About a decade ago Mike Andrawes and I kept hoping someone would come out with a device that would make surfing the web on the couch easier than it was. Mike took the notebook route. He kept buying (or stealing from me) notebooks that were cooler, thinner and lighter while still being a notebook, for the purpose of browsing the web.

I took a more extreme route. I tried ultraportables. I bought a Sony PictureBook. It had a Transmeta Crusoe processor in it, which was horribly slow but gave me the form factor and battery life I craved. I put up with a ridiculously impractical screen just to get something small to browse the web and do work on.

Matthew Witheiler, another AnandTech veteran took a different path. He embraced the tablet PC. Matt became our Tablet PC reviewer on AnandTech as he searched for the perfect device. Unfortunately, he never found it.

None of us did. Today we all went back to the tried and true device: the notebook. The iPhone came along and gave us a revolution in the smartphone space. Ultimately it and the devices that followed just complemented our notebooks - sometimes with a new level of frustration as we were now at the mercy of wireless carriers and ridiculously slow SoCs.

The smartphone revolution gave us some great devices

History likes to repeat itself, and that’s what we’ve seen happen over the past two years. The introduction of the netbook brought the journey full circle. People wanted a cheap, light, portable web surfing and light work device - the netbook did just that.

The keyboard and screen issues have been mostly solved. Performance still sucks and part of that is due to the fact that there are no good netbook OSes that are optimized for the level of performance a 1.6GHz Atom can deliver. Most OEMs ship some variant of Windows on these devices, and with less than 2GB of memory and a single-core in-order CPU, that’s just too much to be fast.

Back to ultraportables again

There’s also the issue of storage. Netbooks desperately need solid state storage, but a single 2.5” SSD is often over half the price of a netbook itself. Pair up a slow CPU with not enough memory and a really slow hard drive and it’s not a good combination.

Microsoft, Intel and Apple have all taught me one very important lesson over the past 13 years: if you’re going after a new usage model, you need new technology to tackle it. For Microsoft and Apple that meant a new UI with Media Center and the iPhone. For Intel it meant a brand new microarchitecture optimized for power efficiency. First with Banias (Pentium M/Centrino) and then with Atom.

Netbooks, and to a greater extent tablets, eReaders and smartbooks, are going after new usage models. These aren’t notebook replacements, they are a new category of device designed for a different usage model. The one thing they’ve all been missing is the perfect combination of hardware and software to deliver the whole package.

The one thing Apple prides itself on is doing just that. As one of very few one-stop hardware/software makers, it has the ability to tightly couple UI with physical design. We saw it manifest in its greatest way with the iPhone, and now Apple (or perhaps the media covering Apple) is attempting to recreate the magic with the iPad.

The final frontier?

The device doesn’t ship for another 60 days, but there’s a lot to talk about based on today’s introduction alone.

The Basics
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  • SoCalBoomer - Friday, January 29, 2010 - link

    Thank you.
  • jamesadames12 - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 - link

  • jamesadames12 - Thursday, February 18, 2010 - link

  • nswprop - Thursday, April 1, 2010 - link

    Its milking time for Apple to milk its fan-boys! No matter how much the IPAD sucks by having SOOO many limitations, fan-boys will still buy into the IPAD hype! By the truck load. It can't do lots of basic things that a Netbook can do, so there is no point for me to get one just because of its look. 1st Gen is always for milking! People wake up! Wait for the next Gen for better processor, RAM,camera, etc.

    Besides better hardware, another thing to get me to join in and get milked is when Apple makes its product 'Multitask-able', so I am really looking forward for the next update on the software side to enable multitask.

    Ya, ok, ok, I am an Apple Fan-boy who absolutely hated Iphone and Ipad for not able to do Multitasking natively..I mean without having to jailbreak it. Now I said it!! And I am so disappointed when I first hear about the spec of the IPAD, I mean..its just an over-sized IPOD!! Come on people!! But hey, its the first gen, so its just here to milk, and the real IPAD will come a year or two later.
  • shara4you - Sunday, November 7, 2010 - link

    A, I am unsure of the name. The first thing that came to me was that it is VERY close to iPod… and is that a good idea to create a product that sounds very similar to such a masterpiece as the iPod? I am not sure.
    Use<a href="http://www.dvdipad.org">dvd to ipad converter</a></a> to put your favorite dvd collection to ipad MP4

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