How the iPad May Change Computers Forever

iPad enthusiasts say it will change computing forever. Critics say the iPad is overpriced for what you get.
Like it or not, there's no way to ignore the iPad, from the cover of news magazines such as Newsweek to the late night comedians. David Letterman recently asked in his Top Ten list, "Number 10, what the hell is it?"

A day before it goes on sale, that remains the question. What exactly does iPad do?

As Steven Colbert said on "The Colbert Report" Thursday, "You can shield your eyes from the sun…and just look how quickly it makes delicious salsa."

What iPad does, perhaps, is change everything, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone.

"The iPad is like the Beatles of 2010," says Wired magazine senior writer Steven Levy. "It takes something that we thought we knew and makes it seem fresh."

Levy says the brilliance of the iPad is that it makes the computer disappear. "You don't think computer when you use it. You just do the task you want to do."

Want to read a book? The iPad becomes a book. Want to read a newspaper? The iPad becomes a newspaper. It can be a game board or even a movie screen with the touch of a finger.

The appeal of that has already been noted by other computer makers who are now rushing to get their own tablet computers to market-- just the way apple's iphone started a flood of other smart phones, the ipad will do the same.

And the act of touching something changes the experience.

"It's inherently intuitive to use your fingers," says technology analyst Larry Magid.

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It may be what apple has been working toward for decades, reports Blackstone. In the beginning computers were complex. You almost needed a programmer's skill to make them work.

Then along came Apple with machines that seemed designed for anybody to use. In a remarkable interview from 1981 a young Steve Jobs told a skeptical CBS News correspondent why the computer he's built will catch on.

"It's just going to be very gradual and very human and will seduce you into learning how to use it," said Jobs.

He was right. We've learned how to use computers and now he's selling one that doesn't seem to be a computer at all, and that may open doors as yet unknown.

"The thing about technology is that the most exciting applications are probably the ones that nobody has yet imagined," says Magid. "Technology opens up the doors for creativity."

For all the hype, it's what happens at the Apple store that counts, reports Blackstone. While there's certain to be a crowd Saturday when the iPad goes on sale, the response to the iPad in the weeks and months ahead is what will determine whether it changes the face of computing.

Also, check out other reviews of the iPad:

USA Today: Verdict is in on Apple iPad: It's a winner
The first iPad is a winner. It stacks up as a formidable electronic-reader rival for Amazon's Kindle. It gives portable game machines from Nintendo and Sony a run for their money. At the very least, the iPad will likely drum up mass-market interest in tablet computing in ways that longtime tablet visionary and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates could only dream of.

NY Times: Looking at the iPad from Two Angles
Pogue contends that the techies prefer a conventional laptop, but the non-techies will adore it.

"The bottom line is that the iPad has been designed and built by a bunch of perfectionists. If you like the concept, you'll love the machine."

WSJ: Laptop Killer? Pretty Close
"After spending hours and hours with it, I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop. It could even help, eventually, to propel the finger-driven, multitouch user interface ahead of the mouse-driven interface that has prevailed for decades."

PC Magazine: Apple iPad (Wi-Fi)
"Aside from Apple enthusiasts, many of us wondered who would drop hundreds of dollars for this not-quite-computer. But having used the iPad for some time, I can tell you that the device just makes sense. When you combine basic-but-essential work tools with iWork, an improved browser, e-mail, iPod, and photo applications, a well-executed e-Book platform with iBooks, and throw in thousands of downloadable apps and games, and package it all in a gorgeous, slim slate with a beautiful 9.7-inch touch screen, you have yourself a winner."

For more on the iPad, click on the video demo below:

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  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.