One of the common quips about the iPad is that it’s nothing more than a “large iPod Touch.” It’s a statement the naysayers are fond of making, along with those who lash out at anything made by Apple as though Microsoft were still the only developer putting out a useful, solid operation system anymore; it’s not 1999, people.
We’ve now had an iPad since Friday, the day the 3G iPads were released, and we’re quite happy with it as a replacement for our now-sold 17″ Macbook Pro. We’ve fielded numerous questions, but the most common is, “Why would someone want an iPad?” And that’s a loaded question, because it comes with a pre-established bias. But let’s answer it anyway: “Maybe you don’t. Not everyone would.”
That answer isn’t side-stepping the argument, either. The reality is, if you’re already happy with an existing portable computer, or you don’t need a portable computer in the first place, then the iPad isn’t for you, just as a roadster isn’t the ideal car for a family of four. If you’re in the market for a portable computer, however, and what you need it to do is the same thing 99% of computer users need a computer for, then the iPad fits the bill splendidly. It’s a fantastic entertainment and news device, is great for writing, and the distribution system for apps makes the iPad a headache-free device which you won’t need to reformat every six months because something’s broken.
And for techies who need the latest and greatest, and have the disposable income to make that need a reality, then the iPad is an obvious choice over an existing sub-notebook: it’s snappier, has a great app library w/associated distribution system, has a longer battery life, and has a data connection built in.
With four days of iPad use behind us, we’re not disappointed with the device at all, and look forward to the benefits that OS 4.0 will bring later this year. One side-effect of using the iPad, however, is our changed perception of using the iPhone. Quite simply, the iPhone no longer feels as revolutionary, or as spectacular, as before. Indeed, we’re making an effort to not run iPhone apps on the iPad, because most simply don’t look great when scaled up. That’s not to say that the iPhone still isn’t the best smartphone on the market, but merely that the iPhone now feels more like a phone with cool features, and less like a backup computing device; the iPhone feels almost cluttered now, what with its dense app icon distribution on the SpringBoard, and the lack of “whitespace” in apps.
In this respect, the iPad has set for the computing industry a new standard. What early, greyscale sub-notebooks were to their later, more powerful notebook brethren, the iPod Touch is to the iPad. In other words, the iPad isn’t a big iPod Touch, in much the same way the modern Mini Cooper isn’t just a bigger version of the old Mini. Yes, there are keen visual similarities, but one was effectively a prototype for the other. In the end, the Touch is a smaller, more restricted version of the iPad, which is a more apt description if any can be made, and it pinpoints the answer to the aforementioned question as to why one would want an iPad: early iPod adopters didn’t ask why they should pick up an iPod instead of one of the many non-Apple mp3 players on the market. Rather, the reason was obvious: the iPod was better, not because it offered much more functionality, but because it was highly polished. Those who didn’t see this would end up buying an iPod a year or three later. Same with the iPad: if you don’t get it now, just wait a couple years when the early-adopters have made the reasoning all to clear.