I didn’t take a tablet on my recent business trip, and found myself continually wishing I had one with me. Tablets make it easier (and more fun) to jump online and get things done. I believe the iPad is going to be a big success.

iPad feature

My trip to San Francisco that just ended was a short one, and a very successful one. It is always good to see the great team of GigaOM get together, easily the brightest bunch in the tech world (myself excluded). Now that I have time to reflect on this trip, I have come to realize that a tablet would have made the trip much easier. In the world of mobile tech, easier translates into more fun, and I believe that tablets like the iPad have a big role to play in our lives going forward. They are more fun to use than other computers.

I have a long history of using tablets, so I don’t need to be convinced about the utility they provide in a mobile setting. I was able to make a decent living for years as a consultant with a tablet in my hands for note-taking and other tasks. The iPad challenges that history, however, as it is a pure slate with no keyboard other than an onscreen keyboard. This becomes the biggest factor to consider when trying to decide if a tablet like the iPad can meet the user’s needs. My reflections of this recent trip convince me the keyboard would not have been a that big a factor.

This trip to SF I decided to leave the tablet at home and brought the MacBook. I have traveled with the MacBook many times so I knew it would meet my needs on this short trip. It certainly worked OK, but I must admit I was constantly wishing I had the tablet with me. I have traveled with a tablet many times in the past, and reflecting back on this trip I realize the tablet would have made things easier. A tablet would have been more fun, too, and it is important to not overlook that fact.

I can remember a at least dozen times over the course of this short business trip that I wished I had the tablet with me. I wanted to jump online and check some things, as I had a few minutes free and wanted a bigger screen than that on my phone. I could do those things on a notebook, but I repeatedly found myself considering if a quick session was worth the effort. Without the tablet I had to find a place to sit down, pull out the notebook, turn on the 3G modem, do my quick online work and then put it all back in the bag. Many times I felt it was not worth the effort and blew it off. A tablet would have changed all that, as I could have simply pulled it out of the bag, jumped online, and then put it back when done.

I didn’t even pull out the notebook at the airport on the return trip as it was too crowded at the gate, and there was not enough free room to even balance the notebook on my lap. I saw the same “notebook balancing” act in the airport performed by several travelers. I saw one guy drop his notebook off his lap as he struggled to use it. It hit me that a tablet would have been the perfect tool for this situation, and it drove home how many times over the course of this trip a tablet would have made a positive difference.

I should point out that I didn’t have to do a lot of writing during the trip, which would have been a factor had I only brought a slate without a keyboard. That’s certainly something to consider, but many times the lack of a keyboard is not that big an issue. That’s when a slate like the iPad will make a big impression on those not familiar with using a tablet. An onscreen keyboard is sufficient for a lot of things, whether we like them or not.

I had an amusing situation during the trip which points out the power of Apple with mainstream consumers. I was eating a sandwich in the hotel restaurant, reading an e-book on my Kindle. My waiter seemed to be watching me the entire time, and he finally approached me with a question. He asked me if the Kindle was “the iPad, and do you like it.” This was impressive since the iPad is not even available yet, but this non-techie guy was already looking for them. I explained that it was a Kindle, and he kindly informed me that the iPad could also read e-books but do “so much more.” Yes, Apple is going to sell a lot of iPads.

Image courtesy Apple

Related research: Web Tablet Survey: Apple’s iPad Hits Right Notes (sub req’d)

  1. Yep, geeks have for too long decided that a product would succeed or not based on the hardware specks and neglected to realize that it’s the combination fo software and hardware that makes an enjoyable experience. I been using my Samsung Q1P umpc for a while and find it great excpect for the fact that windows software isn’t the best for mobile usage. It was the geeks that ended the Palm Foleo with their short sightness, by this I’m including engadget and their “Letter for Palm”, that took away a device that was so ahead of the curve that the netbooks of today are trying to get to.
    Sorry for the rant, but it’s like seeing people think that a car is better based on how much power it has. Typing this from my iPod touch in bed hoppingthat it was an Ipad tablet :)

    1. first of, i would not call engadget geeks by a long shot.

      second, that letter would never have been sent if the foleo had a apple logo on it. Instead they would be cheering all the way.

      at the time, the geeks where just waiting for the release of the foleo. And the reactions from those that got their hands on a development model where highly positive.

