Apple's new tablet, the iPad, sparks strong emotion among both supporters and detractors. For everyone else, here are six reasons to pre-order and half-dozen reasons to wait.
Reasons to buy:
1. Undeniably cool. The iPad looks like a giant iPod and the look supersizes quite nicely.
2. The best e-reader? The iPad is already generating comments that it will be a Kindle-beater and Nook-destroyer. The 16 GB $499 model may not be good for carrying around lots of movies and music, but it should hold a lot of books. I want to hear more about the hands-on reading experience, but early word is the iPad is an excellent place to enjoy a good book. Or a textbook, which is a huge potential market for the device.
3. Gaming. The iPhone became a surprise hit among gamers, or at least expanded the market to include lots of previous non-gamers (such as myself). Either way, the iPad is optimized to improve the iPhone gaming experience, allowing new elements to be added to games that can be played on both the iPhone/iPod touch and the new iPad.
4. Media sharing. The iPad makes it easy to share media. Not for a whole room, but you and a friend or two should be able to watch movies, listen to music, or pass the iPad back-and-forth for games. It's just the right size for sharing up-close and the lack of a keyboard makes the iPad easier to handle than a notebook.
5. Applications. With all the above going for it, the iPad almost doesn't have to do things like Web surfing and e-mail checking or document writing. But, it does them all and runs 140,000 iPhone apps besides. Sure, the best apps will be specially-written for the iPad, but you can use iPhone/iPod touch favorites right away.
6. Time may be on your side. The iPad may become much more compelling — thanks to new apps — between now and its March/April ship dates.
Reasons to hold off:
1. No subsidy on the 3G version. Apple wants you to pay $829 for the 64GB device, plus monthly wireless fees for AT&T's 3G. The first year total: $1,189.
2. The wrong screen. It's not clear why Apple didn't choose a 16:9 aspect ratio, the standard for widescreen entertainment, but not doing so makes the iPad much less interesting for watching movies.
3. Not much of a work machine. New applications may hammer away at the iPad's limitations, but the truth is that a notebook or netbook or even (in many circumstances) an iPhone is much more useful. Maybe it isn't even fair to ask a device so well-tuned for entertainment to work at the office too, but Apple is promoting the iPad as a work tool. And right now, I have to respond, “No” in most circumstances.
4. E-readers have better battery life. If you don't need all the other features, a Kindle or Nook offer better battery life for e-reading, but lack the color screen.
5. 'Tweener' factor. The iPad is a “tweener,” in the bad sense of the word. Not a computer, but not a smartphone, the iPad lacks the functionality of a notebook and the convenience of an iPhone or Droid. The iPad may be just one more thing to haul around if you already carry a notebook, which it doesn't come close to replacing.
6. Excitement fleeting. By the time the iPad ships, the excitement may be over. Perhaps helping lots of people save money.
There are many more reasons, both pro and con, regarding an iPad purchase but the best one may be the simplest: You've either got to have one (and have the spare cash) or the iPad doesn't do much for you.
Since it won't be available until March or April (for the 3G models), you have lots of time to change your mind. And for the initial excitement to wear off.