Why I'm getting an iPad (or, the blind men and the elephant)

With a device as multifacted and as hard to pin down as the iPad, the best way to know about it is to simply buy one yourself. At least, that's my idea.

In case you've been overwhelmed by iPad coverage these past few days (or, perhaps, weeks), the reason for the barrage is simple: to many people, this device is many things. It's a continuation of the brilliance and categorical confusion birthed by the iPhone, only in the case of the iPad, the Swiss Army Knife has left its holster. The iPhone still purported to be a phone first, and the iPod Touch laid claim in some capacity as a successor to the iPod line, despite both devices really being small computing platforms of a different sort.

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Expanded and standing fully on its own, the iPad is neither Netbook, phone, iPod, nor any other device, yet it shares enough in common with enough divisions of consumer electronics to spark impassioned responses from all sectors about how it fits their world view.

It resembles the fable, in case you're not familiar, of the blind men and the elephant: each approaches a different part of the elephant and describes what he feels. To one, the tail is like a snake. To another, the tusks are like a walrus. And so on. Translated to an iPad, it's possibly a video player, or a keyboard-free Netbook, or an awkward smartphone, or a Web-browsing device.

The question is, do you prefer hearing of new convergence devices dissected from various perspectives, or do you like such a device analyzed head-on as a brand-new form of gadget, on its own terms? Or, does it even matter to you? It's interesting to observe how industry reviews have handled this device, because in many ways they've attempted to fracture it along e-reader, game system, productivity, and laptop/Netbook lines. We have, too .

Trying one for the first time a short while ago, it seemed simultaneously larger and smaller than expected, depending on where you're coming from. Smaller than a Netbook, larger than an iPhone or e-reader. It can be seen as either too sleek or too bulky, as well: the bezel is a useful handhold, but then it also adds to the size.

This convergence confusion has been happening for a while--handheld game systems playing music and video, phones as video cameras, laptops with Blu-ray and HDMI. The iPad just might be the biggest stage for that convergence discussion all over again. As a laptop reviewer, I'm most interested in how it potentially tries to steal the thunder away from Netbooks. I want one for how it can potentially converge several needs in one small device. I'm also well aware of its limitations. I'm sure all the reviewers at CNET, in their own way, will have an opinion stemming from their lifestyle. One co-worker asked why I'd need one to watch TV, but he already has a big HDTV and cable, and I don't. I'm buying a 32GB version tomorrow, and I'll follow up with how it feels. If you get one or see one yourself, please send in a comment and tell us how you feel, too.

About the author

Scott Stein is a senior editor covering iOS and laptop reviews, mobile computing, video games, and tech culture. He has previously written for both mainstream and technology enthusiast publications including Wired, Esquire.com, Men's Journal, and Maxim, and regularly appears on TV and radio talking tech trends.

 

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