screen (I think that’s most computer users), the iPad is easier to use. Touch what you want, and you get it. The “computer” is mostly hidden. The “middle-man” mouse and keyboard is gone. You just physically interact with what you want. For most people, especially people that don’t really know or understand how to use computers, that’s far easier than using a computer via a mouse/trackpad and keyboard can ever be.

The fact that the computer is mostly hidden, though, is why it can’t completely replace the laptop. Yet. There are a few people out there, like me, who do things with their laptop that the iPad can’t do (like edit video) so for us it doesn’t replace the laptop. But we’re the minority of computer users. The iPad is the laptop of the future for the rest of you. I guess that means we’ll have to get used to the name.


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