If all the noise around today's iPad debut leaves you baffled, fear not: We've oscillated between giddy excitement and jaded cynicism ourselves, and can offer this handy list of reasons to embrace — or diss — the Apple tablet computer.
If you're truly on the fence about buying an iPad, though, it's best to read just one of the below lists, which we've helpfully segregated from one another. If you must read both the pros and cons of the iPad, at least try and forget either the good or the bad. Otherwise you'll be right back where you started: mentally flummoxed. And there's not point in getting too brainy when it comes to Apple products, since both foes and fans alike end up judging them as much with their emotions as with their intellect.
Why You Must Buy an iPad
Because $500 is cheap: Sure, $500 could buy you dinner at Jean George, 10 meals in slightly less posh restaurants, 20 drinking sessions at your local pub or the better part of a month's unemployment benefits. But it's one of the cheapest Apple product launches ever, if you adjust for inflation. Just check out this amazing chart at the UK website VoucherCodes: The first portable Mac cost $11,000 in 2010 currency, the first Newtom over $1,000 and the first PowerBook laptop over $3,600. By that standard the $500 iPad is practically free. Can you really afford not to buy one? (Probably not.)
First-adopter cachet: Whether the iPad ends up changing the world or not, there's no denying it's a damn sexy physical object. Just watch this video of two New York Times reporters and their loaner unit; ostensibly about the future of media, the segment quickly degenerates into a thinly-veiled of tug of war over the iPad prototyped, the two involved journalists reduced to jealous fanboys. And we can hardly blame them: Valleywag still remembers being upstaged by the iPhone at his own wedding, which happened to take place on the device's 2007 launch date. The entire reception came to a momentary amid a mob ooh-ing and ahhh-ing over a the mobile device and jostling for a demo — a mob that included the bride.
The apps are already awesome: Check out Gizmodo's roundup of the essential iPad apps. There's great stuff on the device from day one: Netflix streaming, free episodes of Lost, a greatly improved version of the popular iPhone game Flight Control, an MLB baseball videogame, BBC News and, yes, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. (Read about apps from other news outlets in our roundup here.)
It will change the way you ignore your family: Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin called the iPad "sensual," and the Times' David Carr brought the device into his bed, and it changed his relationship with his wife forever. For example, instead of watching the same TV show as her, Carr can now put on headphones and watch something non-lame. Awwww. He also took it into the bath. And the iPad seems perfect for reading, Web surfing and email checking on the couch, where a laptop feels big and clumsy but an iPhone too small for comfortable reading.
And now for the flipside....
Why You Must Ignore the iPad
Apple could cut the price and make first adopters look like idiots: Just two months after the original iPhone went on sale, Apple cut the price by $200. Customers were so outraged that Steve Jobs had to issue a defensive "open letter." Will the same thing happen with the iPad? Lifehacker founding editor and overall tech wizard Gina Trapani sure seems to think so, writing in Fast Company, "Don't be the guy who bought the first-gen iPad when Apple slashes the 2011 iPad price in half."
Way less free video on the iPad than on a laptop: On a run of the mill laptop or netbook, you can watch great high-definition TV shows for free on Hulu. But not on the iPad; Hulu doesn't work there, and when it does come to the device there may be a subscription fee involved. And most Web video these days won't work on the iPad because it's encoded using Adobe's
Flash technology, which isn't supported in the iPad's Web browser. Sure, many sites are starting to switch over to iPad-compatible video but that's a long process. There will surely be a newer and better iPad available by the time there's a critical mass of compatible video. In the meantime, watching video on one will tend to involve paid downloads from Apple's iTunes store. And in a recession, do you really want to pay for video you can watch free elsewhere, that you can't lend to friends and that you can't watch on your TV without a $230 add-on?
You don't know what the hell you're going to do with it: Not everyone's a gadget freak who just has to have a magical tablet so he can read blogs on his couch, or watch video on the toilet, or check email in every conceivable location. Some people are happy to do these exact same things with other devices. Or to not do them at all! "I just want to know, what is this supposed to be used for?" a 21-year-old San Franciscan asked the New York Times, which quoted a plethora of confused iPad doubters Friday. Last time we checked, purchasing things without any plan to use them was a form of mental illness.