IPad: the view from a non-techie

by Patricia Sellers

The man of the moment, Philip Elmer-DeWitt, stopped by this morning editor’s meeting at Fortune to demo the iPad.

Last time we gathered for a big-deal Apple demo was 2007, when Steve Jobs came by to give us a pre-launch peek of the iPhone. He sat next to me that day, and it was insanely great. Today, having Phil — an “Apple-holic,” as Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer calls this pro who has written about Jobs since 1982 — show us the iPad was cool enough.

And the iPad? Not insanely great, but great enough.

Yes, it’s like a bigger iPod Touch. But don’t knock that. As an iPod Touch owner since the first version came out in September ’07, I’ve longed for a larger device.

And yes, the iPad is heavier than we would like. At 1.5 pounds, vs. the Amazon Kindle’s 10.2 ounces, it’s not easy to cradle with one hand. (But I’m working on my biceps — seriously.) Once we start reading books and magazines (like Time, which has a top-selling app) on the iPad, the black-and-white Kindle will seem prehistoric.

And forget about writing the great American novel on the iPad. In “Do We Need the iPad?” part of this week’s Time cover package on the Apple launch and Jobs, writer Lev Grossman likens using the iPad’s virtual keyboard to “typing with frostbite.” He goes on to say about the iPad: “While it’s a lovely device for consuming content, it doesn’t do much to facilitate its creation…The iPad shifts the emphasis from creating content to merely absorbing and manipulating it. It mutes you, turns you back into a passive consumer of other people’s masterpieces.”

Good for those media bosses — like mine at Time Warner — who want content to be king, but for us?

I’m going to buy an iPad anyway. And when I do, I plan to unload my HP netbook on some friend who is even less of a techie than I.

But I’ll resist buying an iPad until the 3G version arrives. Wireless Internet access seems worth waiting for. And if history plays out, lots of other people will wait too. After Apple disclosed this morning that it sold 300,000 iPads on Saturday, Elmer-Dewitt suggested that this is a sliver of the real demand. As he notes, the original iPhone took 74 days to reach one million units in sales — and then the iPhone 3G and 3Gs sold a million units in three days.

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