I confess: I bought an iPad (and so far I love it)

I bought an iPad. Big deal, you say... So did 3.3 million other people so far this year. Well, for me it is a big deal. But here's why I did the deed.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

I bought an iPad.

Big deal, you say... So did 3.3 million other people so far this year.

Well, for me it is a big deal. I'm a PC. I am not an early adopter or someone who rushes out to buy the latest/greatest gadget. This is the first Apple product I've ever owned. I never saw the need for an iPod (I bought a Sony Walkman MP3 player, and later a Zune HD). I never lusted after an iPhone (especially because I use my phone to make phone calls). And I never wanted or needed an iMac or a MacBook, as I had so many PCs from which to choose.

It took a lot for me to go into my local Apple store and explain to one of the "genuises" (?) that I was a Windows user who was unfamiliar with Apple's products but was considering an iPad. After receiving the requisite "I'm sorry" (blech), the clerk half-heartedly answered my questions about iTunes on Windows, availability of various services, etc. I came home and did my best to talk myself out of the iPad. But a couple of days later, I forked over $629 (for the 16GB model with Wi-Fi/3G) and bought one. Three weeks later -- after countless checks of my delivery status via FedEx Online -- it arrived.

Just to be clear, I haven't refrained from buying Apple over the years because I blog about Microsoft. Many of my Microsoft-watching colleagues consider it imperative and even enjoyable to use Apple's wares. But I never wanted to be part of the Apple community because I have had so many negative, hostile and condescending interactions with not just Apple fanboys, but regular Apple users. If that's what "thinking different" was, I wanted no parts.

So why did I succumb to the charms of the iPad? Quite simply, I have not been able to find a PC that offered what an iPad does. Windows laptops are powerful, versatile and relatively inexpensive compared to Apple's counter-offerings. You can get portable netbooks (with so-so performance), great big-screen gaming rigs and thin-and-light models (like the Asus UL30A that is my current workhorse). But none of these has the amazing battery life, fast on/off, ultra-handy form factor, a made-for-touch interface (rather than touch bolted on to a keyboard/mouse-centric interface) or a built-in app store.

Microsoft has promised that its partners have some cool slates running Windows 7 coming this year. If  they're out there, they've waited too long to show/leak them. If I had felt there was a compelling Windows slate that would ship this year, I'd have refrained happily from buying an iPad.

At Microsoft's consumer showcase in New York in June, there were lots of Windows 7 PCs on display, but not a single slate. (When I asked one Microsoft evangelist why I shouldn't buy an iPad, he retorted "You have five hundred bucks. Go  buy one" instead of offering me anything concrete to convince me otherwise.) I say show me a Windows 7 slate with 10+-hour battery life, instant on/off (i.e., hibernation that really works), and an interface that is as fun and responsive as the iPad's and I'd still consider buying one.

Windows Embedded Compact slates are also supposedly coming, but these aren't "real" Windows slates, in my opinion. There won't be a single, consistent UI for these devices; each maker will be putting its own custom layer on top, making application availability/portability iffy. And given Windows 8 -- which is expected to be optimized for slates, among other form factors -- isn't coming until 2012, supposedly, I wasn't willing to wait.

I'm not planning to dump my Windows machine for the iPad. I am using the iPad as a consumption device, not a creation device (at least for now). And that's OK. Like many people, I spend most of my day consuming, not creating -- reading tweets, surfing Web sites, reading books (I'm still torn as to whether I like reading better on the Kindle or using the Kindle app on the iPad), creating recipe lists (via the iPad Epicurious app, and then cooking with the iPad on my counter with the instructions). I can read my Office documents by accessing them from my SkyDrive . I can use other apps I'm accustomed to, like Live Messenger, Hotmail, Google Docs, just fine on the iPad.

I have to say, after a week, I am loving the iPad. But I'm not loving that AT&T is the only approved 3G provider for the device. Nor am I loving Safari or iTunes. I'd love to see Internet Explorer, Firefox and the Zune software (Microsoft's iTunes equivalent) be ported to the iPad. (I'm not holding my breath.) I'd also love to see someone write an "iPad for Windows dummies" book that doesn't start with Apple's seeming assumption that Apple products are intuitive for all. They aren't intuitive for those of us who've spent our computing lives in Windows.

Given that I blog primarily about enterprise software and services here at ZDNet, it's interesting to see that iPads are making inroads into businesses.(That's got to be Microsoft's worst nightmare.) If the current trials end up taking off, Microsoft is going to have to get in the game by making Office and other software/services available for the iPad, as my blogging colleague Jason Perlow noted recently.

Do you think I jumped the gun? Is there a Windows 7 or Windows Embedded Compact slate coming this year -- or even early next -- that can match the iPad?

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