      1. 1) Who is a geek and who isn’t is too much of an open question. I own 4 laptops, 5 pdas, 2 UMPCS, 3 desktops, MIDS, etc I use windows, linux, mac os, iphone os, palm os, windows pocket pc, etc yet I have never programmed anything for any system so I consider myself a connoisseur of technology rather than a full pledge Geek.

        2)If we examine all of the reactions of the time, by this I mean blogs, opinions, and editorials, of the Foleo announcement and there after, we can conclude that the technology inteligencia came to the conclusion that the Foleo wasn’t good enough for them and therefore not good enough for consumers. Now we should keep in mind that the voices on the matter where technology “experts” or self-proclaimed geeks rather than consumers. Much, if not all, of the opinion in the time came to the conclusion that it was a “FLOPEO” without ever using the device.

        If we look at the history of mobile technology and the reasons and facts of why some products succeeded while others failed, we can come to a very high probability if a device will succeed in the consumer market. My estimation of probability is that the Ipad would succeed as it has the 5 fundamental factors behind the product: Satisfactory hardware and software integration (intuitive), accordingly priced for its segment (between laptops and phones), strong advertisement, consumer appeal (lust), and its not about the specks.

  2. Just because a waiter asked if you had the ipad doesnt mean its going to be a success. And while I agree a tablet computer would be useful for such trips, you know what would be more useful? An actual computer in tablet form like say the hp slate that will function like a computer (multitasking anyone?). I am amazed at the lengths apple enthusiast go to just to defend their god’s bad decision making. For the price you get a giant ipod touch. Big whoop. You know what else you can get for less? A friggen ipod touch and it can fit in your pocket!

    1. I am tired if hearing this “GIANT IPOD TOUCH” as if that is some sort of bad thing. A Bigger screen is always a good thing. I have a Sony laptop. I have to run MS because that is how the world turns. But even when the computer was 5 days old it crashed. I am not a fanboy but I think the iPad is damn cool. Why pull out my laptop when I can do 80% of what I do on an iPad?

      1. Stupid logic. I can do 100% of what the iPad can do on an iPod touch. AND the iPod costs less and fits in my pocket! Remarkable!

        It may (probably will) catch on with the general public due to its price point and advertising campaign, but it’s not going to win much points with the hardcore crowd (at least those of whom aren’t blind fanboys) unless Apple has some really impressive iPad exclusive software up their sleeve.

      2. For me a giant iPod Touch/iPhone thing is a big plus. I loved my iPod Touch and carried with me everywhere to fill idle time while commuting, my only problem was that it is too small.. Now I get what I wanted :)

    2. These troll’s talking points are always: “multitasking, flash, blah blah”

    3. Remember when Apple switched to the 3 1/2 floppy when everyone else was using 5 1/4? Or when Apple dropped the floppy altogether everyone thought it was absurd a computer without a floppy drive? Yet the industry followed like lemmings. Whenever Apple launches something new or unorthodox the pundits always say it’s a piece of shit then a year later the recant that it is the greatest thing ever. Let’s wait a year and see if your right. Apple may not always bat 1000 but if you look over the long haul I wouldn’t bet against them.

      1. Actually Apple followed:
        They tried to make their own floppy first and when it failed they switched to 3.5″.
        And overall Apple doesn’t lead. There were touchscreen phones before the iPhone and there was multitouch since the 90s.

  3. A slate may be justified in some situations but for mainstream consumers, it would be a limited use mobile gadget, when phones can do the job. Most online checking on the go don’t need a 9 inch screen. It’s also more convenient to pull a phone out of the pocket and use it with one hand, than a slate out of a large bag. For people considering a slate, there are other slates coming out- HP Slate, Androids, etc., more capable than the iPad. People expect less capability with a smaller-sized device, but the 9 inch iPad that can’t multitask, can’t run Flash when it’s touted as the best web browsing experience, is just pathetic. As for the power of Apple with mainstream consumers, aside from the iPod, Apple devices, especially its larger-sized offerings, are seen as overpriced and overhyped.

