So Apple has now announced the iPad as their product for the space between the iPhone and the laptop. I have debated many years whether such a space exists and what it should do if it did exist. Back when Nokia released their N800 as an "internet tablet" I bought one almost immediately. I used a Nokia N95 at the time so I assumed with the bigger screen, this would sit perfectly between my small non-smart phone and my bulkier Powerbook.
The iPad is essentially a large iPod touch. It has a larger screen, more battery time, more CPU power. It runs the same applications, but larger. New applications that are "Native" to the iPad will of course be released. I'm assuming it will be the same floodgate scenario as with the iPhone. This device will have applications for every type of scenario, and more.
I am obviously going to get one, if for no other reason than curiosity. That said, I can see tons of use cases for this device for me. But the question is; will it be another device in my bag - will it sit between my laptop and my iPhone or will it replace my laptop? It's hard to tell.
To approach an answer to that question, I need to think about what I'm using my laptop for. I am currently using the high-end 15" Macbook Pro. I keep it with me to work and at home. At home I plug it in to a larger screen and I use applications such as Indesign, Photoshop and Illustrator on it a lot. These applications won't run on the iPad, but that begs the question - do I need to use my laptop for these tasks? I have a stationary Mac Pro at home that just sits as a server currently. I could just as easily use that one for my "stationary" work. Ok, so if we consider the possibility that stationary work at home can be carried out on a stationary Mac, what else do I use my laptop for? The obvious answers are things like email, IM, surfing and managing my media library.
The email/surfing things will be just as good on the iPad presumably, so what about the media management? I currently have my entire iTunes library and my entire iPhoto library on my laptop, syncing my iPhone to it whether it be at home or at work. I can of course move this library to my stationary Mac Pro at home and then mount its hard drive at work and get full access to the library on my stationary there. I can still look at my photos on the iPad - but can I manage it in anyway? I don't know. Probably not.
Last is video editing. While that could be done on my stationary Mac naturally, the ability to do it directly on the vacation is a big plus with the laptop approach. No matter how you turn this, the iPad will always be inferior to how I (and probably you) use a laptop. The question is how much we're willing to give up to gain convenience.
Because convenience is all the iPad is about. The iPhone is handy, but its screen is often to small to handle certain types of media and entire UI paradigms had to be created to bypass that limitation, but it still exists. Surfing the web on the iPhone is the best handheld surfing experience you can get your hands on, but it's still "handheld surfing experience", not "surfing experience". The iPad can do that.
But there are a number of shortcomings with the iPad, the foremost being multitasking. It has a new fast processor at 1Ghz and Apple still won't allow us to have our IM client running while we're browsing the web? Really? Even if we won't get true multitasking, at least give us something like the Dashboard in OSX, a layer of small "gadgets" that we can access anytime. I don't want to have to quit my mail application on the iPad to open up a 1024x768 large calculator application. I want that to be installed in the "gadget layer" with apps that - just like on OSX - can be set to run all the time or are on "standby" when the layer is closed.
My first laptop was the 500Mhz Powerbook, and it multitasked beautifully. The way processors have evolved, I'm assuming that the iPads 1Ghz processor is more than twice as fast as the processor in my old laptop, so this limitation is just plain stupid.
Another drawback is the lack of an actual file system on the iPad. You can probably not mount it as a disk and move files to it. I don't know how you get keynote documents on and off it though, so maybe that's how. But still, I want to move images and other media to the device that aren't photos and have no place in iPhoto but I want access to it in Keynote, Pages and Numbers on iPad. And the entire iPhone home screen layout is also very limiting. Give me folders so I can organize my applications and documents.
And when using a POGO Stylus, I can totally see myself doing layout sketches and scribbling notes on it all day long. I rather bring my iPad to meetings than my laptop.
So, will it replace my laptop? It doesn't seem like it could, but I'm eager to find out.