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The iPad’s date material, but maybe not marriage


The evidence is clear that Apple’s iPad is a hit.  This seems to be one instance where reality has exceeded the pre-launch hype, as sales of the product could top 10 million units for 2010.  And one of them has been mine for several months now.

While I feel the iPad is far from perfect, let’s give Apple kudos for doing an amazing job of nailing most of the key elements - no easy feat when you’re building something completely new. The iPad is not really a PC and creates an entirely new category - a personal consumption device where you have things play or display for you. Photos, movies, YouTube, music, games, documents and newspapers - you can sit back wherever you’re at and watch, play, listen or read

But the iPad is not a great creation device. Without a keyboard or handwriting capture, I find it much slower than a regular keyboard and prone to making errors.

The key to enjoying your iPad is to understand where it shines and where it doesn’t. I find that I carry it around all day. Whenever I’m away from my desktop computer, I can remain connected. This is an elegantly engineered piece of gadgetry that seems natural in your hands. 

For me, the key factors are: there is no wait for boot-up, the battery life is basically all day, I can remain continuously connected, and the size, look and feel are all wonderful.

Recently, I’ve made several short trips where I found that it was fine as a substitute for a laptop. I’d have to say even superior - if you didn’t have the need to engage in writing anything longer than a paragraph. It was lighter, took less space, and fired up instantly anytime I needed it. I could check and respond to email, review my calendar, make a few notes (albeit, with many typos), manage my fantasy baseball team (very important), and keep up with all my regular websites and news sources. Additionally, I found that Google maps and the GPS feature allowed me to dispense with paper maps and provided an excellent navigation tool.

One thing I don’t get is that there has been a lot of focus in the media about the iPad as a book reader and taking away the market from Amazon’s Kindle. The two devices are completely different. If you want books at your fingertips as a reference, the iPad is fine. But if you want to take a stack of the current bestsellers to the beach, use the Kindle. 

I think the iPad leaves plenty of room for competition, especially for business users. It doesn’t provide any reasonable way to lock out certain functions or apps while allowing others. So if you let your colleague use it, they can read your emails or check all your files. Apple maintains a walled garden and you can only plug in devices or run software that they choose to allow. There are no USB or other standard slots.

Personally, I would quickly purchase a slate computer, as well designed as the iPad provides USB ports for connecting flash drives and other devices.

We can expect to see a proliferation of similar devices. Some will try to duplicate Apple’s functionality; others will try to carve out new spaces. I believe we can look forward to several years of intense innovation and competition in this space and that a few years from now, the current iPad will seem as outdated as a first generation music player is today.

Roman Lubynsky is a technology consultant based in Boston. A frequent speaker and writer on technology topics, he has an MS in Management of Technology from MIT. Roman can be reached at roman@lubynsky.com.


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