People said the same thing about the iPod: "Why bother, there are already MP3 players out there?" But iPod revolutionized how digital music was distributed and consumed and spawned a whole new set of personal media devices.
People said the same thing about the iPhone: "So what? We already have smartphones and PDAs like the Palm Pilot and Blackberry." And truth be told, the iPhone wasn't really that great a phone, especially with AT&T's spotty services. But the AppStore made the iPhone a sensation, and now Apple is projecting to sell 40 million units this year.
2. There's nothing like this in the marketplace right now. OK, so you say, what about personal media players such as the PSP or Archo? Well, they don't do apps. What about the iPod Touch or iPhone itself? The thing is, they're too small. They're mobile devices, for sure, but just a tad too small. I mean, have you really surfed the web, checked your email, or watched a movie on the iPod Touch? Sure, we can do that, but the experience is lacking, to say the least. And after a while, my eyesight simply becomes blurry because I can't read those small prints. The netbook-sized screen (just about 10") is the perfect size for media consumption, from the Internet to videos to games to, you guess it, books. Plus the 140,000 (and growing) apps available that do everything from booking your next flight to trading stocks to learning to play the guitar (but forget it -- it will never do your laundry or change a diaper). Simply put, there is nothing like this in the market, not at this size and usability.
3. Most people do not have and will not consider buying a laptop computer. They have no use for one. They don't need an iPhone because they're happy with their regular cell phone simply to make calls. What the iPad does is fill the gap in between, and provide a device for those who want to do most of what they want to do without having to lug around a computer.
A friend of mine, who doesn't have a SmartPhone or a laptop, told me the other day he wanted the iPad. Another friend of mine, who only owns a desktop computer, said the same thing. This is what they do every day: surf the web 80% of the time, listen to music, read, watch TV and movies and YouTube videos, communicate mostly through email and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and look at family pictures and videos. That's what they do most every day. They are not writing business proposals or the next great novel. They are not graphics designer, or architect or politician. They just want a usable device that would allow them to do 99% of the things they do every day. My friend looks at the iPod Touch/iPhone and says, "that's too small. How can anyone do anything on that tiny thing?" He looks at a laptop and says, "I don't want to carry a computer with me. I already have one at home." But when he looks at the iPad, his eyes sparkles: "That's something I could really use!"
And he's right. I'm a computer professional and I'm also a writer, so naturally I love my laptop and desktop computers. But when I'm not writing, or when I'm not doing technical and business analysis, what do I do most? I look at my own habits, and I realize this: my friend is right! 80% of the stuff I do, during my personal time, is content consumption and social networking. I surf the web; I Google and Facebook and tweet and blog; I listen to music or watch online videos; I read; I listen to audio books; I watch movies when I'm driving; I email; I use GPS and look up information when I'm traveling. The iPad can do all that beautifully, especially with a gorgeous 9.7" touch-screen.
4. People tend not to know what they want until you show them. And people are slow to change their behaviors. I remember when the iPhone first came out, I sneered at it myself, thinking: who wants a phone like that with no buttons? Who wants to type with a touchscreen keyboard with no textile feel? I didn't know I wanted one until I actually had one. And now I can't live without my iPhone. The keyboard did take some getting used to, but now I can type as fast as I could with a full-size physical keyboard. People do change their behaviors, albeit reluctantly. But if you don't build it, they won't come. And Apple is building it. And people WILL want it.
5. Real estate is all about location, location, location. And I believe a device like the iPad is all about apps, apps, apps. The iPad is built on a proven concept and business model of AppStore. Nobody buys an iPod Touch just to listen to music or watch movies on a small screen. Nobody buys an iPhone because it's a damn good phone. They buy these devices because of the apps. I know. My brother already has a cell phone that he likes, but he went ahead and got an iPod Touch. Why? Because he wanted the apps. He wanted to play the games. He wanted to have a full-feature translator on it (and dictionary). He wanted to do many things. He has at least 50 apps and games on his iPod Touch now, and he will get more.
So what, you say? We already have the iPod Touch and iPhone. And the iPad is just a bigger version... well, that's when you don't understand. The apps right now are limited by the size. Take Stanza or Kindle for an example -- you can only read 50 words at a time on a tiny screen. But with Stanza for iPad or the Apple's iBook, now you can read full-size books -- with colors and pictures! Graphic novels. Children's illustrations. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Now you can have full-size games (Grand Theft Auto would not be the same). You can have a full-featured PIM (personal information manager) that links to your Facebook account that links to your broker account at E-Trade that links to your credit card companies, etc. etc. The apps are the holy grail here, and I predict there will be an explosion of new apps specifically designed and built for the iPad, and the concurrent release of the SDK is a good indication that Apple is serious about this.
The new iBooks apps and New York Times show us what is possible. And the iWork suite shows us you can do real work on the iPad, too -- it's not just fun and game. And that's just the beginning. Full suites of applications will be available, and with constant connectivity, they include cloud-based applications as well (such as Google web apps). There's literally no limit what kind of applications will be available on this platform, especially when they fully utilize the touch screen capabilities.
6. Form factor. The biggest gripe about the iPad ("it's a big iPod Touch") may just be its biggest advantage. Imagine what people can do with a 9.7" iPod Touch. With the right accessaries (such as a dock, a stand, external keyboard, etc.): a) large-screen LED TV for the car, b) large-display GPS system, c) a real "night stand" appliance, d) a portable transcription device for writers, artists, businesses, etc.
