April 12, 2010
My time with the iPad is drawing to a close. It’s been a good run, but we weren’t meant for each other. It’s time for us to see other people/devices. Also, I’m pretty sure that the library staff wants their iPad back so that other people can check it out. Therefore, these are my closing thoughts on the device.
I came into this sure that the iPad would be a commercial success, and I still think it will be. But Steve Jobs is wrong: the iPad is not a replacement for a Netbook. Or, rather, it is not a replacement for a small form factor full function laptop without an optical drive. If you want to compare the iPad to the original definition of Netbooks as web-only limited purpose computers, the iPad would obviously win out.
So what is the iPad good for? Taking notes? Doing research? It’s certainly capable of those things, and will be even more capable once multitasking support arrives in the fall (along with a gaming network, actually).
However, the iPad is ultimately a (I know, I know) giant iPhone. Now- this is a good thing in many ways – the form factor offers serious benefits in terms of how much information can be displayed or how comfortably games or movies display. But, and this is the important part, the device seems to be more optimized for entertainment than for work. Just like the iPhone.
One of my fellow bloggers has suggested that an Asus e-book reader or an HP tablet computer running Windows 7 would be a better choice. For him, it probably would be. But, lets face it: neither of those devices is going to be as polished as the iPad. Nobody does UI (User Interface) like Apple. Sure, I have had some complaints in the first week, but give Apple a month to iron things out and it will almost certainly be smooth as can be.
Consider the iPod. It wasn’t the only MP3 Player on the market when it launched. Why did this iPod sell so well? Why is it that, years later, the iPod is the de facto standard to which all other MP3 Players are compared? Its the UI. The iPod has always been fast, smooth, and easy to use. Anyone can pick one up and figure it out in a couple minutes, and using it doesn’t frustrate people.
That is why the iPad will succeed. Not because the iPad is the most feature-packed or the cheapest tablet device, but because when the competition arrives (late as usual), it will be uglier, harder to use, and undeniably less cool.
Don’t take my word for any of this: if you are an NC State student, you should know that there are now 30 iPads available for four-hour checkout at the circulation desk of D. H. Hill Library. Check one out today.