Apple iPad, mobile device ruminations

The Apple iPad, announced today
I just finished following various live blogs of the Apple iPad unveiling event at Yerba Buena (which is almost literally across the street from me). Regardless of your level of Apple fandom, the iPad is a groundbreaking product. There have been quite a few attempts at tablet devices in the past, but no one has ever put so much thought into usability and infrastructure.

I am a mobile device junkie, and have been long juggling Blackberry, iPhone, Droid, Kindle, Mifi and satellite phone in an attempt to find a solution that works best for me. I realize that I am not a typical user; I am always online, but I spend about half of each year out of the country in areas with poor connectivity. This instantly makes any device without an optimized, compressed wireless network nearly useless when I'm in the field (e.g. iPhone, Droid). Even if wireless networks were up to speed, the cost of international use would be outrageous. I took my iPhone to India a couple of years ago and chewed through my 50MB of allocated monthly data in a matter of days. A friend on a trip to Mexico last week went through his 50MB in 7 days -- and that was with light usage during the day, plus a WiFi connection at night. So I stick with my Blackberry Tour and its fixed-cost, unlimited international data plan. It is the best of both worlds: Verizon CDMA in San Francisco (the only working network here) and CDMA / GSM / EDGE / 3G when I'm out of the country. Unfortunately, the Tour has a slow processor, which means > 5 minute hard reset times and frequent multi-second lockups, but there are no other options and I remain productive while using it. The trusty little Tour downloads 200 messages in a minute on EDGE while I drift by small Indonesia villages. Meanwhile, the iPhone can barely finish negotiating an IMAP connection, and the Droid is hopeless because it's on CDMA.

In a protest against AT&T's crappy network, I sold my iPhone and switched to Droid on Verizon. I like the potential of Android, but I'm finding that I only use the Droid as a fancy video player and alarm clock when I'm on the road. Because I don't have time to watch TV or movies when I'm at home, most of my reading and video consumption happens from the comfort of tiny cabins on dive vessels. I read books on the Kindle because there is no Kindle app on the Droid and because I only need to charge the thing once a month. The Kindle app is the one thing I miss the most about the iPhone.

I think the iPad will change things, though. Its display is large enough for comfortable book reading and video viewing. It can be held easily while on the airplane and in situations where a notebook computer would be unwieldy. It will have more light-weight apps than one could ever hope for, is compatible with the iPhone apps I already own, and can beautifully display my photography and video portfolio.

I'm thinking that it will replace the iPhone / Android device in my lineup, as well as the Kindle. I'll finally have one phone, one notebook computer, and an "in-between" device: Blackberry, iPad and MacBook Pro (plus MiFi). Now if I could only coax my Blackberry into creating a WiFi cloud...