    1. I am tired of troll’s whining about multitasking, flash, blah blah

      1. the iPad’s an iToy, deal with it

  4. i’m predicting a very lukewarm success, somewhere between an AppleTV & Mac (nowhere close to an iPhone).

    after the device has been out a few months we will finally stop hearing about it, just like AppleTV. the problem this device is going to have is alot of people who buy V1 wont buy a V2, because they use it so little it will be hard to justify.

  5. I’ve used true slate tablet PC’s – the Fujitsu ST5112 at the moment, but Motion Computing M1400, M1200, and the original PaceBlade units prior to the ST5112 – for years.

    I’m on the road constantly and use Starbucks as my remote offices. Even in such public places, I’ve never been asked about my slate machines…until last week. Over the last week, I’ve been asked four times how I like the iPad. One man demanded that I let him “test-drive” the machine and became belligerent when I refused.

    If market awareness is a key to product success, the iPad is going to be huge.

    1. ipad frenzy? scary.

      1. sorry, but thats bs and you know it

  6. It’s true that the blind power Apple has over many mainstream consumers will increase the sales of a product that they perhaps wouldn’t have even wanted to begin with. However, I am quite amazed with the overall lack of enthusiasm for the iPad with many who fall into this demograph. Yes, many, non-techy types have heard all about it already. But so many havve told me they think it’s worthless and they’d rather just use their iPhones. Yes, the iPad seems a good price point. Yes, it’s really good for what it’s good for. But the price point for simply hopping online, playing a few games, and running some limited applications is just too high. This is what I get from non-techy, mainstream types. Those who are either gaga over Apple or who fall easy victoms of advertisement want it, I found. But they seem blind to what it really is or isn’t for. One such person told me they wanted it for school – taking notes, research, etc. We all know it’s highly unequipped for such tasks, and the user will still want a full computer with them during classes.

    This is unfortunate for Apple and the future of the iPad, as many consumers will buy it with high expectations but be quickly dissapointed. As I said before, Apple came out with a ‘new’ device class. They should have come out with a new OS platform tailored specifically for this class along with it. Bad move. As I said before as well, wait for the “second gen.” ;)

  7. I’m still staggered by the bile and rage that are evident in so many comments on this device. ‘Cirrob’ being a case in point. It’s only a gadget and yet to even suggest buying one immediately means to others that you are a Jobs worshiping cultist!

    Anyway, you put it very well James. This is an ‘appliance’ that will cost as low as $499 that will be great for trips. If you need more utility then take your laptop or Windows tablet instead. However, for a fun, instant on device that will appeal to the masses, I think the iPad, for all its ‘faults’ will be a very popular, and as you said, fun device.

  8. “Without the tablet I had to find a place to sit down, pull out the notebook, turn on the 3G modem, do my quick online work and then put it all back in the bag. Many times I felt it was not worth the effort and blew it off. A tablet would have changed all that, as I could have simply pulled it out of the bag, jumped online, and then put it back when done.”

    You mean you would actually stand in public using one of these things?

    1. “You mean you would actually stand in public using one of these things?”

      I’ve done so many times. It’s quite easy to do.

  9. turn.self.off Sunday, February 7, 2010

    i am surprised anyone could confuse a kindle and a ipad.

    tho i guess it shows the power of marketing. and maybe the amount of press apple gets when jobs farts, if the double page newspaper spread on the ipad that chippy found in a german newspaper is a good example.

  10. Of course you can find circumstances in which a slate tablet is better than a phone or a notebook. But some important questions are:
    1. Is a locked-down tablet where you can only install approved programs better than a tablet with a more open environment?
    2. Is a tablet with multitouch and no pen better than a tablet with a pen, or a tablet with a pen and multitouch?
    3. Does a tablet that can’t be docked to a big screen and a mouse meet your needs?
    4. Does a tablet without a camera meet your needs?

    Apple has moved the ball forward with the iPad by using their vertical control to make a thin slate. But for many people the choices they made on the questions above will not be the best ones, and Apple or others will do better after iPad 1.0.

Comments have been disabled for this post