Why iWant iPad

Apple has officially announced the iPad. And iWant one.

The iPad hasn’t even been officially released, and it’s already being panned by critics who just don’t get it. Moments after the iPad announcement, Fake Steve Jobs (Dan Lyons) called it “underwhelming.” Many see it as just a big iPod Touch or an “iPhone on steroids.” Others compare it to Tablet PCs, which have been largely unsuccessful. Some wonder if the iPad will be just a newer Newton, one of Apple’s biggest flops. There are those who are disappointed by the lack of a camera. Or the apparent inability to support Flash content. Or the big bezel around the 4:3 ratio display. Or the onscreen keyboard. Or a host of other nitpicking criticisms that, in my mind, miss the whole point of iPad.

And that point is best summed up by Jonathan Ive in the opening lines of the promotional video: “When something exceeds your ability to understand how it works, it sorta becomes magical. And that’s exactly what the iPad is.”

Yes, the whole point of the iPad is to be magical. Sure, one can already do much of what the iPad can do on a laptop or an iPhone or an iPod Touch. And many of the initial criticisms of the iPad have come from comparisons to other things that can do what the iPad can do.

But I don’t want an iPad because of what it can do. I want an iPad because of how it will do it. And from what I’ve seen, it does indeed look like magic. Understated elegance. Intuitive interface. Brilliant display. Screaming fast. Amazing price. Serious magic.

And iWant that magic.

I don’t want the iPad to replace my MacBook. Nor do I want it to replace my iPhone or iPod. And I don’t expect it to. Yes, I will probably use the iPad to read my email, keep my calendar, show off my photos, listen to my tunes, watch some videos, and surf the web. But I don’t want an iPad just to do those things. I want an iPad because I want to do those things (and more) in a new way, a fun way, even a magical way.

And iWant what could be the iPad’s killer app: iBooks and the iBooks Store. I’ve been holding off on getting a Kindle. I was really tempted to buy a Nook. But I’ll put down my money for an iPad, so I can read books in full color, on a bright, backlit screen. I know there are those who say it will be hard on the eyes, that monochrome e-ink displays are better. I don’t think so. I’ve spent some time with a friend’s Kindle, and I didn’t find it particularly easy on the eyes. If anything, I found it harder to adjust to an e-ink display after spending most of the day looking at a computer screen. Maybe my eyes are different. Or maybe I just don’t buy the argument that a black-and-white display is somehow better than one in full, glorious color. Go figure.

And even if my eyes do tire after an hour or two of reading iBooks on an iPad, at least I can do something else with it besides read books. A whole lot more than I could do with a Kindle, or a Nook. And for not a lot more money.

It would be nice if Apple gave an educational discount on the iPad. Apple typically does give a small price break to educators and students. It wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t give one on the iPad, at least not at first. But I would be very surprised if Apple didn’t eventually have some kind of promotion to make the iPad even more affordable for the education market. Perhaps in their next “back to school” promotion, in time to get iPads in the hands of college students everywhere. Who knows? Maybe the iPad will even make reading textbooks fun again. OK, maybe reading textbooks was never fun. But I’ll take anything I can get that would help my students get more out of reading them.

So let the naysayers and critics write all the negative reviews they want. I’ve heard this kind of reaction to Apple products before. Some people have been calling the Mac a “toy” since the day it came out in 1984. Some people predicted the iPod would never catch on, and that the iTunes store would never be successful. Some people even thought the iPhone would be a flop. And some people today think the iPad will be a failure.

Some people never learn. If there’s one thing Apple can do, and do well, it’s create products that people want. And I firmly believe that people are going to want the iPad. Lots of people.

I know iWant one.

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