Four Thoughts on the iPad

I watched today’s Apple iPad announcement online, mostly to find out if this product -- Apple’s long-rumored tablet device -- was something that fit my needs. As Steve Jobs kept announcing features, specs, applications and more during today’s media event, I found myself asking, “what exactly are my ‘needs’?”

So, with that in mind, here are some thoughts on Apple’s new device.

- The computer for the couch
I found it interesting that the majority of the event featured Steve Jobs demoing the device while sitting on a couch, because that’s exactly how I’d use something like this. I have a MacBook Pro, but I purchased it with the intention of being my primary computer. I have a desk set up for it, with an external keyboard, mouse and monitor, but more and more I find myself using it on my couch, just to browse the web and keep up with Twitter/Facebook while I’m watching TV. But the MacBook Pro is really too big, too heavy and too hot for that. The MacBook solves some of these problems, but I’ve got one of those too and it’s still not perfect for couch-browsing. The iPad seems like it’s the device for that, and the entry-level one is half the price of Apple’s cheapest notebook.

- Where’s the multitasking?
Notice above I didn’t write “browse the web OR keep up with Twitter/Facebook”, I used the word AND. Even in its couch-browsing mode, my MacBook Pro is usually running iChat, Mail, Safari and TweetDeck. I sometimes even set up my desktop so I can see all the windows at once (thus defeating the purpose of Apple’s solid Exposé window-management software). Right now, the iPad doesn’t support multitasking, so I either have to use the mobile web versions of everything or constantly go back and forth to the home screen to switch between apps. This is a weak compromise.

- iBooks seems nice. Can I get iComics and iTV?
The implementation of iBooks, from both a design and distribution standpoint is pretty nice. One problem: I don’t really read books so much anymore. Oh, there was a point in my life when I read books constantly. But at some point I shifted from reading books to reading web sites, magazines and, yes, comic books (don’t laugh, some of them are incredibly well-written). The iPad obviously handles web reading just fine, but I’d love to see some kind of newspaper and magazine content deal for the iPad. Also, because of the size of the device, comics seem like a natural fit. While they couldn’t work on other eReaders (because of the black-and-white screens) and weren’t a huge hit on the iPhone (because of the size), I can see some type of comic subscription model being huge on this.
Also, I’d love to see Apple work out something with TV networks to provide content in a manner similar to Hulu, or even a pay model that’s less cost prohibitive than individual episode or season-pass purchases on iTunes. With a device like this, streaming TV seems like a natural. Imagine sitting on your couch or in your bed and calling up the latest episode of “Modern Family” or “Lost” or even something not from ABC/Disney (I know, crazy, right?).

- WiFi is WiFine by Me
There are two models of the iPad (well, technically six, but it’s really two models with three storage levels each), one with WiFi and one with WiFi and 3G. You’ll notice all the use cases I listed above suggest me sitting on my couch. If I’m traveling, I’m still bringing a real notebook with me, so I have full access to all my desktop apps. And since I have WiFi at home -- and at work, and at my parents’ house and most of my friends’ houses -- I don’t see how 3G would enhance my iPad experience. Of course, I already have an iPhone, so that’s my 3G connection right there.

Honestly, I can see myself eventually buying an iPad, but it’s not something I absolutely need right now, and I’d really like to see what third parties do with their iPad apps before I commit to something like it.