The iPhone (and the iPod touch) is an excellent take-it-and-go device. Everywhere I go, I see them, and I can't remember the last time I went to a restaurant and didn't see at least one other iPhone. It is true that the iPad is substantially bigger than the iPhone. The iPad won't fit in a pocket, but many "portable" devices are just downright bulky and won't fit in pockets, such as the Playstation Portable. As we are more networked and plugged in, the more the device needs to fit our lifestyle.
That is where the problem lies with the iPad. In an increasingly networked world, where does the iPad fit in? It's almost as big as a laptop, but only has the functionality of an iPod Touch. It is, for the most part, a larger iPod Touch with 3G capabilities. While Apple bills the device as something that fits in between an iPhone and a computer, the iPad is a large Mobile Internet Device (if it has 3G, otherwise, it is simply a Wi-Fi Device). The iPad has a far more limited niche than anything else Apple has out on the market right now, but it fills a useful niche in the Apple ecosystem -- a larger format visual device.
This is a product that takes aim at the e-readers out there, especially the Kindle. Just like Apple's closed system, the Amazon Kindle is a closed system, even more heavily restricted than Apple's. The Kindle Development Kit is still in closed beta, with little details on the approval process. For those considering an e-reader, hands down, here's a list of reasons on how the iPad is better than the Kindle:
- Backlit LED color screen vs. grayscale e-ink
The iPad has a LED color IPS screen, while the Kindle uses e-ink. the iPad is backlit, while e-ink isn't. The only way to light the screen is to use a third-party booklight.
- Mobile Safari vs. Experimental Web Browser
The Kindle's web browser is laughable. They've hidden it away in the recesses of the "Experimental" section, but it feels more like what a browser would be if someone had invented a web browser in the late 80s. It's only experimental because it's so bad.
- ePub vs. Amazon proprietary
Within e-books, there are several different formats for book publishing. Amazon created their own book format for the Kindle, while nearly all other book publishers are using ePub. As Tim O'Reilly noted a year ago, "Unless Amazon embraces open e-book standards like ePub, which allow readers to read books on a variety of devices, the Kindle will be gone within two or three years." His timeline of extinction still bothers me -- I think it may actually be five or six years, given that Amazon seems determined to throw good money after bad. Amazon's Kindle can handle ePub, but not if it's been DRM'd. Additionally, while the iPad will be able to install a Kindle reader to read Kindle content, I won't expect the Kindle to be able to read Apple DRM locked ePub books.
- Response times
While specs of the refresh rate of the iPad haven't been released yet, I can tell you that whatever algorithm the iPad is using to turn pages on their e-book is much faster than the rendering of e-ink on the Kindle. With the refresh being an screen wipe, the Kindle actually reminds me of an old Cold-War era computer in the way that it redraws the screen.
- The Amazon Kindle Only Does One Thing
They've tried to integrate more functionality into the Kindle, but have failed. Even with their KDK (which is only entering beta this spring), I don't think there's much there. When you're competing against the library of iPhone apps, there is simply no contest.
Even after two years, the Kindle is still a niche product, and though I've seen a few in the wild, they haven't nearly been as ubiquitous as iPods or iPhones.
One of the things that Apple recognized was for the iPad to make use of the iTunes program for syncing and purchasing of content. While I believe that this may be more clumsy than Amazon's on-device purchasing, it maybe good enough for the first generation of the device and the current version of iTunes, but some improvements to the system must be done.