I followed yesterday's Apple event live like everyone else, and I was very impressed, but also underwhelmed, and a little troubled.
First the positives: it's a beautifully designed device, apparently feels very sturdy, fun to use. It's clearly a Kindle killer, with its super-sharp resolution, ePub book support plus the existing Kindle-iPhone app. It's fast, the apps demonstrated are great, it's a great device for sitting on a couch or bed.
But in the end, it's really just a big iPhone. There was no revolutionary interface as expected, just more context menus added into the new real estate. The keyboard was supposed to have some kind of tactile feedback. It still doesn't multitask - a limitation I can't understand, since multitasking is so basic to the way I use computers and my Droid. This could have been an amazing videoconferencing device, but it doesn't have a camera.
And I'm troubled by the lack of open standards. Google has been pushing for a browser-centric digital experience: open standards, allowing common experiences across multiple platforms and devices. Special interface features like multitouch, gestures, and location could be built into this open web (and Google is promoting that approach).
But Apple's taking it in the opposite direction: the interface is proprietary and closed-source, and revolutionary UIs need apps filtered through their closed App Store. Sports Illustrated can have its 21st century experience, but it'll only work on the iPad. Competing tablets will need their own special versions, and content distribution will become fragmented.
I understand Apple's business logic: for years, they kept their hardware and software tightly coupled and were criticized for not opening up the way Microsoft did. This coupling made even more sense with the iPhone, where device-specific functionality - touch, GPS, lack of multitasking, etc - made device-specific development a reasonable approach. And now with the iPad, if you want the new all-in-one experience, not available anywhere else, you have to buy their product (and Microsoft is looking increasingly obsolete).
But the advantages of closed-app over open-browser don't need to apply to tablets. The iPhone and its progeny popularized functionality not found on regular computers (touch, GPS, phone, lack of multitasking, etc), so it made sense for developers to target each device's unique capabilities. But tablets are in a space in between laptops and smartphones, so Apple had a choice: They could have decided to build on (and enhance) existing web standards to achieve the same interface experience, or enlarge the walled garden of iTunes/AppStore and contribute nothing to the open web. Rather than think of phones and tablets as new types of computers, they chose to make the future of computers more like phones. I think that's a mistake.
I'd like to see Android-based tablets (or laptops with touch screens) that derive revolutionary uses from open standards. Then Apple (or someone else) can add iPad support for those standards, content creators will be dissuaded from building platform-specific experiences, and we'll all be better off.
For now, I'm perfectly happy with my Kindle for most books, my Droid is great for mobile computing, and my MacBook is great for everything else - so an iPad isn't on my wish list just yet. I also think Android's open approach is inherently more beneficial to technological advancement, so while I love the design and innovation of Apple products, I'm still much more of a Google fan at heart.