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from computer to appliance

Since the very first time the iPad was presented to the public lots of people have been asking the question what niche is it going to fill in the modern tech market. It’s obviously less than a laptop but it’s more than a smart phone. Well it seems to me I might have the answer.

With the iPad Apple have turned another page in the development of computers, when the tech revolution was in its infancy in the dim and distant 1950’s and 1960’s computers were huge, one machine would take up several rooms and you had to interface with it using punch cards. Then there were mainframes with terminals connected to them. Those were too very expensive.  Well today Apple are doing with the iPad what MITS did with their Altair microcomputer in the mid 1970’s, they’re brining the technology to the masses.

To a standard geek, the iPad has lots of drawbacks, no multi-tasking, poor connectivity, the list may go on but to an ordinary person, someone who’s normally intimidated by computers, the iPad offers unprecedented accessibility, practically anyone can pick it up and start using it immediately, you’re promoted to power user from the get-go.

It seems like it’s been a deliberate policy by Apple ever since Steve Jabs came back in the late 1990’s. Ever since that time they’ve been trying to get computers to look and behave more like standard domestic appliances rather than some extremely sophisticated piece of technology that takes forever to tweak and whose use involves an extremely steep learning curve. If anything the iMacs have been just as revolutionary, but the iPad takes the whole game to an entirely different level.  Now the Internet isn’t that thing out there that you can only view after you’ve turned on your PC and waited for it to load. The iPad places the net literally at your fingertips. You can just sit back in your favorite chair  and enjoy the net while sipping tea.

There’s a couple caveats of course. First there’s no flash, so a lot of the rich content will be just sad face pictures for you. And the other caveat is that without a good old fashioned keyboard you probably won’t be able to use it for any meaningful work, just tweeting perhaps. But if taken for what it is, i.e. an entertainment device, the iPad is pretty good. Of course it’s still pretty far from the ideal. An ideal entertainment tablet should be able to hook up to your other equipment, so you can stream movies from the net via your iPad and on to your brand new 3D TV set from Sony or Panasonic. I don’t think the iPad in its current incarnation can do that.  And yet, it’s not bad for a pioneer device. Others will follow of course. Although I’m not sure Win7 is such a swell platform for a slate PC, but we’ll see, maybe MS will release some scaled down and simplified editions and then there’s linux of course.

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