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Apple's iPad: Disruptive product of the year

In 2010, the iPad was disruptive to the broad personal computing market in many ways. But for me the disruption was personal.

I'll avoid the dicey proposition of naming what I think is the best product of the year. But I can say with certainty that Apple's iPad was the most disruptive.

My iPad is usually beside me in the car. Brooke Crothers

Beyond the iPad's well-chronicled popularity, impressive shipment numbers, and reported theft of Netbook market share, the disruption for me was very personal: it played havoc with my own computing habits and with people around me who bought the iPad.

As I've written before, initially, I could do little more than paw at the screen in a vain effort to figure out how I was actually going to use the device. But that changed fairly quickly. Within a few weeks, I found myself taking it everywhere (I have the 3G version) and using it instead of my laptop at airports, on planes, and in the car. Not to mention using it at home when relaxing on the sofa.

So, here's why it's disruptive: I always thought that my MacBook Air was the ultimate portable computer and I would never need anything else. Wrong. It turns out that a laptop--because of its relative weight and keyboard-centric clamshell design--is not always the ultimate machine when traveling or when there is a need to some quick home computing. The iPad showed me that there is a better form factor and interface (touch) for a surprising number of tasks.

And that seemingly trivial feature known as instant-on (and almost-instant 3G connections) combined with its 1.5-pound weight makes all the difference in the world.

In short, when I go from using my laptop most of the time to only about half of the time, that's disruptive. Moreover, I think, it's safe to say that I'm not alone.

Finally, I'm anticipating the next iPad (thinner, lighter, dual-core processor?) like I would previously anticipate a new laptop. And can't wait to see what first-tier companies like Motorola and RIM have to offer.

May 2011 be the year of the tablet.