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iPad: The Morning After

I have to believe that even the most diehard Apple fanatics are feeling a bit disappointed this morning. Indeed, Apple's biggest blunder with the iPad, perhaps, is that the device wasn't available for sale immediately. They could have sold millions on the first day. But now, with customers forced to wait until they can even pre-order the thing, I do believe some semblance of common sense will prevail. That is, many people who would have otherwise just ordered the thing immediately will now likely wait and see what happens.

If you're among that crowd, good for you. Seriously. You've made the right choice.

We are collectively seized by a gadget-of-the-moment mentality right now, both the people in the industry and those who follow along. And as this moment passes, you have to ask yourself: What do I need this thing for? (You also have to ask yourself: Why do I trust people who do nothing more than recommend gadget after gadget to me? Are these expensive devices really useful?)

The answer, of course, is that no one needs the iPad. No one. And that is the problem.

With an iPhone, you can at least make the argument that everyone needs a phone. And it's something you can carry along in your pocket, so it's a no-brainer, assuming you can afford the hefty two-year financial commitment that accompanies any smart phone.

And most people need PCs. No, almost no one needs Macs, but I do get that certain people feel like they're getting a certain level of quality there, absolute. They're nice machines. But regardless of your choice in vendor, PCs are necessary for many.

With the iPad, we're in a weird gray area, that place between smart phones/multi-function portable devices (like the iPod touch) and notebook PCs. And to Apple's discredit, this gray area has been tried before, most successfully (very successfully) with the netbook. But also with a new class of netbook-type machines running smart phone OSes (like Android) called smart books. The iPad is simply Apple's play for this part of the market. They weren't here first, and they don't even appear to offer the most compelling solution.

At least with a netbook, you can make the argument that it's a PC. It doesn't run weird iWork apps, it runs Office. So you could get work done.

There are also tablet-based netbooks. That also run Office. That also run the touch-based Amazon Kindle app, and the New York Times Reader app, which is exactly like The New York Times iPad app that Apple showed off yesterday. Well, there is one difference: It first appeared over three years ago. It's not new.

Hey, these netbooks also run iTunes. So if all you're looking for is a first class way to access Apple's content and you're looking for 10 hours of battery life... yeah, it's already here. And it gets work done too. Win-win, right?

I think there is a weird euphoria that descends over gadget lovers when something like the iPad (or Zune HD, or HTC HD2, or whatever) is announced. But then it fades just as quick.

And while I will get and review an iPad--it's what I do--I just don't feel the same immediacy here that I did with the iPhone. It just isn't a game changer. It's not something I can recommend sight unseen. In fact, I feel curiously uneven about this thing. And suspicious of those who are broadcasting the opposite the loudest. Very suspicious.

What we're left with here is a device that isn't necessary and doesn't really change anything. It's a front-end for Apple's e-commerce engine, and nothing more. And if you were looking for yet another way to spend money on Apple products, well, Steve Jobs has a solution for you. But if you have a bit of common sense, I'd sit back and wait this one out for now. Because there are already better solutions for what this device does. And I'm curious that Apple, for a change, didn't actually raise the bar in any obvious way.

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