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Apple iPad, will it be a game changer, or a niche product?

February 2, 2010 - Art Smith
Last week Apple announced what is sure to be its next big hit. The Apple iPad.

Apple and I go way back. I’ve been using Apple products since the day of the Apple II in 1983. In those days I needed a special pass to use the early version of the PC in the computer lab at Ohio University. The Apple II made it easier for me to get through my senior year of college. As groundbreaking as it was, the Apple II was rendered obsolete the following year when the Macintosh was introduced during the Super Bowl.

I’ve used Macs at home and at work for more than 25 years now, going through a huge range of models that include the Mac Plus, Mac II, Mac IIci, Mac 9500, Performa 550, 6116, iMac, eMac, G, G4, G5, MacBook, Powerbook — you get the idea, I’ve spent a lot of time with the company.

The iPad, is different, it’s not a Mac, it’s not an iPod, or an iPhone.

Many people, me included, think it may just be the start of an entirely new category of tools.

The mouse, and the keyboard, for that matter, were invented because at the time they were the best ways to communicate with the hardware you had on your desk.

People like to communicate directly, by touch, and this is an area where Apple has been a pioneer. The iPhone has been popular not because it is such a great way to make phone calls, but because of everything else it does. People live with the expensive monthly plans because they want a device that will do everything. The iPhone has fit that bill for many.

The iPhone’s phone-less cousin, the iPod touch, has also sold very well.

Both devices biggest drawback has been their size. They are tablet computers that are slightly larger than a pack of cards. My wife calls them pocket computers, and that’s a pretty good description.

With nine-times the screen area, the iPad will change all that. The larger size will open up a whole new category of uses. Maps will be large enough to see the surrounding area. Web sites pages will be viewable in their entirety; newspapers will look like, well newspapers, when you view them.

Books will literally come alive on the devices. Imagine a textbook for a health class where the illustration of the human heart is actually beating, or a children’s book where clicking on an object produces the name of the object.

Some people will certainly continue to use the paper versions of books, and that’s OK.

The iPad, and other devices like it, though, will open up additional ways to work, learn and play. What was introduced last week is likely the first of many generations of the tablet device. Future versions are sure to feature cameras, longer battery life, perhaps even 3-D graphics and may very well change the way we create, get and use information in our daily lives.

Technologies rarely replace existing technologies; they simply add options for the consumers. It will be interesting to see what effect this latest round of innovation has on our culture.


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Apple's CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPad last week.


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