Even a technophile like me wants to just sit back and be a "regular person" once in a while; to sit back with a book, do some reading on the web, or watch a movie on the couch. The iPad doesn't have to have shell access to be an incredibly useful device for technophiles either. There are SSH programs for the iPhone; there will be similarly useful utilities built for the iPad too.
Even for the non-technophiles, there's a tremendous amount of value in such a device.
Last year my parents were moving out of their home into a smaller, elderly apartment. They found an old HP iPaq I apparently left behind in a box years ago. They called me asking if it would allow them to browse the web sort of like an iPhone, but from the couch. My response was "sort of, but not really". Their response was quite dejected. They really hoping it would've allowed them to browse on the couch.
We've been down the netbook idea road before, and the laptop road, but the solution ended up being an iMac. My father (in his 60s) has terrible eyesight, so a large display was great. Time Machine was also the "killer app" for them -- they hated making backups before, but my father begrudgingly made some every few months (I used to do it for them during holiday visits).
iPad though? Exactly what they want. Especially my Mom who is a bona-fide technophobe. She's still "afraid" of computers, fearing she'll "mess it up". The iPad is perfect for 95% of what she does. The only thing she still has to use the iMac for is a few games (which could be re-bought for the iPad or her Nintendo DS), and for scanning in the family photo albums. Instant on. On the couch. No keyboard. Nothing to "mess up". Access to all the computer's media (especially if there's AppleTV like streaming from their iTunes library).
As articles have mentioned, this is the perfect computer for the family technophobe. Or for replacing that old laptop you had around that you were considering replacing with a netbook for casual-couch-computing -- so they can futz around on Facebook or do a quick email or look up a quick thing while they watch TV or have a spare moment.
I need to use one before making up my mind, but today I use a Macbook Pro as my production device (code, music production, presentations, other high volume content creation) and an iPhone for mobile communication and very casual short bursts of consumption. What's missing is a pure casual consumption and occasional production device. This fits in quite well. Netbooks are just not the right form factor for many of those tasks.
I agree. I use my computer all the time for dev work. I want an ipad to do all of the other things I use my computer for - email, web surfing, watching videos, so I can do them on the go, or from the comfort of my couch and not at my desk.
The "getting out the laptop" overhead is a killer for me. I will often go an entire weekend at home (when I have work needing to be done, etc) without switching from iPhone to laptop because I just couldn't be bothered getting out the laptop and firing it up. To be fair though, part of that's probably because my laptop is 5-6 years old, standby doesn't work and the battery life is average.
There are a lot of times when I need to SEE my email without composing email. I read a lot more email than I reply to, or I will need to see something but won't need to respond immediately, or I will log into email to get tracking info for packages, etc. I wouldn't use it for email all the time, of course. I'm not going to write a novel on the thing. That is rather impractical. But for accessing email when I'm away from the desk, it would be better than, say, an iphone, and less cumbersome than a laptop.
The idea of typing shell commands on a touchpad makes me cringe...do people really do this?
Yeah. Not for day-to-day work, mind, but if I am on-call say, this is the difference between being able to go out in the evening and just check something quickly if I have to, or restart sommething, or lugging a laptop around and needing to find some space to set it down, connect the 3G dongle, log in, blah blah, all that business takes longer than actually fixing whatever's gone wrong sometimes! I am really looking forward to the iPad, it will be liberating.
Actually, it depends a bit on the user. The back lit screen for reading is one of the things I'm most excited about. I just can't see digital paper technologies like the Kindle... they just don't have enough contrast.
A back lit screen might not be great for reading on a sunny day, but for someone like myself, who has had to give up reading actual paper books because I can no longer see them, and is stuck reading only eBooks where I can have a back light and enlarged font, the iPad is exciting. Finally, I'll be able to relax on the couch again and read comfortably, rather than having to sit at my desk.
I do realize I'm in the minority when compared to the overall consumer market, but there are a lot of visually impaired users who would actually benefit from the back light.