The iPad cometh

First, apologies for stepping away from blogging for a while. Between the work of Computerworld bloggers Seth Weintraub and, more recently, Mitch Wagner, we've had Apple pretty well covered in recent months. (Both will be offering up their perspectives on the iPad this weekend, too.)

I'm back because of the iPad. I think it's going to change how we use computers by -- literally -- putting users in touch with a digital life they don't even yet know exists. And it's going to reshape the digital landscape for a whole host of people who have used computers for years and have hated the experience the whole time, people who never could get the hang of using a mouse, or that trackpad "thingy" as someone I know describes it. Our columnist, Michael DeAgonia, dove into this area last month to explain how multi-touch is truly a leap forward. In his words, the iPad will offer users a seriously "immersive" experience -- doubly true, I would think, for gamers.

Not only that, it opens up an entirely new ecosystem for app developers, of course, as well as media providers. It might give a shot in the arm to the book industry. Plus, it's going to be a helluva lot of fun to use.

For the record, I ordered my iPad about 3 minutes after Apple began taking pre-orders last month. And just in case it doesn't show up tomorrow morning, I reserved one at the Apple store as a backup. I know I'm not alone. (64GB model, by the way, no 3G.)

I know the iPad arrives with limitations: No multi-tasking, no USB port for easy connectivity and no webcam. (I'll be stunned if the camera, at least, doesn't show up within the next couple of generations.) Hey, Apple has to do something to make its newest device "new and improved" next year.

For me, the biggest issue -- the adjustment most likely to trip me up at first -- is the inability to multi-task. But I'm hoping Apple will do something about that with iPhone OS 4.0 later in the year.

Having said that, I think even the first-generation iPad will be a hit. Sure, techies seem less enamored of it than non-techies, but there are a lot more non-techies in the world. To me, it seems pretty simple: Just about everyone knows how to point at something, and tap, and drag their finger across a screen. That's going to make using the iPad about as easy as possible, especially since the kinds of things most people do most times revolve around reading (Web sites, magazines and books), communicating (e-mail/texting), looking at pictures and videos (TV shows and photo albums), and listening to music.

Therein lies the big change: The elimination -- as much as possible given today's technology limits -- of the disconnect between user and hardware. Finally, 10 years in, the technology of the 21st century is starting to look like it actually belongs in the 21st century.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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