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In Praise of Apple's iPad (the First One)

In Praise of Apple's iPad (the First One)
Photograph by Scott Eells/Bloomberg

On this, the momentous debut day of Apple’s new iPad, it’s time to reflect on another tablet that hit the market two years ago and, in some respects, is just as flashy and functional as the new ballyhooed version. It’s got the same size screen, about the same 1.5 lb. weight, runs the same operating system, and the same apps. It has no camera, and its processor is a little pokier, but really, if we’re honest, it does most of what you want in a tablet—and does it well. I’m talking of course about the original iPad.

The first iPad embodies something rare in technology gadgets: a pioneering product that got it pretty much right. Think about how unusual that is, even for Apple. The first iterations of most consumer electronics, and particularly the first entries in entire new product categories, tend to be buggy affairs that are quickly made obsolete. The first iPod music player, released in October 2001, was a big, boxy thing—it seemed to take design cues from a pack of playing cards. And just a few years later, Apple’s original iPod looked positively Jurassic by the standards of its new models, like the Mini. Same with those original candy-colored iMacs in the late 1990s. If you want a contemporary example of a semifinished flagship product, look no further than Amazon’s Kindle Fire, whose software and touch screen seem to have been rushed out the door.