iPad Doubters - Missing The Point

Since Apple announced the iPad, I've heard doubters of all stripes - Apple fans who weren't convinced, mildly committed techies, and downright Apple haters - tell me what a silly idea the iPad was. The most common criticisms that I've heard are, in no particular order - 1 - "The eReader function won't work as well as the Kindle."

2 - "It's too expensive."

3 - "Sure, it's neat, but it doesn't do anything new."

On the eReader criticisms:

You're wrong. In fact, it does things that the Kindle (and other ink-based eReaders) could never do, including (but not limited to) totally replace textbooks in a college setting. I don't know if my alma mater is considering moving in that direction, but that would have been ideal while I was there. In fact, even without support from the bookstore, I could have done it. By the time I graduated, nearly all of my profs had moved away from actual textbooks, preferring instead PDFs of gathered articles from different publications. Being able to grab those and pull them up on my iPad instead of lugging a laptop around or having to print out 30 pages at a time would have been terrific.

But, even as a casual eReader, the iPad acts as a terrific alternative to the Kindle. When using iBooks, you can adjust the brightness to a level equal to that of an ink-based screen. To look at it, you couldn't even tell a difference. Sitting in a chair with a light on above me, I could use the iPad to read at a fairly low brightness setting. It didn't hurt my eyes, even after spending all day staring at computer screens, then using the iPad to browse the web, read books, and play games. I've never used a Kindle, but I don't really see how the iPad could be a more enjoyable experience.

On the price point:

That's just silly. Before the iPad came out, prognosticators had prophesied of an entry-level price of at least 800 bucks. Then the day of the announcement, and Apple announced the iPad would start at only $499.00. Wow. The naysayers then crowed, "That's only for 16GB, that's only for WiFi!" Well, here's what 16GB can hold: - About 4000 songs (at optimized bit rate) - About 8 hours of standard definition video

Honestly, 16GB ain't nothin'. If you want to put stuff on it and store it there forever, that's one thing. But if you use any of your portable electronics the way I do - to watch a few movies/TV shows and then to remove them when finished - then the space isn't terrible. Who wants to keep taking up space with a book you've already read? That can come off the device when you're done. But when the fully-loaded, top-of-the-line device (3G 64GB) only costs about $30.00 more than the original estimates for an entry-level item, it makes this claim just seem ridiculous.

"It doesn't fill a need"

This objection may be the most short-sighted of them all. In my opinion, the iPad will do for mobile computing and the internet what the iPod did for the music industry. When the iPod was first released, it was met with similar jeers. People didn't see the point of it. No one expected it to replace their CDs, CD players, or record stores. Everyone would still buy CDs, and the iPod would be, at best, a niche product. Wow, were they wrong. Since the iPod hit the scene in 2001, nearly all music can be purchased digitally, an iPod is a universal term for any type of portable digital music player, and, as of January 2010, over 220,000,000 units of Apple brand iPods (not including the iPhone) had been sold. It doesn't matter what kind of facial tissue my wife buys, they're all a "Kleenex." It doesn't matter what brand the copier is, it's a Xerox machine. And it doesn't matter what brand your mp3 player is - it's an iPod.

So it will be with the iPad.

No, the iPad doesn't do anything "new." It doesn't introduce a new feature, and it doesn't speak to a specific need. But what it does do is create a more comfortable alternative to casual computing. When browsing the internet, rather than lug a laptop that weighs at least 4.5 lbs (the 13" MacBook Pro), grab the iPad that weighs a third of that. At only 1.5 pounds, it's nicer in the lap and, frankly, more fun to browse the web with. I already spend more time in the evenings browsing from my iPhone than at a computer. The iPad improves the iPhone experience without feeling like you're chained to a computer. It's more comfortable to lay back and read than the laptop, and more self-contained than keeping two or three books with me all the time. Add to that my Logos library, and it's the equivalent of about 4000 books with me all the time. The Kindle just can't do that.

Are there things that Apple needs to make better about the iPad? Absolutely, though nearly all of my complaints are software related. That can and will be fixed in future updates. But the iPad/iPhone has already revolutionized the mobile computing industry. Countless companies now have mobile-friendly webpages (though Apple doesn't, and that surprises me). Flash is losing the video war to HTML5, a more powerful, more stable type. The iPhone/iPad has been at the forefront of this. And the iPad will continue to change the way people use the internet.