Rapid Reaction: The Apple iPad

Apple just announced their newest wonder device — the iPad — to great fanfare. There’s no doubt that it’s pretty, but I’m a bit skeptical that it’s a gadget we all need.

The iPhone seemed like a no brainer when it was announced. If Apple could make it work — a big IF back in those days — it seemed like a knockout. Who wouldn’t want their Phone and iPod as one device instead of carrying two? Being able to surf the web, view email and play games at the same time was just icing on the cake.

Apple iPadWith the iPad however, I’m not entirely certain I see the need…

It won’t replace my iPhone. It’s too big to fit in my pocket when I’m headed out the door.

It won’t replace my desktop. It’s not powerful enough for process intensive work like video, data crunching or serious gaming.

It might replace a laptop, but only if it can do everything my laptop already does. Is typing on the iPad as easy as typing on a real keyboard? Probably not, since Apple is offering a full keyboard as an add-on. That only makes the device more awkward to travel with, however, and it inflates the cost.

It also won’t run Microsoft Word or Excel. Apple did make a point of porting their iWork suite to the device, but I don’t think it’s enough. I’ve used iWork. When I first made the big switch to Apple I purposely bought a copy with the intent of trying to live the full Apple lifestyle. In the end, I went out and bought Office for the Mac. iWork is fine if you’re printing up the PTA newsletter, but you can’t easily exchange documents with the rest of the world using Microsoft Office. Like it or not, Word and Excel are what the real world uses for business. Unless Steve Jobs can convince Steve Balmer to make and iPad version of Office, this isn’t a business device. Which means you still need your laptop when you travel.

I’m sure there will be some niché areas where an iPad will fit in nicely. It’s probably great for presentations, and it should make for a great entertainment device.

When I think about how this device might fit in to my life, only one thing comes to mind. It would probably be a nice way to surf the web when I’m on the couch at night watching TV. I’m not sure I would pay $500 for that though…

In the end, I’m not certain where this device fits in the 21st century lifestyle. It doesn’t seem to replace any current gadget we may already own. That puts Apple in the tough position of needing to carve out a niché for the iPad to dwell in. No easy task.

It’s not often a smart move to bet against Apple, so I wouldn’t be surprised to look back on this post two years from now and marvel at how dense my current observations are. Based on how the world looks today, however, I’m struggling to see the iPad match the success of the iPod or iPhone.