Accessary manufacturers are drooling right now.
Even without accessaries, extended use could go beyond what the iPod Touch can do without the burden of a laptop: a) mobile medical device for patient care, diagnostics, and datastore, b) surveillance, information gathering and data entry for field professionals, c) interactive interface for server-side systems ("cloud" computing), d) news and magazines, e) translation devices with international languages and input methods (such as Chinese handwriting recognition), d) hands-on creative devices (there are already apps that allow you to, for example, finger paint)... the list goes on, only limited by the imagination of software developers.
7. Connectivity. Sure enough, it's not free, unlike the Kindle. But the Kindle also doesn't have full Internet capability either. You can't make softphone calls with the Kindle. You can't visit media-rich sites or do online trading with it. All that data (gigabytes of it per week or month) can't be free.
The iPad has wifi (801.2n -- the faster protocol) , as expected. Higher models also have 3G -- while it's not free, the AT&T unlimited data plan at $29.99 isn't that bad -- in fact, it's cheaper than most 3G full data plans (Verizon's, for example, is $60 a month with a wifi card and two year contract). AT&T's plan is contract free. Don't like AT&T? The iPad will be unlocked, so you can use any GSM carriers. Currently, in the US, we are limited to only AT&T and T-Mobile, maybe with Verizon thrown in in the near future.
The iPad is not iPhone, but you can make and receive calls with it, using VoIP technology. Apple is also opening up their network to allow Voice-over-3G network such as iCall. So, it is possible to use the iPad as a phone (but why would you?).
True, the iPhone doesn't have a true USB port. It has an Apple 32-pin connector, just like the iPod or iPhone does. But this connector can be mapped to USB with the SDK. So it really is not a big problem. What it does is to allow a whole world of existing iPod/iPhone accessaries and connectivity tools (such as docks, A/V connectors, etc.) to work with the iPad. No new investments needed, if you already own an iPod or iPhone. You can connect the device to your PC just as you would with the iPod. You can FTP between it and your PC. Like the iPod Touch/iPhone, it runs the same OS, which is basically a modified OSX. So underneath the slick outer-shell, it's just a robust Unix system.
8. The thing itself. Yes, it may be a large iPod Touch or iPhone, but that's exactly why we love them. The multi-touch screen is simply gorgeous, and now we can have 9.7" of that beauty. The battery also lasts up to 10 hours -- try that with a netbook! Some people gripe about that, though (nothing seems to please them these days): "10 hours? But the Kindle lasts two weeks!" Well, you're not going to use the iPad just to read books either, are we? The iPad also uses a low-consumption chip, so it's environmentally friendly and possibly emits less radiation (plus you're not going to slick it near your brain either -- so there's that benefit). The 16GB to 32GB flash memory will make the iPad practically void of any moving parts, thus robust (you can even jog with it).
The touch screen itself is going to change how people interact and consume their information. Those who have used the iPod Touch or iPhone know what I'm talking about -- I can't think of a more intuitive way to browse the web, scan email, check stock quotes, write, etc. etc. So why is it a detriment that the iPad works like an iPod Touch?
TabletPC is not a new concept (tabletPCs have existed since the late '90s), but they never quite worked out in the market place outside of the IT profession. Would we rather go back to keyboard and mouse, or even a pen or stylus? Or our fingers and hands? My bet is on the latter: it's extraordinarily natural to use.
It baffles me to hear people complain: "But I can't slip it in my pocket." Really, did they really think a tablet device is going to be small enough for that? We already have the iPod Touch. You can't slip a Kindle into your pocket either. How about netbook? Try to put one in your pocket. So why whine about the fact that the iPad is too big for the pocket? It's just a tad bigger than the Kindle or a netbook. Actually, at 0.5" thick and 1.5 lbs, it's lighter and thinner than netbooks (which weigh about 2 lbs on average). With a carrying case, it's about the size and weight of a notepad. You can slip one in your purse or your messenger bag.
The thing is, the iPad is not a device for everyone, and it's not the solution for everyone's wishes and desires. Is it perfect? Heck, no. It is lacking in certain areas (such as, no camera -- but isn't it what your digital camera or even cell phones are for?). It's not a "dream" machine -- at least not at that price. I can probably write another article on why it's far from being a dream machine. It can't be everything to everyone. Some people are frustrated because they don't see anything revolutionary. They may be true -- there's no new concepts such as the AppStore. But that doesn't mean the iPad would be a failure, or disaster. Far from it.
Some of the criticisms baffle me. On one hand, critics are saying it's too big (for a phone, perhaps, but not for a device in this class); on the other hand, they complain it's not a real computer. But they also don't want to pay $1000 for it. So, basically, they want their cake and eat it, too.
What I outlined here are the reasons why I think the iPad will enjoy great success and, hopefully, inspire a whole new category of personal media consumption devices that both fits the budget and most of our media needs: communication, social networking, Internet, video, audio, books, information...
I'm a super user. I have laptops, desktops, smart phones, netbooks, and a Kindle. I have them all, and I use them all, but I've always had reservation about them when they first go to market. For once, I am really psyched about the iPad, and that's very rare. Personally, I do think Apple is on the money. They may not have come up with a totally revolutionary idea or completely new category of technology, but what they've done is create something that fits what most people need, what most people want, under a budget that most people can afford.