Ipad: The Dream of the Netbook Realized

Dawn and I are ubiquitous computer users: our laptops are always sitting along the periphery of our lives.  They come out too look up a quick reference, or to read the days news.  We download our baby pictures on them and share those pictures with family through them.  We do our work on them and we relax on them.  They come into the kitchen with us when we need a quick recipe reference.  It goes without saying that we watch video and listen to music on them as well.

The problem, and honestly this wasn’t much of a problem until now, is that they are rather bulky.

The netbook was supposed to be the solution to the bulkiness of a “full sized” laptop.  Early adds for the EEE series of laptops featured a rather unrealistic image of a woman sitting on a beach, computing her heart out on the toy-like EEE.  But as we’ve seen the netbook evolve from a tiny keyboard, tiny screen computer to a more or less full sized but underpowered laptop.  This evolution speaks to the problem of netbooks:  A tiny form factor and tiny screen don’t mean much if the way you use them is the same as on a full sized computer.  The squinting and key-hunting become more a burden quickly.

The potential of the iPad is that it takes the small-form factor and makes it true.  This is a device you will take to the beach, into the kitchen and undoubtedly into the bathroom.  Gestures and quick magnification will make using it second nature, and unlike Microsoft’s ultimately failed Tablet PC, the fact that the machine’s operating system was built from the ground up with this form factor in mind will mean that this time it will work.  The stripped down feature set and relatively powerful processor mean that not only can we watch high quality video but we’ll likely be able to edit it to some degree as well.  The same goes for music.

The funny thing is that I thought that all of this was what made the iPhone special, but it was not enough to take the laptop out of the equation, and the reason was that the iPhone is simply too small.

Low impact lifestyle computing is what the Netbook promised; its what the iPad will actually deliver.