After giving it a few days to settle down, and to process my thoughts, here's my impression on the new Apple iPad:
Not as impressed as I was wanted to be.
Okay, that's the short of it. Here's the more lengthy explanation of my take on it.
The iPad is essentially a much bigger iPod Touch. There are differences, to be sure, but when you get down to the core of it, that's the essence of the difference between the devices. For all intents and purposes, it behaves and acts the same as the iTouch (I don't care if that's not the official name, it's what everyone I know calls the damn thing, so tough) the only difference being the larger screen. That's pretty much what I expected out of Apple, or rather, it's the minimum I expected out of Apple, when they finally jumped into this space. Unfortunately, as best I can tell before I get something like this in my hand, that's about the extent of it.
Okay, look: this isn't by a long shot a BAD entry into this sphere. And watching the videos, I can tell that Apple has thought about this space hard, the space between a real laptop, and a smartphone and found a niche they believe they can exploit. It's part of the space that dedicated eReaders currently enjoy. Call it PAD computing, or Tablet, whichever. I think this is a new niche. There are just going to be times when you don't want the whole laptop experience, but the tiny freaking screen of a phone isn't going to cut it. And I think this device fits that niche. I'll even go so far as to agree with Jobs and say that this niche isn't well served by the netbooks of this world. Not because they suck, as Jobs implies, but because the ergonomics of them do not quite work as well as we'd hope.
I think this device will garner a following. I saw many people over the years since the launch of the Kindle decry the current eReaders because they weren't more like what the iPad appears to be. Add to that the fact that there are plenty of folks who buy into just about anything Apple does, and you can already tell it's going to have some measure of success. Around the internet you will hear a lot of folks saying this is a game changer. Especially in the ebook/publishing arena. Apple is the 8 million ton gorilla in the room, and once they decide to jump into a market space they will change the dynamics. Competition is a good thing. But what we don't need is Apple putting Amazon and the others out of the market space, because then it'll just be Apple dominating the ebook scene instead of Amazon. Thankfully, I don't see that as a short term reality. With Amazon, B&N, and Apple all with strong products in the space, I think it will help the consumer.
The big problem I see with the iPad is the price. It's high. And frankly, with the way I watched the pricing basically not change at all for the iTouch, (they simply retire lower capacity models and keep the prices for the top model in the same range instead of letting the whole device shift downwards) I'm not hopeful that the iPad will come down into a reasonable price range. I'm sorry to say, despite what they seem to believe, a $500 device is NOT something that every family can afford. And it really is not competitive with the range of pricing for netbooks which start in the mid to upper $200 range. I suspect this will rapidly push the price on the Kindle and Nook down. That's a good thing. In my opinion those devices need to get below the $200 mark to really break out, and now that we have a device that does more than just books and audio, that's going to by needs push the dedicated reader down in price or push it out of the market. But....in order for that to really happen, Apple will need to move their prices down. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the Kindle get below the $200 price point before the end of the year, and the DX to get down into the $350 range, as a result of this showing up on the market.
I don't think of the iPad as an eReader. I think of it as an entertainment device. It supports all sorts of entertainment. Books, movies, music, web surfing, TV (through the iTunes store, but possibly other ways I don't know) gaming. You might have heard of the weaknesses of the device: lack of multitasking, and lack of Flash support. I don't know why either of these is the case. Perhaps multitasking on a phone wasn't as critical, so for that form factor it wasn't vital. And so far, lack of Flash support hasn't hindered the iPhone/Touch. But the new form factor will make both of those harder to ignore. A weakness to be sure, but in the meantime, they bring to the game the best that the iPhone/Touch have to offer. So I'd call that a wash.
Would I buy one of these? Not for the money I'd need to spend. And truth is, at this point in time I don't have the need for it. My wife and I have Kindles, and we have a netbook in the house. There's just no point in this particular device for us at this time. If I didn't have both of those....yes, I'd probably consider it. But not in this price point. Also, a 10 hour battery life while good when compared to a laptop...is weak compared to a more typical eReader. That's the price you pay for a backlit screen. Well that an eyestrain which I could do without. But that's a whole nother story.
To sum up my opinion: a solid entry. Not a revolutionary one.