If you've just turned on your computer after suffering through a prolonged blackout, you may be interested to know that Apple chief Steve Jobs recently unveiled the company's latest creation, originally donned the 'iPad'. Rather than bore you with the details here, you can read all about it using this handy link.
I'm here to discuss the new product primarily as a gaming platform, but also as a computing device in general.
The immediate reaction to the unveiling has been one of widespread disappointment and general negativity, however it is perhaps worth remembering that similar doubts were cast over Apple's iPod when it was first revealed to the public, and we all know what a powerhouse of a product that went on to become. Still, the iPad offers an experience which definately presents a number of admittedly glaring issues, particularly in its use as a gaming device and even more so as a general computer.
Focusing on its potential as a gaming platform, the device's central flaw appears to lie with its lack of any real incentive to choose it over any other device as a means through which to get your videogame jollies. While no games have been demonstrated as of yet which have been designed specifically with the iPad in mind, the device has been shown running a number of 'iPad enhanced' games originally found on the iPhone, none of which offer any sensible reason to drop $500-$800 on the larger device to enjoy. Looking at the functionality of various gaming devices in general, we can safely observe that the average consumer looks to handhelds and smart phones for quick, simple, time-killing games and PCs and home consoles for their more developed, sophisticated gaming experiences. A game like the motion-based racing title demonstrated on the iPad at Apple's unveiling event would fit naturally as something you can pull out of your pocket and play. The iPad doesn't offer that ability, but instead ups the size of the device to something you simply wouldn't look to for gaming if you had consoles at home.
The iPhone presented a significant step up in the portability of quality gaming experiences, whereas the iPad presents neither the portability factor of the iPhone's simple gaming affairs nor the sophistication of games found on static gaming devices like PCs and games consoles.
In other words, it sandwiches itself between two kinds of gaming device and, at least at the moment, appears to lack an experience which presents the same advantages as those offered by either of the two devices between which it sits.
If developers get their hands on it and start producing some more fleshed-out games (which appears unlikely given the device's modest specs), the issue of storage naturally crops up. How sophisticated can the games really get when developers know their target market has 16GB storage to play with which must also be used for all of the devices other storage needs such as music, videos, applications and otherwise.
Looking at the device as a personal computer, the same issues crop up. Its 1Ghz processor allows for only one application at a time, meaning it's all but useless for multi-tasking. Rather ironically considering Apple's distaste for netbooks, the device fails to offer many of the features and capabilities that the average netbook can pull off, at a price substantially higher than some of the best devices the netbook market has to offer. The iPad doesn't support flash, meaning most video websites wont run on it (the same goes for online games), and doesn't even offer a USB port unless you're willing to pay extra for an accessory add-on. A cheaper netbook would allow for all of those things and a lot more due to the inherrent flexibility and functionality of the modern computer. And a modern computer the iPad is not.
Again, it places itself as a third-tier device. It's not a portable gaming device and its not a stand-alone games machine. It's not a netbook and it's not an outright computer. It's not capable of, or even designed, to replace any of your current devices from your iPhone to your games console to your PC.
So, if we can achieve a better portable gaming experience with an iPhone, and a better standalone gaming experience with a computer or a console, while further getting a superior stripped-down computer device with a netbook, and a better fully-fledged laptop computer experience with a MacBook or any other laptop, the question must be raised; what exactly is the iPad's appeal? What's it's raison d'etre?
Once again it's up to Apple to answer that question, however i cant help but feel that many of these complaints will be addressed with the inevitable unveiling of the device's new and improved second generation model.