Thursday, January 28, 2010

iPad Jones. I’ve Got An iPad Jones

I’ve been eyeing those e-book readers ever since the Amazon Kindle appeared on the scene. There’s some appeal in being able to tote lots of books with you wherever you happen to go. But even more appealing to me is the ability to adjust font sizes so I can read without my glasses on. Plus, not having to find space on the basement shelves for more books that do little more than collect dust is a bonus. I’ve held off, though, mostly because I don’t just sit and read book after book anymore. The real-time interactive nature of the Internet is just so much more compelling. If only you could have a e-book reader that was also an Internet computer. Now THAT would be something!

The new iPad, courtesy of Apple.
(The iPad baby picture courtesy of Apple)

Enter the iPad, Steve Jobs' latest paradigm shifting device. It’s an e-book reader, for sure. But it’s also an Internet computer that lets you surf the Web, shop online, watch movies and YouTube videos, store your photos, listen to music, send and receive email, get maps, make notes, manage your contacts and calendar, and even make presentations.

Those are just the initial applications that will be provided by Apple itself. What’s even more revolutionary is that the iPad is designed to run almost 140,000 existing apps from the App Store. Where did they get all those apps so quickly? These are the same apps that have been developed for the Apple iPod Touch and iPhone. Just look at the iPad design. Is it not a much larger version of those devices?

This is part of the genius behind the iPad and why it will change society. It’s a device you didn’t know you needed but won’t be able to live without once it’s in your hands. The fact that it comes with such an incredible array of software applications right out of the gate, and with the familiar user interface of other apple mobile devices, means millions of users will know just what to do with it instinctively.

At home, we can really use something like this for sitting around the living room with the TV on. No need to balance a clunky laptop on your knees. No need to go to another room to check Twitter, email, FaceBook, RSS feeds, favorite websites or online business activities. The electronic books are a bonus. I’d want one of these just to have Safari on a device I can hold like a book.

An iPad on the go has even more advantages. It’s about the size and weight of a thin hardcover book. That means it slips into a much smaller bag or briefcase than a standard laptop computer. Connectivity is via WiFi, of course. But it also comes in a version that will run on AT&T’s 3G network for complete mobility. Apple has even negotiated special wireless rates so that you’ll pay half or less what you would for cellular broadband on a netbook or laptop aircard.

What Jobs showed at the iPad introduction and what’s on the Apple website now is surely only the beginning. There’s an SDK for developers, and you know they’ll go wild with the new tablet form factor. I’d expect apps for business to be on the shelf by the time the first iPads ship in a couple of months. It seems so perfect for outside sales of all types, medical offices, factory paperwork, engineering teams, corporate meetings, college and even high school students.

What makes the iPad perhaps less than perfect? I would like to have seen a built-in webcam for video conferencing, multitasking capability and support for Flash websites. Perhaps these things will come later. Apple already offers a dock with a full size keyboard and a connector so you can sync to other computers and load pictures from your digital camera. With as popular as this device is going to become, you know that the aftermarket companies are testing prototypes of all sorts of peripherals in their labs right now.

Oh, did I mention the pricing? It starts at $499 for the 16 GB WiFi only device and goes up to $829 for a 64 GB WiFi + 3G model that will take an extra month to become available. Drat! I want to start using one of these tonight!

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