iPad rumors circled the Internet for more than a year before the eventual unveiling, and when finally unveiled, reactions were fairly mixed. Most importantly, they were mixed even among the hard core Apple crowd, showing some deep flaws in the marketability of the device.
I’m not in that crowd, but I’m similarly nonplused with what was announced. I own a Kindle and love it. I can’t see anyway that the iPad would be an appropriate replacement for it. It also isn’t a replacement for a laptop, and certainly not a cell phone. No, you’re right, it doesn’t absolutely need to be a replacement for anything, but as a stand alone device, even if you gave me one for free, I can’t see many situations in which I’d choose to put it in my bag.
All that said, I don’t think it’s entirely doomed. The problem I see is software more than hardware, though there are some areas for improvement there. What hardware like the iPad would do well at is as an accessory, not a standalone device. A touch sensitive screen of that size would make an excellent portable input device if the right software ecosystem existed around it for pairing it with TVs, PCs (this means Windows), music systems, etc. Essentially what I’m saying is it could be the ultimate remote control, though thinking of it as simply a $500-$830 remote control isn’t going to give you the whole picture.
I don’t think Apple has the right ethos to pull that off. Apple has a little too much of the “come to us and play by our rules” mentality to create an ecosystem in which a device like that would succeed. Apple’s partnerships tend to be either very closed and locked down (AT&T, Adobe for many years) or exploiting their fan base (App Store). Neither will work in this scenario because their fan base doesn’t make hardware.
Probably the biggest stumbling block would be the interfaces to PCs. It doesn’t seem likely Apple would ever consciously create a PC accessory. Sure they can do that same thing for Macs, but as an accessory it makes far more sense for desktops than for laptops. As an accessory to a desktop it would give you a convenient input device to remotely control the PC from and get notifications. That’s useful for AV, for communications, and for simple things.. like finding a recipe online, with a nice keyboard and monitor, then taking your pad into the kitchen.
Essentially what I’m talking about is a supersized SideShow device that not only hooks up with your PC, but with other hardware using either WiFi and/or Bluetooth. Still not sure I’d pay $500 for such a device, but it’s certainly something you could get me hooked on pretty easy, and once you’ve done that maybe you could convince me to consolidate devices and stop using a Kindle separately, making the $500 a little more palatable.