This post is not only relevant to the iPad, but all of the devices that are coming out 'in it's class'. Over the course of speaking to people about the iPad, I have found myself hearing trends. People talking about why they should get an iPad when they already have a computer or a laptop. My answer is very different than some, I still think it's a game changer.
The iPad is an appliance, not a computer.
The face of computing has changed very little since the first desktops and laptops came out. Embedded devices have been used by a select few that were willing to deal with the pains of the little screens, and the poor web browsers. This is all changing. Between the iPhone/iPad OS, and Android, many of those woes are headed towards being a thing of the past. This is a great thing! The day that I can hand my Mom an iPad and tell her to go to town on the internet on there, without worrying about viruses.. well, let's just say that will be a beautiful day. I see that day approaching.
Like all embedded devices, the iPad will be highly software regulated.
Some people think this is tantamount to treason of their beloved computers. I'm here to say it now: Regulation of technology only makes the user experience better! It may not be perfectly what you, geek user, want. But it's going to make the majority of end users much happier in the long run. This is one of Apple's secret to success. This may not be quite as true on Android tablets that are coming out, but it's still useful to have an acceptance process. They have a core of followers, but they've been gaining more as time goes on. Because people are purchasing PCs as if they're well designed systems, when in fact they're just slapped together by the lowest bidder. Sure, Apple doesn't put anything out on-the-cheap. Why? Because you get what you pay for. They spend the extra time designing and developing both the hardware and the software. They integrate and blend the two to provide a world class experience. It's nothing short of the best customer service possible.
This is the first device that you can viably listen to music, watch videos and read books, on. It's the only class of device that I might actually consider doing all three things on. In those terms, I think that makes it one of the most likely devices to succeed. Do I think it'll immediately be a runaway hit just because of that? No. I do believe that really raises the stakes though. The device can do all those great things that a standard iPod Touch can do, and more.
My workflow will change immensely. At least while I'm at home at will. Instant messenger and web pages on the iPad style device, and I'll only break out the desktop when I have development work to do.
Here's the real game changer: Why have ten embedded device, when one will do?
With the advent of a decent sized embedded device, with this much power, why would a company such as a hospital, bother to have either tiny little devices that connect to stuff? Why not one device that can do it all? Imagine a device that can actually read patient charts, interface with all the tiny little machines, and the like. The iPod Touch was only really good as a point of sales device. This thing could actually be used in places where current embedded technology is old and stale. Completely revitalizing the market in those sectors. A prime example being medical devices, which I happen to think of only because I used to develop for a monotone device that was horrible. It was used to scan stuff for inventory. Imagine walking around with one of these devices in one hand, a scanner in the other. Maybe not completely new, but it would integrate itself easily in to all sorts of workflows. Directly because it is an appliance, not a computer.
The most poor decision that Apple has made regarding this product is, simply put, it's name. It sounds so close to a feminine product that it is unlikely to be taken serious in many circles. My guess? You have a board room of male directors that are brainstorming names, and they decide on the iPad. They approve it, and the first female to see it outside the board room nearly falls off her chair laughing. Unfortunately, the name is already 'set in stone'! Too late!
Ah well. I'll forgive it it's name, and use it as it was intended.