I'm surely going to get flamed for thinking this, but I'm coming off the fence. One of Think Geek's April Fool's jokes just connected some dots that I've pondered and repondered for many of the past 10 years. I will be getting one eventually not because I really want one, but because I think it'll be important for my career and business to be an early adopter.
I was an early adopter of the Internet in the mid 80's, but other than that I've rarely cared to own anything along the first wave of owners. I've been building a pretty good career for just happening to own a modem before most people knew what one was.
The iPad might be something along the lines of an AOL that introduced an existing technology in a simply packaged format to a wider audience than ever before. It's not the device. It's everything else and it doesn't matter if you think it's the best device of its class or if it's even innovative in the least. It didn't matter that AOL was a dumber version of the Internet, though that fact that eventually caught up to it. It mattered more that AOL had content... cheap second rate content and users.
You hated AOL. I hated AOL. We laughed at AOL users and all types of Internet for dummies type of services out there, but the AOLs had a huge role to play in creating a popular market for what was then only an alter reality for the outsiders of society.
The iPad will have apps and with the impressive mobilization of developers working on staking a spot as an early landmark developer, it's going to hold an advantage in Apps for a while. People are going to come up with novel apps and uses for this thing that really will introduce a new category of computing. It's not going to cause a seismic change in how people use computers... that's silly Apple hype, but it will open a door that has been swinging open and shut for quite a few years. This category of computer has been viable for some time already. It just lacked a carrier capable of hyping it enough to change perceptions of how you use a computer and it lacked developers and apps. It has all of those now.
Ok, the keyboard sucks. Big deal. Did you see the Think Geek april fool's joke in which they made an iPad arcade
? The damn iPad is a mobile screen. Everyone jeering at the one button interface may not be laughing for long. The lack of features and the plainness might make the economics of producing peripherals for this more agreeable. It's a blank slate.
Check out this prototype mod to make an iPhone a dPad controlled mobile gaming device.http://icontrolpad.com/
A problem of a lot of tablet devices is that they are really laptops and suffer from some of the same problems that laptops have when you try to use them on the go. They want to behave like laptops. They're too large. For a device of this nature, a lack of extra features
may not be a bad thing so long as you can add on to it as you wish without ruining the form factor.
Mobile phone apps for all types of phones have been getting more and more interesting. It reflects a genuine acceptance that there is a place for truly mobile computing... not the kind where you tote a laptop around because that's just desktop computing on the go. All of the newly mobile computing to date has been done on mobile phone like devices and in a lot of ways is nothing more than adapted Web surfing. You do not need a fully fledged computer to do this, but you do need the right form factor to make it easier. The mobile phone will never get there. They're simply too small and the fact that there is such a movement to turn mobile phones into mini workstations speaks to the emerging viability of a different kind of mobile computer.
Now, before I get banned, I'll put on my asbestos suit. While I think this will really go somewhere. I don't know if Apple will be at the head of the pack of it in 5 years. Once a new class of device such as the iPad has been branded into popular culture, the barrier of entry to this new market will fall dramatically for anyone else who wants to do it better without the pain in the ass that Apple's legal department will pose for a lot of their initial partners. The huge lead they have in apps will be important and pivotal for a few years, but you don't need to match it app for app to form a viable rival platform. You just need enough comparable offerings where it counts and ironically, Apple is alive today because a lot of people could overlook that they could live with their limited selection of software so long as Photoshop, DreamWeaver, an older version of MS Office and some other stuff could be had.
I'm going to get one of these probably sometime later this year because the kind of websites I often find myself working on have been on a collision course with mobile computing. I was in no hurry to really bone up on my understanding of mobile computing because it seemed to be way off in the distance.
The horizon just moved up on me. It's time to rethink ways that people might use a viable computer while going about town.