If the iPad isn't a tablet, what is it?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: September 12, 2011

The iPad is not a tablet. Go into any retail store, or visit a retailer's website. What does that specific section of the store (or web store) say? “iPads and Tablets.” That's right, they're even categorized differently by retailers, which is undoubtedly the work of Apple.

Most people would never notice this. In fact, it took months before I actually realized that the two were marketed separately, mainly because it really doesn't matter and because competitors have only recently been picking up the pace. Major retailers had no high-end tablets to place alongside the iPad until about six months ago; therefore, the tiny area beside the computer section was only labeled "iPads."

Apple has never called the iPad a tablet, not on the record anyway. No, they don't want you to think of it as a tablet either. Tablets are what those other companies are making. You know, the ones they are suing because their products are so similar. But if those other companies are making tablets and the iPad isn't a tablet, then why is Apple worried about what tablet manufacturers are doing? I digress. To Apple, the iPad is certainly not a tablet. It has adopted said moniker because there is nothing else out there to explain it; it's simply an iPad, much like the iPod is not a MP3 player.

As Tim Bajarin of PC Mag explains, Apple wants to distance themselves from the rest of the tablet market and what Microsoft marketed as “tablets” years ago. According to Bajarin, Steve Jobs saw the original Windows tablets and thought they were too PC-like and that people would never want them. Long story short, he was right. The idea was ahead of its time. However, we eventually will work back towards that design, or something to that effect, as evidenced by the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer.

But Steve Jobs wanted to create something "new and different," something people would actually want to use. He succeeded, to an extent. People line up for iPads like crazed zombies on launch day, and they carry them everywhere they go. Some people run their businesses from them, others use them for the ultimate multimedia consuming device. These non-tablet devices are portable, versatile machines that have replaced the need for the home PC for many average consumer. But they are definitely not new or all that different from those archaic machines people used to call tablets. They are simply slimmer, lighter, run more optimized software and keyboards are optional attachments.

So if the iPad is not a tablet, what is it? A "scaled-up smartphone" as Tim Cook rashly called Android tablets? Apple wants you to believe that the iPad is "more than a tablet." Bajarin sees the iPad as a screen that serves as a portal to Apple's magical software and services. (Uhh ... okay?) He also suggests that other manufacturers avoid the term "tablet" altogether as it "welcomes decay."

Let's be real. For all intents and purposes, the iPad is a tablet. That's what the general populace thinks anyway, whether Apple agrees or not. And what's in a name? Whether it is called a "tablet" or a "looking device through which all magic happens," the only thing that matters is what the device can do. Nobody cares whether the iPad is a tablet or not, or whether it shares any common ground with Microsoft's former idea of a tablet, and neither should Apple. They are, after all, controlling the tablet market. Should they surrender that title since they feel their iPads are not tablets?

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