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Why I want an iPad

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that Steve Jobs and Apple have announced the iPad, the long rumored Apple tablet. Name jokes aside, I think we're seeing the beginning of a revolution.

The iPad is the first piece of technology in my lifetime that I am honestly looking forward to. I think it is going to be the beginning of a revolution. I don't know where that revolution will lead or what it will mean to me as someone used and reasonably well-adapted to the current era of computers. It will certainly be interesting.

I have a lot of what I want to say about the iPad which I'll spread out over a handful of entries. Today, I'll start with why I want one, how I think I would use it.

My commute to work each day is just over an hour each way. Even though I have a laptop (an aging iBook G4), I find it difficult to do significant work during the commute. Mass transit methods are not really set up for using a laptop. When you fly on a plane, when you take a train somewhere, you have a tray table on which you can put a laptop. You don't have that on a bus, in the subway, carpooling, etc.

So I spend a lot of my time reading. (Or sleeping.) It's easy to bring a book and read it. However, if what I need to read is only available in electronic form, it becomes necessary to print it out. One of my new projects is to replace my aging webserver (which happens to host this site and others) so I have been reading server security documents. I spent $130 to have FedEx Office (formerly Kinkos) print out some of these documents.

And since I've done this once, I will likely do it again. If nothing changes, some day, another $130 will be spent to have more documents printed. If I do this three more times, the cost comes to $520, more than the cost of a base iPad. This certainly makes it cost effective, not including the definite benefits that the iPad provides over several binders of documents.

I also know in the future that I will be expected to start carrying a laptop on my commute. Between the size of most laptops and the limitations of my laptop bag, this will limit what I can carry with me. After my notebook, I can probably only carry one book. Or I can carry an iPad. Based on Apple's announced dimensions, the iPad is slightly thinner than Web Design For Developers (which is about 0.6875 inches thick). With a case, it's probably thicker but probably not more than an inch thick. Even though I like books, there is a definite sense of economy here. (This assumes that the iPad will be able to use PDFs. However, since the iPhone can, the iPad should be able to as well. And since there is so much content available as PDFs, I think that it would be a mistake for PDF support to be omitted. However, what I think the iPad will/should do is really something for another discussion.)

A 3G iPad would provide me with something I don't currently have: An internet connection usable during the commute (or, theoretically, even while traveling). (I absolutely despise doing web browsing on the Blackberry I have.) There is definite appeal in having a reliable SSH client to fix problems that arise while I'm out. Being able to check blog entries or other resources to help me research whatever project I'm working on would help. Also, to add to the sense of economy above, I know that the iPhone can use the mobile interface for Safari Books Online so the iPad should be able to as well, something my current phone cannot do.

And I find that as I think about the iPad more, I can find more uses for it for me. I don't know that I would call it "magical" but it certainly has the potential to be revolutionary. And just like the iPhone changed things, the iPad certainly will.



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