iPad Calculus

Yes, the fucking iPad is finally here. Now, at least, the craptastic blog posts and articles can have some basis in reality—or not, this is the blogosphere we’re talking about here. As we all know, the question burning up the intar-tubes is, what does Darby think of this thing. Well, dear readers fear not, for all shall be revealed. Read on to learn the truth.

iPad: When Myth Becomes Reality

While Apple may not have participated in the pre-announcement collective loss of sanity, they certainly haven’t tried to calm the hysterical masses post-announcement. Calling your new product “Magical and revolutionary” takes balls; giant cast-iron testicles. But this is Apple we’re talking about, when they roll the bones they go all in. And good on them for doing so. Half measures are for losers. My, far saner take is this: Steve Jobs came down from the mountain to reveal the mythical Apple unicorn, and it turns out that the unicorn was actually a horse. The thing is, there is nothing wrong with that. See, unicorns aren’t real, horses are.

So what does this horse look like. You can read the official feature list here, the tech specs here, and the pricing breakdown here. I won’t regurgitate the bullet lists, but the short version is:

In my opinion, an overall good first outing. The key thing to take away from the design and specs of the iPad is that it isn’t intended to be a netbook. It’s Apple’s answer to the use-cases that spawned netbooks. Nor should the iPad be looked at as a laptop replacement. Instead, I think that the iPad should be viewed as a laptop alternative.

The $10,000 Question

Of course, the only question that really matters is: am I, The Angry Drunk, going to buy one. Let’s begin to answer that by asking a question: What possible use would I have for this product? To answer that, let’s look at my use-case.

I’m not looking for a replacement computer. My 2006 24” Core2 Duo iMac works sufficiently. When I do replace the iMac, it will probably be with the 27” quad-core i7 iMac. The iMac is the core of my “digital life.” I record the Angry Mac Bastards podcast there. I write these brilliant blog posts there. It’s where I store all of my music, photos and videos. It’s where I do the vast majority of my web browsing. No tablet computer, no netbook, no laptop can really replace that for me.

I’m also not looking for a new communications device.I have an iPhone, and what it does it does brilliantly. The iPhone is perfect for mobile communications. I use the iPhone to update Twitter and the various social networks and to interact with a number of various services. When I’m bored I have a selection of games to divert me. I also have a brace of eReaders so I can access my large library of eBooks on the go. In fact, I do my eReading almost exclusively on the iPhone. What I don’t do on my iPhone is create content or do intensive web browsing. Sure, the iPhone can do those things, but for me at least, it doesn’t do them well.

So, what do I want? Between my iMac and my iPhone there are two basic gaps. The first is the reading component. I hate reading books on the iMac; it just isn’t comfortable. Currently my iPhone, with the addition of various eReader software, makes a serviceable eBook reader, but it’s not ideal. Mainly, it’s the size. The iPhone’s screen is just too small for comfortable reading. Prior to yesterday I would have said that I was the perfect audience for the Kindle—nah, who am I kidding, I would have bought a Nook.

The second gap is the mobile consumption of “stuff,” and content creation. Part of that “stuff” is eBooks, so the prior statements apply there. Another part of “stuff” is the web. Mobile Safari is a fine browser. In fact, one could go so far as to say that it set the standard for mobile browsing. Unfortunately, Mobile Safari (on the iPhone) is insufficient for the bulk of my browsing. Sure, it’s wonderful for the quick look-up or to settle a bar bet, but it quickly becomes impractical when trying to browse forums or read longer content. The iPhone’s mail client suffers from similar issues. It’s great for a quick check of the inbox, but a pain for longer email sessions including drafting in-depth responses Then there is the “content creation” piece. Sure, the tools exist that would have allowed me to write this article on my iPhone. Had I attempted such though, I would have probably killed myself by now. The iPhone form factor just isn’t right for that.

So what device should I get to fill this huge gap in my soul? Prior to yesterday I would have said a Macbook. The thing is, I don’t want a Macbook, or any laptop for that matter. First there is the price. $1000 dollars to start is too much moolah for a device that is only going to be used on my patio, in a pub or when I travel (which is rare). Second, I don’t want to deal with the hassle of maintaining a second, fully functional computer. Sure, iTunes sharing and Mobile Me sync help with this, but the bottom line is that I would still be running a full OS X instance just to browse the web, read a book, draft an email or write a blog post. For those who would counter, “get a netbook,” I would respond, “Fuck you in the ear, asshole.” My hands are already too fucked up, last thing I need is typing on a netbook.

Which brings us to the iPad. For me, for my use cases, since I don’t already own a laptop the iPad looks to be perfect for me. For other people, and other use cases that may not be so. As a laptop alternative I think the iPad is wonderful. It has just enough of the horsepower, and very little of the overhead of a Macbook. Now, someone click the Paypal button and send me $830.

disclaimer: don’t actually send me $800.