The iPad - I'm Only Sort-Of Impressed

Anyone who was worried that the iPad might replace a notebook or netbook needn't be so concerned - at least for now. The iPad is, first and foremost, an iPod - leaving a big zone of opportunity for business-oriented tablets.

Despite my disapproval of Apple's tight (read: monopolistic) control over software for the iPhone and iPad, I felt it important to have an iPad here to run software that might be of interest to clients. So I bought one (32 GB, no 3G, I mean, what's the point if I can tether it to my handset; more on that shortly) and I've been casually exploring it - no production use yet, although it might get a little at Interop next week. I like the screen - absolutely gorgeous, clear, and bright, although the default background has streaks (I presume these are meteor trails or some such) that make it look like it's scratched. Overall, it's cute, but it's no replacement for a PC. In fact, at this point it's just a big iPod.

Most obvious, right out of the box the iPad must be synced with a PC running iTunes. Hmmm. No PC would require that. Synching calendars and contacts similarly goes through iTunes. OK, after years of ActiveSync, I can live with that, but there's a subtle message in all of this to buy more stuff via said iTunes.

And buy you must. There's no file sync or even a file manager by default, and I miss the Preview file-viewer app on the Mac. Again, no decent PC would ship like that. The iPad ain't cheap, and you can expect to spend significant time and money getting yours into production shape if work use is your goal (or undoubtedly vast amounts on tunes and movies if otherwise - strange, but even as a musician, I still maintain my sense of self-worth when separated from my favorite songs and artists for more than a few seconds).

But, oh, my, I'd just love this little package running Ubuntu with a touch interface. Someone is going to build that, I'm sure. And, to be fair, it's the early days for the iPad. The iPhone was similarly underpowered and underprovisioned at its first release as well. But it was easy to see that the iPhone would become a big deal, as I wrote at the time, and it's also easy to see how other tablet vendors have their work cut out for them in competing with Apple in the tablet space.

But a business-oriented tablet, perhaps along the lines of Cisco's Cius, might be just what that market segment wants. You know, people looking for a lightweight, touch-driven tablet to take on the road (or around the workplace) for e-mail, Web activities, and simple office tasks (I've not yet tried iWork for the iPad, but I did budget for that for obvious reasons). So, while anyone building a consumer, media-oriented tablet might have a really tough time competing against the iPad, I see an opening for a business product in this form factor. And such needn't be any more expensive than an iPad - indeed, it could even be a lot cheaper.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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