The iPad is a first-generation product, and will likely advance significantly, as the iPhone did, over the next two or more generations. That is a fact of life, and no real reason to delay buying something. But there is a chance a different device might fit your needs better than the iPad does as this market matures. That certainly is still the case with the iPhone for most of us. Let’s look at four products that should be in market the same time the iPad is, and walk through what makes each better in some way than the iPad initially, or ever, will be.
Before we start, I think we should refresh on what the iPad is. I’m going to pick the configuration I think is best. That is the 32GB model at $729 with the $30 per month unlimited data plan (some think these prices will need to change). This gives a benchmark cost of around $1,450 over two years, with data. First-generation shortcomings are a lack of multi-tasking (limits productivity work), LCD screen (not great for reading particularly outdoors), 4:3 rather than 16:9 screen, no phone features, AT&T data network only, limited ports, limited memory, and a lack of initial iPad-size applications. Recall that the first-generation iPhone was very limited, and initially widely panned, but eventually successful. Many of these shortcomings will be corrected or otherwise addressed in the next two product generations.
Now let’s look at some contenders.
The Kindle should continue to have an advantage with reading, particularly outside. It remains cheaper, as the total price includes lifetime wireless connectivity, and the books, for a time, may be cheaper as well. This last is already changing as book publishers shift to Apple’s model, causing book prices to increase (at least for new, popular titles). The positive to this is books we couldn’t previously get on the Kindle are now showing up; The negative is they are about $5 more expensive. Strangely enough, right now, I just want the book, and it hasn’t sunk in that I’ll likely be paying $5 more now for books I would have paid $9.99 for earlier. The Kindle won’t replace your iPhone or laptop, but then neither will the first-generation iPad. Note that the Kindle should get an update before year’s end that should close the functional gap with the iPad; you may want to wait for it. Price is currently $259 for the small one or $489 for the big one. When you factor in data costs, the Kindle is effectively $1,200 cheaper than the iPad over 2 years. (So for folks on a budget…)
If you want to actually have the possibility of leaving your Windows laptop at home, the HP Tablet will be better. It should have a dual-core processor and multi-tasking will be turned on (important for a productivity product). You’ll likely give up some battery life – likely about half. The tablet is estimated to cost about $600. Adding $60 a month for two years of data puts total cost at $2,040, but this configuration should do all of what the iPad does, plus Microsoft Office and the full suite of Windows applications. It will also run the better Blio reader (which should also run on the iPad), or the Kindle Reader (already on the iPhone) software as well (so if you currently use a Kindle you can migrate to this). However, it will have the same indoor-only reading shortcomings that the iPad has. It’s basically a netbook in slate form.