Ok, the dust has had time to settle after Apple's announcement last week of their upcoming iPad device. There has been plenty of praise for the new device and even some criticism. Given the title of this entry, it is clear that I'm here to criticize it.
A New Form Factor?
During his presentation Steve Jobs railed against the Netbook form factor and said they were just cheap, slow laptops. While that might have been true for the first generation of Netbooks, the second generation (with 1.6GHz Atom H/T CPUs) have been quite usable. In fact, I wrote this on one. Intel has followed up with an even more capable Atom processor that is just starting to appear in newer Netbook models. It appears more generations of netbooks are coming: those with the newer Atom CPUs, and those with ARM CPUs. One will speed up the Netbook, and the other will reduce its capabilities and make it cheaper.
I suspect the iPad is what it is because Apple decided it couldn't compete on features and price against the Netbook... so they decided to change the game. I think several of the major PC makers wish the Netbook would be declared a fad and just go away. Why, because there isn't a lot of mark-up on Netbooks and the competition is fierce. Apple wanted a device that would be inexpensive to manufacture yet something in a category where they could do what they always do... price it with a large profit margin. Amazon has done quite well with the Kindle and Apple has done quite well with the iPhone / iPod Touch so why not combine the two?
The sad thing is that Apple has basically delivered a Netbook but by chopping off the keyboard (and all of the I/O ports), giving it a touch screen, and crippling it significantly in several ways, they have everyone convinced that it is a new form factor. This is aided by the fact that it is reminiscent of devices from the Star Trek universe. In writing this article, I hope to expose the iPad for what it really is and stay out of Steve Job's reality distortion field.