The iPad: Game Changer or Gadget?

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steve jobs with ipadOK. So we will start out with this disclaimer: I have only bought 1 non-Apple computer since I bought my first laptop in 1993. (And that little Asus eeePC sits on the bookshelf…in case of a computing emergency.) I have an iPhone. I am writing this post on my MacBook Air. So, you might say that I am a fan. It’s true.
I watched yesterday’s unveiling of the iPad with some interest and a touch of excitement. And, by the end of the presentation, I came away with a feeling of intense blah. I expected that the iPad would be a major breakthrough in the way that I think about interacting with computers. Color me unimpressed…
But with a few hours to think about it, I realized why I was underwhelmed. Because I already engage with information in the exact same way on my iPhone. I already know how to do the iPad thing. I have had it in my pocket for a couple of years already. My iPhone is almost always my choice when I need the internet quickly. I can’t tell you the last time I shared photos on my laptop…always the iPhone. Looking for a phone number…never my laptop…always the iPhone. Need directions or hours…never my laptop…always the iPhone.
So, does the iPad add much to my iPhone experience? Yeah…I think it does…almost. I have three young kids, and I can absolutely see the iPad becoming the family computer. Easy to use, few crashes, few freezes, and no need for tech support from Dad or Mom. It is an internet world, so for kids, the browser is the OS. So the iPad does exactly what they need it to do. They have no need for client side apps…just the browser.
There are a few issues that would hold me back from jumping in with both feet. The first is no Flash. I get why there is no Flash. Flash is terrible. Flash crashes my browser more than anything else. So I get why there is no Flash. But that takes away a huge number of casual games (and if you’ve been to any kid-focused site like NickJr they are almost entirely Flash-based.) It also removes the revolutionary Hulu from the experience. That is a serious drawback. (I know that HTML 5 video is around the corner…but it isn’t here today…so no Hulu). Lack of Flash, as rotten as it is, is a serious drawback.
Another issue is lack of local file storage. The iPad looks like a great way to e-mail, and the touch version of iWork looks reasonably compelling. But without the ability to save files locally or attach them to e-mail (other than photos) it seems like this is a serious drawback. (Now, if becomes more like Google Docs and if there is gracious integration with my iDisk, then we might be on to something.)
The lack of multi-tasking could be an issue, too. Cutting and pasting from Numbers into Keynote, or referencing a Pages file while editing or responding to an e-mail is pretty useful. That is a software thing that can be adjusted, I suppose.
The last thing that could be a serious issue is the ability (or lack thereof) to print over Wifi. We have a nifty Wifi printer, and there is nothing finer than a 4 year old printing out her latest creation from her Flash-based “Build a Princess” game. Not having that easy ability is a drawback. Again, that is a software thing that can be worked out, but it seems like that is a nice to have option.
Despite the drawbacks, I suspect that there will be an iPad in our future…
So, to answer the question…is it a game changer or gadget? Today it is a gadget. But it is a gadget full of potential. The ease of an iPhone with the grace of a laptop. That sounds pretty great. I can’t wait to see how this evolves.

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