Apple just announced their new tablet computer iPad (see the New York Times’ B.I.T.S. blog for coverage from the event).
My first impression based on what I saw and read there: not impressed. Sure, it is a beautifully looking device and probably a fine piece of industrial engineering (as are all of Apple’s products), but at the end of the day it’s just an iPod touch with a bigger screen.
With its 9.7 inch screen, just like similarly sized netbooks, it occupies a weird niche: too big to carry on you at all times and too small to get any real work done. I can’t really come up with a use case that such a kind of device would be ideally suited for and that would justify spending $500+. For my on-the-go computing needs, something like the iPhone or – for a Windows guy like me – the HTC HD2 works great. And if I want to watch movies, organize photos or do some work in Excel, I am better off with a small laptop, something light-weight in the 13 to 15 inch category. At least I can put such as device on my lap or table and don’t have to hold it in my hands all the time, as one would have to do with a slate type device like the iPad. The iPad might be nice as an advanced eBook reader, but that’s all I can think of at the moment.
I think if there was one device to fill the niche between smartphone and small laptop, it would be the Microsoft Courier. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to finally write about it, because my urge to tell the world how great this device is, was what made me start this blog when I first came across a video of the Courier last September. This booklet style computer is something I could certainly picture myself carrying in addition to a smartphone. My new Scott eVest Quantum Jacket already has the perfect pocket for it. On this device Microsoft uses the form factor with the dual-screen and the fold in the middle in really innovative ways to create a great computing experience. You really have to check out the video and pictures, though, to see what I mean.
Presumably, the Courier will ship in “mid 2010” (ZDNet via Gizmodo) so I might not have to wait for too long to own one of them. That is, unless Microsoft decides to do it the Zune way and not offer them in Europe. Let’s hope they have come to their senses and they won’t deprive the rest of the world of the most wonderful piece of hardware ever to come out of Microsoft.