Amy Nelson, Associate Writer
To buy or not to buy--that is the question, isn't it? Today finally marks the long-awaited release of Apple's new iPad, a new version of computer called a tablet. There are many who would wait in line for hours for any product bearing the coveted Apple brand, but this time there was little reason to do this with preorders having been available for several months. Although hundreds of thousands were pre-ordered for shipment or pickup today, there were still hundreds of fans waiting in lines at various stores throughout the country (today's release was US only).
Now that the iPad has gone from hype to reality, savvy consumers are wondering whether it is worth the purchase. This is a versatile product that does many different things, but it doesn't do all of them well. With no USB port or keyboard included (attachable keyboards will be available) this is obviously not a product that could replace your everyday computer. With it's 9.7 inch screen, it doesn't replace your iPhone for portability either. A dock might be available to use the iPad as a monitor, but with no camera it would be a hard sell for Skype users. At $499 a piece for the bare bones model, even with all the accessories available, one is left to wonder why they shouldn't just take the $500 and invest in a netbook, or even a budget laptop.
Although its shortcomings are many--and much discussed--the iPad does have a lot to offer certain consumers. While it might not put a huge dent in the netbook market, it is likely to find a niche. One market that is excited about the iPad are eBook users. The idea of eBooks is an efficient one: take all those big books and condense them into a single portable device. The drawback, though, has been small screen size. With its 9.7 inch screen, the iPad offers a larger screen size, but is still more portable than a netbook or laptop.
Another area that the iPad excels in are the iPhone apps. Portable gaming has always been a hot market, and sales of iPhone apps are steady, with new apps being released almost constantly. Some of the interactive games are almost addictive, and the chance to play against your friends and yourself on a larger screen is a big draw for many.
So should you buy the iPad? That depends greatly on your usage patterns. If you are a heavy Internet user who likes to use several apps at the same time, a person who is looking for a single device for all your computing needs, or just someone who loves Flask--then the iPad is probably not for you. But if you are looking for a handy little media player with good features for its size, and you don't mind the hefty price tag, then the iPad is for you. With many stores predicting end-of-day sellouts, better get in line!