Only way to interpret the launch of the iPad? Apple has declared the PC dead. Well-crafted but closed devices are their future of consumer computing. And if no one else can match the iPad experience, they may be right.
"In many ways this defines our vision, our sense of what's next." - Jonathan Ive
PCs will be around as expert devices for the long haul, but it's clear that Apple, coasting on the deserved success of the iPhone, sees simple, closed internet devices as the future of computing. (Or at the very least, portable computing.) And for the average consumer, it could be.
It's the "internet device" vision of a decade ago all over again, except now Apple can offer what is arguably the best user experience for internet and media consumption combined with a very reasonable (for a brand new gadget) price.
It may not be good for you, because you're an internet dork who wants to do heavy video editing or run Photoshop. (Or, you know, multitask.) But for the average person off the street walking into an electronics retailer, their laptop money may now be going to an iPad.
What happens when they find the iPad is all they needed in the first place? They never buy a laptop again.
In the meantime, here are a few things to think about for we full-time dorks.
Does it kill netbooks? If there's anything that you can take home from today's announcement of the iPad it's this: From here on out the battle between physical keyboards and touchscreen ones has moved beyond smartphones and into every other area of computing. Get ready to hear someone say "I touchtype just fine on a soft keyboard on my PC" very soon.
I'd be lying if I said the giant bezel doesn't ward me off a bit, even if I understand why it's necessary to be there. But it isn't as sexy as it could be, all things considered.
But a 0.68kg device with a (theoretical) 10-hour battery life? Done and done. Heck, I'll haul two.
Yet I will buy the dock! Perhaps, even if I am frustrated to no end that they are not simply supporting the Bluetooth keyboard. But I suppose that is that - this really is what Apple imagines the future of laptops to be.
Belay that! A couple of you have pointed out that the Bluetooth keyboard is in fact supported! I am a'flutter.
But it's a lot more likely I'll carry around an iPad than a netbook.
What about the add-on keyboard, though? I sort of love it, but it is so very un-Apple to have a keyboard attachment. And all the dongles. And only a VGA output, not DisplayPort! It seems like the iPad came from an alternate dimension.
Productivity If typing on the iPad's soft keyboard is even slightly faster or more comfortable than typing on an iPhone, they could have a productivity winner here. But I sort of doubt it's going to be comfortable enough to use for hours of typing at a time.
For emailing, attachment browsing, and the like, though, I think it'll be a pretty powerful little device. Its form factor is perfect for pulling out of a little executive bag to check mail or show off a PDF to a coworker.
The new cloud-based iWork looks amusing, but who really wants to switch from Office to iWork? Email and other web-based tech is still the most portable solution. On the other hand, a functional iWork is what convinces your CTO that you can use the iPad to display PowerPoints.
Screen Aspect Ratio There was never going to be a perfect size, especially since movies are widescreen, but a single page of a magazine or book is decidedly not. Yet the aspect ratio, which is something close to 4:3 (if not exactly), surrounds widescreen movies with a lot of black, especially when you include the bezel. I would expect future iPad models to lengthen ever so slightly, but not much.
3G Access 250MB for $US15 a month; unlimited for $US30. No contracts. Unlocked SIM slot. Completely reasonable.
Of course, it uses AT&T, so if you're in NYC or San Francisco you're screwed. But it also means you could switch in other carriers' SIM cards if you like.
And the free Wi-Fi access in an AT&T hotspot - presumably only if you've paid for some AT&T access - won't hurt.
That the iPad is unlocked, though, also means that T-Mobile could potentially roll in with a 3G option for even less money.
Pornography It's simple: You can hold something that weighs 0.68kg in one hand.
Relaxation A few have mentioned how sitting down with an iPad may feel casual, less prone to send one into "work-mode". I can buy that - but that will also serve to delineate use-cases between laptops and iPads, making the iPad seem more like a toy.
Reading Don't call it a Kindle killer. Books on iPad will probably be more expensive than Kindle's titles, at least at first. And there's nothing about the iPad's screen that will make it better for reading than, say, a laptop. But having a dedicated iBooks store? That's good for everybody, including iPhone and iPod touch users.
And for anything colour - comics, children's books, magazines - the iPad will destroy what e-paper can do.
Multitouch Here is the thing to know: When it comes to multitouch, consider the iPad the harbinger of all the interface tricks that will be coming to iMac and MacBooks in the relatively near future.
VoIP It has a microphone. There's no reason to think it won't be able to do VoIP.
All in all, I think they've got a category-straddling winner here, but it's a bit of a gangly pseudopodal mutant at the same time. It doesn't kill the laptop or the PC quite yet, but you can at least see how Apple intends to choke the life out of those markets.
Don't like that? Better get to work on a better tablet.