...and yet, there's nothing new.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still excited to see this happen, but for probably a different reason from a lot of other people.
I was an iPod holdout for the longest time, my longest-serving and most awesome MP3 player was the iRiver H120. I loved that device. It had a real-life remote control, tactile, that I could use with one hand without having to look at it. It had a decent (for the time) 20GB of storage, and it was reasonably priced.
However, it would never have existed without the iPod.
Similarly (and I know I'm biased here), anyone who used webmail before April 1, 2004 (the launch of GMail), was used to having 10MB of storage, or less. Now, the idea of using 10MB of storage, or paying for 250MB (as you could with Yahoo Mail) is laughable. Now Hotmail offers 5GB, 500 times as much storage as they used to.
However, it wouldn't have happened without GMail.
If you needed another example, check out pricing for 3G data in both Europe and the US. 5 years ago. I remember being quoted ludicrous charges per KB, or if you were a large enterprise, you could get 1GB of data for maybe 50 euro on top of your existing plan. Cue the iPhone -- people's demand for 3G bandwidth skyrockets, prices come down. Suddenly producing a smartphone is a lot more lucrative because your average joe has one.
Wouldn't have happened without the iPhone. See what I'm getting at?
These companies and products are doing what you might call 'writing on the wall'. So everyone else can see it. It is now okay to produce tablets, for people who don't particularly want a laptop. Laptops still exist because they originally made them in that form factor because the parts inside were annoying.
So, I won't be buying an iPad, for a couple of reasons. One, Apple have gone way overboard gouging for money. No iChat, so you have to use SMS and keep Apple's carrier partners happy. Their own book store, when the iPhone kindle app works fine (I'd be interested to see if it keeps working or gets a hi-res version).
Their stuff in general is lowest common denominator consumer stuff, not necessarily ground-breaking in terms of function. Don't get me wrong, I own a 64GB iPod Touch, and it's very, very nice. However, as regards innovation in function or tech? No, not really.
Perhaps their biggest contribution to the progress of tech is to make smaller components cheaper and more cost-effective to make, and to make cool tech ubiquitous and in demand. The industry usually follows with genuinely good tech (like the iRiver), and we all step up, because we see the writing on the wall.
Tablets, for me, won't become compelling until they become general-purpose home computers. A tablet, for me, will have to do this:
- Dock. With mini-DVI and bluetooth for keyboard maybe (so I can use it as a home computer). We can do this now. I want to be able to throw away my laptop and desktop.
- Fold up, so I don't have to have a giant case for it. Foldable screens are coming.
- Have a non-crippled OS, Like Chrome OS (for a generic internet tablet) or Android (for a proper computer). Hell, I'll even take Linux or Windows if it does what I want and I can write software for it outside a cage.
- Be provider agnostic in all respects. Support any software writable for the platform.
- Multitask. Seriously, Apple. I shouldn't have to even mention this. This is like saying "It should have an on switch".
All this is going to be doable in the next few years. Most of it's doable now, if people bit the bullet and just sold devices, without trying to grab onto you as a customer and not let go, and without trying to strongarm your use case.
Let's just hope the manufacturers and software people with a bit of vision aimed toward letting people do what people want will take the enthusiasm and the place now hopefully carved out in the collective psyche for a tablet make something that's truly revolutionary.