Some commentators have said that the iPad is a big iPhone without the phone (and without the SMS).
Others have said that it is a big iPod Touch with a 3G option, which is also a good comparison.
If anyone thinks it is a computer, well I beg to differ. The iPad's computing capabilities do not compare all that well with a 'proper' computer.
But some things about the iPad are simply amazing, in comparison with whatever you consider the competition to be.
First and foremost is the attention to detail.
Anyone with an interest in gadgets – sorry, life-enhancing devices – will be well experienced in features that work, but just don't quite hit the spot.
Typical of this would be my now-retired Nokia phone that could never understand that “I'm” is a word. “I'o” is not.
With the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, what you will find is that virtually every function is without flaw.
'Without flaw' is of course with respect to the limits of the available technology, in both hardware and software.
But Apple has a way of making things seem perfect within those limits.
So while all three 'i' devices could be criticized for not having multitasking, they work damn well without it. Apps mostly remember exactly where they were when they were dumped for another, and when you come back you find yourself picking up where you left off. There are exceptions, but once again these are mostly due to technology. You can't expect a remote access app to pick up where it left off if the connection with the remote computer is broken when the app closes.
So, the attention to detail and the near-perfection of every feature, both hardware and software, of Apples 'i' products is commendable. No, it is amazing!
Why do computers need to 'boot up'? Why don't they just work immediately?
I remember way back when radios and television mostly worked from vacuum tube technology. You switched the set on and waited for the tubes to warm up. Then you could listen or watch.
Then transistorized technology became commonplace. Radios started instantly. OK, the CRT of a television still needed to warm up, but other than that every electronic device was instant-on.
Then came computers. Personal computers needed to load the operating system from non-volatile storage (firstly floppy, later hard disk) into RAM. Then they could be used.
Oddly enough this has persisted, even through I am certain it didn't have to.
Why so certain?
Well somewhere around ten or so years ago, RAM memory was very expensive and it was difficult to fit in as many applications as you wanted to run simultaneously. So software was developed that could double your RAM by temporarily storing some of the contents onto hard disk, then reading it back in when it was needed. One utility that did this was literally called RAM Doubler. I had a RAM sextupler and it worked.
Now this made me wonder… if an application that you're not using can be stored on the hard disk in a ready-to-run state, why couldn't the whole of the operating system and applications be ready-to-run?
So when you switched the computer on, it would load into RAM whatever essentials it needed to run, in a ready-to-run state, then load whatever applications you needed, also ready-to-run without a lengthy boot up sequence.
Well this never caught on. How much of your life have you wasted waiting for computers to boot up and applications to start?
The iPad is ready-to-run. So are the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Press the Home button on your iPad, slide the slider across and within half a second you're working. Even without multitasking you can change an app in a second.
Ready-to-run technology is AMAZING!
(Just for completeness I'll mention that you could use your conventional computer is a similar way, by starting up all your applications, then putting the computer to sleep rather than shutting down. But the iPad does this by default, and it's very slick. Sometimes getting a few more millimeters towards perfection can make a big difference to the subjective experience.)
One more thing…
Although some features of the iPad are amazing, perhaps the most wonderful thing of all is something that will happen to devices other than the iPad…
To compete with the iPad, other devices – from all manufacturers – will have to be amazing too!
It's going to be a whole new world…