The iPad Part 1 – The Good

It’s hard to be a geek and not feel compelled to talk about the iPad. Steve Job’s latest creation Apple Computer’s latest creation, a very big iPod, was announced on Thursday after months of hype and media speculation. The build up to this was incredible – as much driven by fanatical Apple-lovers as by marketing. And the rumours about this device have been about  for nearly ten years.

There’s been plenty said about the iPad, but these are some of my favorites:

“Wouldn’t it be good if Apple could shrink this down in size to fit in your pocket?”

“Did you ever wish your iPhone was bigger and didn’t make phone calls? Then this is for you!”

“Yo mama so fat, she uses an iPad as an iPod.”(That one has a little sister: “Yo mama is so fat; she can fit an iPad in her pocket.”)

And of course, the  UnNews page is brilliant: “Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs put an end to weeks of speculation by unveiling Apple’s latest technological masterpiece – an extra-large iPhone designed specifically for giants, trolls and other large humanoid creatures.”

So, here’s my thoughts:

The Name.
iPad. Seriously. C’mon. That’s the BEST you could come up with? You didn’t have any women on the “Name deciding” team, did you, Steve? Surely the first thing you did, having decided on “iPad” was to Google Bing it? Didn’t you see that  MadTV sketch from 2007?

Within hours, Twitter was full of jokes poking fun at the name, with iTampon going straight to the  number 2 trending topic worldwide. Of course the  Uncyclopedia jumped in on the act, as did  just about  everyone  with a  copy of  Photoshop.

Am I the only one who thinks the “i” prefix is so 2003? iPod, iPhone, iBook, iMac, iTunes, iLife, iWork, iDVD, iPhoto, iMovie, iChat, iTheater, iStumbler, iCal, iSync, iArchiver, iCab, iWeb, iCan’tBelieveIt’sNotButter…. move on. Find a new theme. Stop tying yourself to one moment in October, 2001 when you started to make sales.

But despite all that criticism, I don’t actually have a better alternative.

The Good.

The really really really really awesome thing about what Apple’s done? They’ve gotten the ball rolling for other tablet manufacturers to lift their game. Futurists, sci-fi writers and geeks have  for long time envisioned a world where flat, paper-like devices are  as common as, well, paper. And the touch concepts that have been recently introduced to mobile phones and now the iPad are an early stepping-stone to that. While the iPad uses a conventional LCD display, new devices (like my Google Nexus One) use OLED screens which, as  this preview from Sony shows, are unbelievably thin and bendable.
So the technology is there, has been around for a while but nobody’s really come along and made it marketable. Nobody’s made it cool for non-geeks. And that’s what Apple does best – simplify, and dumb-down computers for the masses.

It will sell. It will sell LOTS. It will mainly sell to Apple’s core market – iFanboys. The people who buy iPhones because they’re made by Apple and so they have to have one (see MacBook Wheel). Popular gadget site already has three thousand users who have marked it “Want”.

But it will also sell reasonably well to everyday ordinary people, who want to read ebooks or watch Lost on train to work, or in bed. It will sell very well.

It’s cheap. Surprisingly cheap. Un-Applelike cheap. The basic version, without mobile internet (just your home/work wifi) starts at USD$499 – so about AUD$600. By comparison the Amazon Kindle (black and white, just a book reader with no apps) costs only AUD$300.

It won’t sell as much as the iPhone. You NEED a phone. You WANT an ebook reader. You NEED to be able to listen to music, you WANT to surf the net on the toilet. Because the iPad isn’t a tablet pc. It’s not a computer. It’s not must-have gadget: it’s a big iPod. It’s an appliance. It’s something
you buy as a handy way to do a few simple things. It does not replace any existing device you have now, except possibly a netbook.

At the moment.

In five years time, it will though. Because in five years time, it will be bigger, lighter, thinner and most importantly: do most of the major things it currently can’t do.

More to come later: in part 2 I take a look at what’s not so good about the iPad.

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