First impression: iPad a game changer, but can't replace the Mac
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First impression: iPad a game changer, but can't replace the Mac

Tomorrow I'll start a multi-part review of the iPad. For now, here are some of my first impressions on the new device. My main thought: the iPad is a game changer, but it won't replace the Mac.

Why not? While the iPad is great for consumption, the Mac is better at creation. Music, movies, homemade video, ebooks, digital magazines, TV shows, surfing the web, checking email -- all look and work great on the iPad. However, it's not built for using iLife apps or doing heavy duty work despite the availability of iWork and Bento apps (which I'll also get around to critiquing).

For this reason, the Mac is in little danger from the iPad, though there will be some slight cannibalization of laptop sales. A handful of folks who only use their MacBooks for basic word processing may dump their laptop for a Pages-equipped iPad. However, road warriors who have serious work to do will stick with their MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

Where the cannibalization may take place is among folks like myself. My theory is that the iPad will replace my iPod touch and my 13-inch MacBook as 99% of my work is done on my 27-inch iMac (my all-time favorite computer, BTW). It's already replaced the former (and my wife thanks me for the touch), and may replace the latter. I'll let you know.

In fact, a perfect name for the iPad -- if Apple didn't want to appeal to a broader crowd -- might be the Mac Buddy. It's the perfect companion for my desktop Mac.

After I finish my day's work reporting and/or editing iMovies of family events and sports activities, I can sync my iMac and my iPad, shut down the desktop for the day, and keep my iPad by my side.

I can listen to music, read books, watch videos, check my email, do a Facebook update, do some fun (as opposed to work) web surfing and more. I can do this from my couch, from my bed, pretty much from anywhere in my Wi-Fi enabled house. That's a great convenience, and the iPad will doubtless accompany me pretty much everywhere I go. For instance, I have a Bible app for church that lets me switch between multiple translations with a simple touch. Very sweet.

But when I'm working with multiple apps, editing video, watching a movie, I want a bigger screen. I want my iMac.

However, I do see the Mac OS X and iPhone OS merging and melding to a great extent in the future. In fact, eventually there may just be one "Apple OS."

For example, the iPhone OS interface could serve as inspiration for a future version of Mac OS X. The Finder as we know it may well disappear. And Macs are almost certain to be offered in multi-touch versions in the future.

They may also come with "iPad" chips. I think Jason Perlow, a ZDNet blogger (http://blogs.zdnet.com/perlow/?p=12323), is onto something when he says that, while the 1GHz A4 (the one in the ipad) isn’t powerful enough to run a Mac today the next logical step is for Apple to continue to evolve the silicon into more and more cores and at higher clock speeds.

"With iPad 2, we might very well see two cores and certainly a higher clock speed," he writes. "The next step would be to move to four cores and larger amounts of cache, which may present enough computing power to form the basis of the next generation MacBooks or iMacs. It is not implausible that within five years, six and eight-core or even sixteen-core Apple ARM chips could be released."

Add such a chip to the previously mentioned Apple OS and you'd have a new breed of Macs. But Macs nonetheless.

But the computer as we know it won't be completely replaced by iPad-like devices. On the other hand, other ebook readers like the Kindle and netbooks should be afraid. Very afraid.

-- Dennis Sellers

 
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