A few thoughts:
It’ll be hit, OK? When the iPod first came out everybody—me included— thought, “It’s just another MP3 player. It’ll never be a big thing.” Apple improved the product until they’d sold 250 million, which does seem like a big thing after all. With the iPhone—and this is a better comparison since there are more feature similarities—Apple had a hit from day one but kept improving the product, particularly via the software, to the point that my original iPhone was a significantly better device two years after I’d purchased it. The iPad will undoubtedly be the same: Good at the start, great two years from now. (I don’t think it will take two years to get to “great.”)
As others have noted, the $499 iPad kills the $489 Kindle DX dead, dead, dead. Especially when you can run the Kindle app on the iPad and have much of the same functionality—I suspect Amazon doesn’t care so long as they’re selling you books—the Kindle DX does not compare well. Other dedicated eReaders and most of the nascent market of underpowered netbooks are also in trouble.
Apple’s iBooks Store will take some time to get off the ground, but if they do it well, it could revolutionize publishing as pundits have said. So far we’ve not seen anything that makes me say it will, but if Apple sells 4-5 million of these in the first year, I’m guessing a lot of publishers will jump on board, particularly as traditional publishing continues to decline.
I remain hopeful that the iPad will allow me to finally create an eBook collection that allows me to dump many of my real world books. It’s not that I don’t like books (quite the opposite), but ownership has a psychological cost (care, maintenance, storage, etc.) by which I would prefer to be unburdened. If I had no books in my home, I would have an incredible amount of free space to use in other ways. So, as content continues to be divorced from media, the question readers begin to face is this: Do you love books (and other printed materials like magazines) or do you love reading? Because they’re no longer necessarily the same thing.
If it’s the former, then your world will change a bit because ultimately I think print-on-demand will be the predominant publishing mechanism within the next few years. You will also have to reconcile yourself to the notion that most bookstores will not survive this economic transition any more than the record stores did or video rental chains are. Though tax-payer supported, libraries face a similarly interesting future.
On the other hand, for those who love reading and can part with printed matter, the future has never looked more bright. Virtually any book you want to read is immediately accessible. You can search text, set bookmarks, annotate the text and more. When you think of the trees and the carbon footprint of shipping, the environmental savings alone might make this compelling for some people.
There’s a looming unease for some tech consultants like me with both the iPhone and the iPad in that these are products which radically simplify the traditional computing experience. Do I provide tech support for the iPhone? Sure, and I’ll provide it for the iPad, too, but they’re both closed-architecture devices which require a lot less end-user assistance. I’ve had very few iPhone calls. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but it is part of a longer term sea change that I have to be aware of as an Apple consultant because if Apple really does make most computing tasks easy enough—and using a computer really is far from easy despite the best efforts of programmers and designers—then my business model is not sustainable.
I already have at least one client for whom the iPad is perfect. They’re upgrading from an aged and declining iMac G3 and were looking at a MacBook Pro 15″ as their main machine since they like to travel every week or so to their second home at the coast. Instead, we’re now looking at the 21.5″ iMac and a 16 GB iPad with 3G, an interesting alternative for a couple whose primarily (and almost exclusive) uses are word processing, email and web surfing.
I was ready to purchase an iPad while reading the live-blogs of the keynote presentation. Initially, I thought I would get the most expensive ($829) iPad with 64 GB and 3G, but I’m reconsidering since it’s a first generation device and I’m not sure I need 64 GB. It’s not like I’m going to carry my music collection on it (unlike my iPhone where I would jump at a 64 GB model). Will I store movies on it or can I stream them? Other than those items, I’m not sure there’s a need for 64 GB. So I’m already backing off my original thinking.
I do think the 3G is important and the ability to prepay 3G month-to-month without a contract is awesome. For many people, the occasional 3G connection is all that’s needed, and $15 a month is an affordable price. For me, though, I wonder when it is that I would use the iPad for 3G. If I’m on a trip I’ll be using my laptop via wi-fi or my iPhone’s 3G. Will I even take the iPad out of the house? I’m not convinced I will. Surely I want the option, though, so I can’t see myself not getting a 3G model.
Most of the negative reviews I’ve read focus on the iPad’s shortcomings, mainly no multitasking, no camera, no Adobe Flash support.
If Apple can figure out a way to give the user multitasking without killing battery life, they’ll do it. It’s worth remembering that the Palm Pre said, “Yes, multitask away dear friends!” and watched the complaints roll in after the phone very quickly slowed to a crawl. If Apple can’t offer a great user experience, they won’t even if you said you’d like it otherwise. (Despite the above, I’ve played briefly with a Palm Pre and love much of its Apple-like design.)
I agree about the camera in the sense that I think it would have opened up a lot of possibilities for the iPad, but I hardly consider its absence show-stopping. I think we’ll see a camera in the 2nd or 3rd generation iPad.
Finally, let me heartily applaud the lack of Adobe Flash support. While Flash allows for neat user interactivity, it’s insecure, unstable, and proprietary. It’s also a memory- and energy-hog. I use the free Click to Flash plug-in to block Flash when I’m running Safari on my Mac and you should see how much faster the pages load (not to mention how nice it is to not have video adverts in my face). Trust me on the Flash thing: It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.