When Apple announced the iPad in January of this year I have to admit that my enthusiasm was rather tepid for the oddly-named device. Apple was proselytizing this notion of a hybrid "computer" of sorts that fit squarely between the iPhone/iPod touch and the MacBook. They used words like "magical" and "revolutionary" to describe what some called a stripped-down netbook and others referred to as a big iPod touch.
Still I couldn't help but think that a bigger version of what I already had in my pocket would be anything revolutionary -- let alone magical. I saw the keynote after Apple posted it, I checked out the different app previews from developers and nothing seemed to wet my whistle.
Launch day came and I was so lacking in excitement towards the iPad that I didn't even want to go check it out amidst the fanaticism of Apple launching a new iDevice. I read a few reviews while relaxing the next day and even the hordes of gleaming prose couldn't get me fired up. I already have a MacBook Pro, an iPhone, and even a netbook! What could iPad offer me that I wasn't getting from my own array of gadgets?
The answer is simple and keenly Apple: panache. During my lunch break on Monday a coworker and I visited the local Apple Retail Store to see what all the fuss was about. I fully expected to be underwhelmed by what I saw. I wasn't.
Using the iPad is what sold me on its purpose. It really is like holding a Web page; it really is revolutionary. The iPad seems to disappear when reading a Web page or flipping through an eBook except, that is, for the bits that don't. Unlike the iPhone, you can orient the device in any direction at any time and still use it. For example, my iPhone can't be used upside down, so there is no way for the headphone jack to be at the bottom and still use the device effectively.
The on-screen keyboard is heads and tails above what I thought it would be like and the display is truly a sight to see. For all the things I use my netbook for, an iPad does them as well but with orders of magnitude more elegance and fluidity.
One thing that did strike me is the absolute thinness of it and yet it still feels significantly more solid than my Dell mini 10v. Also, the proportions are perfect. The strange compromise on aspect ratio feels exactly right in the hands.
There is much more that can be said about the iPad but the reality is that experience speaks volumes more than a simple blogger's impressions. Regardless of what you read, you won't be able to come to a true conclusion without actually using one.
Is the iPad just a big iPod touch or a bare netbook? In a lot of ways it is both of those things. But what Apple has done with its iPad is take the most common functions of both devices and refine them with a hyper-focus that only Steve Jobs can drive. And this is the pitch, that the iPad does what you need it do and does it exceptionally well in a way that makes it -- dare I say? -- magical.