The media is awash with reviews about the iPad being underwhelming, limited and so forth but mostly missing the point save for a few notable exceptions (1, 2, 3).
I am going to state in no equivocal manner that the iPad is the biggest thing since the PC was introduced by IBM in 1981 and for a long while it is going to be in a class of it’s own that could be easily called the “Truly” Personal Computer.
It is going to be the first choice as a first computer for people not having one, and the first choice as the first portable/tablet device for people not having one.
It is going to sell huge numbers slowly but steadily and by 2015 there are probably going to be 100-200 million units sold compared to 1-2 billion computers worldwide.
Why ? 5 reasons :
1 – no operating system learning curve
The majority of computer users do not want to learn how to use a operating system and only use one for a limited number of tasks identified by apple as : access the internet/email, read books/periodicals, watch/listen to audio-visual media, play games, manage contacts/calendar/spreadsheets etc.
For everything else there will be a app, you know “there’s an app for that”, as for the techies/geeks will probably sport jailbroken iPad’s or run OSX on it.
The majority of computer users are not really familiar with how a operating system works, and they should not be, once they figure out that they can do pretty much everything they need on the iPad the time they use a PC will dramatically decrease.
2 – touch:
Have you ever watched a person learning to handle a mouse trying to click a icon and instead dragging it, struggling with frustration to grasp the user interface elements in a operating system ?
Have you ever seen someone that never used a touch device like a iphone before or a 5 year old just take it and immediately figure out by intuition alone how it works and how to handle it ?
Touch is infinitely more natural than cursor/pointer based interaction with user interface elements and the mouse will slowly grow limited to the those of us that really need the precision the same way that trackball and graphic tablet users are limited to those that need it’s added functionality when interacting with a computer.
3 – portability :
The “personal” in PC used to mean you owned it, it was yours, but nothing is more personal than something you can carry on person, have it always with you, nothing more personal than an device you control by touch alone.
The technology is mature enough at this point that devices are really starting to be portable , at this point the size of the device for now is almost solely dictated only by the size we want it’s display to be.
The iPad is exactly the right size between a phone and a laptop to be wearable in our bags and purses without being a bother.
10 hours of battery is finally starting to get close to handling a full day of usage unprecedented in portable computers.
4 – multipurpose platform :
Every single engineering/musical/medical etc. multitouch device can be replaced by a single iPad having multiple specific software, people have been dreaming this for ages, the days of proprietary devices that married one specific piece of software with a specific piece of hardware are numbered.
5 – affordability :
Apple has really made apparent their intention of having the iPad priced as low as possible and as they sell more and more of them and the technology evolves and cheapens they are going to significantly lower the price at which they sell the iPad without a significant loss of the margins.
That being said the iPad is great, the only issue with it is the paradox that makes the level of simplification in the iPad only possible in conjunction with paramount control over they way it behaves, if i could ask Apple for one thing it would be a single switch that takes away a bit of simplicity in exchange for a bit of flexibility, there are certainly a number of us out there that would pull it.