I Still Don't Get the iPad

So the iPad’s been unveiled. It’s basically a giant iPhone. I don’t get it. If I already have an iPhone and a laptop, why do I need an iPad?

On one hand, it’s much more limited than a computer. You can’t use Flash or multitask. The latter is a real bummer for me. In class, I like being able to quickly hop from taking notes on a word-processor to a PDF of the reading we’re discussing to asking a classmate on chat what I missed while I was busy looking up something on Wikipedia. I see a lot of netbooks in class these days — probably because students don’t want to carry a full-size laptop around to take notes — and a tablet might be perfect for them, but the inability to multitask is a real deal breaker.

On the other hand, it’s much too big for me to stick in my pocket. The nice thing about the iPhone is that I can quickly whip it out to check restaurant reviews on Yelp, update my Facebook status, or locate something on Google Maps — all while walking down the street with a cup of coffee in my hand. I can’t do that as conveniently with an iPad.

That’s not to say I don’t get the value of a slate-like touchscreen device. I think there’s a lot of potential value. Software like Photoshop is begging for touchscreen integration. And slate-like devices are generally great for those situations where I want full laptop (or at least netbook) functionality but where the the laptop form factor would be inconvenient — e.g. on a 6-hour plane ride in coach. Microsoft has long been doing all sorts of stuff with tablet computers, but one gets the sense it doesn’t take the idea seriously. It’d be great if Apple did. On a side note, I’m really hoping someone does more on this detachable screen tablet idea.

It’s just that this value isn’t recognized in the iPad.

The only area where I think the iPad excels is for passive content consumption — reading books, watching movies in bed, and reading a digital NY Times. Unfortunately, I think passive content consumption is a shrinking market. People don’t just want to read. They want to write. They want to comment. They want to edit. A giant iPhone doesn’t let them do that.