Apple's iPad 'makes technology instantly accessible'

It's every bit as smart and stylish, as you'd expect (see video below)

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It's not perfect

As remarkable as the iPad is, it's not perfect.

It's a little heavier than I'd like. You don't notice it so much at first, mind you, but extended periods of use will require resting the device on something, such as your leg or lap. The optional $39 Apple case is highly advised, both as a way to protect the iPad and to serve as a display stand.

And as you'd expect, the screen is a fingerprint magnet -- even if it does have a special oleophobic coating that allows you to wipe greasy marks off easily. (It's the same coating that's on newer iPhones.)

The iPad model released today may not be the right tool for everyone, however, given that network connectivity is limited to Wi-Fi only. The iPad with 3G and GPS technologies may suit more needs and satisfy more requirements for those looking for truly mobile computing and content viewing, since the 3G iPad allows for access to AT&T's mobile network. Of course, the 3G models cost an extra $130 and you have to pay to access AT&T's network if you want to connect when you're away from Wi-Fi.

Personally, I bought the Wi-Fi version because I have a company-issued Sprint MiFi, which means I have wireless connectivity when on the road. If a virtually ubiquitous connection is what you need, you're better off waiting until the 3G models arrive.

The one thing I wish this version of the iPad came with is GPS, which would really strengthen Maps and other location-aware applications. I know the 3G version that's coming will have it, and obviously the lack of GPS wasn't a deal-breaker. I can use my iPhone for GPS functionality, of course, but it'd be nice to have it in the iPad as well. If I were delivering Jobs' trademark keynote, GPS is the "one more thing" I'd offer up in the iPad.

Final thoughts

This is the first tablet computer that has a genuine shot at real mass adoption. It makes technology instantly accessible to people for whom a computer is still a mysterious black box that doesn't always do what it's supposed to. Apple has long had a knack for designing complete products that appeal to both geeks and everyday people without making either group feel dumb. Now it's even gone beyond that, crafting something that a young kid or an older grandparent can take to with ease.

The $499 starting price (for the 16GB model) helps, too. Even the most expensive model, with 64GB of storage and 3G accessibility, is just $829. In between is a price point that just about anyone can reach. Don't believe the hype? Go try one for yourself.

Michael DeAgonia, a frequent contributor to Computerworld, is an award-winning writer, computer consultant and technologist who has been using Macs and working on them professionally since 1993.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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