In 1993 I was excited as Apple introduced the Newton MessagePad. This was an incredible handheld device that allowed the user to interact with it via a stylus on a touch sensitive display.
The Newton was capable of handwriting recognition that actually learned the more you used it. It represented a new paradigm in computing. Like the Macintosh when it was introduced in 1984, it changed the way people thought about computers. Unlike the Macintosh, the Newton never gained a large following and the product ultimately was shelved after several iterations in mid-1998.
Despite its lukewarm reception, the Newton gave users a glimpse of what the computing future could be. It showed that given the right interface and appropriate form factor tablet computing had a market. I often wondered whether Apple would once again embrace the tablet market.
With the introduction of the Apple iPod Touch and the iPhone the time seemed ripe for another venture into the tablet arena. After several years of rumors, Apple introduced the iPad to an eager consumer market on January 27, 2010.
From the moment Steve Jobs held up the device there have been questions regarding where it fits in the computing hierarchy. Some saw the iPad as a giant iPod Touch. The 9.7 inch liquid crystal display had a resolution of 1024x768 pixels.
In its initial state the iPad came in two configurations. One would run strictly on Wi-Fi while the other would not only utilize Wi-Fi but also had the capability to run on the 3G cellular network.
The operating system was the same as the iPod Touch and the iPhone and is now known as iOS. Like its younger siblings it also utilized a touch sensitive interface and allowed the user to orient the device in either a portrait or landscape mode.
My first impression was that the iPad was not just a larger iPod but rather was a separate market that would evolve as more people began using the device.
After its introduction it became immensely popular. Apple sold 7.5 million units within the first nine months. I personally waited patiently for the Wi-Fi/3G version to be released and I bought the model with 64GB of memory.
I was not exactly sure what I would do with this device. My purchase was more one of curiosity than need. Once I had the device I realized how impressive it was and how intuitive the interface could be. I found myself reaching for the iPad before I picked up my laptop.
Initially I expected the device to be an information consumer. After a few short weeks I found myself using it for content production. The soft on-screen keyboard was appropriately sized especially in landscape mode to allow touch-typing.
With iWork installed it gave me a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation tool. Add to that the mobile Safari browser and I could easily research information and write articles. The email and calendar functions also allowed me to use this as a laptop replacement for short periods of time.
I’m not yet to the point where it would take the place of my MacBook but it is perfect for reading email, playing games, or casual surfing the Internet. I’ve also begun to identify markets for applications and I am beginning development efforts to create the type of applications I would use myself.