In the build-up to the iPad's release last April, Apple, the media and just about everyone else set their expectations pretty high, with claims that the tablet would change everything. It was never possible that the 3G-enabled tablet was going to make the laptop computer obsolete, save the publishing world, upend traditional marketing and buy everyone a Coke like the evangelizers claimed.
But almost a year later, it's hard not to be impressed by the iPad's accomplishments. It became the fastest-selling digital device in history; magazines and newspapers are slowly but surely redesigning themselves for a tablet-based world; and marketers have adopted the machine as fast as their industry will allow.
"Tablets are a real market that only Apple could have validated," says Eric Lai, mobile blogger for ZDNet. "A flood of Android tablets and RIM PlayBooks will follow, but it's all due to Apple's trailblazing. The iPad has really lived up to its hype--and more."
Advertisers are impressed, too. According to a survey last November by Nielsen, iPad users are nearly twice as likely to respond to online ads--as long as the ads are new, interesting and use the unique capabilities of the iPad.
The market for the iPad and similar devices and, consequently, their ability to reach consumers, seems set for exponential growth, especially as universities, large businesses and government agencies begin figuring out how to use the tablets in their daily routines.
"Apple just knows how to cater to the technophile early-adopting consumer," Lai says.
"And now that the balance of power has shifted away from the IT department toward the end user, these consumers are forcing enterprises to support and deploy iPads."
Jason Daley lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin. His work regularly appears in Popular Science, Outside and other magazines.