If you'd asked me two years ago if I ever thought I would be using the word "pad" in a tech column, I would have said "not a chance in hell." Two years later, I am witness to a race to see who's "pad" will become this year's "king" of high technology devices.
Ahem... "pad" -- really?
The latest Apple Computer gadget, the Apple iPad, has become the most recent in the tech giant's product offerings to upon millions of Apple faithful to store shelves and online sites, in search of the thin, keyboard-less internet device. Even with its lack of USB ports, card readers, CD drives, or even a camera, the veritable "touchpad-computer LITE" still rouses the curiousity of those who, in the midst of their own doubts, still say to themselves "yeah, I can find a use for that thing."
So while manufacturers on the PC side of the computing-technology battleground sat by, like Roosevelt watching the outcome of the German invasion of France, Apple trudged on, steadily making their way into the hearts and pocketbooks of both the tech-saavy and the tech-newbie. People stood in long lines awaiting the release of the giant iTouch, gleefully imagining themselves sitting in the shade of a park tree, emailing mom and dad while reading online novels and laughing at smoking babies on YouTube. Oh, what a wonderful world.
And so, with the wave of popularity that inevitably surrounds each and every Apple product, those on the PC side got anxious. "When do we show people OUR pads?" they asked themselves. "Will our pads be better than other peoples pads? Will our pads be lighter, more comfortable, or more ergonomic?"
Again, this thing about "pads" is really sort of awkward, albeit incredibly easy to poke fun at.
There are blips and blurbs about new computing "pads" coming out from Dell, Asus, and many of the other PC giants. These PC versions promise the things that the iPad doesn't deliver; cameras, memory card readers, USB ports, HDMI, and 3G, just to name a few obvious features. Okay, so the iPad does offer 3G for a few hundred bucks more. But the iPad is basking in its relative internet-computing universe, content with its initial reception, knowing all the while that the next version of their pad will be better, faster, lighter, and more feature packed. This is afterall, the Apple way. Show 'em a delicious apple, let 'em take a bite and get a taste, then tempt 'em with a better, more expensive apple -- an "upgrade" if you will. The same way that the devil used an apple to tempt Adam and Eve. Followers become believers. Believers become easy-to-sway upgraders. Its the cycle that sells gadgets... marketing 101.
Now everybody is curious about pads. The way they market the pad makes it seem almost feminine and user-friendly. This is an obvious way to distract people from the iPads shortcomings, by making it into the device that "mom or grandma can use" because its so simple and not convoluted with complex features and interfaces. Okay, so now the "pad is feminine"?
Oh boy, the puns just 'a keep on comin'!
Since the iPad is technically not a computer per se, it seems to me that the new frontier is in internet appliances, not in tablet computers. The netbook genre did a great job of carving out a niche market for itself, and I think its time for the internet appliance to take shape and gather the reins. Without the need to support high-end graphics, multitasking duties, or even spinning CDs, does a tablet really need to do these things to sell well? My guess is no, mainly because Apple has redefined what a tablet offers (or needs to offer) to its end users. The internet appliance should do exactly what its name implies -- allow a user to utilize internet services, whether they be email, surfing, or social networking.
Strangely enough, with the introduction of the iPad, Apple has unwittingly made it easier for its competition to get into the game and come out swinging. The iPad has both redefined the internet appliance market, AND made its entry point easier for its competitors, in one fell swoop.
So think about what you would use a pad for. Watch the pad race, for what other pad companies have to offer. Soon you may realize that you'll be asking yourself "whos pad do I want to have?"
Tempting, isn't it?