A small group of fans are saying that this is going to be the biggest thing to geek out since Apple announced the Newton, which was obviously a huge hit.
Apple's explanation of this device is very grand. "The best way to experience the web, email, photos, and video. Hands down." Not only does it surf the web, view your photos, AND connect to YouTube, but it practically connects directly to your brain stem and detects everything that was ever fun in your life and presents it on a nice 9.7" screen. Videos of dogs surfing galore!
I love my iPhone. It's probably the most practical and useful pice of consumer technology I've ever owned - I probably use it more often than my computer, TV, or any other overly expensive gadget I have lying around. Unfortunately, I have never once said, "Man, I love my iPhone, but I really wish I had a device that was almost exactly the same thing but DIDN'T fit in my pocket!"
Despite all of the pomp and grandeur of its product launch, I don't see myself buying this. However, after reflecting on it for a few days, I can say that this product is truly groundbreaking - but not because of its weight or touch-sensitive display.
What changes the game with the iPad is that it promises to be a headache-free computer. Think of all of the challenges you've had installing (and uninstalling) applications on Windows. Incompatible libraries, installation directories that can't be found, conflicts, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The damned things are impossible. Windows isn't the only guilty party; Mac OS X has its share of problems here. "Just drag the application to the trash," they tell you. Unfortunately, badly behaved applications change settings, install extra files, modify directories - ultimately leaving you stuck with pop-up messages on every reboot or weird errors long after you've deleted an application.
One of the truly wonderful things about the iPhone and its applications is that it's simple. You go to the App Store, you find what you want, and it magically just works seconds later. There's no headache. There's no cryptic "Next Next Next Next Next" installation wizard. If I didn't understand what was happening I'd say it's practically magic.
With the iPad, applications can have the same functionality - just go into the App Store, download, and go. Think of all the times your mom has called you because, as she says, "The Internet is broken," or your grandmother can't play her Mahjongg games, or your cousin has accidentally deleted his entire C drive... these problems all go away. Now you have a device that's completely managed. You want to find your books? You open the iBooks application. You want to look at your snapshots? You open the iPhoto application. No more worrying about install directories, no more searching for files. It completely abstracts the concept of the "computer" away.
For the true geeks amongst us, this can be a problem, as we like geekitarian things Unix prompts and file permissions and multiple logical drives, but for your grandmother, your kids, and maybe even yourself, the headache-free computer seems to hold a lot of promise.