I spent way too much time playing with the iPad today. In fact, I’m still thinking about it and here’s why:  The browser is better than the browser on my MacBook.   It might be the best browsing experience out there.  By a lot.

Not only is the browser really (MacBook Pro type) fast, but it is a much more natural way of “surfing”.  Instead of hitting your trackpad you just point to what you want on the screen.  There is no hand-eye coordination required.  It is the best of the iPhone’s pinch/scroll/zoom/resolution independence on a sufficiently large laptop caliber display.  If I want to go portrait?  Boom.

Make no mistake: Apple is targeting the uber-hot netbook market with this device.  What are you doing 90% of the time on a netbook?  Browsing.  And it isn’t even close here.  The iPad is on another level in browsing.  The only area where a traditional netbook shines is in typing URLs.  But in the hour of playing with the iPad, I rarely found myself longing for a keyboard.

So what about the other 10% of the time on a netbook?  Instant Messaging? Office Apps? VoIP?  They’re pretty much all in the App Store.  And Office is $30 for iPad vs >$100 for a netbook, something that makes the $499 iPad vs. $299 netbook price easier to justify.   I wasn’t immediately able to operate iWork apps on the device but I started to learn pretty quickly.  These apps might be the X-factor for this device.  A touch office suite.  A big first.

When you add in that this device is also an e-book reader, a gaming device, and a movie viewer, $499 doesn’t seem like a hard sell.

The monster downside to this device?  Lack of a camera.  I think this is a crippling move by Apple that does two things:  One, it keeps iPhones relevant and important.  Two, it is a huge differentiating factor that will sell lots of v2 upgrades.  My hope is that someone makes an add on camera that fits pretty snugly onto the 30-pin connector for ~$30 (which seems to be supported by the software).  Lack of Flash also is a bummer, especially in the Hulu category.  But I think Hulu may come up with an App at some point as well.

Another interesting note: Apple today lifted its ban on VoIP over 3G on the iPhone…which will likely translate to the iPad.  So that means that, theoretically, I can dump my voice provider (AT&T) and just use the iPad as a phone for $30/month for unlimited data on AT&T.  I know that is extremely unrealistic to carry around that big thing everywhere I go (and I’d be losing a camera FFS), but, I am already missing using it.

And if you think about the big picture, that “desire to use the iPad.”  That certainly bodes well for sales.

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