Happy birthday, iPad

One year on and our jaws are still dropping


In December 2009, on this very website, I wrote a very silly thing. "There's no way any device, not even an Apple one, can live up to the hype the long-awaited Apple Tablet has generated," I grumbled.


In my defence I was mocking some of the more excitable rumour-mongering (the iPad was still top secret at the time), and unlike some pundits I didn't predict its doom - quite the opposite, in fact; I was banging on about its game-changing potential within 24 hours of the launch - but I don't think anybody, least of all me, realised just what a big deal the iPad would be.

There's a nifty infographic at OnSwipe that sums it up: the average analyst predicted 3.3 million sales, but Apple did 15-odd-million.

There's more to this than Apple's bulging bottom line, though. The iPad has created a whole new category of computing, and some analysts predict that sales of tablets will hit 115 million by 2014. Prior to the iPad, tablet computing was a niche market. Now, tablets are everywhere.

With the Tablet PC it's clear that Microsoft had the right idea but the wrong execution: the hardware was pretty good, but Microsoft approached it on the basis of "how can we add touch to Windows?" rather than "what would Windows be like if it was designed solely for touch?"

To use a Tablet PC, you still needed to know your way around Windows. To use an iPad, you don't need to know anything. That's the secret of its success.

My iPad's a ukelele

By hiding the computer bit of computing, the iPad can be anything you want it to be. My one is a photo frame, a web browser, a typewriter, a games console, a drum machine, a ukelele (no, really), a library, a video player… you get the idea.

And one year on, I'm still amazed by the things developers are coming up with, whether that's jaw-dropping children's ebooks or apps that enable iPads to control high-end recording studios.

What's great about 2011 is that everyone else is joining the tablet party too. Some, like Asus, are coming up with unusual hardware ideas; others, like Notion Ink, are experimenting with display technologies. Developers are working on yet more killer apps to excite and delight us, and of course Apple is working on the iPad 2.

Whether you're Apple's biggest fan or hate the firm, its products and its users with a passion, you've got to give it credit: the iPad kick-started one of the most exciting and creative periods we've seen for a long time.

Steve Jobs said it was "magical" and "revolutionary"; the former was pushing it, but the latter turned out to be something of an understatement.

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