My obligatory post about the whole iPad thing

blue ray player

Did you know that Panasonic sells this really cool portable Blu-ray player you can purchase on Amazon for about $650. It weighs about 8 1/2 lbs and the battery lasts for about 2 1/2 hours and if you throw in a case, you can get the whole set for around $700. If you want to play a Blue-ray version of a classic movie like, say, The Hangover, it will cost you $20, plus shipping (you save $15). But the cool thing about the $650 version (vs. a $100 non-HD DVD player) is that you can watch the Hangover on it by using the internet to download the movie from Amazon for $4 (rental) or $15 (purchase).

Frankly, I have no idea for whom Panasonic makes the $650 DMP-B15 Portable Blu-ray Player. I think, however, if they charged $150 less and knocked 7 lbs. off and added about seven hours of battery life and a way to use it for suring the internet, checking e-mail, downloading and reading ebooks, playing solitaire and instant messaging your friends, it would be a lot cooler Blue-ray player.

Over the weekend, in addition to celebrating Easter and enjoying some beautiful Nashville weather, I spent time playing with my new iPad. (Last week was my birthday, so I felt a little like the quote from a character on the TV show, Modern Family, whose birthday also corresponded with the launch of the iPad: “It’s like Steve Jobs and God got together to say, ‘We love you, Phil.'” )

One of the things I did with my iPad was monitor the reactions to the iPad of many people I respect. In some ways, their reactions were more like an exploration of techno-existentialism in which those who spend their lives developing and pondering the role in our lives of technology and media explained why, or why not, they believe the iPad is worth all the hype it is receiving.

Most of the debate had to do with the way the iPad is not a computer or the way in which it didn’t enable one to do a lot of things we take for granted when using a computer — even a very cheap computer.

None of these smart technologists, however, compared the iPad with the Panasonic DMP-B15 Portable Blu-ray Player.

This thorough Engadget review does a superb job analyzing the iPad, while also explaining the nuanced differences among the device’s proponents and detractors. You have to plow through several thousand words in the review to get to its synopsis, so here’s the cut-to-the-chase quote:

“The buyer of an iPad is one of two people, the first is someone who sees not just the present, but the potential of a product like the iPad… and believes in and is excited about that potential. This is also a person who can afford what amounts to a luxury item. The second is an individual who simply doesn’t need to get that much work done, and would prefer their computing experience to be easier, faster, and simpler. Does that sound like anyone you know?

I am in that first group. I believe the iPad is a continuation of a march to something that is in the future; something where I don’t need a keyboard — or even what we think of today as “a computer” — to access, organize and interact with the content and connections the web and digital technology make available. I have discovered over the past three decades, if I choose to sit out any of these steps along the journey, it takes me longer to process the journey’s next step. (This is why I purchased a Kindle, despite writing on this blog that I believed it was a “transitional” technology.)

By spending time “playing” with the iPad (and, I agree with Dave Winer on this point: today the iPad is primarily a toy) now, I will save valuable time I need later to anticipate how I (and more importantly, my clients) can use the next generation of the devices and technology it portends — the devices and technology with all the openness, cameras, Flash or whatever else makes the iPad imperfect.

The iPad is a remarkable device that does some incredible things that, when compared to a Blue-ray portable DVD player, will blow you away. However, when compared to a computer — even a $200 netbook computer — the features of an iPad can come up short.

However, in the same way the iPad is not a portable movie player (but it portably plays movies rather extraordinarily), it is also not a computer (while it is packed with the most impressive computing technology you can find in a consumer electronics product).

As Engadget says, the iPad is about the potential of the future. And it’s about making certain kinds of non-work things easier, faster and simpler — and fun. That is all. But that’s more than enough for the first generation of any product.

But geez, I can’t believe they didn’t include a camera. What was Steve thinking?