The iPad is OK… Sometimes

iPad The impending release of the Apple iPad has increased the chatter on my Twitter and Google Reader feeds, with some commentary pro-iPad, some con-, and some mocking the rest. It's also subject of a lot of discussion here in the office, usually in terms of which model we would like to purchase and why.

The device's controversy speaks to its importance. Apple, maligned and ridiculed for so many years, is now a force. The iPod is ubiquitous, the iPhone is commonplace, and MacBooks are around every corner. Many of the content creators I follow work in an Apple world, so Apple's implementation is noticed and does matter.

I like the iPad as a consumer device, in that sense that I would like to consume media on it. It's a device that's just begging to be touched. I can foresee many hours spent browsing the web, looking at photos, and watching movies with an iPad in my hands. I do all these things on my MacBook Pro, and I see the iPad as a better way to accomplish this subset of tasks.

The iPad is dangerous as a primary computing device, at least for the younger generation. Despite the announced iWork apps, it's still a device of consumption, and consumption does not engage the brain the same way creation does. Sure you can blog, and there is potential that someone will create video, audio, and other creative apps, but those don't exist today. It's very important to me that my son has the opportunity to pursue whatever his interests may be, technical or not. The iPad has very little to offer in this regard.

It's also a device that makes it easy for you to spend money, with the iBookstore, the App Store, and the iTunes Store in easy reach. Unfortunately, Apple is forced to bargain with content producers, and it's usually the consumer that loses out. The ability to "buy" many sorts of media is disingenuous: DRM puts an expiration date on your entertainment. Authentication servers get turned off, formats become obsolete, and you have to repurchase relicense something that, at one time, you thought you owned. (Reminds me of the VHS to DVD to HD-DVD to whoops-HD-DVD-lost-to-Blu-ray transition, but that's a whole different marketing strategy.)

For me, the iPad is still in "do want" territory. I think it will be a great toy around the house, my MacBook will still be there when I need to do some real work, and my Palm Pre will fill in the gaps.