A computer for most of us

I am really excited about the Apple iPad that was announced a few days ago. It seems like it would solve a lot of computing issues not just for me, but most every day people who aren’t computer experts. This appears to be the first computer that I would feel absolutely comfortable with my grandmother to use, yet powerful enough for me to use it often.

In the morning before I go to work or in the evening when I am relaxing, there is very few times where I do a lot of typing. During these times, my predominate use of my Macbook is for browsing the web, reading Google Reader, checking Facebook & Twitter, and checking my e-mail. Most of my e-mail replies are a couple sentences long at most.

Some times I do this on my iPhone, which works well at these tasks. For me, the iPhone is great for a quick run through of that list above, but not good if I spend more than 10-15 minutes doing this. The iPhone’s battery drains fast, the screen is too small to do a ton of reading, there is a loss of flexibility many of the dedicated apps for these purposes not having all the functionality I may need.

When I do it on my Macbook, I gain the most functionality, but I lose the simplicity and efficiency of the iPhone approach. I get a bigger screen, the ability to type incredibly fast with keyboard shortcuts, better battery life, the ability to run many applications at the same time. There is a price for this though. I easily get distracted with many applications running at the same time. The applications can be incredibly complex, buggy, and unwieldy at times, some with code bases that date back 20 years or more. I would argue that laptops themselves are bulky (even the traditionally very thin Apple laptops) and can have heat issues that can make using one uncomfortable.

How do I see the iPad solving these issues? By taking the best of both approaches.

The iPad gets the bigger screen but still extremely portable, as thin as many books or a new notepad. I can just hold it with my hands, not resting it on my lap. I gain the huge speed and simplicity benefits of an iPhone like touchscreen interface, yet with the bigger screen the applications can be more complex if needed like their laptop cousins. There isn’t the heat issues, the battery is far better than any laptop (10 hours),  a faster processor than phones that doesn’t have to worry about handling the complex desktop Operating Systems like laptops. There is even accessories so I can do camera imports and manage them on the device.

For those morning and evening browsing sessions that I do nearly every day, the iPad would be perfectly suited for them. Of course there will be tasks that my laptop with a full desktop OS would be better suited for. As beautiful as the new iWork apps are for the iPad, I wouldn’t want to work on a complex spreadsheet on it from scratch. I wouldn’t write this long blog post on an iPad (unless I used the keyboard accessory…hmm). Managing my music and video collections will still need that computer, as they would have a tough time fitting on even a 64GB iPad. Plus I don’t even know if an iPad can sync its library with an iPhone yet.

That is not even getting into the added benefits the iPad gives to common people, like:

  • Security: there hasn’t been one virus or high-profile security breach for iPhones (excluding jailbroken ones). This is despite the iPhone being an obvious target for hackers given its dominance.
  • App Store: one stop shop to finding applications, applications get updates easily, and reviews to know the apps are good or not.
  • No multitasking: What? A feature? For those who get easily confused about multiple apps running, sucking CPU and battery life, this is a feature. It took months for one family member of mine to realize that they should quit applications instead of just closing their windows and leaving them running. My grandparents have a hard time keeping track of one application, never mind 5. Keep it simple. In the end, I bet limited multitasking will be introduced, but not until Apple gets it right.
  • Flexibility: Apps make this device work far longer than any computer would normally last. Those special digital photo frames you can buy? Get an iPad, dock, and it doubles as one when you aren’t using it. Plus higher quality display and more storage.

I predict that the iPad will become the computer of the future for the common people, while being a valuable companion for geeks who really do not need to use a full desktop computer every time they need their Internet fix. I know I will be in line for one, my mother is also wanting one too.