After some contemplation my take on the iPad is that it's like a sportscar - nobody needs a sports car but I'd love one. I can't stomach the thought of sinking big dollars into one of Stuggart's finest (how is it that a design launched in 1963 can keep being 'refreshed' and maintaining its sense of eternal youth - I am a 1964 model and I'm well past looking youthful - I digress ... hmm new family motto, should it displace 'death before disco?")
Back to the iPad - yes I will buy one, because I want one and thanks to the wisdom and smarts of Apple the price is very keen and affordable. (unlike their arrogance and stupidity in the late 80s when they insisted on selling a Mac for $7K against IBM branded PCs for $4.5K - they learnt that lesson when Windows 3.1 proved to be a game changer).
The iPad is not flawless and it won't do everything that everyone wants - what device does? But as a media viewer it delivers.
I've been an iPhone user for about 18 months now (on my second - the first one didn't swim). I was sceptical when I was issued one by my employer (I actually needed a bit of encouragement). Now I am hooked and would feel lost without it (new TomTom app helps a great deal with the not getting lost part - again not perfect but smarter than a Melways - our local street directory).
I do couchsurf using the iPhone on WiFi - to check my email, to get the backstory on characters or shows on TV, or pursue infoquests while also keeping one eye on TV. Rarely is there TV content which is sufficiently gripping to hold 100% of my attention - Top Gear and Blood in the Wire are two that do.
With an iPad I'd couchsurf more effectively on a much larger screen, so that alone is attractive.
I do like to think of myself as a rational consumer (who am I kidding - we're all hostage to our emotions) so to maintain that delusion I've set out below some costs of iPad vs traditional media.
The Age (Melbourne) - 7days/week - $416
The Australian Financial Review - 6 days/week - $899
Business Review Weekly - weekly - $235
Total cost per year = $1550
I'd be well informed but really would be drowning in paper and info (too much info on too many stories I don't necessarily need to know about).
iPad cost - ~A$600 861(Apple haven't published prices but this a guesstimate based on the 37% price difference between iPod Touch 64GB in US vs Australia)
BusinessSpectator.com.au - free
Wikipedia - free
Eureka Report $330
ISP 5GB Wireless data plan $40/month
Total cost per year (assuming iPad 3G life of 3 years) = $1100
Clearly this is biased to how I see the news and reflects my interest - your own comparison will be different. I prefer the smarts of Eureka Report than having to sort the signal from the noise using a traditional finance paper like the Australian Financial Review. We're not quite at the Information Agent stage but The Eureka Report provide a great service in boiling down to just the key info that independent investors are interested in.
In my view I will have a better, more current, interactive news and info experience via iPad than relying on paper.
I don't want The Age to fail - it is a venerable institution which still delivers quality journalism but their 'product' doesn't work for me, and I won't for the sake of tradition just subscribe.
The IPad is fully costed with mobile data access such as the one offered by Internode as a SIM for their recently launched MiFi. I won't need this as I will happily use my WiFi network at home (a cost I am already incurring) but for a daily commuter the data access makes sense. Now you can read on the train to/from work without the broadsheet shuffle (folding a broadsheet newspaper for efficient reading on the train will soon be a lost skill)
So there you have it - a rational argument for buying an iPad - for $305/year you can subscribe to The Age (Mon-Fri) to enjoy on the train/tram/bus to work. OR for ~$770/year (iPad with 3G over 3 years + $40/month mobile data plan) you can enjoy the entire World Wide Web (minus the bits that need Flash) on your daily commute. You may even manage to smite some of your email overload to boot. Yes the iPad combo is over twice the price of The Age but it's infinitely more useful and delivers more current content.
Game over for printed newspapers. A win for the iPad concept - Apple will certainly be a leader in this space but expect to see some fast followers and innovators who will give Apple a run for their money. I just hope in this transition we don't lose quality journalism - the online publishing house behind Business Spectator and Eureka Report (and Crikey) are showing quality journalism can thrive online.
PS In my exuberance I neglected to choose the price of the 3G enabled model - now corrected.